Beware the horns and split hooves – Games of the Year 2010

Posted on 10/12/2010

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The outgoing year was a strange one for gaming. The first months of 2010 were riddled with ludicrously high profile releases, that had fled the launch window of late 2009 which had been so intimidatingly occupied by Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
The first quarter already was tightly packed with much anticipated releases, leading to one of those years where not a month went by that didn’t have at least one must have title.
Also this was a year of superlatives. A new Halo. A new Call of Duty. Minecraft. Red Dead Redemption, the supposedly most expensive game ever made.
Also a year of bad news. The crisis hit, publishers were more keen on super hit titles than ever, so a real lot of great gaming studios closed their doors after getting just one underperforming title out of the door. Biggest one there’s probably Realtime Worlds, who failed to deliver a satisfying product (except for the character creator) with their uber-ambitious APB project.

But anyway. Games of the year. Or rather – first things first –

Game of the year.

Minecraft. Simple. It’s an alpha version of an indigame with no marketing except for word of mouth. And everyone, really EVERYONE is playing it. At least everyone of the (gaming) people I follow on Twitter. People do totally mind boggling things with this. It’s a mix of Lego, Inception and 16bit Zelda (only in 3D).
Hours fly by when playing. It’s really absurd noting it’s 5AM and all you’ve been doing since midnight is digging holes and stacking up resources so you can then start building something totally awesome in the future. Very, VERY few commercial games get me to do this these days.
Making Minecraft my GotY is mostly due to what it is. It’s less what I’ve personally done with it. Sure, I’ve played a lot. It’s just pure admiration. There should be a whole huge amount of lessons to be learned for game design from this title.

Runner up:
Bioshock 2

Big Sister is watching


Yes it’s a sequel. A sequel that I wasn’t sure I wanted before the game actually got out. But oh does it deliver. Mechanically Bioshock 2 improves the plasmid powered gameplay, introduces some new ideas with the hacking gun and then spices it all up with little sister defense battles, big sister fights, some other clever new enemies and great level design to boot.
It does lack a bit of the original’s punch in terms of controversial subject matter, so no bible smuggling, no more raving mad christian splicers.
But it makes up for that with one of gaming’s most interesting plots, even if the game’s villain Dr. Lamb is no Ryan. The game still oozes with character.
And to top it off, there’s the highly recommendable Minerva’s Den single player expansion DLC.

Honorary Mentions:

Heavy handed?


Heavy Rain.
Finally a game that proves that there can be games for adults that don’t require the player to shoot someone in the head every 20 seconds. It’s not a flawless game, but it’s incredibly ambitious, and if you’re like me and can engage with it, clinging to your suspension of disbelief, then it’s one of this year’s most rewarding experiences.

Red Dead Redemption.

Not much of an open-world standoff this year...


It turned out to be more than “Grand Theft Horse”. Though still deeply routed in the R* formula of telling game stories, this biggest gaming western of all times just kept on delivering. A huge game, with a huge game world, tons of things to do in it and with it. Sadly it kept being plagued by the problems games that follow the recent R* formula are being plagued with. Mostly a perceived lack of player influence on the world. No matter how many times you brought that guys horse back, no matter how many highwaymen you shot, no matter how many gang hideouts you raided, they just kept respawning no matter what. It’s time for open world games to move on, to provdie the player with a sense of progress outside of the main missions. Or at least have the main missions have more of an impact on the game world outside of them.
Apart from that, it was an outstanding experience.

Bayonetta.

Platinum Games proves time and again that they are among the last Japanese developers who really dare pushing the envelope. This one game here is an absolute masterpiece, one that follows in the footsteps of Devil May Cry and squeezes everything imaginable out of the formula.
It’s not a very deep game, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s blindingly fast, blazingly furious and bucketloads of tounge-in-cheek fun. Essentially it’s my “Videogames – the Videogame” moment.

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