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Scott Steinberg: The Top 10 Games of 2010

Scott offers his tips for the year

Call video games the gift that keeps on giving: Positive a year as 2009 was for players, 2010 looks set to be an even bigger windfall still. Credit dozens of long-awaited releases in nearly every genre from first-person shooter (Brink) to real-time strategy (Supreme Commander 2) and action-adventure (Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands), all scheduled for release in the coming months.

Better yet, from what we can tell, publishers appear to have learned a crucial lesson in timing, better spacing out blockbuster debuts throughout the calendar year. As such, downtime should be minimal between hits as you skip from Mass Effect 2 to Dante's Inferno, God of War III, R.U.S.E., Dead to Rights: Retribution, and FIFA World Cup 2010, or enjoy any combination thereof.

While you've heard several video game analysts - yours truly included - harp long and loud about developments like the iPad, social games, cloud computing and motion-sensing controls, let's be frank. With so many hot titles coming across the board, and an industry-wide return to focus on hardcore enthusiasts at retail, feel free to tune us out. Following are just a few top picks for the biggest titles arriving on store shelves soon, each all but guaranteed to provide endless hours of familiar thumb-waggling thrills for your traditional, and still very much relevant, desktop PC or next-gen console:

BioShock 2 (2K Games, PC/PS3/360) - Having played it, we can successfully affirm that you'll adore diving back into capsizing undersea art deco paradise Rapture. Never mind new underwater sequences, multiplayer features or the fact you play a diving suit-encased, drill-armed Big Daddy. What really wows is the haunting tale's deeper sense of characterization and atmosphere. Classic moment: Staring in mute horror as hordes of gene-tinkering loonies come shrieking out of the shadows, hook or pipe in hand, to assault you the second you put a glowing-eyed Little Sister tot to work siphoning out cadavers' innards.

Super Street Fighter IV (Capcom, PS3/360) - If you ever set foot in an arcade as a teenager, then you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Continuing the series' legacy of gorgeous one-on-one martial arts scrappers, its latest remix - adding more characters (including returning vets and newcomers), additional play modes (hooray, eight-man team battles) and splashy ultra combos - proves addictive as ever. Best experienced head-to-head with a friend, you'll find that extras like classic car-crushing bonus stages only further evoke the spirit of your misspent youth.

Halo: Reach (Microsoft, Xbox 360) - Not much is known about this prequel to the popular futuristic first-person shooter franchise, save that it boasts a darker outlook, is coming from series creator Bungie and promises to hit reboot on the entire brand. Still, promising a flotilla of new weapons, multiplayer options and stunning set pieces, we're anxiously awaiting its deployment on Xbox 360 systems by year-end.

Starcraft 2 (Blizzard, PC) - The godfather of futuristic real-time strategy games returns in a spray of neon-colored light and swarm of miniature troops clashing atop your desktop. So epic it's being split into three parts, you won't just want to give the game a whirl for the fact it's roughly 10 years overdue, and looks to be one of the most keenly balanced ways to play armchair general yet. You'll also want to stick around to experience endless hours of new multiplayer options, sure to inspire an entire new legion of online fans.

God of War III (Sony, PS3) - Successfully marries heavy metal attitude with Greek tragedy with brilliant (and bloody) results. Sample scene: Tossing a centaur over your shoulders, pro wrestling-style, before eviscerating it, then stabbing a chimera to death with its own horn - all while a massive Titan tears a city apart in the background. From hopping rides on shrieking harpies to using gods' heads as flashlights or enemies corpses as battering rams, play for the sheer spectacle, as well as its button-mashing blend of furious melees and action-packed puzzle-solving's cathartic approach to stress relief.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo, Wii) - While it doesn't shake up the Italian stallion's modus operandi - think candy-colored romps on 3D spherical worlds, albeit now in the company of mountable dinosaur buddy Yoshi - too much, who cares? Offering more head-stomping action that's fun for all ages, plus fresh power-ups (e.g. a drill that's useful for digging in the dirt), we're confident that millions of households the world over will still turn out to greet its beloved cast of characters and familiar challenges.

Splinter Cell: Conviction (UbiSoft, PC/360) - Fusing tense stealth action sequences with furious shootouts, there's much to love about rogue operative Sam Fisher's latest assignment, which sees him investigating his daughter's mysterious death. Among the highlights: The ability to paint targets for blasting in quick sequence, brutal interrogations and several new options for getting the jump on opponents, which add considerable weight to the on-screen excitement.

Mass Effect 2 (Electronic Arts, PC/360) - Already one of the biggest games of 2010 with 2 million copies sold, it's easy to see why: This epic sci-fi role-player, which ties consequences to every action, wows even more than the original thanks to its deeper storyline, more detailed combat engine and broader ambitions. While the title's elegant blend of stat crunching and furious gunplay satisfies, we suspect it's a wider slate of morally-challenging scenarios, colorful characters and inventive plot twists that'll really keep you glued to your TV.

Final Fantasy XIII (Square-Enix, PS3/360) - Prefer your sword and sorcery tales chased with a healthy dose of anime influence, steampunk aesthetic and androgynous heroes? Peep the premier fantasy dungeon crawler's newest rendition, which again ups the bar for presentation, combat depth and chintzy melodrama. Long overdue and light on recent buzz as a result, it's still expected that millions of closet wizards and warriors will come out of hiding to greet its shipment regardless, and prove there's still life left in the old armored codpiece.

Heavy Rain (Sony, PS3) - Though we're uncertain how well its unique pacing, control scheme and range of context-sensitive commands will ultimately play out, this wordy - and moody -ode to serial killer dramas may soon raise the bar for interactive noir. Played from a range of perspectives and emotional contexts, its haunting narrative could well offer those who enjoying curling up with a gripping murder mystery a viable alternative to the usual dime store drivel.

Also See

  • Aliens vs. Predator
  • Alpha Protocol
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Crysis 2
  • Epic Mickey
  • Lost Planet 2
  • Mafia II
  • Max Payne 3
  • Metroid: Other M
  • Red Dead Redemption

Video game expert and TV/radio host Scott Steinberg is the author of Get Rich Playing Games and the creator of game industry documentary series Players Only. A celebrated gadget guru and technology expert, he frequently appears as a technology and video game analyst on broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CNN, and has contributed to 400+ outlets from The New York Times to Playboy and Rolling Stone. For more of his insights, visit www.VideoGameAnalyst.net.