I had many fond memories playing my way through 2010, but none were as fond as these.
In no particular order or preference, below you'll find my favourite gaming moments from 2010. Some make the list because of their entertainment value, others the satisfaction I derived from getting there, while others still are here because, in some way or another, they put a bigger smile on my face than anything else from the year could manage.
Before we go any further, please note: there are spoilers ahead.
Luke Plunkett's favourite Gaming Moments of 2010
The Only Compass That I Need (Red Dead Redemption): It's ironic that for a game where so much of the fun is to be found in crafting your own approach to the story that Red Dead's most impactful moment comes from a scripted song triggered at a certain point in the game. Having gone to hell and back in the name of his family, it seems almost too good to be true that, as John Marston makes his way back home to his wife and son, the game is actually going to give you a happy ending...
Not So Funny Now (Mass Effect 2): Towards the end of Mass Effect 2, the game flips your experience completely on its head. Where previously you've spent every passing second as a custom-built killing machine ploughing through hordes of alien dead, you suddenly find yourself controlling Joker, the crippled, non-combatant pilot of the Normandy. As you limp him around the ship, you're given a rare insight into how the game's enemies appear to "normal" people. Once little more than target practice, they now appear terrifying.
I Believe I Can Fly (Just Cause 2): There are almost too many "open world" games on the market these days to count, but none have ever come close to matching the feeling of freedom that Just Cause 2 offers. Calling for a chopper only to promptly jump out of it, thousands of feet in the air, the wind whipping at your slick hair and ground rushing up to meet you was the most exhilarating thing video games could offer in 2010.
The Defeat Of France (Napoleon: Total War): Entirely a self-created moment, but one that's testament to the work done by the team at Creative Assembly. At the culmination of a grand campaign that had run for almost three weeks, and at the end of a lighting campaign that had surged from Marseille up the very spine of France, my British armies - the last free forces in Europe - were closing in on Paris. It was Wellington vs Napoleon all over again, only this time, I didn't need the Prussian's help. The magnitude of the struggle was matched only by its poignancy, history not reflected by my actions but recast to my liking. My final victory, the last of what had been hundreds of battles over the past few weeks, was even given the tribute of an epilogue, a French resistance springing up so violently it took several turns to crush. CA's latest Total War games may have been buggy, but they can sure tell a ripping yarn.
The Treble (FIFA 11): I play FIFA. A lot. I also watch unhealthy amounts of football and love Aston Villa a little too much, so when you combine all of the above in a game that not only lets me take control of Villa but make myself its star striker, I'm bound to get a little obsessive. So it was a few weeks back when, in my third season in charge of the midlands club - and having made the astute purchases of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Javier Saviola - great things were on the boil. I was leading the title race. I was still in the FA Cup. And I was still in the hunt for the Champions League Champion's Cup. So I set myself a goal: win all three. I don't normally do this kind of thing, as I play games for escapism, not competition, but there was something about FIFA 11's revamped career mode that made the challenge (and days upon days spent in menu screens) irresistible. Needless to say I won all three, an act which actually had me fist-pumping in my living room to the bemusement of my wife. If that's the kind of reaction a little competition can provoke, maybe I should compete a little more often...
A Game Dev Story Holiday (Game Dev Story): This New Year's past, I went to the beach with some friends. I had planned on a few days spent drinking beers all night and swimming all day, but I made the mistake of re-installing cult iPhone title Game Dev Story before I left. Torn between relaxing on the beach and putting out smash hit video games, I tried to juggle both, even going so far as to pretend to be sending congratulatory new year's text messages when I was actually having my game studio's name broadcast on the moon. Somehow, at the end of the weekend, I'd had not only a relaxing break but also put out cracking games like "Fantasy Dude", "Hunt Shit" and "Sci Fi Shooter".