Every year the collective hive mind of GamesRadar picks its Game of the Year as the ultimate accolade of the officially annual Platinum Chalice Awards. It's very exciting. And while that's still totally happening (the Platinum Chalice Awards will be posted next Friday), this year we thought we'd take a minute to unplug from the Master Brain and give some love to each of our own personal games of the year.
Chris Antista: For all its faults – a crappy camera and preschool pacing being chief among them – I haven’t enjoyed a game as thoroughly as Epic Mickey since God only knows when. Being an unabashed Disney nerd, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to swim in an ocean of Disneyana without all of the traditional trappings. Normally, I’d have to suffer through kiddie-centric dogshit just to get my Disney VG fix, but Epic Mickey delivered all the reverence I could ever want, treated with all the accuracy and respect given to legacies like Smash Bros. or the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games.
Add to that, it’s one of the best 3D platformers I’ve played in sometime, with an evolutionary twist. Mickey’s actions branch irrevocably, unlike the decisions you make in a BioWare title. So while I’ve finished the game, I still haven’t seen everything. And I must! Did anybody else feel like restarting Kingdom Hearts immediately after completion…? Didn’t think so.
Charlie Barratt: Rockstar's sandboxes have always had plenty of sex and violence, but Red Dead Redemption was the first to have heart. I could write paragraph after paragraph about how breathtaking the wide-open Western environments were, about how slick and satisfying the gunslinger gameplay was, about how much I loved the characters, about how much I appreciated the music or about how much I enjoyed reaching 100%.
What was truly special about Redemption, though – and what elevates it above the GTA series, in my opinion – is the heart. The basic decency of John Marston, a Rockstar protagonist motivated by love, not revenge. The side missions that encourage you to rescue innocent citizens rather than run them over. The bond you develop with your previously interchangeable, now living and breathing "vehicle." The fact that you pick flowers… and the fact that you pick flowers for a crazy old man's dead wife, but the game plays this scene for genuine pity rather than for perverse humor.
Rockstar's grown up. I've always admired the developer for its edginess, and now I can finally respect its maturity as well.
Eric Bratcher: Mass Effect 2 and Red Dead are the deserving front-runners this year, but they both had me at the title screen. BioShock 2 had to work for it. From the moment it was announced, I hated the very existence of BioShock 2 with venomous, indignant nerd rage. I was absolutely convinced that the magnificent story in the first BioShock was so complete and so perfect that any sequel of any kind would retroactively ruin it. No, really – I was furious. It wasn’t classy.
Imagine my surprise, then, when BioShock 2 blew me away. The gameplay was deeper and more varied. The world was just as compelling. Most importantly, the story managed to enhance and build upon the original plotline, rather than corrupt and cheapen it. You reading this, Lucas? Plus, the pacing was sublime – a late gameplay twist and the final power you earned made the endgame the absolute highlight of the experience, just as it should be. It takes incredible skill to one-up a masterpiece, but BioShock 2 did it.
Matt Cundy: When Heavy Rain arrived in the GamesRadar UK office, none of us knew what to make of it. It was different. Mostly we laughed and made snarky comments. I thought the showering and the carrying the shopping and the playing with the kids in the garden was a lot of pretentious old twat. And then there was the not-meant-to-be-hilarious 'Press X to Jason' bit. Which was hilarious.
However, Heavy Rain is an emotionally affecting interactive drama and it turns out such games are not particularly compatible with groups of men. So I took it home and played it with the missus. And we loved it. This was the first time we'd *both* been totally absorbed by a video game. Normally the missus loses interest and wanders off in search of cake. But Heavy Rain kept us hooked from start-to-finish and made us squeal plenty along the way. A fantastic experience.
Lizzie Cuevas: Are you surprised? Halo: Reach is my Game of the Year for mainly nostalgic reasons. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Halo 3, and hardly touched Halo: ODST, but when Halo: Reach came out, it rekindled my love for Halo - not because Halo: Reach was the best game ever or anything like that (that spot in my heart is still reserved for Halo 2).
The single-player campaign was “meh” at best, but I really enjoyed the multiplayer aspect and playing with my friends and it reminded me of the nights I spent in Halo 2 multiplayer dicking around with friends until 6 a.m. I also feel that Reach fixed everything I hated about 3 by incorporating a class system and getting rid of those stupid spike grenades. I’ve since become a rusty Halo player after straying away from 3 and ODST, but at least I’m better at Halo than I am at COD. Seriously. Screw that game.