2009 A Bad Year’s Gaming In Review

By Matt Carey

By and large, I hated 2009, for an assortment of reasons. The never-ending recession, the Governments continuing fingers in the ears attitude, constantly shouting “la la la I can’t hear you” and the media getting its knickers in a twist of the stupidest things didn’t help matters. Mostly, though, I hated 2009 as a gamer. An Xbox gamer, to be precise.

Now, I’m used to the start of a new year being devoid of anything of real interest, but this year really took the proverbial biscuit. Let’s see. The supposed highlights for the opening two months of the year started with another Lord Of The Rings game that was about as much fun as hiding in a room with 4 people all wearing the thickest spectacles you have ever seen, all clutching 12 sided die, and all hoping they can find a protection spell. Or something. Then there was Skate 2, which is fine, if you are 13. F.E.A.R 2 provided the shooting nonsense, and wasn’t too bad, for five minutes. Then we had a compilation of old Genesis games, which was great for nostalgia purposes, but like anything that makes you go all moistened in either the eye or the crotch area, the effect wore off all too quickly. The better game released was Street Fighter 4. Which was fine. If you don’t mind going online and being pummelled by ten million Japanese boys that have nothing better to do with their time than play arcade games in shops selling worn schoolgirl underwear.

Halo Wars emerged too, but proved to be just another RTS Command and Conquer clone – aren’t they all? Silent Hill: Homecoming made us wish that the dev’s had stayed at home and put this series to bed long ago. 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand would have been fine if I have desire to “bang ho’s” and “pop a cap in yo ass, bitch”. But I don’t. And Race Pro was more a case of Race No.

March was a little better. Resident Evil 5 dragged its decaying carcass into view and wasn’t half bad. Quick Time Events aside though, the game was more of the same, only this time, you could play with a friend. Wanted: Weapons Of Fate provided the faster past action fans a bit of a buzz, continuing, as it did, from where the movie ended. It was OK. EA also released its Ultimate Team add on for FIFA 09, an add on so broken and unplayable it left many people demanding their money back, and wondering if the play testers had actually all been blind, drunk baboons.

I fell asleep during April. I’m sure of it. Until the end of the month, when the rather marvellous X-men Origins: Wolverine was released. Then I woke up, played it for a week, finished it, and went back to sleep again.

And I slept right through May, ignoring the 11 games that appeared. Apart from Terminator Salvation. I played, and finished that in-between making a coffee and taking a dump.

Strangely, for June, there were quite a lot of games released, and some of them quite interesting. More interesting was the cementing of the fact, in most people’s eyes, that EA are evil. Tiger Woods came first and proved to be pretty much the EXACT same game as the previous year. And the year before that too. Fans were left feeling very ripped off. There is talk that next year’s iteration will include fire hydrants and the birdies will be something of a different nature than we are used to. Maybe there will be a ‘hot coffee’ mode hidden away somewhere.

Fight Night Round 4 also punched above its weight. The game was all fine and dandy for a while. Then everyone realised that the boxing itself was a step back from FNR3. Still, we all plodded on until, lo and behold, the career mode froze. And nothing could be done about it. Hours and hours of wasted effort. Who made this little gem? Oh yeah. EA.

Prototype was the true highlight of the month, even though it did borrow heavily from games like GTA and Crackdown. Still, a big open city, tons of mutant creatures to kill, and bonkers super powers is always going to be a winning combination, and so it proved here. For a couple of weeks. No replay value at all, you see.

July was the month everyone goes on holiday, so no one bothered to release anything interesting. 8 games. That was it.

August actually had less. However, in their infinite wisdom, Eidos released the marvellous Batman: Arkham Asylum and the month was saved. The game was truly amazing, and was the Batman game all fans have been waiting for since, well, forever. The gorgeous graphics, eerily superb soundtrack, and typical daft comic book storyline all combined to create one of THE games of the year. Shame we had to wait a total of 8 months for a great game though.

September kept the optimism going, beginning the annual flood of sequels that we have all become accustomed to. Stand-outs included GH5, Dirt 2, Halo 3: ODST, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. Wet also bullet-timed its way into view, and whilst not being the longest, or hardest title ever released, was damn good fun. FIFA 10 kept up the EA “lets release games that don’t work properly” policy, and whilst fantastic – the best football game ever released – it was riddled with yet more bugs, glitches and annoyances.

October was the years saving grace, ushering forth onto the market the obligatory sequels, such as the amazingly good Forza 3, the surprising PES 10, a wonderfully fun (for a change) Smackdown game, and Tekken 6. What made the month more refreshing was the slew of original titles. DJ Hero was a novel twist on a tired genre. Operation Flashpoint, whilst technically a sequel (but the other one was so long ago no-one remembers it) provided tactical fan-boys plenty of pant moistening action and warfare. Brutal Legend gave Jack Black the perfect platform to be, well, Jack Black, and was utterly bonkers to boot. The biggest thumbs up went to Borderlands though, the first truly successful RPG / FPS hybrid. The game featured some gorgeous cel-shading, millions of weapons, and a huge world to jump-strafe around in.

Aside from one title, November was filled with, what I believe young people would call, “meh”. Sure, we had Assassins Creed 2, a game that had ignored everything that made its fore-father boring, and was great till it was finished. Four days later. Yes we had Left 4 Dead 2, which many thought was marvellous, even if it was just a glorified expansion pack. And I did spot Dragon Age: Origins too, the best RPG since, well, the last great RPG. But sullying the drinking water of gaming goodness were titles such as LEGO Indy 2. This managed to be a step too far for the LEGO franchise as it decided “wouldn’t it be a hoot to do the same again, only worse”. Then there was Band Hero, a music game in the Rock Band / Guitar Hero vein, only aimed at people that haven’t sprouted hair in their private places yet. On top of all these was LEGO Rock band, a title that combined both the previous two games into a wonderful mix of fun and nostalgia. Actually, I’m lying. It was dull. Beyond compare.

Obviously, the saving grace for November was Modern Warfare 2. Now by and large, the game is great. The single player is short and easy, but damn, it’s a good ride whilst you are on it. Special Ops too is a grand idea that, with a bit of tweaking, could be a game in its own right. Then, of course, you have the multiplayer. This mode was like taking Michael Johnson, arguably the greatest track athlete of all time, and pumping him full of steroids; the guys was untouchable before, but with added oomph, he would have transformed into a god and run the 400 metres in 4 seconds flat. Unfortunately, the multiplayer was more like Ben Johnson than Michael. Looked amazing at first, but then people realised it was cheating. Because, there are two problems with MW2.

You see, and this is the first problem with the game, there are far too many ignorant stupid people out there willing to go out and buy their kid the game they want. Never mind that their sprog is 12. And never mind that the box clearly says 18 on the front. As long as little Johnny is kept quiet and isn’t bothering them, they don’t care what they put into his grubby little paws. The problem with this is that he isn’t kept quiet. Instead, he is bothering normal people like you and me.

The other problem with the game is those people that spend all their time searching out every single individual way that they can gain an advantage. The most important thing to them is gaining prestige, as quickly as possible. What this means is that games are spent trying to avoid those people that are running around sniping people with duel-wielded shotguns, and wondering how “i4ml33t” got on top of that roof which has no discernable access point. These people render game modes pointless. Take Sabotage for example. The object is to plant a bomb, and stop your enemy doing the same. Not ignore the bomb, and trying everything in your power to get 50 million kills by the time the clock expires. I have lost count of the times I have planted a bomb, and won the match, only to be met with lots of pre-pubescents’ asking in the lobby afterwards, “What did you plant the bomb for, you *insert expletive here*?” My general response is “Because that is actually the aim of the game, retard.” So yeah, ban other people from playing MW2, and I will be a happy camper.

Getting back to the point of this article, and rant now over, December was full of the usual drivel that we come to expect from December.

So that was 2009. A year when games companies decided to take a break for 8 months. A year when children and teenagers decided that the biggest game of all time was theirs to destroy. A year that bored the crap out of me, by and large.

Now, every website that reviews games declares a game of the year. They have a big awards thing, and it’s all very serious. I can tell you now that the majority of them will select Modern Warfare 2. I promise you. It truly is a great game, and it deserves the many accolades it will get. You cannot blame a games company for the people playing it. You can blame them for making shotguns that can hit you halfway across the map though, but I digress.

It is my duty then to declare a game of the year too. I am going to select a game that, try as I might, I couldn’t find fault with. At all. The graphics were beautiful, the sound sublime, the controls perfect, and the actual game-play as absorbing and fun as any I have played in years. And on top of that, no multiplayer either.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Electro Candy Xbox 360 Game Of The Year. I give you Batman: Arkham Asylum.

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