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Giant Bomb's Game of the Year, 2009

This is it! Our overall pick for the best game that the last year had to offer.

From the deliberate shock and awe of Modern Warfare 2 to Rocksteady's uniquely stylish distillation of the Batman mythos, 2009 was a year that brought us a lot of intense video-game experiences. But none featured more visceral excitement, stunning visuals, and uncontainable momentum than our pick for Game of the Year.
 

Game of the Year, 2009


Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

 

Part of the appeal for Uncharted 2 is that there's no gimmick, no hook--the appeal is that this is a very excellently crafted game experience. It's fun to play and a pleasure to look at. But that's awfully reductive, so let's get into what it is, specifically, about Uncharted 2 that makes it our game of the year.


First off, there's your main character, Nathan Drake. Despite his incredible, preternatural physical abilities, Nathan Drake is no superhero. He is, for all intents and purposes, a dude in a t-shirt. A dude in a t-shirt who just so happens to be racing around the globe in search of an artifact of supernatural significance, juggling an exceptionally evil Eastern European heavy and some duplicitous companions with their own agendas, while dodging a near-constant hail of gunfire, falling buildings, and helicopters. Considering the incredible situation he's gotten himself into, it's impressive that he's able to come off as Average Joe as he does, but it's a key part of the character's appeal, and the game's overall success. That the first time you see Nathan he's sitting on a wrecked train with a bullet in his gut reinforces that this guy is incredibly fallible, which brings a sense of danger to everything he does, despite his actual resilience and the infinite opportunities the game affords you to try and try again. Nolan North, who provides Nathan's voice, deserves much credit for establishing the tone for a character that doesn't quite know what he's doing, but is going to do it anyway, hoping for the best.

 
Uncharted 2 is also an absolutely gorgeous-looking game, the best we've seen in 2009, which puts it very high in the running for best-looking game of all time. The colorful, exotic environments are rich with detail, and the game's pacing is so relentless that you never linger in one place long enough to even begin trying to pick at it. A combination of performance capture and crazy technology that we have little hope of understanding produce character animation that impresses simply by looking natural in a way that few games would even know how to approach, let alone have the technical skill to actually pull it off. Uncharted 2 aims for a look that's just on Hollywood side of real with its world and its characters, which it pulls off while deftly avoiding the uncanny valley. It says a lot that the game is able to pull of subtle stuff like convincing facial animation and realistic-looking hair just as capably as it is a breakneck chase sequence or a fight with a helicopter.
 
It's one hell of a production, but Uncharted 2 isn't just about shiny things, it's got a real tactile feel to all of the running, jumping, climbing, and shooting that you'll engage in. And this is all to speak nothing of the game's highly credible co-op and competitive multiplayer modes, which leverage both the strength of the shooting and traversal mechanics which are the backbone of Uncharted 2's single-player experience. Too often do we see single-player games paired up with an afterthought of a multiplayer game, or vice versa, but Uncharted 2 nails it with both, and without ever compromising the tone of the game.
 
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the total package, a crowd-pleasing thrill ride that's incredibly difficult to put down and remarkably easy to recommend without ever feeling like it's pandering to the lowest-common denominator. It's funny, it's exciting, it's beautiful, it's nerve-wracking, and it's our 2009 game of the year.


 
Runner-Up: Batman: Arkham Asylum

313 Comments
Posted by Spike94
@Asurastrike said:
"It's entertaining to see how many people think calling a game "GOTY" means anything. Guess what, just because your favorite game wasn't given an arbitrary award doesn't mean that game was any worse. "

I know, right? 
...Yeah, I have nothing more to add, really. I completely agree. I can't fathom how someone can get annoyed by their favorite not winning. I used to get like that, but only when I was like 13 (maybe 14, but that's when I started to ease out of it and for lack of a better phrasing, grow up some) and under. Yeah it's nice when you're favorite wins/is recognized the way you see it, and you'd do an epic fist pump or something, but it's like "Oh, they chose that game? Yeah, it was amazing, I can see that. Cool." People still have their opinions and all, ya know? If Batman is GOTY to someone, that's way chill. Maybe it's Barbie to them, fine. I would wonder why in the world such a game could be someone's favorite of the year, but it wouldn't bother me none. It'd completely boggle my mind, sure, but other than that... And GOTY for me is a tie...I am awful at deciding.
It's a total toss-up between the two that were debated, actually, out of games I played this year (MW2 is up there too but...gotta say, U2 and Batman, man are they amazing...). I am glad Batman: AA is even a runner-up and that it is such a huge deal and everything. Simply put, I did a bit of a fist pump when I saw it was between Batman and Uncharted 2. Sorry for such a tl;dr comment, but what can ya do.
Posted by crystalskull2

No surprise here.

Posted by Spike94
@mugugipan said:
"Modern Warfare 2, all the way. "

Yeah it was good...if you read a previous comment of mine, scratch that, I have a 3-way tie for 2009's GOTY. xD 
*out of the games I played, otherwise I am sure AC II and Demon's Souls would be a part of it, to name a couple....I have yet to play these, but I speculate I shall thoroughly enjoy them.
Posted by Addfwyn
@SteepInKline: Yup, that's cool, glad I could help clarify, sounds fine to me. 
 
That said, if you ever get the chance to play it, give Uncharted 2 a try, it's definitely up there with all those games (and all those games you listed are excellent choices as well)
Posted by Spike94
@Duffyside said:
"I wonder if threads like this are common on GiantBomb, or if these are just the caliber of mutants that only emerge from their lunacy cocoons for meaningless - albeit fun - game of the year awards.  Anyway, great work this week fellas. I appreciate your efforts. Just two things, should a similar approach for game of the year be taken in the future; 1) if something similar like this happens next year, can you put the game of the year podcast up well before the the article? Nice to hear the discussion without knowing the verdict. And 2) I'd prefer it if the console-specific awards had been spaced out over the week like your individual choices were, as well as their accompanying podcast segments. Would've been nice to have a bit more content every day this week - excluding today - and to have this 3 and half hour podcast be a more reasonable 1 and a half, as well as every other podcast this week being bumped up from 10 - 15 minutes, to 30 - 45.  Hopefully this doesn't sound "complain-y." I love the site, loved all the content this week, clicked every link, listened to every podcast, made my list, checked it twice... awesome stuff. Thanks. "

Doesn't sound complain-y. Just giving some suggestions that the GB crew and fellow GBers may or may not agree with. It's all good, man. 
I don't mind that they posted it all in one day. It's my fault for cramming it all in viewing- and reading-wise...xD I would like to see the podcast before the article, as well though. Though that too was probably my fault (for the record, I clicked "News" to see if there was anythng I missed, and what do ya know, GOTY! No big deal whatsoever, but needless to say it would have been nice to have some build up...again, this isn't GB's 'fault' or anything, just a little thing that happened. Oh well.) 
But yeah, thanks for the year-round quality content, guys. It's embarrassing how often I visit this site in a day...
Posted by Spike94
@Kiemoe said:
"I was expecting Batman, but this is totally deserving. It's nice to see the PS3 figuring stuff out, it did really well this year "

My thoughts as well. 
And it totally did! Love seein' some PS3 love. :D
Posted by Pepsicolaboy

Yep.

Posted by harrypmgaga

Yeah I completely agree. So what if Uncharted 2 got GotY, I absolutely hated it, but am not going to let it "annoy" or "frustrate" me. I know what my GotY (and my site's one) is, and everyone has their own opinion. 
 
It pissed me off when people on our site went nuts because we didn't choose their GotY game. Like seriously, it's just a recognition, nothing else.
Posted by Lazyaza

Good choice GB, not my personal goty, I was way more in to Batman than U2 but still a game well worth the award.
If nothing else people cant argue that this wasn't an awesome year for games, especially ps3 ones.  

Posted by chililili
@harrypmgaga said:
"
Yeah I completely agree. So what if Uncharted 2 got GotY, I absolutely hated it, but am not going to let it "annoy" or "frustrate" me. I know what my GotY (and my site's one) is, and everyone has their own opinion.  It pissed me off when people on our site went nuts because we didn't choose their GotY game. Like seriously, it's just a recognition, nothing else. "
Just curious why did you hate it? I can see being completely indifferent towards it (I don't really care about Modern Warfare 2 AT ALL). But hating it? It had solid gameplay and story, what was intolerable about it?
Posted by Syphous

Uncharted 2, not surprising. I still say Batman wins it though.

Posted by bjorno

booo uncharted sucks my opinion is the only right one

Posted by Captain_Insano

WTF!!!!!!!! y n0+ Dr@g0n @g3????
 
While Dragon Age was my GOTY (though I am never 100% sure), Uncharted 2 was a worthy choice. Am just finishing up the campaign myself and, although I think it gets unnecessarily hard towards the end, it looks brilliant and plays pretty well.

Posted by spazmaster666

While I personally enjoyed DA: Origins and Batman AA more than Uncharted 2, it is definitely worthy of the game of the year title.

Posted by harrypmgaga
@chililili:
I just think I never got into it enough. I disliked the first game a lot, so coming into the second one with that frame of mind lowered the experience. I also wasn't drawn in to the story.
Posted by Th3dz

this makes me want to get a ps3!

Posted by get2sammyb

It could have been Batman, but in my opinion, Uncharted 2 was absolutely the right choice.

Posted by get2sammyb
@Siris said:
" I really want to play this game, yet I don't have a PS3.. damn, I wish that console wasn't so useless in the presence of a 360 I already have. "
Didn't you just argue your own point?
Posted by MachoFantastico

Fantastic choice, easily the best game of the year.

Posted by lordofultima

The correct choice (other than SF4 anyway)

Edited by Globox82
@Siris said:

" I really want to play this game, yet I don't have a PS3.. damn, I wish that console wasn't so useless in the presence of a 360 I already have. "

that is your opinion and your choice. PS3 had FAR superior exclusives in 09, it's only 299$, free online. keep on playing only on 360 but please spare us of your stupid comments. Don't comment on something you don't have...it only makes you sound biased.
Posted by Hemlock

Definitely the right choice, no other game demanded my attention like Uncharted did this year. I think I went through it in two days, and it takes a special game to hold my interest enough that I want to see it through immediately just to take it all in.

Edited by Ghostiet

I like how Uncharted 2 was totally expected, but at the same time there was incredible suspense about who is gonna win after the cast's "best of" lists and the general love for games like inFAMOUS, Batman, Shadow Complex, Borderlands or Assassin's Creed II.

Great awards. Although next year, I'd divide Best Graphics into Best Technical and Best Artistic. Because some games deserved recognition because of the art style (Zeno Clash, Brutal Legend).

Oh, I'm kinda sorry for Killzone 2 getting neglected in most categories, but that's just my private whining.

Posted by shatteringlast

IMO Batman is the more fun game. Every time there was a gunplay sequence in Uncharted 2, I felt as though I wanted to hit a magic skip button because it was so bad. Nothing like emptying a whole clip in a dude to have him not die. Plus the controller just isn't shooter friendly, at least to me. I never got frustrated with Batman for anything, so for my own little one-on-one of these two games, I'd go Batman. Just sayin'.

Online
Posted by mracoon

I thought they were going to give it to Batman but I think Nolan North gave Uncharted the edge.

Moderator
Posted by Bollard

And yet after playing the first one - even if I owned a PS3 - I still wouldn't buy this game...

Posted by Plipster

I think Batman was better and was a more important game in the long run. But hey, Uncharted 2 is a fine pick too. Also Assassins Creed 2 would have been ok by me :P

Edited by brocool

totally agree, I really appreciate this choice. I've played all the other games that could be considered GOTY material but nothing drew me in more than uncharted and nothing came nearly as to blow me away with its stunning visuals, memorable-humour, wit, music, sound effects, believable characters and their motivation. just spectacular stuff.

Posted by MmmSkyscraper

I don't have a PS3 but was favouring Uncharted based on the QL's. I played the PC demo of Batman and didn't get into it at all. I'm going to give it another shot based on the amount of praise it received as I must be missing something.

Posted by Impossibilium
@Globox82 said:
" @Siris said:

" I really want to play this game, yet I don't have a PS3.. damn, I wish that console wasn't so useless in the presence of a 360 I already have. "

that is your opinion and your choice. PS3 had FAR superior exclusives in 09, it's only 299$, free online. keep on playing only on 360 but please spare us of your stupid comments. Don't comment on something you don't have...it only makes you sound biased. "
 
Of course while the PS3 had some nice exclusives, almost every cross-platform game was worse on the PS3. So owning both is still the best option.
Posted by BenderUnit22
@shatteringlast said:
"Nothing like emptying a whole clip in a dude to have him not die."
You were either playing Uncharted 1 or your aim sucks badly. Even just watching Brad play in the QLs, when he actually hits dudes, it doesn't take more than a couple of bullets and a headshot is always one hit kill.
Posted by buzz_killington

I would've been happy either way, Batman or Uncharted.

Posted by atomic_dumpling

I will never play it due to zero interest in the PS3, but it seems like a balanced choice. Well done.

Posted by Eurobum

"tactile feel" is a tautology, like "milky latte", or "infantile child". Both words have the same meaning, except one is of Latin origin while the other is Anglo-Saxon (or whatever). There is no tactile smell, look, sound or taste ... tactile is the adjective to the noun: "feeling", due to the lack of a word like "feely" or "feelicious".  
 
I understand that even when the only thing people feel in a game is a greasy controller, they can project themselves into the situation of the hero for it to be "felt", in the same way that amputees sometimes "feel" their missing limb. Our brains can do that to a certain extent, and this ability - learning through observation, imitation of others -  is vital in learning sports like skateboarding.

Posted by jvsexy
@Chavtheworld said:
" And yet after playing the first one - even if I owned a PS3 - I still wouldn't buy this game... "
then go play pacman !
Posted by Eversoranimus

Batman and Uncharted 2 are such good games that either one could have won. Batman is my favorite game of 2009 but Uncharted 2 is the overall best game of the year.

Posted by PenguinDust

I can't argue with the choice.  It was my number one, too although I am still not completely satisfied with my list.  I haven't played Dragon Age: Origins and I suspect that might supersede it in my book simply because I love a good Bioware RPG more than practically anything.  Well, I know eventually since I am downloading the game off Steam as I write this.

Posted by CABBAGES

I suppose its probably the right choice but i would maybe say assassins creed 2 would maybe be my best game of 2009 With uncharted 2nd. 
I really dont know about batman as i played quite alot of it then all of a sudden got very bored with it but all this talk of it makes me want to go and stick it on now and try finish it.

 

Posted by PhatSeeJay

props to the giantbomb team. Definitely the best GOTY display compared to other websites.
Fun categories, nice reveals and excellent choice to do a new quick look of all of the winners to give us an insight to why you chose the games you did!
 
Thank you.

Edited by Kr3lian

Thumbs down for Giantbomb falling over themselves for graphics and presentation and picking a third person, cover-based shooter as game of the year.  Yeah, they had great mo-cap.  So what.  This game didn't REALLY do anything to advance the industry because only a handful of studios are even going to be able to afford that level of voice talent and motion-capture tech. 
 
Batman really brought things back to basics and put together an amazing gameplay experience.  So what if the predator stuff was a little easy?  It was FUN.  So what if there were a lot of gargoyles.  You know what?  I am GLAD they made it all gargoyles.  Would it have been better to put different looking rafters in each area?  They had a gameplay mechanic and they stuck to it, building it throughout the game.   They gave you options if you didn't want to use the gargoyles.  Uncharted was stop-pop-stop-pop, do some climbing, stop-pop-stop-pop, do some climbing, shoot an unarmored boss in the head 77 times, stop-pop, ad nauseum.   It didn't even get harder or develop the gameplay throughout the game, they just through more enemies at you and they took more hits.  There were character arcs, but no gameplay arc.  The most "OH SHIT THAT'S AWEOME" moment took place a third into the game.
 
Uncharted 2 was a great game because of those production values, don't get me wrong, but they did NOTHING to advance the craft of making videogames, other than show that rich studios now have the tech to pull off some convincing cutscenes and backgrounds to wrap around their trite and tired gameplay.

Posted by atomic_dumpling
@Kr3lian said:
"Uncharted 2 was a great game because of those production values, don't get me wrong, but they did NOTHING to advance the craft of making videogames, other than show that rich studios now have the tech to pull off some convincing cutscenes and backgrounds to wrap around their trite and tired gameplay. "
Funny, I have the same thoughts about the Batman game. Strip away the comic license and Batman suddenly becomes a very standard game.
Posted by stratzilla
@Kr3lian said:
" Thumbs down for Giantbomb falling over themselves for graphics and presentation and picking a third person, cover-based shooter as game of the year.  Yeah, they had great mo-cap.  So what.  This game didn't REALLY do anything to advance the industry because only a handful of studios are even going to be able to afford that level of voice talent and motion-capture tech. 
 
Batman really brought things back to basics and put together an amazing gameplay experience.  So what if the predator stuff was a little easy?  It was FUN.  So what if there were a lot of gargoyles.  You know what?  I am GLAD they made it all gargoyles.  Would it have been better to put different looking rafters in each area?  They had a gameplay mechanic and they stuck to it, building it throughout the game.   They gave you options if you didn't want to use the gargoyles.  Uncharted was stop-pop-stop-pop, do some climbing, stop-pop-stop-pop, do some climbing, shoot an unarmored boss in the head 77 times, stop-pop, ad nauseum.   It didn't even get harder or develop the gameplay throughout the game, they just through more enemies at you and they took more hits.  There were character arcs, but no gameplay arc.  The most "OH SHIT THAT'S AWEOME" moment took place a third into the game.  Uncharted 2 was a great game because of those production values, don't get me wrong, but they did NOTHING to advance the craft of making videogames, other than show that rich studios now have the tech to pull off some convincing cutscenes and backgrounds to wrap around their trite and tired gameplay. "
u mad?
Posted by Vorbis

Both are great games and they spent over an hour arguing who should win so I don't think anyone has the right to say they were wrong. In the end they had to choose one game and Ryan put up a better argument. 
 
And those who are saying they are wrong without even having played both games, shouldn't you be on Gametrailers?

Posted by Grognard66

Solid choice for GoTY and good picks all around in the other categories.
Edited by Impossibilium
@Kr3lian said:

"  This game didn't REALLY do anything to advance the industry because only a handful of studios are even going to be able to afford that level of voice talent and motion-capture tech.  "

 
There isn't one element of originality in Batman Arkham.  Even the graphics engine is a third party property which suffers the same "muscular dude" syndrome that other U3 games do. The central character isn't new either you know? The only major contribution to the gaming industry Batman gave is that it stopped licensed comic book properties being crap.
 
And somehow I think if Chair can afford Nolan North that means he's not particularly expensive or exclusive to hire. Especially when Batman has Mark Hamill. Remember him?
 
Really, what a pointless diatribe. Arguing between two games that operate on a similar level with similar gameplay concepts and drawbacks and borrow heavily from other sources, yet ignoring those elements on one game and criticizing the very same elements on another.
 
Giant Bomb is based on "fun." Which many users tend to forget. Like many things the GOTY is based on how much the staff enjoyed playing a game as much as it's gaming merits.  If you want to over analyze results then head over to a site that's more anal about it's gaming.
 
I really don't care who wins GOTY on Giant Bomb. It could have been 50 Cent Blood on the Sand and it wouldn't have bothered me if the write-up and video were good. Hell, I'd have give it to Just Dance on the Wii just for the Quick Look!
Posted by forgeforsaken

4 out of the 6 personal top 10s had Batman higher than Uncharted 2. I can't help but think that if Drew and Dave were part of the voting then the site's game of the year would be different.    
Posted by Hamz

I have to say a big congratulations to the staff for all this end of year review stuff and a thumbs up for picking Uncharted 2 as their GOTY. It isn't a game that does anything too ground breaking or new in regards to gameplay mechanics etc. But it takes all of what it has and gives it such an extensive and high level of polish that the overall resulting quality of the game is just utterly mind blowing. Games don't always need to be pushing some new ground breaking technology or gameplay mechanics to advance the industry, sometimes going back over what has already been covered before and improving on it so dramatically provides an overall superior gaming experience.
 
Uncharted 2 does that, it refines character animations, voice acting, visual quality and many other things to such an extent it feels like they've reinvented how best to handle these things. A shining example of a game which proves if enough actual effort and time is put into the design and development the resulting product can be, for lack of a better word, a masterpiece of engineering and artistic quality.
 
Congratulations to the runners up as well. I did think Batman: Arkham Asylum might steal the GOTY award away from Uncharted 2 but I'm even more excited to see it came in as a runner up considering this is a game that was released by a little known developer with next to no experience. And they provide us with this mind blowing game that truly shows how to handle the use of a creative license when making a video game. Great job to Rock Steady!

Posted by imad81
@CABBAGES said:
"

I suppose its probably the right choice but i would maybe say assassins creed 2 would maybe be my best game of 2009 With uncharted 2nd. 
I really dont know about batman as i played quite alot of it then all of a sudden got very bored with it but all this talk of it makes me want to go and stick it on now and try finish it.

 

"
same here fella..makes me wanna finish it even though i got bored around the halfway mark..
Edited by Kr3lian
@Impossibilium said:

 There isn't one element of originality in Batman Arkham . 

On some level, nothing is original.  I am sorry, but name one game that is appreciably similar to batman, and I will take that comment seriously. 
 

And somehow I think if Chair can afford Nolan North that means he's not particularly expensive or exclusive to hire. 


Then why do most games have incredibly bad voice work? 
 
Face the facts, Uncharted 2 is a pretty Gears of War with some pretty Tomb Raider elements.  I didn't even say I didn't like the game, but that gameplay flaw is pretty glaring. 
 
@stratzilla said: 
u mad? "  
 
Not really, I just think it's fun to argue about Game of the Year.  Especially since Batman was better than UC2 ;) 
 
@atomic_dumpling
said:
Funny, I have the same thoughts about the Batman game. Strip away the comic license and Batman suddenly becomes a very standard game. "  
 
I have a feeling that you didn't even play it.  I think the universal acclaim for the game proves that idea is bunk.  On the other hand, most of the press acknowledges that Uncharted 2 has pretty run of the mill gameplay.  They just admittedly overlook that point for the whole package, which is great, but mostly propped up on graphics and production.  That's all I'm saying.
Posted by KingGamer

I am surprised Batman is runner-up.