I've long been a fan of the Resident Evil series, and while the campaign here has problems and should never be played solo, the Mercenaries mode is what kept me coming back. Those action-packed levels spent trying to survive while running low on ammo and health were some of my most chaotic, yet highly enjoyable, experiences of 2009.
10 years ago, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater introduced skateboarding to video games and it was a resounding success, both commercially and critically. Then the second game released -- the best the series has ever produced, I think -- but since then, each iteration has been progressively worse. EA Black Box put out the first Skate game in 2007 and, for lack of a better phrase, totally changed the game. The Skate series sports a simple control scheme, doesn't emphasize the ridiculous, score-driven lines of its competitor and is built on a fantastic engine. Skate 2 easily took 40+ hours of my life from me, both in single-player and online co-op and competitive modes, but then EA dished out several worthwhile expansion packs that kept me coming back all year.
Diablo II and its expansion, Lord of Destruction, hold a very special place in my heart. The pursuit of loot and the peer-regulated trading system online almost ended my life. Those were dark times, man -- dark times. Torchlight features the simplistic control scheme and deep character customization mechanics of Blizzard's series. It's a game made by ex-Diablo guys, but, unlike that series, doesn't feature any online component. It's a distilled version of the fun and addictive core gameplay of Diablo without the obsessive and almost life-ending pursuit of that next item to trade.
Platinum Games' MadWorld was a pretty fun game that nobody bought. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of GodHand -- not much of a stretch considering Platinum Games is comprised of ex-Clover devs. Mostly through its over-the-shoulder camera orientation and emphasis on over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek violence, it seemed like a spiritual successor to that quirky PS2 game. And even though the ridiculous violence is guffaw-inducing itself, the addition of commenting duo Greg Proops and John DiMaggio really helped push it over the top for me.
I absolutely love fighting games and this new venture for Arc System Works hit all the right notes. Everything I could have lauded the game for ... well, I did that in my review. I'll say it again: It successfully toes the line between being far too hardcore for casual fight fans and being an accessible, easy-to-pick up fighter. I just wish there were more characters!
Another game I reviewed in the ought-nine, it was impossible for me to neglect it for this piece. Alpha Dream writes a damn hilarious game and the third installment in the series raises the bar for hilarious dialogue that much higher. Toss in some light and breezy RPG mechanics and you have yourself one grin-inducing experience you can easily play virtually anywhere. If you haven't checked out any of the Mario and Luigi series yet, you're playing games the wrong way.
Keita Takahashi's post-Katamari game, Noby Noby Boy, is only $5 on PSN and quite difficult to explain. It seems like either you get it -- by "getting it," I mean you revel in the freedom and simple whimsy of stretching a rope-like "boy" and having him interact with NPCs and objects in a confined space -- or you just don't know how to have fun with your life. You can count me as a member of the former group.
While the A2M-developed game isn't going to win any awards, that doesn't mean it wasn't a fun time. To me, it felt like an evolution of the Max Payne formula -- acrobatically dodge and run on walls in slow-mo while your guns turn enemies into human sprinklers. To boot, it also had the best soundtrack for any game in 2009. Don't try to argue with me, because the evidence is plain for all to hear.
- Left 4 Dead 2: Guys, you have no idea how pumped I was for this game, only to have three Tanks take turns beating that anticipation into the ground. Once it was a stain on the sidewalk, a Spitter proceeded to yak all over it, followed by another Tank pounding it and then a Jockey picked up what was left and ran off into the sunset. Do you get what I'm driving at here?
- King of Fighters XII: Again, I'm a fighting game fanatic and one of the most recognizable series in the genre ended up falling flat in 2009. The latest installment was short on the surprises and was a pretty lackluster experience for $60. Better luck next time, SNK!
- Where's the board/card game love?: I enjoy games like Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne, but where were the others this year? Why can't I play Risk on my GameStation yet? How about Dominion or similar card games? I can't always get the gang together and dealing with the messy clean-up is a chore! These games are perfect for a digital medium so, please, get on that whomever is the person that would get on that.
- F.E.A.R. 2: It wasn't too bad of a game, granted, but compared to its predecessor, it was pretty weak. The slow-mo and mechanics have become stale since the original released and overall it failed to leave me with the same sense of awe I had at the conclusion of the first game.
- The Gears of War 2 community: Complain all you want about the lack of dedicated servers and the flawed multiplayer architecture, but the only people to blame for how unimaginably horrible the Gears of War 2 multiplayer experience is are the ones that chose to glitch and cheat their way through it. I was the pinnacle of Gears fanboy and the day I decided to quit followed the most frustrating session I've ever had with an online multiplayer game. Epic, you need to seriously shake up the online if you plan to get me back on board for the inevitable Gears of War 3.