The gaming industry has gone through many transformations over the years, and 2010 was no exception. Plenty of original titles have strutted their covers at the annual Video Game Awards, joined by outstanding sequels that have demonstrated that a series can endure and perfect itself over time. Even with the occasional reliance on profitable “recycling,” this has not smothered developers’ appetite for innovation. Creative vision has remained strong and the industry has continued producing fresh ideas, both for new games and those with numbers to their name. As we venture on towards a promising future for this pioneering art form, let’s look back at the top ten titles that have deserved our attention and praise in 2010.
“Alan Wake”—After being in development for a long five years, the hype for “Alan Wake” was ripe for the harvesting. Largely inspired by Stephen King’s horror, the game tells us the story of a writer who is seeking inspiration for his work — and his missing wife — in the fictional town of Bright Falls. The environment is “Alan Wake’s” strongest point, with beautiful shadow and light dynamics and a well-orchestrated sense of dread. A great game to both play and watch, “Alan Wake” is proof of video games’ competence as a storytelling medium.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops”—“Black Ops” is yet another addition to the Call of Duty franchise. Whether you love or hate the CoD fad, you probably bought this game anyway—which goes to show just how reputable the series is in its area of expertise. Taking us deep into the secret skirmishes of the Cold War, “Black Ops” brims with over-the-top action sequences and cinematic carnage. The game is still about racking up kills, but it has rarely been so satisfying, with its smooth controls and stunning visuals. Awarded VGA’s Best Shooter of the Year, “Black Ops” has set the bar for future titles of its kind.
“NBA 2K11″—For basketball fans and sports game players, look no further than “NBA 2K11.” The amount of effort put into its mechanics has won it VGA’s Best Team Sports Game Award over the year’s FIFA, Madden and MLB installments. The gameplay is crisp, team building has received some quality improvements and the AI has reached high standards since previous titles. The game’s top feature, Jordan Challenges, lets you experience MJ’s most historical games and completes the “NBA 2K11” experience. All considered, this game is a gem in the sports genre.
“God of War 3″—This is the final installment the “God of War” games deserved. The slaughter kicks in as soon as the game begins and does not relent until its epic conclusion. Playing as Kratos, you must climb Mount Olympus to seek vengeance on Zeus, hacking a bloody path through all of Greek mythology as you search for a final catharsis to your rage. A gorgeous game, winner of Best PS3 Game and Best Graphics and a notable finale to a great series, this is a title of glory and gore that has perfected upon its roots.
“Halo Reach”—“Reach” has earned its place in the top 10 for 2010 as a solid ending to the undeniable giant that is the Halo series and as a prequel to its larger-than-life plot. The story-mode features a team of Spartans that must defend the planet from the Covenant invasion that starts off the first Halo game. As expected, the game’s might lies in its online multiplayer mode, which features a greater amount of customization and playing styles, including a new repertoire of abilities added to its already tempered formula. The excitement that “Reach’s” release generated is enough in itself to make it an icon in the gaming community for the year 2010.
Every now and then, a game comes out that leaves us with a new way of looking at a genre, an art form or a medium. “Heavy Rain” is one such experiment that may, perhaps, lead to an evolution in how we digest video games and film. The story deals with a serial killer and the various characters that are working to uncover his identity, either because of personal vendetta or professional undertaking. Because the game has nothing that feels secondary to the progression of the characters and the plot, it sacrifices some interactivity, but nevertheless succeeds in creating a meaningful and highly gripping experience.
Mass Effect 2
Though it is different in significant ways from its predecessor, “Mass Effect 2” feels more polished, complete and accessible. What hasn’t changed is the developer’s commitment to the storyline – a layered narrative that leaves the moral quandaries and crucial decisions up to the player. Progressing through your mission as Commander Shepard to save the universe from the Collectors and recruiting and bonding with your team members as you go, you gain a sense of how your decisions impact the world around you. This sense of ethical weight on your shoulders is what makes “Mass Effect 2” so memorable, and what earned it Top RPG and Best Xbox 360 Game of the year.
Red Dead Redemption
The freedom of sandbox games mixed with the vitality and life of “Grand Theft Auto 4,” set in a spaghetti western environment to a driven storyline is “Red Dead Redemption.” With so much room and so much to do, the pleasure is almost overwhelming. Picturesque landscapes roll by and an award-winning soundtrack plays to your adventures, while as the endearing John Marston you hunt down a group of criminals who left you for dead. VGA’s Game of the Year, and winner of its Best Original Score award, “Red Dead” is a fantastic journey and definitely one of the most unforgettable games of 2010.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Mario returns to the Wii in “Super Mario Galaxy 2,” joined this time by Yoshi for more platforming madness. The visuals are an eye-pleaser – colorful and bursting with energy. As for the levels themselves, they are built with more gusto than the first game and the creativity put into them definitely shines through and lends “Super Mario Galaxy 2” its vibrant personality. This is an exceptional title and a must for owners of the Wii and anyone who enjoys the Mario games. It was awarded the Best Wii Game by “VGA.”
Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty
Devoted fans to the first “Starcraft” need not be wary of “Wings of Liberty’s” direction. It remains true to its origins, except with a more refined layout and spectacular graphics. The campaign, which continues from “Starcraft: Brood Wars” and involves the clash between the Terrans, Protoss and Zerg races, maintains a sense of progression more reminiscent of an RPG and is not as secondary to the multiplayer component as most real-time strategies would have it. It is an intelligently designed game with plenty of variety for the strategist, winner of the Best PC Game award by VGA standards, and a great addition to 2010.