When all else fails you can always return to the basis of a popular genre to get your fix. As much as we all loved Wolfenstein 3-D and its popular sequel, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, sales figures have proven that the gamers of today are no longer interested in revisiting relics of the FPS genre. I was at first toying with the notion of not including Wolfenstein on this list, but ultimately felt as though it should most definitely be included. With so many games released throughout 2009 that are either awaited sequels or innovative shooters, I couldn't help but think that Raven Software's Wolfenstein deserved some kind of accolade for ignoring gimmickry and just sticking to what the series does best. Do be warned, however, that this isn't the kind of game that will change your opinion on first-person shooters if you already dislike them. Wolfenstein sticks very closely to the well-worn archetype that the first-person shooter genre was built on. For everything that Wolfenstein isn't, that's why I loved it. Raven seemed so keen on creating an involving, cinematic old-school experience that all of its surface flaws are forgotten once you realize just how unfiltered and satisfying the whole experience is. True that it probably won't make any other best-of lists this year, but as a huge fan of the series perhaps nostalgia is to blame for it's inclusion. Either way, I think folks are missing the point. Wolfenstein never seeked to innovate, it simply wanted to be a fast-paced, old-school-minded shooter, and at that it certainly succeeds.
Prototype was largely seen as a disappointment among most gamers upon its release. I'm not sure what they expected, and it does have its flaws, but its one of the more unique games this year. Where inFAMOUS allowed you to be a well-natured/destructive superhero, Protoype protagonist Alex Mercer is a balls-to-the-wall anti-hero that refuses to take prisoners. Even for as gory as the game is despite its similiarities to inFAMOUS, I felt the latter title evoked more emotion and was an overall more polished adventure. Nonetheless, Prototype is the inFAMOUS antithesis; a "hero" who cares about very little and strives to take down every single person who gets in his path. The various mutations that drive Alex's journey are fun to use, and the game as a whole really delivers the sensation that you are a one man death sentence. With open-world games slowly becoming the norm, Prototype proves that there is still an original idea left within the crowded genre.
Sometimes you just want to blow shit up. That's the beauty of Red Faction: Guerrilla. The first two Red Faction games utilized an early version of the Geo-Mod (Geography Modification) technology but treated it as a gimmick instead of a valuable game play tool. RF: G isn't the best looking game, won't win any awards for its story, and there really isn't much to do besides blow things up. Therein lies its brilliance; never have I played a game where just walking around and blowing up towering structures was this much fun. RF: G allows you to be creative with how you level each structure - whether you are free-roaming or trekking through one of its many missions and sidetasks. This is the first time in an action game where I really felt as though I was in control of how much chaos and destruction I wanted to cause. Developed by Volition Games (Red Faction, Saints Row and Saints Row 2), the developer proves that they know a thing or two about sandbox games and shooters and have applied all of their knowledge to give gamers an adrenaline-injected piece of open-world action gaming unlike anything else I've played.
When gamers think of third-person sandbox games I'm almost positive that their first thought is, of course, the Grand Theft Auto franchise. inFAMOUS, on the other hand, isn't some kind of mob simulator or morally repugnant crime game. It is an open-world superhero title that allows players to make morally conscious decisions, such as whether or not to to extend a helping hand to the citizens of Empire City or destroy them. The game's mechanics are so well executed and the controls so fluid that gamers will have little trouble flying off of rooftops, scaling huge buildings, and causing general mayhem amidst an already chaotic backdrop. inFAMOUS delivers an unbelievably large environment, as well as a great story and plenty of those aforementioned moral decisions for the gamer to decide upon. Based on innovation alone, inFAMOUS has rightfully earned its place on this list.
The Wild West setting in video games is nearly non-existent this gen. The only games really worth mentioning that took place during that very infamous period in American history are last-gen titles like Rockstar Games' Red Dead Revolver and Neversoft's Gun. Even the original Call of Juarez, which was touted as being a true-blue homage to the Wild West culture, was both a commercial and critical failure. But playing through Bound in Blood gave me hope for future entries in the series as well as the genre as a whole. It's significantly better than its predecessor; throwing out what didn't work and focusing on what did. The story is absolutely awe-inspiring and the ability to partake in that age-old Wild West cliche - the gun dual - never wears thin. It's not the most polished game and due to lack of interest, breezed right over most gamers' radars, but it really is a surprisingly solid, entertaining action title that does great justice to its source material.
Resident Evil 5 may not be anything more than a slickly revamped Resident Evil 4, but if it ain't broke, why fix it? The graphics are superb, the boss fights are spectacular, and the co-op play brings a new dimension to the unfolding events. Although the main complaint leveled at the game - that it really is more of an action game than survival-horror - is true, I really do like the direction the series headed in. On a more negative note, Capcom can't seem to decide if they want the series to adhere to past rules or do something totally fresh (i.e. the combat system). I would have much preferred completely revamped combat mechanics in order to make this feel more like the action game Capcom obviously wanted it to be. Apart from that, Resident Evil 5 is an immaculate third-person shooter and a much-welcomed change of pace for the franchise.
The love it/hate it Killzone 2 will, I'm sure, top many lists this year. Those who don't like the game seem to be unanimous in decrying it for one particular flaw: its controls. Killzone 2 is one beautiful, bad-ass piece of action gaming that many players felt would have been better served with a simpler control scheme and lighter manuverability. I'm one of the few who feels that as cumbersome as it can be, it really lends something special to the experience. Developer Guerilla Games showed that not only could Killzone 2 live up to its own hype, but that they could indeed produce a must-have, system-selling title for the PS3. It certainly isn't for everyone, but it is a truly imaginative, standout FPS at a time when too many development firms are relying on dull repetition to sell copies.
I've never been a fan of superhero comics, movies, or even video games for that matter. I bought Arkham Asylum based purely on game play footage I had seen prior to its launch. I picked it up the day it was released and played it, and played it, and played it. Much to my surprise, I was enjoying it more than I ever imagined I could. I loved every single second of it and this is coming from someone, again, who has utterly no interest in the Batman universe whatsoever. Speaking strictly from an action gamers point-of-view, Arkham Asylum is one of the best looking, playing, and most rewarding games I've had the pleasure of undertaking this year. The entire make-up of the game is so extraordinary that - Batman fan or not - any action enthusiast looking for a robust third-person experience will be hard-pressed to find anything better.
Biased fanbase and God-like amount of hype aside, Modern Warfare 2 was so close to taking Among Thieves' spot that it isn't even funny. I finished the single-player campaign no more than an hour ago and it's still on my mind. The shootouts, the set pieces, the characters, the story, and... my God... the ending. I'm a big fan of the original Modern Warfare despite incessant cries from ignorant fanboys that it is 'the best shooter ever made.' Although the first Modern Warfare may have been something special in 2007, its Redbull-drinking, adrenaline-junkie sequel pushes the envelope so far ahead of its competition that they barely noticed it fly by. The only way to truly describe Modern Warfare 2 is to say that it's just like the first... but with all semblance of reality thrown out the window. It took what made the first so great, got rid of what didn't, and cranked up the voltage to 100. Modern Warfare 2 is a no-holds-barred ride that never gives you a second to breathe. No matter how ridiculous the story is, you just want to keep playing to see what unbelievable set piece Infinity Ward throws at you next. Action lovers beware, you will be hooked.
I recently re-bought the first Assassin's Creed for my PS3 after getting rid of my Xbox 360 and all of the games I owned for it. When I initially played through the first I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I loved the free-running and assassination aspects of it but ultimately felt that Ubisoft fell short of their overall goal. Asssassin's Creed 1 was too repetitious with very little variation in game play. On a whim I purchased the second and much to my surprise, absolutely loved it. The free-running is more fluid and accessible, the character progression and story arcs are unbelievable, and the experience as a whole is so much more varied, rewarding, and gratifying than the first. The assassinations are, of course, back, but this time there are new ways in which to dispatch of your targets, as well as more variety in combat and weapons. As a true sequel should do, it makes mincemeat of its predecessor and finally delivers on the promise of the first. Assassin's Creed II is a must-buy for fans of the franchise and non-fans alike.
If you read my review of this gem, there should be absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind why I've crowned this the best PS3 game of the year and, what's more, the best game of the year... period. Forget that it's a PS3 exclusive and forget the massive hype. This is one of the few games that really is worth it's $60 price tag and well-deserving of its critical acclaim. There was not a game released this year that packed in this much content, level of polish, or this much fun. The graphics are excellent, the voice acting is superb, the jumping and shooting mechanics are fantastic, and it accomplishes what I never thought possible: it is leaps and bounds ahead of its already top-notch predecessor. Any self-respecting PS3 owner needs to have Uncharted 2: Among Thieves in their collection.
This is a very simple list. I've chosen my personal top 10 PS3 games of 2009 (PS3 exclusives and multi-plats included) and will compile brief summaries for each game as to why I feel they are this year's best. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, so feel free to tell me what games you think should have been included or which choices you don't particularly agree with. But please keep it clean, no flaming. Otherwise, enjoy.