God of War 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Rock Band 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Alan Wake, Limbo, Darksiders, Just Cause 2, Minecraft and Super Mario Galaxy 2. The fact that TechCentral couldn’t cram those excellent titles into its list of the top games for the year shows just how many strong releases there were in 2010. TechCentral entertainment critic Lance Harris looks back on the gaming year.
10. Angry Birds (mobiles, tablets)
Downloaded 50m times on Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Nokia devices and played for an average of 200m minutes a day, Angry Birds is arguably the videogame breakthrough of the year. This addictive casual game was released in December 2009 and has since repaid the US$100 000 Roxio spent on its development many times over. Its popularity is deserved — it ranks alongside PopCap’s best games as one of the best casual games on the market.
9. Pacman Championship Edition DX (PS3, Xbox 360)
Downloadable games for the PS3 and Xbox 360 online services are becoming increasingly conceptually sophisticated and boast richer production values than ever before. Consider the stunning Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, for example. But one of the best downloadable games of the year went right back to basics. Pacman Championship Edition DX adds a few clever twists to the Pacman formula while retaining the purity of its gameplay mechanics and its clean, simple visual style. This addictive little game is a fitting tribute to Pacman, who celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2010.
8. Heavy Rain (PS3)
Quantic Dream’s PS3 exclusive thriller-adventure, Heavy Rain, was one of the most polarising games of the year. Detractors wrote it off as a pretentious non-game – an interactive movie with fiddly motion controls and shaky voice acting. Admirers saw it as a mostly successful attempt to expand the emotional syntax of videogames. But Heavy Rain’s cinematic presentation and mature themes will hopefully signpost new directions for a gaming industry that has become stuck in a first-person shooter rut.
7. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty (Windows PC)
Debate still rages among the StarCraft hardcore about whether or not StarCraft 2 was worth the wait. The game brings little to the table in the way of innovation, but it does exude Blizzard’s traditional polish from every pore. There’s a compelling single-player campaign, but it’s the multiplayer mode that matters most. Multiplayer is rich and neatly balanced, paired this time with a Battle.Net service that has been overhauled to offer deeper community features and easier match-making.
6. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
Who says 2D platform games are dead? Nintendo’s revival of its much-loved Donkey Kong Country franchise is a fantastic old-school platformer in that demands precise timing and sharp reflexes. Propped full of devious traps and puzzles, it’s a welcome blast of nostalgia that harks back to the days when Nintendo still made games for gamers.
5. Vanquish (PS3, Xbox 360)
The blistering gameplay and breath-taking visuals of Platinum Games’ Vanquish do much to rebut the common accusation that Japanese gaming studios have fallen behind their Western counterparts in both game design and technical suss. Designed by Shinji Mikami — the creator of Resident Evil — Vanquish is a glorious blend of the sensibilities of the Japanese bullet hell shoot-em-up with the tropes of Western third-person shooters such as Gears of War.
4. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (PS3, Xbox 360)
With beautiful artwork, a deep combat system and spectacular boss fights, Castlevania: Lords of Shadows is a memorable third-person action game that outshines even the mighty God of War 3 in presentation and gameplay. It’s the first time that Konami has really succeeded in its attempts to update the classic Castlevania franchise with 3D visuals and gameplay.
3. Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)
With Halo: Reach, developer Bungie refined the formula of the celebrated FPS to near perfection. Halo: Reach’s campaign mode is the finest that Bungie has ever created, with superb pacing and wonderful set pieces. But the real drawcard is the generous multiplayer mode, with its carefully balanced gameplay, tight map design and rich community features. Bungie is moving on from the franchise it created, but it has left Xbox 360 owners with a magnificent parting shot that they’ll be playing for years to come.
2. Mass Effect 2 (Windows PC, Xbox 360; PS3 version to ship in January 2011)
Bioware’s second entry in the Mass Effect trilogy was a quantum leap in quality over the first game in the series. It confidently pulled together great production values with smart storytelling and compelling action role-playing game mechanics, delivering one of the year’s most memorable games. The space opera starts off with a bang and ends with a cliffhanger that left millions of games quivering with anticipation for the concluding game in the trilogy, which is due in late 2011.
1. Red Dead Redemption (PS3, Xbox 360)
Rockstar has created the definitive videogame Western in Red Dead Redemption. Epic in scope and crammed with tiny details, Red Dead Redemption’s Wild West is the most evocative videogame world of the year. With a superb story mode, dozens of interesting side missions and an expectedly exciting multiplayer component, Red Dead Redemption offers gamers plenty of compelling content to sink their teeth into. Great voice acting, neat gameplay mechanics, awe-inspiring graphics, some of the best sound design of the year – Red Dead Redemption had it all. And a range of great downloadable expansions added even more to the game over the months that followed its release.