We ring in the new year with two-and-a-half hours of head-splitting deliberation in this, our final day of awards!
Best Game Room Release
Having spent hours of time playing and dissecting every single game that Microsoft has released for its Game Room service, it seems like we've unwittingly become uniquely qualified to discuss the issue. And let's not mince words here: most of the games released on Game Room are complete trash by today's standards. Hell, most of the releases don't even have any real historical significance. But near the end of the year, Game Room started coming on, well, stronger than it normally does. Some of the arcade releases from Atari and Konami started seeming pretty good, and not just when taken in comparison to the wasteland of ephemeral Intellivision releases. The best of these is Atari's 1983 arcade classic, Food Fight.
It's essentially a shooter, with you, as the big-mouthed Charley Chuck, running from right to left, stopping over various foodstuffs to toss them at four chefs that are trying to prevent you from reaching the other side, where an ice cream cone awaits. It's got great little musical bits, fun graphics, and unlike plenty of other Game Room releases, it also controls really well.
As much as it's tempting to make a last-minute substitution and slap Venetian Blinds into this space to make it all more jokey, Food Fight is absolutely the best thing to happen to Game Room... even when you take into account the weird bug that's messing up its leaderboards. Hey, it wouldn't be Game Room if there wasn't something sort of broken about it, right?
Runners-up: Jackal, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns
Best Motion-Controlled Game
It's fairly safe to say that for all the ridiculous talk Microsoft and Sony did about their new-fangled motion technologies, neither the Move or Kinect showed their full potential with their first salvos of games. At the very least, one game among these launch lineups did manage to show us something beyond some broken attempts at innovation and predictably safe minigame collections.
That game was Dance Central. Developer Harmonix, rarely one to half-ass it when introducing a new franchise to the world, made the absolute best use of Kinect's body tracking tech, creating a dancing game that was, in fact, a dancing game. Unlike DDR, and even more recent contemporaries like Just Dance, Dance Central keeps track of, and requires the use of your entire body. The moves the game teaches you are fairly rudimentary in the realm of true dancing, but that they are legitimate moves, and involve every limb working in time to the rhythm of the excellent soundtrack, makes Dance Central something of a revelation.
Runners-up: Sports Champions, Wii Party
Worst Game of the Year
Ugh. Ugh. Where to even start? PowerGig is just so bad. Here you've got this half-ass, low-rent knock-off version of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, except that because of its main gimmick that they sell this "real" electric guitar that you can play the game with, it's as--if not more--expensive than the name-brand rhythm games. The real guitar thing could've been cool, except that the game aspires to teach nothing, so it's just uncomfortable. The track list is 90 percent power-pop-punk dreck that you've never heard of, and the other 10 percent are acts that have thus far refused to license their music to rhythm games out of some misplaced sense of integrity. You know, real chart-burners and crowd-pleasers like John Mayer, Kid Rock, and Dave Matthews! Even if these guys are your jam, they don't even get the songs you might want.
Never mind that the noodley lines make the note paths needlessly difficult to follow, or the joyless, pointless mythology of rock warriors that the game spins around the single-player game, or the fact that the game only supports three instruments, having willfully ignored the existence of the bass guitar.
It's a bad, lazy take on a style of game already being dominated by two fierce competitors who are more skilled, more experienced, and better funded. It's not just really, really bad, it's unnecessary. Yeah, there was a lot of shovelware BS out there, but this was the game that offended our senses the most, which is why PowerGig: Rise of the Six String is our pick for Worst Game of the Year. Seriously, just look at it! So bad.
Runners-up: Motion Sports, Tony Hawk: SHRED
Most Disappointing Game
It's certainly not that Fable III is a bad game, but there are two things about it that really let us down. First, Fable II was such a surprising improvement over the ambitious but flawed original adventure, we naturally expected this third installment to even further build on the great work Lionhead did two years ago with that first sequel. Instead we got a diminished role for our hero's pet dog and a bunch of quests involving the same balverines, hobbes, and hollow men we remembered hacking up and setting on fire in the last game.
Second, despite a slight feeling of deja vu, there was still plenty to love about Fable III's return to Albion, and this would still have been a good solid sequel if Lionhead hadn't made a wide array of baffling design decisions that made it less fun than it should have been to engage the gameplay. The lengthy and overly complex process of accessing the inventory and map, the utter uselessness of that map, unwieldy property management system, largely redundant weapon upgrades, time-consuming character interactions, bizarre endgame design... well, the list could go on, but all these relatively minor complaints combined into one major disappointment. Fable III isn't anywhere close to the worst game of the year, it's just the one that fell the shortest of what we wanted it to be.
Runners-up: Crackdown 2, Alpha Protocol
Best Multiplatform Game & Game of the Year, 2010
When BioWare said that you might not make it out of Mass Effect 2 alive, it was hard to picture what, exactly, the developers could be talking about. The idea of having your lead character die at the end of the second game in what's at least going to be a trilogy seemed completely crazy. But after seeing the different ways the game's finale can roll out, it's clear that the Edmonton-based studio has a pretty firm grasp on this whole sci-fi shooter-RPG thing.
Mass Effect 2 makes great improvements over the original game, streamlining where necessary and managing to make the action feel, well, a lot more action-y. But it's the universe and the characters that are the stars here, with enough great side missions to let you get to know the entire cast and a main quest that, despite ending with a sort of lame-looking boss, feels intensely rewarding. Even getting your crew together manages to excite, with large portions of the game feeling like some sort of intergalactic Ocean's Eleven as you traipse around the stars, picking up new members of your suicidal running crew and completing tasks for them to ensure their loyalty.
Very few game universes feel like real, fleshed-out places that you could actually spend time in. But you get the impression that the developers have spent an insane amount of time actually thinking about what this universe contains, the various alien races that inhabit it, and how they interact. This is all backed up by the codex, a gigantic in-game tome of knowledge that you don't actually need to know to enjoy the game... but seeing that Mass Effect 2 takes place in a robust world just makes it that much better. It also opens up a world of possibilities for the future, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Right here, in 2010, Mass Effect 2 is our pick for both the best multiplatform game of the year as well as our overall choice, making it Giant Bomb's Game of the Year. You should play it!
Runners-up: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Red Dead Redemption, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit