Beyond the Headset: Year In Review Part 1

Considering it’s that time of the year, over the next couple weeks I’ll put out my “best of the year” lists. First I’ll tackle my Gaming list. I’ve gone back and looked at what I’ve played this year and I’ll be breaking down the Best Played, Best Unfinished/Not Started and the Worst of the Year.

Best Played:

  1. “Battlefield: Bad Company 2” – This is hands down, the best shooter I have played this generation. While more popular FPS series like “Halo” and “Call of Duty” dominate the sales figures, BFBC2 does the most important thing the best – controls and realism. BC2 has all the technical nuances down pat and the entire multiplayer experience is balanced and should be appreciated and recognized for its proficiency. Playing in multiplayer is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and not for the faint of heart, but with practice comes the reward. Teamwork is also essential so unless you’re already well versed in the “Battlefield” style, you’re going to be frustrated and disappointment. I’m so glad DICE and EA have keep supporting “BFBC2” because this is how shooters should evolve. Fan-boys and teens can have “Halo” and “CoD” multiplayer, “BFBC2” is the next step of the genre.
  2. “Red Dead Redemption” – The sequel to the “Red Dead Revolver” had the entire gaming pulse buzzing. For the first time, and open world game was going to be set in the “Old West” mantra, juxtaposed to all the modern day and futuristic open world games on the market. What gamers didn’t know is the experience that would be offered: deep, rich, and rewarding. Finally, and open world game delivered a meaningful story and was done so with near cinematic qualities. NPCs took on a life of their own and actually added value to the game. While the multiplayer realm hasn’t made the same strides forward, Rockstar has kept adding quality value to the game by releasing several DLC packs and to at least my surprise, have made zombies not just a cheap throw in. I can’t wait to pick up the game again with the DLC packs I tow.
  3. “Pokémon SoulSilver / HeartGold” – While to the untrained eye, this game would come across as a retread churned out by the folks at Nintendo so they can buy another gold house, but for the money, this is the best value for any single game bar none. The Pokémon series has updated their series to the current generation and with an entirely new experience on the horizon in the spring of 2011, these games allow you to basically complete your Pokédex in preparation for the new games. There is a complex battling system that runs deeper than rock-paper-scissors / turn-based action and is in actuality a true RPG that would make numbers nerds splooge if they would stop thinking it’s childish. The game is fun and rewarding and was an easy call for me this year.
  4. “NCAA Football 11” – This is best football game I’ve played since NFL 2K5. EA made football fun again, finally. Sadly for NFL fans it’s the college game that set the standard and it was made enjoyable. Everything works well, offense, defense and special teams. Off the field, you can take up the reigns as a coach and build dynasties and programs, and as an incentive to buy the game new, you are rewarded with access to online dynastic play with you and your friends. I’ve sunk countless hours into this game since August and I haven’t been disappointed.
  5. “Halo: Reach” – This was Bungie’s swan song and they did a masterful job, unfortunately, I completely forgot that the “Halo” series was simple to play, and that wasn’t something that won points in my book. After being spoiled by “BFBC2’s” complexity and system, the “Halo” experience just wasn’t as fun to me. I enjoyed the story told by the prelude incarnation before the rest of the series, and while I did dabble in multiplayer, I’m glad my pallet has aged. That being said, “Reach” is beautiful. It’s beyond a doubt the most beautiful and complex game in the “Halo” series and I do love that you can fully customize your character to make it uniquely yours. The game is fun, when you haven’t moved on to other games, but will continue to set the standard as an access point into FPS gaming. I will be looking to get the soundtrack, because as with the rest of the series, “Halo” isn’t “Halo” without its marquee music.
  6. “Dante’s Inferno” – Met with controversy off the block thanks to a sophomoric marketing team, “DI” had more speculation than expectation. Having heard that it’s nothing more than a “God of War” clone stamped and branded by EA, I’m glad I had faith. “DI” is to date the best hack-n-slash adventure game I’ve ever played. Now I know my co-host Blue has encouraged me to play “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow”, I have no doubt that “Castlevania” will set the bar even higher, but until then “Dante’s” has it. Combat is smooth, combos aren’t hard to master best of all, and it’s not a frantic cluster-bus from Japan, sorry “Bayonetta”. The game feels huge and best of all, it is fun. The story moves along a decent clip and the game felt balanced to me.

Best Not Finished / Started:

  1. “Mass Effect 2” – Before purchasing and starting this “Game of the Year” contender, I went back and finished the original game, and I’m most certainly glad I did. “Mass Effect” has quickly become one of the highlights this console generation and I’m excited to give the sequel some due time. I have played about an hour or so into the second and after finishing the first so quickly behind the second, I’m disappointed in the shooting mechanic change, but I understand that it will be easier going forward and the change is for the best. I’m excited that I have a whole bunch extra DLC to add to the game and make the experience that much more complete.
  2. “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” – In gearing up for the release of “AC:B” I went back and polished off the rest of “AC2”. I slept on this game last year though I started and completed it fully this year. Along with “Mass Effect”, the “AC” universe helps set the bar on the quality and depth front. Every “AC” game has been fun, though at times repetitive. I got to see a preview of “AC:B” at E3 this summer and will I don’t expect to be disappointed when I get around to playing it. The series features a phenomenal and original story that other medias have yet to accomplish and relay with any real quality. The story has to be told through the series and that’s what I’m most excited about for in the future, especially considering how far Ubisoft has come.
  3. “Call of Duty: Black Ops” – If you’re a listener to Open Forum Radio, you’ll know that I returned “Medal of Honor” and paid off the new “CoD” game. Now I know that Treyarch is behind this year’s rendition but I’m excited to play another shooter. I seriously hope that it doesn’t involve too many online achievements because for the most part, I enjoy single-play experience due to rabid fanboys. I don’t have too high of expectations though simply from word of mouth from different people I follow on Twitter saying it’s good but not great.

Worst of the Year:

  1. “Eat Lead: The Legend of Matt Hazard” – For some reason, I felt compelled to go through and play bad games. Though “EL” had been recommend to me by a couple people, the overall experience was painful. If you can avoid it or if you don’t have a shoe-string budget, please do so and stay away from this game. The game isn’t broken, but it’s not all that much fun.
  2. “007: Blood Stone” – Bond came back to consoles and unfortunately, I had high expectations after my rewarding experience with “Quantum of Solace”. I love that game. It mixes great usage of the “CoD” engine with an impeccable cover system providing an overall wonderful gaming experience for the new Bond era. “Blood Stone” drove it into the ground in disturbing fashion. The game isn’t broken, but it’s only mediocre at best. The game is in the third person setting though shooting is as precise as an FPS experience. The driving stages of the game aren’t horrible but they’re not going to blow your mind, thought the driving might considering how poor previous Bond incarnations have been. The voice acting is ok, but this would have been a better movie than a game.
  3. “The Saboteur” – Before EA hit on me with the success of “BFBC2”, “DI” and “Mass Effect 2” I went through and played their WW2 Parisian based open world game. The game isn’t broken but rather a cliché. Paris was fun to liberate, though it’s nothing more than a bad GTA clone. The music and atmosphere was done and Nazi’s were very Nazi-esque. Any little problem causes warnings and alarms to go off and the German army gets on your tail. If you have run out of good games to play, than you can consider this one, but until then, stick with better games.
  4. “Lost: Via Domus” – This game was so average at best. I completed it fully in 6 hours or one play through. I had just finished watching the entire series of Lost and needed a little hit of the “Lost” universe when I remembered this game was out. Funny how all of these listed games had one thing in common – they weren’t broken, and this one fits that mold too. The game explores various familiar locales from the Island and it’s as close to walking around the set as I’m going to come. The story was inconsequential and doesn’t affect the universe at all. The game was simple enough and one play through is all that is needed.

In upcoming editions, I’ll cover the other medias, specifically TV and movies.