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You know, I think it is safe to say that 2010 will be the first year in the history of gaming where the first half year of releases will eclipse the second half. For the past several years we have been seeing a growing trend of publishers fearing traditional holiday season juggernauts like Halo and Call of Duty and pushing their titles back into spring. This strategy has paid off so well now that publishers are planning their releases with a Q1 release date in mind. What resulted in 2010 was a first half so jam packed with superb new releases that nearly every month felt like a star studded October or November where we are used to seeing this influx of high-quality titles.
With that said, I can see by the end of the year that at least a few of these titles from the first half will be slipping under the radar when it comes to the game of the year awards coming out. So I went out of the way to make my Top 10 Games for the First Half of 2010 list. That is right, not only was there plenty of games I enjoyed this year to make a top 10, I also have several more honorable mentions!
I was initially really into Darksiders, but as I progressed I realized my Zelda-esque dungeon puzzle skills have some serious rust. I kept getting stumped to the point I could not take it anymore at only several hours into the game. Dante’s Inferno is an enjoyable God of War clone, and I had quite a bit of fun with it, probably more so than most because I have yet to have some serious playtime with any of the God of War games.
Green Day Rock Band was more of the same, and I was having a good time with it playing at a friend’s place until their material from 21st Century Breakdown nearly put me to sleep. Army of Two: The 40th Day was a sequel that alleviated a lot of my core gameplay gripes with the original and was a blast to play through with a friend in coop. However, in the process of doing that EA forgot to attach a meaningful story, and blew it big time on no inclusion of a persistent unlock system for online multiplayer, which seemed like a gimme with how much the single player focuses on gun and armor customization.
UFC 2010 has a fully stacked single player arrangement of modes and features some of the best multiplayer out there. At least in local couch based multiplayer that is, where I spent many hours button mashing my controller to hell. It is too bad the online (from my experience on the 360 anyways) is insanely busted, where on the three separate occasions I was only able to complete three online fights of approximately 20 attempts that was filled with countless glitches and hiccups setting up fights. Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing just missed the top 10. It is easily the best Mario Kart clone yet, which is a great thing since I do not own the Wii. Any game that features Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki and his forklift racer gets a stamp of approval from me!
So now, without further ado is my “Top 10 Games For The First Half of 2010”
This is unlike any arcade racer before it. I applaud Black Rock Studios for instead of sticking with the safe route and releasing the sequel to the awesome quad racer, Pure, they went the high road and created an all new IP that I could best relate to as a videogame version of the recent film remake, Death Race, albeit a more family friendly version with all kinds of game changing obstacle “powerplays” that could be triggered to take out your opponents and even yourself if you got careless. It laid a solid foundation that I highly hope this time Black Rock capitalizes on with a sequel.
9) Yakuza 3
Initially, I was having trouble taking the plot seriously for the third Yakuza. Was I really running an orphanage? Then as the hours and chapters went by, I found myself caring for those kids and attached to their personalities. Before I knew it, Yakuza’s trademark fighting system grabbed me again, and I was reeled in and convinced that I must defend that orphanage against all its opposition by any means necessary!
8 – Super Street Fighter IV
This game convinced me to finally pick up my first console fight stick since the NES Advantage! As much as a fighting newb as I am, Street Fighter is so easy to pick up (but insane to master!) that I still found myself rolling out Hadokens and Sonic Booms like I was in the arcade nearly 20 years ago. I never had any problems playing online with friends, and the lobby/quarter matches brings back the incredible feeling of “Winner stays” in the arcades last set of glory years.
7) Splinter Cell Conviction
I usually despise stealth games. I played through Metal Gear Solid 4 on very easy and practically run and gunned through the entire game. Not so much in Conviction. Even though UbiSoft made the game feel like more of a shooter, and quite a good one at that, I was rewarded with sneaking and stealth kills so much that it motivated me to play through roughly 30% of the game with stealth tactics, and for me that is saying something! Throw in another separate campaign designed specifically for online coop and DLC missions currently out, and you have a Splinter Cell game with some serious legs.
Big ups to Bizzare Creations, the former developers of Project Gotham Racing for proving that kart racer style power-ups can be successfully mixed with racing modern day muscle and exotic cars. Blur’s incredibly deep single player features some of the best use of friends leaderboards I have seen on a disc based game that kept swaying me to play just one more race. Its multiplayer component is loaded with persistent unlocks and far superior matchmaking that gives Blur the longevity edge over its rival Split/Second.
5) BioShock 2
2K delivered on making the sequel to one of the most beloved games this generation. While it may be difficult to top experiencing Rapture and its memorable cast from the first time around, BioShock 2 succeeds in establishing a new story arc with a new cast that I found as charming and attached to as before. Being able to dual wield plasmids and tonics and making hacking minigames more streamlined were handy improvements that benefited the core game. It also pulled off a strong online multiplayer component that many people were predicting would be nothing more than an afterthought tacked on when it is anything but.
4) Just Cause 2
As a fan of the first Just Cause, I am extremely satisfied with how developer Avalanche polished up the rough edges from its predecessor and made the action and core gunplay more chaotic and over the top than ever. It has the largest game world than any other open world game before it, and Avalanche has made good use of the world by loading it with dozens of side missions and collectibles to accrue after beating the main campaign. If you so desired to achieve a full 100% completion, you are looking at nearly 100 hours of play time.
3) Red Dead Redemption
Some may be shocked why this does not rank higher, but I am stunned I am so satisfied with it after spending only around nine hours with this massive open world game that I would rank it at #3. Red Dead is the Wild West game everyone has been craving for years. It has the high level of polish and production values RockStar is known for, and it also has so much more to offer in the form of side quests, mini-games and an in-depth online multiplayer where I already lost a few hours just wandering around in free roam and taking down gang hideouts. I am very excited for what the rest of the game has in store for me.
2) Alan Wake
There is something special about Alan Wake that I rarely get with most games. You know what I am talking about; it is that feeling early on where you are so immersed into a game’s universe and that one of the few things you are going to hate in the game is the fact that it is going to end. Alan Wake plays like a perfectly paced movie, with the right amounts of narrative and exposition early on, and the action appropriately stepping up throughout in grand fashion in the final episodes! This self proclaimed “Psychological Thriller” delivers on all accounts, and it was well worth the countless delays.
1) Heavy Rain
I will admit I am crazy for Quantic Dream’s last game, Indigo Prophecy so my view may be a little slanted. That said, Heavy Rain is another game that was well worth the five year wait from when it was originally announced, and it too also has that magical feeling where you know you’re playing something special, and you dread when it is coming to a close. Heavy Rain is so good that is among the very few games that I beat twice. By picking completely different decisions in my second play through of this mystery thriller, I experienced most of the cutscenes quite differently and gained access to new ones that it was like I was playing an entirely new game, but this time without any of the baffling supernatural BS that plagued Indigo Prophecy.
So there you have it, my top 10 games for the first half of 2010! Before you cry foul at me leaving off some of your favorites, please understand there was such a plethora of stunning new releases that I did not have time to play them all. The following games I have yet to play or have spent very little time with, but if I did play them considerably more I think they would have a solid shot at cracking the top 10 – Super Mario Galaxy 2, Ace Attorney Files: Miles Edgeworth, God of War III, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Mass Effect 2, ModNation Racers, Naughty Bear, Bayonetta and Final Fantasy XIII.
I do not want to take anything away or underrate what is coming out later this year. I know I am personally anticipating Fallout: New Vegas, DJ Hero 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, KillZone 3 and Halo: Reach. We will see what these games have to offer and how they will impact my final top ten games of the year.
Is anyone else with me? How would you rank your favorite games that came out through June? Did you find this first half of the year to have a bizarrely strong lineup of games that it stands a strong chance of being a better lineup of what to come in the second half?