2010 Game of the Year Awards: Numbers 10, 9 and 8

We're kicking off the first day of our week-long Game of the Year awards with a bang. Coming in at numbers 10, 9 and 8 on our top ten list are some heavy-hitting titles -- and maybe a few you wouldn't have expected.

Come have a look!

10. NBA 2K11

October 5, 2010 -- Developer: Visual Concepts | Publisher: 2K Sports -- Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, PC

I think it’s safe to say I’m firmly entrenched as the sports game guy on Silicon Sasquatch. Beyond watching and playing sports in real life, I get hopelessly addicted to great sports games. In years past I’ve poured countless hours into EA Sports’ NCAA Football and Tiger Woods golf series, Konami’s Pro Evo Soccer games, and others. It is with this portfolio of sports gaming experience that I suggest that 2K Sports’ NBA 2K11 is one of the best sports games I’ve ever played.

Take one glance at a game of 2K11, and you will see amazing, lifelike graphics and presentation; look harder, and you see a deep and well-designed sports game. NBA Jam it isn’t, but it can be fast-paced and simple to pick up and play or become an incredibly detailed basketball sim. The controls range from simple to manage to fighting game levels of ridiculousness if you choose to dig in, but you don’t need to know how to do a euro step layup in the game (or, frankly, what one is at all) to get your bearings. Nick and Aaron are living proof that you can pick the game up from square one and have fun; however, Nick’s complaint that the game needs a good, solid tutorial is dead-on. With a tutorial, it would not just be newbie friendly, but even a teaching tool of sorts.

More importantly, this is quite possibly the best basketball sim game ever — and in the running to be the best sports sim ever, too. The gameplay is great, but it’s the presentation that impresses. From the moment you select your teams and start up the game, you’re no longer playing on your Xbox 360, PS3 or PC: You’ve instead tuned your TV to the 2K Sports network. It’s a little-known competitor to ESPN, even further down the channel listings than Versus, but they show you a mean NBA game or two. Seriously, I almost had Nick and Aaron fooled when they saw the game for the first time; later they alternated between horror and amazement at the details.

NBA 2K11 has provided me with the best mix of challenge and fun I’ve found in a sports game for a long, long time. The nature of basketball means scoring is a more regular occurrence than in, say, a soccer game, but it also means close, tense games on a regular basis. And when you see Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or even Michael Jordan take over a game, you know it’s magic…and as close to the NBA as any game has ever gotten. For this dyed-in-the-wool Portland Trail Blazer fan, little can compare.  -- Doug Bonham

9. Heavy Rain

February 23, 2010 -- Developer: Quantic Dream | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment -- PlayStation 3

Heavy Rain can be compared to a movie, a virtual novel and an adventure game. While these threads of influence exist, I think there is truly nothing else like it, not even Quantic Dream’s previous game, Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit to those outside the U.S.). The case of the Origami Killer is a much more somber and realistic narrative than what is typically told in games, and some of the scenes are quite sobering and emotionally affecting. Stories have been told in novels, films, plays and TV shows about the loss of a child, a woman fighting off attackers, and a detective interviewing grief-stricken victims, but by forcing you to pull the strings as the player, you’ll identify with the experience in ways other mediums simply cannot provide.

The game is far from flawless, and several nagging details kept us from putting it higher on the list. Chief among them is the game’s voice acting, which varies from serviceable to just plain awful. It’s hard to say how that could have been rectified; the game is set in the northeast United States, but many of the voice actors sound like they are from France. If the designers had simply changed the setting, it would be a far more forgivable sin (and many of the game’s locational details, like street signs, would’ve made more sense as well). It’s hard to fault Quantic Dream for taking chances with storytelling and presentation, but in an experience that lives and dies on its immersion, the characters’ awkward accents jerk you out of the moment and remind you it’s still a game.

What redeems Heavy Rain and makes it one of the best titles of 2010 is how truly original it is -- not necessarily in the story it tells, but in the way it tells it. The game’s emphasis on choice and consequence stays with you in ways that similar systems in Lionhead, Bethesda and BioWare titles often do not. There’s no other game with this level of production and style on the market. Poor voice acting aside, I was truly interested in learning what happened to these characters. With the level of improvement from Indigo Prophecy to Heavy Rain, I’m looking forward to what Quantic Dream does next and what they learned from making such a significant endeavor.  -- Tyler Martin

8. Halo: Reach

September 14, 2010 -- Developer: Bungie | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios -- Xbox 360

As was said in our review, Halo: Reach managed to be the Halo game that every previous title wanted to be -- mature, intelligent, subtle and comprehensible. Bungie did its best work with Reach, and the studio that Halo built left the franchise in a positive way.

Reach transcends typical science-fiction shooters because of its attention to detail. Characters aren’t written just to fill space and spit out dialogue; instead, they are tools for scene setting and pace. Noble Team may be a band of typical faces, but their journey to rescue the planet Reach is told with the grace and expertise of a film director. Numerous times throughout the game I simply stopped playing and looked at the eye-filling vistas, and each time I was convinced that Bungie knew what it was doing with its final Halo title. In the end, the developers chose to try to surprise Halo fans with an adventure that wasn’t forgotten minutes after completing it. A painterly sci-fi novel told through wire-frames and texture maps was pressed onto the game disc, and it impressed all of us at Silicon Sasquatch.

Halo: Reach isn’t a flash in the pan; it’s a concerto in three compelling parts. It begins with the horrific discovery that the Covenant have found the once-safe world of Reach, continues to develop through a middle section of determined resistance, and is closed by a finale of crushing defeat and the realization that the planet is lost. But what makes Reach a top game of the year is its message of hope. The final mission ties into the first Halo title directly, and as the ending cutscenes roll, players realize Noble Team’s efforts were not in vain.

Never before did I experience catharsis after playing a Halo title. With Reach I did, and its best moments trump the entirety of every other first-person shooter released this year.  -- Aaron Thayer

That's all for today. Check back every day this week as we count down to our top game of 2010!