Another early 2010 release, STALKER: Call of Pripyat was the most polished and epic title in the STALKER series to date, introducing several new features to the world. Sadly, however, Pripyat was also wounded by many of the same problems that plagued the STALKER series - an obtuse, almost nonsensical plot and an intimidating difficulty curve. It's still a hugely enjoyable game; just one that requires a little more work than some players might be willing to give.
A direct sequel to the first game in the series, Shadow of Chernobyl, Call of Pripyat focuses on the fallout that follows the destruction of the Brain Scorcher, which opens up the centre of the Zone and fundamentally alters the balance of power. The military attempts to seize control as best it can, but ends up losing contact with the five helicopters it sent in to scout the area. Thus, it falls to Major Degtyarev to find out what happened and rescue the survivors.
If there's one thing that Call of Pripyat will be remembered for, though, it's the introduction of daily emissions that rip through all levels, killing everything they touch. Every action in Call of Pripyat is affected by these emissions, as players can't afford to be too far away from shelter in case one should suddenly strike. Not only that, but emissions will fundamentally change the lay of the land too, by moving the deadly anomalies that fill the Zone to new locations.
Beyond the emissions, Call of Pripyat boasts all the usual hallmarks of a STALKER game - multiple endings, unconvincing voice actors and some of the most impressive lighting we've ever seen in a game. One feature it happily lacks, though, is the instability that plagued previous entries in the series. This is not only the biggest and most frightening STALKER game yet, but it's also the most stable and playable.
'Just Cause 2 isn't a game,' we said in our review back when the game was released in March. 'It's an explosion simulator.' We still think this is one of the truest statements we've ever written.
In an age where most AAA games boast complex plots and class-based multiplayer modes, Just Cause 2 bucks the trend by taking players back to a simpler type of action. The story is basic to the point of irrelevance - you're basically a Government-sponsored yob tasked with undermining a foreign power - and there's no multiplayer mode to speak of. There's just you, a massive world to explore and a grappling hook.
The grappling hook is what ties it all together, of course. Not only is it useful for leaping straight onto enemy cars, but you can also use it to tie enemies to each other, or even to the environment. It may sound like a little feature, but we've had hours of enjoyment tying helicopters together mid-flight, or latching ourselves on to punctured propane tanks in order to make hasty getaways.
All that is just for starters, too. There are planes, there are rockets, there are elaborate stunts. Heck, there's even a mission which has you parachuting on to mid-flight missiles.
Just Cause 2 isn't one of the deepest games of the year, and you'd probably only notice the script if you accidentally got a papercut off it. That doesn't matter, though, because Just Cause 2 compensates for all of that with the sheer amount of explosions and fun it delivers.