With 2009 drawing to a close, we thought it was important to put down our PS3 controller -- and stop playing Modern Warfare 2's brilliant online multi-player mode -- just long enough to reflect on the best games we played over the year. Though it's probably physically impossible to play every game that came out, of the titles we tried, here are our top 10:
No. 10: Assassin's Creed II
Renaissance Italy is the star of Assassin's Creed II, complete with ornate structures full of ledges, railings, windowsills and protruding bricks. What better locale could there be for a character who can climb anything with nearly superhuman abilities?
The game's attention to detail and almost flawless environments -- as well as the ability to befriend Leonardo da Vinci and use his knowledge for weapons and vehicles -- make this world a great place to visit.
Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood, intense violence, sexual content, strong language).
No. 9: Fight Night Round 4
With its spectacular graphics and simple controls, it is easily the best boxing game of the last year, not even counting its big prize: the ability to stage the ultimate bout between "Iron Mike" Tyson and Muhammad Ali in their primes. This is how true boxing games should be done.
Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Teen (mild blood, mild lyrics, mild suggestive themes, language).
No. 8: Wolfenstein
With an outstanding pedigree (the game was designed by the guys who created first-person shooters), the Nazi shooter Wolfenstein takes the genre to a level last seen by the ridiculously good BioShock.
The controls are flawless, the graphics stunning and the story riveting. Add to that a nonlinear list of tasks and a plethora of nooks and crannies to explore, and you've got the best occult-driven World War II shooter of all time.
Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language).
No. 7: Wii Sports Resort
Though it's not the game-changer the original Wii Sports was when it came bundled with the console in 2006, Wii Sports Resort is a great collection of sports titles set in a picturesque tropical environment that offers something for everyone.
Of the 12 activities, our two favorites are archery and stunt flying. In archery, gamers hold the controllers as they would a real bow, pulling back the bowstring by separating their hands and then releasing a button to fire. In stunt flying, you hold the Wii remote like a paper airplane and tilt it to make the plane soar through the sky. Besides getting the Wii Motion Plus dongle (a sensitivity enhancer sure to have brilliant applications in the future), which comes included in the package, this is one resort that should be a destination for all Wii owners.
Details: Nintendo Wii platform; $49.99; rated Everyone (cartoon violence).
No. 6: Batman: Arkham Asylum
Forget Batman. The maximum-security prison in which this game is set is such a major component, perhaps the asylum should have received top billing. After all, the story is almost secondary: There are so many places to explore -- including sneakily hidden air ducts, secret passages and even hanging gargoyles from which Batman can swing. Besides the moody level design and giant melee fights, the caped crusader also must use "CSI"-style investigation techniques to uncover clues, a nice added wrinkle.
Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $59.99; rated Teen (alcohol and tobacco reference, blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence).
No. 5: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Sure, most of the gameplay involves the buying and selling of drugs, not the most moral or legal of activities. And yeah, it is a Grand Theft Auto title, which means copious amounts of violence, bad language and adult situations, hardly suitable for children.
But even though it was first released for the Nintendo DS, the premier game system for kids, one thing simply cannot be ignored: Chinatown Wars is the most technically sound DS game to date.
With a wide selection of music, a wide-open map with no load times, actual spoken voices, great multi-player modes and perfect use of the DS's touch screen (stealing a car requires manual dexterity!), this is the one game that shows us what is possible on the DS.
Details: Nintendo DS and PSP platforms; $29-$34.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, sexual content, strong language, violence).
No. 4: Boom Blox Bash Party
After the first Boom Blox caught us by surprise in 2008, we used it to show everyone we knew why they had to buy a Wii to play it. This year, along came the sequel, Boom Blox Bash Party, and we were all hooked anew.
The game has bright, colorful visuals, spot-on perfect controls and simple yet amusing fun. Some of the improvements to an already sound franchise include the co-op mode (team up with a pal to knock over the blocks) and a better level editor (which lets you download new levels created by the game designers as well as fans).
Details: Nintendo Wii platform; $39.99; rated Everyone (cartoon violence).
No. 3: Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time
The last installment of the signature PlayStation platformer doesn't disappoint. It neatly packs something for gamers of all ages into a well-written and -acted story with memorable characters who move about bright, colorful planets across a vast galaxy.
The action and variety (whether exploring interstellar worlds or engaging the enemy in "Star Wars"-type space battles) as well as the technical superiority of the title (shouldn't there be load screens like on other games?) are a must-have for PS3 owners who like platform-style games. And really, who doesn't like them?
So long, Ratchet & Clank. You'll definitely be missed.
Details: PlayStation 3 platform; $59.99; rated Everyone 10+ (animated blood, comic mischief, fantasy violence).
No. 2: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
This game doesn't just blur the line between video games and movies, it smashes it. In fact, it might be the best movie we've ever played. Intense action, realistic graphics and seamless cut-screens help tell the story of Nathan Drake as he seeks Marco Polo's lost treasures.
From the moment Uncharted 2 starts, with Drake dangling from a wrecked train over the edge of a snow-covered cliff, we realized we were in for something special. It didn't let us down.
What Uncharted 2 did do was show us that with a well-planned story -- in addition to a snappy script and some great voice acting -- it is possible for a game to be a better "movie" than most films. As technology advances and developers like Santa Monica-based Naughty Dog keep making titles like this, Hollywood should be worried.
Details: PlayStation 3 platform; $59.99; rated Teen (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence).
No. 1: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The story line rivals that of a good Tom Clancy novel, with twists and turns and "what the heck was that about?" surprises. Some of the events in the single-player campaign are spine-chilling and unsettling, yet always riveting. The well-designed multi-player enhancements continue the series' dominance of online play. The gameplay is nothing short of brilliant in any of the title's three modes: online, co-op and single player. The graphics are exceptional. . . .
Yeah, Modern Warfare 2 is just that good.
This outing will surely be remembered for a long time, and not just for the shocking massacre that causes the Russians to invade American soil; it's a culmination of a lot of great ideas and insight into how a truly engrossing war game should be made.
Now if you'll excuse us, we've got a long way to go until we get that highly coveted prestige-level emblem next to our name. And we can't wait to get it.
Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood, drug reference, intense violence, language).