Review of the year in games

18 Dec 2010

It’s getting to that time of year again when the earth makes it’s last strides towards orbiting the sun and we usher in a new year. As is customary in this final stage though, we take a look back on the previous 365.256363 days and make judgements with the wonderful use of hindsight. I don’t like hindsight very much, I’m far too impressed by shiny things and it’s only after looking back on these things afterwards that I realise how bad they were, showing me up for the gaming magpie that I am.

The year 2010 was the epitome of a hindsight year for gaming. A lot of shiny new technologies and games were released to rave reviews but scratching beneath the surface we find them to be nothing but re-hashed ideas dressed up in packaging and endless cut-scenes. In short, 2010 gaming hasn’t inspired me. I remember a time when the concept for a game took longer to come up with than actually playing the game. Now it seems as though every concept idea starts with, “Hey, how about we have a grizzled protagonist in an open-world game with regenerating health, lots of mini games and annoying support characters?” Sound familiar? So, now I’ve set the bar lower than my expectations for Arsenal this season, let’s see what 2010 meant for gaming.

The year of the motion sensor

The year 2010 was a good year for new technologies, or rather old technologies with new owners. Yes, Microsoft and Sony finally got a little bit jealous of the stupid amounts of money Nintendo was raking in with motion-sensor gaming and decided to release their own. Nintendo found the sweet nugget of appealing to under 15s and over 40s alike, while alienating the hardcore gamers. The Move and Kinect are now trying desperately to capture that audience and showing some signs of success so far with expected sale of 8 million units between them this year. I’m still not convinced by motion-sensor gaming but the figures alone caused me to award the technology the No 1 spot in my top 10 gaming innovations.

The year of cinematic gaming

A new concept in the world of gaming is the induction of cinematic games. OK, they may just be a series of quick time events or cut scenes, nothing new there. However, a number of games in 2010 (mainly Heavy Rain, Alan Wake and Fable III) seemed like they wanted to be films but discovered Leonardo Di Caprio wasn’t available to star in any of them and they had to make do with being video games instead. Heavy Rain is the worst offender of this and went for the all-out movie dressed up as a game approach insomuch as it feels as though all you do is press a button to resume the storyline. As I alluded to in my Fable III review, I don’t like games which feel like I’m just watching a movie and the DVD player every now and again pauses the film and makes me press play on the remote. It’s just not a game if all I can do is walk from one long cut-scene to another and “Press X to continue”.

The year of releasing the same game, again!

You can call them “sequels”, “new-editions” or even “updates” but let’s just be honest, most games with an increment number on the end is essentially the same game in most cases and the 2010 versions of these are even lazier than before. EA continued its grand tradition of re-releasing the same game every year with a different number on the end, only they struck it lucky with this being a World Cup year and managed to release the same game twice in the space of four months with World Cup 2010 and FIFA 11. The Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises turned out the same game a few more times with new bands to help promote it. However, the award for shamelessly releasing the same game again this year has to go to Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Now let’s get one thing straight, I bloody love the Mario. In recent years, I feared for how the series could continue but brilliantly they took the step of launching Mario into space. Unfortunately, once you go into space there’s not much else to do with a character and so it seems they just made Mario Galaxy again. Same plot (then again, every Mario has), same controls, pretty much the same level design and the same ending. Even Mario seems to be in on this, proudly shouting on the opening credits “Super Mario Galaxyeeeeee”. You can almost hear someone in the background saying “erm … 2”, but by that stage the voice actor had already left the studio and was on his way to do a bad Italian accent in a 1920’s American gangster film or something.

The game of the year

Normally, it’s good practice to see who Video Game Awards awarded this title to, copy and paste their work and take a half day, but I’d like to think I’m a little more thorough than that … barely. Besides, I found out Red Dead Redemption has won that award. Now I’m not an alliteration addict admittedly, so the name Red Dead Redemption just doesn’t appeal to me. The game isn’t necessarily red, the protagonist isn’t dead and the only redemption seems to be a reunification with his emotionally uninterested wife and son. Grand Theft Auto Western style would probably be more accurate.

The game play itself? Well, it was good, but I think it was more a poor showing of the games industry rather than merit which won the award for RDR. RDR displayed the same arduous problem which turned me off the first Assassins Creed, which is the pointless distance between start point and end point of a mission. If you’ve made a nice, open-world game, good for you, but don’t force the player to go to every darkened corner of it to complete the game. Plus the glitches ruined the experience from start to finish.

So who deserves game of the year title? Well, having just crushed thousands of fanboy hearts I’m only left with two games from 2010 to choose from, really. Call of Duty: Black Ops and Fallout: New Vegas. Unfortunately, things don’t look good for Fallout: New Vegas. I’m only halfway through the game and it has more bugs than a Bush Tucker Trial and plays more like an expansion pack for Fallout 3 with no online multiplayer support. Conversely, the best part about “BLOPS” is the online gaming but I’ve always maintained online game play does not make up for a shoddy single-player campaign. Seeing as I’m being overly fussy about names, too, the name “Black Ops” screamed stealth action game to me but there’s nothing stealth about running guns blazing into every mission with grenades exploding every five seconds.

I’ve nearly gone through an entire article without a ridiculous metaphor, so here goes. Both games could have taken the title if they weren’t so much like rich tea biscuits. Perfectly good but dissolving when trying to enjoy them to their fullest, like with a nice cup of tea. Last year’s Batman Arkham Asylum is more like a chocolate hob nob, dunked three times and still insisting on more. I’ve played the game through three times on each difficulty and each time it has offered something different and entertaining. So the coveted 2010 Siliconrepublic chocolate hob nob award for game of the year goes to Batman Arkham Asylum. I hope you’re happy, games industry; I had to go back to 2009 and cheat the calendar to find a game worthy of such a prestigious award.

Now roll on 2011 so I can finally play Arkham City, Portal 2 and the long-awaited Duke Nukem Forever … I’ll stop laughing when it stops being funny.

Comments and/or complaints: @ARenardson

Adam Renardson