It's time to reveal our Game of the Year Awards for 2010, so sit back and prepare to lay eyes on the winners. It took some time – as it always does – and we have a few surprises in store, the last of which is an indication of how much thought went into the biggest decision. It's always surprising how much stuff we have to consider; it's more than you might think, especially when it comes to drastically different games…
Anyway, here we go:
Winner: God of War III
The artistic atmosphere of Brotherhood , the flashes of unparalleled visual brilliance in GT5, the awesome character detail of Heavy Rain , and the stunning CGI of FFXIII didn’t quite measure up to the breathtaking tour de force that was God of War III . Loaded with some of the most impressive detail anyone has ever seen, GoWIII continues to push the graphical envelope at every turn; Cronos alone would’ve been enough to put this one into winning position. Who needs cut-scenes/CGI when gameplay looks like this ?!
Winner: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Although it’s traditional to give this award to a game based entirely on music, like Rock Band 3 or DJ Hero 2 , we’ve decided that the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies our adventures in Rome can’t go unrewarded. Besides, although the track lists in both the aforementioned music-based titles were solid, it’s hardly unexpected and in truth, nothing we haven’t heard before. The soundtrack from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood continually puts the player in 15th/16th century Italy, and always seems to conform to every new situation.
Best Sound Effects
Winner: Gran Turismo 5
When a game emulates hundreds upon hundreds of vehicle engines with perfect precision, provides us with pinpoint-accurate on-track effects, and goes that extra mile for the sake of authenticity, we have to take notice. The sharp, clean, intense effects found in most shooters these days remains great, but it’s starting to all blend together and in truth, none of them stand head-and-shoulders above other FPS competition. Besides, there’s so much Polyphony Digital had to get right, which ups the level of sound achievement in Gran Turismo 5 to truly epic proportions.
Winner: Red Dead Redemption
It was one of the more difficult categories to choose, as every last title on the nomination list featured strong performances that made the entire experience better. But after much thought, we concluded that Rockstar’s Western deserved the award: John Marsten is perfect but beyond that, there were dozens upon dozens of important characters – even with different dialects, when one crosses the border – and somehow, every last one of them sounded realistic. The entire cast did an amazing job in Red Dead Redemption and it’s a huge cast; that was the tipping point.
Winner: Heavy Rain
You can talk about the little plot holes all you wish, but to compare the overall writing, dialogue, and branching storylines to any other game this year is almost silly. Granted, that’s sort of because FFXIII didn’t really impress us in the plot department, and with RPGs and other story-driven experiences taking a back seat in 2010, there wasn’t a huge amount of competition. We really liked RDR but it seemed to drag in certain spots, and we still have a problem with how they handled part of the climax… Quantic Dream gave us a gut-wrenching, well-written, emotional story; Heavy Rain is in a class of its own.
Best Artistry/Art Direction
Winner: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
This same award went to Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood 's predecessor, and for the very same reasons. Without the downright ridiculous level of effort put into every building, every NPC, and every animation, we don’t have that same immersive atmosphere. Take one look at almost any given landmark in the game (the Pantheon, perhaps) and you’ll understand why even GoWIII’s tremendous character and vista detail couldn’t grab this award. Ubisoft’s meticulous, tireless efforts to recreate Renaissance Rome are just amazing, and always much appreciated.
Best New Character
Winner: Fang, Final Fantasy XIII
In this new category, we’re going with a dark horse. John Marsten was a memorable bad-ass and for those in the know, Scott Shelby was a great character from a literature standpoint. One could also adore Bayonetta’s over-the-top, cheesy/sassy style and Lightning exists on her own merits. But Fang somehow took over the role of heroine in our eyes, and her fierce loyalty to her friends, ceaseless willingness to fight and protect said friends, and ultimate sacrifice make her stand out in our eyes. It also helps that she had the benefit of possibly the game’s best voice performer.
Winner: Final Fantasy XIII, International Trailer
Just to clarify, only games that released in 2010 can qualify for Best Trailer, and it doesn’t really matter when the trailer came out. This is about the best video preview that might be seen by any gamer doing research on a particular title, and this year, it has to go to FFXIII’s International Trailer. The others are fantastic but the gorgeous CGI, coupled with healthy doses of storyline and gameplay, make FFXIII’s signature trailer epic and unforgettable. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of the game, you can’t watch that video and not be impressed.
Winner: Heavy Rain
This one wasn’t hard. Despite MAG ’s drive to greatly enhance online multiplayer gaming and this little furry creature that seems to bounce around your living room, nothing could outstrip Heavy Rain . In many ways, we’re looking at the future of the industry or at the very least, the next step in interactive storytelling. Indigo Prophecy was merely a glimpse; Quantic Dream pulled out all the stops for this generation and provided us with a startling revelation: this is how virtual dramas could be, given some serious time, effort and ambition.
Winner: Yakuza 3
One might be able to make a good argument for just about any title on the list but in our view, American gamers have been overlooking this franchise for far too long. Yakuza 3 is arguably the best yet and if we want Sega to keep localizing these titles, we're going to have to take notice. It's a PS3 exclusive that is a cross between GTA and Shenmue , and the combination of quality storytelling and awesome bare-knuckle bashing is intoxicating, and well worth an avid gamer's time. Sure, it has subtitles but you want the authentic Japanese voices, right?
Winner: White Knight Chronicles
Although the easy choice might be Gran Turismo 5 , we give most critics a semi-free pass due to their ignorance on the subject. Most, as gamers and nothing more, simply didn’t know what they were looking at. In many ways, we have similar opinions concerning Medal of Honor . But with White Knight Chronicles , we just believe most critics were unfairly harsh; we didn’t quite understand what they were talking about. While it has its flaws, WKC satisfied a great many role-playing fans, and you will find the game has a very loyal set of followers. Deservedly so.
Most Anticipated Game
Winner: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
That list is just insane. One would think that we’d sit there, hemming and hawing for a very long time. But…well, Naughty Dog is making this new Uncharted game, see, and it’s scheduled for November 1, 2011. Considering that, everything else seems to pale in comparison; that’s just how high our expectations are, and how mind-numbingly amazing Uncharted 3 is gonna be. While we desperately want to play every last title listed above, there’s only one that makes us go, “something horribly bad should happen to anyone who doesn’t play it.”
Best Multiplayer Game
Winner: Gran Turismo 5
We start the Genre Awards with what may be the biggest surprise to the reader: we buck the standards by not giving it to a shooter. In our eyes, Black Ops and Bad Company 2 have their own merits and are very fulfilling in different ways, and MAG has become something very special over time. But you know, we just couldn’t look past the immense online multiplayer world of Gran Turismo 5 . When you factor in the last couple of updates, playing with others has never been quite so deep, quite so intricate, and quite so vast in terms of options, diversity, and versatility.
Best Downloadable Game
Winner: Joe Danger
We loved ‘em all but in truth, this category is a no-brainer. Joe Danger is simply in a whole other universe in the realm of digital titles in 2010; supremely polished and endlessly entertaining (and challenging!), it’s both highly entertaining and addictive. A modern-day take on Excitebike and featuring more gameplay than most full $60 titles, this downloadable gem can’t be missed. We loved Lara and Dead Nation but they don’t appeal to everyone… everyone should get a great deal of fun out of Joe Danger .
Best Puzzle Game
Winner: echochrome ii
Puzzle games were sort of in short supply this year and although we didn’t quite have time to review it, we know echochrome ii takes the Best Puzzle title in 2010. I was able to give it a go last week and given the originality and inherent challenge; nothing else really comes close in the PlayStation world. Using the new PlayStation Move as a flashlight to discover solutions and pathways, it’s an interesting new dimension and one that really makes us think. If you’ve got Move, you should definitely try wracking your brains with this unique sequel.
Best Music/Rhythm Game
Winner: DJ Hero 2
This genre has been on the decline lately and although RB3 features a huge track list and always-reliable gameplay, we give the nod to DJ Hero 2 . It featured a bigger leap forward than either Guitar Hero or Rock Band ; it put the focus squarely on “party fun,” which makes perfect sense. The other two just reek of this “been there, done that” odor and Warriors of Rock didn’t impress us much at all. Rock Band 3 has surpassed Guitar Hero in our minds but this year, DJ Hero 2 offers the best – and freshest, by comparison – rhythm experience.
Best Racing Game
Winner: Gran Turismo 5
As if this was a question. The new NFS is great, nail’d doesn’t get enough love, and Split/Second and Blur are worthy white-knuckle experiences, but Polyphony's masterful title is one of the most accomplished, ambitious racers in history. What doesn’t Gran Turismo 5 have? With over 1,000 cars, a bunch of demanding tracks, multiple racing disciplines (from go-karts to NASCAR), there’s a reason this game took over 5 years to complete. You could spend a good portion of 2011 playing GT5 and you may never do everything there is to do, and the quality is just…wow.
Best Sports Game
Winner: FIFA Soccer 11
It’s great to see Jordan back in the fantastic NBA 2K11 and we always appreciate the latest top-tier MLB installment from Sony, but every year, it seems that only one franchise continues to excel in every possible category. FIFA Soccer 11 gives fans of the sport everything they could ask for, plus a little more… EA continues to build upon a rock-solid foundation and with the addition of awesome multiplayer, “futbol” followers everywhere sing the praises of the latest entry. And remember, the soccer buff is about as demanding as any sports fan on earth.
Best Role-Playing Game
Winner: Final Fantasy XIII
It’s true. The RPG genre was seriously lacking in the PlayStation world in 2010, so some might argue we’re giving it to Final Fantasy XIII almost by default. And in a way, they’re right. There really wasn’t anything close; if we had received the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 , or a fantastic new entry in the Suikoden series, or a fresh Kingdom Hearts for the PS3, or even a US release for White Knight Chronicles 2 , it might’ve been a tougher choice. But as is, it can only be FFXIII, which is indeed worthy in a number of areas…especially after that 20-hour mark.
P.S. This means 80 of my 100 hours were quite entertaining, and I did treasure that time. – Ben D.
Best Fighting Game
Winner: Super Street Fighter IV
In a year without a new Tekken or Soul Calibur , and as we await the Mortal Kombat reboot in 2011, we have to once again pay homage to a game that technically released in 2009. Super Street Fighter IV is most certainly an upgrade, though, and we’re reminded of just how amazing that fighter really is… We’re just overjoyed that Capcom was able to resurrect an old favorite, and a historical virtual landmark holds its position. For now, there’s no better option for fighting fans and that's that.
Winner: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
When Battlefield: Bad Company 2 released, we sort of recall the following feeling: “something will have to really blow us away later this year to top BC2.” Well, the surprisingly awesome Vanquish almost stole this award away from the reigning FPS, and the presentation of Black Ops almost made us think twice. But Treyarch’s intense production was technically flawed and because of that, BC2 became the best shooter of 2010. By the way, we’re not about to call Uncharted a shooter; it’s just that “shooting” is the sole purpose of Vanquish .
Best Action/Adventure Game
Winner: God of War III
This might seem like a tough choice on the surface, but nothing can compete with the immense production value and complete and total bad-assery of God of War III . The game featured one mesmerizing experience after another; whether it be a stunning boss battle, a harrowing platforming section, or a face-off against the most challenging hordes possible, it’s always empowering to control Kratos. Including all new weapons and impressive voice performances, it’s a breathtaking rollercoaster ride that never lets up until the final God has been vanquished.
Best Multiplatform Game
Winner: Red Dead Redemption
It came down to Brotherhood and Red Dead Redemption and as good as Ezio’s new adventure is, Rockstar’s engaging open-world epic takes the crown, simply because it’s something we haven’t seen before. Oh, we’ve seen the formula, certainly; but how long has the video game world been waiting for a defining Western? Rockstar stepped up and delivered: the story was well done (gotta love that ending!), the control was great and above all else, playing as a man’s man in the sweeping, untamed majesty of the Wild West was endlessly enjoyable. It’s at least a must-try for everyone.
Best New IP
Winner: Heavy Rain
In a year where sequels and follow-ups reigned – and 2011 looks to be similar in that way – only one title managed to give us something entirely new; something that will stick with us for a very long time. Heavy Rain is no sequel and in reality, it’s unlike most anything else you’ve ever played before. A dark, intriguing storyline, great characters, beautiful writing and pacing, a fantastic atmosphere, and the unparalleled feeling of connection and urgency…it’s all in Quantic Dream’s masterpiece, and it’s almost impossible to find all those elements in one interactive product.
Best Non-PlayStation Game
Winner: Alan Wake
Perhaps the easy pick would be ME2 but we’re sticking to our previous recommendation of Remedy’s thrilling, extremely well-written adventure. Although it’s nothing like Heavy Rain , it was still progressive in the artistic/literary sense, and Alan Wake offers a profoundly deep, freaky experience. It can get a little repetitive but we like to reward ambition and “going against the grain,” so-to-speak. As good as ME2 and SMG2 are, the newness and gripping style of Alan Wake is just plain undeniable and as a result, irresistible.
Special: The PSXE Favorites
It's a trend we started last year: no specific award; just a list of the PSXE staff's favorite games. From Joe Danger to Nier to Gran Turismo 5 to Bioshock 2 to Heavy Rain , we love to play a variety of fantastic titles. There are just so many experiences we remember with great fondness and unsurprisingly, this includes most of 2010's very best. Well, what can we say…in addition to our personal preferences, we're suckers for quality. 😉
And now, here we go…good money that you're not expecting this…
Game of the Year
Winner: TIE: Heavy Rain and Gran Turismo 5
Let us explain. Usually, we spend the necessary time to narrow it down to two choices – which was hard enough this year – and then we do a direct compare-and-contrast and select an overall winner. But when we set out to do that this year, we hit a wall: we narrowed it down to the two finalists but how in God's name do you directly compare Heavy Rain and Gran Turismo 5 against each other? After much discussion, we discovered that it simply wasn't possible.
Heavy Rain left an indelible imprint on our minds that hasn't abated. Because it released back in February, we weren't sure if it could stand the test of time; might that memorable, immersive, singular experience remain all rosy in our minds? Even after the year's heaviest competition arrived? The answer was yes. In looking back, the game only appears even more impressive; even more progressive and innovative; even more fulfilling from an artistic and emotional standpoint. With so many different outcomes and a story that never seems to grow stale, this interactive drama is an indication of the future.
Such a production absolutely cannot go ignored, and absolutely must receive the praise and accolades it so richly deserves. We will also stand by our review – linked above – as being one of the best on the Internet. We honestly hope it's indicative of the future and Quantic Dream needs to be commended for such an ambitious accomplishment. It's still the one game that continually makes us feel , over and over and over again.
As for GT5, we have something special lined up: Arnold will handle the explanation; he's writing up a specific feature to explain how Polyphony's amazing driving simulator became one of our picks for Game of the Year. He will also address many of the ill-conceived complaints other critics and gamers have had; as we've mentioned in the past and as is obvious by reading our review , if the analyst isn't checked out on automobile and racing knowledge, that person simply isn't qualified to judge the game in question. Stay tuned for that; he'll be posting it up soon, and I'm sure it'll be well worth a read, especially if you're a car enthusiast/bona fide auto-phile.
That oughta do it. We've done our best. We're sorry we couldn't settle on an outright Game of the Year for 2010, but you should understand our reasons. Hope you enjoyed yourselves and here's to another great year!
We can't forget the most active PSXE community members who continue to make this site so darn lively and enjoyable. It's thanks to such posters that we have a site where civil, knowledgeable gamers can come, relax, and discuss. Thanks to:
Sorry if we overlooked you; we basically just mentioned most everyone with 1000+ posts. Don't worry…we appreciate you all!