Best PC Games of the Year
The PC games listed here cover various different genres. Some are multi-million dollar budget blockbusters and others are skilfully crafted independent productions. They all have one thing in common: I think they’re great fun. These are the stand out titles that sucked me into week long gaming sessions this year. My top picks for 2009. If you missed any of these awesome PC games then stick them on your Christmas list.
To create a little tension while you read, these appear in reverse order. So join us as we count down the best ten PC games of 2009.
10 - Prototype
This multiplatform release may have been dumb but it was also hugely enjoyable. Like a guilty pleasure it was undeniably sweet to leap from the top of a skyscraper and plummet to earth creating a huge crater in the middle of a busy street and sending cars flying through the air in wild arcs. The generic story, the repetitive mission design and the limited AI all paled into insignificance when I ran up the side of a building and jumped into the air to punch a helicopter. This is also stylishly presented stuff, the small “web of intrigue” snippets are well handled and the general level of polish is good. This is the game equivalent of a fun action movie.
9 - Machinarium
This is a charming adventure puzzler starring a cute robot who embarks on a quest to save his girlfriend. It features truly gorgeous artwork and some serious brain teasers. The gameplay is essentially point and click adventure but the puzzles are very imaginative and incredibly challenging. It is unusual in that it manages to evince nostalgia for a genre that has waned over time and it charms through the beautifully realised art style backed up by melancholy audio. I thought I was done with point and click puzzlers but Machinarium managed to suck me in.
8 - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Easily the biggest selling game of the year this multiplatform release caused quite a storm by ditching dedicated server support from the multiplayer and limiting the numbers….oh yeah and there was that whole airport level fuss too. This is cinematic, action packed and highly polished with fantastic voice acting, visual design and direction. The FPS gameplay is tight and enjoyable, the weapons are satisfying to use and this is undeniably a rollercoaster of epic first-person shooter action.
7 - Tropico 3
The original Tropico game was a wonderful release full of inventive game mechanics and charm. This faithful resurrection of the license had me building various tropical paradises in my position as a benevolent dictator. The art style and audio backing create the right mood and the unusual mix of city building and politics is really addictive. Although this is effectively a graphical overhaul for the original game with a couple of improvements thrown in, it clocked up a lot of play time for me and so it deserves a place on the list.
6 - Empire: Total War
The Total War series has long been the king of strategy gaming and their take on the days of Empire is a vast and all encompassing game. Their usual blend of turn-based campaign map and real-time battles is every bit as addictive as previous releases. The big addition are real-time naval battles which allow you to command fleets at sea for the first time in a Total War game. This is deep, engaging and highly polished stuff and there is quite simply no real competition when it comes to historically based strategy gaming.
5 - Borderlands
This FPS and RPG blend is the surprise of the year. The decision, made late in development, to go for cell shading elevated the visual look of this game no end. Great characters, interesting design and a ridiculously huge variety of weaponry helped make this a hit. It seamlessly blends RPG mechanics with the FPS genre and while it can be bland and repetitive from time to time it is more often immersive and fun. The co-op mode, variety of character classes offering unique builds, and the general sense of exploration were very well integrated with typical shooter mechanics. Borderlands deserves the hype and from the opening cinematic it oozes style.
4 - Batman: Arkham Asylum
This multiplatform release was actually ported well and so it appears up here. All too often PC versions of games are poor copies of the original but this one was a beauty. The best Batman game ever made by a mile draws together loads of choice elements from the world of Gotham as you are pitched into the chaos of Arkham Asylum and have to face off against some of the best scene-stealing villains. It is an addictive blend of third-person action combat, stealth and puzzle solving. The art and audio are beautifully realised and this is deliciously fun.
3 - Football Manager 2010
The latest installment of Sports Interactive’s horribly addictive series is the most accessible yet so we can expect a whole new generation of FM junkies. The 3D match engine is improved, the HUD is redesigned, and the tactics have been simplified for new players while retaining the expected level of depth for long term fans. This is management perfection and for fans of the beautiful game it will keep you busy all season as you live out those football fantasies. This game eats days and days at a time.
2 - Left 4 Dead 2
Relentless zombie slaying action doesn’t get better than this. Turtle Rock with Valve support capture the essence of the zombie genre with great settings, terrific characterisation and a really stylish presentation. The co-op gameplay is best enjoyed with friends and there are plenty of zombie infested environments to battle through. This is blood soaked first-person shooter action at its best and the design is excellent, making for a hysterical and chaotic survival struggle. Highly polished with quality in every department this is ideal for co-op multiplayer fans and anyone who enjoys zombies. Which is everyone right?
1 - Zeno Clash
This superb, surreal and inventive indie first-person brawler is a unique experience. Using the Source engine and released via Steam this is what games are all about – pure escapism. The dream like narrative features wonderfully creative characters, while the level design, the artwork and the audio merge seamlessly to create a real work of art. The gameplay is surprisingly successful considering much of the combat is a very unconventional melee in first-person set up. This is fairly short but that is reflected in the budget price. There are too many sequels and licenses in the market and this type of release is the perfect antidote.