2010 has been an amazing year for videogames. From indie hits to AAA blockbusters, there's been a lot to love about this year. But there are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, and so many weeks in a ... well, you get the idea. As in every year, we found some games dominated our days and nights and still had us coming back for more. To celebrate those games, we're offering up our Five Favorites of 2010. Be sure to check back over the coming week for our editor's picks for the best in games, and also stay tuned for our Five Favorite Not Games.
Russ Pitts' Five Favorites of 2010
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Greg Tito and I both love this game so much we decided to split covering it here along dead and undead lines. We flipped for it, and I got the zombie version. I think I won that toss.
Undead Nightmare is a massive, single-player DLC expansion pack for Red Dead Redemption. It's designed to fall vaguely outside of the reality of the main story, but fits in well enough that it doesn't feel like a total jerk off.
One fine day after reuniting with his family (sorry, spoiler) John Marston awakes to find the world in the grip of a zombie plague. The dead have risen to life, ghoulish creatures wander the earth in search of human flesh and anyone bitten by the undead becomes one of them. Your standard zombie fare.
Where Undead Nightmare differentiates itself from the recent horde of zombie-infused games is in its Old West setting and the unusual twists and turns required to maintain a "credible" zombie-based storyline and not tamper with the near-flawless Western feel of the game.
For the sake of ruining your experience with the game, I won't go into too much detail regarding the whys or wherefores, but suffice to say, by limiting access to ammo and other consumables, requiring John Marston shoot every enemy in the head and adding challenges such as "find each of the four horses of the apocalypse," Undead Nightmare revives the zombie genre in a uniquely fresh way and offers gamers a chance to spend ten or more extra hours in one of the best-conceived and executed open-world games ever made.
Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas is the worst game I've ever spent over 100 hours with. It is frustrating beyond belief and more than once has forced me to get up and turn it off. And yet, the next day I'm back, playing some more.
Initially released with a multitude of the worst kind of bugs - system locks, disappearing characters, lost save files, un-finishable missions, etc. - New Vegas nonetheless hits the perfect sweet spot with its Old Westernization of Bethesda's reboot of the classic PC RPG, Fallout 3. As much love as I still have for Fallout 3 (350 hours and counting), something about the D.C. setting, or Bethesda's heavy-handed re-telling never quite put me at ease in their version of the Fallout world. New Vegas brings the series back to its Western roots and, although still very much Bethesda's baby, infuses the series with enough influences from the series' original creators to bring it much more in line with expectations.
There are enough narrative twists and turns to make you feel as if this is a world where one man can actually make a difference, but the game seems to not mind if you don't really care. The main story mission that sets you off to seek revenge against the man who shot you and left you for dead, slowly evolves into the typical ROG affair: it's up to you to save the world (or not). At least this small part of it in what used to be Nevada, anyway.
In New Vegas, you can choose to side with one faction or another. Or another. Or go it on your own. Or ignore the main story and collect rare guns, make your own ammo, meet a large cast of party members and an even larger cast of secondary characters, and generally "wander the wastes," just like in the good, old days.
It's a shame, then, that the game is so painfully broken that you'll frequently wonder why you bother. Hopefully by the time you're reading this, a major patch, said to fix a multitude of problems across all major platforms, will have been released. If this game had been released in anything approaching a perfect state, it'd be a shoe-in for GOTY. As it is ... it's not getting my vote.