This year we decided to try something different with our Game of the Year awards: The GOTYS. We came up with categories that exemplify the areas of gaming that we think should be highlighted.
Instead of awards meant to serve as a shopping list for gamers, we hope to create something that pinpoints what we think was best in gaming for the year and where we hope developers will strive to improve their games over the following years.
The outcome was as surprising to us as I'm sure it will be to you. I've explained the process at the bottom of our list for those interested. In the meantime check out what Kotaku Tower thought offered the best in gaming in 2008.
Metal Gear Solid 4
Say, what you want about Metal Gear Solid 4 — that it's more movie, less game, whatever. Those gripes don't matter: MGS4 is pure eye candy, it oozes sexy style and sparkles with pure panache. Watching it is a wonder. Character designer Yoji Shinkawa has been given a large canvas, and he's painted a masterpiece.
Not Quite Best Art: Valkyria Chronicles
Using technology to replicate sound is easy, but what about using it to imitate a complete lack of sound? The developers of Dead Space managed to convey airless, soundless space by replicating the vibrations one would feel from magnetized footsteps on a metal hull, or the recoil felt when unloading your weapon into an enemy clawing its way relentlessly towards you. They did an amazing job that realy heightened the atmosphere of the game - or lack thereof.
Not Quite Best Sound: Left 4 Dead
Grand Theft Auto IV
You'll see the "category" name up there, you'll see we picked Grand Theft Auto IV, and your eyes probably won't stop rolling. After all, isn't this the game with a "story" that, after the first third, completely falls apart? Interesting, original characters replaced for tired mob stereotypes while a convoluted narrative about the American Dream collapses in on itself around them? Yes. But we're also rewarding games for their dialogue. And no game from 2008 can match the wit, delivery and sheer volume of irresistible chit-chat that Grand Theft Auto IV populates its cutscenes, missions and idle moments with.
Not Quite Best Writing: Fallout 3
Where several games delivered innovative stories or gameplay mechanics this year, none were as comprehensively groundbreaking as LittleBigPlanet. The game's premise, physics, and art direction constitute a near-reinvention of the platform genre. But most importantly, LittleBigPlanet's extraordinarily deep capacity for user-generated content represents a significant evolution in console gaming, bringing a creative experience that is ordinarily the domain of PC gaming into the PlayStation 3.
Other games will surely be created to follow, if not outright copy, the example LBP set last year.
Not Quite Best Innovation: Braid
Left 4 Dead
In a world where games tack-on multiplayer modes to single-player campaigns as an afterthought, Left 4 Dead is a breath of fresh zombie flesh. Modeled entirely on a four player system that encourages teamwork and cooperation over every-man-for-himself, this multiplayer mode challenges FPS gamers and survival horror fans to resist both run-and-gun tactics and fleeing blindly from the oncoming brain-craving horde. And by giving gamers the chance to play as Infected themselves – spitting vomit, tongue-choking Survivors, or just generally raining on their survival parade – Left 4 Dead goes the extra mile in creating a diverse and always-entertaining multiplayer experience.
Not Quite Best Multiplayer: Gears of War 2
Braid is brilliant. The mechanics are ingenious, forcing the player to learn, adapt and ruminate on how space and time — and even story — can be manipulated in a video game. Even the resolution, the ending as it were, requires that the player see it play out according to the rules of Braid. It's also refreshingly independent. We know, directly from the creator, the ins and outs of Braid's pricing, its development history and the post-ship bugs. It's all "important" stuff, an exciting entry in a new generation of developers and thinking.
Not Quite Best Indie: World of Goo
Grand Theft Auto IV
At their heart, games are meant to be a sort of absorbing escape from the every day. Unfortunately, what we as gamers escape to is too often an incomplete vision.
Scaling back on some of the unwieldy features found in earlier iterations of Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar instead focused on perfecting what was left, creating a foundation building game.
The result is a Liberty City that had us not just marveling at the over the top escapism of action-hero antics, but losing ourselves in the mundane, the routine of cell phone calls, of blind dates and taxi rides.
What Rockstar has done so well is give us a full vision, one that is more place than game, a playground of opportunities complete with a believable cast of characters and plenty of opportunities for mayhem in a setting so real we forget that it isn't.
Not Quite Game of the Year: Gears of War 2
We started by discussing the best way to categorize our awards and after deciding to lump all games together, regardless of genre or platform, we worked to create a list of categories that we felt highlighted the important elements of a game.
Next I asked all of the writers to nominate three games each for the GOTYs. I went through the list and pulled the three games in each category with the most nominations. In the case of two categories there was a tie and I had everyone vote for the tie breaker.
Once we had our finalist list together I asked everyone to order them from first to third. First place votes received three points, second place received two and third received one. The game with the most votes won in each category.