Ok, confession time: I really don't think I've played enough video games across the course of 2009 to make my own definitive declaration regarding the very best gaming experience(s) that this past year had to offer. Thomas McDonald of GAMES magazine and the National Catholic Register (readers of this blog may recognize him from his recent Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review discussed here on this blog within the past 2 weeks), however, has separated the wheat from the chaff, as it were, and has what some will consider a surprising choice for "Electronic Game of the Year": Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Full text of the review, with some parts bolded for emphasis by yours truly:
"Batman: Arkham Asylum was a true last-minute upset. The idea that a licensed superhero game might not only be outstanding, but qualify as the best game of the year, just wasn’t feasible. Sure, there have been a few good superhero titles: Marvel Ultimate Alliance, The Spider-Man and Hulk series, and…actually, that’s about it. None ever transcended their license to become a great games on their own. But, as we explored Arkham Asylum more deeply, all the gameplay elements began to evolve, and the locations and story line opened up. We started making shocking comparisons—not to other superhero games, but to certified masterpieces like Bioshock (arguably the finest game of the last decade).
Yes, Arkham Asylum is that good. The combination of three disparate elements—stealth action, plain old brawling, and even a bit of detective work—takes some time to gel, but once it does, the game becomes almost impossible to put down. The upgrade system and gradual introduction of new abilities are remarkably satisfying, and 240 “Riddler puzzles” (including riddles that involve careful examination of the environment) add a tremendous depth and flexibility to the gameplay. The production is topnotch, with performances by the stellar voice cast of Batman: The Animated Series (including Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the definitive Joker) and a terrific story and script by comic book writer and TV producer Paul Dini. The film is saturated with Batman lore and fan-service, and loaded to the gills with villains from the Dark Knight’s rogues’ gallery. It is, simply (and without any undue hyperbole), the best superhero game, ever. —Thomas L. McDonald
Haven't played the game, so I can't comment, but I know Mr. McDonald isn't the first to compare this game to Bioshock, nor the only one to name it Game of the Year for 2009.
Overall it's been a pretty good year for action game fans, with Resident Evil 5, God of War, Batman, Deadly Creatures, Uncharted 2, Assassin's Creed 2, and Bayonetta receiving accolades from both critics and fans alike. Modern Warfare 2 and Beatles Rock Band are also bound to get the GOTY nod from quite a few people, as well. I've been playing too much of 2008 (and even 2007's) games to weigh in on this subject, but I'm still curious to hear what others are thinking, if only to know what to buy from the Toys R' Us bargain bin a few months from now. Give me the scoop, readers: What's the best videogame of 2009?