This week Yahtzee gives out his game awards for 2008.
My longtime refusal to give arbitrary scores at the end of reviews has earned me several complaints from people (obviously some extremely thick people who can't pay attention for ten seconds because they get distracted by clouds and shiny objects) who claim to be frequently unable to decipher whether or not I think a game is good. And since it's the new year - traditionally the time when self-important gaming media outlets bestow accolades to the utter indifference of gamers and developers alike - here are the Zero Punctuation Awards for 2008. I wasn't sufficiently married to this idea to create actual trophies, but winners are encouraged to make their own (if it's that important to them).
The "Indiana Jones in a Fridge" Award for Franchise Murder
2008 was a year suffering from a terrible case of the sequels. Most of them were really just going through the motions, stagnating their respective franchises rather than outright slaughtering them; but no series this year was euthanized quite so thoroughly as Metal Gear Solid. Not content with transforming the wildly beloved central character into a terminally ill, old fogey with a Magnum P.I. mustache, Metal Gear Solid 4 then proceeded to irreversibly tie up every slightest loose end with the rapid efficiency of an obsessive-compulsive man in a shoelace factory - none of which would have mattered so much if they hadn't killed most of the stealth aspect in favor of frustrating action sequences and an entire mini-series' worth of cut scenes, culminating in an ending as sickening and arduous as a cheesecake the size of a manhole cover. Rest in peace, you preachy, overwritten pile of tripe.
The "15 Year Old School Leaver" Award for Biggest Disappointment
Silent Hill: Homecoming was my first choice for this award for creating an installment to a series that specializes in subtlety and pacing and opening it with a bloke getting a Buster Sword up the jacksie. But then I remembered Alone in the Dark from earlier in the year, which took subtlety and pacing, lit them on fire, and ramped off them several times in slow motion. And it would have been remiss of me not to also mention Dead Space, which might have been alright if it had merely copied System Shock completely, but which felt it had to extract all the subtlety and pacing and blast them out the nearest air lock. So rather than choose from the many worthy candidates, I've decided to award Biggest Disappointment to the entire survival horror genre - because there weren't any mainstream horror games this year, just a bunch of action games full of enemies with arms growing out of their tits.
The "Proximity to Jason Voorhees" Award for Stupidest Main Character
For most of the year, it seemed like Ethan Thomas from Condemned 2 was going to sweep this award for his game's spectacular abandonment of gritty seriousness that left him using shouty superpowers to fight stage magicians. But that was more stupid character development than behavior, and he was pipped at the post by the Prince of Persia in the recent installment of the same name, who - without giving away the kind of spoilers that get me spat on in the street - does something at the end of the game that destroys everything he'd been working towards for the benefit of a character no one likes. And they force you to do this within gameplay if you want to see the ending! That's like refusing me my dessert until I've pushed the entire main course up my nose. . .sort of.
The "Turd in a Chocolate Box" Award for Surprising Poor Quality
Mirror's Edge was a hot contender for this award, until I remembered that the game's badness didn't come as any surprise to me because it was by EA, and I am apparently more skilled in pattern recognition than most. So the award goes to none other than Grand Theft Auto IV, which decided that the best way to bring in speciality madcap sandbox fun into the new console generation was to dip the graphics in filthy dishwater, construct all the vehicles from depleted uranium, and break up the gameplay every five minutes to make you wheel your fat cousin to places and shovel burgers into his gob. Congratulations go out to all those at Rockstar, as soon as someone wakes them up.
The "Turd in a Turd" Award for Unsurprising Poor Quality
Again, Mirror's Edge was a hot contender, as were Too Human, and Haze, and every other game no one gave a toss about before release and gave even less of one afterwards. But at the risk of beating a puddle of waddling giblets that used to be a dead horse, I couldn't in good conscience give this award to anyone other than Sonic the Hedgehog for his latest opus, because he has been trying so damn hard for something like six games but continues to fail to notice that all along, he's been running on the spot in a pile of sticky, unplayable mess (which is at least laudable for its consistency). Sonic Team are to be congratulated for their epic storytelling and orchestral soundtracks, and their sheer, dogged determination to overlook the fact that their main character is a fucking cartoon rat!
The "Copulating Jelly Baby" Award for Fucking Sweet Game
Longtime viewers may be perplexed by GTAIV's award because in my original review, I may have accidentally called it a good game. At the time, you see, I was jaded by release drought and the neverending flow of completely drivulous fan mail, and was spending most of my time in a blurry haze in which I mistook the slightest mental stimulation for actual fun. It wasn't until recently when Saints Row 2 came along that I remembered what a fun sandbox game is and isn't: What it isn't is brown, gritty and forced tutorials, and what it is is taking all your clothes off, hurling yourself out of a plane and landing ass-crack-first on a sunbather's face. Saints Row 2 might not be the smartest game in the world, but I had more fun with it than any other 2008 release, so I guess it had better be my game of the year - but don't let it go to your heads.
The "Attention Deficit" Award for Games I Haven't Reviewed Yet
What with pretty much all the big releases this year being homogenous, interchangeable sequels and everything, it's only natural that a couple should slip the net. Gears of War 2, Tomb Raider: Underworld, and Far Cry 2 all escaped the year un-reviewed, largely due to my utter indifference, but never let it be said that I am prejudiced. Now we're after the Christmas release glut - there should be plenty of time to give them a good sound maiming to ring in 2009, and all of them could potentially surprise me and cause me to rethink my choice of game of the year (except Tomb Raider, obviously).
Would like to thank the Academy: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Actually I'm given to understand that they're making another Metal Gear Solid so best of luck to Hideo Kojima and the three people who care
Maybe next year I'll make some little images to put on your box art