Top 20 Games of 2009 (20 - 11)
It's been another bumper year in the world of videogames and, as stores begin winding-down in the wake of the festive rush, we thought you might appreciate a comprehensive guide to 2009's leading software titles, as per the diligent assessment of our team of reviewers.
While some of the more recently released games listed here may not so be tantalisingly priced at retail, and a few of your own personal highlights might be missing from our countdown of 2009's creme de la creme, we believe you won't go far wrong with the following when penning your Christmas wish list.
20. Red Faction: Guerrilla (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
In a year (over) populated by open-world adventures of varying quality, Red Faction: Guerrilla stands out from its genre rivals by offering gamers easy access to lashings of sci-fi action as they work to help liberate Mars from the oppressive clutches of the evil Earth Defense Force.
Although core missions and the surrounding Martian environment are occasionally a little bland, Red Faction: Guerrilla boasts unparalleled destruction physics, an extremely explosive single-player climax, and a solid selection of multiplayer options - all of which certainly found favour with our own Richard Walker, who duly labeled the sandbox epic as "the ultimate playground in which to wreak havoc."
19. World of Goo (Reviewed on PC)
A beautifully simple physics-based puzzle game created by indie developer 2D Boy, the gloriously titled World of Goo sees players manipulating the aforementioned malleable substance across a darkly whimsical world, forming often perilous wibbly-wobbly level-spanning structures capable of carrying other endangered globs of goo to safety and freedom.
Beyond drawing obvious comparisons with Lemmings, World of Goo delivers a wacky but gorgeous aesthetic seemingly plucked straight from the mind of Hollywood director Tim Burton. And, when factoring in a knock down retail price and a sense of creative passion that literally oozes throughout proceedings, 2D Boy's little PC masterpiece hit us out the park as its "genuine innovation and fresh ideas" made it an absolute delight to play.
18. Shadow Complex (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Clearly drawing its inspiration from 16bit classics such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, pseudo 3D side-scroller Shadow Complex took Xbox Live by storm during the summer and slapped gamers with five eye-popping hours of downloadable action. And with Epic Games (Gears of War) at the helm, that's perhaps hardly surprising.
Eager to retrieve his missing girlfriend from a shadowy paramilitary complex, the heroic exploits of unwitting everyman Jason Fleming (voiced by Nolan North) provide a short but very sweet retread of gaming days of olde, accented by the appeal of a heftily offensive arsenal, progressive character skills, leveling up, and the ability to craft Fleming into the perfect killing machine.
While somewhat hamstrung by a functional narrative thread, and waylaid by overly simplistic mechanoid bosses, Shadow Complex still offers "competent combat, thrilling exploration, and the inherent joy of becoming a world-conquering super solider," all of which meant our prolific Martin Gaston rescued his virtual girlfriend with a satisfied grin firmly spread across his face.
17. Flower (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
Bursting with elegance and subtlety, Flower raised more than a few critical eyebrows - and even emotionally moved Paul Govan - when it arrived on the PlayStation Network in the early part of 2009.
With controls rooted to the PS3 controller's SIXAXIS gyros, Flower's instantly accessible gameplay involves gentle tilting and banking in order to influence the direction of a wind-blown petal from one waiting flower to the next. With more and more petals joining the balletic dance with every successful connection, completing levels in Flower results in the addition of more flora to the game's otherwise dreary urban backdrop, slowly but surely breathing new life and vibrant colour into the world.
Despite providing only a handful of hours on a single play through, Flower's combination of varied environments, appealing challenges, and addictive gameplay mean its brevity is only ever likely to pull players back in upon completion as they strive to improve existing scores while reveling in the game's undeniable majesty. Who said innovation was dead?
16. Forza Motorsport 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
"Turn 10 has improved upon pretty much every facet of Forza 2," trumpeted Richard Walker. "Forza 3 is undoubtedly the most comprehensive [entrant] in the series to date, boasting more cars than you can shake a (gear)stick at and a whole host of fantastic courses to race them on. Slickly presented throughout, Forza 3 has pure quality coursing through its high-performance engine. Make no mistake, this is currently the finest racing sim money can buy."
Turn 10's brash chest-beating at E3 2009 could have emerged as a succession of empty promises as Forza 3 screeched onto retail shelves in the wake of Electronic Arts' surprise package Need for Speed: Shift. Thankfully, that didn't happen. Call if confidence, call it arrogance, Turn 10's boasts were not misplaced - Forza Motorsport 3 is a road-racing giant. And PlayStation 3 owners are now hoping Polyphony similarly delivers with its onrushing Gran Turismo 5.
15. Colin McRae: DiRT 2 (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)
As you may have noticed, 16th placed Forza 3 holds the honour of being 2009's most worthy road-based title. However, Codemasters' longstanding Colin McRae series offers speed-hungry gamers something a little bit different - but no less impressive - through fellow racing sequel DiRT 2.
Hurtling along a fine gameplay line likely to appeal in equal parts to petrol-head obsessives and casual car enthusiasts, DiRT 2 offers breathtaking sim-lite rallying action that steadily unfolds across 100 truly international stages and events. Filled with both flair and panache, the title of very best off-road experience 2009 belongs to DiRT 2, thanks to a pitch perfect balance between immediate arcade gratification and detailed authenticity.
14. Plants Vs. Zombies (Reviewed on PC)
The evergreen tower-defence genre gets a favourable nod here on our 'best of the year' rundown, courtesy of Popcap's irresistibly cute and frighteningly addictive Plants Vs Zombies, which simply requires that players defend their lush lawns from relentlessly attacking zombies by building a force of adequately defensive or offensive flora.
Outside of the main game and its familiar grid-based movement mechanics, Plants Vs Zombies also demands player attention via mini-games, puzzles and unlockables galore, comedic pop-ups, collectables, and a ton of other related challenges. In short, Plants Vs Zombies is the perfect representation of cheap and simplistic budget gaming that stimulates the mind and the addiction gland from start to finish.
13. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (Reviewed on the Nintendo Wii)
Perfectly matched with the MotionPlus dongle attachment, Tiger's latest drive down gaming's doglegged fairway greatly impresses on the oft-chided Nintendo Wii, thanks, in the main, to a near-perfect blend of golfing and gameplay that could potentially stop anyone coming into contact with it from playing PGA Tour 10 on a rival platform.
While its presentation falls short upon comparison, the honed and precise controls provided by the Wii Remote and MotionPlus combo perfectly complement PGA Tour 10's solid selection of course venues, its play options, and its great simultaneous online mode to create a package that's as convincing as the play mechanic it is built around.
"Out of this perfect storm comes the first game on the Wii I can wholeheartedly endorse to anyone regardless of their age or gaming persuasion," trumpeted Paul Govan while sinking yet another hole in one.
12. Metroid Prime Trilogy (Reviewed on Nintendo Wii)
Let's not beat about the FPS bush here, the modern Metroid Prime series is superb. End of discussion. Much like Valve's epic Half-Life 2: The Orange Box before it, Nintendo and Retro have come together to offer up a multi-game shooter package of similarly barnstorming relevance - and any Wii owner without the Trilogy release in their collection is, quite frankly, senselessly robbing themselves of 30-plus hours of pure gaming excellence.
While Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the only title that's native to the motion-sensing Wii console, GameCube original Metroid Prime and its sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes have been suitably jazzed up with the inclusion of Wii Remote and Nunchuk compatibility, which helps create a flow of consistency between chapters. Factor in the ability to play the three games in any order, and purchasing Metroid Prime Trilogy - although gaining absolutely nothing in terms of new content - is a complete no-brainer.
11. Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 (Reviewed on the PlayStation 3)
Consumer and critical momentum may have swung firmly in FIFA's direction since the 2009 edition of EA's perennial sporting juggernaut, but this year's offering from the once mighty Pro Evolution Soccer stable ably shows that Konami isn't prepared to relinquish its sporting crown without a fight.
While recent PES releases have seemingly eschewed Evolution for Stagnancy, the 2010 edition serves up lashings of the purist gameplay finesse that first gave Konami the laurels it has been resting on while FIFA plotted its downfall. Packed with fabulous challenge and impressive depth, the wondrously unpredictable gameplay of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is punctuated by improved graphics and animation, a significantly more reliable online service - and even half-decent commentary.
"Pro Evolution 2010 remains nothing short of a convincing return to form for Konami..." wrote I during my recent review. "Hold sway if you're considering a footballing defection based on recent series shortfalls, Pro Evolution 2010 is, kick for kick, Konami's best effort in years."
That's it for part one, folks. And, although 20-11 delivers a smorgasbord of quality across a range of genres, be sure to keep an eye out later today in order to catch up with our 10 biggest videogame titles of 2009.