Sean Garmer: Iím your host for most of these roundtable things and I write Game Reviews for 411 Games.
*Runner-Ups are only listed if there was not a tie for 2nd place*
Part 2= Genre Awards
Winner: Prince of Persia (XBOX 360, PS3. PC Platformer, Ubisoft)
Todd Vote: The Prince of Persia games have always been great platformers. The new iteration offered the same great gameplay with a new visual style.
Rod Oracheski: It's a beautiful game that I found depressingly free of challenge and about as deep as a puddle after a five minute rain. Prince of Persia is definitely a game that people should play, but - award or not - I still don't think I'd recommend it as a buy instead of a rental.
Jordan Williams: This year wasn't that great for Platformers, but even if it was I think Prince of Persia would've taken it easily. The Platforming Genre is about running and jumping. PoP does that and then some. Great graphics, great animations, and a great feel and flow to the action make this game work.
Joe Roche: Having just recently picked up Prince of Persia Iím not sure Iím totally qualified to comment on whether or not this was the Best Platformer of the year, but itís certainly a great game. Some people complain about the fact that you essentially cannot die, which takes the difficulty down a notch, but if you look at it through a different lens Ė mainly that instead of dying and seeing a load screen as you reset, the game gives HP back to your enemies and you just continue then things clear up a bit. I much prefer the idea that if I fall off a ledge, in a game that requires you to spend a lot of time running along walls, the game doesnít have to go through a whole restart loading screen but thatís just me. The graphics are beautiful, the platforming is fun and well crafted Ė all in all Iíd say that Prince of Persia is a solid title that deserves your time.
Drew Robbins: Being the 411's resident Prince of Persia fanatic, I feel it necessary to comment on how great this game was. Though it was an extremely easy game, the platforming was still able to deliver that special sense of satisfaction.
Winner: Gears of War 2 (XBOX 360 Shooter, Microsoft & Epic Games)
Todd Vote: Horde mode was an absolute blast to play. Couple that with a co-op story that actually feels like it was meant to be co-op and not just throwing more players into the single player campaign, (Call of Duty) and this was definitely the shooter of the year
Rod Oracheski: I expected more of the same for Gears of War 2 and was surprised to find they shook things up quite a bit. The basic gameplay remains the same, though tweaked, but they took a lot more care in the pacing of the levels and shaking up how you're playing from level to level. Stop-and-pop on one level, then riding a vehicle the next - that change of pace kept the gameplay from getting old. Having Left4Dead on the list at all is a real testament to how good the game, primarily a multiplayer experience, really is.
Jordan Williams: Say all you want about the bland story and characters but when it comes to plugging people full of bullets and having balls to the wall action, Gears of War 2 delevers by the assload. That's right, and ASSLOAD.
Joe Roche: My game of the year didnít rewrite the book on shooters in í08 but it did enough to warrant this award. Gears 2 did everything that Gears 1 did right, and then improved on it. The enemies were bigger, the battles felt more important in scale and effect, and the everything about this game was just fun. The characters are more developed, Cole is more loveable, Baird is more hateable (is that a word?), and Marcus is just as dour as ever. Plus for those who thought that Gears 1 lacked any real story, this game packed at least two ďholy shitĒ moments, between the scene where Dom finally finds Maria, to the end scenario with Jacinto in the background and the horrific plea from Dr. Adam Fenix asking ďwhat have you done?Ē This game left it all on the table and left me wanting so much more.
Sean Garmer: I expected almost the same game as the first, but I was surprised that Gears 2 made itself standout and that is a good thing.
Runner-Up: Left 4 Dead (XBOX 360 & PC Shooter, Valve)
Todd Vote: What, no MK vs. DCU? Alright, even I, after playing it, can admit that MK vs. DCU was not the fighter of the year. Soul Caliber 4 was a fun fighter, with plenty of characters and moves to master. Oh yeah, and it had a Darth Frickin Vader in it. nuff said
Rod Oracheski: There wasn't a lot of competition for the category, but there's no doubt the competition was still a tough choice. Soul Calibur 4 looked amazing, played very fluidly, and had tons of depth - even if the gameplay modes outside of the Tower were distressingly short.
Vincent Chiucchi: Soul Calibur has always been a great fighting game series, and this one is the best one yet with a more balanced fighting system and the ability to create your own fighters. Single player is somewhat lacking, but multiplayer is bliss. Best part about the game? When you win over that cheap bastard known as The Apprentice.
Jordan Williams: If this is the last one in the series, it'll be a sad day indeed. But even with the massive shilling to Star Wars and every anime designer out there. SC4 is still one great fighting game. I agree with Vincent in that the single player is lacking but with most fighting games online and with friends is where the bulk of it is at. Also...seriously. Apprentice is a douche.
Sean Garmer: Soul Calibur is my favorite Fighting Game series and Iím glad that they had such a great effort. I was a little sad that the single player experience wasnít as deep as SC 3, but playing online made up for that, plus I loved having Yoda.
Streetfighter II Turbo HD Remix (XBOX 360 Live Arcade, PS Network 2D Fighting, Capcom)
Winner: Professor Layton and the Curious Village (Nintendo DS Puzzler, Level 5)
Rod Oracheski: I've never actually gone hands-on with Layton, but I've watched my niece play several times. For a puzzle game it's got a surprising amount of charm, something Boom Blox also shared.
Vincent Chiucchi: Professor Layton did what was thought to be the impossible for many ages: It made math FUN! Plus these days with so many horrible Brain Age clones taking up space on retail shelves, it's nice to see a game like Professor Layton come along and offer us an actual puzzle game to make us think.
Jordan Williams: Not to get Negative, but I actually think Boom Blox should've won...but I digress. Either game is a great puzzle game with Professor Layton being awesome in it's own right because it managed to stand out in the oversaturated handheld puzzle genre.
Drew Robbins: Professor Layton was a game that came out of nowhere. Before its release date, I had heard literally nothing about it. Of course, once it came out, I couldn't get enough of the charming puzzler. It delighted many with its strange match puzzles, complex math problems, and generally confusing games. Layton made playing with matches fun...more fun I mean, got to love those matches.
Sean Garmer: Professor Layton literally came out of nowhere to the surprise of many to charm the pants off of children and adults. He would have thought math could be fun, but this game proves it can be.
Boom Blox (Nintendo Wii Puzzler, EA)
Best Strategy Game
Winner: Sid Meierís Civilization Revolution
Rod Oracheski: 'Civilization can never be done on a console' they said - and Sid Meier proved them wrong. Civ Rev was a wonderfully engaging experience that more people should have played. Valkyria Chronicles is a late entry that was probably hurt by lack of awareness. Hopefully both games see a sequel down the road.
Winner: Madden 09 (Multi-Platform Football Simulation, EA)
Todd Vote: Madden, of course. 2009 was a good year for the franchise. A lot of the things they added really worked for it, and 2009 is the best Madden in a long time.
Rod Oracheski: Personally I'd flip these two. While Madden is a huge step forward for a franchise that desperately needed it, I felt NHL 09's Be A Pro and online leagues were a much better addition and put it ahead. Fans of either sport won't go wrong picking up their respective game.
Drew Robbins: EA's yearly cash cow had been in a bit of a slump lately. Certainly not sales-wise, but the quality was declining. It came to the point where I could barely stand to look at the game, but thankfully, Madden 09 fixed all of these problems. If my Game of the Year was based on time spent with a game, Madden would likely be near the top, the improved gameplay had me playing for weeks. As a matter of fact, I believe this was the only game I played for three straight weeks...wow.
Sean Garmer : Madden really made some strides this year in that it does deserve the moniker #1 Football game. The create your own difficulty thing was pretty cool, and I liked some of the other additions as well. For a series that was really getting stale the new stuff this year brought some much needed life into this. Before I heard about the new stuff, I almost thought about not getting Madden this year, and for me, that would have been a first.
Runner-Up: NHL 09 (Multi-Platform Hockey Simulation, EA)
Best Alternative Sports Game
Winner: Smackdown vs. RAW 2009 (Multi-Platform Wrestling Game, THQ & Yukes)
Todd Vote: SvR has been a staple of my gaming habits for just about as long as the series has been around. This year added a new tag element, and the ability to create your own finisher. How cool is that?
Rod Oracheski: Adding in Create-A-Finisher was a huge step for a franchise that had been stagnating badly, and hopefully we'll see them expand that (Add back grapples and top-rope moves!) in the future. I'd still like to see a 'be the booker' mode where you can choose who's going to win, but I'm a patient man...
Jordan Williams: I didn't really enjoy 2008, but 2009 brought me back. The Road to Wrestlemania was a welcome addition with some pretty good writing and story (for a wrestling game). Plus it had MVP in a main event storyline. Better-Than-U-Topia = Wonderful.
Drew Robbins: Once everyone got over the major dissapointment in TNA: Impact, wrestling fans happily flooded to WWE's latest effort, which thankfully proved to be another quality entry into the franchise. Though it did drop off the much loved General Manager mode, Smackdown more than made up for it with a large roster and much improved story mode.
Winner: Fallout 3 (XBOX 360, PS3, PC RPG, Bethesda)
Todd Vote: Fallout 3 has been referred to as Oblivion in a post nuclear fallout world. That is not a good thing. While never being much of a fan of RPG's, the appeal for gamers to do whatever they want has never been more prominent. Fallout offers plenty to the dungeon crawling, looting masses. As for Fable 2 the runner-up, I actually have this game, and I have finally been able to start playing it. With Fable being the only RPG I have ever completed. I can see myself actually finishing this one as well. It is a beautiful game, for sure and I like that they jumped ahead in the timeline and now I get to shoot things, as well as kick chickens.
Rod Oracheski: I hope everyone who voted for Fallout 3 did so just to piss off the Fallout 2 fanboys who refused to accept a 3D game as a 'real Fallout game' and organized boycotts. Game sold huge, guys - you might as well give up the boycott and try it for yourself instead of just whining about how it sucks. Oh, and your parents want their basement back - move out!
Vincent Chiucchi: I didn't know whether to call Fallout 3 an FPS game or an RPG. But considering you can level up and learn so many damn skills and can kill enemies with that target system, I'd say it's more of an RPG, and it's better this way.
Fable 2 (XBOX 360 RPG, Microsoft Game Studios)
Best Action Adventure Game
Winner: Grand Theft Auto IV
Todd Vote: While this game didn't get my vote, it is easy to see how it was the winner. GTA IV took on a more serious, gritty tone for the series. While the game didn't offer as many side options as GTA's past, it more than made up for it with an outstanding story.
Rod Oracheski: Very few franchises offer up the mix of planned story moments and wild 'that will never happen again' insanity like GTA. A deserving win for the title.
Runner-Up: Mirrorís Edge (XBOX 360, PS3, PC Action Game, EA)
Best Driving Game
Theo Fraser: Itís Mario Kart, as we all know and love it! Nintendo did away with the tag-team racing found in Double Dash! and went back to the seriesí roots, adding in Bikes to give a whole new (People seem to be split on the inclusion of bikes, but Iím a massive fan) driving experience. The series was first taken online with the DS version, but Mario Kart Wii takes it a step further, offering the smoothest online multiplayer service on the console, with hardly any lag issues and an intuitive user-interface. Kudos on the new tracks as well. Yes, you canít beat a good session on the N64ís Bowserís Castle, Sherbert Island or good olí Donut Plains from the SNES original. However, the Wii edition added some memorable, bonafide classics such as Koopa Cape, Coconut Mall, and Maple Treeway, which will no doubt be featured in future Retro Cups. Still havenít got rid of those pesky blue shells though...
Rod Oracheski: Either of these games deserved a win here with Mario Kart offering up quick and simple fun along with a modicum of 'try to race online' action, while Burnout: Paradise offered up a wealth of racing action along with great DLC support. I still can't forgive Criterion for dropping crash junctions entirely - so sue me.
Vincent Chiucchi: It may not be as good as previous Mario Karts, but when it comes to racing games, I'd still play this over everything else. Mostly because when I turn left and right, I actually get to turn left and right without crashing into walls several times.
Drew Robbins: Any time Nintendo releases a Mario Kart is a time for excitement, and Mario Kart Wii was certainly no exception. I spent weeks on the addictive online mode, and I'm sure the game will continue to entertain me until the next Mario Kart comes out.
Sean Garmer: How can you not love Mario Kart, its so cute with all the loveable Mario characters. Oh yeah did I mention you get to play it with a wheel and it is a blast with friends. Adding new and old tracks was great and the online is lag free. You canít beat that for a driving game.
Runner-Up: Burnout: Paradise (XBOX 360, PS3, PC Driving Game, Criterion)
Best Use of a TV/Film License
Winner: Star Wars: Force Unleashed (Multi-Platform Action Game, LucasArts)
Rod Oracheski: It's sad that this blatantly unfinished game (one common bug prevents the game from registering any of your kills, force points, etc..) is the best example we could think of. Great story that fans of the series will have to check out because it's canon, it's just a shame the actual game was shipped before it was done.
Vincent Chiucchi: It's not the best Star Wars game in history, but Star Wars: Force Unleashed proved to be very successful and found a way to fit between the trilogies quite well. Plus it's an infinite times better then all of that CGI Clone Wars crap.
Best Single-Player Experience
Winner: Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3 Action Game, Konami)
Rod Oracheski: Two entirely opposite approaches here, with Metal Gear giving you the story in increasingly lengthy cutscenes while Fallout 3 keeps you solidly in the action. I'm more of a fan of playing the game instead of watching, so I had them flipped in my mind - but this is another category where either title deserves a win.
Sean Garmer: This will truly be one of those games people will remember for a long time. For itís great story, voice cast, and the gameplay. They did a great job of tieing up all the loose ends from this long and tangled web, not to mention they gave us just a flat out breathtaking graphical and sound experience as well.
Winner: Left 4 Dead (XBOX 360 & PC Shooter, Valve)
Todd Vote: This is the best multiplayer experience I have had since COD 4, and this just blows that out of the water in terms of strategy and teamwork. I have been waiting for an online experience that really made it feel as if you had to depend on your team to get through. Try playing the game without your headset on and see how quickly your team leaves your ass behind because you aren't listening. You want to try and make it to the end on your own? Go ahead, leave the group. Watch how fast you get snatched up by a Smoker. There will be nothing you can do about it because your partners are back a couple miles dealing with a tank, so you wait... and watch... and die a slow agonizing death while the Smoker just laughs and laughs. This game offers such an amazing online experience.
Rod Oracheski: When you make a game that's entirely focused on multiplayer action, whether that's with friends or bots, you better make it good. Valve delivered on that front and their preternaturally quick zombies left Mario and company in the dust.
Vincent Chiucchi: There's noting better that brings players to together to unite and fight like a team like a zombie apocalypse, because you really need to rely on each other in order to survive. Unless one of those players are just useless piles of meat eating up your rations. That guy needs to die.
Jordan Williams: The best Multiplayer Experiences come from working together. L4D is ALL about working together. You can try to be the hero if you want to, you'll just die that much faster. If you want a game that will have you ACHING for multiplayer goodness you want L4D. Versus mode is worth the price of the game alone.
Sean Garmer: I had so much fun with this game online I played it for like a week straight. Itís just a great multi-player experience where you play together and it is different every time so it never gets old either, plus how can u hate killing zombies?
Runner-Up: Super Smash Brows Brawl (Nintendo Wii Fighting Game, Nintendo)
Well, thatís it for Part 2, sorry it was a day late. Check back either Thursday or Friday for the final part, that includes all the platform awards and game of the year.