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Best New Non-Player Character
Tenzin is an ally you meet in the second half of Uncharted 2, an indigenous dweller of the arctic mountains where Nathan Drake finds himself in no small degree of peril. And thankfully, Tenzin is the sort of guy who always seems to turn up right when you need him the most. He's a fighter, an explorer, an incredibly capable dude who you just know can get things done with a minimum of hassle and no word of complaint.
It must say something about the quality of his actions that he won us over without ever speaking a word of English. In fact, he wins Drake over too, who comes to depend on him not just as a comrade in arms but as a friend, in the face of what seem like impossible odds. If you were deep in the mountains, fighting against ferocious yak demons, an army of well-armed mercenaries, and a psychopathic warlord bent on world domination, you'd want a guy like Tenzin on your side.
Runners-Up: Ghost, GIRL
The Northies - Best Performance By Nolan North
It's been a prolific year for voice actor Nolan North--even if you don't know him by name, this unnervingly ubiquitous performer's dulcet tones have likely brightened some of your favorite games, perhaps even as the main character. In fact, this apparent workaholic has lent his voice to so many games in 2009, we felt compelled to call out our favorite Nolan North performance. There were so many to choose from, but we are proud to present this year's Northie to Nolan North for his performance as Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. No slight against his other performances, but this is the definitive North: an assured balance of self-aware swagger and an enthusiasm for absurdly dangerous situations, but with enough room for some genuine pathos when he's not cracking jokes about his own imminent demise. He's a funny, relatable character, and if you found out that, in addition to Sir Francis Drake, Nathan shared lineage with Indiana Jones or John McClane, it wouldn't be terribly surprising.
The performance-capture technology Naughty Dog used for Uncharted 2 also means that Nathan Drake actually shares some of Nolan North's physicality. Frankly, the first time we saw an actual image of Nolan North, it was a little surprising, and more than a little disappointing, that he didn't look like a flesh-and-blood Nathan Drake. This pretty much sums up how quintessentially Northian the role of Nathan Drake is, and why it easily wins the 2009 Northie.
Runners-Up: Jason Fleming ( Shadow Complex), Sgt. Forge ( Halo Wars), Desmond Miles ( Assassin's Creed II), Romeo ( Halo 3: ODST), War Machine ( Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2), Guard ( The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena), Additional Voices ( Dragon Age: Origins, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, InFamous, X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Most Disappointing Game
It's not that we hate the games in this category or anything; they just didn't deliver to the full extent of what we perceived their potential to be. Whether due to extensive marketing campaigns, misleading appearances, or just good old-fashioned runaway hype, we expected more with these games than we got. And in no case was that disparity greater than Scribblenauts, a wildly unique open-ended puzzle-action game for the DS that, honestly, sounded kind of like the best thing ever. Come on, the tagline itself of "Write anything, solve everything" sets up grandiose expectations that perhaps no game could live up to.
But we didn't expect Scribblenauts' controls to be so wonky and hard to handle, its puzzles and challenges so inconsistent. What good is the ability to create a zillion objects if only a minority of them behave like you want them to? Most of us ended up picking half a dozen functional tools and playing through the whole game with them... which kind of defeats the whole concept. That concept is still an enticing one, but Scribblenauts could have used some more time in the hopper before it made its way to shelves.
Runners-Up: Ghostbusters: The Video Game, Br ü tal Legend
Best Competitive Multiplayer
The best part about Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer is that it gives players significant choices to make about what weapons they want to use and how they want to play. If you'd like to specialize in accuracy, the powerful three-shot burst rifles are there for you. If you're into dumping lead everywhere and hoping something sticks, a light machine gun like the RPD or the AUG lets you remain effective, even if every bullet doesn't hit its mark. Then, of course, you've got the sniper rifles, which let you reach out and smoke someone via your thermal scope.
But plenty of games have offered you a choice in weapons. Modern Warfare 2 goes beyond the gun with its extensive perk and attachment system. So if you're constantly firing that machine gun so much that ammo is becoming scarce, then you can slap the Scavenger perk on that class to make ammo pickups plentiful. If you want to be fast or quiet, there's stuff like Lightweight, Ninja, and Commando, which makes that knife of yours stick out just a little bit more than the other guy's.
While everyone claims to have found the "best" loadout that unbalances the game and always ends up getting shouted down as "cheap" by message board fans around the world, it's less about the class you build and more about effectively matching a class to your playstyle. When you finally get that stuff honed in, Modern Warfare 2 takes on a whole new feel.
Of course, it's got the modes to back all of that up and make the run from level 1 to level 70 exciting, and the fast-moving, almost arcade-like feel of the action makes it high-powered. Modern Warfare 2 is a constantly-on kind of game, and that's just another reason why it's the best competitive multiplayer game of 2009.
Runners-Up: Street Fighter IV, Left 4 Dead 2
Look, if you can figure out what's going on in Noby Noby Boy, write to us care of this station. Actually, you know what? Forget about it. We don't want to know the truth about Keita Takahashi's stretching game, where BOY must stretch himself out as often as possible and report his length to GIRL, who is stretching her way past multiple planets thanks to the reported lengths of all the people playing BOY around the world. We can't even bring ourselves to see what the recent planet unlocks add to the game. All we know for sure is that this game is weird. So weird that it's barely even a game. But if there is a game in there somewhere, we're pretty sure that we're winning said game. And we're pretty sure that it's the weirdest thing to come out in 2009, too.
Press PAC-MAN PAC-MAN for more information!
Runners-Up: Zeno Clash, Demon's Souls