So begins the end of our Game of the Year adventures together. We laughed, we cried, we yelled at each other in the comments over our own favorite games. Now come really big ones. No holds barred. No consoles to cage these mighty games in. God of War versus Halo. Heavy Rain versus Civilization. Don't try to think about the categories, just roll with it! Now here they are, Part One of the gamrReview 2010 Overall Game of the Year Awards.
Best First-Person Shooter: Halo: Reach
Bungie blew up the first-person shooter scene when the original Halo: Combat Evolved landed on Microsoft's big black box back in 2001. At the end of Halo 3, we were all left wondering what could be next. The real question was: what came first? This prequel brought a strong campaign story along with Bungie's signature outstanding multiplayer modes. Coop campaign local or online, Firefight modes, competitive online modes, video sharing, and more keep this game on your shelf long after you learn the fate of Planet Reach. I can sum up the awesome of Halo: Reach in one very compound word: Rocketfight.
Runner-Up - Call of Duty: Black Ops
Peoples' Choice - Halo: Reach
Best Third-Person Shooter: Red Dead Redemption
For years, Rockstar Games has been synonymous with Grand Theft Auto. They were in the headlines, raining controversy on their heads and having way too much "hot coffee." Some people love them, some people hate them. Then comes along Red Dead Redemption. Take the award-winning sandbox gameplay Rockstar has perfected over the years and put in in the Wild West just as that West was becoming tamed. Heads turned, Rockstar-haters converted, and we all got "cougared" together. Who knew riding off into the sunset could be so fun?
Runner-Up - Vanquish
Peoples' Choice - Red Dead Redemption
Best Platformer: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Occasionally, a sequel comes along that renders its predecessor completely obsolete. Diablo II turned Diablo CDs into coasters. Assassin's Creed 2's Ezio made Altair look clumsy. Now Super Mario Galaxy 2 makes you wonder why Mario would ever leave this house without his favorite dinosaur buddy. Super Mario Galaxy 2 took the original innovative platforming involving competing gravity fields and adds to it in every way. More power-ups, more puzzles, more of Mario's amicos, and more Bowser-tastic battles. When you take a great game and just add more brilliant content to it, that's a surefire Game of the Year winner.
Runner-Up - Donkey Kong Country Returns
Peoples' Choice - Super Mario Galaxy 2
Best Action/Adventure Game: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Who doesn't love running across the rooftops of Rome, calling your guild of assassins to take out a pesky band of guards with but a flick of your wrist? While we were collectively a bit disappointed in Brotherhood staying in Italy in the shoes of Ezio, Ubisoft proved us wrong by taking everything we love about Assassin's Creed 2, making some nice tweaks, and adding a slew of new gameplay features. Guild management, online multiplayer, virtual training with leaderboards, passive challenges, and so much more meant you would altogether forget there was some Borgia you were supposed to kill for hours on end. And that ending! It was...it was...well, you better play it to understand.
Runner-Up - No More Heroes 2: The Desperate Struggle
Peoples' Choice - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Best Action Game: God of War III
It's not that often a game makes my jaw literally drop during a boss fight, but as Gaia punched Poseiden's aquatic monstrosity and Kratos goes flying off her fist to tackle the God of Seas himself from out the center of it all, a fly, a bee, and Oceanic Flight 815 flew into my gaping maw. It's not often a franchise creates a specific ending to their tale, making a trilogy and truly putting an end to it. Sony pulled out all the stops for the third in the God of War franchise. It had the most epic boss battles, the most convoluted puzzles, and a sex scene to make BioWare blush like a virgin bride. Fare thee well, God of War, your blood-soaked blades will always be in our hearts.
Runner-Up - Bayonetta
Peoples' Choice - God of War III
Best Adventure Game: Heavy Rain
Before Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream was a studio most of us had never heard of. David Cage and his gang were hanging out in France making a few games when the idea struck them: interactive drama. The idea seeped into the gaming press like kudzu as press releases and screenshots started to emerge. The hype was huge, but the game didn't disappoint. Heavy Rain is a unique experience in gaming. There is no game over. You cannot lose. Your choices dramatically affect the story, however. Everyone you meet who played the game has their own story to tell, their own experience. An experience like no other.
Runner-Up - 3D Dot Game Heroes
Peoples' Choice - Heavy Rain
Best Puzzle Game: Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Some puzzle games have you play with blocks. Some have you swapping jewels around. Some even having blowing up bubbles or some such things. Then there's Professor Layton. He loves puzzles, all puzzles. Math puzzles, words puzzles, you name it. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future steals the show in the puzzle category for its variety, entertaining story, and zany collection of characters. We've come a long way from Tetris, baby.
Runner-Up - Super Scribblenauts
Peoples' Choice - Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Best Fighting Game: Super Street Fighter IV
Any kid growing up in the 90's playing video games played Street Fighter at an arcade, on his Sega Genesis, or at a friend's house on Super Nintendo until his thumbs bled. Street Fighter IV was a huge hit last year, bringing old-school 2D fighting to life with stylish 3D graphics. It was terribly unbalanced, though. It was hard to find a good player who wasn't using Ken, Ryu, or Sagat online. This year, Capcom fixed that and brought a whole slew of new characters to the table with it. The 'Geif still dominates the computer with one button, but at least a mediocre player can kick his feet out from under him. With a great online multiplayer setup and well-supported tournament play, it's no surprise Super Street Fighter IV wins Fighter of the Year.
Runner-Up - BlazBlue: Continuum Shift
Peoples' Choice - Tatsunoko vs. Capcom
Best Racing Game: ModNation Racers
Play. Create. Share. While ModNation Racers went up against a stable of thoroughbred racing games, it won because all those others can only accomplish the first of this three-word mantra. ModNation isn't just about going fast and winning the race, it's about building the most challenging track and the most ludicrous race car, then playing all of it with your friends. It's about seeing your creations go viral and garner attention through the network. It's about knowing your little dude can beat their little dude on any crazy little dude track somebody can think up. After that, changing the suspension strength of your Aston Martin just seems boring.
Runner-Up - Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Peoples' Choice - Gran Turismo 5
Best Western RPG: Mass Effect 2
It was an incredibly strong year for RPGs on the Xbox 360 this year. Along with several multiplatform titles, Lionhead brought out Fable III and BioWare brought us the best Western RPG of the year: Mass Effect 2. The space-sprawling action-RPG brings in elements of good shooters and great RPGs to mix into a winning combination. Thankfully, everybody remembered how brilliant it was to give Commander Shepherd the Lazarus treatment even though the game came out back in February. Just shows what a lasting impression Mass Effect 2 leaves.
Runner-Up - Fable III
Peoples' Choice - Mass Effect 2
Japanese RPG: Pokemon SoulSilver/HeartGold
*Digs around in the basement* *Unearths original Gameboy* *Yanks out the little red cartridge* Pokemon! I remember this game! It was great! They still make them, you say? They're still awesome, you say? gamrReview Japanese RPG of the Year? Well, a game franchise that has lasted long enough to span more than one generation of kids and still be a bestseller should be telling enough, but HeartGold and SoulSilver took the 1999 games and remade them with a collection of new features to take advantage of the Nintendo DS hardware and even featured a little augmented reality with the PokeWalker. After nearly 15 years, we still "gotta catch 'em all."
Runner-Up - Persona 3 Portable
Peoples' Choice - Final Fantasy XIII
Best MMORPG: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Everyone wondered when the sequel to Blizzard's golden goose would have to birth a chick to make more golden eggs. WoW is more than a bit long in the tooth in game years and the community had wondered when a World of Warcraft 2 would emerge. We wonder no longer. Blizzard has done something unthinkable, they've give their game such a massive update and overhaul as to make it nearly unrecognizable compare to the original 2004 launch. Cataclysm did more than just expand the game, it redefined the meaning of WoW.
Runner-Up - City of Heroes: Going Rogue
Peoples' Choice - World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Best Strategy Game: Sid Meier's Civilization V (tie)
Civilization has been a staple of the strategy game genre for nearly 20 years now. Something about Civilization V makes the others just seem square, however. Maybe it's the increased number of ways to win (or lose) the game. Maybe it's need to strategically place units on the field rather than bum rush your opponents. Maybe it's the vastly improved graphics and sounds. More likely it's the hexes. Gone is the square grid, replaced by six-sided little geographic subdivisions that added new depth to the Sid Meier's marquee franchise.
Winner - Valkyria Chronicles II (tie)
PC wasn't the only platform with a sound strategy game this year, Sony's little handheld that could can still push out a great game and Valkyria Chronicles II ranks high among them. SEGA's runaway action-strategy hit puts you on the battlefield, down in the trenches every time you move a character or fire a gun. Valkyria Chronicles shook up the strategy game world with its vast collection of characters and Japanese looks, which translated perfectly to the portable system for Valkyria Chronicles II.
Runner-Up - Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Peoples' Choice - Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Best Music and Peripheral Game: Rock Band 3
How do you improve on one of the best multiplayer franchises in the video game business? Add more stuff. Keyboards, pro modes, vocal harmonies, and the ability to play with up to six of your friends at once made a game so huge and fresh that it went beyond the bounds of the hardware trying to contain it. Rock Band 3 takes everything that has made the franchise great, add all these features, some spit and polish, plus lets you bring all your old DLC along for a total of over 2000 possible songs to stash in your playlist. I know of no other game where seven people can play at the same time. That's quite an accomplishment.
Runner-Up - Dance Central
Peoples' Choice - Rock Band 3
Best Sports Game: FIFA Soccer 11
What can a cheeseburger-loving American say about a football game? Quite a bit, but this is a soccer game. FIFA Soccer 11 brings back all the big innovations from FIFA 10 and a few friends for good measure. The new Creation Centre allows players to create their teams on the web and upload them to the console for use in-game. EA Sports focused on replicating unique player movements with Personality Plus, taking care with how different players move on the field. The series even experimented with the lukewarm Be A Goalie mode, that shows EA Sports isn't willing to rest on their laurels, but are always pushing FIFA forward.
Runner-Up - NBA 2K11
Peoples' Choice - FIFA 11
Best DLC or Expansion Pack: Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Zombies and Nazis are the two staples of video game villainy. PETA doesn't get mad. Minorities don't get mad. Senators...well...I guess senators still get mad. Nevertheless, Rockstar took us all by surprise when they took their best-selling western sandbox title and added a whole slew of zombies to the mix (no Nazis, sorry). It wasn't just an infusion of zombies that made it great, but Undead Nightmare gave players a whole new way to play the game. That brought us all back with our posses to round up them there undead varmints.
Runner-Up - Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
Peoples' Choice - Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker