2010: The Year in Review

I’ve not been as active on the Slowdown as I’ve liked lately, something I hope to rectify this year. As it happens, I was actually playing games! Which left me with less time to write about them. 2010 was a very busy gaming year for me; the sheer number of quality titles was staggering, and I’ll try and give a brief mention to some of my personal favourites.

While I did enjoy a handful of the huge AAA releases in 2010, I would have to say that I’ve gotten stuck in deep into the indie scene, playing countless magnificent small scale titles be they fleetingly minimal or elaborately ambitious. RPS brought charming indie effort Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale to my attention, for which I’m ever so grateful. A cute little JRPG that turns the institution on its head and offers a twist on the tired formula of grinding and item management, Recettear had me spellbound for the duration of its campaign – after which there is still much more to discover. I will most definitely return to it to tackle its postgame modes. I spent a lot of time platforming too, mostly with VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy, two triumphant celebrations of the genre. Both incredibly challenging, but hopelessly addicting.

Despite being hopelessly terrible at strategy games, I continue to be fascinated by the many indie strategy offerings out there. Flotilla, from Blendo Games – the same nutters behind oddball Gravity Bone – is a quirky turn-based strategy adventure, reminiscent of previous procedural exploration series Infinite Space. I dig the flat-shaded glowing graphics, the simplicity of its mechanics and the bite-sized gameplay, all of which make for a great quick-fix. I am very much looking forward to the asynchronous turn-based Frozen Synapse, due out very soon. I fired up the beta client often the past few months, and enjoyed the Introversion-like aesthetics and intricately detailed command controls. The second Humble Indie Bundle contained a gem of a tower defense game, Revenge of the Titans, which overcame my dislike for the subgenre and wooed me with its distinct look and tight design.

Having joined the smartphone bandwagon this year, I have been trying to find good games for it, but the selection is disappointingly small save for a few fun time-wasters. Angry Birds has been quite the success story, and I can’t deny that I’ve spent many an idle moment trying to topple some towers. Game Dev Studio, the popular iPhone game about making games, finally came to Android so I was able to get a taste of its completely addictive grind.

I had a good time with all of these titles, but what blew me away in 2010 were the three games I was anticipating the most.

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2K Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Loves Me!

Ever since the BioShock 2 launch, 2K Games have been giving PC players high blood pressure and ulcers thanks to a laundry list of problems with the game, ranging from its Games for Windows Live integration and DirectX issues to the infamous “Rapture Metro” map pack, giving much credence to the view that the game was effectively left to rot on the platform.

To add insult to injury, this sentiment was already firmly established before the publisher’s wishy-washy approach to “The Protector Trials” and “Minerva’s Den” DLC packs, which were originally slated for – and then later announced cancelled, only to move back to production – the PC. 2K community manager Elizabeth Tobey sums up the news in a sentence: “We have resumed development on all three and they will be coming to PC.”1

Although the aforementioned – plus an additional patch – are now back in production, the only real response to this whole affair can but resemble this, especially after Irrational Games head honcho Ken Levine jumped to a profanity-laden PR save at Kotaku: “If you want to know the future of gaming, buy a PC. And pay attention. Because above all, that thing on your desk is a crystal ball.”2 (more…)

  1. http://forums.2kgames.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1254568#post1254568 []
  2. http://kotaku.com/5675559/the-future-of-pc-gaming-according-to-the-lead-creator-of-bioshock []

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Irrational Games, Formerly 2K Boston, Formerly Irrational Games

2K Boston Logo Irrational Games Old LogoIt was with some trepidation, two summers ago, that fans of developer Irrational Games received the news that the company was to undergo a name change, and come under the 2K Games umbrella with the new label 2K Boston. It stank of borg; the absorption into a faceless corporation and loss of individuality and identity. The company risked losing the prestige and reputation in the name that it had built up over the years with an almost impeccable gameography1.

Irrational Games New LogoSo it was a pleasant surprise to wake up today to the announcement that the studio is going back to their old name. Well, I lie a little when I say it was a surprise. There were rumblings of something going on with the trademark back in October, so I expected it to surface again eventually in some form or other. It would probably be safe to say there hasn’t been much damage done from the first switch, seeing as how any mention of ‘2K Boston’ was usually followed by the reminder ‘(formerly Irrational Games)’. It’s clear the old name held some value to them as it does to us, and they intend to respect their legacy as well as uphold it with their upcoming new game.

The studio has been out of the limelight for the past two years since the release of their seminal game, BioShock (its sequel being taken up by sister studio 2K Marin), and there has been no information on the title they are currently working on now. The rumour is that it’s a new X-COM game, but all we really know is that it is a “substantially more ambitious” undertaking than their previous efforts. But it looks like things will change this year: studio head Ken Levine promised with his new year wishes that they would finally come out of hiding. Things have started off with the launch of a new website, which currently has nothing but a countdown timer (at 3 days at the time of this post). Game Informer has, unsurprisingly, snagged the exclusive yet again and have an article in their upcoming February issue about Irrational’s rebirth. They have also set up an online hub page for news updates and articles, apparently to explore the “past, present and future” of Irrational Games. So there’s more to this relaunch than just an image or branding issue – by acknowledging their history they retain goodwill with the fanbase. It will be an interesting month for fans, that’s for sure, and I’ll be tweeting or posting the updates as they come.

  1. http://apps.metacritic.com/search/process?ty=3&ts=irrational+games&tfs=game_developer&sb=5&release_date_s=&release_date_e=&metascore_s=&metascore_e=&x=33&y=15 []

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The Big Bad Behind The Rise Of Rapture

This week GametrailersTV brings BioShock 2 back into the spotlight, with some brand new footage of the game. In the latest episode of GTTV (embedded after the break) Geoff Keighley talks to Creative Director Jordan Thomas and scoops some heavy spoilers about the story and some of the key characters. Those who don’t want to know anything in advance about Andrew Ryan’s successor would be wise to skip the video – or at least watch it on mute.
Bioshock 2
Most of the footage is entirely new, revealing a new splicer, the Tank-like Brute, as well as a new area in Rapture, the city’s red-light district known as Siren Alley. Not only is the singleplayer action shown, there is some multiplayer gameplay too, now more representative of the experience than the debut trailer. Hit the jump to see the GTTV episode.

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New Release Date For BioShock 2: February 9 2010

2K Games has announced that the new release date for BioShock 2 is February 9, 2010. The game was originally slated for a late October/early November launch, but was pushed back to 2010. The release will now be simultaneous worldwide on all three major platforms.
Bioshock 2
The marketing campaign for BioShock 2 has slowed down somewhat since the announcement of the delay; the last new bit of media released was at the recent PAX ’09 convention, where the first footage of the multiplayer component of the game was unveiled. The multiplayer trailer, embedded after the jump, shows the frantic gameplay promised in the online skirmishes. The community site Cult of Rapture continues the coverage of the multiplayer with art and information on some of the characters that will be selectable.

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