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The Platinum Chalice Awards 2010

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption

If you read our individual games of the year, you probably already had an inkling this was going to happen – after all, four GR editors declared it their personal GOTY, each knowing full well that they’d have to think up something to write that the other three wouldn’t. That’s devotion.

Red Dead Redemption is a staggering achievement as a sandbox game, combining a gigantic, diverse world with an exacting attention to detail and character. Every stretch of terrain, from the hills and scrub-deserts of New Austin to the rolling prairies and snowy mountains of West Elizabeth, is uniquely beautiful and liberating to explore, especially on horseback. Sunsets and rainfall can make your surroundings achingly pretty, and everywhere you go, you can bank on there being something interesting to do just around the corner (even if “interesting” sometimes means “getting jumped by six bears at once”).

The end result is more than just an “open world;” it’s a convincing recreation of a time and place in history – something that its characters do a lot to bolster. We’ve gotten attached to characters in Rockstar games before, but never quite like we did with John Marston and company. We were always happy to give Marshal Johnson or Landon Ricketts a hand, we fell just a little bit in love with Bonnie MacFarlane, and we felt just a little bit of remorse when John finally faced down his mentor-turned-nemesis, Dutch van der Linde. But mostly we liked spending time with/as John. And when the slow, deliberate suckerpunch of a twist “ending” finally smashed into us, it was unusually affecting for a game – so much so that we took on the bloody task that followed with extreme relish.

Combine that with the emotional lifts from a few surprise moments in the soundtrack, as well as the odd urge we had to obey John’s troubled conscience and stay good (pretty unusual for a Rockstar game, that) and – hell, let’s be honest – the fun of leaving tied-up civilians on railroad tracks, and this was the most poignant, exhilarating and wildly fun game we played this year.

And that’s not even factoring in the zombies.

Mass Effect 2

Only a game as thrilling and engrossing as Red Dead Redemption could keep BioWare’s space opera sequel from the top spot. Both are so thoroughly above anything else in 2010 that awarding either “Game of the Year” is a defensible, understandable choice. And while we ultimately sided with Marston, ME2’s galaxy-spanning tale of genocide, betrayal, atonement and friendship under fire inspired us enough to play it two, even three times to completion.

Consider how highly regarded the first game is. Scored in the 8-10 range across the industry, despite a few immensely irritating problems. ME2, on the other hand, addresses every single complaint we had with the original, making it the easiest 10/10 score we’ve ever handed out. It expands and further defines the growing cast, refines the cover shooter gameplay, builds upon the main plot as well as the myriad sub-stories that trail through both games and sets everything up for a surefire megaton conclusion. Once upon a time, the phrase “Western RPG” was practically a slur – now, largely thanks to BioWare, it’s associated with some of the best stories and characters the medium will ever know.

WINNER: Red Dead Redemption

We’re confident in our Game of the Year decision, but we still wanted to get YOUR opinion on the matter. To that end, we began a Twitter pollearlier this week and asked for you, our attractive and highly savvy readers, to weigh in. Several games were on your minds, but in the end it came down to the same two heavy hitters, and Red Dead Redemption walked away the victor once more.

@kingborucsaid “RDR because it came out in a period of time where I was having fun with games but not blown away. RDR changed that.” Many, many more echoed the same sentiment, naming Rockstar’s newly reborn (redeemed?) franchise their favorite game of the year. Let it be known that voting was tight, however, and our Runner Up nearly won.

Runner Up: Mass Effect 2

But don’t feel down, BioWare fans. Your voices were heard just as loud:@litrocksaid “Mass Effect 2, obviously. Nothing else comes close except Bayonetta, but nobody else will pick that.” If it makes you feel any better, a handful of people DID suggest Bayonetta, but if there were a third place to name, it’d go to Super Mario Galaxy 2.

That’s the end of our Platinum Chalice Awards for 2010.
Let us know what your winners are in the comments below!

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