Monday, December 14, 2009

A Look Back at Gaming 09 - Part 2

A Look Back at Gaming 09 - Part 1
The year held many great titles, but the most highly awaited ones were saved for the year's end. Fall of 09 boasted huge sequels and a few sleeper hits that were sure to max out any Holiday list. 


  September kicked off the mountain of games that would be released. Guitar Hero 5 gave another installment for rhythm fans to enjoy, including a new "Party Mode" that allowed you to play song after song without navigating the menus. Wii owners got a very stylish looking Muramasa: The Demon Blade, bringing a 2D side scroller with intense action and stunning visuals. NHL 10 gave hockey fans a solid sports title including a variety of new ways to score as well as a more precise passing system. DS fans boasted two solid titles to experience. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days provided the classic Kingdom Hearts action from the PS2 in handheld form, and even adding in a co-op component. Scribblenauts gave a unique puzzle game, in which anything you could think of to write down would spawn in the game. Many have claimed to have discovered that the full list of words is greater than 22,800 unique entries, ranging from Rick Astley fighting a dragon to the Keyboard Cat himself....

  MMOs made a surprising appearance during this month. Champions Online allowed players to create and customize their own superhero complete with a nemesis. Boasting a slew of customizable options like how you travel (Ice Sliding, Flight, Jet Boots, etc), the game truly allowed players to think up whatever hero they could imagine and set them loose in the world. Aion became the MMO to play at the end of the month. Aion allowed players to choose from one of four classes, each with 2 additional subclasses to branch to, and allowed incredible customization options like being able to dye your weapons and armor. In PvP, continuous wins allows your wings to change in appearance and reflect your status. With Preorders alone around the 450,000 mark before it was released, the game took a nice chunk out of the already dominating population of World of Warcraft.

  It was the Halo franchise that made the biggest impact in September. Halo: ODST let fans play through a soldier's eyes instead of the Master Chief.  Differences in gameplay required players to plan out attack, use stealth to gain an upper hand, and work as a team to overcome the obstacles. Included was a co-op campaign as well as a Firefight mode pitting players against endless waves of Covenant. More than 2.5 million copies of the game were sold within two weeks of release, with an increasing number as the Holidays approached. Halo fans had a game to tide them over until the release of Halo: Reach in 2010.


  October had many solid titles to offer. A Boy and His Blob held Wii owners over with a 2D puzzle platformer that proved quite enjoyable, as it offered over 80 stages not including hidden challenges. NBA 2K10 gave basketball fans another solid experience including signature play styles that allowed you to mimic Lebron's chalk toss and an improvement in passing and shooting. Tekken 6 continued the brutal fighting series that brought back the original cast with a few added newbies. Included was a new "rage" system that basically made you stronger as your vitality weakened. Though already a hit on the PC, the sleeper hit Trine graced the PSN offering a classic 2D side scroller with a unique approach to platforming. Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time once again outfitted fans of the series with more unique weapons and platforming that proved incredibly enjoyable.

  The month did provide a ton of original titles that offered challenge and excitement. Borderlands became known as "Diablo with guns" offering a drop in, drop out co-operative gameplay element that surprised many. The randomization of weapons offered new players and veterans an equal chance at finding some new and unique weapon never before discovered. It is estimated that the random system can generate over 17 million variations of weapons, ranging from pistols to rocket launchers.

  A huge sleeper hit that nobody saw coming was Demon's Souls, an RPG that proved to be one of the most challenging games of the year. Reviewers found the difficulty in the game refreshing, as you continually learned something with every play through. The game also integrated online features where players can find messages on the ground containing hints and advice that other players left, as well as bloodstains where other players have died which allow them to view how those players' deaths occurred.

  Time Schaffer, mastermind behind Psychonauts, once again gave us a hilarious adventure in the form of Brutal Legend. Following Jack Black as "the roadie", the player navigated through the world of metal complete with chrome trees, skull mountains, and every album cover from a metal band you can conceive. The gameplay mixed hack and slash with an RTS element. With a stellar soundtrack and amazing voice cast, the game proved to be just as entertaining as Psychonauts.

  Though littered with solid titles, the month belonged to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The sequel to the hit PS3 game generated a slew of positive reviews, praising an epic campaign that had not been experienced in a long time. Players follow Drake once more in a race to discover a lost treasure, combining puzzles, platforming, and full on cover-system shootouts. The continual mix in gameplay coupled with co-op and an enjoyable multiplayer experience, provided a solid exclusive for the PS3. It was the top-selling game in the US for October, at about 537,000 units sold.


  November proved to be the month of anticipated titles. For the Wii, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles provided another gruesome rail shooter for those seeking their fix for Umbrealla corporation takedowns. It was New Super Mario Brothers: Wii that proved the big hit for the console. Offering the same classic side scrolling action from the old Mario games with co-op, the game proved to be as enjoyable and challenging as the previous games. Fans agreed, as it sold 1,390,000 units, making it the third best selling game of the month.

  Through the maze of hit sequels stood an RPG that was well worth the play. Dragon Age: Origins offered over 40+ hours of content for a single play through, with your choice of elf/human/dwarf with classes that ranged from Rangers to Blood Mages. The game played similar to previous Bioware titles, in which you order your party around to perform set actions. Strategy and coordination remained key with the numerous obstacles that you ended up facing. Boasting an epic soundtrack and stellar voicework to accompany their story, Dragon Age: Origins had a nice start, around 450,000 units sold not including PC sales.

  The triple threat of sequels became the highlight of the month. Kicking things off was Left 4 Dead 2, another zombie filled bloodbath promising the same fantastic co-op play of the original with a fresh amount of new content. New infected and weapons put a spin on the traditional method of navigating through the horde, and the slew of new modes like Scavange added to the variety offered. The game provided another incredible experience, and Valve reported that more than two million retailed copies were sold in two weeks time.

  Another sequel people invested time into was that of Assassin's Creed 2. Repetitive gameplay was replaced with a stellar mix of platforming, chase scenes, and assassinations. The new setting proved to be an incredible sight and the new blend system was a welcome change. It was the economic system that changed things up the most, letting you purchase new weapons and customize your armor. Ubisoft announced that it had sold 1.6 million copies worldwide during its first week of sale, promising a sequel in the future.

  Through the pile of incredible titles, the juggernaut proved to be Modern Warfare 2. Returning the franchise to modern day, the game offered yet another solid campaign along with the same addictive multiplayer everyone came to know and love. In addition to the great gameplay the multiplayer offered, a spec ops mode was introduced providing an incredible co-op experience separate from the campaign. Upon its release, it sold approximately 4.7 million copies worldwide in 24 hours, breaking entertainment records worldwide.

  After so many incredible titles came out, December would be considered a clean-up time to finish up any remaining game before the new year arrived. However, there were a few solid titles to pick up during this month that proved to be a lot of fun.

  The Saboteur provided a pretty interesting third person action title. Players explored a Nazi-occupied Paris and made areas of black and white color (Nazi occupied) turn to a vibrant and colorful world by cleaning out the Nazi forces. This game would of course become known as Pandemic studio's swan song. Wii owners got a new Silent Hill game, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. More focused on exploration than combat, the game took a different approach to the series. Instead of fighting off monsters with lead pipes, you ran...a lot. Still, the unique use of the Wiimote and an interesting story made this a title worth your time.

  Handheld gamers finally had a new Zelda at their hands. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks had a few new weapons and puzzles that not only require you to use the touch screen, but the microphone. This way Nintendo ensured you looked really cool playing it in public. By clearing temples, Link restores the Spirit Tracks that allow him to travel to different areas on his Spirit Train. New gameplay and impressive visuals make this yet another Zelda title that you have to experience to appreciate....and understand.

  Gaming in 09' proved to be a good year. With announcements of other huge sequels and software well on the way, we can expect to see an even bigger list for 2010. We still have Project Natal and the PS3 motion controllers to consider, not to mention highly awaited titles like God of War 3, Final Fantasy 13, and Star Wars: The Old Republic to play. Yet even as those dates grow nearer, there are plenty of titles from the past year that we will continue to play over and over again.

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