- Scribbled on January 1st, 2009 by Jonah Falcon
- Filed in Game Genres, GameStooge Game of the Year Awards, Platforms
These are the technical awards – the miscellaneous awards that are categories unto themselves. This is the first part, looking at the most technical parts of a videogame: the graphics, the sound, and the writing.
The winners are:
Still Alive, Mirrors Edge
For the second year in a row, the Best Song of the Year is “Still Alive”, though it bears little in common with Portal’s song, both in musicality as well as theme. While the former was a taunt by an AI, this one is a plaintive cry for survival, beautifully sung by Lisa Miskovsky.
BEST MUSIC SCORE
Prince of Persia
(Runners Up: Braid, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Sins of a Solar Empire)
All of the nominees made strong cases, but Prince of Persia’s song score was an Arabesque that had variety of themes: danger, wonder, marvel, dread. The music felt like a character itself that accompanied you on the journey. You could make a case for any of the scores, though – this was one year rich in music, and many games with great scores just barely missed the cut of 5.
Left 4 Dead
(Runners Up: Dead Space, Gears of War 2, Resistance 2, Silent Hill: Homecoming)
All of the nominees were strong, but Left 4 Dead by far featured the best use of sound in any game. Not only were the sound effects rich and varied, but it was a part of gameplay. The sound of a sobbing Witch is a sound no gamer can forget, especially when in concert with the trilling chorus that accompanied her. From the gurgling, belching of a Boomer to the coughing, gagging noise of a Smoker, if you wanted to succeed at Left 4 Dead, you needed to be all-ears, especially when the blaring trumpet indicated a horde rush.
BEST GRAPHICS (TECHNICAL)
Gears of War 2
(Runners Up: Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Resistance 2)
Another difficult category, but Gears of War 2 used its Unreal 3 engine to push the Xbox 360 to its limits. Travelling down the gullet of a worm to destroy its heart was never so icky – in a good way.
BEST GRAPHICS (ARTISTIC)
(Runners Up: Braid, Civilization Revolution, Fallout 3, Prince of Persia)
This category was little contest – LittleBigPlanet exuded charm in every way, and did it through its look, which was a combination of cutesy and sharp-edge. The game proved you didn’t need the soft-edge of a typical casual game on the PC or Wii to achieve cute.
BREAKOUT CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
(Runners Up: Tim, Braid; Alika, Prince of Persia)
The runaway winner of this category, SackBoy fit the game perfectly – cute, but in a slightly disturbing way. One is reminded of The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz - but with “Brain Damage” playing (“The lunatic is on the grass…”) SackBoy was the most recognizable character for the PlayStation 3 – could he be the long-sought-after mascot for Sony?
BEST VOICE ACTING
Carlos Ferro (Dominic Santiago), Gears of War 2
(Runners Up: Jim French (Bill), Left 4 Dead; David Hayter (Old Snake), Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots; Matt Mullins (Prince), Prince of Persia; Liam Neeson (Father), Fallout 3)
This category was also not close; even John DiMaggio (Marcus Fenix) told everyone before release that Carlos Ferro would amaze everyone with his performance in Gears 2. DiMaggio was not wrong, as Ferro stole the show, and helped Gears 2 win overwhelmingly Best Scene (see below.)
Left 4 Dead
(Runners Up: Gears of War 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Prince of Persia)
The most unusual winner of the Awards, Left 4 Dead had no real script to speak of – after all, the players “wrote” the story which depended on how they played. But writing in a video game isn’t just dialogue and specific plot – after all, many games have branching story arcs. What won the award was the structure of each mission, which was set as a movie the player was “starring” in, and the byplay between the characters. The immersion was absolute; the player felt like they were inside a movie, and helping write it. The cleverness of the “script” and the dialogue, and the uniqueness of each story just won the award for Left 4 Dead over more conventional storytelling.
Finding Maria, Gears of War 2
(Runners Up: Ending, Braid; Returning to Childhood, Fable II; The Tank Attacks, Left 4 Dead; Ending, Prince of Persia)
This was no contest as well. While there were other strong scenes in the other games – the scenes are not listed to prevent excessive spoilerage – the scene in which Dominic finally is reunited with his wife Maria is stark, heartbreaking, and brilliant in the way it draws out the pain without it seeming artificial. The expression on Marcus’ face during the scene is one of the hidden gems of the scene as well – it’s the only time he shows any sort of real emotion in the series, cracking the hard facade he puts up during the first two games. Though, the shocking “real ending” of Prince of Persia will haunt you for days…