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Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.

-Matt/Diggler

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Preview Time! Games to Look Out For in 2011
8/1/2011 5:54

2010's Games of Shame
6/1/2011 22:47

My Fave Games of 2010!
6/1/2011 20:12

StarCraft II Review - Dig Loveth the RTS!?
7/11/2010 12:48

10 Must-Have iPhone Games
2/6/2010 18:09

A Little Hotlink to An Article I Stuck Up On GiantBomb
21/4/2010 15:01

Aliens Vs Predator is Here! Woo! Oh, Hang On...
6/3/2010 20:58

iPhone Games!
6/3/2010 20:40

WTF? Dig's Getting Hitched!
18/2/2010 23:39

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My Fave Games of 2010!
Posted by Diggler - 6/1/2011 20:12

While it's somewhat depressing to see a "Best of '09" list just seven entries below this, I suppose it's once again that all-important time of the year folks. Which is not to say 2010 was lacking in discussable content these past 12 months. Far from. The accursed "real life" has just been attacking in full force recently, which I - again - sincerely apologise for. I'd like to spew forth empty promises of updates increasing in 2011. Honestly. While balls deep in my degree though, I can't promise anything. Soz. Other than that I'll be on the forums a heck of a lot more. And you of course, are free to keep on coming back in the meantime like the abused spouse that you are.

For now though, make use of this, ya ingrates. An epic, long-arse, catch-up/retrospective of all that was good - and bad - in 2010. Starting with my (somewhat controversial...) top 25 faves of the year, followed by some honourable plugs at the bottom. Take it away...

25. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/Xbox 360)

FFXIII's startlingly linear nature turns far more free-form as it progresses. Given that it's some 25 hours in 'til that happens, you can sorta understand the hatred, mind
Ya know, peeps'll whine that FFXIII failed to live up to the hype. They'll even proclaim the Japanese RPG dead. "Well, duh", I tell 'em. But as a life-long JRPG hater - dancing naked in the streets while yelling TOLD YA SO at the top of my lungs - I have to say...this one pleasantly surprised. The dystopian universe of XIII is a wonder to behold - even if it seems oddly built outta invisible corridors - and for a turn-based combat system, it's oddly fast and exciting too. I've had a blast recruiting my obligatory team, levelling 'em up via the bizarre Crystalium system, and perusing the in-depth back-story via the built-in codex, Mass Effect-style. So much so, that once the fiancé flogged the game out of humungous disgust, I promptly re-bought it to keep on with the playing. Okay, I'm nowhere near the end, and nah, it doesn't match up to its predecessor (a wondrous beaut that actually did push this genre forward), but my god...is there a prettier game out there? Or a prettier cast of characters for that matter? Even the dudes look hot in this thing.

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DeathSpank is an action-heavy role-playing game involving the usual bout of questing and loot drops, albeit with more of a humorous twist
24. DeathSpank (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

DeathSpank marks the triumphant return of one of gaming's funniest mouths, Ron Gilbert - he of Maniac Mansion fame - by way of a rollickingly fun little hack 'n' slasher, that takes old school LucasArts style humour and sensibilities, into a more action-packed RPG contemporary place. Questing around DeathSpank's oddly spherical lands and dropping jaws at its lovingly hand-crafted cartoony world is a riot, in a way Torchlight didn't quite hit so hard for me on a personal level. Humorous missions, cool puzzles and a neat button-bashy combo system keep it varied and fun, ultimately coming off like some kinda Monkey Island by way of Diablo, if you will. Its sequel-slash-follow-up Thongs of Virtue dropped last year too, if - like me - you can't get enough.

23. Alan Wake (Xbox 360)

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I swear Alan Wake was billed as a far more open-ended adventure game some 28 years ago back when it was announced. That ain't what we get here, but if nowt else it's a damn tight shooter
Remedy's aeons-in-development Alan Wake maintains solid ground somewhere between their past glories seen in Max Payne, and the more recent combat-heavy Resident Evils. It tells the tale of famed writer Stephen Ki...err, Alan Wake, who after an impotent stretch of writer's block, retreats to a quiet mountain town to recharge the batteries and get his novel on. Weirdness ensues, his wife disappears, and before he knows it, murderous zombie shadow dudes are attempting to carve off Alan slices to put in their sandwiches. Wake ain't quite the free-roaming Twin Peaks 'em up I was perhaps expecting with that in mind - this is far more of a straight-up third person horror shooter with some occasional puzzles thrown in - but its world is unique, its look gloriously sinister, and the combat subtly original in some key, impactful ways. The use of light in damaging enemies is a small, but crucial addition for example, that while not reinventing the wheel, does add an extra dimension as you flounder around in a gunfight reloading your flashlight (sponsored by Energizer™). The ending lost me, but as one of the few Microsoft exclusives adorning this list, Wake does the seXbox proud.

22. Heavy Rain (PS3)

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Not a "gamer's" game perhaps, Rain hints at where the old point 'n' clickers of yester-decade could well be heading with next gen tech
Conflicted feelings ahoy. As much as I dig it, Rain's got issues, see. Quantic Dream's leftfield interactive movie spins an (initially) intriguing yarn about a serial killer on the prowl, with you controlling a varied bunch of cats intertwined within his or her tale, and eventual thwarting of (or not). The most interesting being that of the role of Ethan; father to a recently kidnapped boy by said killer, who's subsequently put through the SAW-style ringer in an effort to save his creepily voiced son. Though with a voice like that, I'd just leave demon Satan child to his fate. Throughout its bizarre, original and frankly daring series of "scenes" (read: levels), events gets engaging on a level games seldom reach though. It's emotional, stylish, and for the most part, actually quite mature. It's also - surprisingly - one of the best motion sensing games yet seen, at least in terms of your physical movements actually drawing you into the action. The downing of orange juice included. On the flip side, its plot holes, cheesy lines, and non-sensical twists let it down something crazy. Around the third act in particular, much falls apart, with characters talking about people they've never met, and others oddly avoiding topics they, uhh, really should be mentioning. Thus is the downside to HR's hugely branching nature and zillion different endings, some of which fail to be catered for. Don't go in expecting a David Fincher flick then, but as a semi-failed yet interesting experiment, Rain'll linger long in the memory for me.

Not that this shot demonstrates, but God's one the best looking PS3 games by far. The entire opening hour is, frankly, indescribable
21. God of War III (PS3)

There ain't much to say about God of War III; it does nowt more than expected. That is, take action gaming's biggest and baddest name, then drag him into the HD era to much angry, violent, blood-soaked success. With added lesbians. GOWIII is pretty much business as usual beyond that, just at 720p. The same combos, the same pissed-off Kratos, the same spur of the moment spinal column removals...all present and correct. With a formula so solid though, I ain't bitchin'. Plus, oh, I guess it's worth noting...it's also THE MOST EPIC GAME EVER, which I probably should have led with. Seriously, some of the shots and camera pans are so insanely wide in this thing, you can pretty much make out your house in the background. HD ports of the God of War predecessors also popped up on the PS3 last year incidentally, which hold up shockingly well next to this I must say. Not sure if that's a good or a bad thing really.

20. Fragile Dreams - Farewell Ruins of the Moon (Wii)

Dreams fared poorly in the press last year. Shame
You won't see no over-rated Mario Galaxy 2 malarkey adorning these pages (joke, I've yet to play it), my stand-out Wii games of the year were two far more understated affairs such as this unbeknownst beauty. Fragile Dreams is a sort of adventure game-slash-RPG-light, with lovely art design and a gorgeously haunting universe. Set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, it tells the tale of a young boy named Seto, who after losing his grandfather sets out to search for fellow survivors amidst the city's ominous ruins. Gameplay-wise, it oddly reminds of spooky flashlight puzzlers like Penumbra, but wrapped up in a far more relaxed, cartoony, Japanese aesthetic. The Wii-mote's use as a light source is about as perfect as you'd expect, while superb speaker implementation on the device itself helps suck you in to its world in a wondrously subtle manner. The game's got a cool style backing it up, an odd sadness running through its core, and on a whole is a touching little take on a post-apocalyptic explore 'em up that avoids the clichéd Mad Max vibe we're all now growing used to.

BO is a time-spanning, globe-trotting thrill ride that covers quite the multitude of wars and eras. I for one appreciated the attempt to weave more of a genuine storyline into the game through extensive flashbacks and off-the-wall plot twists...Sam Worthlesston aside
19. Call of Duty - Black Ops (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

With a name like that, I foresaw COD BLOPS being a more understated diversion for the Call of Duty franchise. Some behind-enemy-lines, covert operations stuff, hinted at in Modern Warfare's early SAS stealth missions for example. Weren't those fun? How wrong I was. Black Ops is adrenaline soaked, bat-shit INSANITY, cranked up to 11, with not only the trademark LOUD ANGRY combat we've come to expect from the franchise, but for the first time yet, a nutso fucking plot to match it. It's a frenzied, mad-dash, hooligan of a game, that from its first shot to its last feels like an un-lubed auditory dick ramming. With a ramped up difficulty compared to previous outings, you could argue this is pure "wave after wave" CoD quicksave 'n' load linearity at its worst - and there are parts like that for sure, in which you'll grind some teeth and head butt some keyboards - but when all's said and done? Firing a gun in CoD is still - easily - one of *the* most satisfying gaming experiences going. No lie. That's why this game broke world record sales last year. Why even non-gamers now know what Call of Duty is. Why motherfuckers are holding up videogame stores on launch day to get a piece. RIP Infinity Ward.

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A third person shooter in which your childhood heroes batter the shit out of each other, War For Cybertron hits some serious nostalgic nerves
18. Transformers - War For Cybertron (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

War For Cybertron is Transformers turned cool. It's how you wanna remember Transformers, rather than how it perhaps actually was. Darkened up a bit via way of a third person shooter. Imbued with some extra violence. Even glistened up a tad via the oh so gorgeous yet ever slimy looking Unreal III engine. The Decepticon campaign is a fab introduction - despite Megatron's continual insistence on BEING A DICK - but it's the monumental Autobot campaign that cements Cybertron as one of the best licensed games seen since last year's Batman. Do wish it had a cover system, mind.

17. STALKER - Call of Pripyat (PC)

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I whole-heartily recommend the "Atmosfear" mod for all your Pripyat improvement needs. While you're at it, install the "STALKER Complete" mod for both the original game and Clear Sky
Pripyat's another solid outing in the most wonderful (and still PC exclusive) STALKER series. A fantastically rare gaming beast that's yet to buckle under mainstream pressure and turn accessible, easy, or any less daunting than the day it originally debuted (and boy, is that a breath of fresh-air amidst a year filled with Kinect and Move hype). This time, you're a member of the military, with your team inserted in to recon The Zone after events that transpired in the previous game. Five of your choppers promptly crash throughout Pripyat, and it's up to you to track down the crash sites and find out why. That stuff takes a while to get going, but three games in, there's still something to be said for the potency of merely exploring STALKER's barren, howling wastelands. Never sure of where you're heading next or what'll be waiting there when you do. I popped it on last night just for a quick refresh, and physically jumped outta my chair while exploring some (not so...) abandoned buildings off the beaten track. Ya know how long it's been since a game did that to me? Thus is the power of Pripyat's atmosphere. I do almost feel like these games need a serious amount of modding to see in their prime, that said, but if you're the kinda sucker who can happily spend hours tweaking a game to almost perfection, rather than - uhh, I dunno - playing it, there are bountiful rewards to be reaped right here. I'm serious too.

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A Star Trek MMO sounds like a no-brainer on paper, and despite the rocky launch and lack of content on release, it's only gotten better
16. Star Trek Online (PC)

Beta testing STO prior to release, I dug it pretty much instantly. From the heavily scripted, Borg-infested intro, to the subsequent back-and-forth between traditional ground-based dungeon-ing to space ship combat, it felt a zillion times more action-packed and fast-paced than the typical "swat 10 lizards" quests we all know and, er, love. Arriving at Starbase 1 - Star Trek's "Ironforge", if you will - I saw that mere digging grow to infatuation. Whoa. An MMO made-up of quite literally an infinite number of playable species, all hand-crafted by their wielding players. Bustling shops and space bars. Crazy blue hulks with big ears chatting to furry space elves with vagina faces. Each of us gazing out into the stars and the endless possibilities awaiting us. And not just us, but our fully customisable starships and crews too (all of whom you can similarly tweak, rename and deck out as you so wish). As one poor sucker who fell head over heels in love with Star Wars Galaxies back in the day - or its space expansion Jump to Lightspeed, I should say - an updated, quest-driven next generation space MMO that married galactic exploration with the ability to actually leave your ship and wonder around on planets, filled a huge freakin' void within me like an extra large butt plug. So much so, that with the subsequent announcement of a "limited time only" life-time subscription fetching for...well, I better not say how much, I'll admit I took the bait. They got me. Laugh all you will, it paid off with Lord of the Rings, damn it.

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Sadly, devs have shot down "free2play" rumours that were circulating for a while, which is a bit of a shame I must say. That would suit this game's almost Guild Wars-ian mechanics somewhat perfectly
Happy I was at first. A whole new galaxy awaited. An epic MMO at my disposal. And unlike all those other suckers out there, no monthly fee for mee-eee. It was literally just a few days later however, that I realised STO had issues. Severe ones. I ain't just talking launch bugs (though yes, it had 'em), nor iffy performance (Warcraft, this ain't). No. STO is seriously - fucking - repetitive. Exploring space is fun...only there's not much really there. Engaging in inter-ship warfare like a sci-fi pirate ship is a blast too...only it's all you do. I sulked off, looking pale, broken and deflated. As did my bank balance. And then I re-subbed to World of Warcraft. The ultimate sign of defeat.

That was back around launch week, but thankfully devs Cryptic have taken criticisms to heart and turned STO into a fun wee game in the many months since. Content packs have been shockingly fast and forthcoming. Polish has been applied. Even Federation vs Klingon PvP has been beefed now up now too. As a result? It's turning into a far better game I must say. STO scratches an MMO itch not too dissimilar to Pirates of the Burning Sea actually, with vehicular missions mixing things up amidst more traditional MMO content pleasingly well, only this time with added Nimoy. Arriving at Deep Space Nine just the other day was an actual major geek-out high for me this past year in fact, while the continual upgrading and advancement of not just me, but my ship, my gear and all of my crew provides far more depth and options in your progression than the typical MMO "ding" has ever done. Given that it is heavily instanced though, and includes a monthly fee, it's still harder to recommend than I'd like. Sci-fi nerds will find plenty to enjoy here however, and if nothing else, something to play when WoW is down…!

Alpha Protocol is an espionage RPG with third person combat. It got justifiably torn to shreds by many last year, but for those with patience...one hell of a game lays awaitin'
15. Alpha Protocol (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

Obsidian's Alpha Protocol is just about the coolest idea for a game ever. A modern spy take on the Bioware RPG, you say? I do. Cool character interactions, extensive dialogue choices, epic storylines, and real-time third person combat ala Mass Effect...but this time mixed with contemporary espionage stealth-ing, and the all-important James Bond-esque bedding of women. Should you so wish, at least. AP lets you craft the character - and bed those - you wish, see. Opting for specific weapons, load-outs and boner buddies that match both you and your play style. Wanna hack computers, gather intel and steal money? Be my guest. Rather blast suckers to death like a shottie whore and ignore all that crud? You're more than covered there too. I love the concept to death, but uhh...the actual playing? Hmmm..."it's complicated".

There are no two ways about it, Alpha's got some fine print. It feels dated, mechanically. Ugly at times. Rough around the edges. Even somewhat frustrating too. Stealth is sub-Splinter Cell 1 calibre, yet the standard shoot-outs are initially so bland and lacking in fun, it may well be the lesser of two evils. Here's why it rates so god damn high on this here list though; grind through AP's lacklustre combat, boring opening and overall mediocre exterior...and by god, is there the typical Obsidian engrossing core that you always wanted laying there beneath. Hilarious characters, amazing dialogue, astounding plot twists – you got it. Around this point, the wonky, floaty combat gets precise and deadly as you level up, the sheer scope of the customisation dawns on you too, and the insane depth of the mission structure becomes apparent also. You begin to realise how wonderfully innovative this sucker really is.

For effort alone, this chipped diamond of a game can hover near the top 10 of my list any day of the year. Fingers crossed on a sequel that we'll probably never see
I love how the entire friggin' campaign alters around you and your actions, both major and minor. You can for instance, bribe some guards beforehand to leave for the night, and thus render the entire next level empty. Alternatively rough up the wrong person in a previous mission, and their alerting of the police may see it swarming with cops instead. You can pay for info prior to deployment, that'll subsequently point you towards a valuable loot drop or a useful keycard that you would otherwise have missed. There is a wealth of different characters to befriend or turn on, each with varying reasons. There are even entire levels in which you do nothing but merely meet with dudes and talk. How fucked up is that? Plenty. But in an AWESOME way. 'Cos the way those conversations go can have massive ramifications on what follows. I just love that being a spy does not automatically equate to either tip-toeing around for 10 straight hours for once, nor massacring entire armies either. AP showcases the many other ins and outs of being a rogue agent on a globe-trotting adventure, and you're free to suave your way through it like a gentleman, or Jack Bauer it up like a psychopath.

Seldom have I seen a game coded for so many permutations and possible outcomes. There are genuine feelings of guilt associated with certain actions, and more than possibly any other game I've ever played, a massive sense of consequence too. So while I love the look of that rifle on the black market for example, and desperately need the $10,000 to buy it, I'll have major second thoughts about blackmailing some poor sucker to earn it. 'Cos frankly, AP's world won't let you get away with that for nothin'. That, to me, is far more engaging than a standard dark side/light side meter, and really sucks you into Alpha's universe and events like nothing else.

With better combat, satisfying handling, meatier sound effects, and - well - a different voice actor…this could easily have been one of my favourite games ever. But I guess that's a long list, huh?

14. Singularity (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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A linear but scavenge-heavy FPS with audio logs and super powers, Singularity is - you guessed it - one big arse Bioshock clone. But what a big arse Bioshock clone
The most shocking surprise of the year in Diggs Town has to be what a fantastic little jaunt this sucker turned out to be. A moody "Russian Bioshock" if you will, that takes that game's enigmatic sensibilities and mysterious location (an island, this time), then similarly injects a sense of ominous discovery and trepidation into an otherwise completely linear FPS experience. That was a mouthful. But it does.

Where Bioshock had plasmids, Singularity has time travel though. Turns out, this mysterious island was an experimental test site used by the Russians in 1955, and their meddling around with the lamely-named "Element 99" resulted in some very bad things happening. As - yet another - recon team sent in to investigate bizarre electromagnetic surges emanating from said island, just moments into the game you find it all going tits up, with your character accidentally changing the course of history via a brief trip back in time to 1955. On your return to 2010, these actions in the past are instantly apparent...and not in a good way. Cue the shootin'.

Time travel is nothing new for games really - hell, Day of the Tentacle did some of this stuff some 18 years back - but it's been a while now since a good clock 'em up came out, and Singularity handles it deftly. Not just plot-wise either, as you shortly unlock an ability that actually lets you "zap" objects back and forth through time in pleasingly violent weaponized form. This works great in, say, modernising old rusted-shut crates that house loot in them, not to mention having the sorta gory arse, yet infinitely hilarious results you'd expect when used on humans. It's different, has an intriguing world, and the basic FPS combat handles itself nicely to boot. Much like Raven's previous game, Wolfenstein, it's a shadow of its former self when played on consoles, however.

13. Prince of Persia – The Forgotten Sands (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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Forgotten Sands' combat marks a high point for the series. Ninja Gaiden it ain't, but the number of enemies, satisfaction of the kill, and upgradeable powers make it all a bit of a blast. Finally
The PoP franchise takes another welcome turn for the better. From breaking Dig's top 10 best games ever list with Sands of Time in '03, the mediocre mix of Prince of Persia follow-ups and reboots in that game's wake have ultimately done nothing more than meander around in a sorta emo quagmire, before more recently attempting to rediscover the old Sands magic with much varied results.

It could be seen slightly in The Two Thrones, then more recently in the inspired, but ultimately dull 2008 title. Thankfully though, Forgotten Sands here is far more successful, with fantastic (and fully interactive!) platforming crossed with some truly amazing new powers that really mix it up for the better. The frankly brilliant ability to freeze water on command rejuvenates the game much in the same way the old rewinding time mechanic did, and just hopping majestically between frozen water jets and waterfalls of ice was a true high point of my gaming year, with inspired level design and lovely environments finally doing the Persia franchise justice. Where it all falls flat is a borderline dreadful storyline, which is perhaps a low point for this entire series...discounting that movie. Good to have you back anyway, Prince...ish.

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Chuck's daughter's been bitten, and now needs a daily supply of "Zombrex" to ward off the infection. Warning: shit'll get tense
12. Dead Rising 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

Capcom's zombie outbreak free-roamer returned somewhat superbly last year, in a noticeably superior excursion to its 2006 predecessor. Bafflingly, Capcom failed to learn from some of Rising's key failings - namely iffy boss fights and lame escort missions - but the core zombie combat feels so damn refined this time - plus I'm probably still reeling from Walking Dead's awesomeness - that I find it genuinely hard to put down. The new ability to duct-tape items together to create super weapons is hilariously ingenious, meaning that that drill and that spear can now be combined to create a...SPEARDRILL for example, not to mention my personal favourite of the many wondrous concoctions; the gem + flashlight created Lightsaber. Sorry. "Laser sword". Ahem. Combined with a tardy co-op mode, and the much-loved return of just wielding any and every damn thing you find as a weapon, and DR2 comes highly recommended.

I do wish the introduction of Las Vegas had amounted to more than just Dead Rising's "Mall 2.0", that all said. How about taking this game to a full-blown city next?

11. Bioshock 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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Could this be the end of Rapture? 2012's Bioshock Infinite opts for a vertigo-inducing "sky world" setting, with nary a drop of water to be seen. Other than the tear down my cheek
Gotta admit, I went into this accompanied by seriously low excitement levels. With head honcho Ken Levine relinquishing the reigns - not to mention tacked-on multiplayer that sounded about as out of place as it would in an Assassin's Creed game (wait a second...) - expectations weren't exactly pumping blood to the nether regions on Bioshock 2's release. B2 is a damn solid shooter however, not to mention a gorgeously pleasing return to one of gaming's truly great, original environments.

I still yearn to live in the underwater utopia of Rapture - mad splicer rapists aside - and while this game lacks the surprise and sheer awe of discovering it for the first time, it certainly makes up for that in far superior weaponry over the previous outing, and some intriguing new gameplay additions (the best of which I'll resist spoiler-ating). Almost a decade's past. Little Sisters have grown up. And now a mad doctor has taken up residence with an agenda. You play a prototype Big Daddy, though one far more energetic than those you fought in the first game, whose job shortly becomes to reunite himself with his lost Little Sister. This plot is far from the sequel I probably wanted or expected from a Bioshock follow-up, but from a storytelling perspective, B2 is still a weird and oddly touching tale about the bond between father and "daughter". One that's drastically stepped up by some truly exceptional voice acting that really bulks up the gravitas of said events. It certainly ticked all the Bioshock boxes I wanted by the end...now roll on Infinite!

Other M was never gonna stack up to Corruption, but as a semi-reboot for the Metroid series, I'm feeling this new direction
10. Metroid - Other M (Wii)

With the Prime series complete, enter Team Ninja to reboot Nintendo's greatest of sci-fi franchises in what has to be my personal pick for "underrated GOTY". Now, story-wise this game's about as "riveting" as their frankly bonkers Ninja Gaiden games, but tune that garbage out and tell yourself Samus is merely a lone bounty hunter exploring derelict spaceships as per usual, and by golly, you're in for a treat. Other M is a cosmic blend of old school side-on Metroid exploration, non-linear environmental navigation, fast-paced Team Ninja combat (albeit non-melee), and even the odd bit o' first person shooting. Unlike, say, Shadow Complex though - which I do feel this occasionally reaches the lofty heights of - Other M ain't a pure side-scroller in the traditional "Metroidvania" sense it semi-coined. Other M's camera system and viewpoint continually switch up and rework themselves in pretty much every room you pass through. It's bizarre, yet invigorating, and provides the freedom in movement that Metroid Prime allowed, albeit from a third-person viewpoint. I've got a long way to go in it still, but the tracking down of hidden items, unlocking of new zones, and the mere whiff of that Metroid atmos had me hook, line and sinker from the moment the intro popped up. And as a side note? I think it's bloody gorgeous too...though that may have something to do with my - ahem - playing it on a PC emulator.

9. Assassin's Creed - Brotherhood (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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Early announcements misrepresented Brotherhood as a multiplayer spin-off for the Ass Creed series. Not so at all. This is a full-on sequel to last year's game with HUGE production values
Fair enough, I've not delved too far into Ass Creed Bro yet either, but just a handful of hours in I can say for sure; this is the Creed at its absolute pinnacle. The first had its issues, the second was monumental, but this right here is Assassin's perfected. The lavish world and stunning vistas are as alive and present as ever, but what shocks and impresses the most is how much god damn content has been injected into the damn thing. Ass Creed 2 was decked out from top to bottom with stuff to do, yet there's remarkably even more this time out...by quite the hefty margin. From beefed-up real-estate antics, to a new arsenal of weaponry to unlock, to secondary objectives, to turret combat, to an underlying territorial conquest angle and an entirely new recruitment system in which you train fellow murderers...it's positively bursting with murdery goodness. There's even a fully featured new multiplayer component that is basically an entire separate game on top. Not to mention, the return of every single other feature found in the last game and then some. Meanwhile a revamped counter system sees combat go all "Arkham Asylum" to boot, which is no bad thing either, given that I still whack that game on to this day just to pummel fools.

Speaking of that multiplayer mode; what a revelation. Not the "Pandora Tomorrow with hoods" I was expecting, Brotherhood is very much its own genre. An assassin-on-assassin murder stealther that more than anything, tasks players with acting like NPCs to blend in and survive. Crazy. My only real gripe with this potential game of the year, is that it's all turned a wee bit daunting in light of all the wealth of stuff to complete. Staring at the map and the - literally - hundreds of icons, missions, dungeons and discoverables, I get a little "Oblivion"ed out to be honest. Too much to do. No idea where to start. Gulp. Let's just switch her off and go back to Peggle, eh?

8. World of Warcraft - Cataclysm (PC)

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A massive reworking of the entirety of its quest content, new seamless world instancing, and a massive injection of increased *fun* cement Cataclysm as the definitive MMORPG on the market. As if WoW wasn't already
2010 was the year I finally got around to ripping through not only the bulk of Burning Crusade, but also Wrath of the Lich King too. Naturally, Warcraft was always gonna be one of my most fondly remembered games of the year then, even prior to Cataclysm. You'd think three damn expansions would be a bit too much to take in one year wouldn't you? Yet here I am. Still subscribed. I'm actually starting to believe that everyone who plays WoW is seriously addicted, even if they don't even know it yet.

As for this new add-on, it's almost a WoW II you could say. The original game has been massively revamped in some fantastic, monumental ways, turning past zones of boredom like the Plaguelands into superb new story-centric masterpieces easily on par with anything found in the past expansions. Merely flying around Azeroth and exploring the destruction shat forth by Deathwing's fiery poo is an experience in and of itself, as it depressingly dawns on you that the WoW you once knew and loved...is pretty much gone forever. It's a daring, courageous move by Blizzard in an attempt to keep their game fresh, and one that seems to have paid off in dividends if the amount of re-subs are anything to go by. That 90% of this new content is essentially free is somewhat mind-blowing too.

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End-game content, the super cool Worgans, and the out-of-place Goblins will cost ya, but the bulk of this add-on costs subbers nothing. Amazing
There's no denying that Warcraft is indeed at the top of the rung of online games by quite the hefty margin. Even the upcoming Star Wars MMO will be lucky to puncture a hole in Blizzard's all-but-perfect masterpiece. I will pose a question to ponder though...does anyone else feel like WoW is becoming more and more of a single player game with each passing add-on? Fellow players are seen less and less now thanks to the new fangled "phasing" technology, though the ability for the game to fade items, characters and even entire zone-changing world events in and out seamlessly does open up some fantastic new quest experiences that you've simply never seen in an MMO before. More akin to an offline game in fact...

7. Metro 3033 (PC/Xbox 360)

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A wonderfully oppressive survival shooter, Metro can't be recommended enough
2033 is a fantastically sinister horror FPS outta the Ukraine, coming atcha courtesy of developers 4A (who themselves split off from STALKER devs GSC some years back). Set in - yet another - post-apocalyptic world in which the Earth has been scorched, survivors have taken up residence in miles upon miles of subway tunnels and stations, and with it, supplies are understandably low. Money means nothing in this world, and as a result, peeps now deal in the currency of ammo. Insane ideas like spending precious bullets on a brand new handgun, scavenging for gasmasks to merely stay alive, and even having to pneumatically pump your guns between shots are all fab concepts, that not only inject Metro with a unique "lived-in" personality, but also provide a sense of despair and worry at all times, like your hastily patched-together weapons are gonna fall apart at any god damn minute.

4A's heritage as developers shows instantly, with the pessimistic grit of STALKER's universe so damn palpable I thought the two were directly related on first glance. It's the latter's underground bunkers that a more direct correlation can be drawn to here though, rather than the top-side exploration elements. Ya know, those that regularly conjure up soggy chocolate donuts whenever I venture down into 'em. Long gone is STALKER's freedom, see, replaced by a far more claustrophobic series of levels and subterranean towns, almost more like a Half-Life game, or a FEAR. And a sodding good, beautifully unique one at that. Again, it's not really a console game, so play that port at your own peril. But do play it.

6. Darksiders (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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Darksiders came outta nowhere and took starving hardcore Nintendo fans by storm. So much so, a sequel has already been announced, most likely for 2012
So here's the deal. We all love Nintendo, right? Mario's great. Zelda's the nuts. And as you've probably guessed, Metroid really honks my hooters. It's why we get giddy every new generational cycle, ain't it? Just the slightest hint of Mario fart on a new system instantly sets our collective pubes on end. And with good reason. These games are timeless, magical franchises, and they ain't alone either. Mario Kart, Kirby, Paper Mario...let's face it, Nintendo has some of the best IP going. Gasp...things may be changing though. There appears to be an up 'n' coming trend of taking these much-loved games and series, and maturing 'em up for a new audience (or more specifically...a new system). We saw it with Shadow Complex (a Nolan North-ified Metroid released on the Xbox 360), in the most recent Ratchet & Clank (Super Mario Galaxy, on the PS3), and in this game right here, Darksiders; a multiplatform ZELDA ARSE Zelda game that I sincerely love with a rock hard passion.

From the over-world, to the dungeons, to the unlocking of items, to the boss fights and beyond, everything you'd expect is ready and waiting. Long gone is young transgender Link though, replaced by a cast of characters far more akin to the Fable or Warcraft universes than anything. Big, hulking tree trunks of cartoony preposterousness, with shoulder pads reaching over their heads, feet bigger than cars, and gargantuan swords that no living creature could reasonably wield are all present and correct. And that's cool. A Zelda stripped of Nintendo. That had me sold for sheer balls alone, but developers Vigil don't stop there either. Devil May Cry's energetic aerial hack 'n' slash combat must have seemed just as ripe for a plundering, as it's right here too. As is Shadow of the Colossus' ever enjoyable horseback riding, Prince of Persia's pixel perfect platforming, and even - can ya believe it - Portal's gravity gun! That this game nabs little bits and bobs from so many classic games does it a fantastic service, as each of these various facets are superb in each of their own right too. In fact, it culminates in such a rollickingly solid crowd-pleaser of a home run, you wonder why everyone else isn't doing this. Halo Kart. Make it happen.

Darksiders is the best Zelda game never made, and easily one of the most solid titles I played all year. A filthy thief, sure, but a master one at that.

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Halo's combat still entices like few others, but why are the guns getting weedier from game to game? Gives me back muh Halo 1 pistol
5. Halo Reach (Xbox 360)

Another year, another Halo, but one to go down in the history books as a series high point for sure. Well, after the original, of course. And ODST. Man, I love me some shock trooper. Wisely though, Reach learns some important lessons from last year's most stylish of spin-offs. The AI, vehicular segments, and minute to minute combat scenarios are just as fun and present as ever, but thankfully ODST's sublime and more understated style survives the trip too, only this time with added SPARTANS. Given Reach's prequel plot following the raping of a planet and destruction of everyone living on it, that couldn't be better suited to such material. The ever-impressive co-op modes remain gaming perfected, and the entire last 10 minutes as a whole are hugely emotional and satisfying for a long-time Halo fan like me. All said and done though, this does feel like the perfect time for Bungie to call it a day and move on to pastures new. No clue what they'll do next. Can't wait to see.

4. Red Dead Redemption (PS3/Xbox 360)

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The tale of a man doing whatever he must to save his family, Red Dead's a true high point of gaming from the past four or five years, that - yes - positively batters GTA IV in my book
Red Dead is unquestionably Rockstar's greatest game yet. An all-but perfect culmination of everything they do, crystallised to glorious levels of video-gaming bliss. The western setting couldn't be more perfectly matched to the free-roaming sandboxy gameplay they all but invented in GTA, and it's equally matched to their exquisite tech this time around too, in easily one of the most stunning looking game-worlds ever put to TV. Plus hey, it doesn't run like a one-legged turd either.

There's a fab story at the heart of Redemption, one boasting possibly the greatest ending our medium's ever seen. An abundance of maturity and style coursing throughout the veins of those final 2 or 3 hours, in a manner far more typical of a Hollywood film than a mere lead-spewin' vidya-game. I could talk about that alone for hours. Always-impressive voice work, a *ton* of side content, and a glorious, minimal score don't hurt either.

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Redemption is technically a follow-up to 2004's Red Dead Revolver, though with next to nothing in common, you'd never know it
It's rare for me to get even halfway through an open-world game, let alone complete one, but with Read Dead here? I was more than happy to. Thinking back to the fantastic gunfights, tense duels, hilarious cut-scenes and touching story beats, it's actually the oh-so-optional treasure hunting that I remember most fondly though. Studying hand-drawn maps and setting off into the great unknown in search of my fortune, minus a waypoint (or breadcrumb trail…) telling me where to go...what a smart fucking move, dude. Loved every second of that. And it's oh so rewarding when it pays off.

What's truly messed up though? As if pumping out one of the year's finest and reaching a career high wasn't enough, Rockstar returned to Read Dead once again come October with the Undead Nightmare DLC pack. An almost self-contained game that turned Read Dead's entire western world into a zombie-infested horror ride. That's right, zombie cowboys. Taking characters we now know and love from the core game, then putting 'em through the torture of an undead outbreak is bafflingly hilarious stuff, so much so that one only wishes we could see the same ingenious idea infest its way into all free-roaming sandbox games. Liberty City? My gods.

3. Fallout - New Vegas (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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I could play nothing but Fallout games 'til the day I die
Neither sequel nor add-on to Fallout 3 - merely self-contained tangent tale taking place on the other side of the country - Vegas sees you playing an everyday courier earning his way across the vast wastelands of Nevada. Upon the game's opening however, a chequered shirt wearing Matthew Perry robs you of your latest delivery package, then promptly pops you one in the head. Lovely. Don't blame us for your post-Friends career, damn it.

Sadly for him, you survive, and thus set out not only for revenge, but also to discover just what the heck he stole from you anyway. This 30 second intro paves way for one of the best gaming experiences of the year for me. As another Obsidian developed title, it once again showcases their alarmingly strong talent for writing and character work, with an endless barrage of inventive quests, hilarious interactions, and even occasionally emotional storylines.

True, Obsidian have a truly odd reputation for releasing sequels to highly successful games that improve upon their predecessors in certain areas, while being plagued with bugs as to border on unplayable in others (I submit: KOTOR 2, Neverwinter Nights 2). That sordid history continues here sadly, arguably in its most "perfected" form yet. Back on release, it was so damn rough in fact, the entire thing felt less coded, and more Pritt Sticked together. Patches are out, fixes are in place, so let us try not to dwell on that stuff too much...but man, they make it so hard don't they?

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A small glimpse of New Vegas' "colourful" cast of characters
I do love this game, though. I dig the huge wad of maturity injected into it over the last most of all. There were themes of rape, agoraphobia, and robo-sexual intercourse in three quests alone, two of which were met with uplifting and touching conclusions (guess which). Of course, your actions could see far darker outcomes based on your play-style, thus is Fallout's wealth of choice and freedom. While the content is noticeably grittier than F3, gameplay's drastically deeper too. Tying all the skill-sets into a more evenly balanced selection means he who opts for "lesser" choices such as explosives or barter skills will reap just as pivotal gameplay rewards as he who bulks up guns and melee. So much so that a character like mine who pursues purely social and diplomatic skills, can still make huge dollops of progress with minimal amounts of shooting. I was shocked at how little I'd actually fought dudes by the time I hit level 10 in fact (and in this game, some'll tell you that's for the better as well).

An amazing faction system makes you ponder tough choices and think about your decisions, as much like in Alpha Protocol, every action here has the potential to earn you gun-raising enemies and block off rewards. There's great freaking loot in this game too incidentally, a rare M1 Garand rifle and Deckard's good old Replicator to name two of my personal faves. Not to mention, the ability to mod and upgrade said weapons with a wealth of sweeeet add-ons.

As in the old Interplay titles, there are no boundaries here. There's a world at your disposal, and you're free to do in it as you please. Hell, you can even force your way into the titular Vegas strip within minutes of starting the game...even though the critical path tasks you with a good dozen of huge objectives first. But freedom of this amount can backfire at times. Even break it in places. Being able to kill any and every NPC you meet - particularly plot pivotal characters and quest givers - can have bizarre, head-scratching consequences. Or lack of. I for instance, murdered one of - if not THE - main villain of the entire game very early on. Yet all dialogue, reactions and plot points still rambled on as if he was alive for hours upon hours to come. Clearly, I wasn't "meant" to. Still, I could, and that's what counts. I can do what the heck I want…and man, do I love that.

New Vegas is an amazing, hugely ambitious game, and even if it needed another six months of baking, it marked - unquestionably - a high point of 2010.

2. Mass Effect 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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Released this time a year back, Mass Effect 2 started the year off in style
I loved Mass Effect 1. You loved Mass Effect 1. We all loved Mass Effect 1. That game had its issues though. Issues, I'm pleased to say, fixed right across the friggin' board here. As a result, you'll be seeing Mass Effect 2 headline a ton of "end of year" lists right about now I'm guessing, and it sure ain't hard to see why.

The somewhat plodding and janky shoot-outs that comprised the original's combat are replaced with - I shit yee not - top tier third person action that goes toe to toe with just about anything else in the genre right now. Aiming feels responsive, guns meaty, and limbs blow off robotic enemies with a satisfying "ping!" on a constant basis (and nowt revs my engine more than robotic amputation). The swaying, drifty sniping of ME1? Now tight and mean. The slow-motion rat-a-tat assault rifle fire? Now precise and refined. But best of all? The biotic specials. Man. Just you wait. Some'll complain about "dumbing down" amidst all this sprucing up of the shooting, and perhaps they're right. ME2 lacks loot, most of its stats, and is even broken up into individual levels in places. For an open-world RPG, that's a little odd. But who's to say an RPG can't be streamlined if it results in a better game? These tweaks keep the pace up, the fun piling in, and frankly remove all the crap bits. Fighting, and talking. That's where Mass Effect shined. It's literally all you do in this one. And that works.

My god, it looks better too. Bioware's art team have truly outdone themselves, totally nailing the neon '80s sci-fi vibe like no game you've ever seen. Gazing out over the Citadel is just as impressive as ever, as is browsing the wealth of stores and bustling news terminals that bathe these futuristic ghettos in a stark, futuristic glow. This feels far more like a genuine living universe now. Barren wastelands are included, sure, but the pivotal inclusion of huge fucking *cities* is yet another fantastic upgrade that the original was most definitely in need of.

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Mass continues with the continuous tips of the hat to Star Wars. The Shadow Broker DLC pack includes pretty much the entirety of Episode II's Coruscant chase scene for example
Then there are the characters. Some return, but for the most part, it's a brand new roster, and Moody Miranda and Joyless Jacob aside, they're a grade A cast right across the board. From Morton's advice on space STDs, to Jack's violent promiscuity, to Legion's...pretty much everything, and the inter-ship fights they each get into, they're pretty much a showcase for why we play these damn RPGs in the first place.

It's with Mass Effect 2's conclusion that it hits home how darn special this game *truly* is though. Bioware have put a ton of thought into the game's climactic two hours, where in hindsight it becomes clear that - without getting too specific - the closing events are 100% dictated by your skills as a commander. It really is the first, truly successful implementation of leadership I've ever experienced in a game. Your actions and choices from 20 odd hours previously coming back to haunt you, and then some. The missions you did or did not do, the outcome of certain plotlines, the money you scavenged, the upgrades you purchased, right up to the orders you gave just 10 minutes earlier... all culminate in a matrix of different endings and outcomes perfectly mirrored to you and your skills as Shepard. Not only do those choices have far-reaching consequences that will shock you to your core in the game itself...but just to add salt to the wound, quite clearly all will be saved, imported, and followed through into the next game as well. Amazing.

ME2 was proper Dig-playing-in-his-pants-for-3-days-straight business, that once over, left a gaping hole in my heart...one thankfully filled with a ton of really good DLC that should pretty much all be nabbed. 2010 was the year this series finally fulfilled its massive, epic potential, paving the way for one hell of a finale come the end of 2011.

1. StarCraft II - Wings of Liberty (PC)

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1998's genre-defining classic returns. StarCraft reinvented the RTS, brought E-sports to the world for the first time, and told one of the most beloved videogame tales of them all. And now it has a sequel which is WAY BETTER
2010 was a landmark year for me. Life-altering in a huge way. Sobering, almost. No, stupid, not because I got engaged. It was the year I finally discovered the PC strategy game. Shocking, I know. So while there may be no Civilization V anywhere amidst this page...work with me here, and settle - at least - for this. Perhaps we can build up to the "turn-based" variety next time.

There's no denying it though...StarCraft II is easily the best game of the year. It's quite literally life-changing. Like its predecessors on these "Best of" lists before it, from Oblivion, to Mass Effect, to Shadow of the Colossus and beyond, it's the one I ploughed 10 times the hours into over anything else of its year, thanks primarily in this case to a truly exceptional online mode that for versus multiplayer matches, simply can't be beaten. Anywhere. The victories I've enjoyed, the losses I've endured, and the lessons I've learnt have all been an experience in and of themselves, while the sheer perfection of action has re-awoken a competitive side to me not felt since 10 hour "winner stays on" marathons of Street Fighter II as a kid.

Let us not sell that single player mode short either. So polished. So tight. So god damn fun, that it introduced me to an entire new genre of gaming at the age of 29. Didn't think that was possible. You cast miracles, StarCraft II. I've since splashed out on every Dawn of War game, the entire Company of Heroes collection, a ton of Command & Conquers, and about 10 other strategy titles. Been having a blast with 'em, too.

Ya know what though? None of 'em can touch this. It's the best PC game in years, and without doubt 2010's greatest release, period. Read more here.

Honourable Mentions

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DX capitalises on the exquisite sense of satisfaction gleaned from eating nommy ghosts by now letting you do it 10 zillion times
Congrats to Blizzard for stealing thousands of hours of 2010 from me then, but the above were by no means all the titles I fiddled with in 2010. Let us remember the little guys. Those who couldn't quite make the cut. Pac, take it away...

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (PS3/Xbox 360)

2007's Pac-Man Championship Edition was a revelation. A modern update to the arcade classic that not only matched the same calibre of its 30 year old great grand-daddy, but positively buried it for good by how shockingly better its revitalised remix was. This right here? DX? Does the same with Championship Edition. Its laundry list of new modes, melded with the hysterical new ability to massacre 500 odd ghosts in epic conga lines make it pure downloadable neon crack, and from here on in, will now be the game people are referring to when they mutter the name "Pac-Man". Truly unmissable, if you're alive.

Battlefield - Bad Company 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

Bad Company is the best Battlefield game since the illustrious golden era of Battlefield 2. It may not quite match the heights of that game's perfected multiplayer mode, but it sure comes close, and pleasingly bolts on a rollickingly solid single player outing that I similarly can't recommend enough. And that's something I never expected from the Battlefield series.

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Divinity is a western RPG in which you play a dragon slayer. Shortly into the game, you're imbued with the spirit of that which you hunt, and can subsequently turn into one. And it's wicked
Divinity II - Dragon Knight Saga (PC/Xbox 360)

One of the absolute best games I played all year was undoubtedly 2009's Divinity II - Ego Draconis. An epic single player RPG with full real-time combat in the Oblivion engine. Though don't hold that against it. I ploughed a good 40 odd hours into that thing, and came out the other end immediately demanding more. Luckily, I got it. Developers Larian pumped out a follow-up expansion this year, and were even kind enough to bundle it in with a fully remastered rendition of the main game with improved visuals and balance tweaks. The result is the "Dragon Knight Saga", a massive dollop of western RPG brilliance that is the definitive way to enjoy this under-rated classic on both 360 and PC. I should mention, Divinity II's strength lies not so much in its plot (though its fine). It's in the mechanics that it shines. There's one of the most elaborate and in-depth skill systems an RPG's ever seen, with dozens of great abilities that will necessitate some tough choices in your advancement. Whether to summon armies of beasts to command like a necromancing overlord, to more traditional and energetic melee attacks, to some stealthy Legolas bow shit, all the way up to frickin' MIND-READING, for example (a must-have, trust me). Strong art, quest depth and huge dollops of exploration don't hurt either. RPG fans will not want to miss this game then, particularly those that dug The Witcher.

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)

The Monster Hunter series is an odd family of combat heavy RPGs that few even know of this side of the pond, yet oddly enough made the PSP the biggest selling console of the entire year in Japan (I shit yee not). Monster Hunter's shift to the Wii in 2010 was a welcome one in that us long-time fans got to experience the insanely complex hack 'n' slash fun not only a big screen, but also with the added benefit of a little online co-op thrown in for laffs. Beefed up graphics and a much improved beginner game can't stop the Monster Huntin' from remaining hopelessly daunting and inaccessible of course, but at least this one eases it in a little more gently. I could actually sit afterwards.

AlternativA (PC)

Atrocious voice acting couldn't stop me digging this obscure little Steam gem. A sci-fi point 'n' clicker set in a corporate run future in which you join a resistance movement to FIGHT THE POWER, it's a pleasing change o' pace after the relentlessly cartoony and light-hearted Telltale games. If you dig your cyber punk and want the closest thing to a new Blade Runner game, give it a whirl.

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Another thing Allods does boast over other MMOs, is astral ship to ship PvP combat on a massive scale. Not pictured, 'cos I'm a newb
Allods Online (PC)

"Free2play" has become the new buzz word in MMOs. Or words. Dungeons & Dragons Online took the first gargantuan step of bringing this eastern philosophy to our western games, and many have followed in its wake to great success. While Lord of the Rings Online being free makes it the current go-to game in this category for...pretty much anyone reading this (god, that game's great), this wee Russian title by the name of Allods Online may also be worthy of a butchers too. It may not be as fully featured as a subscription MMO - or even LOTRO for that matter - but basically, this is the closest you'll come to playing WoW without paying, with an art style downright nicked, and an inventive world with more than a few passing nods to Azeroth. And Outland. And Northrend. You get the picture. Plus on the originality tip? It's the only MMO I've ever played with one race called the Gibberlings that's actually made up three different characters.

Playstation Move (PS3)

Yeah, motion controls turned out to be a bit of a fad amongst us more hard of core, and sure, beyond some admittedly still enjoyable Wii games, I'm just as much done with them as you are. But of the two big gesture-based "systems" that hit in 2010? I'll take this over Kinect any day of the week. We got one in the other day, and it's just an HD Wii. The difference of course, being that these games don't look ghastly. Though they don't have Nintendo IPs backing 'em up either, which is something to bear in mind too I guess.

Mickey boasts some great little 2D bonus stages. Think I'm the only person in the world who likes the 3D bits as well
Epic Mickey (Wii)

All you haters can tickle my ginger ones, 'cos Warren Spectre does no wrong! Apart from unified ammo, and - if this game is anything to go by - third person cameras. But get over that, and there's a loveable, if 100% retro style 3D platform game here. Mickey's got a lovely looking world to bounce around in, and while it may often feel like a first or second generation Mario 64 rip-off, the new fluid mechanics actually hint back more to Super Mario Sunshine than anything else. I wish the more Deus Ex-ian slants to this game - namely questing and dialogue interactions - were a little beefed up, but honestly, I'm surprised at all the hatred directed towards this harmless baby of a game.

Lara Croft & the Guardian of Light (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

An interesting twist for Lara that didn't feel particularly Tomb Raidery, LC&TGOL is a great little downloader all the same that still comes highly recommended. Opting for an old school RPG style isometric viewpoint, Light provides fun twin-stick combat, enjoyable puzzles, and tons of ace items to discover via optional, but ever engaging challenge rooms. It's particularly fun with a pal in tow, and one of the better downloadable games of the year.

Alien Swarm (PC)

A brief tip of the nod to another free beauty from last year, Alien Swarm is a Valve produced 4-player co-op alien shooter that you can grab on Steam right now for zilch. It's Left 4 Dead meets Alien Breed, and it's kind of a big deal.

Carcassonne rocked Xbox Live hard back in 2007. This year's mobile version? Even better. And expansions are in the works too!
Carcassonne (iPhone)

Forget Infinity Blade, keep your Angry Birds, I ain't Cutting no Rope. The best iPhone game of the year - by a country mile - is Carcassonne. The best port yet of my most favourite of board games, its territory stealing, turn-based gameplay couldn't be better suited to not only a touch-screen, but a portable device, period. That alone, would be enough to make this iPhone game of the forever, but the bundled multiplayer mode elevates that brilliance into the most fun you can have without breaking public indecency laws. Support for up to five players? Plus the ability to play over 3G? You know what that means don't you. Carcassonne on the crapper. What a world we live in.

Two Worlds II (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

The first Two Worlds was something of a punch line, containing some of the highest unintentional lols per minute of anything ever made, ever. As Oblivion clones go, it was one of the worst. That game honestly made me feel a little sick at how god awful it looked, sounded, and felt. Despite oddly stumpy looking arms and more of that silly voice acting, its recent follow-up is surprisingly ace though. It's almost coma-inducingly pretty in places - and runs at a hefty pace too - with a great mix of abilities, questing and dialogue backing it up that sucked me in way more than expected this past month. I'm only a few hours in at the time of writing, so can say no more for now, but will definitely be giving it some serious time when Divinity's eventually over and done with.

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Limbo's a fucked up 2D platforming puzzler with amazing physics...and some dark shit going on
Limbo (Xbox 360)

The obligatory "artsy" game of the year, Limbo more than earns that accolade through not only a striking visual motif unlike any other, but a beautifully poignant and wordless story that still lingers around in the old noggin' on quieter days. Whether a more literal tale of a boy going on a creepy adventure in the words, or one giant metaphor for (spoilers) the car crash that killed him, Limbo does what all good artwork does. Make you ponder. Expect to see the PS3's Journey taking this spot next year.

Bejewelled 3 (PC)

The modern puzzle classic returns in by far its strongest outing yet. Sure, Bejewelled 3 lacks online features, and like most, I really want an iPhone version. But let us focus on what it does have, and that's a superb new quest mode that makes you wonder why the heck you ever played past Bejewelled games without it. The variety of objectives, mixed-up game-modes, and dinky wee rewards give it a ton of variation previously lacking, and the increasing difficulty provides a beefed-up, and much-needed sense of challenge on top. Bit pricey, mind.

Enslaved (PC/PS3/Xbox 360)

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Digital is a love letter to those old school text-based '80s adventure games, and captures the look and feel of that era all but perfectly. Bizarrely, creator Christine Love wasn't born 'til 1989
Enslaved is Ninja Theory's similarly Andy Serkis tinged follow-up to Heavenly Sword. A game that replaces the eastern beauty of the latter with a post-apocalyptic science fictio....zzzZZZzzz...ahh, sorry, what was I saying? Jesting aside, I dig this world. No Fallout deserts to be found here, Enslaved takes place so far into the future, the crumbling ruins of ancient New York are now covered with a thick layer of grass. It's almost pretty. Gameplay-wise, it's a cheap Uncharted, with almost identical platforming, and a heavier focus on melee bashing. The quality of that stuff varies from great in places, to mediocre in others, but as with Heavenly Sword, what makes Enslaved stand out most of all are its superbly realised characters and insanely detailed faces. It's a neat story with - once again - great tech driving it, and as a complete package, makes me feel a fair bit better about these guys inheriting Devil May Cry.

Digital - A Love Story (PC)

Digital is a frankly barmy little retro freeware game that emulates an '80s-era Amiga-esque home computer desktop. Everything is carried out in a sorta quasi real-time from this screen, in which your player has just plugged in their first modem. From here they receive an e-mail from a friend, which mentions a local BBS number. Dialling in (complete with ear-bleedingly screeching modem sounds), you shortly start chatting, making friends, and eventually meet Emilia. I'll say not where this quirky little gem heads next, but for anyone who grew up with text adventures and bulletin boards from this point in history, I highly recommend it (grab here). One of the most oddly affecting games I think I've ever played in fact.

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The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

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Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

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Gaming Shows

The 1up Radio Network
1up.com's collection of weekly gaming podcasts, the pick of which would have to be ListenUP, full of juicy rumors and interesting banter week in, week out

Area 5
Formerly The 1up Show, since losing their jobs the old video editing team have continued doing what they do best, in an independent internet-based TV show, covering whatever upcoming games they can get their hands on, and various other bits and pieces

Fully Ramblomatic
A hysterical gaming blogger posting what he calls "zero punctuation" video reviews that have to be seen - and heard - to be believed

A Life Well Wasted
Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

On the Spot
The humongous gaming site known as Gamespot broadcasts a video show each week, in which upcoming games are demoed live on air, and viewers are invited to send in questions to find out more

The Hotspot
Gamespot's audio-based companion to On the Spot, in which site editors cover the week's news while simultaneously poking fun at all that is gaming

Gaming Steve
A more mature podcast, hosted by a long-time games industry professional armed with a ton of insider info and loads of interesting opinions. The Dig's been known to post articles and stories on here from time to time

Consolevania
Quick-fire internet-based TV show with console reviews and comedy sketches. Funny as hell

Major Nelson
An interesting "blogcast" hosted by a Microsoft employee, featuring stacks of exclusive behind the scenes news and interviews relating to all things Xbox 360

The Kojima Productions Report
Official podcast from the team of Hideo Kojima, creator of the much-loved Metal Gear franchise. Full of news and interviews relating to all things Metal Gear, it's probably one for die-hard fans only

Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

Kotaku
What you could call gaming's homepage. Constantly updated news and links on the entire industry, from minute breaking headlines, to funny arse viral vids

Game Trailers
Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

Game Videos
Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

Gamespot
The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

1up.com
Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
The most up to date and reliable way to keep track of all the new Xbox Live Marketplace content, from new weapons and map packs, to movie trailers and game demos

Xbox Reloaded
360 backwards compatibility can be a minefield. This blog attempts to shed some light on the issue by playing original Xbox games for you and reporting back the results

GameFAQs
The ultimate resource for walkthroughs and cheats

Disposable Media
A wonderful (and free) E-zine, full of reviews and articles on gaming, movies, music and TV. Puts most high street mags to shame

X-Fire
A must-have for all PC gamers, X-Fire is a buddy list and communications tool that keeps constant tabs on what games both you and all your mates are playing, on or offline

Steam
A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

MyGamerCard.net
Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Smodcast
Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff

 

Matt Robinson, 2011

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