We're nearly there. There are just two games left as we count down my personal picks for the games of 2009. At #2 we find ourselves rolling around in a pile of hay...
2. Assassin's Creed II (360, PS3)
Where Assassin's Creed was so lean in its design you could barely chew off the tiniest morsel, its sequel proved a feast that lasted for weeks. Or, to swap metaphors, Ubisoft Montreal made amends for the stripped back original by taking the kitchen sink approach to Assassin's Creed II.
There was always something to do: my favourites were filling my palatial villa with Renaissance artworks then strolling around to admire them up close, and experimenting with all manner of ways to kill people by carrying out Assassination Contracts. Sometimes you just wanted to get on with the main story. At other times you'd knuckle down, map in hand, to track down every last treasure in the district. Or perhaps you'd get your kicks chasing thieves across the rooftops, deliberately failing in your pursuit so they'd attract more and more guards to your desperate flight.
While some other celebrated releases this year have been compared to a blockbuster movie, here everything plays out like more of a mini or TV series. There are down times, like when a mission asks you to simply walk with someone, but the point is to draw you into the world, to make you feel like Ezio has a life in this place. As I've mentioned previously, taking to the skies in Da Vinci's flying machine wouldn't mean as much if you hadn't been tasked with carting his equipment through the streets all those years earlier.
Yet like any good open world or sandbox game, Assassin's Creed II lets you tackle it at your pace and in your own way. Maybe you'll spend time scouting out the best angles of approach; maybe you'll just charge in blind and trust your ability to improvise. It's never the hardest game, but this lack of punishment allows you to mix things up without fear: you'll try fighting unarmed this time, or bring some mercenaries with me, or perhaps pick them off from distance with your throwing knives. Of course, poisoning random guards in the street is always entertaining.
And then there's the ending, an epic finale of "I can't believe I just did that!" proportions.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the secret tombs. And the hunt for the glyphs, and the excellent puzzles that accompanied them. And the exhilarating races. Oh, and the delightful flashback sequence. And...
OK, I'll stop now.
Kotaku AU's Games of 2009 are my personal picks for the best games of the year. I make no claim to have played everything released this year, nor do I pretend to be any way objective in my rankings. I look forward to debating my choices with you in the comments.