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Red Dead Redemption
Developer: Rockstar San Diego/North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: May 18th, 2010
Red Dead Redemption transferred what made Grand Theft Auto so great into a Western setting. The result is possibly the best Western game of the past decade. With jaw dropping scenery like that taken out of a painting, RDR offered an open world filled with bandits, runaway trains, and classic shootouts. The campaign's story and colorful cast of characters pulled you into the world itself. Simply put, you felt like an outlaw.
If the story wasn't enough, the multiplayer would be as numerous options were at your disposal. Deathmatch, capture the flag, co-operative missions, and even horse races were slowly opened up over the year to give good reason to explore the world with a friend. Top if off with a zombie apocalypse DLC, and you have one of the best titles of the year.
Though the missions became a bit repetitive as the game trailed on, nothing could beat riding off into the sunset shooting a revolver at wanted outlaws.
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Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: July 27th, 2010
Starcraft II was over 10 years in the making, and the wait was well worth it. I personally steer clear of RTS games, but Starcraft II slapped me in the face and said, "Trust me dude, you'll like this." The reason the game is so high on my list is the way it is tailored to both pros and noobs alike. The campaign is insanely fun, and while acting as training for online play, offers multiple upgrades and morality choices warranting continuous play. Instead of a typical structure, each mission played differently and variety was consistent. Not to mention the voice acting and story sucked me in immediately.
When the campaign was finished, the multiplayer gave more than its fair share of enjoyment. 1v1 to 3v3 battles were incredible to behold, as giant masses of armies would clash in the center. Recorded games could be viewed to see how your enemy got the upperhand, and can get extremely detailed down to every APM(action per minute). Most importantly, the Battle.net system handled matchmaking much more efficiently, ensuring you were up against people your own speed.
I am usually not a big fan of RTS games, but Starcraft II was anything but a typical RTS. The game was gorgeous, challenging, and incredibly satisfying.
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Mass Effect 2
Xbox 360, PC, (PS3 in Jan)
Release Date: January 26th, 2010
There was one game I continually revisited during the year to play, and that game was Mass Effect 2. Instead of taking the route of a typical sequel, ME2 scrapped the formula of the first game and reinvented a new game. Combat was faster and much more satisfying, visuals were sharper, and worlds were different and never repeated. Even the god awful Mako travel from the first was thrown out completely. It wasn't just Mass Effect 2.0, it was a different experience altogether.
The most impressive feat was the game's import feature. Importing your character from the first game not only netted a few bonuses and kept your look, but brought all of your past decisions with them. Did the Council survive? Did you save the Rachni queen? Each is accounted for in this game, and gives off this ominous feeling that they will come into play in the third installment as well. The thought of a small decision in the first carrying over two games is mind blowing, and all the more reason to actually keep the first installment.
It didn't hurt that Mass Effect 2's story and characters were just as interesting as the first, and answered many questions while raising a few new ones. Every decision made had such an impact into the final portion of the game, that failure to know your squad could cost some their lives. You actually felt like a commander at the end, issuing orders and making important decisions. The consistent DLC through the year was of equal quality, with Lair of the Shadow Broker being a must-have for a glimpse at what could come in Mass Effect 3.
It was an insanely fun experience with a very high replay value to try out all of the different classes and moral decisions. Mainly, it was the game I continually popped back into my Xbox this year to relive over and over; which is why it remains my top game of 2010.
Top 10 of 2010 Rundown
1. Mass Effect 2
2. Starcraft II
3. Red Dead Redemption
4. Donkey Kong Country: Returns
5. God of War III
6. Call of Duty: Black Ops
7. Halo: Reach
8. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
9. Splinter Cell: Conviction
Note: These are only games I have spent time on to fully play through and enjoy. With plenty of other titles missed along the way, don't feel distraught if you don't see your personal favorites on the list. I'm sure I'd love them too.