The Obligatory ‘Game of the Year’ Article 2010

December 27, 2010, Author: The TIMJ Team

This year was filled with a fair amount of exceptional games and after mulling over two particular titles, I feel Red Dead Redemption best represented what this medium is about. The world Rockstar San Diego created is so ambitious, not only in scale, but also in portrayal. The landscapes are vast and simply awe-inspiring in some instances. The wildlife looked and responded in a truly believable manner and the Western atmosphere was captured more perfectly than I’ve seen in any form.

Red Dead possessed perhaps the most engaging narrative I’ve come across in a video game. Yes, it’s not the most original of tales but what the story lacks in originality it certainly makes up for in character. John Marston’s outlaw past doesn’t prevent him from being a truly likable character. I must admit, I found the last few hours of the campaign emotionally exhausting. Then that amazing finale, which made me wonder if the word ‘redemption’ could ever be more fitting. Never before have my heartstrings been pulled in such a way whilst holding a controller.

Let’s put aside the ‘GTA in the Old West’ jibe, Red Dead Redemption is head and shoulders above Rockstar’s trophy franchise. In an industry that’s becoming more obsessed with futuristic shooters and post-apocalyptic wastelands, Red Dead showed me that just because something is old doesn’t make it uninspiring. All game developers in search of acclaim and industrial clout take note; this is how you do it.

Runners up: Mass Effect 2, Halo: Reach.

If I was to consider games in a completely airtight environment, without looking at any collateral circumstance, the battle between GT5 and Yakuza 3 would be dangerously close. Unfortunately the experience with Sega’s awesome brawler is tainted by a localization that can only be defined absolutely shameful (and that has become a tragic standard with Sega West) and for which, to add insult to injury, we had to wait a full year. No matter how sizable the dialogue, that kind of translation, especially given the absence of voice acting, can be done in three months, easily and much, much better.

Let’s get to my personal pick: Gran Turismo 5 has been the target of extreme and over-dramatized hate from some that were expecting the second coming of Jesus H. Christ. From brand rivals and even more from parts of the press, that for some arcane (or maybe not so arcane, after all?) reason went out of their way to show the game in the worst possible light. So much out of their way that some even resorted to spreading false information and using faked or staged videos in order to bash it.

Personally, well aware that perfect games don’t exist and never will, I kept my expectations realistic, and those expectations have been completely fulfilled. Gran Turismo 5 is the best racing/driving simulator ever released on a console, combining the visual fidelity that’s normally lacking in the most hardcore PC simulators with physics and car handling that gets very near to rival theirs. On top of that, the sheer amount and variety of content is absolutely stunning; an element that in a market that leans more and more towards 6-hours games, is quite refreshing.

Add to that the fact that Polyphony Digital seems to be hell-bent on improving the game for a long time, delivering a whole slew of free content and updates, and the picture is complete. It’s not free of flaws, but it still offers an experience that has no equal in the console market, singing a true solo love song to the motorsports world. Some say that racing simulators are too niche to be “game of the year”. I beg to differ.

Runners up: Yakuza 3, Mount & Blade: Warband.

Personally speaking, 2010 has been a tough year for myself and unfortunately I haven’t played all the games I’d have liked to. Luckily though, what I have played has been pretty epic, thus making the decision to pick my game of the year very hard. The year has been rich with games that have told stories so engrossing and enjoyable that any other year they could have easily walked away with game of the year. Games such as Darksiders and Enslaved, although slighty lesser titles in a world of Assassin’s Creed, Fable, COD etc, they were excellent games with great adventure and stories.

However for me it was between just two games, Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead Redemption. Yeah, pretty much like most other people’s choices, but by god they are amazing games! The story detail and journeys they both manage to take you on, and the spellbinding endings that each game give really make both titles masterpieces. Mass Effect 2 hit hard with much improved combat, and much less of the annoying planet grinding, its such a vast improvement over its predecessor. Then add the breath-taking look and style with an intriguing and pulsating adventure, this game really should be winning its development team a ton of honours.

For me though, one game was just that bit better than Mass Effect 2, and that was Red Dead Redemption. Some could argue that my love of the Western genre makes my choice a bit bias, and on some levels that could be true, but this is my own personal choice and so I can make it. Red Dead was everything and more if you love a good western, and more to the point, even if you don’t care much for the ways of a cowboy. Yes, it’s GTA on horseback, but when riding a horse is this much fun who the hell cares?

Red Dead has everything; the big open world, colourful characters, and a world you’d love to live in. The side missions are even fun to do, something Rockstar haven’t quite got right in the GTA franchise, but here they got it pretty much spot on. Really, though, it’s the main character, John Martson’s tale of reformed wrong-doer turned family man that makes this my choice for game of the year. At points you think he’ll be tempted to go back to his old ways, but it’s refreshing and pleasant to see that he sticks to his family values right till the very end. Oh, and the ending of this game, if you haven’t played it then the only way I can describe it without ruining it for you is… wow!

Runners up: Mass Effect 2, Darksiders

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