As cliched as anything is in the entertainment industry, a top moments of the year (more often shortened to just the "top ten") is really essential for any noteworthy source of information. Obviously, obviously, this blog is not noteworthy in the slightest and more of a showcase for me to do my inane, needless and counterproductive babbling, so therefore a top moments of the year list is perfect. Now just so people know this is my first time doing this; if it gets too long or uninteresting please send me an email at email@example.com and I'll fix it. Or I'll learn from my mistakes and make 2011's list (if there is one) the best ever!!!!
This year started off with quite a bang. Games released during the spring can be forgotten when naming GOTY contenders, but 2010 will be one of the exceptions. We all know the game, recently announced for a PS3 release, that Mass Effect 2 was and still is to the moment. It never changed. Except the DLC was spectacular and sometimes even better than the game itself (Kasumi is so badass). The great thing about the game is that there is not one aspect that stands out. The story was solid and engaging, the combat was amazingly fun, and the characters and voice acting made it a believable universe. Your actions and decisions have a profound and realistic impact on everyone around you and just that scope itself makes Mass Effect one of the greatest franchises ever made. Plus, and probably the best part of all, is the idea that your game experience through each game (given you didn't play through it four times like I did) is all your own. The ability to import a save file from the first game gives ME2 the most individuality I have ever witnessed in a game and for that it should be a contender for everyone on their GOTY list. I know it was mine.
The next month saw one of the most hotly anticipated games I've ever seen and it gravely disappointed. The idea of a space-exploration MMO based off one of the most treasured franchises in nerd history was a dream come true for all fans. As the situation came about though, Star Trek Online did not live up to expectations. A good friend of mine had a lot of faith that Cryptic would make a solid game with a long and addictive MMO experience (basically something to fill the void in his heart WoW left) and so he bought a lifetime subscription. A mishandling of the management and ghastly stale gameplay lead many fans, including my friend, to abandon it and leave the game disheartened and disfranchised. Their most beloved franchise had disappointed them - that feeling just doesn't go away automatically. Even considering Cryptic refused to reimburse those disappointed with the game their $250 (or whatever it was) lifetime subscription. Through all of this, I was surprised to see Cryptic COMPLETELY fail at making a game destined to be successful given their history of making great MMOs. I wish I had started this blog earlier. It would have been fun ripping into them for making my friend cry inside.
This game's predecessor was heralded by many as GOTY back in 2007. Three years ago? Feels more like forever ago that people were going bananas over BioShock and the imaginative world of Rapture. How Irrational came up with such a unique environment is beyond me, but I do love them for it, as they captured the magic of the city and in turn established themselves as a leading developer. Three years later, the sequel, done by 2K Marin, sought to recreate the magic of the original game and they did with relative success. It was a daunting task to try and replicate what BioShock was - the story had to be top-notch, the gameplay more innovative, and the city of Rapture to look more haunting than ever - and they did with relative success. Having the perspective of a different main character gave the game its own personality. A personality it desperately needed. A first for the franchise, and what some feared would lead to the game's demise, was the inclusion of multiplayer. Initially touted as unnecessary, it presented a unique experience that added even more to the personality of the game. Too bad it died after a month. (Multiplayer DLC can't save a game, sorry 2K).
People like titties. People like big titties. People like egregious amounts of titties. The next major release had plenty of this and more - but most regrettably no special appearance from the Spartan god himself. Dante's Inferno, based off the first part of the Divine Comedy, tried too hard to be something it wasn't. The game was good, and gave players what they expected - tits, gore, and repetitive murdering - to mediocre fanfare. I myself wasn't a big fan of the game, but then again, I haven't even tried God of War. The one thing that got me is that Visceral didn't try hard enough to give this game its own identity. When a game draws so much comparison to another prominent franchise, shameless cloning like this breeds unoriginality and that's one of the reasons why video games are so great. The PS3 version of the game used the exact same control scheme. THE EXACT SAME. If the studio knew they were going to copy another game, at least change the control scheme so people don't say "I've already played this" without even touching it. Seriously.
I've always been a fan of bad accents. I can do a fairly terrible Russian one myself. My British one isn't too good either. And I know, given my godly talent (sarcasm), I shouldn't be voicing a character from these countries in a video game. I am, however, beating myself up over not trying out for Heavy Rain, because a video game credit would have been awesome. But enough about the nationality-bending accents these characters had, Heavy Rain was a great cinematic experience. That's right, I'm not calling it a game because it wasn't; the whole 20-hour crime thriller was an interactive movie in anything. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing and I wish we would see it more in gaming. Quicktime events can get monotonous, but when done effectively, these can provide some bone-chilling, squeal-inducing moments. But from playing Heavy Rain, I have learned that An American Werewolf in London was actually trying to teach us something: just how much people with foreign accents stand out.
Multiplayer, unlike in BioShock 2, has become an integral part of many first-person shooters. Especially with the abundance of modern warfare games released this year. There are some franchises that do the mode very well and others that lag behind. Most of the modes these days focus on free-for-all combat, or can be played as such, with great success; unfortunately teamwork is a rarity. There is one franchise, though, that has perfected this teamwork formula with a class-based system that provides a splendid experience. Bad Company 2 couldn't have been released at a better time - people were sick-and-tired of Modern Warfare 2 and wanted something else to satisfy their need to kill something (why not just move to Alaska?). The first push for a Battlefield console game was received well and some of the maps from Bad Company were so popular that the community called for them to be in the second game. And they were, for free. The debacle that was Call of Duty may be contributed to the massive sales of BC2, but the Battlefield series has been legendary for incredible squad-based gameplay with realistic (in a sense) combat. Body armour actually plays a role here - unlike in Call of Duty - and a lot of new people to the franchise were deterred by that. And really, I can't blame them; my first game was Rush on Port Valdez and I was sniping. I didn't know about bullet drop at the time, and let's just say I didn't do all that well. Battlefield is my call for multiplayer experience of the year and I hope it's yours too.
Final Fantasy XIII was a gamble for me. A lot of people complained it was too linear - and it was - but I didn't find that to be a bad thing. I attributed it to mixing FFVII and FFXII. The story was linear, like FFVII, with a prominent lead whom Square Enix said was meant to act as a female Cloud; and the streamlined, free-for-all combat introduced in FFXII. I actually did like this game and as JRPGs go it is one of the better ones out there. Although it may be wrong to call this a JRPG because the game was built for a Western audience. Or at least meant to cater to what the Japanese think we Westerners like in our games (this is rather difficult, check my other blog post to see why). The story, probably the most important part of any RPG, was slow and the characters were underdeveloped. It was definitely a departure from the classic FF moniker and I appreciate Square actually trying something new. Just please, and I think I can speak for everyone, please don't make another character like Hope. He was just fucking annoying.
I was going to talk about God of War 3 here but I never played the game, so my opinion would be invalid. I'll just move to a game that captured my hate-fueled imagination and made it virtual reality. Just Cause 2, a game shamelessly mocking itself, was just awesome. The biggest world in a console game (maybe except for Fuel) gave the player the creative freedom to do anything with no limitations. This is definitely a game that doesn't play itself. The story is just used as a mechanic to string the player along and the characters and voice acting are laughably bad - but the game prides itself for that. Hearing Bolo Santosi say her name gave me a good chuckle. The one aspect that may give players some difficulty is being imaginative. You have a whole world at your disposal and your actions are limitless, but figuring out what to do and how to execute it can be troublesome. With so many options, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to crash a helicopter into an airplane or spend all my time skydiving and appreciate how amazing the world looked. In the fastest plane in the game, it took me fifteen minutes to fly from one end to the other - and that's a long time. Go buy it. Please. Bolo Santosi, Bolo Santosi, Bolo Santosi (Sandman?).
This blog post is running too long so I'll split it into four parts. One blog post for each three-month period. I could go on but my creative juices are running low and WoW is calling me right now. So I hope you enjoyed my first part in my 2010 review!