We've yet to hit the holidays — the time usually reserved for gaming's biggest hits — and halfway through, 2010 is already looking to rival full years of gaming's past. Here's a look back on my reviews for the year so far.
The (Slightly) Disappointing Game Sequels of 2010
Being that I write game reviews for HawtWired on my spare time and attend a full-time job…I don't generally choose to spend my time with "crappy" games on purpose. Regardless, there are still those few games that I set aside some hours for only to disappoint. Now, these titles aren't necessarily the worst titles I've ever played but were, overall, less than I expected…especially considering the pedigree of which they stem from.
God of War 3
The original God of War on PS2 was a mind-blowing, epic affair unlike anything gamers had seen before. GoWII came along and produced the same effect with more boss battles — even if the overall story suffered sans David Jaffe's creative direction. Kratos going portable in the PSP's GoW: Chains of Olympus proved just as beautiful and effective as the console outings. God of War 3 comes along and while cementing itself as the PS3's grandest technical marvel, played it safe for most of the journey and, yes, you take out the same boss as the series' last PS2 outing! Pretty graphics are always appreciated in games but the next God of War will need to bring more to the table than the already expected to impress.
Read my God of War 3 review here.
Splinter Cell Conviction
Sam Fisher's latest mission had him going rogue and into newly revamped controls territory this year proving that Splinter Cell's makers are not afraid to spice things up in the gameplay department. It's what we gamers ask for all the time: change! Unfortunately, as my review depicts, this doesn't always lead to favorable results. Conviction gave the series a new face but only to detract from the openness of previous entries and a story that was all-too-forgettable. I'm hoping the next outing takes the newfangled, streamlined controls and builds a richer experience around it.
Read my Splinter Cell Conviction review here.
Bioshock 2 was a great shooter sequel to the original game. It introduced the ability to fire plasmids and weapons simultaneously — yes, I know, in 2010 that's still a "fresh" upgrade in sequels. The only problem? It was completely devoid of that special something something that made Bioshock so great in the first place: that first arrival into an alternate, degenerating world full of remnants of its bright potential and ultimate destruction. You can try blaming it on the voluntary displacement of Mr. Ken Levine or the 16 million developers that worked on the game. Whatever it was, Bioshock 2 was (slightly) disappointed, but then again…how could it not? It was bound to as soon as it tried its hand at besting one of the best games of this generation — or any, really.
Read my Bioshock 2 review here.
The Four-Star Ratings of 2010
Sour grapes aside, the following are a few of the games that I thought graced closed to greatness (and still worth your time) but didn't quite reach HawtWired's highest grade possible: the hawt, hawt "A+."
The "pressing X to 'Jason'" meme took over much of the gamer's conversation when Heavy Rain released and while not perfect, the title did move the needle forward in what video games are capable of. Heavy Rain wasn't built around the concept of "fun" that our favorite medium has known to host many times over, but it was compelling in it's own way. It told a bleak, brooding story about several characters and how they end up interacting and affecting each other's lives. Conversations flowed freely, daily chores were reproduced in grand fashion, and the characters shined in this follow-up to Indigo Prophecy.
Read my Heavy Rain review here.
Three games in — not counting the feudal era, Japan-exclusive Yakuza: Kenzen, of course — and you'd think I'd be tired of Kazuma's exploits. Not so based on my review earlier this year. Sega unleashed another fan favorite that's taken the place of Shenmue's legacy with better graphics (not necessarily on par with the PS3's heaviest hitters, but better!), new mini-games, and added moves rounded out the experience. Considering it took soap tropes — Kazuma running an orphanage…wha??? — and ran with them…it was the perfect virtual vacation for the Japanophile in all of us.
Read my Yakuza 3 review here.
Alan Wake was definitely one of the biggest surprises to get on this list. Remedy had great games under their belts with the Max Payne series but this one really just came in under the radar and proved to be a genuinely scary addition to the horror genre. Yes, it wears its "Twin Peaks" influences right on its sleeves and, at times, featured questionable story elements but! It made me terrified of poltergeist-infused tractors. TRACTORS. That's a notch of awesome toward the game in my book.
Read my Alan Wake review here.
The Jaw-Dropping Wonders of 2010
Earning themselves HawtWired's review scale's top A+ grade distinction, Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption proved themselves some of the best games of the year and of recent memory. They've fired up the "Game of the Year" conversation amongst gamers around the web and countless of podcasts; any games releasing in the later half of 2010 need to best these in order to have a fighting chance at "best of" anything.
Mass Effect 2
As far as sequels go, Mass Effect 2 is the only one on this list that not only matches its legacy but surpasses it in every way — smoother framerate, story elements refined, and generally a much more enjoyable experience. Some may have complained that the first game's emphasis on RPG elements were nonexistent under the guise of the better shooting mechanics this time around, but I felt my epic trek throughout the vast, vast universe Mass Effect 2 presented satiated my RPG-shooter hybrid itch just fine. Bioware delivered on some sweet, sweet gaming in the first month of this year. Just keep the planet-scanning shenanigans away from me next time, K?
Read my Mass Effect 2 review here.
Red Dead Redemption
Clint Eastwood! That's the first person you would likely think of whenever anyone mentioned "Westerns" pre-Red Dead Redemption. Now, John Marston is synonymous to the word — in my mind anyway. Rockstar San Diego truly created a world apart from space marines, orcs, and "hood" gaming we've grown so accustomed to in video games recently. In Red Dead Redemption you can herd livestock, break horses, play rent-a-sheriff, gamble in some poker, and that's just a few of the mini-games! You can also partake in one of the best, tightly-woven stories Rockstar has produced in some time with incredible shoot-outs and even random events that add all the more flavor to the package. To Rockstar: more, please.
Read my Red Dead Redemption review here.
How dare I discredit God of War 3's obvious perfection on this list?! Pfft, Red Dead Redemption was just GTA IV Plus? Feel free to let me know how wrong this list was in the comments…
Wait a minute, Carlos! Why are Super Mario Galaxy 2, Crackdown 2, and others not on this list? Good observin', dear reader! The reason is I've yet to get around to reviewing those titles — and since this is a best-reviewed list they didn't make it in. Look forward to my analysis of those games some time in the near future though!