10. SSX (PS3/Xbox 360)
Not the return to form many were hoping for, a sudden U-turn in development left SSX awkwardly combining grittiness (oxygen levels, avalanches, freezing conditions) with the series’ traditional over-the-top gameplay. A marked improvement over SSX on Tour, this failed to usurp SSX Tricky as the king of snowboarding action (and one of the greatest games of all time) but the next-gen visuals suggest the series could yet triumph.
9. Max Payne 3 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Almost a decade after the last instalment, Rockstar confidently brought Max back from the brink and into the sunny climes of Brazil. The combat is so dynamic and exhilarating that, for the most part, it’s a pleasure to keep working away at sections until you’ve got them nailed. That is until the protracted ending turns into one long grind and saps all the fun. Still, Max Payne 3 features stunning presentation and a courageous change of direction from the monochromatic snow-filled noir of the first two games.
8. Diablo III (PC)
Controversy continues to plague this release but, as long as you have an always-on internet connection, there’s no reason to deprive yourself of this staggering package of action RPG fun. Click on monsters until they burst, then collect their loot. Rinse and repeat. There’s a staggering amount of game in Diablo III and the production values from Blizzard are typically top notch.
7. Dear Esther (PC)
A game unlike any other, this is more like interactive fiction. Set on a deserted Hebridean island, you must explore the weathered landscape to discover who you are and how you came to be there, perpetually beckoned towards the faint glow of a radio beacon. A fascinating experience but certainly no challenge, Dear Esther is one of the most beautiful, evocative and atmospheric games around but its determined linearity will forever divide opinion.
6. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
It may seem like just another update for the 1999 Half-Life mod but, considering Counter-Strike remains a stalwart of multiplayer gaming, this release is a big deal. The focus here is firmly on competitive play, with proper matchmaking, long overdue since Starcraft II brought that to the fore. With Valve’s continued support, this should dominate the competitive FPS scene.
5. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
It’s no mean feat to successfully bring back turn-based strategy to a modern title in today’s gaming climate so kudos to Civilization developer Firaxis for doing so with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Take control of a squad of futuristic soldiers and do battle with a range of alien beings in this satisfying slice of old-school strategy.
4. Mass Effect 3 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
It features one of the most controversial game endings of all time, but to focus on the final few minutes of this epic trilogy does it a tremendous injustice. Full of memorable characters, diverse environments and tough choices, Mass Effect 3 at least has the guts to bring about a proper ending.
3. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
The blistering fusion of racing and vehicular combat in Need for Speed: Most Wanted builds on the foundations of the Frostbite 2 game engine, creating one of the most beautiful and satisfying racers ever made. Featuring dozens of real-world cars in races and police pursuits, the speed will make your eyes water, while the thundering dubstep soundtrack may make your ears bleed.
2. Dishonored (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
A franchise is born in this stealth-based shooter, a fusion of Thief, Bioshock and Half-Life. The London/Edinburgh-inspired city of Dunwall is one of the most fascinating environments of recent times and the combat mechanics are gloriously inventive. While the levels are a little restrictive, Dishonored offers up an interesting, well-told story at a time when such a thing seems to be going out of fashion.
1. Far Cry 3 (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Third time’s a charm for this open-world shooter series. Far Cry 3's emergent gameplay makes every encounter a fresh experience as you explore one of the most stunning landscapes ever created. The collection of tropical islands is stunningly rendered, creating an atmospheric shooter with freedom in spades and the technical prowess to bring everything together.