games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Games of 2009 – Street Fighter 4, Batman: Arkham Asylum, More

January 30, 2018 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Street Fighter 4

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. With the 2017 wrap up out of the way, I can go back to these “best of the year” columns. I’ll probably go up to around 2013 or so, because I think that’s about right where I took over for this column. Then I’ll see where I go from there. Once again, these lists reflect my own personal thoughts/opinions, not anyone else’s, so I’m just throwing that out there. Let’s begin:

#8: Prototype

In 2009 there was the inFAMOUS vs. Prototype debate and I was in the Prototype camp. inFAMOUS was a more polished game, but Prototype was a more experimental, and overall just fun adventure. Plus, the power set for the Alex was great, crafting weapons out of your arms, gliding around New York City, and consuming people en masse to unlock more memories or to escape detection. Combat could be a real drag in the game, especially early on, but once you were fairly upgraded, it could be a lot of fun, especially once you could grapple to enemy helicopters and take them over. Prototype 2 was interesting because it did fix a lot of problems the first game had, but was slightly less enjoyable because it wasn’t as janky.

#7: Red Faction: Guerrilla

Speaking of janky, Red Faction: Guerrilla has it in spades, but in a good way. The actual mission structure of Guerrilla goes from “decent” to “ugh, this again?” but that’s not really the point. The point of the game is you’re given a big hammer and you are to knock down every building in your path with it. There is a great joy in coming across an enemy base and just knocking it down to hell with your hammer that almost never gets old. This was probably the first, and only, Red Faction game that was actually fun.

#6: Torchlight

I still have a soft spot for Torchlight, nearly 10 years later. Developed by some ex-Blizzard people, and coming off the relative failure of Hellgate: London, Torchlight was a much smaller game. It was, to be fair, a fairly basic Diablo-clone, but it had some good improvements to the formula (like the pet), and had a nice style of its own. There were only three classes but they were all distinct and had different skills to make them unique. I would say I probably prefer Torchlight 1 (and 2) compared to Diablo 3, just because I think Torchlight had more replayability, as well as mod support.

#5: Street Fighter 4

Fighting games didn’t really go away, but there was a definite decline in the mid-2000s, especially from Capcom. Thankfully though, Capcom came out with Street Fighter 4 and was largely able to reignite the fighting game flame that has slowly going out. It had a majority of the classic characters you would want, as well as some actually good new ones like C. Viper and Gouken. The systems, like Focus Attacks and Ultra Combos really allowed the game to shine, from a graphical perspective. Later iterations added a ton of more characters and additions, but it cannot be said enough how important Street Fighter 4 was to the fighting game genre.

#4: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2

In terms of overall structure, Dawn of War 2 might be my favorite RTS ever made. Instead of huge armies battling it out on the battlefield, you only typically have 4 or 5 units ever. One is a long range sniper/spy, one is a melee fighter, one is a ranged specialist, one uses jump jets to fight, and the player unit (Force Commander) is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades unit. The big thing about the game is using the different units to synergize with one another, the tank unit can take some good punishment, letting the ranged sniper take out units from afar, and using the ranged specialist to mop up everything. Also, you collect gear to further augment your gears and customize them the way you see fit. Dawn of War 2 is like a weird mishmash of a RTS game and a MOBA in some respects, but it remains awesome.

#3: Dirt 2

This was the first Colin McRae game released after the unfortunate accident that took his life in 2007. Dirt 2 remains a highpoint for the series though, infusing a cool, festival-like atmosphere with superb tracks, and a reverence for Mr. McRae in the form of a championship made for him. Later Dirt games ditched this fusion, instead going for games with good driving models, but completely lacking in any personality whatsoever, particularly in Dirt 4. Also, Dirt 2 has a frankly amazing soundtrack, and I’ve gotten into several bands like Bloc Party, The Automatic and Scars on Broadway due to this game.

#2: Batman: Arkham Asylum

The first Arkham game is still, far and away, the best one. It’s the most concentrated from a design perspective and that leads to tense moments as you play. People might complain one or two boss fights, but practically every encounter in the game makes you feel at odds, at the start, until you begin to really master the combat system and upgrade Batman with various new gadgets and skills. Other Batman games introduce new mechanics or a vastly expanded open-world, but they lose some of the precision that this game had, and they don’t feel quite right because of it.

#1: Shadow Complex

Man, is this game still great, 9 years later. Metroidvania’s, at this time, were largely relegated to the handheld market, specifically the Castlevania games on the GBA and DS. Shadow Complex was a good return to form for the genre on the home console market, having innovative gameplay systems, good combat, a map that was large and full of secrets, and all of it powered on the Unreal Engine, so it looked damn good. Portraying Jason Fleming, you are on a date with your girlfriend as you stumble across a hidden military base. It’s operation day for the terrorists, and having kidnapped said girlfriend, Jason is trying to stop them. Along the way you’ll use bombs, missiles, a cool, sequence-breaking foam gun, a speed booster, and other assorted gadgets to take down the baddies. ChAIR has often talked about finally making a Shadow Complex 2, but the more time goes on, the less this is ever likely to happen.

For comments, list which 2009 games you like and why.

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Top 8 Games of 2010

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison