All our individual nominations for Game of the Year are in. You’ve read our views on and reasoning for each of these titles. In the background, we have wrestled, wrangled and had a vote on which game gets our collective stamp of approval as Game of the Year.
And this year, that game is…after the break
BioWare’s Mass Effect 2!
Well, I nominated Mass Effect 2, so all I have to say is: I win! Nyer, nyer!
Since I’ve said enough about why it’s my GOTY, I will spend a little time giving my views on the runners-up.
Firstly, Red Dead Redemption. Now, this is an odd one. I loved GTA IV, and this feels very much like GTA: Wild West. I certainly enjoyed the game while I was working my way through the story, but I couldn’t help wondering when something ‘big’ was coming along. The set-pieces never felt as grand or dynamic as GTA IV’s, nor did the actual story develop any complexity and it all felt too disparate. As with Halo: Reach (another personal near-winner), this more dour mood was all by design. Since RDR hews towards what you would class as Revisionist Western, you expect this atmosphere of a dying Wild West, unfriendly faces and dire circumstances. But I didn’t get the sense that Rockstar fully embraced this or managed to tie it all together and thus, looking back, I couldn’t pick it as my GOTY.
Heavy Rain was an interesting game. It was certainly a nice change of pace from some of the other big releases and it kept me playing through to the end. I also enjoyed discussing the game with a friend; comparing our playthroughs and outcomes. But, ultimately, it was a little flawed in too many ways to be considered my GOTY.
As for the others, well, I didn’t play them. They would never have been a GOTY choice anyway, as I knew enough about them (or their franchises) to decide they weren’t up my alley. Sorry, Fallout: New Vegas, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Call of Duty: Black Ops. You are probably all great games!
As I said in my Game of the Year nomination for New Vegas, Mass Effect 2 was my second choice. I’m a fan of RPGs so that certainly helped it a lot. Mass Effect was a pretty solid game, but it lost out to New Vegas for me as I felt it shed a bit of its RPGness along the way. Mass Effect was a very promising opening and I certainly agree with the ‘Star Wars of Video Games’ comparison. Yet it still had a few flaws a sequel had room to correct and build upon. But come ME2, it felt like those had been removed rather than dealt with. The unreliable Mako, which still had some fun missions, was removed and replaced with planetary scanning, something which was vital to the game but deathly boring. The combat was certainly streamlined too. Missions became corridors of shooting galleries, with limited tactical choice. Overall, it’s a shame, as the characters in Mass Effect 2 were great and the new planets and factions added were nice to explore.
Mass Effect 2 was a good game, but I felt it was a very meh sequel and missed many opportunities to be much greater.
A big point about voting for the Game of the Year isn’t just about playing and enjoying the game. It’s also how non-gamers, or people that perhaps haven’t played the game, perceive it. I fall into this category, having not played Mass Effect 2.
The thing is, I don’t have to have played it to know that I would enjoy it. The discussions all over the net about the dialogue options and the different decisions you’re forced to make throughout the game, all having a significant outcome on how the narrative of the game unfolds, speak for themselves about how expansive Mass Effect 2 is. It’s not one of those titles that once you finish it the first time, you’re done, and no matter how many times you replay it, you’ll only get the same story over and over, you talk about it for the first week or two and then it’s done. It still churns out forum threads all these months later (most recently thanks to the announcement of Mass Effect 3, and Mass Effect 2’s impending PS3 port) about how Scene X panned out, how you reacted to so-and-so happening, and I can’t name a lot of games that have that gravitational pull the same way Mass Effect does. Just reading about the game got me interested in it, and I’ll certainly be picking up the PS3 version when it releases in January.
Let me tell you a story. While playing Mass Effect 2 on PC, I ran into a game-ending bug about 95% of the way through. I won’t give any spoilers but I was nearly done, nearly to the wrap-up and then this. Suffice it to say, I was pretty frustrated with the game. So the fact that’s it’s still my second favorite game of the year, despite that, should tell you just what a great game it is.
BioWare seems to have a way with dialogue that I haven’t seen done in any other games like Fallout or the like. Besides just being believable, it’s also just incredibly fun to see how each conversation plays out based on your actions. My only complaint here would be that there’s often no middle ground choice and that I sometimes felt my choices being picked for me only because I wanted to play an evil character overall, even if I didn’t want to pick the evil choice in that specific situation.
There’s not much else I can say about ME2 that others here haven’t already said, but now with the PS3 version coming out I simply feel that I need to recommend this game to you. Full stop. Whether you like RPGs or TPSs or whether you hate them both, if you like games with amazing stories and some of the best characters I’ve seen in a game then at least give ME2 a try.
While I said in my nomination that the only games I really considered for game of the year besides Red Dead Redemption were Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Fallout: New Vegas, that’s not entirely accurate. Mass Effect 2 was also high on the list, because it is a great game, though it had some elements that caused me to eliminate it fairly quickly. I was a huge fan of the first Mass Effect, and I was disappointed with how the classical RPG elements seemed to fall to the wayside in the sequel. Sure, the first Mass Effect had a few problems that needed to be addressed but, as Dean says, BioWare’s solution seems to be to throw out the problem mechanics rather than tweak and improve them.
All that said, Mass Effect 2 did make some marked improvements over its predecessor; the combat, for instance, is of much higher calibre, to the point where the game is a decent third-person shooter, even if you ignore all its other qualities. The addition of the interrupt system is also welcome, as it makes conversations seem more dynamic and interactive. From a technical perspective, Mass Effect 2 is a solid game, and even the flaws I listed above are more revelatory of my personal preferences than anything inherent in the game. All in all, Mass Effect 2 is a great game, and though it’s not my personal game of the year, I can’t say I’m upset with it winning anyway.