- 5. Just Cause 2
The sandbox genre had its fair share of entrants this year, but one game put the rest to shame. The core gameplay of this series was always good, but the open world was always lacking. A factor which Avalanche Studios improved exponentially with the island nation of Panua. Navigating lush vistas and finding all of its ludicrous and amusing secrets such as the hatch from LOST or the fake shark circling a private beach, really added an incentive to explore which the numerous hidden packages couldn’t hope to emulate.
Unfortunately the plot was disappointing, but at least there were plenty of weapons, vehicles and explosive potential to keep even the most demanding pyromaniac happy. In the sheer value stakes, this is still one of the best investments any gamer can make and we found ourselves constantly going back to these exciting isles month after month. Stunt positions at the ready!
- 4. Fallout: New Vegas
Even though Obsidian Entertainment dropped the ball good and proper with Alpha Protocol, their semi-sequel to Fallout 3 safeguarded their status of renowned RPG crafters for another year.
Seeing as the Gamebryo engine looks decidedly average for any game in 2010, Fallout: New Vegas was always going to be reliant on its story, characters and the unique brand of tourism only a depressed wasteland can provide.
Thankfully the Mojave Wasteland didn’t disappoint and it wasn’t just the casinos which stole the show. Locations such as Novac and Black Mountain did their part too. Stepping out onto the Strip was such a sharp contrast to anything we’d experienced in the Fallout universe before and the quests were not only fun, but genuinely morally taxing at times. There were plenty of updates and gameplay improvements but when it came to New Vegas, story was king.
- 3. Civilization V
It’s about time for some PC exclusives to show their supremacy and Sid Meier’s latest was the first genuine move forward for this series in over a decade. New aspects included the introduction of city states, a new hexagonal move system, and the elimination of the pile dynamic. You’d think all these changes would have been controversial, but in fact they were greeted with open arms by a community hungry for change!
The user interface was also a major achievement, successfully amalgamating all the deep functionality the series was known for into a system where no act is more than two or three button presses away. It’s all very clever stuff, but for all the innovative touches the core gameplay was still just as unpredictable, enjoyable and addictive as ever.
The A.I was still just as dastardly too with India’s Gandhi still ready to go back on any agreement at the drop of the hat, despite any assurances he may have sent your way. Every series reaching its fifth iteration needs a breath of fresh air and Civ V offered gamers exactly what they wanted.
- 2. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Anticipation can be a dangerous thing and even though Blizzard can almost always be relied upon to deliver a high quality experience, there’s always a risk when releasing a game five years in the making. Thankfully Wings of Liberty delivered, providing an accomplished campaign and thrilling multiplayer which is by far the most complex on the planet with a dedicated league structure, in-depth challenges and tutorials that at least tried to get newbies involved.
Some omissions in the Battle.net 2.0 packing sequel were controversial (LAN anyone?) but this was still the best RTS of the year. Deciding to focus on just the Terran faction enabled the developers to craft a polished blockbuster space opera which was packed with enough optional detail and jaw-dropping cutscenes to satisfy both casual and hardcore fans. A sequel which ticked all the boxes.
- 1. Mass Effect 2
Giving game of the year to a sequel can seem like a cop out as designers have an opportunity to rectify the mistakes of the original, but Mass Effect 2 didn’t just reiterate, it changed fundamental aspects of the franchise in new and exciting ways with a plot which was easily the best of the year. Right from the off gamers knew they were in for a bumpy ride when the Normandy met an untimely demise at the hands of the Collectors. Yet the jarring opening’s shock and entertainment value persevered throughout the campaign, introducing new characters which were just as interesting as the first game, if not more so. Streamlining the experience did cause BioWare to attract some criticism, but every aspect of the gameplay was less of a burden. Dispensing of the god-awful Mako and some of the more complicated RPG elements enabled the super sleek cover-based combat system supplemented by physics breaking super powers to really shine.
Everywhere in this universe felt like it had a reason for existing and an aura of functionality which meant that locales didn’t feel like developer constructs, but places which you wouldn’t mind visiting in the real world.
However the biggest success of Mass Effect 2 were the characters, calibre of writing and voice acting. Squad mates like Thane were expertly crafted and their respective back stories were genuinely interesting and punctuated with fantastic moments such as Mordin revealing his love of Gilbert & Sullivan or Grunt’s continued efforts to find his own place in the universe. It was these moments that stuck with us throughout the year, which is a considerable achievement considering this space opera came out way back in February. A worthy winner to be sure.
Another month, another round of massive exclusives for our free-to-read magazine. In this issue we look at Landmark, Tropico 5, Carmageddon: Reincarnation, Trials Fusion and more!Download Now!