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Top 5 Xbox Games of 2010 So Far

This year has been quite the year for games so a few of us at the Xbox team figured we’d count off our top 5 games we played on the Xbox 360 this year so far. Keep in mind, this list is not based to exclusives only.

Jay Malone:

5. Bioshock 2- Many people, including myself, were skeptical going into Bioshock 2, it had a new developer and the first game felt as if it did not really need a sequel. It did take a while to get going, but once it did, it was a blast. The story was of course nowhere near as spectacular and immersive as its processors but it was enough to keep us chugging along in this beautiful and fun game.

The one main addition that made everyone’s jaw drop was the drill. It was interesting feature that made the combat even more fun and brutal. Of course the stand-out highlight of Bioshock 2 was the ending. It was a stellar ending. Similar to a few other games on my list’s ending.

 4. Alan Wake- The long awaited Remedy third-person shooter finally arrived and provided us with an amazing tale of a character entitled Alan Wake. There was not a single second in Alan Wake where I was not one hundred percent immersed into its excellent story and atmosphere, that is, apart from the lackluster ending.

The combat may have tired after a bit, but it was a very neat idea that at first was very fun to play around with. The look of Alan Wake was breathtaking. Even the smallest of textures popped out at you with its dreary but not quite “too dreary” look. If you’ve ever played an Unreal Engine game, you know that “too dreary” look.

3. Mass Effect 2- I hated Mass Effect 1. I tried to get into it around four times, each of which I would make it around an hour in, die, and quit. The combat was broken, the look was bland, and it was just so slow. On top of all that, there was driving. And no one wants to ever drive in Mass Effect. So going into Mass Effect 2, I think I was the only one with piss-poor expectations and to now be sitting here with it on my top 5 list ahead of games like Alan Wake, may say something.

BioWare improved on Mass Effect 1 in every way imaginable. They started Mass Effect 2 off with a bang and threw you into the improved and exciting combat within forty minutes.  There was very little in Mass Effect 2 that you could find wrong. To top everything in the game off with a decent cherry, they threw in the final suicide mission. And although I may have lost five members of my crew, I still loved every moment of it.

2. Limbo- Limbo is a game built solely off of its style and atmosphere. The thing that makes all that even more impressive is the sound, of which there is near none. There are times where you’ll hear a feint noise in the background as your boy is sprinting along in the woods, but it never gets too loud. And that makes it all the more saddening.

The puzzles in Limbo are excellent, they’re clever and brilliant. But the head of Limbo is its story and your attachment to its environment. Even the slightest, smallest things such as a motel sign made my jaw drop. While you may never be seeing too much of a variety in the environment, it’s still an incredible thing to marvel at. Just staring at the screen is mesmerizing. Oh yea, and the game is pretty great too.

1. Red Dead Redemption- Read Dead. Grand Theft Auto with horses. No matter what you want to call it, that doesn’t change its excellence. Red Dead Redemption is like a very large sandwich, layered with delicious topping after delicious topping. Just once you get past one part, here comes another entertaining section. In Rockstar’s past Grand Theft Auto games, they never seemed to get the combat correct, in Red Dead, they got it perfect. Everything felt spot on, even the dead-eye functionality. You just could not help but feel like a badass as enemies tumble to the ground in a realistic fashion, tripping over themselves.

While near everything in Red Dead Redemption was excellent, nothing can surpass the brilliant cast of characters, some lovable, some hateful. With such a large cast, it’s surprising that Rockstar managed to pull it off but they did. It doesn’t matter if you loved the cast or hated them, you can’t deny they were brilliantly written. The king of the show, though, is by far Mr. John Marston, one of the most impressive protagonists to date. His voice work and personality are so extraordinary that I found myself constantly interested to see what this crazy man would do next.

Nate Butch

5. Splinter Cell Conviction- The last time I played a Splinter Cell game I was in middle school, and I was playing it on my newly purchased Gamecube. I saved up enough allowances, skipped enough school lunches, and sold off enough N64 games to buy the console. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford any games, so a generous friend of mine lent me a few. One of those games was the original Splinter Cell.

Although I don’t remember much from that game, I could tell Sam Fisher was noticeably older in this one, and that this game was much darker (and I’m not talking shadows.) You learn early on that Sam’s daughter was killed in a hit and run. This immediately pulls your heart into the game and lets you easily rationalize the gun in your hand and the blood on the floor.  You tend to root for the protagonist no matter what situation they’re in, but in this game you feel as though you lost your own daughter, and that you need to get your revenge.  

Like in previous games, Splinter Cell: Conviction masters stealth. You’re not going to survive running and gunning like you do in Halo, Just Cause, or Left 4 Dead. In this game you have to use light, timing, and angles to your advantage in order to pick off your enemies one by one. Personally, I’m used to running out like Rambo and mowing down everything in my path, so this was both a challenging and refreshing change for me.

With its humorous in-game dialogue, progressive storyline, and being just different enough to be refreshing, Splinter Cell: Conviction comes in at number five. 

4. Crackdown 2- Since summer is about taking it easy and not having to think too hard, Crackdown 2 is the perfect game for this time of year. Having never played the original I had no idea what to expect. All I knew about the series was that Crackdown was the annoying obstacle standing between me and my Halo 3 beta at the time. You can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I got the chance to play Crackdown 2 and see what it was all about.

From what I understand, Crackdown 2 is not much different from its predecessor, and since it doesn’t have much of a story anyway (you drive hard, shoot fast, and blow stuff up) I didn’t have any second thoughts about jumping right into the sequel. In short, it’s the ultimate man’s game. When you’re not starring in your own Zombie Land spin-off by running down hoards of zombies in a sports car, you’re probably jumping from sky scraper to sky scraper or causing huge explosions.

There’s not much to Crackdown 2, so it’s the ultimate late night time killer. It’s served me well during that awkward period of time between getting bored of the game you’re presently playing, but you’re not quite to the point where Adult Swim starts playing the good shows. For that reason, Crackdown 2 gets my number four spot.

3. Just Cause 2- If it wasn’t for GTA IV’s improved driving physics, I would have said without a doubt that Just Cause 2 is the top dog in the third-person action adventure genre. Just Cause 2 provides one of the greatest open worlds I’ve ever had the privilege of exploring. With a grapple on my arm, and a parachute on my back I’m able to easily navigate through the thick jungles, sandy desserts, and snowy mountain tops that make up the island of Panau.

Just Cause 2 is the only game that provides an answer to the question “I wonder if I could do this?” without having to release an update or a sequel. I spent hours driving cars off of mountains, grappling myself to planes, and tying my enemies to propane tanks that, with the help of a bullet, fly into the air like rockets. There are over three-hundred locations to discover (each of which is fully blow-up-able), as well as dozens of secret vehicles and a large collection of achievements to work towards. Even after completing the repetitive storyline (which is the only thing holding this game back from a possible number one spot) you still have a good sixty percent of the game left to play.

Just Cause 2 has something for everybody, and if you haven’t gotten the opportunity to take a vacation to Panau, I highly recommend you search your couch cushions for some spare change and give it rent. It’s definitely one of the 2010 titles that you don’t want to miss out on.

2. Halo: Reach Beta- It took a lot of will power to not let my fanboyism take over and call the Halo: Reach Beta the best Xbox 360 game of 2010. The reason it was in consideration is because Bungie has yet again proven they can pack more in a two-week beta with four maps than some developers fit in an entire series.

Aside from a few debatable issues including grenade blast radius, armor ability balance, and clip size, the Halo: Reach Beta was nicely polished and free of lag (excluding the inevitable lag produced from intentionally stressing the servers in Generator Defense).  Doubts were erased and we giggled like schoolgirls as we took to the skies in our jetpacks, pulled off sick assassinations, and landed our first fatal DMR shots.  For two weeks we rattled the servers, skipped meals, and called in sick to work.

The fact that it took Bungie giving their network code a lobotomy in order to finally force us back into our real lives not only shows the loyalty of their community, but also proves that September is going to provide one of the industry’s biggest games of all time. The beta was just a small piece of the pie, and that alone glued two million people to their TVs. Come launch day, we might have to worry about the entire country coming to a standstill.

Mass Effect 2- I’m a story gamer. More specifically, a space opera gamer. Any game with enough stars, aliens, and emotional cutscenes that cause me to weep uncontrollably (all the while checking over my shoulder to make sure my parents don’t witness me losing my man points) gets my money. Having said that, I have no idea how the Mass Effect series managed to slip by me.

In this case, I did something that is virtually unthinkable, and that is I started a series with its sequel. I know, I know… although it’s not the same as playing the original, I did the necessary Googling and Youtubing in order to get myself caught up on the story.

Aside from a Super Mario book I got when I was young, Mass Effect 2 was my first experience with “choose your own destiny.” Instead of following Toad into the dungeons (go to page 48), Mass Effect 2 gave me the freedom to learn as little or as much as I wanted to about my situation, as well as let me choose where to go, what to say, and who to save. I’m not normally an RPG fan (I could take or leave Fallout 3, Oblivion, or Morrowind), but ME2 walked the perfect line of balance between RPG and third-person shooter.

Bioware remembers what it was like before online console gaming; back when a game was made to tell a story, and it wasn’t a deal breaker to find out there’s no multiplayer. Because of this they’ve created a game that’s sure to leave a long lasting impression on me, something no other game has been able to accomplish, which is why Mass Effect 2 gets my vote for the best game of 2010 so far.

Jonathan Jamrog

5. Battlefield: Bad Company 2- It's hard for FPS games to compete with a juggernaut like Modern Warfare 2, the amount of hype it had surrounding it at release was unheard of.. When games are as commercially successful as Modern Warfare 2 there always tends to be a few rip offs. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 proves itself to not be just another Call of Duty clone but more of a real rival against it.

Bad Company 2 has a solid single player campaign but where the game really shines is in its squad based multiplayer. Putting players into squads adds a new level of tactical play. There is nothing more fun than having one man run behind enemy lines and allowing all his other squad mates to spawn in. I loved the scale of the maps. A lot of the maps are huge and involve a vast variety of vehicles. From boats to choppers, there is a ton to see and do. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a completely perfect alternative for people burned out on the Modern Warfare lifestyle or just for people trying to avoid it entirely.

4. Splinter Cell: Conviction- I have a secret... Splinter Cell Conviction is the only Splinter Cell game I have ever played. There, I said it. Throw your rocks and stones-- I can take it. While I might not know Sam Fisher's extensive back story as was paved with previous games, Conviction filled me in enough to know what was going on. I was a spy, now I'm not a spy... Something happened to my daughter. The point is Splinter Cell: Conviction is a totally accessible game even for rookies, which is the way franchises should be.

The stealth mechanics worked really well. The game makes sure you know when you were completely concealed in darkness. Like any good spy, you are given tons of tricks to use. Smoke bombs and flash bangs, EMPs and remote mines are all at your disposal. Everything you need to stealthily assassinate your targets before they knew what hit them. Oh and smashing heads against toilet seats in interrogations never gets old.

3. Transformers: War for Cybertron- Transformers: War for Cybertron is a nerds dream come true. After two less than stunning big screen attempts, Transformers WFC brings the series back down to its roots. Fans of the original cartoons while love exploring the back stories of their favorite characters as well as finally knowing the details of why the Transformers fled Cybertron. I loved watching Optimus slowly slip into the leadership roll we all know and love him in. Playing as Decepticons was a real treat and there is some genuinely funny dialogue between Megatron and his underlings.

However the entire game completely hinges on gameplay (Unbelievable, I know) and luckily, Transformers: War for Cybertron is a complete blast. The 3rd person perspective is perfect for shifting between robot and vehicle modes. The actual transformations are fluid and useful. The online multiplayer adds hours of play with tons of “create a class” options. Between the online multiplayer and the three person centric campaign missions, WFC is a game intended to be played with a group of your nerdiest Transformer fanboy friends.

2. Red Dead Redemption- I have a love-hate thing when it comes to the old west. Done right it can be one of the most immerse and exciting settings imaginable, but done wrong it can be as dull and boring as a tumbleweed. Red Dead Redemption is just about as right as you can get. Taking the core aspects of the GTA series in the western setting is a match made in heaven. Exploring the landscape on horseback is really fun and some of the scenery is flat out gorgeous.

John Marston’s story is one of love, regret and you guessed it--- redemption. I won't lie, I was heavily invested in Marston’s story by the time it came to a close. It's a good one. When that final chapter closed it was satisfying and totally rewarding. Red Dead Redemption is really the ultimate old west simulation and easily one of my favorite games of all time.

1. Mass Effect 2- Without a doubt, Mass Effect 2 is the must own title on the 360 in 2010. It's a glorious achievement in gaming that proves that developers can create a new IP and then expand on it while fixing all the quirks of the first game. This is our Empire Strikes Back, this is our Aliens. The premise is awesome. You are a kind of space messiah on a mission to recruit the best of the best, a task that will take you to the darkest and most dangerous edges of the universe. The graphics are astounding, the voice cast is top notch, and the story keeps you hooked from title screen to credits.

Did I mention it was the highest selling January game release of all time? Keep in mind, Mass Effect 2 had a whopping 6 days to sell in the month of January-- Proving to publishers that big blockbuster titles don't have to release over the holiday season to sell like crazy. Mass Effect 2 is also a game that BioWare is behind 100%. Since its release it has received a steady stream of quality downloadable content, bringing players back into the fold for more adventures with Commander Shepard. With more DLC on the way, Mass Effect 2 will be a game that captivates you for all of 2010.



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