The Obligatory ‘Game of the Year’ Article

December 31, 2009, Author: The TIMJ Team

In a year of quality, high-profile releases, this is one title nobody expected to live up to the hype. However, unlikely as it seems, the space time continuum imploded, hell froze over and instead we were treated to a fresh and enticing look into the Dark Knight’s World, filled with his trademark gadgets, fists and detective skills. Rocksteady Studios gave us all that and a captivating storyline that is as faithful to the lore of the comic books as it is to the ambience and atmosphere in both the animated series and feature films. When I used to think of Batman games, all that sprang to mind were poor movie tie-ins or cheesy side-scrollers with no substance or feeling. However, my perceptions have been radically altered thanks to one of the most finely crafted and fluid action games in years. There’s a lot of great AAA games that have hit store shelves this year, but none that have haunted and made me salivate with delight as much as Arkham Asylum.

Defining Moment: The Scarecrow sections really demonstrate a great understanding of the character and are some of the most intuitive and well-designed scenarios in a game this year.

Honourable Mentions: Dragon Age: Origins, Modern Warfare 2, Borderlands, Resident Evil 5, Halo Wars.

Those who know me will be aware of my slight bias towards this title but it is just that good a game. Its predecessor, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a game I could only refer to as innovative thanks to the narrative and sublime gameplay. It’s no secret that Modern Warfare 2 had flaws in its campaign story but where it failed with unbalanced storytelling, it succeeded in gripping action. The newly added Spec Ops and revamped multiplayer are what make it my game of the year. The level of bonuses in multiplayer is astounding as even players with low skill levels are constantly rewarded. The ability to wield akimbo weapons and create custom kill-streaks further add to the appeal. Spec Ops, Infinity Ward’s version of Gears 2’s Horde Mode, is probably the best take on the idea to date. Unlike Gears where you feel a sense of security with a maximum of 4 team-mates, Spec Ops only allows one partner adding a tense, more realistic atmosphere. Although it could have done with less plot holes in the campaign, Modern Warfare 2 is my game of the year for its addictive multiplayer, the newly introduced Spec Ops mode and its excellent gameplay.

Defining Moment: Although the story had many flaws, the ‘No Russian’ mission made me think of how real the dangers of terrorism are.

Honourable Mentions: Street Fighter IV, FIFA 10, Plants vs. Zombies.

When I first heard rumours a couple of years ago that a Batman game was being developed, I immediately thought “Awesome, a Dark Knight tie-in, just what we need”. I think everyone was a little surprised when it came to light that Batman: Arkham Asylum was entirely standalone and was more closely linked to the original source material. The surprises just kept on coming (and it has to be said, in a year that has been otherwise been far too predictable) as it proceeded to absolutely rock my socks off in every aspect. I’ve never seen so much respect given to an IP as Rocksteady gave to the DC Universe; the additional content could have acted as a makeshift encyclopaedia of Batman’s world, and bringing the voice cast of the animated series (including Mark Hamill, who quite simply is The Joker) was a masterstroke. The combat was pretty simplistic but on the highest difficulty still provides a good challenge and looks absolutely stunning, as well as really capturing how much of a brutal powerhouse the Caped Crusader can be in a scrap. The stealth section’s focus on getting your enemies so scared that they soil themselves also contributed to making me feel like I actually was Batman. Flying through the shadows, hanging an unsuspecting thug from the ceiling and disappearing before the others even have a chance to cry for their mother is a genuinely unique and exhilarating experience. Quite simply, it’s the most complete package in terms of superhero games and deserves every accolade it receives. While I think announcing the sequel already is more than a touch keen, it’s my one to watch until more news is released about Fallout: New Vegas.

Defining Moment: It was actually a completely innocuous moment in my first ever open conflict with some of the Joker’s goons. As one of them tried to kick me from behind I hit the counter button, which resulted in Batman grabbing the poor sod’s leg without even turning around and snapping it like a twig. Even though I’m sure it was a pre-rendered animation, the way Batman reacted looked absolutely seamless and left me begging for more after I lifted my jaw from the floor.

Honourable Mentions: Assassin’s Creed 2, GTA: Episodes From Liberty City, FIFA 10.

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