Oh, what a year to be a gamer! With the PS3 finally fighting fit and giving the Xbox 360 a run for its money, there were so many excellent games and so few hours to play them all. Even the weakening PC gaming market had a few notable titles, and a few welcome surprises were in store for DS owners too.
Before we go any further, let me offer my apologies to Empire: Total War, Borderlands, FIFA 10, The Sims 3, GTA: Chinatown Wars and Metroid Prime Trilogy. They are all worthy of your money, but just fell short of the cut for this list!
So let’s crack on: in no particular order, here are Tech Digest’s top ten games of 2009.
Assassins Creed 2– Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Delivering on the failed promises of its predecessor, Assassins Creed 2 oozes quality out of every one of it’s 15th century orifices. Taking on the role of young nobleman Ezio and following his rise into one of Renaissance Italy’s elite assassins, the game was a stunning showcase by developers Ubisoft. Free-running around the lovingly modelled Florence is an exercise that never tires, as is knifing a corrupt guard in the back.
Batman: Arkham Asylum – Xbox 360, PS3, PC
A superhero game that isn’t totally pants? You’re kidding right? We were sceptical when we first saw screenshots of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Could it play as well as it looked? Thankfully, Rocksteady Studios pulled it off with aplomb. Sneaky, dark and making excellent use of its source material, Batman: Arkham Asylum played like a comic-book Metal Gear Solid, with a ton of cool secrets to unearth. An honourable mention must also go to Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill, who puts in a superb voice-over performance as the twisted Joker.
Dragon Age: Origins – Xbox 360, PS3, PC
They’ve conquered sci-fi epics with Mass Effect, now Bioware have gone all Tolkien on us with the excellent Dragon Age: Origins. A party based dungeon crawler, DA:O weaves a twisting narrative of political intrigue around its magic-casting, troll-slaying heart. Be careful though, the game will eat away hours of your life, so it’s not best suited for a quick play while the brussel sprouts boil. If your computer can handle it, make sure you pick up the superior PC version, which irons out the few faults found in the console versions. Did we mention you can sleep with a dwarf?
He’s spent over a quarter of a century saving Princess Peach from lizard-king Bowser’s clutches. You’d think if we weren’t tired of it yet, at least Mario would be! But, on the strength of this 2D reboot for side-scrolling Mario platformers, it doesn’t look like boredom or old age have kicked in yet. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the first side-scrolling Mario game to feature four-player simultaneous co-op, and it’s a total blast.
Killzone 2 – PS3
Released way back in February, it could have been easy to overlook this FPS. However, Killzone 2’s campaign mode represented the first glimmers of the PS3’s comeback early this year, earning this Halo-killer’s place on the top ten list. A bleak, cinematic shooter whose production values have only recently been bested by Modern Warfare 2, you can pick this game up now for around £15. An absolute bargain, and one PS3 owners should not miss out on.
Left 4 Dead 2 – Xbox 360, PC
Maybe it’s just my way of preparing for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, but I just cant get enough of blasting the undead back to the grave. Left 4 Dead 2 ups the tension already present in bucket loads in its predecessor, offering a more meaty set of campaign missions and that frantic four player co-op we’ve come to love. Again, the PC version is the one to pick up if you have the luxury of choice.
Scribblenauts – DS
Maybe a bit of a leftfield choice this one. Let’s be honest, was Scribblenauts the most polished game of 2009? No. Were some elements of the control scheme pretty busted? Yep. However, was it not the most wildly inventive game we saw all year? Too right it was. A cute little puzzler, the depth of your imagination was the only obstacle between you and solving each level’s enigma. Typing a word into the in-game dictionary produced a little cartoon version of pretty much anything you can imagine. Ninja? Check. Hoverboard? Check. Freeze-ray-gun-glued-to-the-bottom-of-a-T-Rex? Your wish is Scribblenauts’ command. Here’s hoping a sequel builds on the excellent ideas on show here.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Doesn’t really need an introduction this one, but what the heck; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is AMAZING. Playing like a bombastic feature-length episode of 24, the game threw up the biggest launch in video game history and broke all sorts of ridiculous sale records in the process. Featuring a hectic and controversial single player campaign and that crack-like multiplayer gaming, this one might be a bit of a moot entry, as you probably already own it, don’t you?
Street Fighter IV – Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Some things you never forget. Like how to throw Ryu’s haduken fireball for instance. Ahh, down, forward, punch, why were you away so long? Street Fighter IV was probably the most gaming fun I’ve had with my mates all year. Both nostalgic and mind blowingly impressive, the cell-shaded reboot for the franchise was beat-em up perfection. Look out for the Super Street Fighter IV update in the new year.
Saving the best till last, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves has to be the game of the year. Sure Modern Warfare 2 will sell more, but the endearing charm of Indiana Jones-alike Nathan Drake and his breakneck, globe-trotting quest to solve the mystery of Marco Polo’s last voyage was a master class in both story telling and game design. It’s an adventure that’s all killer, no filler, while running around the many exotic locales will make your jaw drop. Absolutely perfectly realised, it’s the sort of game you dreamt up in your head but never thought could actually be made. And then there’s the multiplayer modes, which I’m off now to play again for another couple of hundred hours…