BEN PARFITT – Online Editor, MCVuk.com
Heavy Rain (Sony)
A very easy decision. Heavy Rain would make it into my all-time Top Three games list, so its inclusion at the top of this pile was never in doubt. I’ve never played anything that has touched me quite like Heavy Rain. It’s remarkable in so many ways. The duty of care I felt towards the characters – and in particular Ethan and Shaun – was utterly consuming. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at the end, either. To my mind you can pencil this in alongside Sensible Soccer and Super Mario World as one of the very best titles ever released.
Flick Kick Football (PikPok)
Hang on, let me get out my calculator. According to the game I’ve put in 17 hours in total. At a cost of just 59p, that works out at just over 3p per hour so far. Is there a better illustration of the struggles the £49.99 console market will face in the future? Forget “30 seconds of fun over and over”. FKF is “two seconds of fun” rinsed and repeated. And what fun. The flick kicking mechanic is, put simply, just divine. I simply don’t grow tired of it. I wonder if I ever will? [Oh – now they’ve gone and added online multiplayer. I’m fearful of the time sink]
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (EA)
I really feel I should be using this space for something cleverer than Bad Company 2. Espgaluda II on iPhone, for instance, or perhaps the criminally under-rated Kane & Lynch 2. But when it comes down to it, it would be wrong for me to overlook DICE’s sequel. It doesn’t do anything particularly new or innovative but when it comes down to the sheer amount of time I’ve enjoyed with a title, BC2 has to recognised. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that the online element of the game is better than Black Ops or Modern Warfare 2, but it’s certainly the equal of any Call of Duty. And I’d argue the inclusion of vehicles and enforced tactical team play gives it the nod.
Honourable mentions: Game Dev Story (Kairosoft), FIFA 11 (EA), Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision), Mushihime-sama Futari (Cave), Tumble (Sony), Dance Central (Microsoft), Gran Turismo 5 (Sony), Espgaluda II (Cave), Kane & Lynch 2 (Square Enix), Limbo (Microsoft), Halo Reach (Microsoft)
CHRISTOPHER DRING – Deputy Editor, MCV
Alan Wake (Microsoft)
It never did anything particularly revolutionary, but Alan Wake’s genuinely creepy story and uncomfortable atmosphere made for one of the best original horror (sorry, ‘Psychological Thriller’) games this generation. Developer Remedy released two additional episodes over Xbox Live, which impressively introduced new gameplay elements that made the DLC even better than the original game. I hope for a sequel.
Enslaved (Namco Bandai)
Again, despite being a new IP Enslaved didn’t do anything especially new. But by combining Uncharted-style gameplay with Hollywood production values, Cambridge-based Ninja Theory created one of the greatest adventure games of the year. Alex Garland’s (28 Days Later, The Beach) script was gripping, Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) was fantastic in the role of Monkey and the game was nice to look at, too.
Donkey Kong Country (Nintendo)
I agonised over this one. DKCR is, as the name suggests, another Donkey Kong Country. If you’ve played one, then you’ve played this one, too. There are barrels, mine carts, bananas and even a few rhinos. But hey, we’ve not had one for 15 years. And it’s a tough game, too, just like the Nintendo games of the past.
Honourable mentions: Splinter Cell: Conviction (Ubisoft), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo), Kick Flick Football (PikPok), Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision), Fable III (Microsoft)
JAMES BATCHELOR – Staff Writer, MCV
Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar)
Rockstar once again proved their skill at creating a vast and immersive world, and in a setting that is rarely used – now perfected – in gaming. The game’s ambitious experimentation with narrative and structure (albeit after the first ten hours of generic GTA-style rambling) was commendable if flawed.
Mass Effect 2 (EA)
Following up a strongly written RPG is always difficult but by taking the players’ decisions from the original game into account, Mass Effect 2 was nothing short of revolutionary. From major universal factors such as the structure of the government to character relationships, it is the first time an already superbly-developed world has truly evolved from one game to the next. The streamlined combat system and interactive cut-scenes, plus the removal of the horrendous vehicle sequences and replicated environments, were the icing on the cake.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo)
Nintendo once again proved that you don’t need superior hardware or graphical power to create a masterpiece in game design. Rather than simply repeating the acclaimed mechanics of the first Galaxy, the sequel introduces even more new ideas and never seems to run out of different ways to implement them. The colourful worlds and bouncy music appeal to gamers of all ages, but don’t detract from one of the most challenging games of the year.
Honourable Mentions: Just Cause 2 (Square Enix), Splinter Cell: Conviction (Ubisoft), GoldenEye 007 (Activision)
DOMINIC SACCO – Staff Writer, MCV
Halo: Reach (Microsoft)
Halo has always been a huge franchise for Microsoft but the latest instalment excelled itself way above expectations. From its revised game engine and detailed visuals to its fleshed out comprehensive multiplayer modes and heartfelt ending, Bungie truly went out on a high with its last Halo game. Jet packs and all. And forget the storyline in Reach – who needs it when you’ve got gameplay like this?
Heavy Rain (Sony)
Never before has a game managed to combine an emotional film-like narrative with immersive gameplay so effortlessly. Whether it was driving a car at full speed, beating up crooks or cooking eggs – Heavy Rain really made you believe in its events. The ‘Madison drill scene’ is also now firmly established as the most horrific gaming moment I’ve ever experienced.
Mass Effect 2 (EA)
This is what the original Mass Effect should have been – an engrossing sci-fi shooter with plenty of epic set pieces and believable characters. BioWare produced a brilliant blend of action gameplay with RPG mechanics in Mass Effect 2, and built the game’s already exciting events up to a climatic crescendo. Mass Effect 3 will have to be something special indeed to better this.
Honourable mentions: Rock Band 3 (EA), Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft), Alan Wake (Microsoft), Bayonetta (Sega), Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar), Fallout: New Vegas (Bethesda)
WILL FREEMAN – Deputy Editor, Develop
Heavy Rain (Sony)
Quantic Dream's latest stab at the interactive movie wasn't perfect from a narrative perspective, but to play Heavy Rain still felt like being present at a significant moment in the evolution of the video game. Sharp and cinematic, where the neo-noir thriller really shone was in making the player feel responsible for their actions. At its best moments it was terrifying and sometimes deeply saddening; emotions few games manage to evoke. My favourite film of the year.
Ketsui: Kizuna Jigoku Tachi (5bp) [Japan only – Xbox 360]
It took cult developer Cave seven years to port its majestic shmup Ketsui from arcade board to console, but when it arrived on the Xbox 360, it seemed well worth the wait. Ferociously hard, it delivers a remarkably refined coin-op experience, and thanks to a wealth of new, more welcoming modes crafted for the Japan-only release, opens the doors of a notoriously genre to new audiences. To play the original arcade mode, however, might be the only gaming experience more stressful than a day on print deadline. Cathartic stuff.
Simultaneously absurd and refined, PlatinumGames' hack'n'slash Bayonetta delivered a strange hybrid of styles where playful pantomime excess intersected with baroque elegance. While the ambitious level design and sexually provocative heroine jostled for the limelight with the most fervour, it was the subtle depth of the combat mechanics that deserves the real credit. Strange, surreal, ambitious and highly sexed; Bayonetta is all these things and more.
STUART RICHARDSON – Staff Writer, Develop
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft)
Took the massive gameplay improvements of AC II and made them significantly better again, while continuing to teach me about historical architecture on the sly. AC III has no right to be anything less than brilliant.
Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar)
I got to be Clint Eastwood.
Halo Reach (Microsoft)
A fitting end to the frustratingly inconsistent Bungie series. Had everything that made Halo fun in droves, along with a lot of things that made it irritating. Also, space battles.
Honourable mentions: Heavy Rain (Sony)