We have four finalists in our 2010 Game Of The Year awards. All worthy contenders, but as has been pointed out, all are also either sequels or continuations of older series. So let's take a look at how far they've come.
In case you're only just joining us, the four games nominated by Kotaku editors for our 2010 GOTY award are Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, NBA2K11 and Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Below, we'll see the first game in their respective franchises and compare it to the title nominated, just to give you an idea of how far (or how little) they've progressed since then.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.
RED DEAD REVOLVER
This is the franchise that's undergone perhaps the biggest change. Red Dead Revolver, released in 2004, actually began life as a Capcom action title, and was only purchased by current publishers Rockstar when it was cancelled. Adding a little more Western (as in, the genre) flair to the game than its Japanese developers were capable of, it was a passable action title with a lovable cast of comical Western stereotypes.
You'll notice that Annie Stokes, your female ally in the above clip, bears more than a passing resemblance to Red Dead Redemption's Bonnie Macfarlane.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION
Oh, how everything changed for its second outing. Released in May on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Red Dead Redemption does away with the confined levels of the first game in favour of an open world more reminiscent of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto titles. It also gives up the comic schtick from the first game - which had English gunmen and men with cannons for arms - in favour of a grittier, more "realistic" tone reminiscent of darker, more mature Western films.
If Red Dead had to travel the farthest to get where it is today, Mass Effect - built on the same engine and starring the same characters in the same storyline - has barely taken a step.
Improvements were made between the two games, though, as you'll see below. First up, Mass Effect (released in 2007), which in hindsight had some damn sparse environments and some hum-drum dialogue. At least compared to what was coming...
MASS EFFECT 2
Mass Effect 2, released on Xbox 360 and PC in January 2010 (and PS3 in January 2011), may look the same on the surface, but a lot of improvements were made to its trimmings and finer points.
It's more action-packed, it's got better writing, better gunplay and the characters are more rounded (some even finding the time to be hilarious).
Those whose first look at the NBA2K franchise with this year's Michael Jordan extravaganza may be shocked to see that the series began life all the way back in 1999. On the Sega Dreamcast.
If you need me to point out that everything has changed since then, you probably shouldn't be playing the game.
NBA2K11 was released in October 2010 on the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS2, Wii and PSP.
CALL OF DUTY
The first Call of Duty, developed by Infinity Ward, was released in 2003, so yeah, things have changed in the intervening years. Millions of dollars worth of development money and millions of copies sold mean that eight years after the series debuted Call of Duty today looks almost unrecognisable compared to its first outing.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS
Call of Duty: Black Ops was released in November 2010, and while it looks vastly different to the first game, critics will note that when you get down to it, it doesn't play that differently.