For me, 2010 hasn't quite been a landmark year we all expected, but a thoroughly consistent one. Almost every month, we've seen top-tier titles hit the shelves at such a rate it's reduced our financial ability to do something other than place yourself in front of the television and grab the controller. It hasn't always been great, and I believe we've seen far too many identikit challengers and recycled concepts for my liking, but I can't argue with the quality I have enjoyed that's made 2010 quite special, indeed.
Game of the Year - Mass Effect 2
I was torn between this and Red Dead Redemption, but ultimately it was the quality of Bioware's characterization, even against Rockstar's brilliant attempt, that swayed my hand. I loved Mass Effect 2, having found the first a flawed classic to endure rather than enjoy. It stepped up in every department, from the astonishing visuals, the pitch-perfect writing, pacing and plot-points, the visceral combat system and truly wonderful cast of companions. I was honestly distraught on the last mission when first one, then two, then three of my crew fell to the Collectors. And it was all my fault.
Ultimately, Mass Effect 2 wins my vote for Game of the Year not just for the quality of the experience, but for Bioware's realization of the original's faults. They didn't rest on their laurels or opt for a quick-fix. Above and beyond, comes to mind. Mass Effect 3, now a true multiplatform title, has a lot to live up to. Let's hope Bioware can make their Return of the Jedi a fitting end to videogame's finest space-opera trilogy.
Favorite Game of 2010 - Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas is a particularly difficult game to judge, as by and large it looks, plays and feels like a very large expansion to F3. It's built on the exact same tech, it neglects to make any drastic changes to the creaking formula, and despite the change in location, the setting is almost identical. But I just can't deny how much I loved New Vegas. Like my first steps in Good Springs, deciding whether or not to help the town in their plight with the Powder Gangers or simply wander off into the Mojave, never to return. It's packed with fun, exciting, interesting and, yes, terrifying quests, like when you venture into a seemingly abandoned rocket testing facility, and discover the devoted, deluded community inside.
New Vegas ranks as my favorite game simply because I love sprawling, open-ended adventures, as opposed to the linear, scripted Hollywood antics of Call of Duty and co. I love following a particular quest line only to stumble on another, random adventure. It's also a game where writing, and namely speech, is a weapon, as I upped my speech skill to its max pretty early on and reaped the non-violent rewards. Great game, and I can't wait for the true sequel!
Favourite Gaming Moment of 2010
My favorite gaming moment of 2010 has to be your first stumbling steps in McFarlane Ranch in Red Dead Redemption. For no particular reason, I decided to desert the folk who'd rescued my bleeding body from the dirt, and instead staggered towards the golden hills and gently stirring trees I was so transfixed with. I stumbled on a group of deer, who scattered at my arrival, before I chased a courier atop a horse and hijacked his ride. Then a cougar mauled me. I haven't been able to look at cats the same way since.
Red Dead is chock-full of great moments like this, from first entering Mexico to glimpsing the mighty herd of Buffalo for the very first time. But it's McFarlane Ranch, where Rockstar do what they do best, establishing character and setting, where I was truly dumbstruck by the quality of the visuals, the depth and breadth of the world sprawling before me. It's the small touches, the little things that all contribute to a greater whole. I'm beginning to sound incredibly pretentious, so I'll leave it at that! Bravo.
Most Anticipated Game Of 2011 - Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What I've discovered this past year, is we gamers are never spoiled for choice. 2011 is packed to the gills with great games, and if I had to choose just one to occupy my time and money, I'd probably plump for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It's only just been announced and we've seen little more than a teaser trailer that gives new meaning to the term 'vague'.
Regardless, I'm psyched. I'm a huge Bethesda RPG fan, I devoured all that Oblivion, Fallout 3 and New Vegas could offer. I just can't anticipate them messing this up. Their record this generation has been exemplary, and with the financial backing of Zeni Max, their own capable team of great writers, programmers and the like, not to mention this newfangled engine we're all so interested in, Skyrim looks set to be a late contender for Game of the Year, come this time next year!
Biggest Disappointment of 2010 - Halo Reach
I'm not pleased to be making this decision. Halo is one of my most beloved franchises. Alongside Zelda, it's the one I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. And I was so excited for Reach, with the promise of reintroducing the Covenant as an enemy to fear, a return, for better or worse, to the series' basics, and the inclusion of abilities like Jet Packs and - finally - Sprint. I could barely contain my excitement when the Amazon package fell through my letter-box with a dull thud and the promise of hours upon hours of good old fashioned Halo fun.
Now, I didn't not enjoy Halo Reach. If that makes sense. I liked it. A lot, in fact. But having completed the campaign and ranked up a few times in multiplayer, I was left with a particularly disturbing feeling. I no longer wanted to play Reach. And I'm a bit of a Halo-holic. I was grenade-jumping hogs onto the Silent Cartographer's uncharted top, running across the top of New Mombasa in Halo 2, searching every nook and cranny in Halo 3 for skulls. But I just didn't have that same interest in Reach. Maybe it was the lackluster story, and the truly unforgivable absence of immense, vehicle-packed, infantry-strewn levels we've come to expect. Or maybe it was just how stale the Halo formula is becoming, Armor Abilities be damned. All I know, is I played Reach once, then traded it in for New Vegas. And that's pretty bad, by my standards.