Editorial: Please Appreciate 2009's Quality
Those of you in your early 30s can probably relate: in the early days of the industry, I can distinctly recall scanning the racks of available video game rentals down at the movie store, desperately searching for something that had any chance of being decent. We all remember the classics with a certain fondness, but the Final Fantasy, Mario and Zelda titles were extremely few and far between...and a whole lot of crap clogged up the holes between those releases.
Gaming was still in its infancy, so products that would never see the light of day today (they'd drop into QA testing and everyone would laugh) somehow made their way into stores. What, you think "All your base are belong to us" was done on purpose? Budgets were the tiniest fraction of what they are now and of course, the technology is just a bit better these days (wait...bit, byte...I just got that). Obviously, I will still review the occasional mess and I often ask myself, "how did this get through testing?" But for the most part, many developers try very hard to produce the best experience possible and man, did they come through in 2009. For a while there, early on in this generation, I had difficulty finding games that really captured my attention.
But between October and November alone there have been three that I just haven't been able to put down: Uncharted 2, Dragon Age: Origins and Assassin's Creed II. The greatest part is they're not the only titles that have proved addictive for me this year; both inFamous and Killzone 2 were major highlights as well and kept me playing for hours on end. I haven't even been able to play the likes of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Resident Evil 5, Left 4 Dead 2, and Halo 3: ODST (all on the Christmas list), and this year has still been one of the best in recent memory. Might it be comparable to 2001 or 1998? I won't list off all the games that came out in those years, but let's just say that you'd see recognizable titles like "Baldurs Gate," "Final Fantasy," "Half-Life," "Devil May Cry," "Gran Turismo 3," etc.
But perhaps above all else is the fact that I'm not only hooked on the games in question, I'm also tremendously impressed with their unbelievable level of polish and quality. Origins might be left out of this part of the discussion - it's great for other reasons - but all the others can certainly qualify. I'm still blown away by Uncharted 2 and every time I sit down to play ACII, hours disappear in a blink and I'm continually impressed at so many aspects of the production, from the visuals to the animations to the wonderful attention paid to even the smallest detail. Guys, really...we can't take this for granted. I've been gaming for longer than I even want to admit these days, and it's just so rare that we have years like this. I haven't even mentioned titles I know many of you adore (Batman: Arkham Asylum, Demon's Souls, Brutal Legend, and Forza 3, spring quickly to mind), and that's just awesome.
The variety; the diversity; the downright insane level of professionalism and "pushing the envelope" going on in these games is just so respect-worthy. So right now, even though I know most devs won't see this, I'm tossing out a heartfelt thank you to all the hard-working guys who have provided us with such a huge number of fantastic games this year. And hey, I can barely wait for 2010, 'cuz it looks like it's gonna happen all over again. In all honesty, there may never have been a better time to be a gamer in this industry than right now.
11/27/2009 Ben Dutka