Every year, publishers push to get their high-profile titles into gamers’ hands before Black Friday, leaving a quality-title dead zone until the beginning of Quarter 1. The end of release season also signals the official beginning of Game of the Year speculation. Every big-budget, large-scale, game is now available on store shelves which means players should have a pretty good idea about which 2009 title they enjoyed the most – unless you are holding your breath for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, which most of us aren’t.
Instead of relying on the outcome of the upcoming Spike VGAs, which in 2005 nominated 50 Cent: Bulletproof and Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game for awards, Game Rant has decided to put together a list of our nominations, along with a bit of commentary, for our Game of the Year choices. As usual, we’re interested to hear what our readers think, so make sure to vote in the poll on the home page, as well as sound off in the comments.
In the interest of avoiding favoritism, our nominees are listed in alphabetical order:
Assassin’s Creed II
Players have only been enjoying the sequel to Assassin’s Creed for a couple weeks now, but there’s no denying the strength of the title. Assassin’s Creed II improves on every single positive aspect of the first game – graphics, immersive environments, gameplay, as well as fixes a number of its predecessor’s problems – most notably in the diversity of missions and combat. The sequel allows players to customize their experience in countless ways: whether purchasing weapons that allow for a more aggressive combat experience, investing in properties that earn money in the long-term, or simply changing the color of Ezio’s clothing – no one can accuse the game of funneling players through a specific series of moments or force them to carry out the larger assassinations in one specific way. The story, while still convoluted, is better grounded in the mission structure this round and overall Ezio is a more interesting character than his distant great-great-grandfather Altair.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
What could have been an absolute franchise disaster turned out to be one of the best and most immersive titles of the year – due mainly to publisher Rocksteady’s uncompromising recreation of the Batman universe, not to mention an incredible initial concept. If Batman: Arkham Asylum only did one thing right, it’s grounding the player in Batman’s boots, forcing gamers to not only react to threats but think through various combat scenarios, all while utilizing a number of inventive and iconic bat-gadgets. The physical design of the characters and environments is immaculate – details a lot of gamers may have missed if they relied heavily on the cowl’s detective mode. The story, penned by Emmy Award winning Paul Dini who also wrote episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series” and later, “Batman Beyond,” fits the mythos of the franchise with a well-paced gameplay experience. Numerous voice actors with previous Batman experience, most notably Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy, came on board to ground the game even further. Not to mention, one might argue that winning a Guinness World Record for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game” might be a greater challenge than a Game of the Year award.
Despite a few hiccups at launch, one of which being not enough copies to go around, Borderlands has secured it’s place as the Sleeper Hit of the Year, if not Game of the Year. Gearbox managed to combine outrageous online multiplayer co-operative play with deep RPG customization, in a post-apocalyptic world filled with everything from midget bandits, insect-like monstrosities, and now, zombies. Borderlands knows its market, the plot is simple and humorous, and subsequently, somewhat gimped as a single-player experience, but the co-operative online play is unique, not to mention outrageous fun, offering hundreds of hours of distinctive play – a step up from the often copy and paste feel of many online shooter-style games in the market. The first round of DLC for the game entitled “The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned” continued building on an already massive universe, and with future DLC already in the works, fans of Borderlands have a lot of reasons to be championing the title for Game of the Year.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The videogame equivalent of a Michael Bay film, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is heavy on explosive action and outrageous gameplay. Where non-stop action might wear viewers down after three hours of movie-watching, Modern Warfare 2 gives fans of the series exactly what they wanted – an intense multiplayer experience that improves on previous outings. The single player campaign is short and sweet but is also supplemented with the Special Ops section, allowing players to take control of a number of diverse combat scenarios. The title offers a great value: terrific graphics, cinematic and immersive gameplay, challenging difficulties, and boasts a number of improvements; but, is a solid package enough for a title to truly be game of the year? Is Modern Warfare 2 truly the best title of 2009 or is it, as many critics of the franchise have stated, more deserving of the Most Over-Hyped Game of the Year award? It’s difficult to argue with Modern Warfare 2’s numbers, recently surpassing $3 billion in sales, with numbers like that, Infinity Ward must be doing something right.