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2009: Game of the Year
It's time for us to sit back and recap on what made this year stand out in terms accomplishments in one of the most popular forms of electronic entertainment. Unlike last year, 2009 brought considerably more to each genre. As much as we enjoy reviewing games and handing out honors to those that deserve them, we also have to navigate through the ocean of gaming crappiness, which usually involves playing a variety of underdeveloped titles, in addition to waves and waves of pathetically mediocre attempts to entertain the masses (yes, movie tie-ins and diverse forms of franchise milkage included).
As always, as soon as next year kicks off, we'll be back to dip into some of the most disappointing releases in 2009.
Meanwhile, our 2009 Game of the Year Awards await.
Dragon Age: Origins
It was touch and go for a while, with Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 almost snatching the 2009 People's Choice Award. Eventually, the honor went to BioWare's fantasy role-playing game Dragon Age: Origins (rightfully so, I might add). One of the most prominent development studios on the gaming scene, once again, proves it can deliver a gripping single-player RPG experience both on PC and consoles. With a well-written storyline, great atmosphere and old-school RPG gameplay, this title justifies every penny of its $60 price tag.
Runners-up: Modern Warfare 2 (Activision, Infinity Ward), Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft), Left 4 Dead 2 (Turtle Rock Studios, Valve/EA).
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Batman: Arkham Asylum represents Rocksteady Studios' first effort after Urban Chaos: Riot Response. With absolutely no hesitation we feel Batman: Arkham Asylum earned all of its praises and awards, bringing one of the most complete and most engrossing video game experiences this year. Surprises don't happen often in this business, but this game exceeded our expectations in every possible sense. The credit goes to the development team on this one. Not only have they created an exceptionally addictive action adventure with a great narrative and cool characters, but they've also pushed the Unreal Engine to its limits. Apart from offering challenging and well-balanced gameplay, the game engulfs players right from the start and takes them on an intense and brilliantly directed cinematic ride. The best part is, it's not a movie tie-in.
Runners-up: Resident Evil 5 (Capcom), Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft), Dragon Age: Origins (EA, BioWare).
Resident Evil 5
Capcom's Resident Evil 5 injects a strong dose of action-oriented gameplay straight into the heard of its popular survival horror franchise. This nearly ended up being our choice for Game of the Year (Batman won, yay!). However, when it comes to choosing the ultimate action game in 2009, Resident Evil 5 is the indisputable winner on all fronts. It has tension, first-rate visuals, non-stop action and possibly one of the best co-op game experiences you can expect to have nowadays. In short, Capcom improved the series in every way imaginable. If they ever plan to launch RE 6, we'll be there to hopefully enjoy the hell out of it.
Runners-up: Assassin's Creed II (Ubisoft), Batman: Arkham Asylum (Eidos, Rocksteady), Modern Warfare 2 (Activision, Infinity Ward).
Dragon Age: Origins
Ah yes, the decaying, though not forgotten genre of single-player RPGs, which could've been razed to its foundation thanks to MMOGs, if it weren't for a few efforts from developers such as BioWare. Dragon Age is one of these efforts. As a development team, these guys never cease to amaze us with their incredible ability to create unforgettable role-playing games, with exciting story-driven quests, brilliant dialogue and excellent characterization. The plot isn't the only thing that should keep you occupied here. The game has all the elements you need to immerse yourself in an interesting new fantasy setting. Gameplay wise, it appeals to both hardcore RPG players and causal gamers. Well done, BioWare.
Runners-up: Risen (Piranha Bytes).
Forza Motorsport 3
Developer: Turn 10
Our 2009 GotY Awards have seen the return of the Racing Game genre, largely thanks to Turn 10's racer Forza Motorsport 3. With the decline of popular franchises such as Need for Speed and even DiRT (this year), Forza 3 makes racing enjoyable regardless of what you prefer - multiplayer or single-player. Also, it's been a really, really long time since we gave an Editor's Choice Award to a racing game.
Runners-up: DiRT 2 (Codemasters).
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Since we've had no actual releases from Blizzard this year (What? Oh shut up!), the Award for Best MMOG goes to Cryptic Studios and their latest release Champions Online.
I'll let our buddy Vince Massa fill you in on the details: "Champions Online truly is the next generation hero MMOG. Cryptic Studios took everything they learned from City of Heroes and their obvious love of comic books and superheroes and have delivered a game that allows players to realize their own unique superhero dream. The character creation system has a crazy level of detail, to the point that you very well may find yourself spending as much time tweaking the look of your character as you will cracking bad guys heads..."
Runners-up: Aion (NCSoft).
Empire: Total War
Developer: Creative Assembly
Despite some the bugs and other technical problems Empire: Total War had after the game's launch, it remains the best strategy game in 2009. Staying true to the series' tradition, Creative Assembly's game takes the best out of turn-based gameplay and epic real-time battles, providing an effective combo of both; thus delivering a remarkably deep strategy experience. Assuming you've installed all the updates, patches and whatnot, you'll get a kick out of Empire: Total War. It has amazing tactical depth, a lengthy single-player campaign and a solid multiplayer mode.
Runners-up: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 (THQ, Relic), Halo Wars (Microsoft, Triumph Studios).
Guitar Hero 5
Another year gone by and Activision and Neversoft launch yet another Guitar Hero title, improving upon the familiar gameplay mechanics of the series, in addition to introducing a few cool new features.
To quote Vince on this one: "While the rhythm genre might be on the down side of the meteoric popularity ride, it's nice to see that the title that launched the flurry of rhythm games is still providing innovation and fun at this stage of the game. The excuse to get nice new TV doesn't hurt either."
Runners-up: The Beatles: Rock Band (EA, Harmonix Music)
I'm not in the least bit surprised. Hanna Hilton, born October 31, 1984 in Brookville, Indiana, has been chosen as AT's top babe in 2009. Yep, she's the highest ranking chick, as chosen by you, our faithful readers. From high-school cheerleader to glamour model, Hilton's beauty was discovered online by an agent who brought her to Los Angeles (I'll bet all of those... ehm, err, movie producers, are double-glad he did).
But Hanna isn't the only top girl in 2009. Let's welcome other fine babes, who also made the year more enjoyable for all of us.
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