So, now that 2009 is coming to a close, it’s time for me to pick my favorite titles released over the last 12 months. Keep in mind that these are my personal picks. Although I did take into consideration things like sales figures, public opinion & feedback from friends & colleagues, the final decision’s primary factor was my personal experiences with each game. There, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, I have to say that this was over all a very solid year for gaming in general. There have been many years in the past where I found myself having to go back & replay older games because there just wasn’t anything new hitting the shelves that caught my eye. This was not the case in 2009. Games like FEAR 2: Project Origin, Halo Wars, Dark Athena, Wolverine, Killzone 2, inFAMOUS, Prototype, Ghostbusters, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, Street Fighter IV, Wolfenstein, & Batman: Arkham Asylum all paved the way through the first 8 months, giving us plenty to do before the end of year launches really started to kick into gear in September with games like Beatles: Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5, ODST, & Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. That’s just from a retail standpoint. That doesn’t include all the XBLA & Playstation Network games like Trials HD, Flower, Shadow Complex, Splosion Man, The Dishwasher, Battlefield 1943, Fat Princess, Marvel vs Capcom 2, & Trash Panic plus a ton of DLC for games like Red Faction: Guerrilla, Fallout 3, Fable II, & GTA IV. 2009 also brought us Facebook, Twitter, Zune, & Last.FM to the Xbox 360; a Playstation 3 fresh off a Weight Watchers diet; a UMDless PSP; improved motion controls for the Wii; & price drops on all consoles.
For me, this was the year that the current console generation really hit it’s stride. With all three platforms finally at an mass market friendly price point along with the huge selection of games & features, there’s no better time to be a gamer. In fact, the year was so full of freshly baked gaming goodness that a lot of AAA titles had to be pushed into the 1st quarter of 2010, basically ensuring next year will be just as good, if not better! Just in the next 3 months alone, your consoles will be your portal to your return to Rapture. You’ll revisit old friends like Salem & Rios, Sam Fisher, Commander Sheppard, Rico Rodriguez, Kane, Predator, Mega Man & Kraytos. You’ll also have new adventures with a long haired beauty & a gravity defying jet pack. You will even get to join up with one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse or laugh it up with Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. But, before I go too much into next year, let’s take a look at my favorites from the last 52 weeks…
NOTE: You may notice a lack of a portable GotY category. To be honest, I didn’t get enough time with many portable titles this year, so I felt that picking a GotY would be a bit misleading. Instead, I skipped it altogether. I will say that if you are looking for some solid portable experiences, 2009 had some fantastic titles including GTA: Chinatown Wars, Little Big Planet PSP, Scribblenauts, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Rock Band Unplugged, & Professor Layton & the Diabolical Box…
Developer: Chair Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studio
MSRP: 1200 MP ($15)
Release Date: 08/19/2009
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade
Typically, I didn’t really look forward to the weekly digital launches. Up until this year, I wasn’t very happy with what the various services had to offer. Usually it was a bunch of crappy old school ports or new IP’s with a cool idea that just didn’t quite hit the mark. Don’t get me wrong, there were some gems out there prior to 1/1/09 (Braid, Castle Crashers, etc…). But this year really kicked it up a notch with games like Flower, Flock, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Rocket Riot, Sam & Max, Monkey Island, Swords & Soldiers & Battlefield 1943 all hitting my consoles with a bang! For me, there were 4 titles that really wowed me. Games that, once I started, I couldn’t put down the controller. It was a tough call as I’ve developed a strong fondness for all of them & highly recommend that you own each & every one. But ultimately, Shadow Complex gets my Digital Game of the Year nod simply due to the nostalgic gameplay, which was a mix of Flashback or Shadowrun from the SNES & the original Metroid from the NES days. A 3D side scroller that included the same weapon-based puzzles that made Metroid famous & a storyline affiliated with the Orson Scott Card’s Empire universe, Shadow Complex riveted me from beginning to end. Surprising everyone with Epic’s announcement at E3, Shadow Complex really delivered on the entertainment factor when it launched 2 months later. It really expanded my views on what was possible for an XBLA or PSN game (XBLA in this case) & raised the bar in every respect.
Developer: Bethesda Games Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
MSRP: 800 MP or $9.99 each
Release Date: Throughout The Year
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows
No single piece of DLC made as big of an impact on me as the Fallout 3 DLC did. The game was already a wondrous experience straight out of the box, so everything the DLC brought was all bonus as far as I was concerned. And what a bonus it was! From raising the level cap to shipping us off to a campground island, from introducing us to the fate of Pittsburgh to sending us on an alien spaceship, every piece of content provided a wholly enjoyable experience that truly expanded on the gameworld. It would be tough to pick just one, but betond the level cap increase of Broken Steel, I think Point Lookout provided the most interesting missions & was the most fun to explore. They’re all currently available as separate purchases but if your game library doesn’t have Fallout 3 in it (shame on you!), the Game of the Year Edition is out now for all 3 platforms & includes the original game plus all 5 DLC packs. This year, Bethesda demonstrated a support philosophy that all developers really need to heed. Do you have a great game? Give us great expansion content! I will gladly pay an extra $10 for another 6-8 hours of quality time with a good game. I will give them some credit though, developers are starting to really embrace DLC as a whole. Games like Red Faction: Guerrilla, F.E.A.R. 2, & Borderlands all launched with a solid DLC plan that began within weeks of the retail launch. Here’s the key: Quality content for an affordable price. Once you break past 800 MP or $10, you begin to lose your audience.
GTA IV: The Lost & Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony
Burnout Paradise: Big Surf Island
Fable II: Knothole Island and See the Future
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Release Date: 11/15/2009
To be completely up front, I wasn’t a big fan of the Wii retail release schedule this year. Most of my Wii time was spent with WiiWare & the Virtual Console. While there were a couple of games that weren’t that bad, such as A Boy & His Blob, The Conduit, Little King’s Story, & the Metroid Prime Trilogy, none of them really reached out & made me want to drop my money on the counter at my local Gamestop. With that said, there was still a few gems scattered here & there that gave my Wii disk drive a work out. While my pot to pick from wasn’t that big, New Super Mario Bros Wii not only rose to the top, but held it’s own against any of the other contenders out there, regardless of the platform. It took that classic console platforming action that made Nintendo the family-friendly behemoth it is & added 4 player co-op, turning what was once a hot-seat multiplayer experience into semi-competitive family fun. I’m not trying to make it sound cutesy though. Although the visuals still maintain the cartoony, E-rated look that Mario has always had, the difficulty factor will keep even the most hardcore gamers in the house busy. Fret not though, Nintendo’s new Super Guide feature, making it’s debut in this title, will allow for you to view exactly how to conquer each level & even skip it if needed. I don’t think New Super Mario Bros Wii will take your attention away from some of the other big boys out there like Modern Warfare 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum or Uncharted 2, but it is a great time for anyone in the family & is definitely the best Nintendo had to offer this year.
Dead Space: Extraction
Wii Sports Resort
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: 10/27/2009
Platform: Playstation 3
This was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. Uncharted 2 would have won this hands down but I pulled it out of the running because it’s an over all Game of the Year contender. So, in this age of multiplatform releases, it’s hard to pick something as a Game of the Year for a specific console when it’s not exclusive to said platform. But after some careful consideration over the last few weeks, I ultimately went with a game that, even though it’s now in it’s 10th entry in the franchise, never seems to age badly. Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time is the 3rd part of the Future trilogy & still brings the addictive platforming gameplay that made the Playstation 2 original such a blast to play. No Ratchet & Clank game would be complete without the wacky weapons & A Crack in Time brings it in spades with the new Construsto Weapons & the Spiral of Death along with returning favorites like the Groove-a-Tron & Rift Inducer. Picking up right where Quest for Booty left off, Ratchet is on the hunt, searching for his robotic buddy Clank after he was kidnapped by the mysterious Zoni. The whole focus of this trilogy is really on exploring how Ratchet & Clank would fare if they were not adventuring together. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that even though the storline gets wrapped up nicely, this may not be the last time we see the furry Lombax & hist metallic pal.
Game of the Year – Xbox 360
Release Date: 11/17/2009
Platform: Xbox 360, Windows
I’ve talked about this choice to a lot of people & I’m hearing a lot disagreement based on the fact that it’s essentially the same game as last year’s original Left 4 Dead. It’s an understandable argument & I agree that Left 4 Dead 2 is the same, although a much improved version. Regardless, it still got my GotY nod. Why? One word: fun. Seriously, the 1st game was a blast to play & the new melee weapons & game modes made it that much more fun to play. Single player is still available, but this game was made for you & a group of buddies. Period. The 5 new campaigns have been written much better this time around, creating a more cohesively linked storyline to follow along with much better spontaneous dialog between the 4 new survivors. The new settings are much more fun to play in (Dark Carnival is hands down my favorite) & have a better variety, ranging from the carnival to the highway to the swamps to the streets of New Orleans. Intense battles pump the excitement levels as you attempt to cross a zombie infested bridge or make your way through a torrential rain storm, avoiding a deluge of witches along the way. Several new Special Infected like the Spitter, Jockey or the Charger compliment the returning Hunter, Boomer (who has a new female version) & Smoker plus the Witch (who has a new wandering version) & the Tank. The previous multiplayer modes (Verses & Survival) are back along with the new Scavange mode (my personal favorite). There’s even a new Realism mode for the truly hardcore players. If there was one game that came out in 2009 that I can see myself playing all through 2010, it’s this one.
Forza Motorsports 3
Halo 3: ODST
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: 10/13/2009
Platform: Playstation 3
Wow, this was a close race! Last year, since I didn’t have a chance to mess with Fallout 3 before the end of the year, Fable II easily got my GotY nod by a wide margin. But this year, there was 3 titles that really sparked the inner geek in me. Games that provided such an entertaining total package, that I insisted that everyone I knew, gamers or not, played each of them. In the end though, Naughty Dog’s archeological opus stole my heart. The story & dialog was so well written & the presentation was so overwhelmingly on par with a blockbuster film that I felt I had just hit the closest I would ever get to living the life of Nathan Drake. One part Indiana Jones & one part Tomb Raider, Uncharted 2 was a blast from beginning to end. Naughty Dog nailed the controls & the pacing will keep you on the edge of your seat. Throw in the solid, yet fairly overshadowed multiplayer mode plus all the unlockable & this was a tough game to stop playing. While the runner ups all offered an experience that no gamer should miss out on & are all worthy of this title, Uncharted 2 managed to slightly edge them out with an adventure that could be considered top tier compared to any other entertainment medium, not just in the games industry.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Batman: Arkham Asylum