Sony and Nintendo already had their moment in the spotlight; now it’s Microsoft’s turn to step forward and accept their yearly judgment. A lot, and I mean a LOT of great games were released for the Xbox 360 this year, but so was a lot of crap. Want to know what we thought was good and bad and what deserves an arbitrary score? Well good, because this is Microsoft’s 2010 Year In Review.
The very beginning of the year started out very promising with a new IP that’s already become a well-loved franchise: Bayonetta. The story of a witch whose clothing is made of her own hair, wears pistols on her feet, and can put Kratos to shame with her insane fighting combos, Bayonetta is nothing short of amazing to the highest degree.
Right after Bayonetta, Mass Effect 2 burst onto the scene. The first Mass Effect had some problems for sure, but Mass Effect 2 was like a whole new game. Seriously, you’ll find it difficult to recognize the two when compared side-by-side. The important aspect to take away from this is that Mass Effect 2 taught me to love the 360 as much as any other system I own purely because of the exceptional voice acting and dialogue. It has become my go-to example when people ask, “Why do you want to write for video games?” If Bioware decided to make a game around just Mordin, I would have been completely happy.
As we moved on with the year, Red Dead Redemption, just named Spike TV’s Game of the Year (which sort of means nothing), came out and proved that you can take the cars out of Grand Theft Auto, but you can’t take the Grand Theft Auto out of a Rockstar game. Yes, I’m That Guy, the one who thought that Red Dead Redemption wasn’t like GTA 4, it WAS GTA 4 but without cars and modern guns. Not a bad thing of course, otherwise I would have placed this in the “Bad” section of the review. John Marston is one of my favorite characters to appear in recent gaming history, and I really would like to see more with him in it is sure a thing were possible. Red Dead Redemption has a lot of meat to it and a lot to like, so it’s a definite “Good” part of the year.
Halo: Reach. Yup, Halo: Reach. Need I say much more? Let’s just add in Call of Duty: Black Ops to this paragraph while we’re at it. That sounds fair I’d say. Two of the greatest multiplayer First Person Shooters released not just in the same year but within the same month, meaning that you had to choose between either space guns or realistic guns. Regardless, you got a game worth more than the sum of its parts.
The Xbox Live Arcade continued to feed us delicious morsels throughout the year with such standouts as Super Meat Boy (my favorite arcade title of the year) Limbo (a lot of other people’s favorite arcade title of the year), Costume Quest (just won Best Downloadable Title of the Year), Deathspank (hilarious!), Shank (hugely popular or else I wouldn’t have mentioned it), and even a new Mega Man title and a new Tomb Raider title. Oh, and Scott Pilgrim made his game debut this year as well, though to be fair, the PS3 has been getting the Scott Pilgrim love due to Blu-ray. All things considered, even if you’ve been forced to game on a budget things have been wonderful for you.
Except not all has been great for the American Giant. 2010 will forever be remembered as the year the Kinect, Microsoft’s controller-less controller, appeared to solidify the casual market of gaming as the true focus of gaming for at least the next few years. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but it really does feel that way.
Just like the Wii before it, the Kinect began its life with games hinged on a gimmick, and that gimmick is, “Whoa, I’m just moving my body and things are happening on screen! Not…exactly in relation to my body’s movements, but whoa!” Most any title that appeared on the Wii has some version for the Kinect, such as Kinect Sports, Kinect Fitness, and Kinect Party.
The most embarrassing games may end up being the ones that make the most sense for the peripheral in the first place. Sonic Free Riders sounds like a blast in theory but in practice does not work. Let me retype that in case you missed it. Sonic Free Riders on the Kinect DOES NOT WORK. Neither does Fighters Uncaged, a full-body brawler that entices you with the notion that your body as the controller really will work great but once you stand in front of the camera will make you weep like you had to watch your childhood pet put to sleep over and over and over again. Yes, that’s how disillusioned the Kinect has made me feel.
So in conclusion, Microsoft’s 2010 “Bad” section is almost exclusively devoted to the Kinect. Welcome to the Motion Club! It’s a rough ride to the top.
Oh wait, Kane and Lynch 2 and Army of Two…2. Avoid those titles like the plague.
Somewhere In Between
There couldn’t be stellar games and bad games without moderately dull ones, now could there? At the top of my list for a Somewhere In Between title is Medal of Honor. It’s by no means a bad game. It’s perfectly good at what it does, but, uh, hey has anyone been playing this one over Black Ops or Halo: Reach? Just wondering guys. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is sort of in that same boat as it was a great game…just not great enough to remind people to continue playing now that the OTHER big FPS’s came out.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is a title I really want to get behind, but I just can’t quite make the final push to give in and buy a copy. Reviewers were split on whether it was a great reboot of the franchise or if it failed as a recreation of a number of other more popular titles already released such as God of War or Prince of Persia.
The hardest game for me to even think about from this year is Fable III. I want to hate it so badly, but I haven’t played it, so I’m not allowed to make that judgment call, even if it’s pretty apparently I’d hate it due to it being almost the same game as Fable II, a game I want to see fired into the sun for its transgressions. But I digress.
Another sequel that came out to fairly successful reviews but a few critiques was Dead Rising 2. Just like Fable III, if you liked the previous title, you’ll like the sequel, and if you hated the previous title, you’re not likely to find much pleasure in the new release. I haven’t had the chance to play Dead Rising 2 yet, either, but I do actually want to give it a shot, purely because I’m a masochist and can’t help but make every game-playing experience I go through miserable for some reason unknown to me.
Alan Wake, a title a lot of people really wanted to be great, sort of came out and failed to impress beyond the standard, “Oh, that’s okay I suppose.” A lot of its fault comes from the DLC that’s mandatory to progress the failure of a plot. It’s a disappointment if you were expecting it to be fantastic, but otherwise you could very well really enjoy it.
And how could I almost forget Bioshock 2? Well, because a lot of people seemed to forget Bioshock 2. Not a bad game, but it is really hard to follow up a game like the first Bioshock. I can’t wait to play Bioshock 2…as soon as I play all those other really great games first.
Let’s end this section with Dante’s Inferno. I…didn’t see eye to eye with the concept. But I’m not the one who had to play it and like it. There were plenty of fans to do that for me. As a game, it isn’t bad. As a concept it’s the most offensive thing to hit gaming in a while. But, meh, Somewhere In Between.
Thankfully, Microsoft is going to have a hell of a year next year with some massive releases such as Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Batman Arkham City, and all manner of sequels ripe for the picking. Granted, a lot of said titles won’t be appearing until late in the year, assuming they don’t just get pushed back for one reason or another, but I for one am happy to know that some really outstanding titles will be waiting for me as soon as I find enough money to support my gaming habit. Still not quite there, but hopefully soon.
One title I’m actually really hopeful for is Fight Night Champion, the first M-rated boxing game from EA. I found myself having a deep connection to Fight Night Round 3, but never really got into Round 4 for one reason or another that may have to do with them changing the controls on me, but Champion promises to be a further tweaking of the already good controls to hit the sweet spot where they can’t get any better. I’m just curious how you get to an M-rating with a boxing title, but I guess I’ll find out.
Portal 2, certainly another huge sequel, actually hits earlier in the year, making it prime for me to gush over. Portal, as everyone already knows, was a randomly unexpected success and generated the “Cake is a lie” quote that some people still think is super funny. The biggest draw of Portal 2 is the inclusion of a co-op mode separate from the single-player mode where you and a fried play as robot buddies that even have the ability to “hug it out” if need be. I’m rather pleased with that and can’t wait to play it with Kyle.
So there’s essentially Microsoft’s 2010 year in a nutshell, plus a little of their 2011, though I know I’m forgetting some big titles somewhere. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all I guess. Microsoft’s arbitrary score for the year? Hmm, I’ll go with a B+ since they had a lot of fantastic games, but come on, Kinect? That’ll take a few points off.
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