The Top Ten Games of 2010

In the process of bringing you the news on Gaming Update we wear a lot of hats -- game reviewer, previewer, writer, and analyst to name a few, and our motto -- if we had a motto -- could fairly be stated as: "We Play them All!"

As it is the time of year for Top Ten Games Lists, we thought we would share with you a slightly different take on the subject, ignoring all the obvious points that are used by other sites, like sales, popularity of blog and chat board posting, and game DLC and expansion support, to get back to the basics, the core values of gamers everywhere as the criteria for our Top 10.

When we review a video game we do it in order to answer the three most important questions ever:

(1) Does this game suck? Is it fun? Will I like it?

(2) Is there anything that I need to know about this game?

(3) Is this game worth the price of admission?

Those are three very important questions, and at the very heart of why gamers read reviews in the first place.

The industry knows this -- it is why GameFly used a variation of the three in its major national TV advertising campaign. It is why game studios always include a brief on the titles that they send us to review to explain what they represent -- what they hope that we will help gamers identify with in that new game.

When a writer enters the arena of game reviews they are in essence creating a bond of trust with the reader, promising them to provide meaningful, useful, and most important, accurate information. With the average cost of video games running around $59.99 -- which for most people represents two or three hours of the 40 that go into their pay packet every week -- getting a quality review from a reviewer is very important. Nobody likes to buy a game only to discover (after the fact) that it sucks or is so buggy that it cannot provide even a basic level of entertainment.

The retail stores that sell games know that a game that sucks would be returned if they allowed that, so they do not. When you get a game that sucks -- and that you paid full retail for -- your only three options are to keep it; embrace the suck, and squeeze whatever enjoyment you can from the title, sell it on EBay, or trade it in to your favorite game store for purchase credit at a fraction of the RRP. Of the three the last two are the least desirable, and the best outcome would be to avoid the suck games in the first place!

Why am I telling you all that? Because this year our Top Ten List of Video Games for 2010 is written with an emphasis upon fun. We have rated the Top Ten Games based on how fun they are -- and that is a criteria you can rely upon! So without any further verbiage, we present to you Gaming Update's Top Ten Video Games for 2010!

The Top Ten -- Starting at the Bottom

Number Ten: Heavy Rain

A PS3 exclusive that perfectly captures the darker elements of film noir in a spot-on translation to a video game, Heavy Rain tells a story while placing the player firmly in the midst of that process. It is dramatic, exciting, and mysterious all at the same time, and presents a game world in which the gamer can easily find themselves immersed, caring about what happens to them.

The presentation of the protagonist in the game is unique to modern video games, with a different focus on controls that makes use of the motion-sensing mechanism of the standard PS3 controller and presents players with a more intuitive system to select commands.

The game features numerous protagonists and only one antagonist, with the beauty of that being that the antagonist in this story is not revealed until the bitter end.

In many ways Heavy Rain is a bargain for gamers, because it has such a high replay level that is like getting seven video games when you only paid for one.

Number Nine: Halo: Reach

The last Halo game to be created by Bungie, Reach tells the story of events that take place immediately prior to the events that were novelized by the rest of the game series. While prequels are not uncommon when the game is part of an epic series, it is rare to experience a prequel that takes the cannon that fans treat as sacred and flings on its ear.

A perfect example of the shake-up that Reach presented was the removal of duel wielding, and the incorporation of a new set of weapons that would not appear later in the series. Adding abilities like Sprint, the Jetpack, and shields that were not time-based using the armor-lock system, deployed equipment was not included, having been replaced by the armor abilities, and taking all of that into consideration, what you end up with is a new game for an old series.

The strength in most games is measured in either their campaign or their multi-player modes, not in both, but with Reach they represent equal elements, and it is clear from the onset that this was intended by Bungie, as great care was taken to give each its own play identity.

Reach hooks in nicely to the BungiNet Service, permitting the player to feel as if it was there all along, when it is clearly a new and entertaining addition to the story. Add in Forge Mode, which is vastly improved over its version in Halo 3, and what you have is a game that will remain an active member of your regular rotation stack for a long time to come.

Number Eight: Alan Wake

Microsoft's headlining XBox 360 Exclusive Title for the year, Alan Wake is at once a polarizing game, because it is either well loved, or well hated by the gaming community. A factor in its favor is the upfront revelation that it represents only the first chapter in what is intended to be a long and epic story about the chain of events that begins in it, but stretches on into the future.

Notable supporting characters in the game like Barry the Manager often steal the scenes, and leave you wishing that there was a game called Barry the Manager for you to play.

Lighting and game play mechanics in this title were a very unique aspect to both play and perception, making their mark in as significant a fashion as a similar approach did in the PS3 title Heavy Rain .

If we are forced to find a single word to describe Alan Wake the game and experience, the only word that fits is immersion .

The gamer is dropped into the world in what becomes almost instant action, and quickly grows to care about the protagonist -- and the supporting characters -- almost before the well-concealed tutorial mode is completed.

When you factor in the excellent graphics engine and the almost cinema quality of the story, it is often difficult to remember that this is not a movie unfolding before your eyes, but a video game. Just when you think you understand what is happening, a new element is thrown in that completely redefines the game, leaving you once again working towards coming to grips with the mystery that is still unfolding.

There are a lot of pop-culture references in the game, and its very high entertainment value is augmented by the graphic-novel like mini-series of free videos that were offered on the Live Network preceding the launch date. Some excellent DLC content expanded the first chapter, and the props and avatar items made it easy for like-minded gamers to recognize each other.

Number Seven: Mafia II

The saga of Mafia II begins and ends with ambiguous choices that make you feel guilty -- which is a very strong indication of just how powerful this game is. While there is a bit of effort required for the initial phase of immersion on the part of the gamer, once they fall into the world staying there is easy.

Turning on the radio often rewarded the gamer with news reports of their antics interspersed among the classic period music that is itself almost a character in this game. Add in the elements of a deep plot and story that is equipped with a number of subplots, colorful stand-out supporting characters, and a stable of automobiles that make it seem like living in the 1960's might not have been so bad after all.

For a crime epic, there is a lot of personal development, though for most players the absence of continuity in building your personal empire represents one of the very few regrets in the game.

DLC was made available instantly to PS3 owners, while XBox 360 gamers had to wait a bit, but when it arrived, your introduction to a madman named Jimmy, and later the comic antics of your best mate Joe clearly were worth the wait.

While the replay level for this title is not of the sort that makes you want to instantly revisit it, it does have the type of depth in story and fun to make it one of those games that when you do return to it months later, you end up playing through it completely again.

Number Six: Red Dead Redemption

Without question the story in this game is its selling point. Deprived of a video game console, this game would make perfect sense as a movie, though casting John Marston would be a bit of a challenge. Ideally we would need to surgically remove the personality of Matt Damon, graft it on to the rough hewn good looks of a young Mel Gibson, and then rip open its head and pour in the humor of Dennis Leary, and we might be close to hitting the mark.

That should give you a reasonable idea of what it is like to play as John Marston, a man who is at once the hero and anti-hero in a flawed package, whose only interest and motivation is the safety of his bastard son and the whore he married.

Forced to hunt down and kill the members of his former gang, or watch his family executed, Marston does the only thing that he can do; in the end he does it without compromising his moral code. Red Dead Redemption is the epic opera and western of 2010, with a mad-crazy multi-player mode tacked on, and DLC that really makes you stop and wonder just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Number Five: Minecraft

A mixture of survival, world building, and Crafting, Minecraft represents the best of Indy Gaming in 2010. While there is a free version available on its website, the pay-version is much more complex and deep, and at just E14.95 Euros we are talking about a game that delivers way more value in fun and entertainment than it costs!

While the game is still technically in Beta, its agressive update schedule and new content are being delivered at the level of a finished game, and its very large fan base speaks for itself when it comes to just how fun this title is. Minecraft is one of the rare games that is playable on older PC's and even on notebooks and netbooks.

Number Four: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

A much anticipated sequel, Brotherhood takes all of the elements that were pioneered by the first two games in the series and presents them as refined elements in a deep and entertaining story line that is certain to leave you eager for the next chapter in the series and at the same time fully satisfied that you received more than you paid for in entertainment and fun.

With DLC expansion planned for the coming year, ACB is also one of the games in your collection that you will be pulling out to play again throughout the next year, making it a potential lock for the 2011 Top Ten List as well!

A mixture of parkour and classic RPG, the only fly in the ointment for this blockbuster is the awkward control scheme that it inherited from the previous games. A very sensitive set of controls means that the handful of areas in the game where accuracy is key have the potential to provoke frustration in the average gamer, but the creative plot and the addition to the back-story more than make up for this one drawback.

Number Three: Final Fantasy XIII

One of the oldest and best established Japanese RPG series in video game history, Final Fantasy is a contradiction from start to finish, because while there are many familiar elements from game to game, such as Chocobo, the magic system, and the awesome graphics style, there are so few direct connections that each game in the series stands alone as an original story.

The structure of FFXIII is more familiar to MMORPG players of the series than it is for the stand-alone campaign type fan, but make no mistake, this is not an MMO. What it is to be blunt is a game that will eventually cost you hours measured in the hundreds and not tens. At the end of what will be a long and exciting journey, despite the lengthy play time, you should not be surprised when the urge to hit the start new game button strikes you.

It probably does not hurt that the characters in this title are drawn in the classic Japanese Anime style, which is to say, too cute for words -- with an obvious sexuality about them that screams.

The game features a loosely formed group of protagonists who slowly begin to identify and care about each other, but it is not until almost the very end of the game that the unity of spirit and group cohesion finally forms, just in time for you to save the world!

Number Two: Mass Effect II

This second game in a series that was always intended to have the classic three acts is a departure from the usual series tradition in that the IP was originally created by BioWare under the umbrella of Microsoft, but between the first game and this one, BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts, who has a vested lack of interest in promoting the first game in the series, as that would only lead to profits for its arch rival, Microsoft. The result of this odd situation is a game that downplays both its relationship with and the importance of the title that preceded it and established the series name.

This results in a game that is carefully crafted so that players new to the series can pick it up and run with it without ever having to revisit the first game. That adds an element to the story that gamers who have played Mass Effect will be very aware of, while those who have not will miss out on what amounts to some in-jokes within the character chatter.

Making this all the more awkward is a mechanism built into the title to take all of the important elements from the gamers decisions made in the first game and apply them here. Mass Effect was released as an XBox 360 Exclusive title, but Mass Effect II is available on PS3 as well, with a mini-game provided to PS3 players to allow them to make all of the key decisions that they would have made in the first game, in order to gain an equal play experience in Mass Effect II.

While the graphics engine is similar and uses the same basic engine, a fair amount of tweaking was undertaken at BioWare to smooth out the display and add a haunting feel to the inside of the Geth ships. Like most epic adventures the game requires the player to invest a large chunk of their time, but the trade-off is a strong measure of entertainment and fun, which seems very fair to us.

Number One: Fallout: New Vegas

Fans of the series were concerned early on when it was announced that Obsidian Entertainment would step in as the primary developer for this indirect sequel to 2008's blockbuster hit, Fallout 3. Of course many of those same fans exhibited a similar state of alarm when Fallout 3 was announced and Interplay was not declared its creative master. Fortunately it is very hard to make a bad Fallout game!

The fact that many of the developers working on New Vegas were former members of the dev teams for Fallout 1 and 2 may have a lot to do with the impressions that have formed in the gaming community that New Vegas recaptured the essence of the Fallout Series in a way that Fallout 3 never did.

From an entertainment and fun perspective, New Vegas has vastly improved dialogue, structure, and quests, and remains eye-pleasing despite the fact that it reused the graphics engine from Fallout 3.

Hardcore Mode in the game offers the opportunity for players to experience a more realistic Fallout, and the addition of the Wild Wasteland Perk provides a more humor-centered focus for gamers who enjoyed those elements of the previous titles.

Fallout: New Vegas is destined to be a Classic Must Have Game, joining Elder Scrolls IV, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and San Andreas, Dragon Age: Origins, and the Mass Effect games as titles that will remain relevant and desirable to gamers who are still wearing nappies today.

If you have not played some of the titles in our Top Ten for 2010, you can safely consider their inclusion here as encouragement to do so, with the emphasis being that you are certain not to be disappointed!

We also want to take this opportunity to express to you our hopes that you had a happy Xmas, and that you will have a safe and wonderful New Year, and spend part of 2011 here, at Gaming Update, where we will be providing you with excellent Video Game News and Feature Coverage!


Posted: 26th Dec 2010 by CMBF
Fallout: New Vegas, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, PC, Games Industry,