PC Gamer's games of the year

Let the console cabal strut around on the flimsy floorboards that barely hide the limits of their smug little systems. Let the pundits proclaim (wrongly, yet again) the death of PC gaming. We here at PC Gamer know differently. Indeed, 2008 proved to be yet another banner year for the best system out there - and, in our humble estimation, the only way to really experience the most gorgeous, most precise, and most innovative gameplay anywhere in the world. Be it the hostile wastelands of Fallout 3 or the lush landscapes in World of Warcraft, PC gaming is awash with award-winning interactive entertainment. Following are the very best of the best. Now get going - you’ve got a lot of gaming to do if you haven’t yet played them all!

Game of the year: Fallout 3
Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Reviewed: 91%, HOLIDAY ’08

It took a full decade to happen, but the sequel to one of the most-beloved PC role-playing franchises finally arrived in 2008 and proved itself worth the wait. While it doesn’t retain the isometric perspective or play like a turn-based tactical combat game, it perfectly captured the sprit of the first two Fallouts. As we wandered through the post-nuclear wasteland of Washington D.C. battling mutants and raiders and interacting with small communities of survivors trying to carve out a living in the harsh environment, we were awe-struck by a world overstuffed with outstanding occasions.

From the first time the Vault door rolls open to your initial encounter with a 15-foot-tall mutated monster with eight-inch claws to a climactic ending battle that we won’t spoil for you here, Fallout 3 is a game you can’t possibly experience by playing just once. It’s all of these memorable moments - just a few of which are captured right here - that put Fallout 3 ahead by a nose in the tough competition for this year’s PC Gamer Game of the Year Award. In an effort to give them huge egos, we asked Bethesda’s Lead Producer Todd Howard and Lead Designer Emil Pagliarulo what they hope that other game developers learn from the success of Fallout 3.

“Great ideas never die. It didn’t matter that Fallout was a series that was silent for 10 years. The world and core mechanics of Fallout 1 are so inherently awesome that they deserved to be done again, but in a new way. So much of reinventing something again is the presentation. Read old game reviews and see how the audience responded at the time, and find a way to make that happen again. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘People no longer like that.’ What I wouldn’t give to see X-Wing or Wing Commander reborn again. Hmmmm.” - Todd Howard

“Only by playing games, and immersing themselves in this wonderful industry, will developers ever truly know what’s good, what’s bad, what’s expected, what’s what been done before, and what’s fresh and exciting. You have to understand the industry you’re serving.

“There’s a second component to that, and it sounds simple, but it’s the toughest thing in the world: Devs, play your own games! And don’t do it with blinders on. If you create gameplay and it sucks, be honest with yourself and make it better. Because if you think back to best games ever made, one recurring theme is really apparent: They’re playable and fun. And that’s because whoever made those game wanted to create something they’d want to play.

“I think this industry gets too wrapped up with demographics, focus testing, and genre classification. You know what gamers want? Good games. So find your passion, understand what your audience wants, and work your heart out to make it happen.” - Emil Pagliarulo


Best action game: Tomb Raider: Underworld
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics
Developer: Eidos
Reviewed: 90%, January ’09

Most games are lucky to pull off a single one, but in Tomb Raider: Underworld, scenes of jaw-dropping awe - the ones that force you to stop in your tracks just to take it all in - happen again and again. Lara bursts through stone doors, rappels vertical corridors, or turns a corner in a labyrinth of subterranean passageways and finds her next epic challenge towering in front of her, some parts cloaked in darkness, others drenched in light. With gorgeous lighting and detailed textures, Tomb Raider: Underworld is a game that deserves as much hardware as you can throw at it.

If you’ve ever been rock-climbing before, you know the feeling - faced with a challenging and dangerous new environment, it’s hard to tell where to even begin. Tomb Raider: Underworld pits you against ruins, catacombs, and ancient vaults the size of football fields on land and at sea, and you spend much of your time making your way through their obstacles and traps hanging by your fingertips. Underworld’s most rewarding achievement is the way most navigable elements in the environment - including vines, rock protrusions, and ledges - are made easy to identify without looking goofy.

Hats off to Crystal Dynamics for delivering the year’s most exhilarating action in a classic Tomb Raider adventure that balances as gracefully as Lara herself on the line between fantasy and realism.

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  • stonecold52 - February 14, 2009 8:04 a.m.

    WADR (with all due respect), Left4Dead is game of the year. From its single player with bots co-op to full out multiplayer, it is unbeatable (fun, not completing it). Then you throw in the atmosphere and the repalayability, even in single player it never plays the same way twice. Magnificent. However, all the games listed, and even some that were not made this a banner year for the PC. Now if EA Sports would just pull their heads out and give us Madden '09 for the PC........
  • alway - February 14, 2009 2:34 a.m.

    Sins of a Solar Empire. That alone made it a good year. Far cry 2 IMO was just OK... The multiplayer does not work, and it seems Ubi is just focusing on sucking money through DLC from the console crowd. And we can't forget L4D. Now THAT was the best shooter this year.
  • Gahmah - February 13, 2009 9:09 p.m.

    far cry 2 was best shooter... can't think of any others that came out on the PC this year....
  • Octaviux - February 17, 2009 2 a.m.

    Fallout 3 for GOTY without a doubt. A resurrection of an incredible PC franchise with the best port rightfully landing on the PC. Beautiful graphics, engrossing story and a faithful continuation of the story. Fallout makes a bloody mess of any other contenders.
  • smallberry - February 16, 2009 8:33 a.m.

    Not since Roosevelt has a teddy been this deadly. Loved that.
  • DeadGirls - February 14, 2009 9:52 p.m.

    @frag: I really liked Oblivion also, and spent many hours playing it. I think, though, that Bethesda should have made more changes to the engine than just adding gibs/vats, and guns. Also, the pipboy menu interface is actually less functional than the menu/inventory system in oblivion and once the novelty wears off, just becomes an annoyance (see Farcry 2 for an immersive map/hud system). About the atmosphere, I got the 'Explorer' perk and fully explored the entire Fallout 3 map, to be honest, there isn't much that is memorable or worth seeing besides the places you are encouraged to visit by main and side quests. All that being said, its definitely not a bad game, it may even be RPG of the year. It just not deep enough or fun enough to have the lasting appeal as it could have had, especially for such a critically esteemed game.
  • frag - February 14, 2009 4:48 p.m.

    stonecold52, you express feelings in front of content. Altought L4D is indeed an amazing game, the single player option is nothing compare to the depth of fallout 3. In L4D you do not have experience levels, you do not talk with NPC, you do not have equipment as in FO3. Beside, in single player, no matter how much you love L4D, you will grow tired of it, especially if you have played multiplayer. deadgirls: FO3 an oblivion clone? so what, oblivion was a great i see no problem with that. Beside, you seem to forget the athmosphere factor in there where FO3 is so much more polished that say, GTA IV....
  • DeadGirls - February 14, 2009 6:20 a.m.

    I hate to disagree with you guys, but... The more time passes, the more I realize how Fallout 3 truly is nothing but an Oblivion mod with guns... And how overrated it is. In spite of its long PC-release delay, and technical imperfections, there is no way in the world that GTA IV is not a better 'action' game than Tomb Raider. LoTR:Online is a better MMO than WoW. Other than those choices, right on! ReCaptcha: inner party
  • frag - February 14, 2009 3:54 a.m.

    I have been reading PC gamers for years. And this year, again, i agree with them for almost everything. Far cry 2 , can't say it was bad, but shooter of the year...well out of lack of choice i can understand...
  • AfricanWoolf - February 13, 2009 8:07 p.m.

    First - and also I respect the gaming sites that gave GOTY to Fallout and not GTA IV. Shows the type of people I would like to have a beer with. :-)