I’ve been blogging in one form or another since March of 2001, and I think it’s fair to say without getting into too much detail that quite a lot has changed since then. But at least one thing has stayed the same: I love doing year-end wrap-ups.
I’ve been looking forward to writing this particular post since I left the GameSpot forums and started SFTC back in January; I got even more excited about it when I realized I could cover all the major platforms this summer. I’ve been rocking a goddamned EXCEL SPREADSHEET for this post for the last 3 weeks, people.
And of course, here I am, finally writing it, and I’m writing about how excited I am instead of getting on with it.
Here’s the raw data.
I played 73 games that were released this year. Of those 73:
I purchased 48 (13 of which are XBLA titles);
I traded in 9 of those titles towards other games; and
I rented 25 games.
360: 52 titles (including XBLA)
I “finished” 13 games. This is a tricky criteria, though, because the idea of “finishing” certain titles can be misleading. I finished the story in Grand Theft Auto 4, but I only completed 75% of the game; likewise, I beat Fable 2 but that game can be played forever. I beat one campaign in Left 4 Dead, but there are 3 others that I haven’t started. Should that count? In Civilization Revolution, I finished 3 different campaigns as 3 different races – and on both the 360 and the DS – but there’s a bunch of other races that I never played as, and even then, I only ever finished a campaign in one specific manner. Sports games are a different matter; I finished an entire PGA Season in Tiger Woods 09, and that took me a rather considerable amount of time, but I didn’t finish the Tiger Challenge. Anyway. The games I “finished” are:
- Prince of Persia
- Gears of War 2
- Fable 2
- Tomb Raider Underworld
- Professor Layton
- Penny Arcade Adventures Vol. 1
- Lego Indiana Jones
- Lost Odyssey
- Bond 007: Quantum of Solace
- Tiger Woods 09
Likewise, I count 10 titles that I didn’t play long enough to really get a sense of at all; these were either rentals that I took a quick look at and then bounced back to Gamefly ASAP, hoping to free up my queue for releases that I was more excited about, or XBLAtitles that I knew I wanted but didn’t have time to dive into. They include:
- Banjo-Kazooie (xbla re-release)
- Battlefield: Bad Company
- Bionic Commando
- Chrono Trigger
- Midnight Club: LA
- Penny Arcade Adventures Vol. 2
- Resistance 2
- Star Ocean: First Departure
- The World Ends With You
- Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
And now, on with the business.
Best Action (Platformer): Little Big Planet (Prince of Persia, Mirror’s Edge, Tomb Raider Underworld)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that the platforming genre is dead over the last few years. I feel like the platformer might be coming back, and people just don’t know it yet. Super Mario Galaxy might be what people have in mind when they think of what platforming means these days, but they’re discounting stuff like Assassins Creed, Prince of Persia, Mirror’s Edge and Tomb Raider Underworld which for all their 3D trappings are ultimately just as faithful to the tried and true conventions of the genre (go from point A to point B, collect stuff, engage in mindless combat). That said, Little Big Planet is on another level entirely. Leaving aside the part of the game where you create your own levels, the actual pre-packaged game that arrives on the disc is bursting with creativity and joy. And the best part is that your incentive for collecting random doodads is that the doodads end up being stuff you can use to build your own levels with. Maybe my biggest regret of 2008 is not spending enough quality time with this one; every time I play it I end up smiling.
Best Action (FPS/3PS): Metal Gear Solid 4 (Gears of War 2, Left 4 Dead, God of War: Chains of Olympus)
Nobody is more surprised than me to see this game win in this category. I fucking HATE Metal Gear Solid games, and some of the cutscenes in this game could qualify as the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. But here’s the thing; this game, when you were done listening to crazy people saying crazy things and actually playing it, was fucking badass. I think Snake’s OctoCamo suit might just be the coolest stealth gadget I’ve ever seen, and it couldn’t ever exist in something like Splinter Cell because it’s completely ridiculous.
Best Puzzle: Braid (Professor Layton, World of Goo, Peggle Nights, Poker Smash)
Believe it or not, this was one of the hardest categories for me to choose a winner. The one knock against Braid is its lack of replayability, but the first time through was a truly mesmerizing, jaw-dropping experience.
Best Horror: Dead Space (Silent Hill: Homecoming, Condemned 2)
I’m not really one for horror games, but I must give credit where credit is due: Dead Space is excellent. I’m reluctant to really call it a horror title – it’s startling and creepy, but it doesn’t really inspire feelings of dead – but that’s the genre in which it was marketed and I’m not going to argue with marketers. It features outstanding production values and rock-solid mechanics.
Best RPG: Fallout 3 (Fable 2, Penny Arcade Vol. 1, Sonic Chronicles)
I haven’t finished Fallout 3; I think I might be intimidated by it, actually. But what I’ve played of it – I’d say I’ve put in 8-12 hours – is staggering.
Best JRPG: Lost Odyssey (Crisis Core: FF7, Infinite Undiscovery)
It got tedious near the end, but let’s be honest – JRPGs are nothing if not tedious. You can’t play something for 70 hours and not suffer from fatigue. It’s a credit to what Lost Odyssey gets right, however, that it’s worth sticking with it for that long. Excellent design, interesting combat mechanics, and those stunning written cutscenes more than compensated for the grating music and cheesy script.
Best Family Game: Rock Band 2 (Boom Blox)
I don’t feel right making this my GOTY if only because I never played the first one and everything I’ve heard indicates that RB2 is basically just a better, more polished iteration of that. Still, I had 16 people in my apartment this past weekend and we played RB2 for about 6 hours, and it might have been the best party ever.
Best Sports: Tiger Woods 09 (MLB09, Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds)
Best Tiger game yet. I spent an absurd amount of time with this game over the summer.
Best Driving: Pure (Burnout Paradise, Mario Kart)
This game came out of nowhere, and I feel badly that I stalled out on it about halfway through. Excellent graphics and track design.
Best Graphics: Gears of War 2 (Metal Gear Solid 4, Pure, Little Big Planet, Fallout 3, Braid)
Every time I think I’m sick of the Unreal engine, Epic comes along and reminds everybody how awesome it is.
Best DS: Professor Layton (Sonic Chronicles, Civilization Revolution)
Remember when the DS was getting all these awesome, innovative games? Those days were great.
Best PSP: God of War: Chains of Olympus (Crisis Core: FF7)
Remember when the PSP looked like this awesome handheld system with crazy amounts of untapped potential and not at all like a waste of $150? That week was great.
Best XBLA: Braid (Geometry Wars 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Poker Smash, N+)
XBLA had absolutely fantastic year. I feel a little bad about not giving PSN titles and WiiWare titles their own winners, but there wasn’t a tremendous amount to get excited for on those titles, and I only had so much time, cash, and hard drive space.
Best 360-exclusive: Gears of War 2 (Fable 2, Lost Odyssey)
I might have played the most games on the 360 this year, but I’m a little surprised at how few of those games were 360-exclusive. (I’m not sure Left 4 Dead should count as a 360 exclusive, either, since a lot of people are enjoying it on the PC.)
Best PS3-exclusive: Metal Gear Solid 4 (Little Big Planet)
I use my PS3 primarily as a BluRay player, but it’s nice to be reminded every once in a while that I can do other, awesome things with it.
Best Wii-exclusive: Boom Blox (Mario Kart)
I think I’m giving the Wii until next summer to start releasing games for the serious gamer (or, at the very least, start teasing release dates). I can’t believe how quickly I soured on it; within 3 weeks of owning it I was already bored with it. Boom Blox was a lot of fun until my wife and I both started waking up the next morning with tired arms. I feel bad about not giving Okami more credit, but I only ever got around to spending but a few hours with it before getting distracted and moving on.
Best Multiplayer: Left 4 Dead (Rock Band 2, Boom Blox, Gears 2)
Best Soundtrack/Voice Acting: Grand Theft Auto 4
You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you? You didn’t think I was going to get through my entire awards without giving GTA4 something? I’m going to be honest here – I cheated and deliberately omitted GTA4 out of most of its applicable categories because otherwise this post would get awfully repetitive. These particular categories, however, had no clear runner-ups; GTA4 had the best soundtrack, the best voice acting, and the best dialog out of any game this year, and it wasn’t even close.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Grand Theft Auto 4
- Rock Band 2
- Fallout 3
- Left 4 Dead
- Metal Gear Solid 4
- Professor Layton
- Little Big Planet
- Geometry Wars 2
- Civilization Revolution (360)
Publisher of the Year: EA (which is astounding for me to admit)
Best New IP (maybe the hardest category to grade): Left 4 Dead
- Dead Space
- Little Big Planet
- Professor Layton
- Boom Blox
- Left 4 Dead
- Lost Odyssey
- Too Human
- Mirror’s Edge
- The World Ends With You (I know I didn’t play it very much, but too many people loved the shit out of this one)
Most Crack-Like: Civilization Revolution
Most Disappointing: Mercenaries 2
Worst Game Of The Year: MLB2K8
Most Disappointing Platform: PSP/Wii (tie)
Game Design Shortcut That Needs to Stop Being Used: QTE Events (which also is a redundant phrase)
Best Moment: Playing drums in Rock Band 2
Worst Moment: Messing up the progress in an Achievement hunt for Tiger 09
Best Game I Did Not Finish: God Of War: Chains of Olympus
Shortest Time Spent With A Game Because It Sucked: MLB2K8 (10 minutes)
Shortest Time Spent With A Game Not Because It Was Bad But Because I Did Not Care: Resistance 2 (10 minutes)
Maybe I’m Not Such A Whore After All (I Didn’t Buy This Game, Despite Being a Huge Fan of the License): Strong Bad games
Just Kidding, I Am Totally A Whore: Penny Arcade games
Most Time Spent With A Game: Grand Theft Auto 4 (36 days, according to 360voice.com)
Most Overlooked: Saints Row 2
Best Multiplayer Mode: Gears of War 2: Horde
Biggest Douchebag: Drebin (MGS4), Prince (PoP), the entire cast of Devil May Cry 4 (tie)
Biggest Game I Didn’t Play: Spore
Favorite Achievement: Wax Off – Geometry Wars 2