Hello and welcome to HalfBeard HUD’s Game of the Year Awards. In this article we’ll showcase the best each console has to offer and in the end the best the year had to offer. The rest of the writers and I have sat down and discussed it and these our are picks. So let’s get things underway and get these awards a’rolling.
Winner: Fallout: New Vegas
To some this may seem an odd choice but given the sheer amount of game play involved in this title it should be all but understandable. While the Gamebyro engine is definitely showing its age at this point it still manages to deliver an amazing experience in Fallout: New Vegas. Taking the formula of 2008′s Fallout 3 and expanding upon it in some great ways and creating a whole new atmosphere, Fallout: New Vegas will despite it’s bugs deliver and long-enduring and incredibly enjoyable experience. The thing that really sets this game up for this award is its replayability, at the time of this writing I’m mid way through my third play-through and still enjoying it just as much as my first.
Runner up: Red Dead Redemption
Many thought that the Western genre would simply never survive in the world of gaming. So many attempts have come and go and as much as many of them were at least competent, gaining small if not hardcore followings, none ever stuck enough to make the genre popular. Red Dead Redemption changed all that with some of the best gameplay, writing, and atmosphere anyone’s ever seen present in an open world title. While there were some issues here and there with some technical aspects of the game and in places it did drag it was still an amazing game and more than worthy as runner-up.
Winner: God of War 3
What else could win this award but the finale of the one of the best things to come out Sony since the original Playstation. God of War 3 was beautiful, fun, and easily one of the best times I’ve ever had with my PS3. By managing the old God of War gameplay while implementing some new systems and refining others, this game just overall tweaked the whole character action experience to perfection. Most importantly it provided an end to a story that desperately needed one providing a satisfying feeling of closure (cliffhangers aside) and showing the moral of what can happen when someone lets revenge truly take over. While it may not be as deep as something like Bioshock it definitely has more than enough substance to stop it from being just another game in which you kill mythology.
Runner up: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood
None one was expecting a full length follow-up to one of last year’s best games so quick but I’ll be damned if Ubisoft didn’t pull it off somehow. Taking a lot of what Assassin’s Creed 2 great and then refining the few things that made it not so great, Brotherhood may not be a huge evolution for the series but it perfects what it already was. The addition of a unique multiplayer component helps out to differentiate this game even more and while it’s doubtful it’ll achieve COD levels of popularity it’s still a nice addition.
Winner: Kirby’s Epic Yarn
It was a clear-cut winner in this category if only because: D’awwww he’s so damned cute. Along with being an incredibly cute game it’s one of the most innovative platformers to grace a Nintendo console in while; fully utilizing its unique “world o’ fabric” motif in not only aesthetic but gameplay as well. Things like buttons, zippers, and pockets provide ample mechanics that vary up the gameplay in this title. Mix that with a ton of collectibles to hunt and an efficient multiplayer component and you have not only one of the best Wii games of the year but of all time. Fun for all ages and a real treat for those from Nintendo days past.
Runner up: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Yet another game that’s whole point seems to be to make me pay money for my childhood; like Kirby’s Epic Yarn though it does it in such a fantastic way I’m more than happy to do so. Retro studios (the folks behind the Metroid Prime series) have lovingly recreated this classic series and while there are a few things missing from the series’ Rare days it’s a great re-imagining. The addition of simply more flexibility to the partner formula of the original DKC games really makes this game shine. All in all a great way to put some use to your Wii if Kirby is just a little too cute for you.
Winner: Civilization 5
Few genres can be more confusing to the everyday gamer than the strategy genre, so much to manage and so much to foresee how could you perfect this genre? Well I don’t know but Sid Meier sure did because the latest installment of his classic strategy series is the most streamlined, user-friendly, engrossing time suck he’s ever made. This game somehow manages to both remove the guesswork and reward intuition by advising you every step of the way but never spelling out the path to victory. Along with a perfectly balanced main game there is also some of the best mod support I’ve ever seen in this game. Not only allowing people to make mods but actually hosting them and having a way to download and install them in-game makes this game infinitely replayable as there will always be new free content for download. A great evolution for the series, for the genre, and for gaming in general.
Runner up: Poker Night at the Inventory
When this game was announced the gaming public couldn’t have been more confused; what in god’s name could these four character’s do together that would entertaining or even be sensible? Who would have guessed the answer would be sitting down and casually playing cards. As weird an idea as it is it ends up being one of the most relaxing and replayable games of the year and at the price of only five bucks it’s an affordable indulgence for almost anyone.
Winner: Persona 3 Portable
Odd as it is to applaud a port over an original IP it’s the very things that make this game unlike the original are what make it our PSP game of the year. P3P is easily the best conversion of a console title to a handheld platform making for an experience that not only contained everything the original did but so much more. It does this by taking changes made to the Persona formula in Persona 4 and applying them to this title. The game also adds an additional main character, all the additions found in the Persona 3 special edition, and a number of refinements to the basic gameplay that make it work better on handheld. It’s one of the best RPGs available on a system that is inundated with them and it should be the model for how to do console to handheld ports.
Runner up: Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker
The PSP takes a lot of knocks for being a hard console to design for but if any game proved it can be done well it’s this year’s Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. Focusing more on a management style of gameplay rather than entirely on action allowed this title to be addictive and engrossing despite some control issues. Combine this with a great story and fantastic dialog and you get not only a great PSP game but a worthy addition to the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Winner: Pokemon Heart Gold and/or Soul Silver
Yes it’s a remake and yes it’s the same old Pokemon formula but there is something endearing about it. The addition of the Pokewalker and a variety of touch screen mini games really helps add something to this classic title. There’s also something special about this particular pair of titles as the originals came out just before Pokemon really started to go super crazy giving the game a sense of nostalgia for older gamers who have lost track of the series. While it may just a remake of an old classic it’s done incredibly well and it adds enough to make it worth it.
Runner up: Golden Sun Dark Dawn
If there’s ever a company that gets ignored it’s Camelot which is a pity because they make some of the best RPGs ever to grace handheld systems. Dark Dawn is yet another stellar addition to last generation’s Golden Sun franchise, Not only great because of it’s incredibly good graphics (for the system anyways) but it also has a long and deep story. This makes for a great if not somewhat traditional turn based RPG.
Last but not least we have the grand winner of the year, no runner ups here just:
The Game of the Year:
Winner: Civilization 5
There were certainly a number of worthy contenders this year and this was a particularly hard decision to make but in end we had to give it to Civ. Not only has this game refined turn based strategy to a high art but even without a story it manages to stay engrossing. Most important though is that it manages to maintain complexity without having a high barrier for entry; even privates in the turn based strategy army can play and enjoy right from the get go and the generals won’t feel that their beloved title has been dumbed down. It can be tough for a popular genre to pull in a niche audience but it’s even harder for niche genre to draw the general audience and somehow Civ 5 managed to do so. As such we are proud to give Civilization 5 our Game of the Year award.
We hope you all enjoyed our picks and stay tuned for our “Games of the Decades” article next week.