2009, the "shifting" year
The year 2009 was a good year for gaming, but not an excellent one. We certainly were able to play some great games but fewer than in previous years, arguably making it a forgetable year. That is not to say that 2009 will turn out to be an unimportant year. In fact, looking closely, we can make out a number of shifts that started this year and will impact 2010. In that sense, 2009 may yet turn out to be a red-letter year in the gaming industry.
First, it was in 2009 that Sony took their first serious steps toward moving out of last place with the Playstation 3 Slim which has spurred sales considerably. While Nintendo will likely continue to rule unchallenged throughout 2010, the balance between Sony and Microsoft is shifting in favor of Sony. The year 2009 will also be remembered for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Not only did it outsell any game in its launch week to date, it also left the gaming industry crapping in their pants as publishers shifting the release dates of many of their big releasies to 2010 in order to avoid the "Modern Warfare 2 Effect".
Other developments are not so obvious just yet, but have set the stage for things to come. 2009 may prove to be the last year that Electronic Arts is able to gloss over the bad shape it is in. Historically they have been "the one to beat", but their record this year is a joke, with just four of the thirty top 2009 games emblazoned with the EA logo - an all time low. Add to that the recently announced layoffs and you have all the dramatic foreshadowing of a tragedy playing out where no one - no one - wins. Except for Take 2 and Ubisoft of course. Both publishers will probably look forward to EA's shift in fortunes.
One the bright side, the first half of 2010 is looking to be better than ever. Some great titles that were originally meant for the holiday season will now be released early next year. We'll certainly not be bored!
Now, there hasn't been a year go by where we didn't complain about how difficult it was to pick the winners for our Game of the Year Feature. On the surface, this year was no different but there was a bigger gap between the top games and everything else that came behind. Why? We're not completely certain what caused this strange phenomenon in this final year of an outstanding decade of gaming. Perhaps there really were fewer noteworthy games released this year. Certainly the fact that so many heavy-hitters have been moved to a 2010 release has had an effect. Interestingly enough, however, Modern Warfare did not end up as our Game of the Year - on any platform.
Below are the six categories, consisting of each platform that we cover. If you want to go straight to the top 5 overall, simply scroll down.
Best game - Overall
While it is difficult to compile the top 5 games on every platform, putting together the top 5 overall borders on the impossible. Yet, every year we manage to survive the onslaught that are the Game of the Year awards, even if it means that some of our team members have trouble looking each other in the eye for a few weeks.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the Modern Warfare series may well become the best selling First Person Shooter series ever. The game takes everything that made the campaign of the first game great and then improves upon it. Modern Warfare thrives on serving the player "oh shit!" moments and creates one of the most memorable gaming experiences in gaming history. And when you are done, you take the game online and find it to be even more customizable than its already magnificent predecessor. A slapdash sequel this is not, the bar for modern shooters has been raised very high indeed.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman: Arkham Asylum came out of nowhere and smashed the mold of bad comic book videogames. The game oozes atmosphere and provides one of the most immersive adventures of the year. It is truly a joy to partake in the unsurpassed freeflow combat system. While past superhero games have provided generic gameplay clothed in a spandex costume, Batman: Arkham Asylum allows the player to experience what it is to be Batman.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Beautiful graphics, engaging cinemats, engrossing gameplay. Many great things have been said about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves since its release. Drake and the peeps at Naughty Dog took everything that worked before and made it better. Not only that, they implemented a great new multiplayer system that is able to pull off scalable environments well. The great diversity in levels is only outmatched by the intensity of the gameplay and Drake's dry sense of humor. Running along a moving train while dodging rockets and machine gun fire from a helicopter and fighting off baddies gets a whole new dimension when Drake is flinging around sarcastic jokes.
Assassin's Creed II
For all its critical and commercial success, the first Assassin's Creed had its fair share of flaws. Chief among them was the repetitiveness of its missions and gameplay. Ubisoft did not rest on their laurels. They listened to their fans and went back to the drawing board for the sequel. Ezio Auditore's tale of conspiracy and vengeance in Renaissance Italy is anything but repetitive and 15th century Florence and Venice are a refreshing change of pace from the Crusades-era Holy Land. Ezio himself is a more sympathetic protagonist than Altair and more athletic to boot. He swims, flies, crawls into hidden tombs, rebuilds his family estate and hires help. All the while he is trying to foil the Templars latest efforts at world domination. Being an assassin has never been better.
Dragon: Age Origins
With Dragon Age: Origins, Bioware returns to its roots with a meld of action-oriented and strategic gameplay. They have wrapped the package in a story rife with meaningful choices, astounding twists, and relevant themes. Simply put, Dragon Age: Origins is a tour-de-force of phenomenal storytelling and combat, everything an interactive entertainment experience should be. We can't think of a better recommendation than that, making Dragon Age: Origins our Game of the Year 2009.