I hate Game of the Year things, in general. There are rarely any surprises and it's a cheap way of getting people to shower hits on your website or buy copies of your magazine by recycling old content and writing, essentially, the same thing you wrote a few months before. It's also very easy to forget great titles that appeared towards the beginning of the year because you've been involved so much in what's coming in the future or has just appeared in the very recent past.
Having said that, there's something compelling about the human need to list, to compile and to reminisce on a yearly basis. It would be a lie to say I didn't look at shortlists when presented with them in an RSS feed, for example. It's human nature to compare one's own opinions with that of others, often just to allow yourself a few moments of petty anger as your unjustified favourite didn't make it to number one. You might even post bile in the comments below said list saying “I can't believe you didn't vote The UnderGarden as the best shooter of the year!” or words to that effect.
So, the question has been asked of me. What's your Game of the Year? Loathe as I am to have to make such a decision, there are a few games that have come out that could potentially make this list. However, a quick note: personally, 2010 hasn't been a year of any genuinely stand-out game that's broken new ground or made this decision easy at all. Forget the hype, there's not been a single goalpost mover.
Game of the Year
With that in mind, I've managed to narrow the list down to two games. The first is Civilization V, the game I gave the highest score to this year. A grand new entry in the venerable series, it managed to redefine what the Civ experience is all about without destroying the essential brilliance that keeps so many people so hooked over such a long period of time.
Embracing the concept of less = more, a Sid-less Firaxis team took risks that you just wouldn't see taken by the vast majority of game developers out there. Gone were the religions, the espionage and many other things. In came a streamlined experience that initially had the hardcore somewhat bemused and irritated as they found their trusted “always win” tactics no longer worked.
They succeeded and Civ V is as important a game in the series as any before it, much easier to dive into than the often perplexing fourth iteration, yet it doesn't lose its depth. Combat is now more fun to involve yourself in, with no stupid super stacks of doom rolling around the map.
And yet it doesn't win my Game of the Year award. This goes to Metro 2033 because it's the game that's had the most atmosphere, a game that's given me the most unique world and story to explore. Some might criticise the combat model or the sneaking sections, but both worked fine to me. Certainly there's no other game out there that's been as breathtakingly gorgeous and has created a world with such beauty and horror mixed together.
It's very similar to the underrated and equally atmospheric Cryostasis (2008) and both games come from eastern Europe, where I believe the most challenging and, most importantly, interesting titles are coming from or have come from in recent times. Metro might have flaws, but I guarantee you cannot name a single game this year that doesn't have just as many and, even if it didn't, offered the same wonderfully original experience, oozing atmosphere and splendour. It's my Game of the Year by a distance.
Personal Favourite of 2010
As for the Favourite Game of 2010, the one I've spent the most time with, that'll have to go to the NBA 2K series, both 2K10 (released in 2009) and the more recent 2K11. What makes it stand out, apart from the fact I really quite like basketball, is the fact every new iteration brings genuine improvements. It's not just a case of adding a new league or giving you the chance to be the goalie or netminder, these are fundamental tweaks and changes that make the whole experience more realistic and fun to play.
The My Player mode is better than ever and there's so much depth, it's scary. Seriously, go scouting through the menus for a little while, you'll discover whole new levels of detail you never imagined were there. It might not be worthy of a Game of the Year award, because it doesn't change my outlook on gaming or anything like that, but it's the game I'll be playing constantly, right up until next year when 2K12 is released.
Gaming Moment of 2010
Hmmm...Favourite Gaming Moment of 2010? Well, it's not a good moment, but I guess the closure of PC Zone is the moment that's had the most impact on my life this year. I'll always be grateful that I got a chance to be involved in the magazine, even at such a late stage, and I've met a lot of great people and made good friends during my time there.
It's strange, though. I'd been reading the magazine since the first issue in 1993 and to actually be the last remaining full-time writer was a weird feeling. No more reminiscing though, I've moved on, but that's definitely the gaming moment I'll have etched into my brain when I think of 2010.
Most Anticipated Game for 2011
Finally, the Most Anticipated Game for 2011. That has to be The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. If CD Projekt can pull it off, and they're certainly being very ambitious, it could be the best RPG ever made. 16 different 'game states' that you can leave the world in at the end, a revamped combat model that is shaping up to be as artistic as the first game's but much less fiddly, and another chance to see gaming's newest JC Denton-a-like, Geralt of Rivia, in action... well, if that's not enough to whet your appetite, I don't know what is. If you haven't, do go play the original game as soon as you can.