STALKER: Call of Pripyat (PC)
My game of the year, this open-world FPS manages to build a brutal, strange world set in the ruins of the Russian countryside around Chernobyl. The world manages to be both familiar and bizarrely alien, and even though you’ll gradually acclimatise to the magnificent anomalies and roving mutants, you’ll never master the game.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Let’s face it, Mario hasn’t moved on hugely since Super Mario Brothers 3; instead of innovating in the characters and structure, it’s settled into a routine of “chase Bowser and his ill-begotten spawn from castle to castle”. That said, this is the best current generation version of that, and does shake up the formula more than the new Super Mario Bros managed.
Mass Effect 2 (360, PC)
A radical turnaround from the somewhat-stolid first game, Mass Effect 2 could be the best-written, most polished game yet created, combining a simple Dirty Dozen plot with improved combat and compelling character interaction. I’ve talked elsewhere about the depth of characterisation some of the characters, but this is one of the top four best-written games around - up there with Planescape Torment, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and Knights of the Old Republic. With unobtrusive role-playing elements and an enormous universe to explore on the side, it’s a perfect showcase of what games are meant to be.
Red Dead Redemption (360, PS3)
Rockstar’s trend of unlikeable yet somehow unrealistic heroes continues, with another misery memoir disguised as a Western. You take the part of a villain turned bounty hunter, pursuing one of his former colleagues across the Sierra Madre. By turns turgid, easy, clichéd and perhaps even racist, the open world, music, and unlikeable story still manages to draw you in like no other title. The world may feel a little too like a game at times, but it makes up for it with the sheer variety of things you can do - gamble, shoot people, collect herbs, shoot wolves, ride trains, shoot horses... It’s a pity you drown in puddles though.
By turns turgid, easy, clichéd and perhaps even racist, the open world, music, and unlikeable story still manages to draw you in like no other title.
Rock Band 3 (PS3, 360)
“Oh, not another music game. I’ve got Singstar and Guitar Hero and Beatles: Rock Band and Suddenly Dancing Pavarroti and John Cage Karaoke... what? This game could actually teach me to play instruments properly? And it supports instruments that don’t merely parody playing music, but actually replicate the correct movements? And it comes with a keytar?! Lumme. Well, maybe I will buy it... wait, how much!?!”
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (PC)
It was 12 years from the release of the original (possibly the most popular strategy game of all time) for this first part of a trilogy of sequels to arrive. The Sci-Fi-heavy singleplayer campaign is polished and surprisingly non-repetitive, if a little clichéd, but it’s the multiplayer that won the plaudits. Hugely balanced, this is the multiplayer experience par excellence, and takes an age to learn properly. However, if you want a more original, more fun experience, go for RUSE instead - a WWII strategy title that rewards players who fake better.
God of War 3 (PS3)
Love Greek myths? Spent Classics classes just dreaming of being able to meet Hercules, Hermes, Hephaestus and the rest? Well, with God of War III you’ll be able to meet all the heroes of Greek & Roman myth... and dismember them. Yup, Kratos is back in yet another ridiculously bloody escapade, koshering Minotaurs, offing ogres, and generally making a mess of ancient Greece. It’s visceral, fast and skilful fun, but brainy it’s not.
Super StreetFighter IV (360, PS3)
It’s Streetfighter. It’s best beat-’em up around (though the Pros stick to Virtua Fighter, I’m told) and this version has even more characters to pummel. Nuff said.
Bayonetta (360, PS3)
Ludicrous, hilarious and raunchy beat-’em up.
Angry Birds (iPhone)
Simple catapult game with minor variations. Hugely, dangerously addictive.
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