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Letters from the Front

In many ways, the late 2000s was some of the greatest years in gaming history and we haven’t really received something like that in this current era in gaming history. 2007 was an extraordinary year for games, 2008 was the same with games that broke the barrier like Fallout 3 and Gears of War 2 and lastly, 2009 was the year that broke the glass ceiling with games like Uncharted 2 and Halo 3: ODST, the critically-acclaimed spin-off of the main entry that released two years prior.

Yesterday, we did PART I of some of these great and beloved games that are still with us that released in 2009. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the other biggest games and reminisce about them in this very important year in gaming history.

Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3: ODST was originally intended to be DLC for Halo 3, to plug in the gaps between Halo 3 and Halo: Reach but it grew into something larger and became one of the best games in the franchise.

The story begins halfway through the events of Halo 2, just as the Prophet of Regret enters slipspace and nukes the entire city of New Mombasa and it is here that the Rookie, an ODST, must find his team who have been scattered across the city and escape New Mombasa.

The ODSTs are the special operations unit of the UNSC Marine Corps which are inspired by the true to life USMC and many different branches within the USMC like Reconnaissance and the very real Marine Raiders, the ODSTs have been featured time and time again in previous games but it is here that they’re fleshed out. They’re fleshed out thanks to the many actors that voice the characters of this particular unit in the vast organization that is the ODSTs and once combined you have an unstoppable force. The voice acting made ODST one of the better games of 2009 and raised it above the level of many games that released in that year.

The story itself is one of intrigue and played out a lot like a pulp detective noire story with the Rookie investigating clues that could possibly lead to their rescue and unraveling the events that transpired before you woke up in your crashed pod. Your search of clues of what transpired in recent hours takes you through the burning sections and darker city streets of New Mombasa really made Halo 3: ODST raise above many of the games that released and became one of those very iconic games that you see every blue moon.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves really was the game that put Naughty Dog on the map as one of those beloved developers that we see today. Uncharted 2 solidified them as a powerhouse and solidified them with great potential as a developer and it ended up being one of the greatest titles on the Playstation 3 by the end of the decade.

When it released, Uncharted 2 received universal praise and critical acclaim, earning one of the best video games of all time and earned numerous GOTY rewards, including the now defunct the Spike TV’s Game of the Year awards among great scores from Metacritic which made the most critically acclaimed game of 2009. It would spawn 2 sequels with the fourth game-ending the journey of Nathan Drake and wrapping up the series.

Assassin’s Creed II

In 2007, the first Assassin’s Creed released to decent reviews and ended up selling millions of copies while the main criticism was a repetitive gameplay loop. In 2009, Assassin’s Creed II released and ended up being a masterpiece of a game.

Set in 15th century Italy, Ezio Auditore’s life and family has been destroyed which forces him to become an Assassin and hunt those who betrayed his family. It was an adventure that was weaved through a ton of exposition and gameplay that was drastically improved from the original game which propelled an exciting adventure. In many ways, Assassin’s Creed II was the Call of Duty 4 to Assassin’s Creed, making the franchise a giant overnight and as well making it the defining game of the entire franchise outside of the two new recent installments. When you think Assassin’s Creed, you just think of Assassin’s Creed II and that’s what Assassin’s Creed II did to the franchise. Assassin’s Creed II ended up being one of the most iconic games of 2009.

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead was one of the most interesting games of 2008 and it belongs to that great era that the 2007-2008 season was, an era of great innovation that is still felt today as gaming is being taken to new heights. It was absolutely legendary and iconic.

Left 4 Dead 2 followed a new group of survivors en route from Savannah to New Orleans in five separate campaigns. Left 4 Dead 2 ended up being a much more bigger and comprehensive package than the original game which made it beloved. Definitely one of the gems of 2009.

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City

Grand Theft Auto: Episodes of Liberty City was an on-disc bundle of the Grand Theft Auto IV trilogy which combined the expansion packs of Grand Theft Auto IV into one single package.

The package followed the exploits of biker Johnny Klebitz, who dies in Grand Theft Auto V, and club bouncer Louis Lopez around the same time as Niko Bellic’s exploits around Liberty City, both episodes featured Rockstar’s excellent writing and cultural satire of the American way of life. These two expansions made the underrated Grand Theft Auto IV even better, definitely try them out.

Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins marked the beginning of the RPG genre moving into the mainstream and into the spot light. KOTOR and Jade Empire laid the ground work and the original Mass Effect pushed it even further only to break the glass ceiling with Dragon Age: Origins.

Dragon Age: Origins was a return to form for BioWare as it was a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and took many inspirations from Baldur’s Gate but at a scale of a Triple A videogame. It was a strange combination which resulted in a middle in the fork of the road type of game with the great emphasis on old school mechanics of the late 90’s and early 2000’s with games like Diablo II and it knew what it wanted to be from the very beginning.

It’s great rise to fame and prominence did two key things, it proved that a hardcore and old fashioned game still have an audience that was beginning to dissipate with the likes of Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, games that kind of mainstreamed game mechanics a little bit while still being an old fashioned game that valued skill points and investing in your character and it established a new base for the genre much like Baldur’s Gate did in 1998. I wasn’t always a big fan of the Dragon Age games, especially after experiencing the greatness that was the original Mass Effect, but I always appreciated what Dragon Age did and has done for the RPG genre.

Today, much like the other games on this list, I look back at Dragon Age: Origins as a game ahead of its time and has one of those games that no longer exist as many games in the RPG genre move towards a more casualized experience.

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