Dave Houghton: Why has Singularity beaten out every other game for my affections this year? It’s not just the fact that it has the coolest, most inventive and most marvellously fun weapon-set in recent memory. It’s not just the way that its slick, intelligent, free-form combat and boatload of on-the-fly environmental manipulation options strongly put me in mind of Half-Life 2. It’s not even just the way it carefully and shamelessly cherry-picks the best bits of the best shooters of all time and combines them into something fresh, new and exciting.
No, on top of all that, it’s the way that Singularity totally took me by surprise, arriving under the guise of a snuck-out-the-back-door clunker but turning out to be one the very best FPS of the year. Activision sent Singularity out to die this year. That’s why you probably haven’t played it. But it’s also exactly why you should.
Just Cause 2
Nathan Irvine: Technically, I’ve played better games in 2010 than Just Cause 2 – Red Dead Redemption, GoW III and more – but in terms of fun from start to finish, Square Enix’s free-roaming caper provides a steady flow of good times.Perfecting the grapple-hook/parachute transport shouldn’t be entertaining but it is. As is destroying bases with helicopters and watching the world below burst into flames and screams. Panau might also be the most diverse and beautiful open-world I’ve played in too – from snowy mountains right down to lush jungles and sun-drenched beaches.
The mission where you chase a rocket into the atmosphere while piloting a fighter jet is easily one of the most memorable missions I’ve played in a long time. Crucially, Just Cause 2 doesn’t take itself too seriously and gives you numerous ways to cause havoc throughout, which in a world that stinks heavily of increasingly po-faced realism, is a breathe of fresh air.
Red Dead Redemption
Matthew Keast: Red Dead is an amazing game throughout, but what hit me with honest-to-God chills was the kick-in of the song when your grand mission is complete and you can finally ride home to see your wife and son. I thought the game was over then, but little did I know that the best part was just beginning. Some have said the mundane chores around the ranch are boring – for me, they elevated Red Dead to art. Throughout the game, the sense of John Marston’s mission was nebulous: yeah, okay, he’s working to free his family, but who the hell are they anyway? Why should I care?
And then the game did make me care. That was the beauty of the homestead missions. They felt like a relaxing reward for all of the harrowing work that had come before, a chance to live the good life and prosper from the fat of the land. They cemented the imperfect relationship between Marston and his son. They were everything that a real cowboy does: cattle herding, hunting, running troublesome wildlife off the farm. And then, of course, the game was still hiding one beautiful finale up its sleeve.
Mass Effect 2
Joe McNeilly: These days, if a videogame shows you an “inventory screen” or contains “experience points” of any description, it is said to have “RPG elements.” Don’t get me wrong, here. I like me some leveling up. But to me, numbers and statistics are the least interesting part of any role-playing experience, videogame or otherwise. Role-playing is about becoming a character in a story. It’s about entering into a consensual hallucination and engaging with a malleable narrative whose permutations are limited only by the imaginations of the participants.
In the case of a computer RPG, or C-RPG as Gary Gygax liked to call them, the experience is necessarily more structured as the “imagination” of the computer must be fully programmed in advance. Computers are better at crunching stats than processing emotion, which has led to a generation of gamers who think that soulless number crunching equates to role-playing. BioWare knows what true role-playing is about, and Mass Effect 2 is their most fully realized c-RPG experience to date. Easily this D&D nerd's Game of the Year.
Red Dead Redemption
Dave Meikleham: I hate to put on my serious games jarnalist waistcoat and good smoking pipe, but for me, Red Dead was not only an incredible technical achievement, it actually broke boundaries for this medium. Before John Marston’s epic adventure, I’d barely elicited a whimper at a sad scene in a game, let alone have actual beady tears flowing down my face. Yes, Redemption’s narrative had me so involved, I actually cried near the end. Hell, the game’s final half hour is so powerful, it’s lingered in my thoughts almost every day for the last six months.
And let’s not forget its other achievements. More than any other title I’ve ever played, Rockstar’s masterpiece seamlessly captures a sense of time and place in its world that nothing else has come close to. Couple that with a world filled with unexpected events and random encounters, which feels like it exists in spite of you, rather than because of you, and Red Dead is perhaps the most immersive game I’ve ever played. That, and I have the man crush to end all man crushes on Mr. Marston.