Jeremy Jastrzab
29 Dec, 2008

PALGN Game of the Year Awards 2008

PALGN Feature | Our favourite games of the year.
It's that time again folks - the time when we get together and decide which were the games that defined the year just passed. Even with a very lean patch of releases through the middle of the year, we had a hard time selecting our choices for the best of the best. But choose we did, and here we present to you the PALGN staff choices for our favourite games of 2008.

On with the show...

DS Game of the Year
Professor Layton and the Curious Village
D Level 5| P Nintendo
PALGN Review 9.0
Runner up: The World Ends With You

Apart from the Northern Hemisphere release of the Nintendo DSi, it has been a very quiet year for the Nintendo DS. Well, quiet for Nintendo, at least. However, this has given the third parties a chance to show what they’ve got. While not strictly third party nor a 2008 release (2007 in Japan), the release of Professor Layton and the Curious Village was a healthy dose of nostalgia mixed with ingenious puzzles and colourful characters.

Professor Layton and his young assistant Luke are invited to St. Mystere by Lady Dahlia, widow of the late Baron Reinhold, to solve the mystery of the Golden Apple. The Baron stated in his last will and testament that whosoever should solve the mystery would inherit everything he possessed. Reviving the classical point-and-click genre that once populated PCs and adding over 120 touch screen puzzles, Professor Layton and the Curious Village was one of the more memorable experiences of 2008 for many reasons.


PSP Game of the Year
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
D Square-Enix| P Square-Enix
PALGN Review 8.5
Runner up: God of War: Chains of Olympus

It was a strange year for the PSP. Most of the best games for the system came out in the first half of 2008, rather than during the latter year silly season. As a result, it almost seemed that there weren’t too many games to pick from. Still, pick we did and again, nostalgia won out. Following on, or more accurately leading into the famed PlayStation title, Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII gives some background to one of the most revered stories in gaming.

Introducing some new characters to mix in with the old ones, the gameplay moves away from the turn-based to action-based, but just like all Final Fantasy games it keeps you occupied for a long time. Most importantly, the game captures the emotion and story that is often associated with the perennial series, as well as the high standards that we have come to expect as the norm.

Xbox 360 Game of the Year
Gears of War 2
D Epic Games | P Microsoft
PALGN Review 8.5
Runner up: Fable 2

Few developers are adept at following up a stellar original with a good sequel, let alone a better one. Epic are one such developer that is able to put their money where their mouth is, and deliver a sequel to their 2006 hit, Gears of War that is even better than the original. That is, even if we’re still left waiting for a few answers.

Gears of War 2 adds more colour and smarter squad mates to the stop-and-pop action of the original. This time though, it’s even bigger, faster and more explosive. Heck, they even found a way to make it look better. While there are few little things that would have made it truly special, it has left us quite excited for the inevitable sequel.

Wii Game of the Year
Boom Blox
D EA LA | P Electronic Arts
PALGN Review 8.5
Runner up: de Blob

There used to be a time where the Nintendo system awards were dominated by Nintendo published games. In a major coup, the PALGN staff have gone past the Nintendo sequels such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii and have looked (possibly) to the future. As such, games like Zak and Wiki, the Australian-developed de Blob and No More Heroes figured highly, but in the end, it was the surprisingly enjoyable Boom Blox that took the cake for 2009.

Not bad for a mix between Jenga and explosions, although it seems that having Steven Speilberg for consult has definitely helped. Even with less processing power than other modern consoles, the Wii was the home in 2008 for one of the most enjoyable physics-based puzzle games. Utilising the motion-based features of the Wiimote further enhanced the emphasis of skill, reflex and dexterity. That, and blowing up stuff is a heck of a lot of fun.

PlayStation 3 Game of the Year
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
D Kojima Productions| P Konami
PALGN Review 9.5
Runner up: Little Big Planet

Very rarely does a game fulfil most of the promises that are set out during the development cycle. It’s even rarer for a game to fulfil all the promises made during the cycle, let alone the life of the franchise. But that’s just what Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots managed to do and then some.

It may be hard to believe, but the game fulfils its primary purpose by completely tying up the extremely stretched story and even wrapping it up with a nice bow on top. That, and it had the most accessible gameplay of all Metal Gear Solid games, along with the most variety that the series has ever seen.

Multiplatform Game of the Year
Fallout 3
D Bethesda Softworks| P ZeniMax Media
PALGN Review 9.0
Runner up: Left 4 Dead

Following the fall of Interplay, the future of the Fallout franchise was uncertain for a while. But after being acquired by Bethesda Softworks, creators of the Elder Scrolls franchise, it looks as though it will be here to stay for a while. While Fallout 3 is a rather large departure from the decade-old original titles, the attention to the nostalgia factor has once again paid off.

While the comparisons with Oblivion were inevitable, Fallout 3 stands on its own and makes exploring a post-apocalyptic in search of your rogue father one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of recent times. While we were just glad for the game to have made it to Australia following the drug censorship fiasco, we’re even happier with how the final game has turned out.

PC Game of the Year
D Maxis| P Electronic Arts
PALGN Review 9.0
Runner up: Sins of the Solar Empire

It seems that Will Wright can do no wrong. The Sims was a runaway success, and The Sims 2 was even bigger, so who knows how big The Sims 3 will be. But before that, Wright took the gaming world and tipped it on its side once again with the genre transcending simulator Spore. And again, it could be enjoyed by the casual and the hardcore alike.

Spore allowed players to first take control of the primordial soup and see what kind of immaculate being (or monstrosity) crawled out. Following this, you took control of the creature's evolution, from its first village, to towns, then cities, then conquering the world and finally… the universe. Literally.

Downloadable Game of the Year
D Number Non Inc.| P Number Non Inc.
PALGN Review 9.0
Runner up: Wipeout HD

Games that you can buy over some sort of download service, be it the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Wii Shop or Steam, have become incredibly popular over the last 12 months. So much so that this category was one of the most hotly contested this year. While a lot of games that probably deserved the attention haven’t quite got over the line, the future of these games is bright.

The shining star for independent developers this was the perplexing Braid. Even though we can’t all be perceptive and ‘get it’, there is no denying the creativity required to think up the mind-boggling puzzles that were seen in the game. Not to mention, it showed that a game can look good without millions of polygons and head-line voice actors.

Best Visuals
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
D Kojima Productions| P Konami
PALGN Review 9.5
Runners up: Prince of Persia, Gears of War 2

You don't often see a game look as good as the early screenshots and videos seem to suggest. Well, in another rarity, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots not only looked as good as the hype may have implied, it actually looked much, much better. No other game released this year managed to put together theis level of attention to detail along with artistic direction and technical prowess. Not to mention, not much has come close since the game's release either.

Best Audio
Grand Theft Auto IV
D Rockstar North| P Rockstar
PALGN Review 9.5
Runner up: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

One area that is never likely to disappoint when it comes to a Grand Theft Auto game is the audio department. And almost like clockwork, Grand Theft Auto IV delivered a memorable audio experience with great voicing, meaty sound effects and the famed licensed and original tracks that could be found on the radio within the game world. While some may have described GTA IV as a game that you could have lived rather than played, it’s certainly one that you could have just listened to.

Overall Game of the Year
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
D Kojima Productions| P Konami
PALGN Review 9.5
Runner up: Left 4 Dead

Very rarely does a game fulfil all the promises that are made during the development process. Very rarely does a series get wrapped up with every single possible question answered. Very rarely is the core gameplay of a series made accessible to newcomers while retaining what veterans liked about it. Very rarely (particularly these days) does a game get released with virtually no technical flaws and yet still provides a complete package. Very rarely does a game look and sound better than just about anything that has ever been released, and continues to do so six months after release. And very rarely (only once a year in fact), is a game judged to be the best game we played in a year.

Well done Snake, one final award has come your way.

Most Anticipated for 2009
Heavy Rain
D Quantic Dream| P SCEE
Runners up: Brutal Legend, Uncharted 2

2009 is looking like a year for the unique and the original. Publishers seem to have realised that sequels need some love and care, so we might not see as many next year. As such, a lot of original IPs and lesser known titles were thrown around the table when we were wondering just what we wanted from 2009. It turned out that PALGN staff are suckers for an intriguing story, as Heavy Rain won this battle over Jack Black and Nathan Drake.

The developer's last game, Fahrenheit, started off really well when it came out in 2005, but fell away as it went from intriguing to just plain sci-fi weird. Aside from what looks like a fresh perspective on quick time events and a compelling story, we’re hoping that this love story/thriller doesn’t go down the same path. At the moment though, it’s on the top of out list of games we want to play in 2009.

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5 years ago
All those games deserved awards (from what I played). I personally didn't like Fallout 3 but I see how other people could have. MGS4 really was one of the greatest games of all time. A bit disappointed LittleBigPLanet didn't get an award but oh well. And Boom Blox ftw!
5 years ago
nice list, i don't agree with all your choices, most notably PSP - though your runner up gets it right, and i wasn't initially sure about your X360 GOTY, but when i thought about it, i couldn't think of many others that weren't multiplatform games - and i guess i was expecting Dead Space on the Multiplatform list, but you can't really go wrong with many of those games.

(and Wrath of the Lich King should've taken PC GOTY, and Warhammer AoR a runner up. icon_razz.gif)
Sambo110 wrote
A bit disappointed LittleBigPLanet didn't get an award but oh well.
it got PS3 runner up.
5 years ago
No Resi 5 love for most anticipated? Makes me sad.
5 years ago
Its kind of odd that they would score a game 9.5 that they didn't really like.... GTA IV loses out to Gears of War 2 (8.5), Fable 2 (8.0), Left 4 Dead (8.5) and Fallout 3 (9.0)
5 years ago
yeah... im not to sure about the 360 choice either... Surely there must have been something better, gears was a little dissapointing acutally now i come to think of it.
5 years ago
God of War: Chains of Olympus was the best PSP game. Crisis Core was, like any SE game, rubbish.
5 years ago
Heavy Rain as the most anticipated makes me very happy. I can not wait for that one.

As for the rest of the selections, it's a very respectable list. As with most, there's 1 or 2 I would've picked differently (God of War and Patapon over Crisis Core), but PALGN has made some good choices. Also, props for using that MGS4 screenshot. Kojima, you sex-mad dog.
5 years ago
I wouldn't put Heavy Rain as the most anticipated.

I also would have had World of Goo as runner up for the best downloadable title.

Also not sure about GoW2 being the best Xbox360 game of this year. Although, I can see where you're coming from.

Otherwise, thumbs up.
5 years ago

Having not played the game I must ask... what's with the cupping of the balls and/or holding of the johnson?
5 years ago
^ I wouldn't put any of those games as most anticipated. FFXIII, Halo 3 expansion, God ofWar 3, RE5...

Missing for awards -

Dead Space
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (best Catlevania ever IMO)

Fable 2 also shouldn't be on the list for best 360 games.
5 years ago
Best graphics for Metal Gear?

I dunno. Thoses games looked so dull and plain. I wonder why people enjoy seeing the detail in dirt and gravel?
5 years ago
phenomenon9999 wrote
Best graphics for Metal Gear?

I dunno. Thoses games looked so dull and plain. I wonder why people enjoy seeing the detail in dirt and gravel?
Have you played Metal Gear Solid 4, or just watched the Act 1 promotional trailers? The game takes place in a large variety of environments, in-fact I would say it mixes things up more than most games this year. For me, nothing came close to MGS4 this year.
5 years ago
Completely agree.
5 years ago
MGS4 was a hit and miss graphically for me. Certain parts looked fantastic and then it other parts not as much. Same deal with Gears 2. Certain parts made my jaw drop and then you're in a cave which looks average.

I was impressed with Dead Space as a whole graphically. Wipeout HD looks simple yet fantastic too.
5 years ago
Could not agree more with this list. MGS4 is still my most played game since release
5 years ago
Multiplatform GOTY?? What a pointless category.

"This is hands down the best game you can own on two or more platforms. I kid you not!!"

If you dont consider Fallout 3 'the best game' on PC or PS3 or 360 then surely it's the best game on nothing (as opposed to being GOTY on all those platforms put together).
5 years ago
Excellent choices and very good to see that you have chosen to given Professor Layton some love and the high praise for MGS4. Nice work guys icon_smile.gif
5 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Missing for awards -

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (best Catlevania ever IMO)
It wasn't released in Australia this year so it was ineligible.
5 years ago
Best Audio....GTA4, I doubt it. It had weak Audio IMO and the worst radio station mix of any GTA game.
5 years ago
^ I was big fan of the station mix many an hour i spent cruzin simply listening to tunes.
But as stated in the article the audio award isn't simply just the music but GTA had great voice acting and sound effects which just created more immersion.
Considering GTA got a higher review score I was surprised it wasn't multi platform GOY.
Still overall it's a comprehensive list and i reckon if you haven't picked up 2-5 titles out of that list this year you've missed out on some quality.
5 years ago
Nice job with the awards, I agree with all of it. MGS4 rocked 2008. icon_smile.gif
5 years ago
Awarding BOOM BLOX GOTY on Wii is the videogame equivalent of a gold medal in the paralympics.

Im sure you had fun coming up with a best of 2008 Wii list. But rather than break things down via system (i.e 'Best DS game, Best 360 game) perhaps next year you could do a "TOP 10 GAMES of 2009" list irrespective of platform. Or even more useful (avoids comparing apples to oranges) --> GOTY GENRE AWARDS (Best RTS, best sports game etc).
5 years ago
Saints Row 2 for best audio IMO. I love it's radio.

Otherwise, I agree for the most part.
5 years ago
NaTe wrote
Saints Row 2 for best audio IMO. I love it's radio.
I agree. The "quality" of the tracks with the SR2 radio stations is much better than the "quantity" of tracks with the GTA4 radio stations. icon_biggrin.gif
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