Top Games of 2010: Tom Banks' Choices
By Tom Banks
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. Lastly we have regular contributor Tom Banks.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360/PS3/PC)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is fantastic. It has a decent storyline, great graphics (on PC) and very good features. The core features are good (if not a little imbalanced) but I like that in this game. There are vehicles and the setting is as realistic as I want to go, which is great. Now when you read my Halo: Reach comments you’ll be thinking why I chose both games for my top 3. Halo: Reach does everything right - it doesn’t do anything which I consider risky, but I don’t want it to - I just want some smaller additions which build on a solid foundation. I didn’t want that from BF:BC2. I wanted something new from this game, and I got it. The key area, for me, was the destructible environment; if an enemy is hiding behind a wall, I can blow it up or shoot it until it gets out of my way. If someone is shooting at my tank from inside a building, I can just blow the building up with him in it. This feature has meant that a new benchmark has been set for my PC gaming. It could all have gone horribly wrong; if the destructible environment wasn’t implemented right then the game could have been a disaster. Thanks to BF:BC2 when I look at new first-person shooter (FPS) games I am looking for this feature, and if the game doesn’t have them then I will feel I am taking a step backwards. The next Halo game had better have destructible environments, because BF:BC2 has shown that they can be implemented in a way that really adds to the game, without it becoming the game (I’m looking at you Red Faction). However, if the game had only provided destructible environments it wouldn’t have been that great to me; it also needed the vehicles, the range of weapons, the class system, the revival system in online play, otherwise it would simply have been a tech demo. We have seen destructible environments in games for years but it has either completely failed or has been the defining element in the game. BF:BC2 has managed to add it whilst remaining an FPS at heart.
Halo: Reach (360)
I don’t play Halo games because I want them to rock my world. I don’t play them to see the bleeding edge in new features. I play the Halo games because everything they do, they do right. There’s no feature in a Halo game which I would change. Halo: Reach continued the trend set by its main predecessors (ignoring Halo 3: ODST) by adding in some new elements which, although not groundbreaking - at least, not to me anyway - were properly implemented and built upon the solid foundations. The storyline is interesting and kept me entertained throughout; I was never made to do something uncomfortable, never something hideously tedious, never something I didn’t feel like doing. This is war - the enemies are clearly defined, and I want to destroy them. Halo gives me that in the singleplayer and also gives me some great online multiplayer as well - it is everything I want from an FPS. Something reliable, sturdy and safe. If I want to try out crazy new features and gameplay ideas I’ll play it on another title. If it works, great, if it doesn’t I still have the Halo series to go and play.
Civilization V (PC)
I am a massive Real-Time Strategy (RTS) fan. I've been playing RTS games since I was six, starting with Dune 2 and Command & Conquer. My addiction to RTS games also led me to Turn-Based Strategy (TBS) games, and I was hooked on Civilization II when it was released. My favourite Civ game before this one was Civ II as it seemed to get the balance right. The third and fourth editions never added anything groundbreaking for me; they never satisfied me as Civ II once had. I was always left feeling that there wasn’t any real advancement in the genre. Fortunately Civ V has resolved all of that for me. It has brought much needed change which has really enhanced and refreshed the strategy genre for me. I thought I wouldn't like the game - not being able to stack units was a massive turn-off for me when I read they were implementing it. I almost didn't buy the game until I had spoken to (Staff Writer) Richard Pilot who managed to convince me that the changes made to unit stacking were beneficial, and so I gave it a go. I am pleased that I did that; the game is great. I have sunk many hours into Civ V and can say that without a doubt it is the best TBS game out there today, which is why it is in my top 3.
Games which almost made the cut:
- Mass Effect 2
A great storyline, however I felt it was a little too open. In ME1 I found myself guided through the game where I could go off-track when I wanted, but I always knew where to go next. ME2 just didn’t achieve that for me. I found the planet scanning tedious after a while and I am yet to complete the game fully. I'll do it, but I'll need to want to continue it, so maybe when ME3 comes along and I know I need to finish it before starting the next one. It is still a solid RPG and is very good, it just failed to get me hooked like ME1 did.
Minecraft is good - don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy the pure sandbox experience. It is still not at a point where I consider it a game, though. It is too easy to make a safe castle in which to reside, too easy to collect all the weapons and armour. There is nothing to do after that. No epic creatures to go and hunt down, nothing to drive me further. I know the game will get there, but it isn't there yet, hence it not being in my top 3 list. I am almost positive it will be in my top 3 next year, though. If there was a "one to watch for the coming year" section Minecraft would be there - it is going to go from strength to strength and becoming a new genre unto itself of a pure sandbox game, where you really can do practically anything.
- Aliens vs. Predator
I think this game is underrated. The online isn’t that great, but I consider the three single-player campaigns to be fantastic and a very enjoyable experience. I feel a lot of fear as a Marine, I feel confident and indestructible as an Alien and I feel like a cautious hunter, carefully plotting my next move as a Predator, which is what I wanted from the game. No quite good enough for my top 3, but it would be a crime not to mention it as a runner-up.
Indie Choice: Natural Selection 2 (beta) (PC)
I’ve been following the developers (Unknown Worlds) for some time now, and have been “playing” Natural Selection 2 since they made the engine tech demo available. Even though it is still in beta, their work with the community has been fantastic and I have enjoyed the closed beta more than Minecraft’s alpha/beta phase as it is a lot more complete and has been for some time. The combination of FPS and RTS elements are similar to Battlefield 2's commander abilities, but have taken that next step, and is a great mix when with the right people. The features they have added and plan on adding look to be taking some real strides forward in this hybrid genre. If you are unaware of the game then I strongly suggest looking at their website to see all the features they have added/are adding to the game. I believe this could be the top online FPS of the coming year when released, but have made it my indie game of the year because the the epic progress they have made so far. Every patch brings the beta closer to release and makes you see the game getting significantly better (either with new features, units, bug fixes or optimisations).