games

411 Games Presents: The 2008 Game Awards (Part 1)

January 19, 2009 | Posted by Sean Garmer

411 Game Awards 2008

Welcome everyone, 2008 is gone and as the new year comes, so does a brand new slate in the gaming world. However, 2008 was a great year in gaming and those games deserve to be honored. Thus we here at 411 would like to welcome you to the Video Game Awards for 2008.

Let’s Meet the Blurb Contributors

*There were 18 total writers that voted on this, but these listed are the ones that decided to write blurbs for the actual written results*

Todd Vote: Is sort of a newbie here at 411, but he does do important things like give us the news and he wrote a three column series called Eye on the Future

Theo Fraser: Our resident Nintendo know-it-all and writer of the news report dedicated to the Big N, Nintendophiles

Rod Oracheski: Game Reviewer and the writer of Achievement Unlocked

Vincent Chiucchi: Vinny writes a news report by pressing Select and Start and he takes us through the Hall of Shame

Jordan Williams: Jordan is a reviewer extraordinaire, but he also writers the ever popular column Working Title as well.

Sean Garmer: I’m your host for most of these roundtable things and I write Game Reviews for 411 Games.

*Runner-Ups are only listed if there was not a tie for 2nd place*

Part 1= Miscellaneous Awards

Best Story:

Winner: Grand Theft Auto IV

Todd Vote: The griity, realistic story of GTA IV has finally taken the series away from over the top, to being grounded in an alternate reality of sorts. I for one am looking forward to more GTA titles, and the DLC can’t come soon enough.

Rod Oracheski: Moving away from their typical ‘rip off the story from a slew of TV shows and movies’ format seems to have worked for Rockstar with GTA IV. While the game’s plot might not be the most original thing going, it did prove surprisingly engaging.

Best Graphics:

Winner: Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3 Action Game, Konami)

Todd Vote: While my time with the game was very brief, and the tactical espionage is not really my cup of tea, there is no denying that this is a beautiful game from top to bottom.

Rod Oracheski: After what seems like ages of waiting, PS3-owning graphics whores finally have their champion. The texturing had some weak spots, but overall it was a great package. Like Chiucchi, I picked Mirror’s Edge for the top spot due to its more consistently solid presentation.

Vincent Chiucchi: Sony’s has been bragging about the power of the PlayStation 3, but not a lot of games truly show off the power resting within the console. So Metal Gear Solid 4 comes along and shows off what can really be done with the power of high definition. As for Mirror’s Edge, that was a very pretty game to look at and honestly, I wanted that to win.

Jordan Williams: If you are going to talk up all of that big game, you damn well better back it up. Sony has been flapping it’s e-penis around on it’s SUPER SHARP Blu-Ray graphics for two years now and now we finally see it come out. It’s a good thing too, because if MGS4 couldn’t even live up to it’s graphical hype than it definitely would’ve been a problem.

Sean Garmer: Metal Gear Solid 4 was a fantastic game all around and the graphics are definitely a big part of that. I felt like I was watching a film at certain points of the game and for that Konami should be commended, it was certainly beautiful to play and watch this game. Another game that matched that was our runner-up Mirror’s Edge. EA’s new IP gave us the fascination of what it is like to be a runner and go around well, running and jumping at break neck speeds, but what makes it is that it is beautifully done and that makes it stand out.

Runner-Up: Mirror’s Edge (XBOX 360 & PS3 Platformer, EA)

Best Soundtrack:

Winner: Rockband 2 (Multi-Platform Music Game, EA, MTV Games & Harmonix)

Todd Vote: A no brainer. So many diverse tracks, the game essentially offers something for everyone.

Rod Oracheski: There’s no doubt Rockband 2, like its predecessor, has an awesome soundtrack – and that’s before you factor in the constant stream of DLC that’s provided. It’s almost unfair to pit other games against the music titles – maybe something we should change for next year!

Vincent Chiucchi: A music game winning best soundtrack and score? Go figure. But then again, considering the game includes all the songs from the first Rock Band and includes nearly every damn song in existance with the DLC, it’s not that surprising.

Jordan Williams: You know, it’s not that hard to win Soundtrack and Score when your soundtrack includes almost every song ever made. But even then, it’s a damn good soundtrack if it includes damn near every song ever made.

Sean Garmer: Last year I didn’t vote for Rockband because I had only played it due to my roommate owning the game, but now I live in my own apartment and I purchased Rockband 2, and I can definitely say that they know what they are doing with these music games. I can find myself playing for hours on end with the different instruments mainly because the song choices are so good. However, to say that the game has anywhere close to every song ever made is really stretching it. Games such as our runner-up do deserve to be represented, so there will be two separate categories next year, but for this year Rockband 2 is a worthy winner.

Runner-Up: Metal Gear Solid 4

Biggest Underrated Game

Winner: No More Heroes (Nintendo Wii Action Game, Suda 51)

Todd Vote: I was suprised that this game did not do as well as many anticipated. With a unique story, and visual style, it had all the makings of a hit. Fortunately, this game is one I anticipate will have no trouble garnering a cult like following.

Theo Fraser: Brand new (decent) franchises are few and far between these days, but No More Heroes debuted on the Wii this year to much critical acclaim. Those who played it raved about its slick style (in terms of visuals and character), intuitive gesture-based combat system, and its terrific sense of humor. Thing is, those that played it probably add up to about 150 people. Evidently enough to make a sequel worthwhile, but unquestionably a disappointing figure considering what a delight the title is to play. From Travis Touchdown’s direct remarks to the player, to his method of saving the game via a quick trip to the nearest toilet, this is the game that knows it’s a video game, and revels in that fact. It’s a distinctly adult title, but for the mature gamer this is an experience unlike any other on the Wii and absolutely must be played. Retailing at a bargain price these days, you’d be a fool not to give it a try.

Rod Oracheski: While I’m not sure I’d pin the lack of ‘good’ games on the Wii on people failing to buy No More Heroes, it really should have sold better than it did. Perhaps somewhere down the road we’ll find out the game had retail legs and wound up selling pretty well in the end.

Vincent Chiucchi: It had violence! It had humor! It had good gameplay! WHY DIDN’T YOU PEOPLE BUY THIS BY THE MILLIONS?! This is one of the few great games I remember getting released for the Wii this year, and to see it become somewhat disappointing in sales saddens me. You want to know why the Wii is getting an overdose of casual games? Because you didn’t buy this!

Jordan Williams: I know you commenters hate this so much, but I haven’t played this game at all. I’d imagine from looking at the reviews and being one of the few non-casual/party/puzzle games on the Wii that isn’t from a 1st party. It’d be pretty underrated by that alone. Suda 51 never aims above the ‘underrated’ line.

Most Over Hyped Game:

Winner: Little Big Planet (PS3 Platformer, Sony & Media Molecule)

Todd Vote: My goodness. This game was everywhere ALL YEAR LONG. Considering the game didn’t release till the end of the year, that is quite a lot of buildup. When a game is this hyped, it becomes nearly impossible for it to live up to it all.

Theo Fraser: I don’t want this to be seen as the 411 Games crew ripping LBP a new one, as its genuinely a great little game. My issue with it is that it was hyped as if it would change the face of gaming forever; hype that it couldn’t possibly live up to. It offers unprecedented user-creation tools and is very enjoyable, but hardly worthy of its presumptuous ‘killer app’ status it was given during development.

Rod Oracheski: Pinning their fall lineup hopes on an unproven IP from a relatively unknown development team meant Sony loaded up the hype train and headed to town. I think a number of PS3 gamers who did pick this one up discovered it wasn’t exactly what they expected due to the hype.

Jordan Williams: Don’t look at a game that’s overhyped as being a bad thing. LBP is a great game and nothing you can do can take that away from it, however you must admit that it was hyped through the roof before it’s release. Sony made it the focal point of it’s E3, you couldn’t get away from commercials, print ads, toys, shirts, or newstories about it. Sure, it didn’t do anything to the sales, but it was still overhyped nonetheless.

Sean Garmer: This may seem as a negative shot at Little Big Planet but truly it isn’t, firstly because LBP wins other awards on this thing, and it means that Sony felt this game would be a huge sell for them. Even though it didn’t do too well in that department it was a great thing they hyped the crap out of it because they hyped something new. This wasn’t just another Call of Duty, Halo, or Final Fantasy this was something we hadn’t quite seen before and it was nice to see hype for a game like that. However, there can be a thing as “too much” hype and this game falls into that category. It delivers on the gaming side of things there is no doubt, just wish we didn’t have to hear “so much” about it.

Most Original Game

Winner: Little Big Planet (PS3 Platformer, SCEA & Media Molecule)

Todd Vote: Overhyped? Absolutely. Most original? Absolutely. From the level creator, to the ability to upload your creations for others to play, this game took platforming to a whole new level. I didn’t even have to play the game to say that it was definitely the most original concept this year.

Rod Oracheski There have been games that let you change, create, and share levels in the past, but nothing that put it all together and said ‘that’s the game’ like this one. I really wish they’d gotten the actual platforming part working better, but there’s no denying how creative the idea behind the game is.

Vincent Chiucchi: Okay, so the game did get a lot of hype, but you know what? I think it’s deserves it. This is a make-your-own game unlike anything else before it. While you can easily recreate your favorite levels from games, if you really work at it, you can create some very innovative that you can’t do with other games. Truly one of a kind and a must-have for the PlayStation 3.

Jordan Williams: You make the game yourself. It really dosen’t get any more original than that. Period. No, really. That’s it. I can’t say anymore. Seriously.

Sean Garmer: See, I told you it won other awards. This one it totally deserves nothing comes close to the innovation shown this year with Little Big Planet.

Developer of the Year:

Winner: Electronic Arts

Todd Vote: EA has really done some things right this year. After starting the year as a bully, and seemingly trying to buy up anything that could turn them a profit, EA really started to shine in the second half of the year. They are trying new things to some great results. Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge were both decent to great games. Let’s hope they continue into 2009.

Rod Oracheski: Would you have believed this two or three years ago? I’m not sure I believe it now.

Vincent Chiucchi: Lots of people have complained that EA always releases the same thing over and over again. So EA actually decided to make original IPs this year, and they were actually good ones! Even though EA took a financial hit by taking the risk of making new games, let’s hope EA continues in making new IPs for years to come.

Sean Garmer: EA has always been one of my favorite publishers because I’m deadly loyal to their sports games. This year I can say I love them because they came out with three of my favorite non-sport games (well one of them is shared between two other developers) Left 4 Dead, Rockband 2, and Mirror’s Edge made huge impacts on the gaming scene this year. Then add to that Spore and Dead Space. I would say EA did a bang up job of not only creating New IP’s, but creating some very good ones at that.

News Story of the Year

Winner: Final Fantasy XIII Going to XBOX 360

Todd Vote: While my vote for this category was a tie between this going multi-console, and Tekken being announced for the 360, it’s really a toss-up as to which will be a bigger loss for Sony. The more I think about it, the more I think Tekken going non-exclusive is a bigger deal. Final Fantasy has appeared on other systems in the past, while Tekken has always been exclusively Sony. That to me, seems like the bigger deal.

Theo Fraser: This was just a total shocker. The mainstream (‘mothership’) Final Fantasy titles have been Playstation exclusives since 1997, and despite the presence of a few successful spin-offs on rival platforms, it was always assumed Final Fantasy would stay as a firm brand of Sony software. As such, Square Enix sent shockwaves through the gaming industry earlier this year after they announced that Final Fantasy XIII would also be in development for Xbox 360. What a coup for Microsoft. Aside from the fact that FFXIII coming to the 360 was a MASSIVE deal, this story also brought up the issue of console exclusivity (or lack thereof these days). In future years, people may very well look back on 2008 and this moment of Final Fantasy coming to the 360 as the beginning of the downfall of the console-exclusive title.

Rod Oracheski: I’m not really sure how, in hindsight, this was so surprising. Square-Enix has been good about supporting the Xbox 360 and it’s not like the FF series hasn’t shifted sides in the past, after all. With PS3 sales not meeting expectations, this announcement was probably more ‘oh, it’s about time’ than ‘oh my God, I can’t believe it!’ The same can be said for EA trying to buy someone – anyone.

Vincent Chiucchi: With the main series staying on Sony’s consoles for so long, it was a no-brainer that one of the PlayStation 3’s biggest titles would be Final Fantasy XIII. Unfortunately, what was only going to be for the PS3 is now also going to be available for the Xbox 360, and just about everybody didn’t see this coming. When you add FF13 to the other list of games that are now no longer exclusive to Sony’s consoles, the days of exclusives for Sony seem to be coming to an end.

Jordan Williams: Watching the drama of this one unfold after E3 was magical. It was one half Sony fanboys crying thier eyes out and another half of Microsoft fanboys doing the digital teabag. It might not amount to such a big deal down the road, but Final Fantasy is one of (and to many, the only) reason some people hung around with Sony, or even hung with the PS3 because FFXIII was going to appear on it soon. But now that hope it dashed and Final Fantasy is revisting it’s Nintendo days. By Nintendo days I mean jumping ship and leaving a lot of whiners in it’s wake.

Sean Garmer: I remember not having watched the Microsoft Conference Live, I decided to check 411 before watching the G4 showing of it on my DVR. Low and behold I come across this article and I’m shocked to all get out that the only reason at the time I wanted to even think about buying a PS3 was for Final Fantasy XIII and now it was coming to a system I owned, I couldn’t believe it. Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a RPG fanatic (probably more than the Robbins brothers) but my big love of RPG’s comes from Final Fantasy, so it was truly a great day for me because I no longer had to buy a PS3. I kinda still want one to play Little Big Planet and Versus XIII, but I’m not in a hurry, if someone wants to buy me one as a gift I’m all for it, but I’m not spending 400 bucks on a system I don’t really need. It also brought up that is the era of exclusives coming to a close? Will the next generation of consoles be all about each of the three major companies having varied gaming platforms instead touting every year about exclusive games. Sure, Sony still has a few exclusives, but Microsoft still selling big with most of the multi-platform stuff, it begs the question, would it be a bad thing if we didn’t have exclusives?

Worst Decision of the Year

Loser: Nintendo’s E3 and their new direction

Todd Vote: I just do not get it. So Nintendo is trying to cater to casual gamers. Big deal, they have every bit as much right to play games as the hardcore crowd does, right? So there is one system gearing towards casual players. That still leaves us with 2 home consoles geared to the hardcore, as well as one portable system doing the same. There really is enough to go around, so who cares.

Theo Fraser: I’ve covered this quite a bit in Nintendophiles over the past year, but it bears repeating. Put plainly, Nintendo made a massive error in judgement at E3 2008. So much so that company president Satoru Iwata made a formal apology in the subsequent weeks. It’s common knowledge at this point, but basically Nintendo used E3 as a platform to showcase their titles tailored for the casual market, with ZERO attention paid to the core gamer. In my Nintendophiles reports around the time, I struggled to defend the Big N, as the only core titles displayed in the keynote speech came from third parties, such as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars from Rockstar. Considering that E3 is largely aimed at core gamers, it came as a pretty big slap in the face to those that have supported them over the years through various ‘transitional’ stages and the like. In the end, it probably came round to bite them in the ass; Wii Music has sold very poorly thus far, and as such Nintendo may be forced to change their tack next year.

Rod Oracheski: Everyone expected something for the hardcore gamer at E3. We’ve been patient and were rewarded with…nothing. We were supposed to be overjoyed by Animal Crossing – and what seems like a two-month port job at that? E3 showed Nintendo doesn’t really care about ‘us’ anymore, they want our mom’s dollars more.

Vincent Chiucchi: Nintendo seemed way too focused on casual players and dumbing down their games to give the hardcore fanbase any reason to care about them. Nintendo needs to find a balance in appealing to both demographics and fast, or else 2009 for the Wii is going to be horrible.

Jordan Williams: Casuals vs. Hardcore. It’s a war I’m sick of but sadly as long as Nintendo fuels the fire it’s always going to go on. For the longest time Nintendo was the one that held onto it’s “it’s all about the games and the gamers” credo. When everyone else was toting DVD Players and fancy graphics and CDs Nintendo decided to stick to what it did best. Games. This year when everyone hopped on the Hi-Res graphics bandwagon Nintendo decided to forgo that and instead give gamers a new way to interact with games. This of course began to get old after a year of the same two types of games “Waggle games that suck” and “Nintendo 1st Party Games that Don’t”. Once they got a taste for the casual crowd they litterally dropped everything else and started pumping out casual games. Remember when Nintendo’s E3 conference used to open with “My name is Reggie, I’m about kicking ass and taking names. And Nintendo is about making games” or something like that? How did it go from that to “Bringing the Smiles” or whatever crap it was with a montage of old people playing Wii Sports? It’s kind of hard to get behind a company when it so blatantly tells you on the biggest stage of all for Gaming. “Hey, you don’t mean squat to us now.”

Sean Garmer: It was very hard for me to watch the Nintendo press conference E3 and keep from yelling at the screen. I’m a big fan of the casual movement because it gets people like my Dad to play games, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of the hardcore gamer that loves Nintendo for all it has done for this industry. They basically went out on Gaming’s biggest stage and told us that still make 90-95% of the gaming populous, “We love those casual players, and that is who we are aiming at.” That’s all fine and dandy, it just worries me that this approach may end up biting them in the ass. I bought my girlfriend a Wii and most of the stuff I tell her (she is a big gamer by the way), to buy for it is stuff that has already come out and there isn’t much on the horizon yet to be excited about. I just hope they learn to mix it up for their own good.

Worst Game of the Year:

Loser: TNA Impact! (Multi-Platform Wrestling Game, Midway)

Todd Vote: Absolute crap from start to finish. glitchy controls, clitchy animations, and a lame duck of a control scheme are just a few of the things plaguing this game. When a developer gives an interview to answer reader questions, and the answer to the majority of the questions is, and I am paraphrasing here, ‘We wanted to put it in, but just didn’t have time. Maybe in Impact 2.’ You know the game is going to have problems.

Theo Fraser: I think overall there were probably a couple of other titles worse in terms of them being almost unplayable (Ironman springs to mind), but this was definitely the biggest disappointment. TNA stars such as Samoa Joe and AJ Styles, hardcore gamers themselves, had likened the combat to that of WWF No Mercy on the N64 – the Holy Grail of wrestling games. When it turned out that it was extremely repetitive with a dodgy reversal system, TNA fans and gamers hoping for a breath of fresh air from the stale Smackdown series were left bitterly disappointed. And as for the Wii version…there’s no CAW! The Create-A-Wrestler feature is a vital part of any wrestling game, so its complete omission in the Wii version is a disgrace. What a shame.

Rod Oracheski: I don’t know if this is a case of the game really being that bad or expectations being that overextended. There were certainly worse games than TNA iMPACT released this year, and I probably wouldn’t even put it in a list of the five worst wrestling games in the last 10-15 years. If Midway can pull out of their financial nosedive, I think this series could be one to watch.

Vincent Chiucchi: This game has been in the works for so long, was supposedly being watched carefully by Samoa Joe and AJ Styles, and in the end it turned out mediocre. But mediocre doesn’t cut it in this cut-throat industry of ours. A limited roster with a limited moveset does not a good wrestling game make. Hopefully if Midway (or at least the license) lives long enough, TNA iMPACT 2K9 will fare better.

Jordan Williams: While I personally think there were worst games this year, I think when you are looking for the definite worst you can’t just pick the absolute worst, you have to put some expectations on it as well. As far as not delivering on those and turning out to be a horrible game, TNA Impact runs away with that. No CAW in a wrestling game is just inexcusable and of course this being primarily a wrestling website we all know to expect horrible stories when it comes to the subject matter. But seriously, Suicide is one of the single most idiotic things I’ve seen in a wrestling game since AKI Man.

Sean Garmer: I agree with all the guys here, TNA Impact! Was probably not the worst game of this year. Maybe it is a product of (kinda like WWE Divas lasting longer than they normally would in all the Hottest Babe tournaments in the Hot or Not forums, I mean many of those divas are very hot, but not so hot to be in the top four) this being the biggest website for Wrestling is probably the biggest reason why this got so many votes. There were a lot of problems with it, but it wasn’t so quite unplayable as Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm or something. So before TNA fans come blasting us remember that this is a big collective process.

Most Anticipated Game of 2009

Winner: Resident Evil 5 (XBOX 360 & PS3 Survival Horror, Capcom)

Todd Vote: Absolutely. My vote for most anticipated went to God of War 3, but RE5 is definitely on my must buy list. I absolutely loved Resident Evil 4, and 5 looks to be more of the same, + co-op.

Theo Fraser: Considering that RE4 is at the very top of many “Greatest Games Ever” polls, its sequel is bound to be met with high expectations. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, it looks as if it may well meet those expectations. I get the feeling this is going to be the title to tie up all those loose ends that have left the Resident Evil storyline a bit of a convoluted mess up until now. We’re finally going to find out what happened to Jill Valentine, the origins of the T-Virus, and the status of Wesker. If you’ve been a fan of the Resident Evil plots, you’ll be chomping at the bit to find out what happens next. Obviously, Chris Redfield is the man in charge this time around, but I get the impression we’ll be seeing a ton of familiar faces; a ‘RE-union’, if you will. As a Resi fanatic myself, I’m positively giddy about getting my hands on this one.

Rod Oracheski: Two months ago I’d have been onboard for this one in a big way. After playing the game…ehhhhh. Capcom’s made a next-gen (now-gen?) game that looks amazing for the most part but hasn’t change one iota from older game’s gameplay – and that’s gameplay that’s now horribly dated. Come on, Capcom – even Konami updated their control schemes a bit.

Vincent Chiucchi: If Capcom didn’t change too much from Resident Evil 4, this game is bound to be a good one. I just hope they keep the Resident Evil series like this.

Jordan Williams: I’m not exactly clear on the 2009 schedule, but as it stands around now Resident Evil 5 is the top one for me. I’m one of those people who pretty much hated Resident Evil before 4 (oh no, heritic I am) and Resident Evil 5 looks like a fucking blast to me. Add in Co-Op and it’s already looking even better.

Well, that does it for Part 1 of our Awards. Check back on Tuesday for Part 2, until then see ya later.

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Sean Garmer

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