2010 is special. Normally, when we choose the best games from the first half of the year, we're taking time to recognize and celebrate stuff that will be forgotten by December. Take a look at 2009's winner, for example, and then check how many Platinum Chalices that title received just a few months later. From number one… to only one mention.
This Top 7, however, could easily serve as a blueprint for our eventual end-of-year awards. Six of the games received "10/10" from GamesRadar, and total countdown combined, almost 150 perfect scores from the industry as a whole. What follows, then, aren't merely the best of 2010 so far. Judging by their quality and by the rest of the release calendar, these might be the best of 2010 – period.
Above: These games are great… but in a year that started like this, not nearly great enough
The great thing about Bayonetta is the way it doesn't cut any corners. Where Devil May Cry 4 would make you fight a previously-beaten boss again, Bayonetta throws in a Space Harrier remake. Where Heavenly Sword gives you a QTE run down a giant rope, Bayonetta gives you a fully-controllable dash up a boss's tongue. And where almost any game would pad out a level with a fetch and carry quest, Bayonetta sends you to a spectacular new area where you get to jump across slow-motion fountains and find an hourglass that rewinds time. There's just so much imagination and quality here, it's embarrassing for everyone else.
The gameplay is impeccably balanced and always fair. Learning how to use witch time is only your first step to mastering the combat, which can be augmented until you can block any attack. Even then, the challenge of finishing levels without taking a single hit is the hardest of hardcore challenges – and you'll really want those elusive Pure Platinum grades.
Bayonetta herself may not be immediately likeable – a lot of gamers are put off by her overt sexuality – but we reckon she's one of the strongest and most developed characters in gaming. And besides, any girl who wears her own hair as a catsuit is alright in our book.
Nowadays it's normal, and almost expected, to encounter a few bugs in every game, so there's something fundamentally, indescribably pleasing about playing through an epic 50- to 60-hour experience in which you can just feel that every last detail was entirely deliberate and thoughtfully considered. Final Fantasy XII oozes that perfection from every pixel, and represents not only a great technical achievement, but also a milestone – no other current-gen title has anywhere near the level of polish.
Specifically, let's talk about the battle system. In the proud tradition of previous Final Fantasies, XIII takes the Active Time Battle we all know and love, then adds its own twist: the Paradigm system. ATB was originally introduced to make battles more fast-paced than traditional turn-based RPGs, but the Paradigm system takes this a step further, creating some of the fastest, tensest action the genre has ever seen. We dare anyone who claims that the battles play themselves to complete all 64 Cie'th Stone missions without uttering the word "impossible" at least once.
Final Fantasy's ensemble cast isn't entirely lovable, it's true, but the good characters are really, really good. Sazh in particular is a GamesRadar office favorite, and we'd go so far as to play a Chocobo Racing sequel if he were in it – Square-Enix, make it happen!