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Games Review 2010 – Part One: The Good

Games Review 2010 – Part One: The Good

Games Review 2010 - Part One: The Good

Games Review 2010 – Part One: The Good

1972 was a very special year for everyone who will be reading this right now and most of you will have no idea why… It’s not a historical date in human history but it was the year in which the video games industry was born. The release of the first ever home video games console – the Magnavox Odyssey – was met with widespread acclaim and helped revolutionise home entertainment. A few years the Odyssey had a competitor, developed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, Pong brought some much needed competition to the market which in turn jump started the entire gaming industry.

In the early days most titles were derived from Pong and featured the most basic of coding and graphics but over the years the advancements made have been startling. From the NES to the Sega Master System to the SNES the games console eventually became a household appliance to most families and helped keep children, teenagers and adults entertained for months on end. Now, 38 years after the release of the first ever home video games console there are billions of people around the globe who own a system that can play any number of games ranging from racing simulators to role playing. Why the history lesson? You might be asking… well it seems that these days the speed of our advancement in technology means each new game release and each new console release is groundbreaking in it’s own way. This year has been no different as gamers across the globe have enjoyed a feast of electronic amusement like never before. The main question is, which games deserve to be remembered for the right reasons, and which for the wrong?

The Good

Mass Effect 2
The year got off to a fantastic start with the hotly anticipated release of Mass Effect 2. The original Mass Effect was an instant success and just three weeks after release more than a million copies had been sold for the Xbox 360. The game focused on an elite human soldier named Commander Shepard who, in the year 2183, sets out to explore the Galaxy on a starship, the SSV Normandy. The game received widespread acclaim for its ever changing storyline – which was altered depending on choices made throughout the game – whilst also picking up a raft of awards, including the #1 spot in IGN’s list of "The Top 25 Xbox 360 games".

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The bar was set and trying to better it proved challenging, yet on the release of Mass Effect 2 it became clear that BioWare – the games producers – hadn’t rested on their laurels. Commander Shepard returned for the action packed sequel in which he must hunt down a mysterious race called the Collectors after a number of attacks on human colonies. The game was an instant success and, much like its predecessor, received a number of highly favorable reviews, including ours where we handed out the Gold Award. After just a week the game had shipped out over two million copies and the trend continued for a number of weeks after release. With plans for a third title in the series 2011 is shaping up to be another great year for BioWare.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Most FPS loving gamers have followed the Battlefield series since the early days of Battlefield 1942. Always known for its realistic gameplay and brilliantly depicted warzones each title in the series has been an instant hit with critics. Battlefield: BC2 was no different. Set in the modern day the sequel to the original Battlefield: Bad Company follows the "B" companies search for scalar weapons around various landscapes over the globe. Although the single player featured a well worked storyline and allowed for hours of gameplay the main focus of BC2 was the multiplayer aspect.

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The multiplayer mode offered plenty of variation with up to five different game modes but mainly focused on team based combat. With a fully destructible environment there is rarely a safe place to take cover which helped to create a sense of urgency and excitement that very few games achieve. With the ability to use a number of different hi-tec weapons as well as take to the skies in helicopters – or smash through the land in tanks – the multiplayer mode became the major selling point of the game, and helped sell over five million units since release. As with most titles released these days the downloadable content provided a constant stream of updates which kept the game fresh and exciting months after release. Battlefield:BC2 is without doubt a definite milestone in the Battlefield series and a platform for them to build on in future.

Call of Duty: Black Ops
It’s difficult to put into words just how big the Call of Duty series has become. Published by Activision the series has gone through a growth curve unlike anything ever seen in the world of video games over the past few years. Despite receiving critical acclaim for each game in the series the franchise was still relatively small in terms of sales figures for the first few iterations. Yet with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare the game became a massive success, since then we’ve seen COD: World At War, COD:MW2 and the latest in the series, COD:Black Ops.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops went on sale this November and within one day of its release 5.6 million units had been sold in the US and UK alone, breaking all previous records – which were ironically set by its predecessor COD:MW2 – and earning more than twice as much as the other major entertainment release, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Since then it’s estimated that 18 million units have been sold, earning a total of $818 million, a figure that is impressive by any standard in the world of computer games. Despite the massive sales figures, reviews of the game varied wildly but very few offered the same sort of critical acclaim that had been handed out to its predecessors, with many stating the game was merely a stop-gap release. Yet in the world of business, sales don’t lie and as things stand Call of Duty: Black Ops is not only the biggest game of the year, but one of the biggest in history, and we fully expect the next release to be just as big.

Gran Turismo 5
If there is one game that had everyone hot under the collar this year it was Gran Turismo 5. For years the Gran Turismo series has been the cherry on top of the large Japanese cake of the PlayStation as Sony have exclusive rights to the game. Since its birth the franchise has sold over 61 million units worldwide and is widely regarded as the best and most realistic racing simulator of all time. GT is one of the very few games to have licensing for hundreds of cars and tracks around the world and has become the benchmark for graphical interpretation of racing cars for all producers over the years.

Yet the gameplay has always proven the strongest selling point of the Gran Turismo series, with cars designed to handle and perform exactly like their real life counterparts and tracks designed perfectly, down to the smallest bump in the road. The wait for Gran Turismo 5 was a long and excruciating one for all petrol heads – including this writer – but in November of this year it finally arrived.

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Disappointingly, after around 5 years in development, the game had made very few forward steps and instead felt like a re-hashed GT4, with updated graphics and cars. Yet even still it proved an instant success, receiving many positive reviews and selling millions of copies just days after its release.

It’s clear that although the wait may not have been entirely worth it, maybe no title would ever live up to the expectations placed on GT5, however it is still one of the best racing simulators ever released.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
If you’re looking for an example of a racing simulator that has reinvented a series then you need look no further than Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. The past few releases from the world famous EA title were pretty unspectacular and after enjoying the success of Need For Speed: Underground they were looking to get back on track. In order to do that EA turned to Criterion Games, the people behind the much loved and reminisced Burnout series. Turns out it was a pretty good move from EA as they production company managed to revitalise the genre and put the speed back into the Need for Speed series.

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When Hot Pursuit was released many let the game slip through the net as their heads were firmly fixed on the release of Gran Turismo, yet the game received rave reviews from almost every reputable magazine and website, including an Editors Choice Award from ourselves at Gaming Heaven. Most fell in love with the exhilarating excitement of the races in the game and with the groundbreaking Autolog feature they brought a whole new aspect to console gaming, integrating it with the ever growing world of social networking. Criterion Games went above and beyond with this title and the success they are now enjoying is duly deserved.

Fallout: New Vegas
Anyone who has followed the Fallout series will know just how brilliant the games are and the painstaking effort that must have gone into producing them. The most notable feature that set the Fallout series apart from other titles in the same genre was the storyline and how it could be changed throughout the game depending on a number of factors. Each decision in game would cause different reactions and storylines to tale off in completely different directions. Fallout: New Vegas enhanced the things that made the previous titles so well loved whilst also introducing new, innovative ways to play the game. Although the game still carried its fair share of irritating bugs and problems at release they paled into insignificance given how immersive and hugely entertaining the New Vegas became.

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Released in October 2010, just a week after going on sale over 1.4 million copies had been shipped out worldwide and the reviews which followed were hugely impressive, with most – including our own – praising the detail of the Las Vegas backdrop as well as the ever changing storyline and various new features. Although not revolutionary, the game did everything it was supposed to and kept people interested enough to look forward to the next release.

Red Dead Redemption
Anyone who has ever seen John Wayne get on his horse and gallop into the horizon as a kid will have an unbreakable bond with all things Western. In the past people have tried and failed to create a realistic and enjoyable good ol’ fashioned Western game but this year saw the geniuses at Rockstar San Diego finally pull it off with the release of Red Dead Redemption. Anyone who owns a console will know who Rockstar are and their ability to create hugely popular, hit games knows no bounds (see the Grand Theft Auto series).

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The premise was simple, you were John Marston, a retired outlaw formerly of a gang led by Dutch van der Linde – the baddest ass in the land. Separated from his family by federal agents John must hunt down and kill the remaining members of his former gang should he ever wish to see them again. What follows is pure carnage and surprises galore which kept players hooked for days on end. The game has since sold over 6.9 million copies and remains one of the highest rated console games in history, with widespread critical acclaim mostly focusing on the storyline, the vast open world and soundtrack.

Halo Reach
How do you better what most Xbox lovers regard as the best console game ever released? Well somehow the developers at Bungie managed to do just that with what turned out to be the best Halo title to date. Halo was to Xbox what Gran Turismo was to the PlayStation and since the release of the very original the franchise has had a cult following akin to Star Trek. After many years and various titles the developers haven’t strayed from what made the game great and each new title released seemed to improve on the last. When Halo Reach was announced at E3 in 2009 the hype surrounding the game was nothing short of sensational.

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It took Microsoft over a year to release the game but when they did it was an instant success – which is a given for anything that goes by the name Halo these days. The game grossed $200 million on its launch day and that trend continued for weeks afterwards, selling over 3 million in its first month in North America alone.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty
How many games can claim that they are the number one pastime for an entire nation? Well StarCraft can. It all started on the 31st of March 1998 with the release of StarCraft: Broodwars on the PC. The game would soon become the biggest selling PC game of the year with a total of 1.5 million copies worldwide. Yet that was only small scale and nobody predicted how big the game would eventually be, over the next decade the title shipped over 9.5 million copies across the globe with 4.5 million being sold in South Korea alone. The game has seen exponential growth in the Asian continent and to this day remains the most popular game in South Korea, with live games being streamed on national television and tournaments offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.

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During the 2002 World Cup in Korea it is reported that the South Korean national team called upon two professional StarCraft players to give the team a half time talk during one of their most important games, that’s a sign of how huge the game is. This meant that StarCraft II had an almighty task on its hands should it wish to surpass its predecessor as one of the biggest PC games in the world. Blizzard Entertainment changed huge parts of the game but the result has been astonishing. Although suffering some criticism the game was an instant success and just a month after release had sold 3 million copies worldwide. On top of that the game is slowly but surely breaking into the competitive market with many professional players choosing to make the switch, tournaments are beginning to spring up left, right and centre and the game has already become one of the most played multiplayer PC titles. With two expansion packs set to come in the near future this is only the beginning for StarCraft II.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Perhaps the only PC game that can claim to be bigger than StarCraft is World of Warcraft. Since release on November 23, 2004 the "Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" has slowly grown into the biggest and most played PC title on the planet. As of October this year WoW had over 12 million subscribers – each paying a monthly fee to play the game, making it by far the biggest game on the planet. Yet it’s had parents and scientists around the world concerned as to how much people are playing the game, even South Park did a parody of it as they poked fun at the addictiveness of WoW and the people playing it.

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Anything that carries the WoW brand is now guaranteed to be an instant success and WoW: Cataclysm was no different. On release on the 7th of December the game set a new sales record for PC games after selling 3.3 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release, including digital presales. The opportunity for ever expanding environments and characters means the possibilities are limitless for Blizzard and with the PC market now sewn up there is very little they can do wrong. WoW Cataclysm was another massive success and each new expansion released will prove the same.

Part Two coming soon…

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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