2010 has been a pretty good year for games. For every platform there has been a huge number of awesome things to play, ranging from indie classics up to huge releases that lead to midnight openings with thousands of people. Here is my top 10 games of the year.
10. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
I’ve loved all of the the Stalker series but Call of Pripyat really nails the game down. It has all the enjoyment of the previous games in terms of the free roaming and the living world but with several bugs missing and a much better looking engine.
I do recommend picking up the AtmosFear 2 mod if you intend to play it, it makes it look tons better with much improved weather cycles and some other environmental features to make the game even better.
Describing Minecraft to someone who hasn’t played it is hard. Its a game where you spend hour after hour mining away, trying to avoid creatures and creating the world of your dreams. However, I have yet to find a man who after playing it can stop playing it for any great length of time. Its also a great example of just how well indie games can do if they do something different.
I don’t play it every day but when I do, it eats several hours out of my day and leaves me thinking how the time just flied by.
8. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
Assassin’s Creed 2 was one of my favourite games of 2009, taking all of the best parts of the first game and making it rather enjoyable. Brotherhood improves this even more with the addition of several new items such as the crossbow and making it even easier to use your favourite throwing weapons without having to switch to them. The Brotherhood stuff is also awesome, merging a set of management challenges to a brilliant backup system where at will arrows can descend and clear the screen of bad dudes. Oh and a whole new city to run around in the form of Rome. As well as all the single player extravaganza, you also have the great multiplayer. Its as a complete package as you want.
7. Napoleon Total War
Napoleon Total War took all the best parts of Empire, improved the engine and made it a brilliant game. It has one or two flaws but the rest of the game makes up for it with some amazing battles and a great series of campaigns. And it runs so well compared to its forebear yet also making it look even better.
The fact I played it in my last History class of the year and won the battle of Waterloo was also amazing.
If I’d know just what position I’d give RUSE in my Top 10 when I started playing it, I’d have told my future self to stop being stupid. I went into RUSE with low expectations and yet I found a great strategy game that has kept me playing for only a few hours less than king of the time sinks, Civ 5. I won’t forgive them for replacing the RAF roundels on the British aircraft with generic Union Jacks but the rest of the game is the perfect multiplayer game – simple to learn, hard to master.
Pretty damn impressive in terms of the engine as well, easily going from ground level battles up to the planners view, complete with mapping tables and other visual effects to make you feel like a general. If you like strategy even a tiny bit, pick this game up.
5. Red Dead Redemption
To be honest, I found GTA IV disappointing when it came to PC after all the hype. In contrast, as soon as I turned on Red Dead Redemption it grabbed me and pulled me in. It is a great Western game in an amazing world that just felt alive. Its just a great package.
On top of the main game, there was also Undead Nightmare – effectively the ‘70’s horror film made on the same sets as the gritty Western adventure. Its a complete tonal shift from the main game, very aware that its not serious with characters fulfilling all the stereotypical characters types from a horror film (“I’m just going to go down this dark alley over here”).
Also you can kill a Sasquatch with an Anti-Tank rifle.
4. Mass Effect 2
Another sequel that took the best parts of the first game and radically changed the rest was Mass Effect 2, the best RPG this year. Its the dark middle chapter, with Shepard (spoilers) dying in the prologue and being brought back to life to try and stop the galaxy from being taken over.
But most of the joy comes not from the main quest but all the side quests. The loyalty missions with each member of your crew, as well as being vital for your survival, are also a set of incredible stories and set pieces. Your teammates in Mass Effect felt one dimension gun wagons – in this, they each have their own deep stories complete with the mission to flesh them out.
On top of that, the gameplay, which felt clunky in the first game is now slick. It feels like a proper third person shooter and plays beautifully. Its now also the perfect time to pick up the game and all its DLC and play through this masterpiece before the story finds its conclusion in Mass Effect 3.
3. Battlefield Bad Company 2
I haven’t played enough of this game. I really should have played some more. However, this is one of the few multiplayer games I’ve played that much this year. It just feels perfect with the flow of unlocks, amazing scenes, almost perfect balance and so much choice when it comes to modes. It is so much more interesting online than with Call of Duty, with team play actually meaning something more than just having an extra target for your enemies to shoot.
The other thing I love is the destruction – after being pioneered in the first game, it has come into its own in the second. There is nothing greater than nailing that sniper with a grenade launcher round that just blow the front of his hiding place up or being inside a building as it comes down around you due to a tank round. Although the maps eventually reach the same state when most buildings are levelled, its much more dynamic than the static maps of other first person shooters. It was actually quite hard to go back to Call of Duty after having spent matches blowing down walls in order to progress through the map.
Bad Company 2 is also an example of how to do DLC with its Battlefield Vietnam 2 expansion. Although I haven’t managed to play it yet, it seems as though it could have easily been released as a Battlefield 1943–like product with the sheer amount of maps, weapons and vehicles. The fact its only £10 and uses your profile from Bad Company 2 to unlock stuff means you see the good stuff much quicker. When the Steam Sales (also known as “Oh dear, where has all my money gone”) are over and done with, I might pick it up and have fun with the flamethrower.
2. Civilisation V
The Civilisation series has to be one of my favourite series of games and Civ V is the best so far. It may be missing one or two features from Civilisation IV (like religion) but more than makes up for it by making everything else better and more polished. War, what Civ always ends up being, is now more than simply sweeping a pile of units around the map. Instead, its now a game that uses the terrain, where chokepoints can be exploited to defend your kingdom and units can back other others thanks to clever positioning.
It also looks the best Civ ever has. Thanks in part to it hex based system, the worlds rendered by the game look beautiful, blending together to create ones that look plausible. The UI, clunky in the previous game, now looks like a work of art. Its Art Deco styling makes it a joy to use.
I reiterate my This Is My Joystick review: If you don’t have this on your Steam list, buy it now.
1. ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead
If scores were given based simply on how much time you’ve spent on a game, Operation Arrowhead would probably be pretty near the 100% mark.
Its complex, its broken in some parts, it won’t appeal to everyone. But this is partly why I like it; the reason its broken is that its so ambitious. It does everything from single man night infiltration up to pitched battles with tanks rolling by and helicopters flying overhead. There is nothing like seeing a special forces team, walking down a valley at night with targeting lasers glinting in night vision goggles while in the distance a group of A10s hit a target covered in tracer.
It may not entirely be beautiful, but find yourself on a ridge line as the sun rises and the landscapes look amazing. Admittedly, the game would probably use that point to snipe you out of your wonderment but that’s what happens to people sightseeing in a warzone.
Finally, the multiplayer is perhaps the best fun I’ve had all year. Joining a server, piling into a helicopter and flying to the fight only to be killed by the pilot crashing the helicopter is hilarious, especially with the right group of players on voice chat who all fall about laughing as the pilot (often in broken English) apologises. The community Operation Arrowhead created is among the best in the whole gaming scene – happy to bring in new players but act like a dick and off you go.
For all these reasons, ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead is my Game of the Year