292 points, 18 votes, 4.5 TOP GAME votes
Matt D: It’s pretty much pitch-perfect Western from the voice work to the vistas. The world has a great amount of verisimilitude and immersion, and a sort of weird self-awareness. At one point while searching for buried treasure, I realized I was in a cactus-free zone and the very moment I said to myself, “Damn, what am I doing here?”, Marsten said, “What am I doing out here?” Creepy, Rockstar. Everything sort of reacts as you’d expect: bandits are bandits, varmints are varmints, coyotes are coyotes. The combat is a step up from GTA IV (which I found a bit anachronistic); there’s endless freedom to explore and the storyline is surprisingly good. This competes for the top spot among Rockstar’s many offerings for sure. Can we have Tokyo next?
Mitch Krpata: This being a Rockstar game, the story of Marston’s quest for revenge — and, yes, redemption — is adorned with endless side missions and mini-games. At their best, they flesh out the world. What would an Old West setting be without some back-room poker? Some of this is busy work, like the series of challenges that send Marston into the wilds to hunt game under increasingly stringent conditions. Yet it’s all worth pursuing just to experience the harsh environs, and to marvel, evenings, at the red sky in the West. Rockstar builds incredible worlds. Red Dead still showcased some of their worse qualities, but it also gave us their most compelling hero and their most beautiful environment.
n/a: Admittedly this is pretty much the only 2010 game I played in 2010, but it’s also almost the perfect game for me. I feel justified in naming it the best game of the year.
jjjusten: Loved it to death until it became terribly terribly samey and boring; find the herb/critter hunting quests for level ups are total bullshit. On the plus side, this is the first game where riding a horse didn’t make me want to break shit in my house. It looks absolutely gorgeous.
Lamp: There are so many aspects of Red Dead Redemption that I found deeply stupid ,but its one of the rare games i felt compelled to finish this year. Others will, I’m sure, write more fluently and more passionately about it but damn did I ever… uh… finish it.
ledge: Who knew a GTA clone set in a desert (wait a minute, that’s literally a sandbox…) would be so fun. Less irritatingly repetitive gameplay than GTA IV, a more engaging story and and less ridiculous cutscenes; plus it was good fun just to chill out in the desert and spend some time shooting rabbits and coyotes and pumas and armadillos and bears and crows and wolves and boar and eagles and… I do agree that the missions end up being repetitive, but it’s not as bad as GTA IV was for that, and also the various challenges do add a bit of spice. Okay, picking herbs gets a bit dull but i had fun trying to find all the different critters to kill, searching out the treasure, etc. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the depth in the gameplay.
bnw: King Kong of 2010. Writing, atmosphere, and voice acting all on a different level then the rest of the field. Biggest complaint would be that it gets a little grindy with repetitive side quests.
Polyphonic: A few of my friends and I brought our 360s together to play this game as one big posse. It was probably the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done, and caused me to seriously question the life decisions that led me down that path. But fuck it, it was fun. There are few moments in my gaming life that I will ever treasure more than when I killed that bear in the snows of Tall Trees with only my knife, or when I drifted up on my RS to see a starry sky as I hunted for armadillo carapaces — only to be mauled to death by a cougar.
The single player storyline was very good, probably the best Rockstar has done to date, and the closest they’ve come to gameplay that is actually fun in and of itself. But the star of this game is the atmosphere. Also, the zombie overrun multiplayer co-op is fucking great.
Jimmy Mod : I just met my first cougar. The meeting did not go well.
JimD: I didn’t actually finish RDR, and I don’t think it’s that good as a game (it shares a lot of GTA’s flaws while lacking a lot of its dumb fun) but as a world it’s fucking amazing. It just feels like a totally believable immersible recreation of a certain time and place, which is kind of a new thing for games to do, and I hope lots more games do it in the future. Bonus points for multiplayer too, which was good for big stop-shooting-me-in-the-horse lulz.
ZS: The “shoot 5 flying birds from a moving train” challenge was like the chillest assignment I have ever received. If only real life challenges were so relaxing. YES, I want to name my horse, YES I would like to name it Michael Lindington, and NO I don’t care who knows it. I’ve been getting up and down off the horse every time, listening to John Marston say “ooooh…this is DIRTY”
Tracer Hand : i have logged approx 5,000,000,000,000 hours with this game. i was just about ready to launch my assault and unlock mexico but my horse died right before the big race – the one i’d spent hours getting to know! so fuck – i spent a good while looking for the kentucky saddler but never found him so finally i just went on an all-night hunting binge, leveling up enough to buy the kentucky saddler outright
something happened while out hunting that sums up this game, and all its nonsensical, fabulous breathlessness
1 – trying to kill a coyote i somehow ended up aiming straight down into my horse and pulled the trigger (!)
2 – my horse was still alive but my honor dropped and suddenly lawmen were on my tail
3 – trying to outrun them, i heard the sound of a train and realized one was headed past right in front of me
4 – i managed to race the train and dart just in front of it, cutting off the lawmen and saving my sorry ass!
total movie moment
Forks’ RDR Country Soundtrack mix:
Buck Owens – I Got A Tiger By the Tail(1965)
Cherryholmes – Black and White (2007)
Cherryholmes – Don’t Believe (2008)
Anonymous Young Girls – Hopali (1930’s?)
The Carter Family – See That My Grave Is Kept Green (1933)
Cinderella G Stump – Temptation (1947)
The Carter Family – Keep On the Firing Line (1941)
Chet Atkins – Tennessee Stud (?)
Bill Monroe and Doc Watson – Chicken Reel (1963)
Alex Hood’s Railroad Boys – L and N Rag (?)
Alfred G Karnes – I Am Bound for the Promised Land (?)
Alfred G Karnes – We Shall All Be Reunited (?)
Basil May – The Lady of Carlisle (?)
The Carver Boys – Sisco Harmonica Blues (?)
Bascom Lamar Lunsford – Lulu Wall (1939)
Buell Kazee – A Short Life of Trouble (1939)
Charlie Bowman and His Brothers – Moonshiner and His Money (1929)
Blue Highway – Where Did the Morning Go? (2007)
Charlie Poole and The North Carolina Ramblers – If the River Was Whiskey (?)
Cal Stewart – Monkey on a String (?)
Ben Curry – I Heard the Voice of a Pork Chop (?)
Ben Curry – It’s A Fight Like That (?)
Daddy Stovepipe and Mississippi Sarah – The Spasm (?)
Bill Carlisle – Feet Don’t Fail Me (?)
Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmie – Little Jimmie’s Goodbye to Jimmie Rodgers (?)
Mayor Jingleberries: played this drunk last night and my horse got killed by some rampaging animal. So I got upset and starting killing anyone I came across to get their horse. I guess your not allowed to murder fools for their horses when you think its convenient. I guess you’re supposed to find a riderless horse out there…?
goole: i think i’m around the 40% mark, in the game’s second act in Mexico, and i haven’t interacted with one indian yet. i don’t think there are any in the game at all. i think this is significant, somehow. i like that the game is in 1911, a “late western” about the closing of the frontier rather than an early one about opening it. maybe this is just to allow them to put more interesting guns in the game, or riff off the meta-westerns like the wild bunch or there will be blood (a town called plainview? really?). plus it doesn’t shy away from politics at all; every other dude wants to talk to you about federal power. anyway, the setting’s early-20th-century-ness is really present and apparent to me and i’m really liking it. speaking of politics, there’s the politics of Rockstar’s media reputation, and i’m getting ongoing chuckles from the (what i take to be) anti “hot coffee” vibe of the whole thing. no matter which path you take, the John Marston character is (so far) faithful to his wife as a given. the prostitutes say stuff like “”I hate to see a man with such a dry pecker… can I help?”and our killer just says “my wife wouldn’t like that” or something. the writing and v/o is head and shoulders above even IV. the mission design is finally good. the secondary challenges are interesting well-thought out, hit that grinding w/o grinding sweet spot. the body physics and gun combat are excellent (the gta games are kind of bad as shooters, really!) I’m not totally without complaints but most of the things that bugged me about the GTAs have been mostly fixed. and the things it does well it does really really well. you can’t underestimate how important it is to have a game be pretty. funny i think it’s closest to bully in terms of uh vibe, maybe cos of the atmosphere and hazy old-timeyness
Cozen: jesus, the sky in this game
Jim D: Huge lolz last night – I wandered up to that little cave where West Dickens lives, and found him stood there rambling away to himself while pissing onto his own bed. Went a bit closer to try and get a better look (yes, I was looking for his winkie), but accidentally bumped into him, which caused him to fall face first into his own pissy matress and lie there shouting about what a bastard I was.
Forksclovetofu: On a river bed, I found an old man doubled over holding his head. A woman was laid out in front of him, bloody and dead. When I stopped and walked up to him, he stood up and shakily held a gun to his own head. I ran up and pushed him. He dropped the gun and began weeping and then finally glaring at me angrily until I rode away. That’s not a video game, that’s a Cormac McCarthy short story.
My main issue with this game is: riding along minding my own business, “help save my baby” from the side of the road, I pull off my horse and before I know what’s up someone is shooting at me, I return fire, kill some old lady and now the game is shaking its head at me with a “what were you thinking” attitude. Then, cougar attack.
I just went south of the border and the amazing and very clearly directorially planned moment with the Jose Gonzalez music was awesome; as deeply affecting as anything I’ve ever seen in a game. Then I got eaten by wolves. This is a lot less like GTA and a lot more like Fallout 3
There’’s a lot less relatably icky gang bullshit and putting caps in people’s asses than GTA but the game is about two steps away from blatant racism; the first guy I met in Mexico might as well have been Al Pacino playing Tony Montana which didn’t even make sense. There is a definite parochial “save us old white guy we cannot survive without you” vibe. Also there’s a real disregard for life that even GTA never fostered; the game invites you to kill kill kill every animal you encounter… weirdly, that puts you somewhat of the game’s time though?
All the above aside, I recommend this wholeheartedly and would definitely say it’s the best thing Rock Star has ever done.
BRB LEVELLIN’ MY DONKEY
MPx4A: I lassoed a guy off a hooker to try and go the taking him alive route, but it just made him fall headfirst into a wall and he died anyway. The drunk guy that sometimes falls out of the bar seems to be immune to punches. I tried to lasso his body to drag him to the cells for the night and he disappeared, leaving only his hat. I kind of hope they don’t patch any of that shit. It’s happened to me twice that I’ve seen a guy standing on his own in the middle of the wilderness, waving his hands and looking scared, and then I’ve got off my horse to talk to him, he’s immediately tried to ride off on it, and I’ve shot him and then lost 50 honor as a result. I too have accidentally shot my horse in the neck, minutes after maxing out its loyalty. I did not skin it. Do you know why? It was out of respect.
bnw: forks shot me in the head. never forget.
266 points, 15 votes, 6.5 TOP GAME votes
Mordy: Somehow, Bethesda went from the quirky, though fairly generic world of Elders Scrolls, to the thematically rich, emotionally painful, and – fuck it – literary world of Fallout 3. No game ever moved me this year as much as Fallout 3 did. When I left Vault 101 for the last time, marching back into the wastes after reconnecting with the friends of my youth, I choked up. I found myself thinking back to the vault for the next hour or so, thinking back to what was forever lost, to what I’d never see again. Fallout 3 was full of these kind of gorgeous moments. An unexpected Town House excursion exposed beds full of skeletons and a still functioning robot. When turned on, he read a poem to the children’s dead skeletons. The poem? Sara Teasdale’s There Will Come Soft Rains. The Town House had no connection to any quest, no goods worth salvaging. But it was my most amazing moment of gaming in 2008.
John Justen: Absolutely no question that this is the best, most involving RPG I have ever played. This is the way to get people who don’t like RPG’s to take a second look. I really hope there is an achievement for obsessively turning on ham radios and opening toilet stall doors, because I’m pretty sure that I’m in the lead on that one. There really isn’t anything that this game does wrong, music included.
CraigG: It’s both exciting and daunting in terms of how big this game seems; I’ve barely made a dent in this after ten hours of play. It’s part of what really got me into gaming as a hobby.
Mitch Krpata: The most fully realized game world since Crackdown, at least. I’ve yet to play it for less than three hours at a time.
Circa 1916: Awesome so far, despite weird little things. Animation is awkward and comical sometimes. Combat can get a little wonky. I killed a guard with one bb to the chest (?) and enemies don’t really react to getting shot. Only 3 hours in. Spent most of my time wandering around a town chatting with people and I can’t wait to get back to it. Scarily addictive and ridiculously fucking awesome so far. I’ve already logged 20 hours and I haven’t even really touched the main quest yet. The sidequests are mostly excellent and feature a surprising amount of different outcomes. The game feels huge but not stretched thin. The replay value is ridiculous. I’m super impressed overall, it’s worthy of the Fallout name. Every time I fire this up I become more and more enamored. This has got to be the best RPG of the 00’s. Eh?
Forksclovetofu: Now that I just got past my first (wounded) deathclaw and marauded the shopping center, I got to say this is so addictive and fun and engaging. Improved Oblivion basically with a much more agoraphobic and nihilistic setting. I’ve been real happy with the pirate radio on the PIPboy. The further I get into this game the more vast it feels. Just got a house with requisite robot butler and am on the third chapter of Moira’s crazy book and am ready to take some time off from that particular quest batch. I can’t walk out the door without some oddball thing happening: robot firing lasers at me, three man merc hitsquad after my bounty, giant crab men chasing me down the street, fire ants that breathe actual fire, mine infested bridges… it’s always something new! I am regularly struck by how uncomfortable I am killing folks who’ve set up little shelters under bridges or in utility sheds; they see me running up the hill with an assault rifle and of course they’re going to start firing. Then I kill them and take all their stuff. And _I_ get the good karma?
I ran into a shitload of freezes getting by some mirelurks and then more when I was going to rivet city. Weird music/sound hitches. A spot where the world geometry came apart and threw me into a black hole. At least five cases where I’ve run into divots of rough terrain that I simply couldn’t extricate myself from. Doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason and it comes and goes. But I can’t stop playing! The carrot for me now is to visit all the places on the map that the wanderer perk opened up. I’m going through by quadrant and the main hassle is fear of running out of ammo; the alien blaster has been a real consistent life saver and I don’t think there’s any more ammo to be found for that weapon. As soon as that starts to wear, I’ll certainly head to the end. I’m expecting to be done with this game in the first week of the year and then put it in lukewarm storage in anticipation of the DLC. Still finding surprises round every corner tho! Button Gwinnett robot! Nukalurks!
Roberto Spiralli: i definitely agree with the scarily addictive tag. First time in a long time that I’ve done that thing where i thought 10 minutes had past and it was an hour. When I first arrived at Megaton and did my early exploring it really did feel like I was just back playing Oblivion, but the more I play, the less I find I can rely on the tactics and the approach I used playing that game. I am also going the ponderous/exploratory route. I lack the self-discipline to stop myself being distracted by everything I wander across so the main quest hasn’t seen much love.
Jim: OK, I have killed so many people already. This is a buggy piece of shit. Just jumped off the bridge that goes over the river in the south-east going across to DC and the second I hit the water it crashed. Jesus Jones. There’s plenty of games I’ve enjoyed playing more, but I’ve notched up 37 hours in a week and despite now having it crashed eleven times and corrupting a save game I’m still persisting at it. Actually if I was to enumerate all the lame things in this game that pissed me off, it would sound like I disliked it, but that couldn’t be further from the case.
Kingfish: Found Hubris Comics last night, and the text adventure in the basement. I like having the Explorer perk, as it reveals every single place; I feel like I’m cheating but I’m not! Huzzah! The guys at Obsidian and Bioware would have probably done a better job of strengthening and filling out the story bits for the quest, but for a big-budget/blockbuster title, I’m happy with what we got. Needs more funny, but it does wonders in expanding the world and backstory. Not only do you get to see more of their ruined society, you get to investigate museums to see how their ruined society spun off.
Cozwn: The water mechanic doesn’t feel properly developed enough for it to have any significant or meaningful impact on the way you play the game and so the way you interpret its meaning – however I do agree that the end of the game does undermine a lot of what’s gone before (inasmuch as its somewhat redemptive)… for me, it’s the finality that jars (I know, right? the game has to end) as so much of the game is about the world and its inhabitants scratching through but for the most part slowly wasting – memories wasting, and bodies wasting physically (psychologically, and emotionally)… I would have preferred something a little more elliptical, less obvious, more elision less bang.
S1ocki: It’s kinda crazy how much I THINK I’ve done, but you guys are all talking about weapons and techniques and shit I’ve never even heard of yet!!
Goole: i don’t really have much to say except this game is awesome and it’s taken over my life.
189 points, 13 votes, 3 TOP GAME votes
BNW: Very well done. Slightly overrated but still high quality and fun.
EZ Snappin: A good Batman game? Whodathunkit?
Adam: Watching goons get progressively more freaked out as you take down their buddies one by one is pretty satisfying. Also the way that pushing the left stick all the way forward doesn’t make Batman run–dude just walks… and very confidently so for a guy wearing a cape.
MPX4A: Best thing I’ve done so far:
1. String thug up
2. Spray proximity-triggered explosive gel below thug
3. Wait for thug’s buddy to notice and run towards him
4. Cut thug down with batarang onto explosives
Polyphonic: Fun game and certainly the best superhero game ever.
S1ocki: Not only a great game, but one that managed to incorporate the character’s mythology in a way that surprised and impressed me. The flashback scenes were more artful and interesting storytelling than I’d ever seen in a video game, rivaling the Batman movies in their interpretation of the endlessly re-told tale of the Caped Crusader’s origins, and—without giving too much away—at points using the familiar conventions of video gaming in really innovative ways. As I said about Uncharted 2, I’m skeptical of video games’ ability to replace, or even mimic, cinematic storytelling, but this pointed to some interesting new directions.
CraigG : I just found this game satisfying in pretty much every way. The story line was good without feeling the need to get overly complex, the fighting is really great and you get a warm glow when you manage to wipe out over ten guys without taking a single hit. The stealth sections, wiping out a room one by one, watching them panic… it’s all so satisfying. Everything is well balanced in terms of combat/stealth and I feel the only thing letting the game down IMHO are the boss battles, which are mostly only fun because they fill the fight with lots of fighting against regular grunts too. Overall, easily the best game I played all year.
Forksclovetofu: Less groundbreaking and more that it just does everything perfectly right. I appreciate the ridiculous depth; it’s an adventure, button masher, stealth, puzzle hunter, fighting game jammed into one. Never really hits a slow point; I found it amazingly well balanced and engaging.
Mordy: This is one of the best things I’ve played this year. I don’t know if that’s high praise for the game, tho, or just a good indication of how disappointing 2009 has been for gaming.
Antexit: Arkham does some great stuff with the Batman story and there are some amazing Psycho Mantis-level mindfucks. Not only is it the first superhero game that makes you feel like you’re the hero in his every aspect (as opposed to the Spidey games, which got swinging and crawling great and everything else sucks) but it’s a better stealth game in a lot of ways than Metal Gear. I love how balanced the combat is! The bad guys seem to be able to take about as many hits as you, and you really get the sense that you’re up against a room full of bad guys and the reason you come out on top is not that they’re all really weak or that you have some artificial advantage but that they’re a bunch of thugs and you’re BATMAN.
Jjjusten: This is 80% great, but drops in the ranks a little bit in retrospect for the fact that it’s way too easy. The boss battles are the worst aspect of that; I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Killer Croc level is, no joke, ONE OF THE DUMBEST AND WORST LEVELS IN MODERN GAMING. Whoever decided that replacing challenging or difficulty with easy, mindbending tedium needs to get a pink-slip. That said, when the game is on, it’s on. Plus, it looks great… except everyone I talk to plays 90% of the game in detective mode, so we never actually see much of it.
#1 MOST DISAPPOINTING GAME OF 2009 – NOBY NOBY BOY – 5 Votes
JeffLevine – To say I was really looking forward to Keita Takahashi’s follow up to Katamari Damacy would be an understatement. After all, it was Katamari Damacy that got me back into gaming and/or finally got me to take gaming seriously as a hobby. It was the reason I got a PS2, the very first console I ever bought by myself. That this LONG anticipated game ended up being some kind of pointless, interactive screen saver that didn’t hold my interest for an hour; yeah, that’s what I would call a disappointment.
Polyphonic – I don’t know what I was expecting, but I definitely was hoping that this would be a game and not just a doodad.
S1ocki – This has got to be a practical joke.
Also voted for Noby Noby Boy: Edgertor, Abanana, Forksclovetofu