Looking for categories like Best PSP Driving Game? Greatest Achievement in Control Layout, Artistic? Eastern European Developer Most Worth Watching in 2011? Then our end-of-year awards might not be for you.
GamesRadar's Platinum Chalices are different. We're not interested in checking off a massively tedious list of genres, platforms and technical subdivisions… we'd much rather focus on the stuff that makes this hobby, you know, fun. And reward whichever games delivered the most of that stuff.
So if you're looking for the best fan service, most satisfying gore or greatest achievement in old-school kickassery in 2010, you've definitely come to the right celebration. Let's get it started…
WINNER: Final Fantasy XIII
Square-Enix is famous for creating the best CG in videogames, but such stunning cutscenes have always been a double-edged sword. Although they're a treat to watch, they also make the in-engine graphics look ugly by comparison, causing a jarring demarcation between the two.
That is, until Final Fantasy XIII. This is the first game (and the only, to date) where the actual gameplay is very nearly as gorgeous, detailed and fluid as the top-of-the-line cutscenes, to the point where the difference is barely noticeable. The flawlessness of every visual aspect – the environments, character models, textures and animation – is simply unparalleled. From the tiny blemishes on Lightning's skin (you can see pores!) to the way Fang's hair moves in the breeze, and from the lush, far-as-the-eye-can-see expanse of Pulse to the garish, claustrophobic spectacle of Cocoon's futuristic metropolis, every meticulous detail comes together to create one of the most graphically impressive experiences in gaming history.
Red Dead Redemption
Open world games must usually sacrifice detail for size, and beauty for freedom of movement. Not Red Dead Redemption. Every environment John Marston rides through is as pretty as a postcard, to the point that we remember enjoying a slow Mexican sunset or gazing at the Western night sky more clearly – and more fondly – than any of the game's gunfights.
WINNER: God of War III
For the love of Zeus’ thick and mythical beard, not the eyes, Kratos! Not the eyes! Wow, you’ve totally gouged out that poor deity’s peepers. Good for you. Oh what’s this? Another pesky god you could potentially kill in ruinous fashion and then steal their power? Look, Helios’ ability to blind enemies is pretty cool, we can’t deny. But can’t you two just talk thing… HOLY SHIT! You’ve just ripped off his entire head with your bare hands! Ewww, there’s bits of neck flesh everywhere.
While Kratos’ PS2 adventures were always bloody like a black pudding buffet, God of War III really takes the cake… and then murders said cake horribly… possibly involving the really unwholesome use of candles. Thanks to the Zipper Tech Sony Santa Monica perfected, The Ghost of Sparta was able to gut enemies and then see their entrails spill out in front of him in horrendously realistic fashion. And don’t even get us started on Kratos caving Hercules’ face in with nothing but his revenge-obsessed fists. Our therapy sessions are long enough as it is.
A precisely-gauged headshot is a satisfying thing. A precisely-gauged headshot from three-quarters of a mile away, landed by manually steering your (explosive) bullet from barrel to brain, over, under and around vehicle, soldier and scenery alike, until the glorious moment you turn the skull of that pesky sniper into a red and black fountain of goop? Incandescent.
WINNER: Kirby's Epic Yarn
From the moment we first saw Epic Yarn, we knew it was destined for greatness. The E3 2010 reveal melted the hearts of everyone in the room and this award was practically handed over right then and there. Kirby’s always been cute, but as we said in the review, it was a focus-tested kind of cute; of course people will find a pink puffball adorable! But now, recreated in transforming, malleable yarn, Kirby became truly, undeniably D’AWWWWWWWW
There’s more, of course. Prince Fluff, Kirby’s blue buddy, is just as huggable. The world itself is a mix between a story book and a fabric store come to life. Even the music is slathered with an infectious charm we couldn’t help but swoon over. Oh yeah and the game’s pretty good too.
Costume Quest managed to recreate the magical excitement of the time-honored tradition of begging at your neighbors' doors for candy in this downloadable title. From the charming costumes, to the unique commentary from the kids on the streets, to the creative plot of saving your sibling from candy-stealing monsters before curfew, it was difficult to not be in awe of this delightful RPG.
WINNER: Epic Mickey
Previous recipients of this award include Kingdom Hearts II, but you’re going to have to take our word when we say that Epic Mickey blows it away in terms of sheer service volume. Obviously, Disneyana has decidedly less pull with most of you reading this than something like Final Fantasy, Smash Bros, or Marvel. Yet as far as authentically serenading fans goes, the appeal of these cartoons extends to a much broader audience, and nobody - certainly none of those aforementioned titles - have been doing it as long as Disney, nor do they have the enormous character roster to cherry pick from.
See our 50 Disney references in Epic Mickey? That was by no means comprehensive – it’s merely what we noticed in the first fraction of the game. Not only might you spot things we didn’t, the gameplay might take you places we never even visited. Even more impressively, Epic Mickey isn’t afraid to put the ignored, forgotten and far less popular relics of Disney history – the characters and movies overshadowed by Pirates of the Caribbean and Hannah Montana for the past decade – front and center. You don’t have to appreciate the inclusions of Horace Horse Collar or the Nautillus sub from the shuttered 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride, but you should damn sure respect them.
Bayonetta was more than just a fantastic hack-and-slasher with an impossibly sexy heroine – it was also crammed to its heaving, voluptuous gills with nerdy game references. Most were callbacks to classic Sega games, but there were plenty of nods to Capcom and the games Platinum made when it was still Clover Studios, and we compiled as many as we could find in this article.
WINNER: Deadly Premonition
On paper, Deadly Premonition is one of the crappiest games of this or any other year. Everything about it – its graphics, gameplay, structure, writing and acting – is objectively terrible by current-gen standards. And yet somehow, when you combine all those things, it suddenly becomes one of the best, most endlessly memorable experiences on offer this year.
Hokey as it may sound, a lot of that is down to the obvious love and creative energy DP’s creators lavished on the game. The story of an FBI agent (with a split personality and coffee-based fortune-telling abilities) on the trail of a supernatural serial killer (with glowing eyes and an army of mouthy zombies), Deadly Premonition has heart in a way that few other games do. Yes, pretty much everything you can see or do is kind of crappy – but there’s so much of it, and you can interact with it in so many strange ways, frequently with dialogue that sounds like it was written by Ed Wood after a marathon viewing of every ‘80s film ever made.
Above: Here’s a little sample
It’s a hell of an achievement to be so awful and so amazing at the same time. What kind of monsters would we be if we didn’t recognize it?
While nowhere near as “bad” as Deadly Premonition, Nier was still an ugly, all-around mediocre game, with dull combat and side-quests so boring that even the quest-givers seemed amazed you’d want to take them on. However, hiding under all that cruddiness were an amazing story, interesting characters and gameplay that radically shifted genre whenever it liked. That didn’t quite eclipse the flaws, but it did help us forget them.
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