January 4 2011
There were several big video game releases for which 2010 will be remembered. In the console department Red Dead Redemption walked away with all kinds of awards, as did the single-player Mass Effect 2. In multiplayer PC land Blizzard dominated the scene by reinvigorating an old and beloved franchise as well as releasing another expansion for World of Warcraft. A couple of new military shooters also arrived this year, which could become the norm going forward. These are my picks for the best multiplayer PC games of 2010.
Sequels can be risky because some people want unique and innovative changes, while others demand that the game stay close to its roots. StarCraft 2 manages to walk that fine line nicely, bringing the highly-praised StarCraft series into the 21st century graphically and improving the interface while still offering similar core gameplay to the original. It eases people into the fierce competition on Battle.net and there are a wealth of multiplayer maps to choose from. StarCraft 2 is already an eSports favorite and seems destined for many years of popularity among multiplayer RTS fans.
Technically, Cataclysm is only an expansion, but I don't mind bending the rules a little for expansions the on scale of those for World of Warcraft. As well as adding another 5 levels of content at the high end of the game, Cataclysm includes a major revision of the older parts of Azeroth, now scarred by the return of the dragon Deathwing. While it may not offer high-level players quite as much as Wrath of the Lich King did, Cataclysm has something for everyone - even those who are just getting started. This juggernaut MMORPG continues to impress 6 years after launch, and still isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
Bad Company 2 is the first major Battlefield release for the PC since BF 2142. It features destructible environments that really take the action up a notch, and like earlier games in the series, it does a great job of catering to different play styles with the class system. Objective-based Rush mode and Hardcore mode are both nice additions. It encourages teamwork more than most shooters, and it stays pretty close to the proven Battlefield formula. There is now also a Vietnam-themed expansion for the game. Although I miss the 64-player matches and mods of the PC exclusive Battlefield titles, Bad Company 2 is an easy game to recommend.
Military shooters have become a staple of online gaming, and there seems to be another installment in the Call of Duty series every year now. Call of Duty: Black Ops is the 2010 addition, and once again it offers a robust multiplayer component along with the single-player campaign. Unlike CoD: Modern Warfare 2, the PC version of Black Ops has dedicated servers and it supports up to 24 players online (as opposed to MW2's 18). One new feature that is creating some buzz are the Wager Match modes, which lets people bet CoD Points on the outcome of a match. Along with the expected exotic locations and nifty new weapons, the option to play MP maps against bots has been added, and the ever-popular zombie mode makes a return.
Racing games tend to be more popular on consoles than on PC, and that's likely true for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit as well. Controllers are partly responsible for this, as most people prefer gamepads to mouse and keyboard for driving. Oddly enough, Hot Pursuit doesn't even have mouse support, so unless you're happy driving with just the keyboard you'll want a gamepad for your PC (an Xbox 360 controller works good). The game has a solid multiplayer mode that lets up to 8 players engage in team chases online. There are fun weapons to deploy like spike belts and EMPs, and it makes for some action-packed head-to-head racing with friends.
Although the game is actually still in beta, Minecraft had a really incredible run in 2010, especially given that it's an independent title originally developed by just one person. As much a sandbox as a game, players mine materials and use them to build elaborate Lego-like structures. The graphics are primitive, but people have been busy replicated everything from York Minister Cathedral to working CPUs in Minecraft, leaving no doubt about how much we enjoy creating things with simple tools. Preorders sell at a discounted price and include access to the beta. Having already sold close to a million copies, there are likely plans to grow the development team to meet demand for this unusual offering.