The Video Games of 2010 (Solo Gamer Reviews)
Solo Gamer Reviews are dedicated to the gamer who does not play well with others, doesn't care about multiplayer modes in his or her games, and who absolutely despises things like multiplayer achievement points. These are reviews for guys and gals who prefer to play with themselves, and thus games will be penalized if developers spend more time on slayer deathmatch options than on the single-player experience. We solo gamers prefer a well-thought-out story, an immersive universe, and hours upon hours of enjoyment without having to shoot an endless horde of twelve-year-old punks in the head over the Internet. So throw away your WiiSpeak and your X-Box Live headset, and all hail the solo gamer!
Just like last week's Movies of 2010, I'm going to tackle just the things I was able to experience this year, rather than attempt to make a disingenuous top list. There are only eight new video games I was able to play in 2010, though I plan on playing more 2010 titles in the future (I even own Final Fantasy XIII, though I have yet to start it). This list covers all the 2010 titles I've played thus far, with the exception of Metroid: Other M, my full review of which can be found here. Since my budget and time were limited, all but one of the games on this list are sequels, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
As a sequel, Bioshock 2 is fairly straightforward. The gameplay is improved in almost every way, with the combat more fluid and exciting, the weapons and plasmids more balanced and varied, the enemies stronger and more frenetic, and the protagonist more powerful, as you play as a big daddy this time around. However, at the same time, the art direction isn't quite as strong as the original, as the game is far more linear and the locations are less varied in feel. Granted, the fact that Rapture is more dilapidated and starting to fall prey to the ocean creeping in do make for some pretty scenery, but it doesn't hold the entire game. The other place it can be dangerous to compare Bioshock 2 to its predecessor is in the story. While even more weight is given to your choices concerning the little sisters and there are some awesome story beats late in the game, the story as a whole never quite lives up to the first Bioshock, mostly because the sense of wonder and discovery is largely lost. Alas, the solo gamer will be unhappy to learn that there is a multiplayer mode that comes with unforgivable multiplayer achievement points. Still, Bioshock 2 is a worthy and fully capable sequel and should be played by anybody who loved the first one.
SOLO GAME SCORE: 7
TOTAL SCORE: 8.3
A perfect sequel in terms of gameplay, the rest of Bioshock 2 has a hard time living up to the sheer greatness of the original.
As a sequel, Fallout: New Vegas is almost the opposite of Bioshock 2. The latest installment in the Fallout series doesn't change much from the previous one's gameplay, aside from a few tweaks and minor additions, and that is the game's greatest weakness. Many people, even fans of Fallout 3, seem to be turned off by this, assuming that Fallout: New Vegas is, at its heart, not much more than a glorified expansion pack. However, when you consider the rest of the game, this complaint falls apart very quickly. Fallout: New Vegas is bigger and longer than Fallout 3, has a much better main storyline that branches into at least a half dozen distinct paths, a better sense of consequence, more varied enemies, and more interesting and unique environments. Unfortunately, you have to play Fallout: New Vegas for a few hours before these incredible improvements begin to show themselves, and that may account for the lackluster enthusiasm the game has garnered. As far as I'm concerned, however, Fallout: New Vegas is an amazing game and better than Fallout 3.
SOLO GAME SCORE: 10
TOTAL SCORE: 9.5
A vast improvement in many ways to the awesome Fallout 3, the game's lack of emphasis on improving the gameplay or game engine is a minor blemish in what is otherwise a masterpiece.
There's not much to say about the single-player campaign in Halo: Reach. It is the perfection of the Halo formula in terms of gameplay, and the fact that you never have to deal with the Flood is a bonus. The story is neat and compelling, with characters who are at least interesting. However, as a prequel, the story doesn't hold as much interest as the numbered entries in the Halo franchise, simply because you know where this story has to inevitably go. The fighting is intense, each level is distinct and memorable, and there are plenty of easter eggs to keep you coming back for more. However, solo gamers should know by now that Halo games were not made for them, and this is no exception. The solo campaign is painfully short, and you can only get a handful of achievements without going online. It is safe to say that the game's developers at Bungie spent more time refining the multiplayer than the single-player, so they of course must be punished in my final score. Still, I must admit to feeling at least a little sad that Bungie has left the series for good.
SOLO GAME SCORE: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 8.0
Though the solo gamer will be unhappy with the short campaign and plethora of multiplayer achievement points and content, the single-player experience of Halo: Reach is still awesome, with gameplay and presentation unmatched in the entire franchise.
-e. magill 12/28/2010