December 23, 2008

The Year in Review and Game(s) of the Year

The Goozex Report launched in late August of this year. The blog started with me writing posts about not wanting to pay for video games to an audience of maybe a dozen readers (if I was lucky). After some time, The Goozex Report caught the eye of Goozex, Inc., and is now listed on their Supporters page. A Goozex member even contributed a logo and some artwork. As time went on, The Goozex Report started attracting fellow gamer-writers. We now have six contributors who volunteer their time writing brilliant articles. We’ve also made some great new friends with game sites of their own and we owe a lot of our success to them!

Since August, The Goozex Report was featured on the front page of N4G dozens of times, other blogs and forums have posted links to our articles, and we can proudly say we’ve had over 40,000 visitors in four months time from 127 different countries. We realize that some game sites get that kind of traffic in just a few hours, but we’re still new and still growing. We just might continue on through 2009. After all, where else are you going to learn when Gears of War 2 starts dropping in value?

As for gaming in 2008, it wasn’t a bright year for unique and new titles. Using Metacritic as a scale, of the top 10 highest rated games, only two Xbox 360 titles were not sequels. And only three of the top 10 PS3 games were not sequels. Kudos to Sony for LittleBigPlanet: a unique and original game that received positive reviews. On the other hand, while Left 4 Dead and Dead Space are receiving favorable reactions, they do not exactly represent unique genres or ideas; but at least the titles are not followed by a 2, a 3, or in the case of Grand Theft Auto, a 4.

Has the video game industry run out of ideas? Or are they following Hollywood’s lead and simply pumping cash cows? In any case, it does not speak highly for today’s creative talent. 2008 desperately missed 2007’s BioShock (yes, I realize that BioShock released on the PS3 in 2008). I’m really hoping that for 2009, the big publishers reach out to some new, independent developers who are creating unique, and dare I say—intelligent—games of the future.

The emphasis developers have placed on creating a great story has killed the focus on improving game mechanics, which seriously hampered the playability of such games as Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway. Can anyone out there please tell me what the heck the storyline in the cutscenes
had to do with the actual game play? I shook my head in disbelief at the end of that game. To regain some credibility, game developers really need to prioritize game mechanics first, story second, and graphics third.

In choosing a Game of the Year, several factors must be considered: game mechanics, graphics, sound, characters, single player campaigns, multiplayer online game play, and yes, story. What games of 2008 fully delivered? What fell flat?

When I was first asked what my GOTY pick was, my gut reaction was to say, “Call of Duty 4.” (Before you start screaming, I fully realize the game released in 2007.) That’s the game I played and had the most fun with for the majority of the year. It certainly trumped Halo 3 in my opinion. As for a 2008 release, Grand Theft Auto IV certainly did not live up to the hype. If that game starts winning GOTY nods from around the web, I’m gonna puke, a lot. Over and over. Lots of puke.

With that said, as a devoted Goozex member, I’ve only played eight 2008 releases (I’m still waiting for GoW 2, Fallout 3, Fable II, CoD: WaW, Dead Space, and several others to show up in my mailbox). And only one of the eight games that I’ve played is in the Top 10 (yeah, GTA IV). Of the 2008 games I’ve played (GRiD, Soulcalibur IV, Madden NFL 09, Battlefield: Bad Company, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, Viking: Battle for Asgard, and Mercenaries 2), the only game I’d want to revisit and finish is Mercs 2. Does that make Mercs 2 my GOTY? No. Not really.

So, what is my GOTY pick? Judging by the game that I played the most, and had the most fun playing, I’d still pick CoD4 as the reigning champ two years running. Maybe my pick for 2009 will be GoW 2 or Fallout 3.

Maybe, just maybe, Goozex fans have to stretch the calendar year when deciding GOTY. After all, you can’t really pick a game until you’ve played them all.

For those of you feeling let down that I did not pick a true GOTY, here’s MrWeymes, who has a
solid lock on his PS3 pick. After you read his review, Grundy the Man has a solid lock on his pick for the Xbox 360.

The Goozex Report PS3 Game of the Year
Andrew Weymes (MrWeymes) Says: With 2008 coming to a close, it's time to reflect upon an excellent year in the video game industry. There are so many games eligible for Game of the Year that it's almost too difficult to choose. Every genre, for every kind of gamer, had a few excellent games to play over the past year.

However, every excellent game has its shortcomings. For instance, Metal Gear Solid 4 has an amazing single player experience, with a slightly above average multiplayer component; while Left 4 Dead is an absolute joy online but lacks an enthralling single player experience. There were so many excellent games this year, each with their own flaws, it is hard to compare them
directly with one another. Of course, Game of the Year should come down to a few questions. Which game will you remember long past the year it was named Game of the Year? Which game will still be better than the majority of games in upcoming years? Finally, which game figuratively made your jaw hit the floor?

That game (for me) is the Playstation 3 exclusive, Metal Gear Solid 4. Whether you are a fan of the stealth/action genre or not, there is no denying the beauty of Metal Gear Solid 4. For those unfamiliar with Solid Snake, and the rest of the Metal Gear Solid universe, the story may be a bit confusing, but with the help of the Metal Gear Solid 4 Database available for download on PSN, people new to the series can follow the story with relative ease.

The cutscenes that bring this excellent story to life are easily the best of all time. They help immerse you in the experience, because as soon as the cutscene ends, and the gameplay begins, everything looks the same: excellent. The cutscenes would mean nothing if the gameplay wasn't as amazing as the story, but that is simply not the case.

The gameplay is tense, addictive, and simply fun. Apart from a few key scenes, you can approach the game in a number of ways. For example, you can kill every soldier in the area in a very blunt manner, such as shooting them all in the head with a pistol. In that same area, you can find a way to proceed without killing one soldier. Finally, in that exact same area, you could kill a few soldiers, hide until they are no longer looking for you, and proceed through the rest of the area stealthily. That's what puts Metal Gear Solid 4's replayability through the ceiling. You can play it as a pure action game, or a pure stealth game, or a mix of both.

The chase scenes are among the best of all time. One chase scene in particular is probably the most memorable gaming segment of the year.

In addition to everything mentioned above are some excellent, and memorable, boss fights. Bosses are totally unique and it may take you a few minutes to figure out how to kill them. As fun as it would be to describe each boss battle in detail, The Goozex Report doesn't believe in spoilers, therefore this will be a spoiler-free article. What can be said is that there are definitely some "what the expletive" moments in some of the boss fights, making them very memorable.

That pretty much covers the single player aspect of Metal Gear Solid 4. With, or without multiplayer, Metal Gear Solid 4 is Game of the Year. Single player gaming is the essence of video games, and without a doubt, Metal Gear Solid 4 had the best single player experience of the year. However, Metal Gear Solid 4 did come with Metal Gear Online on the same disk. Metal Gear Online is a separate game, so it shouldn't affect the score of Metal Gear Solid 4 in a negative, or positive way. That's not to say that Metal Gear Online is bad. For fans of the stealthier portions of Metal Gear Solid 4, Metal Gear Online probably won't disappoint. It's multiplayer isn't comparable to the likes of Gears of War 2, or Resistance 2. It's more of a slow pace. Many of the players of Metal Gear Online will quick snipe you if you are too out in the open, or if you are taking cover in obvious places. The multiplayer is very competitive, and will probably turn off more casual players.

To summarize, there is no other game more worthy of Game of the Year than Metal Gear Solid 4. The story is too compelling, the cutscenes are too well done, and the gameplay is too enjoyable for any other game to win this year. Metal Gear Solid 4 didn't need to include Metal Gear Online on the same disk to win Game of the Year. It would have won regardless, but the inclusion just means that you are getting an even better deal. 2008 was an excellent year for video games, and while there were many games considered for Game of the Year, The Goozex Report felt that Metal Gear Solid 4 deserved it the most for the PS3.

The Goozex Report Xbox 360 Game of the Year
Grundy the Man Says:
My Top 5 List

5. Super Smash Brothers Melee (Wii)

4. Mega Man 9 (WiiWare)

3. Braid (XBLA)

2. Left 4 Dead (PC)

1. Fallout 3 (Xbox 360)

This year, many stellar games were released. I was hard pressed to shorten my list down to a top 5, but I did my best. It was almost a dead heat between Left 4 Dead on PC and Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360. In the end it came down to the immersive nature of Fallout 3’s storyline that gave it the winning edge.

Fallout 3 is the kind of RPG that Bethesda prides themselves on making. They resuscitated a franchise that was in stasis for over a decade and managed to make it more vibrant and alive than its predecessors. Not to say that it replaces the classic Fallout games, but it is very much a worthy heir to the throne of Vault 101.

A barren wasteland isolates the player in the middle of nowhere, with very little handholding. You are left to comb the wasteland in search of items, friends, and storyline. Bethesda even took huge risks by writing a branching story that is monumentally influenced by key decisions throughout the course of the game. One choice can wipe out an entire city worth of story progression and questing. That is the very definition of ‘ballsy’ and makes this one of the most amazing games of 2008.

With over 30 hours in and many more to come, I couldn’t imagine a title being more worthy of Game of the Year.

Monmin Says: The only 2008 games I've played are Left 4 Dead, Viking: Battle for Asgard, Viva Pinata: Trouble In Paradise, and GTA IV. That excludes a lot of major releases this year, but anyway, my game of the year is: Left 4 Dead.

Kube00 Says: Okay I would say my top picks are:

Metal Gear Solid 4—It has so much to offer, a great story with amazing cutscenes, it’s a PS3 exclusive, and has great multiplayer.

GTA IV—It re-invented the series. The game itself is long, at least 40 hours; and the multiplayer, although not too deep, is fun for quick games.

Editor's Note: Yeah, Kube00 just made me puke. But we still like him and look forward to reading more of his articles.