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Jeremy Jastrzab
29 Dec, 2010

PALGN's Most Surprising Games of 2010

PALGN Feature | Sometimes the best experience was the most surprising one.
While everyone wants to be the writer to cover 'that' big title, there is something quaint about being surprised. Sure, you have to wade through your fair share of clones and pretenders, but there always happen to be a few titles in a year that will totally knock your expectations off their lofty perch. And these can sometimes be the most satisfying. Today, the PALGN staff share with you, the titles that surprised them most in 2010.


Anthony Capone - Staff Writer

Tie: Vanquish, Alan Wake and Transformers: War for Cybertron

Picking between these three games is impossible, so I will instead highlight the trio of titles I was pleasantly surprised with in 2010. Vanquish was a thrilling ride from start to finish, putting a fantastic spin on traditional third-person shooters. The gorgeous visuals and sense of scale made Vanquish easy to recommend. Alan Wake is similarly required playing, as the five year wait delivered a highly polished product that was every part as memorable for its narrative and unique atmosphere as it was for its shooter-esque gameplay. Finally, a licensed game that was worth far more than its inherit use as a frisbee – Transformers: War for Cybertron made up for the disappointment of Lost Planet 2 with highly enjoyable Gears of War-style gameplay, but with cool robots! The seamless transformations into vehicles, epic boss encounters and effort placed on creating a identifiable Transformers universe certainly made War for Cybertron worthy of our dollars.

Don't stand behind Anthony at the cafeteria.

Don't stand behind Anthony at the cafeteria.
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Bev Chen - Staff Writer

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

I hadn’t heard of Enslaved until I saw it being advertised in a JB Hi-Fi catalogue. A bit more poking around led me to two bits of information: one, that it was based on Journey to the West; two, that it was developed by Ninja Theory, the same people who did Heavenly Sword. I had heard mixed things about Heavenly Sword, but my love for Journey to the West held out and I gave it a spin. I really had no idea what I was getting into and quite frankly, I was expecting to be disappointed… but oh boy, I have no regrets. I was especially surprised by the level of emotional depth and how I found myself caring for the characters and their causes. It’s definitely put Theory on my list of game developers to look out for. I’ve got to give Heavenly Sword a play now too…

Kimberley Ellis - News Editor

Alan Wake

Alan Wake was like a good novel; once you'd picked it up, it was very hard to put down and a lot of that interest in the title lies largely with its great use of storytelling and turning the seemingly ordinary setting into something darker and mroe sinister. The atmospheric tension is palpable in the title, as it sucks you in and keeps you entranced to the very end. The only crime of Alan Wake is that once you've learnt its secrets, playing through the title a second time doesn't have the same gripping interest that it had the first time around.

Alan's been quite popular amongst the PALGN staff.

Alan's been quite popular amongst the PALGN staff.
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Adam Ghiggino - Managing Editor

Mass Effect 2

Let's get this out of the way - I was not wowed, impressed, or particularly keen on the original Mass Effect. I don't know why I tried Mass Effect 2. But I'm sure glad I did. What felt cumbersome or difficult in the first game became fun and streamlined in the sequel. The supporting characters were more interesting, the central story was more gripping, the action was more intense and the game overall was much better. So much better that I can't wait for the third instalment to see just where they can go from here.

Cody Giunta - Staff Writer

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

The world's most famous female archaeologist has had a bit of a lacklustre run of games this generation. None of them have been completely awful, but they didn't seem to capture that classic sense of action and adventuring that we all know and love from Lara Croft, so I wasn't expecting a lot out of Guardian of Light. How wonderfully wrong I was. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light took a gamble on using a new perspective for the series - and it worked. This isometric adventure is a download-only title, but is filled with such excellent art, sound, puzzle design that it holds its own in the quality stakes with current console games. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is one treasure that's worth exploring the ends of the earth for.

Has Lara found her true calling?

Has Lara found her true calling?
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Cian Hassett - Staff Writer

BioShock 2

Don't lie, you didn't have an awful lot of faith in BioShock 2. Very few people did, and I certainly wasn't one of them. Everyone was talking about the multiplayer and how 2K shouldn't be wasting their time with it, although it turned out mildly decent. We all know that the true brilliance of the franchise lies in a compelling solo journey, so ignoring the multiplayer side of things was easy. I've always felt that the original BioShock was slightly over-rated; it had one of the best stories in any video game, but the gameplay was nowhere near as good as people made it out to be. BioShock 2 fixed all of that and improved upon the original in every single way, apart from the story. It wasn't bad, far from it, but it didn't have the same 'wow factor'. However, I did find myself enjoying the world of Rapture much more this time, and the overall balance was more focused. Dare I say it, BioShock 2 turned out to be a superior game, and undoubtedly one of the most atmospheric FPS experiences of all time.

Jeremy Jastrzab - Executive Editor

Nier

A lot of my most memorable moments from PALGN don’t belong to reviewing the triple-A blockbusters, but the appreciation and surprise gained from covering much more obscure titles, generally out of curiosity. Nier definitely belongs to this category. While most will be put off by the fugly protagonist and seemingly clichéd JRPG setting, they will be missing out on one of the most unique experiences of the year. A bizarre but clever mish-mash of genres and a surprisingly endearing story that only fully unveils itself on the second play through made Nier by far the biggest surprise of the year for me.

Nope. Still don't get it.

Nope. Still don't get it.
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Jahanzeb Khan - Staff Writer

Alan Wake

I actually played Alan Wake earlier this month, after a certain Editor lent me his copy. The game really caught me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting it to be so good after hearing all the whining about its repetitive gameplay and short length. Sometimes I seriously hate the internet community, because they almost made me miss out on this masterpiece of a game. Anyone with an Xbox 360 who hasn’t experienced this gem of a game should really do so right now.

Michael Kontoudis - Staff Writer

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

To think that this game, which took out one of the coveted spots on my end-of-year list of favourites, was almost relegated to a bargain-bin purchase somewhere down the line! Chalk it up to my cynical assumption that this was a multiplayer-focussed expansion pack, or to Ubisoft's ill-advised marketing, but I was totally unprepared for how wonderful Brotherhood was, and I'm sure many of you were too. Boasting a fully-featured, refined and engaging story mode with a few new bells and whistles, this is a compelling action-adventure which only serves to reinforce the upward trajectory of the franchise. That Ubisoft could produce such a high-quality game in twelve months is dizzying, and more than a little surprising.

This certainly could have turned out worse. The game, that is.

This certainly could have turned out worse. The game, that is.
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Denny Markovic - Staff Writer

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

I had no interest in this game whatsoever until I saw the gameplay trailer for it - then I was all over it like a fat kid on chocolate cake. Amnesia: The Dark Descent surprised me in more ways than one, with its utterly terrifying atmosphere and truly unforgettable and disturbing story line. Progression and level design were phenomenal from start to finish and the scares never let up, as the developers realised that it's not things jumping out at you that give you a fright, but your imagination. Throw a few hundred Necromorphs at me and I'm perfectly fine. Drop a stone in a pond in a dark and foreboding castle and I'll basically die of a heart attack. Frictional Games have made an absolutely brilliant game and I can't wait to see what they do next.

Jarrod Mawson - Staff Writer

GoldenEye 007

Eurocom get a bad rap. Okay, their resume isn’t the most exciting, but I still hold that Dead Space: Extraction is one of the most fun titles on the Wii. They did a damn good job, and stayed very true to the Dead Space lore. Yet even with my optimistic stance towards Eurocom, I was not impressed with the announcement of GoldenEye 007 for the Wii. An updated re-imagining of one of the most memorable shooters ever? Not only did it seem totally unnecessary, but the first footage shown looked like a cheap Call of Duty clone. I expected a disaster, and was happy to be completely wrong. Not only did Eurocom stay faithful to many features that made the original game so great, but they successfully adapted them to a modern day standard. I say with no exaggeration that at it’s best, GoldenEye 007 has some of the most enjoyable single player FPS level design in recent memory. It really is that good, and that much fun.

Surprise! Bet you didn't see that coming.

Surprise! Bet you didn't see that coming.
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Luke Mitchell - Comms Director

Dance Central

I was extremely sceptical about Kinect when it was first announced. The only reason I actually made the effort to invest in the hardware was trailers I'd seen for Dance Central, and the fact that it was developed by the dudes that made Guitar Hero. What I got was the most fun and intuitive dancing experiences ever found in a video game. The song selection is great with more tracks getting added all the time, and it made me feel like a much better dancer as well (despite the fact that I was already pretty awesome at dancing). Dance Central is the reason to buy Kinect, and the reason why I'm looking forward to future software on the device. Now THAT is surprising!

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17 Comments
3 years ago
Alan Wake always looked awesome to me and was an excellent game. Thorughly enjoyable under-rated game.
3 years ago
Cataclysm for me.
I'd been off wow for ages and in the lead up to cata had no desire to play it whatsoever, then my girlfriend topped up her account to check out the new world and I thought what the hell, and then got the 10 day trial and... holy fuck balls it turnd the game from killing time to HOLY SHIT THIS IS AWESOME!
3 years ago
Enslaved and Castlevania for me. Those two games had the potential to suck. Enslaved surprised because it came out of nowhere and Castlevania surprised because it took a tried and true formula and made it different enough to stand out and not just a clone of God of War.

Interesting that you guys picked good sequels to already good games that I didn't think surprised much at all, like Bioshock 2 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

Dance Central is decent? Now that is a surprise!
3 years ago
Alan Wake and Castlevania were my main two.

Beyond that I'd probably say the downloadable marketplaces. This year was absolutely HUGE for massively awesome little games that don't fit into the "retail" setting.

Limbo
Super Meat Boy
VVVVV
Guardian of Light
Comic Jumper
Osmos
Revenge of the Titans

To name a few.

And I can't even begin to imagine the gems that showed up on PSN and Wiiware. It's definitely been the biggest surprise of the year, that the little stuff is still getting a huge following.
3 years ago
Halo Reach was my surprise of the year, it really managed to take the series some place new without changing the core gameplay too much. I've also been enjoying Civ 5 quite a lot.

Kinect deserves a mention as well because it really does work, and it's just awesome. It's hands down the best party game platform I've ever seen, because it's just so accessible that anyone can use it with virtually no learning curve.
3 years ago
Transformers is the only game on this list that I have played.

I might buy Vanquish one day and if I had a 360 I would deffinitely get Alan Wake.
3 years ago
Two Worlds 2, because the first was so shit...
3 years ago
It's gotta be Vanquish. I've never had such an awesome experience with a game I had never heard of, from a producer whose defining series I don't like. This game just has so much wow, I can't wait for more.
3 years ago
pom013 wrote
It's gotta be Vanquish. I've never had such an awesome experience with a game I had never heard of, from a producer whose defining series I don't like. This game just has so much wow, I can't wait for more.
Agreed, a great game in it's own right, I never play shoot em ups, but this game showed to me how much fun it can be. Let me know how you go with the tactical challenges - they're straight out hair pulling, controller throwing frustrating.
3 years ago
I managed to get up to level 4-5 on a couple of them and they are fun to attempt but they are way to intense for me to finish. Generally, when a game requires grinding that's where I put it down; Especially when it's the hair pulling, controller throwing variety icon_razz.gif.
3 years ago
I'm enjoying Vanquish right now. It's just such a massively action packed 3rd person shooter.
3 years ago
I'm not sure what makes Vanquish 'surprising'. It is from the guy who bought up GodHand and Resident Evil 4.
3 years ago
I really need to get vanquish but my copy of bayonetta is sill wrapped. icon_razz.gif

LOL!
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
I'm not sure what makes Vanquish 'surprising'. It is from the guy who bought up GodHand and Resident Evil 4.
Exactly. I'd have been a lot more surprised if it wasn't a good game!

Bev nailed it for me anyway, Enslaved came out of nowhere and really impressed me. I only knew those two things about it as well, but that was enough to get me interested. It's a darn good game, I look forward to seeing what NT come out with next!

@THEMAN: I want to neg you so bad. icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
admeister wrote
Jarrod wrote
I'm not sure what makes Vanquish 'surprising'. It is from the guy who bought up GodHand and Resident Evil 4.
Exactly. I'd have been a lot more surprised if it wasn't a good game!

Bev nailed it for me anyway, Enslaved came out of nowhere and really impressed me. I only knew those two things about it as well, but that was enough to get me interested. It's a darn good game, I look forward to seeing what NT come out with next!
Man I'm wondering the same about Enslaved to be honest, I'd been pumped for that game for ages icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
Yakuza 3 would have to be my most surprising game.I have had an interest in the Yakuza games since the first but never actaully got to play any till 3.I bought Y3 when it was fairly cheap and wasn't expecting it to be an highly good game.Then I bought it and it wasn't just highly good, it was freaking amzaing.I ESPECIALLY didn't expect it to be my GOTY.


Story was awesome and had so much humanity to it.I absolutely loved the story sections involving the kids in the oprhanage.

Fighting was kick arse.What's not to love about beating a guy senseless then stomping on his face? Plus the blood flowed really good.It actually looked like the blood was coming out of the guys mouths.Unlike games like GTA where you kill people and it looks more like the pavement is bleeding rather than the victim bleeding out.

Side-missions were damn addictive.My favourite probably being the locker story side-mission.

Also as serious as the game was, there was also some really funny/crazy humour. Tell me that an old lady on a moped gazing at a poster of some famous young guy, all the while not seeing the car in front of her and hitting it and doing a front flip on the moped and over the car, landing on her wheels and continuing to drive down the road, isn't funny icon_lol.gif
3 years ago
I definitely agree with Nier. The instant people laid eyes on it, they condemned saying it was going to be a piece crap immediately saying it wouldn't be even close to the quality of Bayonetta. That didn't turn out to be the case. Nier stood out on its own as a solid title.
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