This week, Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee lists his top 5 best and worst games of 2010.
Ho, ho, etc., and let me welcome you back to reality after the hopefully satisfactory completion of your respective annual rituals. Personally, I consumed roughly my weight in chocolate and crashed like a hypothetical blowjob-powered motorbike, so now I'm ready to face the new year. And the best way to face the new year is arse-first, with eyes drunkenly half-focused on the year just past. Rather than going through my tissue-thin awards charade this year, I thought I'd just cut to the chase and give my top five and my bottom five of 2010 - almost like a real critic! You'll know when I switch from one to the other because during the top five I'll speak with breathless enthusiasm like I've cornered you at the buffet table at the most excruciating party of your life and then when I'm doing my bottom five, my voice will drop in pitch and become filled with disgust like my sandwich just farted in my mouth.
Pat on the head and a biscuit
(Maple Leaf Rag plays as Yahtzee speaks)
My number five best game may come as a surprise in that it's on the XBLA, but I feel restricting the top list to the overpriced, AAA, Unreal Engine, dummy box in EB Games for the entire six months before release big boys club would send the wrong message to the bloated, uncreative, technocrat design committees that control the industry. Sorry, wrong voice. Top five, top five, enthusiasm, rapture.
So number five is Limbo from Playdead Studios, a short but stark physics platformer as genuinely-unnerving as Eastern European animation and best analogized as LittleBigPlanet visualized by a suicidal depressive.
Banging your shins on a coffee table
(Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary plays as Yahtzee speaks)
Appropriately, number five on my bottom list is a product of the very bloated, uncreative big boys club I railed against mere sentences ago. Namely, BioShock 2. It had one gunshot wound to the kneecap even before it left the gate, being a hasty sequel to a game that had no opening nor need for a sequel, and proceeded only to stumble through incomprehensibility, with its only bright moments being its occasional resemblance to its infinitely-better predecessor. At least it didn't have the Pipe Dream minigame, but that's like saying, "at least my horse costs less to feed now that it's dead."
Flirtatious kiss on the mouth
Getting back to happy, enthusiastic smiley town, number four is counter-intuitively another dismal, traumatizing experience, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In a mainstream industry where "survival horror" now means, "action adventure wherein monsters from the back page of H. R. Giger's teenage sketch diary do the Charleston under neon disco lighting", Amnesia showed everyone how horror is done: unspeakable monstrosities half-glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, no means of self-defense besides a sprint function, and dolphin-unsafe tuna occasionally extruding from the walls.
Fingers trapped in a hinge
From the far, far, far other end of the spectrum comes my fourth worst game of 2010, Final Fantasy XIII, a game to which subtlety is as alien a concept as smart-casual.
The message Square Enix now seem to be bringing across is, "We just want to make films! How much more gameplay do we need to remove before you'll figure that out? We've pared it down to the point where all you do is clop down linear hallways and their AI subroutines do the combat for you. Now stop expecting us to make games so we can remake Spirits Within!" But you just can't take the hint and stop buying Final Fantasy, can you, you cruel bastards?
Putting your face between two massive knockers and going BBL BBL BBL
Back in the top five, the prevalence of indie games so far may make you wonder if I've become so pretentious I won't give the time of day to anything that costs more to make than an egg and cress sandwich. But that changes with number three, Red Dead Redemption.
Rockstar's Old West odyssey might have suffered a little from a bit of kitchen sink approach to gameplay, a kitchen sink full of brown washing-up; but overall was like throwing yourself onto a mattress made of soft meringue - unstructured, but oddly satisfying. And now you can play it with zombies in, which still baffles me. Do you get a tax break if you make a zombie game or something?
The third worst game of 2010 demonstrates that there is no once-profitable franchise so dead that you cannot jump on its stomach and sell whatever liquids come out of its nose: The Force Unleashed II.
With Star Wars almost at the point where putting its name on your product might actually reduce sales, the last thing it needed was this. A game both exhaustively padded and insultingly short, and therefore must have been entirely developed over a bank holiday weekend. With an inconsequential plot in which characters desperately try to out-emote a Christmas pudding, I'd call it the last nail in Star Wars' coffin, but we won't even be able to put the lid on before people stop queuing up to rape its corpse.
Jumping off a rainbow onto someone you hate
Just to make me a hypocrite, my second best game is a zombie game, or rather the zombie game, Dead Rising 2.
Ironing out Dead Rising 1 's sizable wrinkles of unreasonable difficulty and A.I. on the level of a bucket of retarded pies, Drising 2 is, on one level, a uniquely colourful take on sandbox gameplay, and on another, a game in which you plough through crowds of squishy antagonists with many varieties of sharp things on the ends of sticks. It is rather dumb fun, but dumb people are a great laugh to have around because you can make them eat bugs and touch fences that you suspect might be electrified.
Mistaking a deep fat fryer for an eye wash station
Now, if I were doing mock awards this year, number two in my bottom five would win the "Farting the Moonlight Sonata Award" for Desecration of Classics. I mean none other than the execrable Metroid: Other M.
Team Ninja gave Samus Aran a voice just so she could simper at all the boys. Making Metroid heavily story-based was the first mistake, and mistakes two through seventy-five all involve turning one of gaming's toughest female icons into a shrieking mimsy in a submissive relationship with a bellend in a fancy cap. Which perhaps could have eventually been overlooked, but the gameplay was just kinda shit.
Best game of 2010
Making love inside a chocolate eclair
And so we move to number one, my game of the year. There were no completely faultless games in 2010, least of all this one. But after three years of a new game every single week, riding the game criticism rails like the shoutiest hobo, my attention span has degraded to the point that there were only two games this year that I wanted to keep playing after I'd reviewed them. Dead Rising 2 was one. And the other...comma...stalling tactic...was Just Cause 2.
An almost Garry's Mod-like bundle of free-roaming fun tied up in a loose, but still involving gameplay structure in a world about twice the size of the entire universe. Any criticism I might have given it is drowned out by the terrified scream of an enemy soldier with one leg tied to a harrier jet.
Worst game of 2010
Consumed from within by giant space wasps
But to the yin must come the yang, to the cream must come the cheese, to the giddy high of new love must come irritable bowel syndrome. The worst game of the year, a game less substantial than a fart in a lift but no less unpleasant for those caught in its wafting cage. A game that killed its franchise so thoroughly that the only acceptable sequel would be a box containing nothing but an apology letter and some chocolates.
I refer, of course...to Halo: Reach.
Burned! Had you going there for a second, didn't I? Actually, it's Fable III. Burned again!
No, seriously now. A game I found literally as headache-inducingly unpleasant as impacted wisdom teeth surgery in the middle of a rave. Step forward, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. Step onto your first-place podium, then put a rope around your neck so we can kick it away.
Well frankly it wasn't that much of a year: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Yes, my top 3 are all sandbox games, perhaps this is one of those phases I'm going through
It's the chocolate milkshake that gets you fucked up