Perhaps it’s a bit too early in the year to start worrying about what game might actually win GOTY for 2008, seeing as almost all outlets for gaming have a strong holiday lineup on deck. But I read an article over on DLB-Network, a website run by a buddy of mine, and it got me to thinking – just what games this year are likely to be GOTY? Which one do I think will nab the title on other websites / magazines?
I decided I’d list all the contenders, give my thoughts and my reasoning, and see what other people think. Many of these games came from the list proposed at DLB-Network, and some are from my own line of thought.
Grand Theft Auto 4
I believe GTA4 is a strong contender for GOTY 2008. Some may balk at this, saying that the game wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, but I beg to differ; the game was solid, fun, and even though it didn’t always live up to the hype, it was unarguably one of the better games released in ’08. The game was epic in size, it sold amazingly well, was a multi-platform release, and became a cultural phenomenon in the weeks building up to and following its release. It pushed the GTA franchise outward in all the right directions and had an interesting message, and it would not surprise me at all if GTA4 piles on the GOTY awards for 2008.
Metal Gear Solid 4
I’ve not played MGS4, but I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about it. The game upped the bar for graphics in PS3 titles, as well as for (non-)interactive story-telling, possibly to detriment. Though the game garnered strong ratings across the board, many now complain (much like GTA4) that the game was over-hyped and over-rated. Another common complaint was that the game bogged down players with too many cut-scenes and not enough actual gameplay. The final strike against it however, in my opinion, is the PS3 platform exclusivity. MGS4 had impressive sales numbers, but too few people have played this game for it to be dubbed GOTY 2008, in large part due to its release on a single platform. In an age where reviewers are too afraid to give the same game on different platforms different scores, I just can’t see a single-platform title earning GOTY, good as the game may be.
Will Wright’s wet dream, Spore, had always shown promise of being a game-to-end-all-other-games, even from it’s early unveiling at E3 several years ago. Even a year before its release, I recall talking with people about how great the game would be, and being quite excited about it myself. Upon its eventual release, the world found that, while it was a decent and fun game, Spore wasn’t exactly all it was cracked up to be. The game also fell prey to the same DRM woes that have haunted other recent PC releases. And though many are playing the game now and will be playing it into the distant future, I think that the possibility for achieving any sort of GOTY commendations were dashed long ago when the game became a shallow amalgam of different game genres, and a rich simulator of none.
Gears of War 2
Though the screens and videos of the new Gears game look promising, and I am sure the game will be a fun title, I don’t think we’ll see the sequel grabbing at GOTY, both for it’s platform exclusivity and because it will be too similar to Gears 1 to show any real innovation.
The original Gears of War, though not entirely original in most respects, did everything it set out to do so right that it was hard to say much bad about it. I feel that the sequel will be much the same, but since we’ve already broken the ground (a Gears pun?) with Gears 1, Gears 2 won’t be a contender for GOTY. Of course, I’ve read that Epic has tried to fix many of the original Gears’ shortcomings in the sequel, but unless they really pull off something spectacularly better than the already-great Gears of War, I don’t see it. I’ll definitely be in line to buy this title, though.
I feel the same way about Resistance 2 as Gears of War 2. See above.
Little Big Planet
What can I say about LBP without inciting riots among its throng of interim fans? I think I’ll just come right out and say it: LBP will be one of the most over-hyped games of 2008. Developed by Media Molecule, a company whose first game (Rag Doll Kung Fu) was met with a lukewarm response, Little Big Planet puts the developer’s tools in the players’ hands and asks them to create levels for others to play.
The game has a nice look to it, and the tools look easy enough to use – but I question how interesting most gamers, who don’t typically delve into the development side of things, will find it. I also think that people who are truly interested in being creative will be disappointed, as there is only so much you can do easily and comfortably with a dual shock controller (as opposed to a keyboard, mouse, and with real creative tools like Photoshop, 3DSMax, etc.)… and that’s ignoring the obvious limitations of the single hard drive and paltry amount of RAM. LBP will be an interesting diversion for sure, but not a system-seller, and for that reason, I don’t see it as a serious contender for any GOTY awards.
Don’t believe me? Watch this lame video of Super Mario Bros. level 1-1.
I’ll admit that I haven’t done much research about Fallout 3 yet, despite my plans to buy the game. If the experience is a little more polished than Oblivion, but with the same open-endedness and emphasis on exploration and discovery, I think it could be a latecomer to the GOTY arena. From everything I’ve seen so far, it looks much more crisp and refined than Oblivion. It’ll be interesting (and hopefully fun) to see how well Bethesda’s role-playing recipe holds up with the company shifting gears into the more modern setting of Fallout. Fallout is also being released for multiple platforms.
Rock Band 2
Like Gears of War 2, Resistance 2, etc. I think Rock Band 2 won’t be viewed as particularly innovative purely for the fact that it’s a sequel. Also, I don’t see a rhythm game as a real contender for GOTY in any capacity.
Lionhead has promised a much longer, more rich experience than the original title with Fable 2, so I’m not sure if I can write this game off as just another sequel quite yet. I really enjoyed the first game, and though I liked the good / evil dynamic, and felt that the game as a whole was a very unique experience, I never really felt like any of the individual elements of Fable were particularly ground-breaking. Fable 2 may change that, but until the game is released, I will withhold judgment. The hype machine hasn’t turned its evil eye towards Fable 2 yet, and I’m not sure if that’s a good sign or not. At the very least, I hope Fable 2 is a fun and unique experience like the original, even if not GOTY fodder.
The Xbox 360 platform exclusivity may also come into play here, especially since Fable 2 will lack a lot of the universal appeal that propels other titles like GTA4.
Regardless of who actually winds up winning GOTY 2008, I think gamers are the real winner this year. Each system has received a good stack of quality games, and more is on the way soon. Couple that with the Xbox 360’s soon-to-come fall dashboard update (the Xbox Experience), which completely redesigns the look and functionality of the system, and I might just have some trouble getting my work done this winter!