Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
This is NOT a Top 5 list, simply an offering of 5 great games released in 2009.
In past years I've gotten in the habit of compiling a Top 5 or Top 10 list of the best video games of the year. The problem is that I only regularly play an Xbox 360, so I miss out on Wii and PS3 exclusive games like Killzone 2, Mad World, and Uncharted 2. The very nature of a Top 10 list implies that the formulator of said list has experienced all a particular genre, e.g. movies, music, books, etc., has to offer. It wouldn't exactly be fair for me to include a game I haven't played, but it would be even more of an injustice for me to exclude a game simply because I haven't played it. So with that in mind, allow me to offer 5 games that I have played, thoroughly enjoyed, and believe could occupy a spot somewhere in a Top 5 list of 2009.
I know Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 dominated the FPS genre in 2009, but Borderlands is the surprise hit of the year, and I dare say, the more original game. We all knew Infinity Ward's latest would be a mega-hit, but did anyone really see this violent romp from Gearbox coming? With its beautiful cell-shaded graphics, quest-and-loot-driven gameplay, frenetic action, and non-serious tone, Borderlands is tremendous (and more than a little addicting) fun that can be enjoyed alone or with friends (in co-op play). Yes the ending was off and a little disappointing, but were you really playing to get to the end of the game, or chasing the elusive, ever-better assault rifle or shotgun?
|Batman: Arkham Asylum
In hindsight, was Batman: Arkham Asylum a perfect game? No. For such a rich gallery of rogues, the boss battles left something to be desired, Detective Mode gave the player too much of an advantage, and the ending felt like a betrayal of one of the main characters of the Dark Knight mythos. But no game has captured the essence of Batman, or really any superhero, the way Arkham Asylum does. The simple and free-flowing combat mechanic that allows you to take on a dozen bad guys at once. The stealth aspect of Predator Mode allowing you to silently stalk your enemies. Those wonderful toys. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy. A great story and the best gaming environment (Arkham) since Bioshock's Rapture all combined to make this one of the best of the year.
|Assassin's Creed II
If truly great sequels are about rehashing the idea of the original on a bigger and better scale as much as advancing plot, look no further than Assassin's Creed II. In acknowledging the shortcomings and complaints from players about the first game, developer Ubisoft seemed to make a concerted effort to get things right in the sequel. Boy did they. The beautifully rendered sandbox of Renaissance Italy is populated with a variety of missions and quests that push protagonist Ezio's talents to the limit and keep any thoughts of boredom far from the mind of the player.
It would be hard for any game to follow Tim Shafer's Psychonauts. But that's what Brutal Legend had to do, and did so rather admirably, despite a few problems. When I played the demo earlier this year, it seemed like Brutal Legend would be a fun, hilarious 3rd-person adventure from start to finish. When I found that the heavy metal-inspired world was filled with many iterations of the same 2 or 3 side-quests, I got a little worried. When the game introduced a clunky real-time strategy component into the mix, and made most of the major plot-advancements center on it, I openly questioned what the developers were thinking. But all in all, Brutal Legend is one of the most original pieces of new intellectual property to come out in years. Kudos to Shafer and Doublefine for going for it with this game, even if it missed the mark.
|Dragon Age Origins
Quick, name a developer known for great role-playing games. If you're like me, two that immediately come to mind are Bethesda Softworks and Bioware. Both are titans in the genre with the former responsible for The Elder Scrolls series and now new games in the Fallout series. The latter, Bioware, ventured from its fantasy roots to make some great games in the world of sci-fi with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, but returned to form with Dragon Age Origins. There is so much for the RPG fan to love in this game. A huge world to explore, a world threatened by a dark force that the player must stop (or perhaps exploit), deep and detailed character customization and party management, and more. Additionally, Dragon Age Origins is one of the first games to offer such varied and unique gameplay starting with 6 completely different origins based on the type of character chosen and throughout the game with the decisions made by the player. This is a game that promises great RPG play well into 2010.