IncGamers 2009 Year in Review Part 1

31 Dec 2009  by   Paul Younger
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Welcome to the first part of our annual year in review wrap-up, in which we’ve selflessly poured over the archives in order to facilitate your laziness. Happy New Year!JanuaryThe NewsThe year began with what we all wanted to see: a good old tear up between Microsoft and Sony, albeit via the medium of Street Fighter IV. We won’t lie to you; it was also nice to see everyone’s favourite moral superman Jack Thompson pleading to overturn his lifetime ban from the Florida Bar. However, there was bad news on the horizon too as it transpired Pandemic Brisbane’s aborted Dark Knight game was the final nail in its coffin, followed by rumours that big player THQ was on the verge of closure. January also saw Neversoft step down from the Tony Hawk franchise, declaring it was “probably best for the franchise.” How little it knew…The GamesNot traditionally a big-title month, January lived up to expectations with EA’s appallingly bad Lord of the Rings: Conquest proving that EA can squeeze blood (or indeed shit) out of a stone. The Mines of Moria expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, however, turned out a lot better.    FebruaryThe NewsThe month began with the news that Activision was done with the Bourne franchise after just one (mediocre) game. EA was quick to snatch up the license and the Ludlum Estate’s Jeffrey Weiner (yeah, we know) stated that it was refreshing to deal with “grown ups.” Oof. Game announcements were also plentiful in February with news of DJ Hero, Modern Warfare 2 and Red Dead Redemption with the first two due for release before the end of the year. The month ended somewhat depressingly with news that NCSoft’s MMO Tabula Rasa was to close and reports of job losses as troubled publisher THQ. One ray of light, however, came with the news that the talented Free Radical team (of Timesplitters fame) had been picked up by Crytek.The GamesEA’s Black Box proved it had some tricks up its sleeves with Skate 2, Football Manager Live coasted to a convincing win and FEAR 2 prompted a quick trouser change. Then came the good-but-hardly-the-second-coming Killzone 2, the utterly wonderful Street Fighter IV and Halo Wars which proved RTS can work on consoles.MarchThe NewsMarch was a month of concern for the UK games industry, with Tiga beginning its relentless campaign for tax breaks for developers while Tory MP Edward Vaizey warned that without government protection, the UK would fall further behind its competitors. Of course, the government is unlikely to look favourably on the games industry when it is still being blamed for senseless acts of violence like the shooting in Winnenden, Germany, which prompted some uninformed and frankly odd reactions. On a better note for the industry the ever-impressive Jesse Jackson (except when he talked about ripping Obama’s nuts off) refused to be drawn into a naïve and sensationalist condemnation of gaming by Labour’s kneejerk specialist, Keith Vaz MP. Oh, and PETA had a right old go at Activision over dog killing.The GamesFinally the Nintendo hardcore massive got a couple of titles to get excited about in the ultra-violent MadWorld and the criminally good Chinatown Wars, while air combat fans got a pretty smooth ride with HAWX. Other good releases saw Empire: Total War out-think the competition and Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 proved to be as tasty as brains to a zombie. For those gamers who prefer to drink from the dregs of the barrel there was also the shockingly bad Moto Racer DS, Destroy All Humans and the so-irritating-I-feel-Sega-owes-me-some-of-my-life-back Sonic and the Black Knight.AprilThe NewsApril turned out to be Lawsuit Month in 2009 as a whole host of devs and pubs proved that, in the words of Roy Castle, “litigation’s what you need”. First we heard that Microsoft had settled with Lionhead’s Jamie Durrant after he sued the company over alleged homophobic abuse suffered at work, followed by the news that Genius Products (the publisher behind Scratch: The Ultimate DJ) was suing Activision. It accused the latter of buying its developer 7 Studios in order to eliminate competition for DJ Hero. Activision fought hard, but lost, while a counter-suit against Genius was then filed by 7 Studios. Pretty much the only company not to get sued in April was EA, although it came pretty close. Beneath the mountain of legal wrangling, some interesting game news did emerge in April, most notably that the excellent Starbreeze was apparently working on a new title in Bullfrog’s classic Syndicate series.   The GamesWhile hardly a stellar month for games, we did see some good releases in the form of OTT third person shooter Wanted: Weapons of Fate, Afro Samurai and the impressive new Riddick title, Assault on Dark Athena. Obviously, this being the games industry, there was also a good deal of mediocrity with Ninja Blade and SOCOM: Confrontation.MayThe NewsEidos stole the show in May this year, confirming new titles in the Thief and Hitman series as well as a sequel to the promising-but-flawed Kane & Lynch. It was also announced that a new Tomb Raider film would reboot the franchise which sparked rumours of a gritty new game. Ubisoft also proved it was a major player in May, announcing its plans to enter the world of special effects following its partnership with Titanic’s James Cameron. I know what you’re thinking: it should be “Terminator’s James Cameron” but you don’t lay a cable like Titanic and walk away clean as a whistle.The GamesMay was a good month in gaming as THQ proved it can throw down with UFC 2009 Undisputed, Virtua Tennis 2009 won a straight sets victory and (Tamer will kill me if I don’t mention it) Boom Blox made an impressive return with Bash Party. Acrobatic action was also de rigueur in May with the slightly disappointing Bionic Commando reboot and Sucker Punch’s entertaining inFamous.  JuneThe NewsAfter a disappointing E3 in 2008, the big three were keen to make amends in June 2009. Nintendo showed a new Mario title, another new Mario title and a Team Ninja-developed new Metroid game. And it managed all of this without a Cammie Dunaway creepy grin in sight. Sony must have thought it had E3 all sewn up with its PSP Go, big sequels (God of War III, Uncharted 2) and motion controller but that was before Microsoft dwarfed its rival with a presentation featuring Spielberg, The Beatles and the mighty Project Natal.  In other June news, the Midway takeover left its Newcastle studio out in the cold, Zenimax acquired id and EA told God his writing was shit.The GamesDespite its talk of destruction, Red Faction: Guerilla was good but failed to bring the house down, Ghostbusters was not entirely free of demons and Velvet Assassin ought to have terminated itself. Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings turned out to be worse than the last film and Damnation was tortuous. Only Overlord II, The Sims 3 and Fight Night Round 4 could rescue the month.Read our Year in review July to December here.

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