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Sunday
Jan132008

Sirlin's 2007 Game Awards

Giving out truly unbiased and thoughtful awards is a lot of work and requires a lot of research. It also yields pretty predictable, boring results, so that's why my awards are totally biased and generally unfair. Also, don't you hate it when award stuff starts counting up from like the top 100 when you just want to know the #1 winner? Me too, let's start with that.

Best Game of 2007: Portal
Even though it seemed packaged as thrown-in extra content on the Orange Box disc, the game is a real gem. You get to control your character immediately with no intro story. Even though there are no cutscenes or story segments, you learn the story of what's going on through context and voice acting from the computer that runs the facility. And most importantly, the portal mechanic itself is great fun and the developers did wonderful puzzley things with it. This is a good concept with great execution.

2nd Best Game of 2007: Tie! Chess, Go, Magic: The Gathering, and World of Warcraft: Trading Card Game
Just a reminder to look outside of just video games. These are hard to top, and honestly as good as Portal is, these games will be much longer-lived.

3rd Best Game of 2007: Resident Evil 4 Wii
You might be saying, "But Resident Evil 4 came out in 2005, didn't it?" Ok, that's true. Last year, you might remember that I was grumpy the game did not even get *nominated* at the 2005 Game Developer's Choice awards, and was somehow disallowed from a couple other award givers due to some technicality about the exact release date. That prompted me to, you know, accidentally include it in my 2006 awards due to a reverse-technicality.

But now we had a Wii version of the game in 2007, and it's definitely a barely, slightly better version than ever before. Aiming with the Wii remote makes the game feel a little better, and the prerendered cut scenes are actually real time in this version, making the game slightly more consistent-looking. It's two years old, but still quite an achievement.

4th Best Game of 2007: Super Mario Galaxy
I wrote an article about this game that will appear on gamasutra.com, so you'll have to wait for that to hear more. The short version is that in addition to having great art, this game is rare in that it evokes the feelings of surprise and wonder.

5th Best Game of 2007: Rock Band
This game resonates with hardcore gamers and even non-gamers, so it's doing something right. I'm missing the genes that make people care about music, and even I like it. There aren't many games I can play with my girlfriend, but this is one of them (and was Mario Galaxy, btw).

And now for some specialty awards.

Best Puzzle Game of 2007: Puzzle Fighter HD Remix
The original Puzzle Fighter is, in my opinion, the best 2-player puzzle game there is. Now that it has updated drop patterns for better balance and new graphics, this is lock. Factor in that I did the balancing on this game myself, and consider yourself lucky I didn't put it as best game of the year.

Worst Award Nominations of 2007: Gamespot's nominations for Best Puzzle Game. They managed to scrape up FIVE puzzle games that did not even include Puzzle Fighter. Ha! Seriously?

Award for a Bunch of First-Person Shooters: Tie! Crysis, Bioshock, Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4, and Halo 3.
These were truly a bunch of first-person shooters.

Game Whose Amp Was Turned Up to 11: Every Extend Extra Extreme (XBLA)
Have you seen this thing?? It's a visual extravaganza. See my post about it here, but the short version is that it's the most incredible, mesmerizing screen saver I've ever played.

Best Character of the Year: The Weighted Companion Cube
There's something about this metal box with hearts on it (from Portal) that sticks in my mind. Other characters might have had more polygons or emotions or were humanoid, but the Weighted Companion Cube is hard to beat.

Hardest Gaming Thing to Buy: Nintendo Wii System
Did you try to buy these things? I tried to buy three in December and ended up with zero. Amazing that it's sold out two years in a row.

Honorable Mention: Rock Band (At least I managed to buy one of these.)
Best Use of Usually Pointless RPG Mechanics: Puzzle Quest
Combining Bejeweled with leveling-up RPG stats could have gone horribly wrong, but somehow it ended up as more than the sum of its parts.

Most Underrated Game of the Year: Settlers of Catan (XBLA)
IGN: 7.7. Gamespot: 7.9. I don't get it. What do you want form this game? It's an incredibly well-designed board game, usually regarded as one of the best and most landmark board games of all time by boardgamegeek.com (or in the top 5 at the very least). And now we have an absolutely wonderful translation to digital form, easily and cheaply available for download on XBLA. Maybe I should have put this in my top 5 of the year.

Most Mind-bending Game I Didn't Play Because It's On a Shitty System: Crush (PSP)
Please make this for Xbox or Wii or something, it looks really interesting.

Best Game That I Can't Ever Be Good At: Team Fortress 2
The art style is GREAT. The gameplay, from my limited understanding, seems great. I love the variety of abilities and the careful thought the developers put into balance and map design. If I liked games that involved spatial intelligence in a 3D world, or aiming, or relying on teammates rather than your own skills, then I would call this the best game of the year.

Best Game of Next Year That I Won't Be Actually Good At Either: StarCraft 2
It's going to be awesome and I'm going to be somewhat decent at it.

Most Reformed Game: World of Warcraft
You may remember a little soapbox piece I wrote about this game a while ago, and many of my objections have since been answered. Sure, solo play is still second class to grouping and the terms of service still add an unnecessary layer of squishy rules, but the game has made major advancements since I wrote that article. The old honor system is out and areanas are in. Arenas give rewards without demanding ludicrous amounts of time (at least I think, I don't actually play anymore). Raids have been reduced from 40 man to 10 and 25. PvP gear is good in PvP now, as opposed to raiding gear being the only viable gear at all as it was before.

I love all those changes, great job Blizzard. Now just allow me to pick a premade character for PvP so gear and time spent count for nothing and skill counts for everything, and then the game can be a real e-sport. There must be some way of doing that while still allowing it to appeal to the casual masses. If not, I'd like tomake that e-sport game as its own entity. Dear publishers: fund my idea. Dear developers: let's make that game, and no Guild Wars doesn't count but it was a good try.

Best Game Made By My Friends: God of War 2
God of War 2 is really good, surely at least a 9 out of 10 if not more. It improved on the mechanics and enemies of the first game and was as polished as ever. If you want to know how to do combat in a 1p game and you don't feel like hiring me as a consultant, then at least look at this game.

Worst Game Ending of 2007: God of War 2
Sorry guys, but I haven't been so let down in a long time. Nothing felt resolved and it blatantly ended at the most unsatisfying point possible. You can't just call it an Empire Strikes Back Cliffhanger and get away with it. I was going to say 9.4, the ending took it down to a 9 for me.

Most Excruciating Beginning of a Game: Super Paper Mario
You have to play this game something like 17 minutes before you get to the actual beginning. It's like 8 minutes before you even do anything other than click through dialog. A like 10 minutes, an NPC asks you if you will accept some item. If you say no, he asks again. If you say no again he says you really should and asks again. If you say no a third time, you get GAME OVER and sent back to the title screen. Note that there was no possible way to save before then and that there is no way to skip the 8-10 minutes of dialog to get back. Wow.

Best Fighting Game of 2007: Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo: HD Remix
What, you haven't been playing this? I guess you haven't because it's not out yet. Well I've been playing it and it's really damn good. It's so fun now that special moves are easier for characters like Cammy and T.Hawk and that there are fewer character mismatches than before.

Best Fighting Game of 2008: Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo: HD Remix
Yeah, I said it. Let's hope it stands the test of time.

--Sirlin

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