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Games of 2010: Greg's Edition
by Greg Mengel

2010: you were a jackass. Let's go over what the last year of days brought to the table:

- A papier-mâché worldwide economy
- The BP oil spill
- Bluetooth popularity
- The Last Airbender, Sex and the City 2, Jonah Hex
- More terrorism
- Justin Bieber's autobiography
- Final Fantasy XIV
- The Denver Broncos record
- Your peacock...cock..........cock
- No 'first contact'
- No zombies
- No fun

Yep, 2010 took in all our hopes and dreams, absorbed their precious nutrients, and laid an egg of sadness. I thought 2009 was bad, but then the next year burst in like a tornado of suck, demolishing all hopes of a better and brighter year. Thanks, buddy. Thanks a lot.

With so much to not be thankful for, it's good that we were offered such a wide array of quality games into which we could escape when things outside were ugly. Here are my five best digital alternatives to heroin presented in 2010.

5: Starcraft II

I'm torn here. On one hand, this game was terrific. The gameplay was great, the graphics made my computer wheeze with happy asthma, and's sexy new makeover made it the prettiest girl at the prom. Everything was great in Starcraft town.

...except that its story was shorter than Daniel Radcliffe's post-Harry Potter career.

When I play a Starcraft, I want three chapters - one for each race - so that I can have a full dose of story. With more than just a Terran chapter, Starcraft II would be better ranked on this list.

4: Civilization V

Anyone who doubts that absolute power is addicting should watch a non-gamer sit down at a computer and play Civilization V for twelve hours straight. This game has a way with people... and that way involves gluing people to a computer screen for unhealthy hours without end despite the desperate pleas of their forgotten families.

Lost friends and loved ones aside, Civilization V was a perfect upgrade to the classic series. Less military units, a historically understandable social upgrade system, and shiny new graphics improved everything smoothly and effectively (except for maybe the AI). There are hundreds of strategies you can use to win, from combining a race with a certain social upgrade, to obsessively courting lesser city states or mixing science and diplomacy in order to keep large, militaristic opponents at bay.

Keep doing what you do, Sid.

3: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

What to say about Warcraft that hasn't been said a thousand thousand times... In every possible way, shape, and form, this game has been done to death. So why was Cataclysm better than Civilization or Starcraft II? Because after sporadically returning to Warcraft for over five years, I'm still not bored. Cataclysm's new low-level zones and dedication to story have kept it sexy through a long and often arduous marriage, causing me to come back to it despite numerous shallow affairs (City of Heroes, Champions Online, Star Trek Online, et cetera). Cataclysm is the latest outfit in a series of spicy, exciting costumes which WoW has donned in order to hold the attention of millions.

2: Heavy Rain

The best parenting game since Octodad.

Anyone who has skim-read two sentences of any of my articles knows that the value I place on a game's story is paramount. You can make the best damn game design in the history of time, but if it doesn't make me laugh, cry, or have an asthma attack in anticipation, then I couldn't care less. Games need to make me feel, or they're not worth my time.

Heavy Rain had more feelings than a pregnant woman watching Fried Green Tomatoes in a Ben and Jerry's factory. It takes modern game design, mates it with Choose Your Own Adventure novels, and makes something great.

If you fundamentally don't want to play a game that doesn't involve killing twelve-thousand Space Nazis with a spoon before ripping off your shirt and yelling your own name (in my own special way, I just attempted to describe Call of Duty), then avoid playing Heavy Rain tonight. You probably have a Klan meeting to attend anyway.

Otherwise, though, you have no excuse.

1: Red Dead Redemption

Without question the greatest game released in the last three or four years. You may disagree, saying that Red Dead is boring, overly violent; a juvenile portrayal of the American West. That's fine. Though I disagree with what you say, I'll fight to the death for your right to say it. But as I lay my head on the block for your inherent natural rights, my last words will follow thusly:

"You. Are. Wrong."

Red Dead Redemption brings all the ingredients of an amazing, memorable game to the table: great gameplay, a powerful emotive soundtrack, badass, well-developed characters, terrific voice acting, competitive online play, a treasure chest of endgame secrets, downloadable content, and endless replayability. But what does Red Dead Redemption do best? What is the aspect of it that makes it one of the greatest games of all time?

It creates a world.

Hundreds of game journalists have done reviews on Red Dead Redemption, and they all cite the feeling they experience while playing: the exhilaration that only comes when a person immerses themselves fully in a setting that is not their own.

"With Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar succeeds in creating one of the most impressive open worlds I've ever seen in a game, and it's telling that — even after playing for over 30 hours — all I want to do is get back on my horse and gallop back into the wilderness."
- Will Tuttle, GameSpy

"Red Dead Redemption is a must-play game. Rockstar has taken the Western to new heights and created one of the deepest, most fun, and most gorgeous games around. You can expect the occasional bug or visual hiccup, but you can also expect a fantastic game that offers the Western experience we've all been waiting for."
- Erik Brudvig, IGN

"The leading edge of interactive media has a new face. [...] In the more than 1,100 articles I have written for this newspaper since 1996, I have never before called anything a tour de force. Yet there is no more succinct and appropriate way to describe Red Dead Redemption."
- Seth Schiesel, New York Times

My critic colleagues and I agree: Red Dead Redemption is one of the best games ever made.

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- Greg Mengel

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