Top Games of 2010: Richard Pilot's Choices

By Richard Pilot

Top Games of 2010

In each of these "Top Games of 2010" features one contributor to the site will detail their three favourite titles from the year, and explain why they made those choices. They will also provide an "indie choice", highlighting one of the best games from the independent scene. Next up is Staff Writer Richard Pilot.

There is such a thing a style over substance. Whilst 2010 saw its fair share of fantastic games, there were also a selection of games that weren’t so great, either due to a poor idea or poor execution. There are many things that we as video game fans would argue over when it comes to deciding what qualifies as a great game. Is it a compelling storyline with well written characters? Is it an innovative new concept or a use of technology that takes games in an exciting new direction? Just Cause 2 has none of these features but what it certainly is, is fun and that’s one thing that a game must be to make it to my list. There is also something to be said for a game that's not afraid to rethink past gameplay techniques and overhaul them even if there was nothing wrong with the original concept, something that Splinter Cell: Conviction did very well. Finally, Limbo is a game that manages to draw you in with a stunning atmosphere and an intriguing tale of adventure and death. Find out more about my choices below!

Who needs parachutes?

Who needs parachutes?

Just Cause 2 (360/PS3/PC)

Released in March of 2010, Just Cause 2 didn’t really bring anything new to gaming and while its plot was enough to get you from point A to point B it won’t be winning any awards for great writing. However, what Just Cause 2 did give was a vast sandbox for you to explore and it allowed you to cause vast amounts of destruction within it. We say this with many sandbox games but Just Cause 2 was more about the world and what you can do in it than seeing the game's campaign to completion. Points and upgrades were awarded based on the destruction you inflicted and the game incentivised you to take things to there utmost limits. When not engaging in the campaign, there was plenty to keep you entertained, from pickups and races that encouraged you to explore the world to military bases that encouraged you to blow stuff up. The graphics were fantastic and the explosions looked amazing. The world itself was huge covering over 90 square kilometers and had wildly varying terrain such as snow capped mountains and barren deserts.

Of course Just Cause 2 was not without its faults. The exploration and side missions were almost too distracting from the game's campaign, which became lost in the background, and we would have loved to have seen a co-op mode. Those issues aside, Just Cause 2 is certainly a title worth picking up and I enjoyed playing it for hours and hours. It therefore makes my list of Top Three Games of 2010.
Review (360) - 9/10

SC: Conviction makes sure you know your objective

SC: Conviction makes sure you know your objective

Splinter Cell: Conviction

Moving on from the ridiculousness of Just Cause 2 and into the shadows we come to Splinter Cell: Conviction. Whilst not a complete reboot of the franchise, Conviction certainly rewrote many of the pillars that it had based its gameplay on, rewriting the rules (for the better) and introducing a selection of new features that made you feel like you were in control of a total bad-ass.

Whilst not a reboot in the true sense as it continued the story from the previous games in the series it did completely overhaul the stealth system along with a new engine to boot. There was nothing particularly wrong with the gameplay mechanics in previous games but improvements were very welcome. With new features such as Mark and Execute and a much clearer stealth system, relaying the information you needed became a much more efficient process and then you can take out an entire room full of goons at the press of a button. The game featured an engrossing storyline on par with any Tom Clancy novel and it also included a lengthy co-op campaign which almost rivaled the single-player in both length and scope. Splinter Cell: Convinction was a exciting (almost) reboot of the series and a great entry into the continued fiction of Sam Fisher.
Review (360) - 8/10

It really is this colour

It really is this colour

Limbo (360)

Continuing the theme of hidden dangers but moving onto to something a little more subdued and even slightly sinister we reach my final choice: Limbo. It caught our eye earlier this year amidst the wave of praise coming from gaming press. It was launched amongst Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion and we were immediately sucked in. On the surface, Limbo is a platformer about a boy who finds himself lost in a forest. But the more you play, the more you get drawn into its incredible environment and art style.

Limbo is certainly a game where less is more. There are no sweeping ballads or over the top effects. It is quiet and reserved, creating an almost scary atmosphere where you never know what's coming around the next corner. Where each jump is a tense adventure in of itself and failure results in a swift and immediate death. The game is unwavering in its brutality, there are no second chances to correct yourself after a poorly made jump; only a fade to black and a quick loading of a checkpoint. PlayDead have crafted a fantastic and absorbing world for you to explore set across four distinct backgrounds. You may not understand what exactly is going on (and neither did we) but within the first few minutes of gameplay you too will get attached to the main character's fate and will want to ensure that the little boy makes it out of the woods alive. The game itself may be short but Limbo is definitely a game that everyone should experience and therefore it makes it to my list of Top Three Games of 2010.
Review - 9/10

Close contenders: Civilization V (PC), Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (360/PS3), Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (360/PS3), Halo: Reach (360)

There are a whole list of games that should be in the top three, but were just shy of greatness for one reason or another. Anyone who’s heard me speak on the podcasts will know how much of a fan of Kinect I am and will be surprised to see the lack of Kinect titles or even motion gaming in general on the list. Motion Gaming is unfortunately still in its infancy and developers need time to get to grips with the technologies now at their disposal. Some of the more impressive titles should still get a mention however. Dance Central should be praised for its insightful approach to UI design and addictive gameplay. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved should be praised for its exciting showcase for the Kinect tech and showing what can be done with the technology. Kinect Sports showed us that these games can be incredibly fun and should be praised for telling us that Kinect doesn’t need to have 1:1 mapping to be enjoyable. Sadly, no one game combined all three of these ideas into a single experience and ultimately there is no killer title for the platform yet and so our eyes will be focused on E3 to see where the tech is going next and hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Other games also deserve a quick (Not sure this is quick! - Ed) mention here. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood once again improved upon the previous iteration in the franchise and delivered a fantastic title. Ultimately it was a little too iterative and whilst it is highly polished didn’t deliver enough new features to be considered for my list. Enslaved showed us that the action/adventure genre is still going strong, delivering a fascinating narrative and an interesting world for us to explore. Sadly it faltered a little in the home straight and its ending left me a little disappointed. Civilisation V once again set the standards for turn based strategy games and stole countless hours away from me within its first month of release. Whilst there are many varied options, strategies and civilisations at your disposal, the fact that it could take upwards of 5 hours of multiplayer to complete some games means coordinating the schedules of your friends long enough to play becomes a problem. My final mention goes out to Halo: Reach which almost made my top three. The last in the Halo franchise from its original creators, Bungie, this was definitely the swansong for a series that has defined not only the first person shooter and but an entire console platform and it stands as one of the icons for the Xbox. Reach brought the original story full circle, giving an insight into how Master-Chief got to where he was at the beginning of Halo. It delivered a stunning collection of set pieces and was a fitting end to the series in its current form. Ultimately though, like Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, while it was another well polished addition to the series it never truly delivered anything new to the genre.

Indie Choice: Minecraft (PC)

For me at least, no one game has inspired my imagination more so than Minecraft. Whilst Just Cause 2 showed us what could be done when it set us lose on a massive sandbox, Minecraft allowed us to redefine the sandbox itself. By providing you with a set of tools that allow you to mould the world itself, players are limited purely by the power of their own imaginations. Coupled with the virtually infinite world that can be generated it means you’ll have a vast wilderness to tame and build upon. When nighttime approaches, the world becomes a dangerous place as monsters begin to spawn and force you to build shelter, weapons and other defences. Taking the adventure online with a few friends grants you the most rewarding experience as you collaborate together building vast cities and epic mines.

The popularity of Minecraft really took off in 2010 and saw the game go from alpha to beta release with more features being adding on a monthly basis. Developed by one man, the game spawned an entire studio and we can’t help but wonder what the game will be like at completion. It already has us hooked and my addiction to this game means that I have no choice but to crown it my Indie pick for 2010.

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