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This blog series is all about the best games of the last 20 years. George and Matt from the Monitor Audio team take a look at each year and pick their favourites. In this post, we’ll be going back to the year 2010.
2010 was the year of retro revivals with the likes of NBA Jam and GoldenEye 007 making a comeback, alongside a spew of gaming sequels from the Assassin's Creed, God of War and Starcraft series. Following on from Sony's PlayStation Move, Microsoft launched the lauded Kinect motion sensor for its 360 console, giving gamers the opportunity to play games based on voice and facial recognition.
Rockstar San Diego | Rockstar Games | PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Spiritual successor to 2004's Red Dead Revolver, developers Rockstar returned with this open world action adventure game, set during the American frontier.
When agents Ross and Fordham from the Bureau of Investigation kidnap the family of former outlaw John Marston, he must hunt down his former gang, in order to see them again. Set in 1911, you play as Marston, now a bounty hunter, searching for the surviving members of the Van der Linde gang. First up is gunslinger Williamson, who leaves Marston for dead after an exchange. Rancher Bonnie tends to Marston wounds, who then helps her with various jobs as thanks. As he seeks out Williamson, he begins to make new allies. Together, they devise a plan to attack the fortress where Williamson and his new gang reside.
Alongside Marston is Johnson, a U.S. Marshal, arms smuggler Irish, treasure hunter Briars and con artist Dickens. As they approach the stronghold, they defeat the gang, but Williamson leaves to join up with former ally Javier Escuella. Marston leaves the group behind to travel to the Mexican state of Nuevo Paraíso. The state's brutal ruler Colonel Allende, is locked in a local civil war with the leader of a rebellion against him, Abraham Reyes. Marston realises the only way to track down Williamson and Javier is to help both sides. After Allende realises and turns on Marston, Reyes rescues him, leading to Marston agreeing to help them overthrow Allende’s government. In exchange, Reyes leads Marston to where Javier is staying, who then notifies them that Williamson is under the protection of Allende. After killing Javier, they lead an attack on Allende, executing both him and Williamson as Reyes takes control of Nuevo Paraíso.
Back in the U.S., the final target is former leader of the group Dutch van der Linde, who evades Marston and the FBI on multiple occasions. As they finally catch up to him, Dutch concedes defeat, after an overwhelming assault from the U.S. army; he commits suicide, warning Marston that the same fate awaits for him. Marston reunites with wife Abigail and son Jack. Together, with former gang member Uncle, they return to normal life on their ranch, until Edgar Ross returns. John gets his family to safety, before Uncle is killed, leading to Marston confronting the Bureau agents. Marston is killed and three years later, after Abigail dies of natural causes, Jack tracks down and exacts revenge on Ross.
The Dead Eye ability allowed you to live out life as a gunslinger and with the surprise inclusion of the online multiplayer mode, you could even create your own "posse". Inspired by the mechanics from their Grand Theft Auto series, Rockstar produced an overwhelming beautiful world, capturing every detail of the Old West. Red Dead Redemption was truly an absolute pleasure to play.
Quantic Dream | Sony Computer Entertainment | PlayStation 3
This interactive drama from Quantic Dream provided nonlinear gameplay for four different protagonists, all who are searching for the famed Origami Killer.
The Origami Killer has killed many young boys, by drowning them in rainwater, and leaving an orchid on their chests and an origami figure close by. The main controllable character is Ethan, who wakes from a coma, six months after being hit by a car, whilst out shopping with his ten year old son Jason, who sadly died. After experiencing blackouts, he is filled with guilt and divorces his wife Grace, but continues to see his other son Shaun. Two years pass, and whilst playing with Shaun in the park, Ethan blacks out. As he wakes, he realises that the Origami Killer has abducted Shaun, after finding his signature origami figure.
Whilst investigating the death of another Origami victim, who has drowned in a flooded cell, you meet the second character, FBI agent Norman Jayden. Norman is addicted to the drug Triptocaine, which causes dizziness and hallucinations, which in turn makes controlling the character extremely difficult. As he consults with Ethan, he concludes that Shaun has only three days to live, based on the weather patterns. After checking into a nearby motel, he receives a letter from the killer, containing instructions alongside five origami figures, mobile phone and a handgun. The killer wants to test just how much Ethan loves his son, by making him carry out a series of tests, using each of the items provided. The killer slowly begins to reveal Shaun’s location, by providing parts of an address upon each completed task. Ethan finds himself murdering a drug dealer, crawling through broken glass, driving against traffic on the highway, cutting off one of his fingers and drinking poison.
The next character, Madison, is a journalist staying in the same motel as Ethan. Madison suffers from insomnia and is conducting her own investigation into the Origami Killer. Ethan’s ex wife Grace visits agent Jayden, telling him that she believes Ethan is behind Shaun’s disappearance. After Jayden’s partner, Lieutenant Carter Blake, visits Ethan’s psychiatrist, he believes his blackouts could be key to the investigation and puts out a warrant for his arrest. The final character, investigator Scott Shelby accompanies Lauren, the mother of a victim, to Gordi Kramer, who claims to be the killer. After being locked in a car, they are pushed to the bottom of the river, but after breaking free, you speak to Gordi’s father Charles, who confesses that his son was responsible for the murder of a young boy years earlier. After flashbacks reveal the true killer, each of the characters are faced with multiple quick time events to finally solve the case.
With the PlayStation Move control, the hunt became more intense as you moved around the rain-soaked city. With a gloomy but cunning plot, every character felt genuine, in this intriguing game all about the consequences of your actions.
Obsidian Entertainment | Bethesda Softworks | Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Set four years after the events of Fallout 3, developers Obsidian Entertainment offered up a spin off of the Fallout series, with the most engaging game yet.
In the year 2281, 204 years after the bombs fell, set in the former city of Las Vegas, now called New Vegas, three big players seek control over the city. You control a courier working for the Mojave Express. The Mojave Wasteland encompasses parts of the former states of California, Nevada, and Arizona. The New California Republic is no longer the power it once was. Despite owing the majority of the territories in the Mojave, over the past 40 years the NCR had begun to buckle under the pressure from Caesar's Legion. Caesar and his faction had conquered and united many tribes further to the east of New Vegas and had planned to take over the city run by the NCR.
After a failed meeting four years earlier both factions are planning to meet for a second time, to finally determine the cities true leaders. The Hoover Dam provides power and clean, non-irradiated water, providing full control of the region. In that time, a businessman who presides over New Vegas, by the name of Mr. House, has created an army of security robots. Mr. House is finalising his plans to target Hoover Dam, in an attempt to overthrow both the NCR and Caesar's Legion. Benny, a mobster, steals what you are planning to deliver in New Vegas, attempting to kill you in the process. You go in pursuit of Benny, and the Platinum Chip that he stole, which is a data device, meant for Mr. House. Along the way, you meet the main factions, along with smaller groups, all who seek your help for various tasks. How you choose to help them determines the karma and experience points you receive. After Caesar captures Benny, you can choose to kill or spare him. As you find yourself in the conflict between the main factions, you find out what Mr. House needed the Platinum Chip for. The robots he created are called Securitrons and the chip would upgrade their combat levels. Benny originally stole it to effectively take over the security in New Vegas and replace Mr. House, using a reprogrammed Securitron named Yes Man.
As Caesar's Legion begins to attack Hoover Dam, you have a choice whether you want to defend it on behalf of the NCR or help Mr. House, by connecting the power to his network. If you help the NCR or Caesar, they will have full control of New Vegas, but helping Mr House brings two interesting options, of which I took the latter. If you side with Mr. House, he can use his Securitrons to drive both the NCR and Caesar out, but siding with Yes Man brings even more chaos, eliminating all three major factions in an all out war.
With a truly exciting setting, Obsidian gave Bethesda a run for their money, offering more interesting side quests and a fascinating story. Fallout 3 was a masterpiece, but New Vegas will always have a special place in my heart.
BioWare | Electronic Arts | Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Developers BioWare brought us a sequel to their spectacular 2007 science fiction RPG, surpassing it in almost every way imaginable.
As hostile race of networked artificial intelligences called geth battle the SSV Normandy, the crew are forced to abandon their ship after an unknown vessel attacks them. Set in 2183, shortly after the events of the first game, SSV Normandy's pilot Joker is bundled into the final escape pod by protagonist Commander Shepard. Shepard dies after a suit breach, causing the Commander’s body to drift out into space and be pulled towards an orbit of a nearby planet.
With the belief that only Shepard could stop the Reaper threat to humanity, human supremacist organisation, called Cerberus, recover and bring Shepard back to life as part of their “Lazarus Project”, with help from xenoarchaeologist Liara T'Soni. Two years later, as its own security attack their research station; Shepard finally awakes and manages to escape. Shepard meets the Illusive Man who funded the Lazarus Project, who reveals that human colonies have been disappearing all over the galaxy, resulting in the end of entire populations. Shepard is sent out find the cause of this, on behalf of Cerberus, investigating a recently attacked colony. After finding clues that suggest that Collectors, a mysterious insectoid race are responsible for abducting entire human colonies in the Terminus Systems. Shepard assembles a team to travel beyond the Omega-4 Relay, despite the Illusive Man telling them no one has ever returned. Again piloted by Joker, the new Normandy SR-2 set out to first to save another human colony under attack, before travelling to a disabled Collector ship.
They discover that an extinct alien race known as the Protheans, now known as Collectors, were once turned into slaves of the Reapers, a highly advanced machine race. Despite escaping an attack by the Collectors, Shepard becomes aware that the Illusive Man knew of their intensions. The group acquire an IFF device, designed by the Reapers, to pass through the Omega-4 Relay safely and reach the Collector base. As they fight their way through the Galactic Center, Shepard must destroy a machine made by both humans and Reapers, but the Illusive Man proposes using it against them first. After destroying the base, the squad meet up back on Normandy SR-2 and study schematics of a Reaper.
I played through three endings, all of which were worth the effort. The points and dialogue options offer a significant impact of not only individual squad personnel, but the survival of the entire team. Mass Effect 2 is an exceptionally good game, a truly rich experience, with unbelievable depth and variety.
Playdead | Microsoft Game Studios | Xbox 360
The first brainchild of Danish independent game studio Playdead, Limbo turns the humble 2D platform into a monochrome nightmare.
In this trial-and-death game, you awaken as boy in the middle of a dark forest, where you encounter a giant killer spider. After using a trap to cut off one of the spider’s legs, it retreats into the forest. The boy is searching for his lost sister in the woods, encountering fiendish traps and hostile humans along the way. As you break through the web, you encounter a girl, who may be your sister, amongst various other characters, which are either in distress or are looking to stop you. Upon completing the final puzzle from within the decaying city, the journey takes a sharp turn, when you are launched back into the forest. As you begin to wake, you see a girl, but the game finishes before you can be sure who she is.
Although short, Limbo features an incredible film noir style, making the most of contrasting lighting in the minimalistic black and white world. The sound design uses a jarring mix of humming ambient and distorted sounds.
With no interruptions, in an open-ended story, Limbo forces the player to look into the deeper meaning and symbolism throughout the horrifying game.
2K Marin | Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Nintendo EAD Tokyo | Wii
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