Game of the Year
Red Dead Redemption - It may have been a derivative experience - Grand Theft Horses anyone? - but RDR, plus its add-ons and zombie-themed downloads, brought great voicework and genuine humour to the mix. And, if you were brought up on Westerns, the chance to be a cowboy and sort out the bad guys (should you choose that route) is too irresistible to describe. Smart, seductive, grown-up and, thanks to the period weaponry, a challenge. While I agree it's lovely to wield a virtual modern gun in many a FPS, there's something about conserving your limited bullets that appeals, bringing a little more strategy to the mayhem, particularly given the general inefficiency of a Wild West bullet. Mostly though, it's the cowboy thing - ah, sweet memories of a 1970s childhood - and the occasional laugh-out-loud moments that kept me coming back til it was done.
LEGO Harry Potter very different but a very close second!
Favourite Game of 2010
PES 11. Yes, I know, FIFA makes people that look more like the real players and it's all slick and shiny and stuff. But when PES is on form - and 2011's incarnation is, for my money, the best yet - it's unbeatable. Football isn't always about glory goals, sometimes it's about grinding out a 1-1 draw against inferior opposition in the mud and the rain. PES gives you that. You can assemble incredible teams - and this year's Master League transfer market angle makes it a little too easy to my mind - but they won't always gel and might take a few weeks to get used to each other. That aspect comes across brilliantly. You can almost feel your squad's shoulders slump as your opponent gets a lucky break and scores with their one, single minute shot of the game after their keeper's kept you at bay for 89 minutes. It's also capable of teeth-grindingly annoying refereeing decisions, as an innocuous tackle gets punished or, worse, a player you're not even controlling gives away a penalty or scores an own goal. I have woken my wife up twice arguing with the ref. Ahem.
Best of all though is the tactical aspect, with the drag and drop system that's so painfully bloody obvious it's a wonder it's taken this long to appear.
Favourite Gaming Moment of 2010
My, what a question. From a gobsmacking moment, it might have to be bringing the rocket down early in Black-Ops. Or possibly The Best Ever Goal I Have Ever Scored in PES: goalkeeper rolls out, two passes across midfield, perfect lobbed through ball catching out the United defence, striker runs by, beats offside trap, volleys ball into top right corner from 35 yards. In terms of giggles though, it would have to be a two player Free For All Modern Warfare 2 sesh. Three seconds to go, I'm ahead on points, lining up the match-winning head shot through my sniper rifle. As I go to take the shot, mate in building opposite fires RPG into my man's delicates. Game winning, side-splitting and making sure my avatar never reproduces. Rocket Propelled Grenade in the nackers. Really not a good way to go, is it?
Most Anticipated Title of 2011
If anyone can make sense of Clone Wars and hack it down to size then it's the LEGO team. I'm a huge fan of LEGO (more of that 70's childhood thing / in-game comedy) and their games have been amazing in terms of complexity, challenge, unlockable content and good nature. The observations are super too, given the brick-y nature of its characters and the complete absence of dialogue. In terms of Clone Wars this means no Hayden 'wood boy' Christensen and, one assumes, a quiet Jar Jar Binks so that has to be a VERY GOOD THING. From a completist point of view the arenas look enormous too.
Having had a sneak preview of two levels, this is shaping up to be a fine and enormous experience. The first sees you in a ship taking on a mahoosive Imperial destroyer as well as assorted minions on flight decks and in landing bays. The second requires team work as you bring the ship down from within, via light saber wielding, Force powers and, er, R2D2-lifting and puzzle solving, as action shifts between two Jedi teams. In two player, these can, apparently, be done separately and simultaneously via split screen.
I'm also very excited about Test Drive Unlimited 2 with its detail, ease of interactivity, daftly enjoyable online stuff - come to Ibiza, let's hang in my apartment - tand, particularly for taking a standard aspect of gaming - remodelling your avatar - and giving it the humorous twist of having to visit a plastic surgeon to make it happen. Oh, and then being forced to drive around in bandages for the next hour til it heals. For the record, the driving experience is pretty good too.
The sweary, gory, very silly Bulletstorm looks like killer fun too