To think of certain years is to think of certain games. These titles are the lynch pins of entertainment history, speaking to their eras in a manner which makes them unforgettable. So it is that 1997 is the indisputable property of Final Fantasy VII, which put the medium’s capacity for cinematic involvedness beyond question, while to reflect on 2005 is to reflect on the phenomenon of World of Warcraft.
The “definitive” games aren’t always the best ones, of course, or even the best-selling ones. Few “serious” gamers would rank Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games above Uncharted, but the former is arguably the more crucial release – not simply because it shifted more copies, but because its dominance of software charts is tightly, symbolically bound up with Nintendo’s abrupt re-ascendancy in 2007. And there are games whose significance is negative, the games whose failures (whether partial or complete) herald the end of one way of doing things. Need for Speed: Undercover comes to mind.
Identifying these titles in advance is a little like trying to headshot a machine gunner from the beaches of Allied Assault’s Normandy, but it’s an interesting topic so I’m having a go regardless. Here, then, are six games I think 2010 will be remembered for. You’ll notice a few controversial omissions, some of which are on the longlist at the article finish.
Heavy Rain (PS3)
Heavy Rain is that rarest of things: an original. Comparisons have been made (by us, among others) with classic LucasArt point and clickers, with Broken Sword and Gabriel Knight, with Shenmue and its sequel. There’s overlap, doubtless, but none of these titles quite fit the bill. Quantic Dream’s oppressively opulent rendering of the hunt for a serial killer is likely to be more of a critical event than a chart-topper, as major newsprint commentators of all casts and temperaments rush to dissect this fresh assault by the upstart gaming industry on “culture proper”. Its impact, if not its quality, is assured.
Need for Speed World Online (PC)
EA’s restructuring and refocussing over the past couple of years has been a source of much interest: the company has stripped away bureaucracy, combined studios, tried and (so far) failed to crack the Wii market, introduced compelling new IPs, dismembered others, opened and closed a Casual label and bought its way into the social gaming arena. The experiment with free-to-play gaming has been modestly successful – Battlefield: Heroes is a popular, well-crafted product, despite the recent, controversial re-emphasis on premium in-game commodities – and the addition of Need for Speed’s much-buffeted but formidable brand power may be explosive.