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Games of 2010: Linford's Edition
by Linford Butler

Gaming. It is a past-time which is not only time-consuming, but can also be ridiculously frustrating, hugely expensive, addictive and full of gory shooty bloodiness. With such high price tags and demands on our time, it's a wonder that we even play games, let alone write about them.

Thing is, games are more than merely short-term entertainment. They, like any other form of media, tell stories, create worlds and allow us to experience danger and action safe in the comfort of our squashy living room chairs. And, as such, we'll always manage to find that extra fifty pounds in order to pre-order that latest announced title, before playing it in a freezing cold house because you could no longer afford to keep it heated.

Without further ado, the following list gives some insight into my favourite games of the last year, that I'd be prepared to sleep rough, go without food or wrestle a mole rat for. Read, and jouirez-vous.

5: Just Cause 2

You can call me old-fashioned, but there's something about grapple hooks that just never gets tiring. Add in a mahoosive game world - which takes three weeks and a Ray Mears-esque survival instinct to cross - some guns, free-roaming gameplay and a cheesily over-acted storyline, and you have Just Cause 2: a sandbox shooter with just enough 'liberate-poverty-stricken-country-from-unjust-corrupted-government' storyline to give at least some context to the mindless violence.

It is, in some ways, like a Carry On: a complete shambles, but one which just keeps you coming back, addicted like you're on some sort of audio-visual ketamine. It's cheesy, yes - incredibly so - but what it does, it does very well.

Just Cause 2's shooting feels solid (even though enemies seem to be able to take bullets to the chest as if they're sponges made from feathers and fairy-dust), abilities such as the grappling and skydiving are nice and the sandbox design gives a real sense of scale that far surpasses anything else I've really played: you really feel like a single person, stuck on a massive archipelago of foreign islands against a country's entire military.

It might not be awe-inspiring, and it certainly isn't revolutionary, but it's a blast nonetheless.

4: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

The meaning of the 'Lego' brandname - 'play well' - has never been more applicable to a game than when it comes to LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, the plastic-brick version of the murderous baby who ruthlessly slayed the poor, innocent, saintly Lord Voldemort, before arrogantly swanning about, scar atop head like some grotesque power symbol, repeatedly attacking members of the friendly hobbyist group known as the 'Death Eaters' for some sick sense of fun, and generally being an arrogrant little...

As I said in my review of the game, Traveller's Tales have done a commendable job of porting the Harry Potter brand - a famously tricky one to get right in videogames - into a game that is not only fun to play, but is fantastically comic, charming and family-friendly.

Yes, it has some problems, but they're few and very far between. It plays excellently, as do all the other LEGO-brand games, with some truly wonderful little details and additions; the humour is clean, clever and genuinely laugh-out-loud; the Potter canon is excellently implemented and the LEGO aesthetic gives everything that happy-go-lucky, innocent glow that you saw the world through when you were little.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is my 'Games of 2010' recommendation for fans of the boy wizard, fans of small, Danish plastic bricks or fans of games.

3: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

Generally, I wouldn't count myself a fan of racing games. First of all, they bore me out of my head; and secondly, there's something about the thought of having my various limbs ripped off me in an 142mph crash of crumpling metal, plastic and glass that doesn't appeal to me all that much.

There have only been two games which overcame the aforementioned issues preventing my enjoyment of racers. The first, needless to say, would be Burnout Paradise, the sandbox racer that conspired in every way to endlessly punish you with metally, crashy death for the slightest mistake. Criterion did everything right with Paradise, and created one of the only racing games that I have consistently returned to since purchasing it.

And then Criterion took all that knowledge, and one-upped Paradise, thus creating the second racing game I enjoyed: Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.

The classic 'cops vs robbers' chase situations are done perfectly, and the game has such a realistic sense of speed and danger that excitement is outweighed only by the adrenaline pumping around your veins. The Autolog system is fantastically developed and works really well, looking at online gaming from a whole new angle. It's a polished package that left a lasting impression with me, and is certainly one of the best handling, best-looking racers of the last year.

2: Assassin's Creed Brotherhood

I could talk about - and have talked about - the Assassin's Creed series until I am blue in the face. When the third game in the series, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, graced our screens, I was ready to cry from the rooftops about it, like the Renaissance heralds you'll find scattered around the game's locales.

I didn't, of course - mainly because getting onto my roof is such a damn hassle - but instead decided to get down to reviewing the game. And I certainly found alot to say on it, with a gargantuan review which came close to doing accurate justice to what is, undoubtedly, a truly excellent game.

Whether I could ever do proper justice to a game like Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, though, is beyond my ability to predict. As usual, the combat is to the utmost level of quality, the parkour aspects are as good as it ever was, and the additions to the series - particularly the multiplayer, but just as much the little things - make it a stellar title and one which nicely opens up the door for further series expansion.

1: Fallout: New Vegas

Where the genius lies in the Obsidian-developed Fallout titles is difficult to pinpoint. Personally, I consider Fallout - and, narrowing that down, Fallout: New Vegas - to be the perfect storm: a combination of devastating elements which, when they come together, create something electrifying, exhilirating. Fallout: New Vegas is a force to be reckoned with.

I think that part of what makes New Vegas so inexhaustively excellent is that, at its core, it is the most subjective game I've ever played.

Allow me to explain. Every person I know who has played either New Vegas or its little, less-refined brother, Fallout 3, cite a different reason for why they fell in love with the series. Some say that the combat is what attracts them so much. Others cite the post-apocalyptic, dystopian society in which the game is set as the key factor in what sets Fallout apart. Either way, it's a game that seems to impact people differently, and it allows people with very different play styles to access the game and still enjoy it.

For me, the thing that I always find enthralling is the depth and deft weaving of Fallout's storyline and canon, combined with the unique moral choices which shape the course of the storyline differently for each person. Different choices in different situations can have drastically varying consequences, which creates some unique emotional and moral dilemmas which just aren't available in any other title. The storyline is generously smattered with sly hints to earlier Fallout titles, as well as the general canon of the game (which, if you didn't know, is huge: see The Vault, the Fallout wiki to see just how much the series packs in).

The game also has a good level of replayability, due to the diverse multitude of locations, characters and loot to find on your stumblings through the wastes of the Vegas area. Starting a new game from the beginning and, instead of following your original path from your first playthrough (usually to the first objective), can lead to a very different experience of the game, with the discovery of new places, people and quests. Fallout: New Vegas is jam-packed full of variety and the unique choices through the game serve excellently to ensure that every gamer has a very different experience of the same game, whilst still delivering the goods.

New Vegas isn't without its problems, but they're the same ones that plagued Fallout 3, and no-one seemed to care then. The game will often stutter, there are issues with 'popping' due to the short draw distance for detail objects, game crashes aren't unheard of, and companions can often be a hindrance rather than a help. However, when playing New Vegas, the bugs are often outweighed by the mere awe-factor that at least I felt during play.

Still, what is the opinion of an unknown, lowly, independent games journo like me worth? Well, perhaps these quotes from well-known critics will be able to quell your fears about the game, and show you just why Fallout: New Vegas deserves my top-spot in my 'Games of 2010'.

"The fact that the many issues with glitches and bugs weren’t ironed out of this release would be unforgivable if the core game wasn’t so tirelessly compulsive and complex. [...] If you don’t mind working around them then this could be a game of the year contender."
- Peter Chapman,

"Fallout New Vegas is a fantastic game that in its vast, interesting, flavour-filled world has something for everyone. I could say that I’ve not loved the last thirty hours, and don’t expect to spend another thirty more, but ‘It’s a sin, to tell, a lie’."
- Reece Warrender, Console Monster

"While New Vegas is unmistakably built upon the fundamental gameplay and structure laid out in Fallout 3, it’s a formula that any student of that game will be happy to see repeated, and Obsidian’s numerous embellishments result in what is, in many respects, a deeper and more compelling experience."
- gamesTM

"Fallout: New Vegas is the game that many wanted Fallout 3 to be. It's harder, more ruthless, better written and more morally ambiguous. It's a game we’ve been wanting to play for more than a decade, a real modern re-imagining of the Fallout series, complete with that deliciously black humour. [...] If Obsidian were to make another Fallout game, we certainly wouldn't say no."
- Keza MacDonald, IGN UK

"Fallout: New Vegas is an expansive and complicated RPG that encourages you to see and do as much as you can. This is an explorer's game, always lavishing new and interesting quests on you and giving you a lot of flexibility in how you approach many of them. It builds upon Fallout 3's mechanics in interesting and esoteric ways, making it a comfortable evolution to one of 2008's best games. [...] Fallout: New Vegas is periodically awesome and consistently compelling.
- Kevin VanOrd, GameSpot

Fallout: New Vegas is a game which, despite the common bugs, never fails to impress. For the ridiculously cheap amount you can get it for now, its an investment that will tide over twenty or more hours of gaming time with its incredibly deep storyline and variety.

Cheapest Fallout: New Vegas prices:


£26.99, (UK)

£16.99, (UK)

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- Linford Butler

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