Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Year in Review: Video Games

In my opinion, 2010 started out as a strong year for hardcore gamers, but fizzled out during the second half of the year with a number of predictable/monotonous mainstream releases. There were, however, a number of titles announced this past year that are slated for 2011 release that I am very much looking forward to playing. Each of the games mentioned in brief here are titles that I both played for the first time and reviewed earlier this year, so you can check out the more full and in-depth reviews at you leisure.

Bioshock 2: The first title was a hard act to follow, but despite my anxiousness for the release of 2K's sequel, it succeeded tremendously in carrying on the story of Rapture and further exploring the city and ideals of Andrew Ryan. Narrating the events through the eyes of Subject Delta, one of the first Big Daddies, the storytelling feels much more fluid even if the plot itself feels slightly less original than in the original Bioshock. A few tweaks here and there to the game mechanics might not have seemed necessary at first glance, but the gameplay benefits greatly from these. Throw in an online multiplayer mode that is as enjoyable as it is strategic and you've got a phenomenal sequel to what is quite possibly the best title released for this generation's consoles. My rating: 9.5

- Protector Trials: 9.0
- Minerva's Den: 8.0

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Working out some kinks in the game mechanics from the first installment, Suda 51 has returned Travis Touchdown to the heat of battle. This time around, Travis isn't in it to win Sylvia - he's climbing the ranks of world-renowned assassins to seek revenge. There's a ton of blood, but it comes across as surprisingly cohesive with the overall art stlye of the game, and the soundtrack is fantastic to boot. Despite a few bumps along the way, Desperate Struggle is a blast to play and one of the best action-adventure titles for the Wii. My rating: 9.25

Dynasty Warriors Gundam: A hack-and-slash fest with Bandai's popular mecha series skinned over everything, this title is surprisingly enjoyable though not particularly deep. The gameplay is incredibly repetitive, but each pilot/Gundam has their own unique attacks, strengths, and weaknesses. The original story is creative, though a bit cheesy, while the classic battles reenacted from various series do a better job of wrapping players up in the experience. Dynasty Warriors Gundam isn't by any means fantastic, but it's one of the better Gundam games released in recent years. My rating: 7.25

Hydro Thunder Hurricane: Not much has changed in the overall feel of Hydro Thunder since the original was released years ago, and that's great news for veteran fans and newcomers alike. The game's controls are intuitive and players can advance through higher difficulty levels. The biggest selling point in terms of replay value, however, are the number of various gameplay modes available, including gauntlets, ring challenges, championship races, and online multiplayer. My rating: 9.0

Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2: While the gameplay is fluid and responsive, the cutscenes in the story mode were cooked up in a quick and lazy manner. The difficulties in the story mode are incredibly unbalance, but nearly perfectly balanced in the duel and tournament modes. As with most fighting games, each character is granted his/her basic set of attacks, but there is enough variation throughout to keep things interesting. My rating: 7.75

Final Fantasy XIII: Easily the single best looking game I've ever seen, FFXIII manages to stack its gameplay and story high as well. The characters are an interesting group thrown together by circumstance, and while each player will have his/her favorite, every one of the characters (of both major and minor roles) plays an important part in the grand scheme of things. The paradigm shift system works flawlessly, though some character roles will be more important earlier in the game, and others more important later on. The game is incredibly long, but if players are patient and put the time into it, I think they'll find FFXIII to be a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience. My rating: 9.5

Halo: Reach: Bungie's swan song to their most famous series is most full a package out of any of the Halo titles, and easily one of the best FPS games for this generation of consoles. Aside from a decent length campaign that pays homage in each level to it predecessors, gamers are given the online multiplayer that has made Halo so popular over the years, a more complete version of the firefight mode introduced in ODST, and nearly limitless options for creating maps in forge mode. The graphics are phenomenal, the soundtrack epic, and the voice acting top-notch. The level of customization in terms of the in-game SPARTANs and the various thumbstick/button layouts will cater to just about any player's personal preference. My rating: 9.25

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