Friday, December 19, 2008

Game Of The Year?

Last year I unhesitatingly declared the Dust Forms Words Game of the Year to be Mass Effect. And I'd do it again, damn yer eyes. It beat out Portal, which to my mind was its only real competition.

This year it's a tighter field, and I've unfortunately not played a couple of key contenders, so before I go ahead and give the highly coveted and totally imaginary trophy away I thought I'd see if you wanted to weigh in.

What do you think should be the Dust Forms Words 2008 Game of the Year? Don't embarass me with a comment shortage - if you're reading this, give me your two cents, regardless of how many games you've personally played this year. Otherwise you can't complain if I give it to Imagine Party Babiez.

Also let me know if you think a game deserves some other award. Most underappreciated? Best character? Best story? Most original? Best browser game? It's a free-for-all, go nuts.


Sparky said...

Here's an idea: Wii Fit. It would at least drive home the point that the "core" gamers are not really dominating the market anymore.

Greg Tannahill said...

Interesting! I'd forgotten Wii Fit was this year. I'll reserve my replies till (hopefully) more people comment.

Scott Leis said...

I think I've only played three new games this year, and one's an expansion so the term "new" is used loosely: Wrath of the Lich King, Mirror's Edge, and Spore.

My vote goes to Mirror's Edge, though I've only reached "Chapter 2" so far.

Wrath of the Lich King is a great addition to WoW, but there's no real innovation there, and it doesn't seem right to label an expansion as "game of the year".

Spore consists of several cool bits stuck together. It makes good use of player-generated content, and the in-game creature editor is good, but I got bored half-way through stage 2. IMO, it's not really a "game of the year" contender.

Grant said...

The Game of the Year is Grand Theft Auto 4. No contest. Nothing coming close to a contest. One might think there was another game that approached something resembling a contest, but of course they would be wrong.

Rewnad said...

This year being so busy I'm ashamed to say despite starting a few I haven't managed to finish any game.

In truth most of my gaming hours have gone towards Rockband but since that came out last year I'm gonna have to say of the starts of games i've played tempered with opinions from friends with taste I'd have to say the stand out this year is Fallout 3.

OOH!! I forgot Braid. Braid was awesome and I finished it!

juffles said...

Grant is wrong because GTA4 does not have zombies. GotY should always have zombies if possible, and bonus points for multiple shotguns.


Rewnad said...

hmmm Grant posted while I was posting... he has a point. GTA IV was good too.

Greg Tannahill said...

I ask this question, pointing mostly at GTA4 - is it better to reward a game that tries very little which is new, but executes an old format with unmatched precision and flair? Or a game with less technical excellence which explores new territory and genuinely provokes thought?

Greg Tannahill said...

Also, bearing in mind that I don't talk a lot about PS3 games and therefore probably haven't attracted a lot of PS3 owners - does anyone want to say something on behalf of LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2, Metal Gear Solid 4 or any of the PixelJunk games?

juffles said...

Last year you gave it to Mass Effect over Portal - haven't you answered your own question? :)

Greg Tannahill said...

That was more a question of scope; Mass Effect was a further reaching game than Portal and thus had more ways in which it could amaze. Portal was really only a flash game transposed into 3D and infused with some kick-ass storytelling.

It's like asking which was better - Devil May Cry 1 or 3. 3's technically the better game, but only because it serves up the first game all over again with some very incremental improvements. If you could only play one, it should probably be 3, but the original was the greater achievement. It's a tough call.

Sparky said...

It's a tough question, and I don't think there's a nice, pat answer that can be given. In general, I'd rather reward innovation than refinement. I really loved Fallout 3, but when someone asked me nicely to name my game of the year, I couldn't bring myself to choose it. Despite the scale of the accomplishment, I didn't feel it went in enough new directions. At the same time, I couldn't choose Braid either, because of its inaccessibility. In the end I chose creativity and innovation over polish. GTA IV and Fallout 3 are both amazing accomplishments, but they were not risky games to make. Braid and Mirror's Edge were. Greatness only comes to those who dare greatly.

Rewnad said...

Oh yeah.. Little Big Planet.
While not a Ps3 owner I have played it a few of times at various friends houses and the game is pure joy. Tremendous amounts of fun, especially with friends.

At this rate it might have to be a "games" of the year...

Morgan said...

Personally, I think it comes to down either Far Cry 2 or GTA4... and those are probably the two I'm going to decide between.

Sparky mentioned Wii Fit, pointing out that it would drive home that core gamers don't make the market anymore. From what I remember, Wii Fit received some pretty bland reviews.

So on what criteria does one decide their Game of the Year? Sales figures? Reviews? Personal opinion (although if some are to be believed, your opinion may be influenced too much by your experience with the game)?

Which means that yes, Wii Fit would probably win on sales figures.

Greg Tannahill said...

Meh, if we went by sales figures I'd end up giving it to Madden 09, so let's throw that idea out.

The year of the casual gamer was 2006, and if I didn't give the award to Brain Training, Cooking Mama or Animal Crossing WW then, I'm sure as hell not going to do it on this year's sub-par casual crop. 2008 was all about punching back at the casual swing, as demonstrated in the absolute truckload of AAA hardcore titles that debuted on the 360 over the last few months.

Alternatively, you could call 2008 about reconciling casual and hardcore, and point to titles like LittleBigPlanet and the new Prince of Persia.

Should point out that no-one's mentioned any of the year's DS titles yet. I certainly haven't forgotten about them...

Jon said...

I suspect this will be considered cheating, but I'll nominate Bully (which I only played when it came out for the 360 this year). Best use of the GTA formula so far; great atmosphere, characters, gameplay. I'd love to pick GTA IV, but it just made too many dumb decisions (annoying social sub-game, pointless collectibles, scripted chases after indestructible vehicles, etc).

Braid was also outstanding for the level of artistry and self-commentary involved.

If I'd played more widely or adventurously this year I suspect my pick would be different. So it goes.

Greg Tannahill said...

I was deeply unimpressed by Bully when I played it so whatever its objective merits I can pretty much assure you it's not going to be my Game of the Year.

Braid's a strong contender but my reservation is that it's a very introverted game; it's more like a postcard from the Gaming Nirvana than it is the Nirvana itself. My internal jury is still out on that idea.

Does no-one in the crowd have love for Patapon or Persona 4? Or even Guitar Hero World Tour?

Greg Tannahill said...

Also for contemplation:

Super Smash Bros Brawl
Burnout Paradise
Disgaea 3
Sins of a Solar Empire
Devil May Cry 4
Red Alert 3
SoulCalibur 4
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Saints Row 2
Dead Space
Call of Duty: World at War
Prince of Persia
Professor Layton & The Curious Village

And you know what? Between that list and the discussion above, my secret contender still hasn't been named.

Phrancq said...

Is your secret contender the PETA edition of Cooking Mama?

Seriously though, if we base it on the best combination of
effort, enjoyability and originality, then SoulCalibur 4 is out for me. Same with GTA 4. I can only play the same game so many times if they only make superficial changes and nothing else.

For me, 2008 has been the year of the word but. All the major releases are plagued by that word half way through any description.
"Left 4 Dead is a great co-op experience but..."
"GTA 4 will be remembered as a great achievement in the series but..."
"Fable 2 shows some fantastic ideas but..."

And I don't need to finish any of those. You know straight away what the gaping flaws are. I found that across the board this year. There is no such thing as a perfect game but in 2008 the flaws were bigger.

Where's the call out for Castle Crashers?

Greg Tannahill said...

Without having played GTA4 I'm not prepared to write off the improvements as superficial.

At this point I think I've made my choice for Game of the Year, but just like last year I'll leave the announcement 'til the first week of January. Who knows, I might play something awesome between now and then.

Morgan said...

What you have to remember is that most games have a couple of "but"s. I think the reason that the word featured a lot more often was due to the huge dose of 10/10 reviews that many games have been given this year.
In my opinion, 10/10 is a perfect, unattainable score, just as 0/10 is a horrid unattainable score. They exist simply as points on the compass.

Anyway, as for your list Greg:
Super Smash Bros Brawl - Fun with friends, but not fun enough.
Burnout Paradise - Good first impression, crashing mechanic ruins racing mechanic in later game.
Disgaea 3 - Never played.
Sins of a Solar Empire - Good fun game that I spent this last weekend playing with friends. Not quite Company of Heroes though (but I am still enjoying it immensely).
Devil May Cry 4 - Heh. Action game.
Red Alert 3 - You may as well give the award to Red Alert 2.
SoulCalibur 4 - Heh. Fighting game.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed - Nice idea, eh follow-through. Dodgy platforming made me return it.
Saints Row 2 - I am still enjoying this great free-world game. Much more fun with a friend, but the entire thing feels slightly repetitive.
Dead Space - I am confused on this one. Some awesome mechanics, but I can't see through the key hunting gameplay and the corridor shooting.
Call of Duty: World at War - Broken PC co-op, rode CoD4's success.
Prince of Persia - If it was marketed as a children's game, then it would stand a chance. Repetitive platforming ruins the artwork.

Sorry about the long post.

Sparky said...

You're forgetting The World Ends With You. Original and inventive would otherwise be words that belonged nowhere near the JRPG genre this year. Regardless of its quality, Persona 4 is barely iterative on Persona 3's design, from what I hear.

Anonymous said...

GREG! how did you not mention The World Ends With You, CHRONO TRIGGER or Professor Layton and the Curious Village? The latest trauma centre wasn’t bad either at least for the best English DS game category...

(what? you didn’t mean for there to be categories? you aren’t even contemplating asking my opinion of the best Japanese dating-sim/witch-touching/ frilly zombie game?!!)

Knowing as I do that my opinion of HOTT games is vastly different to the non-frill wearing general gamer community... I just want to put it out there that ‘POP CUTIE street fashion simulation’ is probably my favourite DS release of 2008. Simple, cute and highly addictive.

Also won points for being a Harajuku sim.

Then again my other option is likely to be something like Taiko no tatsujin DS 2 , or gods help you Doki Doki Majo Shinpan DUO…

The new Daigasso band brothers game had karaoke!!

*shuts up*


Greg Tannahill said...

I think Chrono Trigger got enough praise when it was first released in the 90s. It can sit in the corner and let other kids have their turn now.

I -did- mention Professor Layton. Which I liked, although it would have done better if the puzzles hadn't been quite so crappy.

The "new Trauma Centre" isn't out in Australia yet, to the best of my knowledge, and it's only you R4 types and Americans who've had the chance to play it. Similarly, I liked Daigasso and Taiko Master but I'm not going to give them any awards until they get a Western release.

Doki Doki Majo 2 might get some kind of negative award...

Morgan said...

I've just been over at Gamespot, looking at their Best of 2008 Awards (that almost makes it sound like a geographical location, rather than a website), and it's amazing how often Metal Gear Solid 4 and Dead Space popped up.

Of course, Gamespot limits the voting on each award to 5 different choices (except for the GOTY award, which has 10). Most disappointing for me was the lack of Far Cry 2 in almost everything.
It featured in two of the twenty or so awards, and didn't come close to winning either (as of when I checked... about 10.30am on 23/12/08).

All that aside, Far Cry 2. Love it.

Greg Tannahill said...

Probably because it's Gamespot, fans of the quick buck. MGS4 and Dead Space are two high-grade titles that didn't sell as well as they should have, put out by big-money publishers who can afford to throw around some money to give these franchises a second shot at success.

They are, from all accounts, very good games, but you have to wonder what other very good games from less affluent publishers got overlooked.

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to throw another vote in for Far Cry 2, Braid, Grand Theft Auto IV and Fallout 3.
Without them, this year would have been rather dull.

Greg Tannahill said...

Man, at this rate I'm going to have to actually play Far Cry 2 and GTA4. And here I was thinking that running a personal blog exempted me from even-handedness and rational decisions.

Wall-E was the year's best animated movie. There is a videogame based on that movie. Wall-E: The Game an obvious lock for Game of the Year? Answer: very likely! The reverse of that logic gives Uwe Boll the Oscar, which is another totally non-horrific result.