Winner: 25 to Life
Eidos | PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
A phenomenally ugly third-person shooter that masqueraded as a Grand Theft Auto clone, 25 to Life is a feculent fiesta that hates its audience outright. The shooting is dull and repetitive, the characters are repugnant and the story tries so hard to be gritty and hardcore that in the end, it's really just depressing.
You could argue that this actually elevates the game, that in reality 25 to Life presents a sad, unflinching commentary on real-life gang culture, but this tedious cops-and-gangstas shootout is nowhere near that smart. It puts players through a series of bland, cookie-cutter levels and tosses cops and criminals at you like they were stormtroopers. Oh, and when you kill them? They sob and wail things like "Jesus Christ, please forgive me my sins!" Yeah.
25 to Life deserves recognition as one of the worst games of 2006, but its crowning achievement is that it almost redefined crass stupidity, and we hate it almost as much as its marketing team hates us. For the last time, marketing guys: filling your game full of unlikeable characters who only speak in obscenities does not give your game street cred - it just makes you a clueless asshole.
Collateral Damage: Saints Row
THQ | Xbox 360
OK, so this is nowhere near as bad as 25 to Life - it's actually a really good game that delivered nearly everything it promised. But where 25 to Life tries way too hard to be hardcore, Saints Row goes off the other end with a laughable cartoon version of what preteen suburban kids imagine inner-city life to be like, and that's crass in its own special way.