GamesRadar's Anti-Awards 2008

Love it or hate it, Mirror’s Edge effing tried, which is more than we can say for the sickening pile of “software” clogging up retailer shelves. Its first-person acrobatic gameplay and daring use of intense colors made it instantly recognizable, and the story hinted at– one of a squeaky clean city unjustly kept in check by overbearing protectors – hooked us right away.

Based off the first mission, we assumed we’d be guiding Faith through a series of super-cool errand missions, dodging The Man and trying to deliver precious cargo no matter the cost. Information must flow, right? Hm, well no, because all the ambiguous lines are wiped away and the story clumsily shifts to:

Faith’s sister is set up to take a fall and ends up in prison so you have to clear her nazzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Above: What’s with the creepy e-surance / Fear Effect cutscenes? What happened to the in-game style?

It goes from creative to cliché in the span of one cutscene. The developers obviously spent a lot of time coming up with this scenario, even created a backstory to get the first mission rolling, then dumps it all in favor of a rejected Law & Order script. Then, in a final moment of anti-brilliance, the game ends with practically no resolution whatsoever. It honestly seems like they forgot to add the final level, as if the day before shipping the lead programmer asks his assistant “oh hey did you finish Chapter 10?”

“There’s a Chapter 10?”

Underworld sets a spectacular new bar for epic-scale puzzles, but its story is a half-assed, cliché-ridden, confusing mess. Lowlights include: Lara’s mom appears as a zombie for about five seconds, and a purple-haired evil Lara clone is suggested to have some significance, and then ends up with zero explanation for her existence.

We sort of thought this was going to be a sequel. Yeah, we knew deep down that it was way too soon (for Valve), and that there was no way we’d get a 360 exclusive sequel, but we didn’t care, we were blinded by hope. And your ultra-vague announcement at E3 didn’t help, Microsoft.

Above: What the hell, this is the same game!

So give us a sequel, not a barely-remixed version with 200 more Achievement Points. Hell, know what? Give us a new engine, Valve. Don’t get us wrong, Source is awesome, but it has been over four years now… couldn’t you maybe make Half-Life 2: Episode 3 into Half-Life 3? That would surprise the hell out of everyone! It’d be great! And of course, Portal 2 would be there too. Pretty please? Yeah, it’s not likely. Oh well, thanks for Left 4 Dead though, it’s keeping us thoroughly distracted while we wait for a new Portal (and a new Half-Life 2 episode, but mostly Portal).

It’s clear Capcom wants Lost Planet to attain Resident Evil levels of fandom, but spitting out half-sequels with subtitles that suggest an entirely new game isn’t the best way to curry favor with an overly fickle audience.

Not content with making Guitar Hero an annual release like Tony Hawk (which is AWOL this year thanks to oversaturation and lack of ideas), Activision has engaged in shameless money-grubbing behavior that completely undermines the original idea behind the series – music is king, so shut up and play.

Above: Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

After Activision acquired the brand, we saw Guitar Hero II (360), Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the ‘80s (PS2) and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock all land in 2007. Three in one year is a lot, especially when Harmonix (the original brains behind Guitar Hero) trotted out Rock Band and actually added music-related gameplay, not boss battles, power-ups and songs included just to be near impossible. Somehow, last year was even worse…

Above: Cha-ching!

Guitar Hero: On Tour, Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: World Tour all came out within six months of each other, and we already know Guitar Hero: Metallica and another shitty DS version (Modern Hits) are coming soon. Meanwhile, Harmonix has put out just two Rock Band games in two years, not counting track packs that collect songs Harmonix wisely puts out as cheap downloadable tracks instead of full-price discs. The comparison:

It’s not the frequency of releases or the band-themed games that pisses us off the most – it’s the mindset. The “Yeah Rock On Dude!” menus feel more like a parody of music culture than genuine fondness, the commercials are more about celebrity endorsements than the game and, as seen above, the KFC-slathered Guitar Hero box is about as far from rebellious spirit as one can get. Yes, Activision is a business and exists to make money, but plenty of savvy gamers will realize Harmonix, also interested in cash, does it without looking like a bunch of suits trying to milk a great idea for all it’s worth.

Repackaging years-old GameCube games in a white box and some motion controls is fiendishly genius. Now Nintendo can literally sell us the same game twice.

The Flying Tomato. His entourage probably thought that was a cute nickname, but that was before Shaun White could attach his name to a game that would cause audiences to react to it like a Fozzie Bear knock-knock joke. But we’re not harping on the botched performance... Mr. Tomato is guilty of something far more irritating.

In a highly publicized move infinitely more appealing to people who sell games than people who play them, Ubisoft inked a deal with capitalist behemoth Target to provide it, alone, with a fifth level... Target Mountain. We’re already uncomfortable with retail exclusives like modified weapons or character costumes, but a sizable chunk of gameplay reserved solely for a single retailer is another thing entirely.

Don’t live in America? Never heard of Target? Sorry bra! You’re basically getting screwed out of a substantial portion of the game. (There were reports of European instruction manuals promoting Target-centric features they could never play.) Mt. Target could eventually be released as DLC, but how much is a playing through an advertisement worth to anyone? Well, following Shaun White’s lukewarm reception, many retailers have dropped the price to $45, while the corporately enriched version is still sold at Target for $60.

Shaun White’s Snowboarding was the blandest looking powder bounce this side of Wii Ski, and it’s infuriating that in spite of being an ethical affront, Target Mountain has more character than any other area of the game. Still... perhaps every single millisecond devoted to reskinning the slopes with Bullseyes could’ve been better spent improving the awful camera, course navigation and repetitive collect-a-thons.

Remember back in March of ‘07 when you were actually excited about PlayStation’s microcosmic answer to Xbox Live’s interface? Months of delays gave way to a soft launch featuring little more than looping trailers and interactive adver-posters. And you know - you know! - Sony can’t wait to sell your fake avatar name-brand clothing for real money.