It is the first day of a new year and with the passing of 2010 it is time to anoint a single, solitary champion of the year in gaming. It takes a lot to stand out amongst what have been a banner year for good games. There are contenders aplenty and several that stand out as things of beauty and art… But only one can be left standing.
What criteria shall we judge it on?
Value for money? Which games takes your $60 and gives you the absolute last penny? A subjective point at best, something like Farmville eats millions of man-hours but none of us would consider that a contender for game of the year.
No – the standard for this year should be art. Which game has advanced the cause of video-games-as-art more than any other. Which one will make Roger Ebert eat his words?
Read on for the contenders and winner.
Halo: Reach (360)
To be honest, the game most played in our consoles has been Halo: Reach. The multiplayer inside it is a thing of beauty and almost perfectly balanced. Almost every game is fun for everyone, regardless of who’s on top or on bottom.
The story eclipses just about every other game in the franchise and the campaign is far more interesting and thought-out than the previous entry, ODST. Everything inside the box, from the campaign to Forge to Multiplayer to Theater to Firefight… the game has something for almost every play style.
If this award were given for dollar value, Reach would certainly walk away with the crown but there’s a lack of polish around the corners and fundamentally, few playing Reach weren’t going to be inserting the disc on launch day.
For that, it doesn’t win… can’t win.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (360, PS3, PC)
The game that took our hearts away with visuals is Treyarch and Activision’s next entry in the Call of Duty franchise held nothing back. A punishingly difficult and immersive campaign created a compulsion to complete it. The wide open and fantastically well-created multiplayer added longevity to the game.
How pretty it looked though… Moments looked like scenes ripped directly from a blockbuster movie. The game clearly pushed the graphical limits of today’s machines, console and PC alike.
Alas, it wasn’t really all that fun. No kind of matchmaking made multiplayer punishing and fruitless as people just picking up the game and using basic weapons were pitted against merciless sharpshooters with expensive, highly accurate, man-stopping weapons.
Most disappointing of all, Black Ops wasn’t innovative. It was a change of setting from Modern Warfare 2 and World at War but little else. While it might have made a great movie, it’s certainly not Game of the Year material.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Nintendo has been doing a couple of things great for a very long time and Mario games are one of those things. Super Mario 64 is still considered to be one of the greatest platform games of all time and the fat plumber’s SNES outings are what got an entire generation into gaming.
The game oozed creativity and for a Wii game was astoundingly pretty. It’s no surprise Nintendo works its underpowered pony better than any other developer and it shows. Interest and beautiful game mechanics make perfect use of the Wii’s control system. It is almost art.
So why is this game so far down the list? The game described above could equally well describe the original Super Mario Galaxy and for that, Galaxy 2 can only come so far. The original Galaxy was fantastic game and Super Mario Galaxy 2 mainly stands upon its shoulders.
For that, it really can’t win. Nintendo may one day try something truly innovative again, but until then – they’re not taking home any Game of the Year Trophy.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect‘s franchise may well win for franchise of the millennium if things keep up. The plot is well put together and the gameplay improves from game to game. The visuals get upped to just above par with each installment and alternate media tie-ins are done better than almost any other game.
Back in 2005, GlyphX and Majesco tried to create an epic sci-fi trilogy for history, a Star Wars or Ender’s Game for video games. They even hired Ender’s writer Orson Scott Card to write the games. The game flopped, utterly failed an any plans to complete the franchise vanished overnight.
The cool thing is that the Mass Effect trilogy might be just that – A Star Wars for video games. Succeeding where others have failed is what developer BioWare does. Overall the trilogy is pure art and beauty, but standing alone, the second installment feels like it’s filling shoes too big for its daddy, but has outgrown its hand-me downs.
And the winner is….
Red Dead Redemption (360, PS3)
The first time RockStar tried to make a wild west game was mostly a failure. Red Dead Revolver was a game that filled a small niche and was picked up by a few interested parties, despite good reviews.
Red Dead Redemption was a risk. The 360 launched with GUN, a game that attempted to be Grand Theft Old West and fell flat on its face, showing its previous-gen roots and disappointing pretty much everyone who played it, though the story was quite good.
The story of revenge and justice RockStar crafted was beyond reproach. The world John Marston created is both beautiful and filling. New Austin is huge and despite vast tracts of open air and a real desolate feel at times the world never feels empty. It’s populated with real, honest characters that all feel genuine and well thought out.
Multiplayer is a nice tack-on that wiles away the time swiftly and with huge levels of fun. If you haven’t played this game yet, you have zero reason not to. It pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until you’re done.
John Marston’s saga is pure cinema. The control scheme is perfect. The visuals are polished and pretty for a game that handedly uses two different consoles with almost no effect. It’s art style is beyond top-notch, balancing pure style with realistic flare. It has absolutely no unforgivable flaw. It has top-notch production, almost perfect voice-acting. It’s difficultly curve is fascinatingly balanced.
Red Dead Redemption is the natural progression from GTA IV. It is almost art. Played with direction and purpose, it would suck in even the stodgy Roger Ebert. It will make a gamer of many non-gamers.
Red Dead Redemption is Nukoda’s 2010 Game of the Year.