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uncharted 21. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Sony PlayStation 3. Teen) Naughty Dog/Sony. I’m on the record as saying that this third-person shooter title is one of the best video games ever made. Uncharted 2 certainly could have been a tired sequel and a clone of Tomb Raider, but Naughty Dog got this one right. Just about everything is executed well. The story is compelling and sustains your interest over 26 chapters. Treasure hunter Nathan Drake has to choose between goodness and greed as he hunts down an ancient treasure. He also has to fight off thugs and decide which of two very different women he loves. The art style is hyper-realistic, with vibrant, larger-than-life colors in everything from the characters to the breathtaking Himalayan landscapes. The combat scenes are tough because you’re always fighting your way out of some kind of trap. The train chase scene is unforgettable as you fight thugs from car to car, evade a helicopter blasting at you from above, and make sure you don’t lose your footing as the swaying train rocks back and forth. Those combat scenes, set against lush scenery, are so tough to render that you won’t see them on rival game consoles. You feel like you’re in the midst of a Hollywood blockbuster as you scale dizzying heights and solve riddles as you track down the lost city of Shambhala hidden in the mountains. This game is sharp, polished and consistent from beginning to end, pulling together great elements from good weaponry to awesome sound. That’s why I think this game is one of the finest video games of all time. It’s not enough to single-handedly turn around Sony’s fortunes as the third-place player in the console market, but if Sony can keep on making games like this one, it won’t have to worry.

modern warfare 2 fire2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (PS 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Mature). Infinity Ward/Activision Blizzard. The single-player campaign of this modern combat game has a controversial civilian-shooting scene and a plot that has some mighty strange twists. The plot was such a stinker I decided not to name this as the best game of the year. (Not only do you shoot Russian civilians, you also shoot Russian soldiers, Brazilian thugs, American soldiers, and an American general). But the action is truly riveting as no one delivers a feel for the experience of modern warfare as Infinity Ward. You can participate in a wide array of tactical combat scenes and choose from all sorts of weapons. That includes Predator drones, Stinger missiles, and sniper rifles with thermal sites. The game really shines with multiplayer combat, where the action is intense as you fight it out in street battles among the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, caves in Afghanistan, and the streets of ruined cities. Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer gaming is addictive because there are so many rewards built into the game, even for those who aren’t playing good. There are 70 levels to achieve, so the multiplayer play could last for months. With a little practice, you can take on the combat fanatics online. My rank is around 3.6 million worldwide now after about 22 hours of multiplayer combat. I live for the kill streak rewards in multiplayer that allow you to rain down Predator strikes on the rest of the players.

killzone 23. Killzone 2 (PS 3. Mature) Guerrilla Games/Sony. This game was another of the raft of titles that helped turn around the console war for Sony in 2009. The game had daunting Helghast enemies with heavy weapons, good artificial intelligence, and spooky orange eyes. Outstanding visual effects are almost routine in this game. You see little dust storms that swirl around an outpost and obscure your view of the action. Wind blows back curtains from windows. Bullets pierce thin metal walls, sending out sparks and killing those hiding behind the barriers. The sound is excellent, and the screams of the enemy Helghast through their muffled helmets is quite haunting. The action is chaotic and the feeling you get is like a sci-fi version of the combat in the Black Hawk Down film. Fighting from a distance is hard because it’s not easy to aim with the controller, but the game is quite satisfying in close combat.

halo 3 odst4. Halo 3: ODST (Xbox 360, Mature). Bungie/Microsoft. This game was just supposed to be an expansion pack, but in 14 months, Bungie managed to create a cool new game in the Halo universe that has enthralled nearly 30 million gamers since 2001. You play an “orbital drop shock trooper” who drops into the African city of New Mumbasa to save it from a nasty Covenant surprise attack. These soldiers aren’t as powerful as Master Chief, who isn’t in the game, and that makes you play in a different way as you take on the aliens. Your efforts are just a kind of rear-guard action in a doomed defensive effort. The game comes with Fourth Wall Studios’ Sadie’s Story, a game within the game that is a audio play which reconstructs the story of the city’s fall through the eyes of a civilian. It’s a creative addition to the game. The multiplayer combat is fun, but not that much different from the experience in Halo 3.


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flower5. Flower (PS 3-PlayStation Network, Everyone) Thatgamecompany/Sony. This game is a breath of fresh air. You play the wind in the dream of a flower that wants nature to return to a delapidated city. And that is no joke. This game is wonderfully creative, a wellspring from the mind of Jenova Chen, whose games have been far different. Usually, when you find out that a game has no guns or violence, it’s easy to presume it will be entirely boring. But this game is also quite replayable, as my kids demonstrated. The graphics of the grass and flowers swaying in the breeze tapped the processing power of the Playstation 3. The scenery contains as many as 200,000 individually swaying leaves of grass. And the action at times feels like you’re on a rollercoaster. The game is so pretty to look at that my kids actually snapped digital camera pictures of the game while they were playing it. As a downloadable game, it’s relatively short at a few hours or so. But it also costs less than usual games at $9.99.

resident evil 56. Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360, PS 3, PC, Mature) Capcom. Zombies have been a god-send to the video game industry, and to Capcom in particular. In this game, as in many others, they move so slow that they’re easy to take out with shotguns. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But if you’re surrounded by them and are running out of ammo, it can get quite scary. This game keeps you on the edge of your seat as it alternates between zombie massacres and a deep plot that you unravel bit by bit. This game requires the combination of shooting and puzzle solving skills. You use those skills in scenes like where you have to trap a monster that you can’t possibly kill by luring it into an incinerator. Besides zombies, you have to watch out for crocodiles, gigantic worm-like creatures, runaway trucks, and motorcycle-riding zombies. It’s a long game with hours of zombie-slaying fun. The imagery in the game is disturbing, and there was a big debate about whether the game was racist because it is set in Africa and you kill a lot of black zombies. The story has nothing to do with racial differences and the setting just happens to be in Africa. If you don’t mind exploding heads, bursting bodies, and truly disturbing scenes, then this is the game for you.

assassin7. Assassin’s Creed II (Xbox 360, PS 3, Mature) Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft. This stealth-oriented title was one of the most successful original games in 2007, and now in the first week of sales the title is up 32 percent over the 2007 performancein the same period. This title has a new lead character in a new time. The previous game was set in the Crusades, but now Assassin’s Creed II has moved into the Renaissance, in the time of Leonardo and the Medici. You play a nobleman-turned-assassin, Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The game features outstanding art direction that really makes you feel like you’re amidst the canals of Venice, Florence and the Italian countryside. Half the fun is exploring the cities. You can scale to the top of buildings, parkour style, and look around at the view. It’s a marvelous journey into history. Mix that with the action of a stealth killing game, where the object is to avoid getting caught doing bad deeds. The assassin is armed with knives that pop out of his sleeves, but you can also disarm foes and use their weapons against them. The object remains to sneak undetected through a crowd, pounce on your victim, and then make your escape. This game is Ubisoft at its best, executing on the stealth combat genre.

wii sports resort8. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo Wii, everyone) Nintendo. This game had a built-in audience, since the original Wii Sports was packaged with the Nintendo Wii game console that sold more than 50 million units. The company took its time launching the sequel and came up with a polished game that took advantage of a new peripheral, the Wii MotionPlus, which made motion-sensing more accurate with added gyroscopes. The better accuracy shows up when you try to flick your wrist to throw a Frisbee or duel with swords. The game takes place on WuHu island, which has plenty of Nintendo-style personality. There are 12 different sports to try, such as flying a stunt airplane, kayaking, and archery. As you play the motion-sensing games, you get a work out. Everything is infused with a sense of humor. My kids laughed their heads off in the sword fights where the loser falls into the water with a splash. It is one of those games where you have as much fun looking at the players guffawing on the couch as you do looking at the screen.

plants vs zombies9. Plants vs. Zombies (PC, Everyone 10+). PopCap Games. A casual game, this one is a rare bird. The team of just a few people worked on it for more than three years just to get it right. Popcap’s designers took the popular “tower defense” concept and turned it into a funny, frenzied action game where you use a cartoon plant army to defend your house against a horde of attacking zombies. It’s cute action, where you can catapult a chunk of butter at the end of a zombie, beheading the groaning creature. As you proceed, the game gets harder and harder. The zombies come at you with fast or slow speeds, with offensive or defensive approaches, and you have to line up your defense in depth to knock their heads off and stop them from coming. The deadliest weapons you can deploy are pea shooting plants that can take multiple shots at the same time. The game has amazing depth, with 48 types of plants and 26 different zombies. The art style isn’t scary, so it’s fairly kid friendly.

borderlands10. Borderlands (Xbox 360, PC, PS 3, Mature). Gearbox Software/Take-Two Interactive. This game managed to garner good sales in between major releases, and that’s because this brand new property was a lot of fun. It’s a first-person sci-fi shooter game with role-playing elements, not unlike last year’s Fallout 3 game, set in a wasteland society on a desert planet. But the style of animation is unique; it has a non-realistic, comic-book style “cel shading” art that seems both realistic and far out at the same time. You play a scavenger, fulfilling missions so that you can earn more currency to spend on weapons and possessions. You can pick one of four combat types and kill foes to earn bounties, a la the Wild West. Since every bullet costs you money, you have to think about exactly how you’re going to dispatch foes without spending your entire hoard replenishing your ammo or weapons. It makes you feel like a miser, but you’re rewarded if you’re a sure shot. The fun part is that you’re constantly rewarded as you find little objects from ammo to better guns that will help you survive the badlands.

batmanHonorable mention: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360, PS 3, PC, Mature) Rocksteady Studios/Eidos/Warner Bros. Interactive. This game came out in August, but it has a lot of lasting power. And surprise, surprise. It is possible to make a superhero game that isn’t horrible. I was ready to dislike this from the beginning, but I was mesmerized by it instead. The beginning of the game is haunting as a captured Joker — always Batman’s most unpredictable enemy — is escorted by Batman into Arkham Asylum. The foreshadowing of something going wrong builds a lot of anticipation. The interior of the insane asylum is menacing, making you feel like you’re descending into Dante’s Inferno. Then the Joker springs his trap, taking over the entire asylum and setting up ambush after ambush for the caped crusader. The Joker lets loose all of the asylum’s baddies, forcing Batman to fight some of the most well-known figures in the Batman pantheon. Batman can fight enemies with his brute strength, glide with his cape from one part of the asylum to another, and use his grappling hook to spirit himself out of troubles on the ground. The combat system is cool and the fighting animations are quite fluid and realistic.

brutal legendAnother Honorable mention: Brutal Legend.

Brutal Legend (Xbox 360, PS 3, Mature). Double Fine Productions/Electronic Arts. This is probably the most creative and unique titles of the season, or maybe in the history of gaming. It springs from the brain of star developer Tim Schafer, one of the funniest people in games. The game is a sci-fi combat game that is a heavy metal fantasy. You play a Eddie Riggs, a rock band roadie modeled after actor Jack Black who gets hurt in an accident and wakes up in a supernatural world full of monsters, thugs, demons and rock and roll legends. As Riggs, you have a battle axe in one hand and a guitar in another, pursuing enemies in a 64 kilometer square open world. You drive around in a hot rod with flame decals and fight off enemies with your guitar tricks and recruit as your soldiers “headbanger” miners who crack rocks with their own heads. Schafer says the game originated from his fantasies about heavy metal rock album covers. The soundtrack brings back memories, and the game’s story includes animated characters based on metal rock stars such as Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford, and a host of others. Despite its sometimes horrific and blood-soaked scenes, this game is one of the funniest I’ve played.

And we’ll close with the list of my top ten games of 2008. Please fill out the poll to tell us about your favorite game of the year and leave a comment explaining why (vote for one).

VentureBeat reader poll: What are the best video games of 2009(poll)

Also, here’s the top ten best-reviewed games of 2009 from, which aggregates review scores.


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