A 2010 Retrospective - The Best Year for Video Games Ever?
Written Saturday, January 01, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
So then... 2010, huh? It was a pretty good year for digital entertainment, right? Some say the best yet. For us, 2010 was definitely an incredibly big year, not just in terms of the impressive games, but in terms of site growth as well, which to us is just as important – d’uh. I’m not necessarily talking a huge growth in figures either like last year, but more consolidation and recognition than anything; for instance, our year-on-year unique user numbers grew for the 5th year in a row, there was a huge increase in reader numbers for our editorial content, which is partly down to the new site layout, and we’ve even rolled out more site features in a one year period than ever before. So yeah, I’d say that was a pretty damn impressive year. What does 2011 hold though? Well, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to get the skinny on that, but for now, as our first act of 2011, let us reflect on 2010, not just the games and moments that delighted us, but those that tormented us also.
"Shepard and co kicked ass in 2010 and could do in 2011 too."
Now, in my umpteen years as a gamer and however many as Editor here, I find it hard to recall a January as strong as January 2010. It’s rather refreshing to see the first month of the year spawn two titles – Mass Effect 2 and Bayonetta – that actually came in our top 3 of the year – with one winning our GOTY – and we were left wondering whether the year could get any better. If we’re being honest, it didn’t really, but that’s only because January provided two of the year’s best titles available. The rest of 2010 was fairly outstanding though, with most months giving gamers a triple-A blockbuster title to pile into.
In fact, 2010 was so jam-packed with great games that even some of the truly memorable titles of the year struggled to get a mention in this year’s Game of the Year awards - casualties include BioShock 2 and Fallout: New Vegas for instance. Furthermore, there were games released in 2010 that in other years could have made much more of an impact, like Bad Company 2, Dance Central, Black Ops and Fable III; and even big hitters like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Red Dead Redemption weren't as dominant as they could have been. What you have there are 8 games that could have easily stole the show in any other year, but this year they hardly made an impact.
While 2009 did bring us 7 90+ games to feast on, 2010 brought us an incredible 10 90+ games, but in terms of titles scoring in the 80s, 2010 was down 1 from 30 to 29 on the previous year. So we call it the greatest year ever – well, some do – but in fact, it doesn’t really show from the review scores and despite all those great games though, the year’s average score was only 72% - down 1 % from 2009’s 73%. However, we did review 94 games this year compared to last year’s 86, and we even had the launch of a new piece of tech with all-new launch software, which to be honest, more than likely led to the year’s average score dip - only 3 of the 8 reviewed titles scored above that average, with Joy Ride and Fighters Uncaged scoring 30% and 20% respectively.
"Limbo is both beautiful and eerie."
If you read our Game of the Year feature, then you already know that we struggled to narrow down our shortlist of the year's best Xbox Live Arcade games to 5 games, yet alone decide the winners. Like I said, our shortlist for that award sat at about 15 games after the initialstage and just to show the sheer quality we saw this year on the platform, we’re going to sit here and list them for you, because nothing says “sheer awesomesauce” like a list. Here goes... *deep breath*...
Limbo, Raskulls, Costume Quest, Monkey Island 2: Special Edition, Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, Dead Rising 2: Case West, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Super Meat Boy, Shank, Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX, Plants vs. Zombies, Toy Soldiers, Deathspank, Perfect Dark and Earthworm Jim HD.
Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Let us also take a minute to recognise a few of those unique “nearly” games that blessed our consoles as well, with the likes of Enslaved, Vanquish, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Darksiders and Resonance of Fate leading the way there. All great games in their own right, but completely overshadowed in the grand scheme of things.
"A swing and a miss... that's Fighters Uncaged in a nutshell"
Okay, so we get that 2010 was a pretty spectacular year, but what we haven’t discussed is last year’s share of utter tripe. 2010 brought so many so-bad-they’re-almost-funny games our way, with the latest Harry Potter, the shocking Fighters Uncaged, Joy Ride, Pure Football, Naughty Bear and Iron Man 2 all worthy of a non-worthy mention – all of which scored 35 or lower if you're interested. For that, we will not recover, so thank you EA, Ubisoft, Microsoft, 505 Games and SEGA, you truly are sadistic people.
Kinect also finally got its release this year, after being announced at last year’s E3. Admittedly, we didn’t like the name at first, but it’s actually started to grow on us a little more now, and like most launch line-ups, the first batch of software was a little hit and miss - with only Dance Central, Your Shape and Kinectimals hitting home with scores in the 80s. Not hardly what I’d call core games either, but there is one thing that’s for certain with Kinect, and that’s that you need a heck of a lot of space to play it in... especially if you’re nearing the 6ft height as well. Yes, we were impressed with the tech for the most part, and yes, Dance Central is a blast to play if you’ve got friends over, but the real test will surely come in 2011 as it tries to tempt in the more core-focussed gamers into buying it - an unenviable task.
Last year was a year that was not only lively from a games perspective either, but in the headlines it was full of shocks and surprises as well. The Infinity Ward founders vs. Activision spat was something that featured almost weekly in the news section for the first half of 2010, with the whole thing escalating recently as Activision roped in EA into all that mess. It’s like something out of a soap opera, and now the pair have setup Respawn Entertainment, all we need is the almighty comeback and the usurping of their previous supposed evil owners and you’ve got the making of a story-arch for your own soap opera. In other Activision news though, everything else seems to be happening for the publisher, with their 10 year Bungie partnership being announced in 2010, as well as a certain Call of Duty sequel making them 1 billion dollars. 2010 was also the year when the infamous “Project 10 Dollar” reared its ugly/beautiful head... depends on which side of the fence you stand.
"BioShock Infinite certainly didn't disappoint at Gamescom."
We also did our fair bit of travelling last year, covering events like X10, E3, Gamescom and PAX; each of which had their own surprises. X10 saw the unveiling of such games as Fable III and Halo: Reach to the press and was a welcome addition to the calendar, while E3 and Gamescom on the other hand didn’t really capture our attention on the announcement front, but did with the games that were being shown off there – with Deus Ex: Human Revolution and BioShock Infinite being the standout game at E3 and Gamescom respectively. There was still too much Kinect for our liking though.
Fast forward to PAX and TGS, and it seems there were more big announcements there than the other two supposedly bigger trade shows combined – with Gearbox announcing they were picking Duke Nukem Forever up from the cutting room floor at PAX and Kinect’s core line-up and the new Devil May Cry taking centre stage at TGS. I hate to say it though, but the VGAs seemed to provide the best thrills, including the announcement of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Mass Effect 3. Why do I hate to say it, you ask? Because it’s a shame that the biggest announcements of the year come when the games industry is at its most cheap and tacky – plus, MTV will think that the VGAs were a resounding success and do the same this year, when truth be told, the vast majority of people tuning in only care about the announcements, not the rest of the commercialised and forced crap that comes with them. Personally, I'd much rather tune in and watch back-to-back trailers with ads in-between, than see a cringeworthy awards show instead. Ha, what am I talking about? I'm in the UK... we don't get to watch it live anyway.
It wouldn’t be a 2010 reflective piece if I didn’t take a minute to mention one of our highlights of the calendar – X360A’s debut PAX party. Many a beer was shared that evening and it was great to get to meet some of the fine folks of this here community. PAX 2011, X360A party, take 2, we’ll be there... make sure you are too by marking it in your diaries now.
The crux of it all though is that 2010 is undoubtedly one of the best years in the history of video games with pretty much every genre having a stellar game to cater to its fans, and most months having a triple-A title in its ranks. As a site, we blossomed even further last year, thanks to our epic community of course - which is surely one of the best on the net *wink wink* - so let me thank you as well for being a huge part of this. 2011 will be better as well. Guaranteed.
So that about wraps up our little jaunt down memory lane, but now, we must turn our attention to what the future holds. Well, tomorrow we will. Let me leave you with our highest rated games of the year in list format, in case you were interested in seeing what our highest rated games were this year. Happy New Year folks!
90+ games, 2010 (10):
ACB (94), Fallout: New Vegas (90), FIFA 11 (90), Halo: Reach (94), Alan Wake (92), Super Street Fighter IV (90), Bad Company 2 (90), BioShock 2 (92), Bayonetta (95), Mass Effect 2 (94).
80-89 games, 2010 (29):
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (87), Black Ops (88), Dance Central (88), Your Shape (85), Vanquish (80), Kinectimals (80), The Sims 3 (80), Fable III (88), Naruto Shippuden Ultimate: Ninja Storm 2 (86), NBA 2K11 (88), Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (87), Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (82), NHL 11 (87), Dead Rising 2 (80), F1 2010 (80), RUSE (81), Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 (80), Singularity (80), LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (80), Green Day: Rock Band (80), Red Dead Redemption (89), Split/Second (84), UFC 2010 (86), 2010 FIFA World Cup (85), Splinter Cell: Conviction (85), Just Cause 2 (80), Resonance of Fate (85), Final Fantasy XIII (82), Darksiders (85).