2008: Game of the Year
My, my, how time flies. Here we are at the very end of the year 2008 and we've witnessed a great many releases. As always, not all of them turn out as good as we hoped, but it sure as hell was a fun ride.
Looking back at the entire year, it's safe to say the industry has taken another sharp turn towards consoles and casual gaming, which is no surprise. We were still treated to plenty of fine titles both on consoles and for PC gamers.
The only thing we regret is that 2008 seems to have brought no real break-through accomplishments in any of the genres. There were some bold attempts such as Mirror's Edge and Left 4 Dead, albeit they haven't gone the distance (at least not in terms of truly innovative gameplay). However, this is a matter we'll be tackling on a different occasion.
Also, be sure to return in 2009 when we'll be looking back on some of the most disappointing releases in '08. It's gonna be tough decision, I tell ya. There were a lot of letdowns this year.
For now, let's just stick with the traditional GotY awards. So, without further ado, ladies and gamers, I give you AT's 2008 Game of the Year.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
With so many action games and the likes of World of Warcraft, there's little room for decent single-player RPGs these days. Even so, Bethesda delivered its long-awaited post-apocalyptic RPG, Fallout 3. There's no doubt on our part that this has been one of the most enjoyable titles we've played in a long time and certainly one that feels more immersive and better polished than the development studio's previous achievement - Oblivion. The game will quite simply keep you occupied for hours and is equally appealing to average gamers and RPG buffs. We understand why most of our readers were taken by this game and we look forward to related content Bethesda is preparing.
Runners-up: Gears of War 2 (Epic, Microsoft), Left 4 Dead (Turtle Rock Studios, Valve/EA), Fable II (Lionhead, Microsoft).
Grand Theft Auto IV
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
In May 2008, when Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto IV on the PS3 and Xbox 360, we were completely sucked into the game thanks to the captivating setting, compelling characters and well-written storyline. The developers succeeded in pushing the series forward in terms of realism, vehicle physics and gameplay in general. The added gritty presentation of a realistic open-world, to us, represents a move in the right direction. Considering all the games that have gone by this year, GTA IV stands tall as the best. It symbolizes just how far games evolved and it pushes current game technologies to the limits. For that reason, we were most disheartened when the developers released an uncompleted and heavily-bugged PC version of an otherwise excellent game. As it stands, the Xbox 360 version, which we played, was by far the best game in 2008.
Runners-up: Left 4 Dead (Turtle Rock Studios, Valve/EA), Mirror's Edge (DICE, EA), Gears of War 2.
Gears of War 2
Epic Games showed they are a talented development team yet again. We honestly didn't think they would be capable of creating something to top the original Gears of War game. Well, Gears of War 2 indeed proved us wrong. Not only is it a skillfully directed action game, but it also features breath-taking visuals. After playing GoW 2, every other game appears behind the times in terms of graphics. Apart from its tremendous visual appeal, Gears of War 2 boasts awesome gameplay, an exciting atmosphere, not to mention major improvements in the multiplayer - which is a great plus.
Runners-up: Dead Space (EA), Mirror's Edge (DICE, EA).
Developer: Lionhead Studios
The lack of single-player RPGs didn't make this a difficult choice. Although, I must admit it was touch and go there for a while, since Fallout 3 has been chosen as the first runner-up. In the end, it's not easy to compare the two because Fable delivers the kind of experience you'd expect from an addictive fantasy themed role-playing game. F3, on the other hand, is a different story. Still, overall, Fable II is something we'll remember for a long time. We liked nearly everything in this game, from the superb art direction, charming characters, thrilling narrative, easy-to-get-into combat system and great quests. We hope things will improve even further with the next installment in the series.
Runners-up: Fallout 3 (Bethesda), King's Bounty (Katauri Interactive, Atari).
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Do we really need to explain this? Blizzard achieved admirable success with the World of Warcraft franchise and have practically outdone themselves with the release of Wrath of the Lich King. Beyond sales, numbers and success, this is a great game and it comes highly recommended from AT.
For this one, I'd like to quote 2lions: "Bottom line, with the introduction of the Death Knight, Blizzard has done a great job of adding another element of fun in the game..." The game has a "phenomenal questing system with fantastically incorporated story elements," great art and music and is "a huge time sink for people with nothing better to do."
I think that about sums it up.
Runners-up: None (I thought about putting Warhammer Online and AoC but... you know, they mostly suck).
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3
Developer: EA LA
No, it did not receive an Editor's Choice Award from us. No it most certainly doesn't come close to last year's best strategy game. Nonetheless, given all the strategy games we've seen in 2008, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 marked some significant contributions to the slowly declining genre. Unlike most PC games we've witnessed lately, it didn't treat us to any unwanted technical mishaps that would hinder the gameplay. It's a smooth and technically sound game. More importantly, it's the first title to effectively introduce the concept of co-op to the real-time strategy genre; something game designers ought to have done a long time ago.
Rock Band 2
Developer: Harmonix Music
Rock Band 2 doesn't exactly elevate the genre of rhythm music games to new heights. What it does well though, is enhance all the good elements from the previous game and adds a range of new songs to boot. New features were included, while a number of annoying points were disregarded. As our buddy Vince says: "Jamming with friends to some classic tunes that span 4 decades and a variety of genres is a load of fun and a great way to waste an evening. The new features are not enough to convert anyone who can't stand rhythm games to begin with but to anyone who enjoys this kind of experience should go out and add Rock Band 2 to their library today."
Runners-up: Guitar Hero: World Tour (Activision)
This year the lovely and sexy Veronika Fasterova receives the ActionTrip Babe of the Year Award. Veronika is a fan of rock music and as we understand was born the same year when the Guns N' Roses released "Appetite for Destruction." She claims that this album changed her life and amongst other things it also inspired her to get a rose tattoo on her ankle (awwww, bless her). Apart from this eye-catching female specimen, let's not forget some of the others who also kept us company throughout 2008.
That's about it for 2008. Some of you may notice that the 'Sports Game' category was left out this year. Regular readers should be well aware that AT is understaffed. Regardless, we're doing our best to keep you lot up to speed on the various goings on in the world of video games.
We love you all. Thank you for sticking with us.
So, loyal readers, friends and rest of you who came here by accident or by typing 'Action Trip' in Google, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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