I’ve already declared “BioShock 2” my Game of the Year for 2010, and listed the rest of my top 10. But there are still a handful of titles that wowed me that I feel bad leaving out of the party. So let’s take a look at a few that might have cracked my top 10, were it not for other circumstances.
“Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit” (rated E10+, $60 on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) [review]: After a week of careful consideration, Criterion Games’ excellent racer was bumped from my No. 10 spot by “Red Dead Redemption,” a game I set aside for later about halfway through. Both “Red Dead” and “Hot Pursuit” had incredible highs, but Rockstar’s Western does a better job of playing to its strengths. I absolutely love “Hot Pursuit’s” blend of racing and police chases. It’s too bad, then, that so many of the racing events are the time trials that have been staples of the racing genre for years.
“NBA 2K11” (rated E, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $50 on Wii, $30 on PC or PS2, $20 on PlayStation Portable) [review]: This year’s NBA game from 2K Sports is the best basketball game I’ve ever played, but I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I could have because once I played it a bunch and reviewed it, I was smack in the middle of the October-to-December glut of new releases. Sports gamers are notorious fanatics. (I should know, I used to pump hundreds of hours into baseball video games before I started reviewing games for The Press Democrat.) I didn’t feel right putting “2K11” on my Game of the Year pedestal without having become one of those fanatics.
“Civilization V” (rated E10+, $50 on PC) [review]: The latest iteration of Firaxis Games’ long-running strategy series completely overhauled its combat system, but with mixed results. I loved the way the new one-unit-per-hex limit made warfare more strategic, but the game’s artificial intelligence had trouble keeping up with more skilled players. As “Civ V” is on the market longer and undergoes various overhauls and patches, and is modded by its robust user base of tinkerers, it’ll only get better. Of all the games released in 2010, “Civ V” is the one I’m most likely to still be playing in 2013. I just need to build myself a gaming computer. Playing on a laptop, even a high-powered one, just isn’t as fun.
“Rock Band 3” (rated T, $50 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $40 on Wii; bundles including instruments cost more): From what I’ve played of Harmonix Music Systems’ latest music-game masterpiece, I can safely say it’s fantastic. But it didn’t feel right giving “Rock Band 3” the full rave-review treatment without first throwing a “Rock Band” party or two. Circumstances outside of my control had me working strange days and long hours in November and December, which meant opportunities to invite folks over were scarce. (I’m 34; most of my friends can’t come over at 1 a.m. on a Sunday morning or at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday.) The one time I did get a group together this fall, it was to play Kinect.
“DJ Hero 2” (rated T, $60 bundle including turntable for Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3): Pretty much the same situation as “Rock Band 3.” FreeStyle Games took a good music game, made a bunch of improvements (including new multiplayer modes) and made a great sequel. I passed on the first game because I didn’t want more plastic peripherals in my house, but I made a definite mistake. The “DJ Hero” games are a blast. If you’ve been curious about “Rock Band” but aren’t sure about the whole “rock” part, this is your game.
“Fallout: New Vegas” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360 or PS3, $50 on PC): I got scared off from the sequel to the excellent “Fallout 3” when a buddy of mine lost six hours of play time because of a glitch that forced him to revert to a week-old save file. The bugs were rampant with Obsidian Entertainment’s well-written RPG, but it seems that many of them have been fixed. I’ll be diving in and working my way through it with the intention of covering the downloadable content at some point down the road.
“Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction” (rated M, $20 on PC, Xbox 360 or PC) [review]: This game isn’t anywhere near my top 10, but Ubisoft Montreal’s stealth offering was the best co-op experience I had all year. My buddy Carl and I loved every minute of the five-hour two-player campaign featuring Archer and Kestral. It’s too bad, then, that the 10-hour single-player campaign, while a great introduction to all of “Conviction’s” gadgets, was a badly written bore. Sam Fisher, sort of like a cross between James Bond, Jack Bauer and an Abu Ghraib jailer, just wasn’t believable as a family man, and I couldn’t stand the guy. Paying $60 for the short co-op campaign and some great two-player, online-only modes might have been a daunting proposition, but the game is a great buy at $20, provided you have an online buddy to play it with you.