2010 Year in Review

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve… a time to celebrate the triumphs and mourn the losses of the year past, while looking forward to the new challenges of the year to come. Of course, I mean all of this in the context of video games; I don’t want anyone to think I’m applying this level of self-reflection to my actual life.
Regardless, I thought this would be a good opportunity for a chronological review of my year in video gaming. 

Fallout 3. I started the year as a new-born vault dweller, but within a few short weeks I was murdering every man and beast in the Capital Wasteland. This was an RPG of unparalleled size and scope, full of fascinating characters and environments. As is typical for Bethesda games I got sick of the combat about 5 hours in, but apparently that didn’t stop me from completing the game and all the DLC.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii. An uninspired rehashing of old-school Mario gameplay. Its only decent spot was the frustrating but gleefully hectic 4-player co-op.
Gears of War 2. In February I began a love affair that continues to this day. This game is very nearly perfect, with the sole exception of some unfortunate button overloading. It would take me until the end of July to beat Level 50 Horde on Hardcore, and it would be one of my proudest video game achievements of all time. Still my favorite multiplayer game, I can’t wait until the third act comes out next year. 
Dragon Age: Origins. An enjoyable party-driven RPG with a great classic feel.  Decent characters and dialog supported a dark and interesting plot, nothing less than what I’ve come to expect from BioWare.
Slaying ogres in Dragon Age: Origins was one of my happier RPG experiences of 2010.
Final Fantasy XIII. It’s a good thing I got my RPG fix with Dragon Age, because boy, did this game disappoint. I do give its creators some credit, as most of its flaws are due to bold design and gameplay choices that fall a bit flat.
BioShock. After that whole FF13 debacle, I needed to cleanse my palate by re-playing what I still consider the best Xbox 360 game ever created.
Eternal Sonata. After exhausting Dragon Age I was still on a quest (haha, “quest”) to find some more decent RPG action, and so I scrounged up this early member of the Xbox canon. If you can sustain the extreme “J-ness” of this J-RPG, it does sport a fairly original premise and a passable battle system.
The Secret of MonkeyIsland (Special Edition). I downloaded this XBLA game so my wife could see how I spent the better portion of my middle school years. Still as fun as ever, though a bit clunky to play with an Xbox controller.
Peggle Deluxe. In June I finally broke down and tried the puzzle game that for many months had been rotting the grey matter of my friends with iPhones. This is one book you should not judge by its garish cover of rainbows and cartoon animals, because it is godsdamned addictive.
Play Peggle, and I guarantee orange pegs and anthropomorphized sunflowers will haunt your dreams. 
TMNT: Turtles in Time (Re-Shelled). I didn’t hesitate when I saw this game released on LIVE, because it was one of my all-time favorite SNES games. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that not only was it a half-assed remake with mediocre graphics and play control, it was a half-assed remake of the inferior arcade version. Booo.
Darksiders. Zelda meets God of War in this polished homage to the best games of all time. I thoroughly enjoyed this game, even as it shamelessly ripped off every great game from Devil May Cry to Portal.
Jade Empire. To lazy to go to the store, I decided to download this well-reviewed Xbox original. A BioWare RPG from 2005, Jade Empire turned out to be an innovative, well-streamlined adventure set in an interesting and mystical world. Well worth the $15.
The Beatles: Rock Band. I’ve pretty much been on a Guitar Hero / Rock Band hiatus since my PS2 days, but I finally got around to getting this game, mostly because I wanted just to bask in its reverence for the greatest band of all time. I was not disappointed.
DeathSpank. This XBLA game was the creation of Ron Gilbert (of MonkeyIsland fame) and Hothead Games. It was a passable Diablo-style romp, though slightly underwhelming given its pedigree.
LIMBO. A disturbing, violent, and mesmerizingly beautiful puzzle-platformer.  Like life, I hoped it would be longer, but I tried to be thankful for what I got.
The shores of LIMBO.
Psychonauts. Another Xbox original. Mediocre gameplay can’t mar the brilliance of this hidden gem. Eclectic characters and surprising levels make for a thoroughly entertaining experience.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Fast-forward to August, and I’m still buying mostly XBLA games. Surprisingly, this was actually the first Tomb Raider game I ever played. The old-school gameplay was fun, though the play control was occasionally frustrating. As far as I can tell, Lara is still as vapid and unlikeable as ever.
Prince of Persia. Somehow replacing the Sands of Time with an actual human being (Elika) resulted in a game that felt more empty. The game looked stunning, but just didn’t feel right.
Minecraft. One of my few PC gaming experiences this year. Even in an alpha release, this game looks to be brilliant. The open-world format taken to its logical extreme, you can deconstruct and rebuild the entire world as you see fit. I’ve played few games that felt so massive and immersive.
Minecraft: play this game and you’re going to Hell, because after a few hours,
you actually start to believe you are God.
Assassin’s Creed II. Finally got around to this one in September. They gutted the repetitive mission structure, while enhancing everything that was great about the first game.  Everything a sequel should be.
Halo: Reach. Weak characters and plot, but perfectly honed gameplay. I have to say that I consider it one of the most well-balanced FPS’s of all time, exactly what we’ve come to expect from Bungie. A fine ending to the franchise (if we believe that’s really the case).
DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue. More of the same = meh.
Fable III. Once again, Peter Molyneux builds up our expectations only to disappoint us. This game had Essentially the same dichotomy as Fable II: beautiful graphics and fun combat meet game-breaking bugs, poor design choices, and a weak ending.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Believe it or not, I got this game only a few weeks before Black Ops. I suppose it says enough about the game that after only a week of playing it, I couldn’t wait to go get the sequel. Wait… maybe that doesn’t say enough, because I can’t tell if that is a compliment or not.
Call of Duty: Black Ops. A lackluster campaign, but the multiplayer can’t be beat. (Especially not by me, because frankly I suck at the game.) This one is currently my go-to multiplayer option, and Gears of War 2 is accepting the new competition with grace and style. Looking forward to a lot of new players now that it’s after Christmas.
Mass Effect 2. It took me all year to get to this game, but it was certainly worth the wait. Although not as flawless as a lot of reviews would have me believe, it was still an excellent entry into the trilogy. More great work from BioWare.
Machinarium. With my lonely little Xbox 300 miles away and only a 4-year-old laptop to keep me company (well, and also my family), I looked to Steam to satisfy my gaming needs. I got this fun little point-and-click adventure on sale for $2.99.  It only kept me busy for two hours, but it was stylish and engaging enough that I’ll accept it as my final gaming experience for 2010.
The dystopian world of Machinarium, populated by adorable robots. 
Well, that’s it! Happy New Year, and let’s hope 2011 brings us some great new games!

What Do You Think?