The Most Disappointing Game of 2010
As much as this may sound like a cop out: for me, the most disappointing game of 2010 was not technically a bad game. On the contrary, it has been subject to almost universal acclaim (read: I could only find one review where it had been scored less than the equivalent of 90 percent). Furthermore, it's not as though it was the worst game released this year. There were times where the visuals blew me away, or the action functioned as I believed it should have with lasers, bullets and bodies flying everywhere. For every moment of perfection I played through however, I was then subjected to an eternity worth of poorly-delivered dialogue, or painstakingly slow-paced firefights.
I laboured over this decision for quite some time, as there were scores of underwhelming games released this year. The disappointment started early with the comically-derivative Darksiders, which takes away the dubious honour of having the most convoluted control scheme I've ever been privy to. Not just in the context of this year either, the game was genuinely confusing to play, and I am struggling to think of any game which required more thought to execute some of the most basic maneuvers. March presented the long-awaited Final Fantasy XIII, which featured a narrative that hadn't really started, even after ten hours of play. Even though I had predominantly positive things to say about it earlier this year, I must admit that any subsequent attempt to re-engage with the game has failed. Other lowlights for the year included the soulless Modnation Racers, and criminally-difficult Lost Planet 2.
The competition was narrowed to two games however, after the month of September. Dead Rising 2 failed almost entirely to deliver a sequel worthy of its predecessor. As I had advised previously, the original Dead Rising showed the potential of then next generation hardware. Wading through thousands of zombies armed with rarely much better than sporting goods, Dead Rising was a truly black comic take on the Survival Horror genre. The sequel promised the ability to craft zany weapons, online co-op and an expansive casino-mall hybrid in which to wreak zombicide. What I played however was an unpolished, and at times unforgiving assault on the senses. With ridiculously difficult (I would even argue broken) boss fights, and truly woeful vehicle sequences, Dead Rising 2 disappointed me thoroughly. As unsatisfying as the game was, the downloadable prelude, Dead Rising 2: Case 0 had alerted me to the fact that little had changed since 2006. I was ready for the frustrations that DR2 would provide.
So without further delay, the most disappointing game of 2010 was Mass Effect 2.
Despite my best efforts, and by far the most impressive opening sequence I've ever seen, I failed to engage with Mass Effect 2 entirely. Reflecting on it now, the principal reason for my disillusionment with the game is the volumes of positive opinion that the game received. It was one of the reasons I opted to once again purchase an Xbox 360. I know that it's foolish to buy a system for one game, and in my defence I did it for three (Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3 and well, you know).
The RPG-lite approach adopted for the space opera sequel meant that Bioware had produced yet another cover shooter, which in this case was punctuated by monotone dialogue from the protagonist who was in turn accompanied by some regrettable support characters. Previously I had reported that my brother was of the opinion that I was not playing the game in the correct fashion, but I would argue that if I have the power to charge at my opponents, that I should be able to use said power and survive more often that not. Obviously that was not the case.
There were some characters that I truly appreciated, like my returning favourite Garrus and the humorously skittish Salarian, Dr Mordin Solus. After levelling-up some of my biotic powers the combat also became somewhat more enjoyable, but ultimately the game failed to attain the dizzying heights of praise levelled at it by throngs of journalists and my brother alike. Much like FFXIII, any attempts to return to the adventure have been met with abject failure. In spite of this, I am planning to restart the second chapter of Commander Shepard's journey sometime in the not too distant future.
The Best Downloadable Game (or Content) the Year
To be entirely honest, I haven't purchased too many exclusively downloadable games and content this year. To be brutally honest, little of said content was worth the price of acquisition. There were some highlights though, with the single player expansion to Bioshock 2, offering a stronger sole experience than that delivered with the initial product. The only problem with Minerva's Den was that it was yet another four hours in the underwater dystopia of Rapture, after the twelve to fifteen found in the combat-heavy retail product. The overwhelming sense of deja vu ultimately detracted from the experience, but I must stress that the conclusion was not only a great surprise, but also genuinely moving.
As good as Minerva's Den was, the best downloadable game of the year was Shank.
Despite some cruel spikes in difficulty, and the most frustratingly-difficult final boss fight in recent memory: Shank recaptured the simplicity and fun of platforming classics from the 32-Bit generation, albeit with a fresh and bloody coat of paint. With that said however, the platforming sections of the game provided the most frustration. Shank was a success more for its brutal combat, where the players can freely switch between melee and ranged weapons to create some truly gruesome combos. The boss fights were usually a reliable source of fun, and the pattern-based confrontations once again harked back to the games of consoles long since passed. The story was somewhat non-existent, but then again, how many 2D brawlers or platformers featured profound narratives? Shank is the true evolution of the 2D action game , and while there were some flaws to be found, and many cheap deaths to be had, it was by far the most memorable and enjoyable downloable game released this year.
The Most Suprisingly-Good Game of the Year
For all of my lamentations and glorified whinging, there were some good games released this year. Even some great games, many of which were far better than I had expected. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (which I finished this weekend) and Kane and Lynch 2: Dogs Days both proved to be more enjoyable than I had thought they would be, especially given the mediocre reviews both titles had received. These games each provided a short, focussed experience which at times was just as enjoyable as some of the more lauded competition. These games weren't anywhere near perfect, and featured several notable design flaws; but I did complete them. That's more than I can say for Vanquish, Fallout: New Vegas and Crackdown 2, which received more praise yet remain unplayed and will more than likely remain uncompleted for months to come.
As much flawed fun as I did have with some of the underdogs this year, the most suprisingly-good game of 2010 is easily Just Cause 2.
Just Cause 2 came from out of nowhere to steal hours of my life, and my heart. Sure there was enough cornball dialogue, and offensively-stereotyped voice acting to make several action films, but Just Cause 2 made up for its shortcomings with an unrivalled sense of freedom. As Rico Rodriguez, a deadly agent of the creatively-named government agency, The Agency, players could call upon a full-scale arsenal to wreak havoc across the island paradise of Panau. If you wanted to reach a fortress at the top of a mountain, you could order a helicopter from the Black Market to fly to your desired destination. If said helicopter wasn't proving to be enough fun, you could fly to the airbourne nightclub, steal a jet and proceed to plough it into your enemy's fortifications while you parachute to safety. On the other hand, maybe you don't like conventional aircraft. In that case, you could use Rico's trusty grappling hook and parachute to scale the highest peaks of Panau. Add the ability to capture your antics on videos which can then be uploaded to YouTube, and Just Cause 2 is the videogame equivalent of a youth's worth of Schwarzenegger films.
Be sure to come back on Wednesday to see my picks for the best games of the year. What was your pick for the most disappointing game of the year? What was the worst game you played this year?