PC Gamer's games of the year

More than a tug-of-war, more than a relay rave, more than tag-team wrestling – nothing inspires teamwork like a zombie apocalypse. What better context for a buddy movie than one that puts actors in situations where they need to aid, plan, protect one another, and fend off waves of undead peril?

Left 4 Dead’s movielike presentation and generous replayability got four fingers up from leading industry critics PC Gamer, but its mechanics also make it one of the most inherently social games ever released. If players aren’t hashing out how to avoid a witch or shouting out “Smoker on the roof!” over the mic, they’re reviving and healing each other, blaming someone for leaving formation, meleeing zombies off of a friends’ back, and taunting perfectly kind people that they’ve just vomited on. The amount of watercooler moments we’ve seen is a credit to L4D’S unique appeal. In fact, much of the dialogue in the film script is based on actual conversations recorded during PC Gamer play sessions.

Our goal at Coconut Monkey Studios is to re-create the subtle techniques that are so innovative in L4D’s multiplayer. Each round is familiar enough to feel consistent, but never identical: enemies and weapon drops are generated by an omniscient “director” AI that keeps the tension high, and the hundreds of different dialog bits exchanged between characters is an inventive way of sprinkling story over multiple playthroughs. Versus mode lets gamers plot terrible schemes to pounce, tongue-snare, and grief the hell out of friends. If we can capture this kind of mayhem on the big screen, we’re sure to have the biggest hit movie of 2010 on our hands.

Best shooter - Far Cry 2
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Reviewed: 94%, Holiday 2008

Grand Theft Africa, you could call it. Invest a few hours into Far Cry 2 and it’ll open its African arms wide, dishing out all the welcoming charm and elegance it can from its sunny savannah setting - half of which you’ll likely burn to the ground. It’s an absorbing experience informed by Half-Life and Crysis alike: You’re contained in a first-person perspective from start to finish, and handed an arsenal of deadly instruments to get the job done in whatever manner comes naturally to you.

Struggling with jammed guns, navigating an organic landscape, pulling shrapnel out of your skin, and repairing vehicles are nifty nuances that maintain the gameplay’s hypnotic pace of oscillating between peaceful exploration and barrel-blowing recklessness. A miles-wide map gives you room to use stealth and snipe, overkill with rockets and flamethrowers, and run down goons with any vehicle you can find. Meanwhile, the abundant scenery is pretty enough to convince us that those long car rides are really virtual safaris. Every day in Far Cry 2 is different - here’s just one casual afternoon tour of the belligerent yet beautiful jungle.

3:26pm - Burned a few acres of savannah, smoked out some APR troops.
4:35pm - Rocket-raided a trainyard. Death from above.
6:20pm - Shot up a shanty, still no sign of The Jackal.
7:44pm - Took a shortcut under the bridge to avoid UFLL patrols. Dart gun coming in handy.
10:02pm - Delivered some diamonds for APR.
11:23pm - Malaria acting up. Shacked up for the night in the nearest safehouse.
2:51am - Couldn’t sleep. Lit some explosives to keep my neighbors up too.
4:38am - Parked the Jeep, watched the sunrise.

Best of the rest

Best line in a cutscene - Red Alert 3

General Krukov: “You see, Commander, while you were hiding behind the barricades in Leningrad, our enemy was thrusting deeply into the Motherland’s tender nether regions.”

Best map - Team Fortress 2
Finally, a “Gold Rush” map that captures all the mayhem, explosiveness, and land-stealing of the 1849 original. It brings back the gameplay that made VIP our favorite mode in the original TF.

Best music game - Audiosurf
This engaging rhythm game brings music into the 21st century as a truly interactive entertainment (beyond just singing along to the car radio, of course).

Best remake - Civilization IV: Colonization
Sid Meier’s 1994 classic strategy game’s DOS-era graphics were looking a little long in the tooth, but Firaxis’ remake captures the original’s gameplay almost to the letter while looking like a million bucks on the Civ IV engine.

Best toy - Spore
Spore didn’t revolutionize the industry like some had hoped it would, but it does offer hours of charming fun-for-fun’s-sake that’s all too rare in videogames nowadays.

Biggest disappointment - Alone in the Dark
Atari blurred the distinction between a game and a human-rights violation with its ambitious but nonetheless execrable reworking of the Alone in the Dark series. But at least it launched a new genre: Survival Snorer.

Best character - Witch (Left 4 Dead)
We don’t know her past or her name, but we do know that she hates flashlights and hits like a truck if you piss her off. Just hearing her lonely wails and knowing she’s there is enough to make grown men cry for mama.

Best loot - Last Laugh

Raid dungeons give fantastic-looking loot in any MMO, but there’s something special about an axe shaped like a flaming demon’s skull cackling at your enemies as it separates their head from the body. There’s no better way to show friend and foe alike that you’ve conquered WoW’s most difficult raid boss than one of these perfectly named WMDs.

Biggest buzzkill - DRM
Nothing spoils the excitement of launching a new game like being locked out of it for no good reason. If we could take away awards instead of giving them, this would definitely warrant a 50 DKP minus.

Best weapon - Ripper (Dead Space)
Construction tool turned carcass-carver, the Ripper launches a tethered titanium saw blade rotating at 17,000 RPM that cuts up just about any baddy in sight. For slicing those hard-to-reach monsters, the Ripper’s secondary mode will launch the blades untethered.

Best intern - Josh

Certainly best looking! [Ed. note: Josh, awards that you give to yourself don’t really count!]

WTF? Nancy Drew
Seriously, how do Nancy Drew games always make it on the top-10 sales lists?

Best ammo - Teddy Bears (Fallout 3)

Not since Roosevelt has a teddy been this deadly. Eat fluffy button-nosed justice, Super Mutant!

Feb 13, 2008