Runner Up: Split/Second
This is the most original take on a racing game in years, and absolutely beautiful at that. I am a huge fan of the Burnout series, and Split/Second functions a lot like it, even more so than this year's Need for Speed which was made by the Burnout developers. In fact, the only difference between the two is that instead of earning boost by driving recklessly, you earn a unique form of power-up called a “power play.” Any player can use a small power play to wreck cars ahead of them with some sort of explosion, or can opt to save up that meter to do massive damage to both the opponents ahead of ahead of them and the track itself. This works well enough in single player, but the real fun comes in the online game where there are so many power plays being executed at any given time that you would be hard-pressed to find any part of the track not constantly exploding. Unfortunately, the game isn't without its problems. Because power plays can only be used on cars in front of you, the driver in first place is left with having nothing to do but dodge. That also gets too easy after a while since only certain things in the environment can be used, which makes it a simple matter to avoid damage when you know where they all are. I really hope a sequel to this gets made. It's an interesting idea that at every turn, comes just barely short of being truly amazing.
#10 Just Cause 2
Just Cause 2 has perfected the idea of a “sandbox game.” Rather than focusing on a story, character development, or even making any sense, the game's first priority is to just let you do whatever the hell you want. It is completely successful in this regard with the freedom and hilariously off-the-wall physics that come courtesy of your central tools: the grappling hook and parachute. Using these to throw around yourself along with your enemies and jump from ground to car to helicopter to fighter jet (yes, I actually did this) in one of the largest environments in video game history, Just Cause is pure unadulterated fun. I find myself barely even caring that the actual story is so terrible and production values are so abysmal that it features a character with the worst voice acting I have ever heard in any media (and I've watched 'The Room'). Just Cause 2 is a healthy dose of well done open-world insanity in an era where developers so often forget just how fun a game can be when the player has total freedom and zero responsibility.
#9 Battlefield: Bad Company 2
It's hard attempting to beat the juggernaut that is Call of Duty at its own game. Well, Bad Company 2 tries just that, and is more successful at slaying the military shooter giant than anything before it. Yes, there is a campaign and it's fun while it lasts (despite my disappointment that at no point does Haggard get his hands on a Truckosaurus Rex). The real focus here though is on the multiplayer, which is fun, addictive, and forces the player to rely on teamwork perhaps more than any shooter out there. Bad Company 2 multiplayer improves on the structure of previous Battlefield games with large-scale objective-based battles. With highly different character classes, vehicles and other such ordinance accommodating any play style imaginable, this game's multiplayer structure all but guarantees that no two matches play out the same way. All in all, I still think Modern Warfare 2 is a better multiplayer game, but Bad Company 2 is a fantastic entry into the military shooter genre that does enough different from Call of Duty to stand on its own as my second favorite FPS this year.
#8 Final Fantasy 13
I never really liked Final Fantasy games before this one. They've always seemed a bit too hard to get into, giving me a feeling that if I were to spec out my characters wrong at the beginning, they would be virtually unusable later on in the game. The amazing stories the series is known for always become bogged down by the unforgiving (and in my opinion, no-fun) nature on the gameplay. Final Fantasy 13 is actually more complex than any before it, but it slowly rolls out its various facets in a way that makes the gameplay very easy to understand. This is a controversial aspect of the game, but I feel that it works in its favor, focusing for the first thirty hours on telling a complex story using some absolutely amazing storytelling and character development with production values that rival even the highest-budget movies out there. It's not perfect and I felt that the game spikes in difficulty at certain points with all the balance of a one-legged blind person riding a unicycle. However, I was able to triumph in the end at all those instances and it was worth it. The gameplay, even while being more fun than I would normally expect, isn't perfect and can become repetitive as the game tries to hammer in a certain aspect of its system before introducing the next one. However, that's not why I come to Final Fantasy. I went into this game looking for a long, satisfying, epic story and I feel that Final Fantasy 13 in that respect, delivers above and beyond anything I could have expected going in.
This was a very nice surprise. In the middle of the year and after a long drought in the racing genre, three of the best racing games in years were released in the span of a week. Alongside Split/Second and Modnation Racers, Blur was by far the best of the three with a combination of gameplay, audio, and some amazing graphical style that puts every other racer I've played to shame. People have described this as a combination of Need for Speed and Mario Kart and while somewhat accurate, that summation does not do the game justice. The large number of different cars handle much like they would in a Need For Speed game, with a good variety power-ups that damage and crash other vehicles in a satisfying way. However, this concept is executed with a level of polish that makes it better than the sum of those parts. Blur's online translates the leveling system and perks of modern Call of Duty games to the racing genre with great success. The multiplayer is fun, frantic, and does a fantastic job of making you want to come back for more both to level up and just because the game is so much fun. It makes me sad that the game's developer, Bizarre Creations, was closed down recently, which makes a followup to Blur very unlikely, at least in the near future.
#6 Mass Effect 2
Arguably the best RPG of 2007 was taken in a more action-oriented direction with this sequel that gives the player less options, but polishes to a blinding sheen everything not left on the cutting-room floor. The two games are so different, that if not for the continuing story and setting, they could be passed off as completely separate franchises. Once I got past the disappointment of not being given as many choices as in the first game, I found an experience that far surpasses the original in every other way. The story is well told and after doing everyone's loyalty missions, I found that I felt like I knew and cared about each member of Shepard's large team. For as many conversations as you end up having throughout the game, I was amazed that they are all so seamless and well acted with tangible suspense and humor that few games get anywhere close to. The gameplay is also fantastic with action rivaling and in many cases surpassing, even the best third person shooters. There are a few negative aspects like with the boring resource mining and the tedious method you must use to explore your ship for five minutes only to find out that none of your crew have anything new to say. However, that's little more than nitpicking and does nothing to detract from the fun of the rest of the game. Along with some of the best DLC I've ever played in the form of Shadow Broker and several other lesser, but substantial added content, this is a fantastic game that has me hyped up for Mass Effect 3.
#5 Red Dead Redemption
Everyone over the past decade who has complained about a total lack of old west-themed video games was shut up this year with Red Dead Redemption. This is exactly what you would expect and so much more, from what would happen if Grand Theft Auto was set as a western. There's all the pointless killing of civilians, lawmen, and anything with a pulse that you could want from a game developed by Rockstar. What you might not expect, is the best gameplay and storytelling that developer has ever produced. Indeed, you will find all the side quests, distractions, and weird funny glitches you could want from Grand Theft Auto, but the main star here is the story. I would go so far as to say that Red Dead Redemption features the most believable characters and overall best storytelling of any game released this year. I won't reveal how for spoiler purposes, but this game takes some major risks in the unconventional way the story is told and how the characters develop. These risks are unmatched in my opinion even by Bioshock. It really pays off as by the end of the game, there is serious emotional weight to the events that lead up to it, the likes of which I've never felt from a video game before. If that weren't enough, Red Dead Redemption also features a huge multiplayer component that is comparable in both size and focus, to the main game. This is only increased with the four huge downloadable expansions that have been released since the main game was. Where before Red Dead Redemption came out, there was concern it would not live up to Grand Theft Auto 4, I find myself now wondering if the next GTA can possibly live up to this game.