Top 5 (or 6) Games of 2010

Yes, I know I’m late to the whole “Game of the Year” deal, but I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway. Admittedly, I have not played every game release in 2010 on my very modest budget and lack of every gaming platform on the market, but I did play plenty of games that I really enjoyed the hell out of. 2010 came with some surprising classics that have innovated on the tired market that games have been subjected to in recent years. The following games are put into no particular order. I love them all more or less, equally…

  • Red Dead Redemption

It’s really a shame that there aren’t more Western themed games. One could always find a copy of Mad Dog McCree and start memorizing exactly which windows the bad guy will pop out of, or even play the original Red Dead Revolver. But the fantastic thing about Red Dead Redemption is the complexity and tone the game chooses to deal with for a Western, presenting its content with class, style, and integrity. It starts with a seemingly simple story about a man on a mission to bring back his wife and son. The specifics are little muddy and so is the background of the main character, John Marston. We find that he used to be a bandit of sorts, but quit all of that to start a family. The fact that he chooses not to reveal his situation with the characters, but willingly becomes an  errand boy for various shady folks at first seems like a fault of the storytelling, but it becomes apparent through much of the dialog and the various situations what the central theme of the game seems to become and what drives the motivation for Marston to the brink. The wild West is dying and is stubborn to change. Who would trust a man is seemingly working for a government bent on industrializing and modernizing the West? John understands this and thus skirts the issue on why he is seeking help. The game has a methodical pace that flows extremely well, and when it reaches the truly final end, it just feels so right.

Having a gameplay system that works solidly, with intriguing side missions, and a multitude of other business to take of all set in a beautifully rendered landscape backed with an incredibly soundtrack really makes this game a complete package, and easily one of the best games of the year.

  • Mass Effect 2

I’m pretty sure that the world of Mass Effect, if it isn’t already, will become a staple in the science-fiction world. It breathes so much life into its characters and its universe, it is hard not to be captivated by all of it. The game is brimming with completely entertaining and interesting back-stories, people, and aliens. The side-missions and loyalty missions, which no doubt take up the bulk of the game anyway, are the story’s greatest assets. It also doesn’t hurt that the game look gorgeous.

The third-person shooting and combat is incredibly tight. Cooperating with your squad-mates to unleash a barrage of biotic, tech and soldier powers at once never got old. Having differing classes with unique abilities added to my number of play-throughs, as did the various choices in conversation and actions.

Every step of the way, Mass Effect 2 presented an awesomely solid, mature science fiction game that felt like a huge breath of fresh air from the soul-suckingly generic science-fiction forays of previous games.

  • Alan Wake

I really don’t know what it is about Alan Wake that I love so much. I do know that playing it allowed me to enjoy some of my favorite moments playing a game this year. Alan Wake is dark, frightening, exciting, fascinating, and baffling. The story within a story (sort of) led to questions throughout the entire experience. It was like a finger constantly curling back and beckoning me forward, that I could not resist. What helps are the characters in the game. Admittedly, almost all of them are more interesting than Wake himself, but of course that would be the case, as Wake is played as a sort of everyman. His agent Barry, being one of my favorite characters of the year, tags along for a little bit, but never becomes an annoyance, but rather a welcome presence.  The Twin Peaks inspired atmosphere comes complete with a great cast of screwy characters. There are two insane brothers who are “rock gods”, a super shady psychiatrist, a creepy old woman, a douchey cop, an oddball radio host, a ghostly writer, and a woman is utterly obsessed with lights (and for good reason).

The main enemy in the game is darkness itself. It covers the town making things insane, including machinery and cars. So naturally your best weapon is light. This concept is used to full effect. Flashlights, lamp posts, fireworks, car lights, flares and flashbangs all help to fend off the inky blackness. I never got tired of bursting light at an enemy then immediately popping a few bullets into him, as he disintegrated before me. And it was terrifying every time a car flew down the street looking to take off your head. The movement helps the game become wonderfully fluid. The dodge move is cool as hell, bringing back memories of Remedy’s Max Payne, and the shooting feels like it has impact. The game looks incredibly and the lighting effects are the best I’ve seen. The world is chock full of interesting tidbits and little treasures, like the TVs and radios that play awesome side jokes and story elements. Alan Wake is truly a unique experience that I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of.

  • Tropico 3

It was probably the music that got me hooked into playing so much of Tropico 3. It was so cheery and relaxing that it got me to play a remarkably interesting city-sim, with a twist. Unlike  SimCity or CitiesXL where the city itself is usually the main focus at a macro level, Tropico 3 usually goes down to a mirco level, where the people on your tropical island can decide the ultimate fate. The player too has an El Presidente avatar that can go to construction sites to boost worker morale, or make speeches to the people from his mansion balcony. But it becomes very interesting and problematic how one citizen can turn a decent island into a violent warzone if the player isn’t careful.

The options on how to run your island are pretty diverse. A player could be a kind and giving presidente, or malevolent and rule with an iron fist. If a citizen is upset with conditions, they will probably start a peaceful protest. The player must make a decision, whether to fix the problems they are having, or silence the leader of the protests, potentially scaring the others into cooperation. If the player does nothing, the protesters could form a rouge  militia group who hides the forest and occasionally attacks farms and factories. The more damage they do, the more people are will to join their cause. Construction workers aren’t happy, nothing gets built. No good economy, people won’t migrate to the island. Fights always occuring? You can forget about any tourists boosting the finances. Does this sound like a crazy city simulation? That’s because it is, and it is awesome.

  • Super Meat Boy and/or VVVVVV

Fuck you, you magnificent bastard.

VVVVVV is fun on just about every level. The controls are tighter than a [Expletive Deleted; Editor’s Note: inappropriate] on a Sunday morning. The levels are challenging but never beyond the realm of unrealistically difficult. For the two hours it took to complete, it was a joy for every second of it. The music is great, and the Intellivision style if bright and clean. There is not much to say than that VVVVVV is just pure fun.