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Game of the Year: *Red Dead Redemption*
Other games might have had more tightly designed missions, or more comprehensively fine-tuned shooting controls, or more dynamic and well rounded NPC interactions. But nothing put everything that’s cool about video games into a better single package than Red Dead Redemption. It has everything Rockstar has done well in recent years, like the story, the presentation, and the world you just want to explore from top to bottom. It also has things they’ve missed, like combat that’s truly fun to mess with and some seriously impressive visuals. And nothing really beats watching the sun set over the desert wilderness while the game’s excellent audio design fills your ears. Red Dead Redemption is more than worthy of being called our game of the year.
Runner Up: *Heavy Rain*
Action Game of the Year: *God of War III*
For some reason a few gamers found Kratos’ third and ostensibly final adventure on a console to be disappointing, but we at Player Affinity found a lot to like. Plenty of games have copied the series’ trademarks of stylish, fluid, and simply joyous combat and moments of obscene brutality, but few just get it right the way God of War does. Part three was suitably epic with Kratos taking on every gigantic monster and all-powerful god who would dare to challenge him and always emerging on top, usually with bits of his victims still sticking to his fingers. The conclusion was somewhat questionable, but just about every minute of the experience was a blast.
Runner Up: *Dead Rising 2*
Adventure Game of the Year: *Red Dead Redemption*
A big budget Western game from Rockstar was always going to be interesting, but there is a lot more to *Red Dead Redemption* than simply *Grand Theft Auto* with horses. The open world feel, brilliant character interactions and strong story make this game something truly special indeed.
Runner Up: *Heavy Rain*
Shooter of the Year: *Battlefield: Bad Company 2*
Black Ops may have blown away everyone’s expectations and become one of the biggest selling games of all time, but personally we preferred the approach of the Battlefield series. The rhythms of the campaign were somewhat more interesting than the standard Call of Duty experience of leading you from set piece to scripted set piece, and the humorous cast of characters gave it tons of personality. Plus the online is a dream come true, faithful to the immense scale and complexity of the PC games but bringing them to a more accessible platform without losing the trademark feel. Many hours were lost exploring those maps.
Runner Up: *Call of Duty: Black Ops*
RPG of the Year: *Fallout: New Vegas*
This was a weak year for role-playing games, but one stood above the rest on the PS3. Fallout: New Vegas may not have been as huge a leap as Fallout 3 was from 2, but given that the third Fallout was one of the most revered games of this generation, that is hardly a bad thing. Subtle improvements, such as the improved companion commands and the addition of a Hardcore mode, really pushed the game to the next level. Combined with Fallout’s signature moral dilemmas and wicked sense of humor, these additions made for one of the most entertaining RPGs in years. Frequent bugs and crashes kept New Vegas from realizing its full potential at first, but thanks to some comprehensive patching, it now stands tall as a fantastic and flexible RPG.
Runner Up: *Final Fantasy XIII*
Sports/Racing Game of the Year: *Gran Turismo 5*
It was a long time coming, and some of the design choices could make it hard to get into for those new to the franchise. But, as always with *Gran Turismo* the cars are everything, and there’s no doubt that the handling physics are the best they’ve ever been.
Runner Up: *Modnation Racers*
Downloadable Game of the Year: *Pac-Man Championship Edition DX*
The downloadable games market was surprisingly competitive on PSN this year, but in the end, an old champion rose to the top. PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX is one of the most pure, most addictive gaming experiences on the market right now. There’s no elaborate story, no stunning graphics, and no online play to speak of here. PAC-MAN CE DX is pure, addictive, incredibly fast-paced gameplay, with an awesome soundtrack and shiny neon mazes. It is a reminder that, in the world of video games, good controls and a great concept are enough to make a masterpiece.
Runner Up: *Costume Quest*
Most Surprising Game: *Costume Quest*
In an industry dominated by sports games and shooters it can be refreshing when a game comes along with a completely unique feel all of its own. Double Fine’s *Costume Quest* is funny, charming and completely original.
Runner Up: *MAG*
Most Disappointing Game: *Final Fantasy XIII*
So it comes down to this. There could only be one Most Disappointing Game of 2010, and although the competition was fierce, Final Fantasy XIII has scratched and clawed its way to the top. Er, bottom. It really could not have been any other way. After years of anticipation, Square-Enix’s newest entry in the venerable role-playing franchise left a lot to be desired. Characters frequently made reference to events and entities that were only explained via paragraphs of text tucked away in the pause menu, making the story come across as confusing and uninteresting. Even an interesting story could not make up for a reprehensible cast of characters and painfully linear gameplay, though. Most damning of all was the battle system, which consisted of repeatedly pressing X, and just about nothing else. Sure, the game opened up after about 30 hours, but by then it was too little, and way too late.
Runner Up: White Knight Chronicles
Best DLC: *Minverva’s Den (Bioshock 2)*
Most DLC might add some new weapons, locations and enemies, but *Minerva’s Den* also added a single-player campaign with a completely new story. And in true *Bioshock* style that story is intelligent with intriguing well acted characters, and as always, ends on a clever plot twist.
Runner Up: *Undead Nightmare (Red Dead Redemption)*
Best Art Design: *God of War III*
It takes more than an intensely complicated graphics engine to create a good looking game, and the people behind God of War III knew that. Every piece of art in the game is well considered, both recalling the look of ancient Greek art and updating the ideas to work in a modern game. There’s nothing you can see in this game that wouldn’t look good even without the fancy HD graphics. And to top it off, the final area of the game has a unique look and visual style pretty much unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Runner Up: *Costume Quest*
Best Graphics: *God of War III*
When it came time to choose the award for best graphics, there was no hesitation. God of War III is the new high watermark for video games thanks to some truly stunning textures and gorgeous animation. Sony Santa Monica has achieved things with God of War III’s presentation that people would not have thought possible just five years ago. The large-scale battles are beautiful in their chaos, but the emphasis on scale did nothing to detract from the tiny details. Kratos may be the best looking character model ever to appear in a console game. When it comes to graphics, this was easily the year of Sparta.
Runner Up: *Heavy Rain*
Best Music: *God of War III*
The series has always been known for its operatic, dramatic score, and it’s back in full force and full surround sound in God of War III. It’s not the most original music you hear in games these days, but it works exactly the way it should, pumping you up for the biggest battles you can find and also setting the mood appropriately for whatever else might be happening. It’s the sort of score where you might be inclined to just put the controller down and let it play for a while. Unless there’s a giant water scorpion on screen ripping you to shreds, of course.
Runner Up: *Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game*
Best Voice Acting: *Red Dead Redemption*
Many games can lay claim to having at least one great voice performance somewhere, but few can boast of Redemption’s great ensemble cast. The game’s dialogue and acting is key to its ability to set the mood and bring you into its story, and virtually every significant character gets a solid voice performance from someone, without the need for celebrity stunt casting. A few of the characters border on cliche, but most are able to overcome their familiar trappings thanks to nuanced and accomplished voice work. It’s a game where you actually like listening to the characters talk when they’re traveling from place to place.
Runner Up: *Enslaved: Odyssey to the West*
Best Character: *Bayonetta (Bayonetta)*
When *Bayonetta* arrived early this year it seemed to come out of nowhere to huge critical acclaim. This was undoubtedly helped by its title character, who happens to be a shapeshifting witch with very remarkable hair that she can use as a weapon. It’s no exactly uncommon for the Japanese to use hot female characters in video games, but *Bayonetta *seems to have a charm that makes her as memorable as she is unique.
Runner Up: *John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)*
Best Story: *Heavy Rain*
Heavy Rain’s story is not without its detractors, but it’s hard to deny that it at least made you pay attention. Other game plots may have held together a bit better in the end, but few place their narrative so fully at the center of the entire experience, it’s almost not fair that they have to compete with Heavy Rain. Players have an almost unprecedented amount of control over how things turn out, and just about every moment of playing the game in some way affects the story they are experiencing. And even if some plot twists were wonky and unjustified, there’s just no comparison between the drama and tension players will feel during the most crucial moments and what they’ll feel playing other games, when they know that any scene could be a character’s last. The first game to combine true narrative flexibility with modern high-tech presentation.
Runner Up: *Red Dead Redemption*
Best Moment: *Finger Amputation (Heavy Rain)*
2010 was a crazy year for video games. With epic Titan battles in God of War III, massive invasions in MAG, and shadowy conspiracies unfolding in CoD Black Ops, there was no shortage of impressive moments. Our favorite moment of the year is a little more personal than these bombastic examples, but it got our hearts pumping all the faster for it. Heavy Rain was the only game this year that dared to ask, “How far would you go to save someone you love?” and it pulled no punches in testing our moral fortitude. The most intense and shocking of these moments was a Saw-esque impromptu finger amputation in an abandoned apartment. Players were forced to scavenge the apartment for supplies such as a hatchet or pliers with which to sever Ethan’s finger or risk losing his son forever. It was the most taut and stunning moment in a game filled with suspense and intrigue.
Runner Up: *Zeus’ Death (God of War III)*