GR’s Best of 2005 Awards

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We are, by nature, complainers. When it comes to disliking things and telling the world, we are determined, fearless and proud. We're more prone to slandering a game than applauding it, mostly due to a combination of our own insecurities and a widespread drinking problem. And by problem, we mean skill.

But we're also big nerds with a passion for geeking out in front of a glowing screen, and despite our general humbuggery, we do like this racket quite a bit. In some cases, we absolutely, positively love it.

And now, we'd like to name those cases and give them shiny trophies.

Welcome to GR's Best Games of 2005.

Ye Olde Rules

Since last year's awards only resulted in a couple MBs worth of hate mail, we made few tweaks to our rewards policy, most of which involved minor changes to bribery limits. Otherwise, we still give out awards as we see fit. Rather than plod through both platform and genre awards, we're sticking with genres. It makes more sense, somehow.

Awards are based on a complex formula involving a tuning fork, a keg of Miller High Life, a mysterious green substance and a dreidel. If no worthy recipients could be identified in a certain category, no awards were given. Editor's Choice awards were given to games that did not win in a particular category, but caught the eye of the GR editorial staff and just had to get something.

From soup to nuts, these games exemplify the upper echelon of video and computer gaming over the past year. Only games released during the 2005 year were eligible. Our hats off to the winners!

Travel through time, McFly, and

check out last year's awards!
 

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Due to the fact that at least 35 million action games come out each year, the action genre is the most difficult to handle. We, however, have handled it. Despite a ton of entries, these three whipped, shot, 'naded and leapt into the spotlight.

 

ACTION GAME OF THE YEAR!

God of War

Publisher: Sony

Developer: Sony

Platform: PS2

 

When it comes to pure, white-knuckle action, no one did it better than the sick, stylish madman Kratos in the brilliant God of War. Flaming whips? Check. Awesome combat system? Check. Unquenchable thirst for revenge? Check, but that's just the start of this mythological thrill ride. The level design is superb, the score riveting and the engine smoother than the anti-hero's bald pate. This is the game Devil May Cry should have become.

It's also the Best Action Game of 2005.

 

RUNNERS-UP!

Resident Evil 4

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Capcom

Platform: Gamecube | PS2


Some might find it odd that a Resident Evil game should nab a Best Action nod. Some, then, clearly haven't played RE4, just about the best "runner-up" in awards history. The sweet new camera puts the emphasis squarely on the action, turning this adventure game staple into a heart-stopping action masterpiece through and through.

 

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft

Platform: PC | Xbox | PS2


Another year, another trophy for Sam Fisher. It's hard to imagine that this third iteration could improve upon its terrific predecessor, but spend some time with the kickass, revamped VS. mode or the tweaked multiplayer and it quickly becomes clear that this isn't just an overpriced upgrade. It's one of the best action games of the year.

 

 



 

 

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If it's not entirely action, it's probably an action/adventure. We see a lot of these over the course of a year, but most are little more than standard platformers.

These two, though, ain't.

 

ACTION/ADVENTURE GAME OF THE YEAR!

Shadow of the Colossus

Publisher: Sony

Developer: Sony

Platform: PS2

 

The first time we glimpsed Shadow of the Colossus, we were stunned by its stark landscapes, morose characters and pathological obsession with giants. Would a game comprised almost exclusively of boss fights be worth it?

Yes. Yes in a big way. Riding acorss the barren wastelands on the coolest horse since Sea Biscuit, scaling a massive behemoth, holding on for dear life while trying to plunge a tiny sword into its massive dome, riding the emotional rollercoaster of ambigous morality – this is what a great action/adventure game is made of. We doff our caps to the wildly creative minds behind this truly epic experience.

 

RUNNER-UP!

Psychonauts

Publisher: Majesco

Developer: DoubleFine

Platform: Xbox | PS2

This is not the first honor we've given Tim Shafer's brainchild – it scored a GR Best of E3 2002 award, if you'll believe it. For a game many thought dead, Psychonauts pulled a Jesus out of its goggled hat by rising up from its ashes and saving the platform genre from utter boredom. Wicked level design, fun gameplay and absolutely demented humor makes Raz and company a smart(ass) pick.
 

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If it moves, frag it. This is the first-person shooter rule of thumb, but some manage that task better than others. The following games prove that there's more to shooting than lining things up in your sights.

 

FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER OF THE YEAR!

F.E.A.R.

Publisher: Vivendi

Developer: Monolith

Platform: PC

 

Some four months later and that little girl still freaks us out. Indeed, F.E.A.R.'s diminutive devil-spawn made both the box art and headlines, but its real power is found in its unparalleled game engine. Never had bullet-time actually meant so much; slow down time and the game becomes as exciting to watch as it does to play.

More than anything, F.E.A.R.'s totally frantic gunplay went unrivaled in 2005, and that's the real ammo for any legitimate FPS.

 

 

RUNNERS-UP!

Far Cry Instincts

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft

Platform: Xbox

What at first seemed like just another port job turned out to be pure jungle love. Far Cry Instincts delivered more raw first-person fun than any other console game this year, thanks in equal parts to its great engine, lush visuals and deep gameplay. We went animal for it, and hopefully you did, too.

 

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Gearbox

Platform: PC | Xbox

It came out way back in March, but no military shooter managed to overcome the majesty of this touching tale of wartime heroes. Great A.I, superb delivery and a startlingly authentic take on the harsh conditions of war make the original Brothers in Arms a winner in the overcrowded WWII sub-genre.
 

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Plenty of games have online modes, but this category is for those games designed purely for online play. And as much as we'd like to give our more awards to World of Warcraft, it came out last year, clearing the way for…

 

ONLINE GAME OF THE YEAR!

Battlefield 2

Publisher: EA

Developer: Digital Illusions

Platform: PC

 

For a company that makes such amazing games, Digital Illusions sure has trouble with names. We don't have any trouble, though, naming their third entry in the Battlefield series, Battlefield 2, our online game of the year. On top of the rock-solid foundation introduced in Battlefield 1942 and continued with Battlefield: Vietnam, Battlefield 2 built a new, squad-based hierarchy scheme, topped it with the tactically burdened commander, and braced the whole new command structure with internal voice-chat support. By any other name, this is just a great game.

 

RUNNER-UP!

Guild Wars

Publisher: NCsoft

Developer: NCsoft

Platform: PC

We didn't know what to make of Guild Wars at first because we'd never seen anything like it. This crafty title from MMOG guru NCsoft uses the lobby model from online shooters to launch players into cooperative dungeon crawls and deep, competitive arena battles. It may not be persistent, but without a monthly fee, your wallet will love it, and so will you.

 

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From Tetris to Bejeweled, great puzzle games are simple, addictive and smart. Go ahead and apply those adjectives to our two winners.

 

PUZZLE GAME OF THE YEAR!

Lumines

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Q Entertainment

Platform: PSP

 

Still one of the best games for the PSP, Lumines merges the challenge of a brilliantly designed puzzler with the style of an eclectic multi-media artist. For months, this brain-drainer was the only thing keeping our PSPs from gathering dust in the corner. That's a pretty amazing task for a mere puzzle game, but Lumines is much more than that. It's the best of 2005.

 

RUNNER-UP!

Meteos

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Q Entertainment

Platform: DS

Another puzzle winner from developer Q Entertainment? Yup. During 2005's summer doldurms, Meteos proved to be a breath of fresh air, addictive as crack and far less harmful. While at the outset it seems like just another block shifter, the game's innovative use of the touch screen results in a unique, uptempo flickfest.

 

 

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RacingRPGSportsStrategyEditor's Choice

2005 was a helluva year for virtual drivers. With more contestants than a season's worth of The Price is Right, the race for the checkered flag was unbelievably tight, a neck and neck dash to the finish. But thanks to our internal stopwatch, the trophy goes to…

 

RACING GAME OF THE YEAR!

Project Gotham Racing 3

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Bizarre Creations

Platform: Xbox 360

 

In a generally tepid launch, a select few Xbox 360 games rose above the din to really stand out as serious players. None, however, pulled off the triple crown of gameplay, graphics and online integration as smoothly as PGR 3, the best racing game of 2005. Not only does it deliver incredible visuls to match the fun, rewarding Kudos-driven gameplay, but the multiplayer is so robust, it's almost illegally invasive. By all accounts, this is the racing game to beat.

 

RUNNERS-UP!

Forza Motorsport

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Microsoft

Platform: Xbox

We didn't think anyone could topple Gran Turismo's grip on console simulation racing, but after spending a few sleepless months in the arms of Forza, we've changed our minds. This is the total sim package, a massive, satisfying racing endeavor that no Xbox racing fan should drive without.

 

Mario Kart DS

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Platform: DS

Leave it to Nintendo to powerslide a ten year-old game back into the spotlight. The DS version of this storied franchise is the most complete yet, with tons of single-player content and, for the first time ever, online play. Frankly, we were shocked they pulled it off this well, but no one should be surprised that it snags an award.

 

Burnout Revenge

Publisher: EA

Developer: Criterion

Platform: PS2 | Xbox

Last year's best racer returned with some new tweaks to the same amazingly fun gameplay, and we just couldn't sleep without honoring it. Bigger crashes, faster chases and enough vehicular carnage to block traffic for a year highlight another top racer from the maniacs at Criterion.

 

 

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Considering their hardcore popularity, role-playing games didn't get a great deal of love in 2005. But while the pickings were somewhat slim, the deserving winners are in fat city.

 

RPG OF THE YEAR!

Dragon Quest VIII

Publisher: Square-Enix

Developer: Square-Enix

Platform: PS2

 

By the time a series has reached its eighth iteration, most of its fire and lust for virtual life have been reduced to a few smoldering embers and ashes. Not so with Dragon Quest VIII. Instead of attempting to reinvent the wheel with their latest RPG masterpiece, the creators of this magical beast used the lessons learned in their seven previous drafts to craft an RPG so smooth and powerful, the virgins of the world should be glad it doesn't demand a monthly sacrifice. Because we'd listen.

 

RUNNERS-UP!

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Platform: DS


If you told us in January that a game in which Mario and Luigi team up with baby versions of themselves for chrono-capers was going to be one of the best RPGs of the year, we probably would have killed ourselves and addressed the suicide note to Bioware. Well, we're glad you didn't, because this is a brilliantly localized, wonderfully entertaining RPG with all kinds of appeal.

 

Jade Empire

Publisher: Microsoft

Developer: Bioware

Platform: Xbox


Bolstered by an epic, engaging story, a brand new mythology complete with its very own language, a robust combat system, hours of voice work, an original score and some of the best graphics the Xbox has ever seen, this kung-fu spectacular kicked asses all over the place. More depth would have been nice, but it's still a master.

 

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Considering the number of sports games released every year, only a scant few actually make enough notable changes to warrant a nod. These two warrant a trophy.

 

SPORTS GAME OF THE YEAR!

Winning Eleven 8

Publisher: Konami

Developer: Konami

Platform: PS2 | Xbox | PC

 

The world's best soccer game somehow keeps getting better. Winning Eleven 8's combination of terrific visuals and incredible gameplay is potent, made even moreso by its licensed teams and improved Master League play. Though it's still missing online play, there's so much here it almost doesn't matter. Others dare attack the pitch, but for the time being, this is still Winning Eleven's award to lose.

 

 

RUNNER-UP!

NBA 2K6

Publisher: 2K Sports

Developer: Visual Concepts

Platform: PS2 | Xbox | Xbox 360


Unlike most sports developers, the crew behind NBA 2K6 didn't just sit back, slap a new mode on last year's game and change the number to 2005. Instead, they built a completely new control scheme to match a vastly improved A.I., great visuals and deep, rewarding Franchise play. Take it up strong, big man!
 

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2004 was a banner year for real-time strategy games, but 2005 saw the pendulum swing back to classic turn-based play. Leading this pre-volution is a blast from the past…literally.

 

STRATEGY GAME OF THE YEAR!

Civilization IV

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Firaxis

Platform: PC

 

Another year, another amazing game from Sid Meier. This version follows many of the same rules as its forebears while upping the graphical ante and revolutionizing the online play. Instead of shamefully bailing on your opponents in the midst of an epic online battle, you can now retire to your bed or dinner, secure in the knowledge that a CPU player will take your place until you either jump back in or someone else comes along and fills your imperial shoes. Sounds like progress to us.

 

 

RUNNER-UP!

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Platform: DS


Don't let the name fool you – this game can launch an assault on your spare time in more ways than two with a bevy of wireless and offline play modes, all supported by smart, addictive turn-based gameplay. Equally dangerous on a bus, in your house or on the commode, Dual Strike is truly a weapon of mass distraction.

 

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So many games, so few awards. It just doesn't seem fair, does it? That's what the Editor's Choice awards are for. The following games were so cool, we had to give 'em something. Long live the mutts!
 

Guitar Hero

Publisher: Red Octane

Developer: Harmonix

Platform: PS2

Call it a gimmick, but don't call it a hack – Guitar Hero is a monstrous talent and probably would have received a Game of the Year award if we could have figured out where to put it. But as an accessible, fun and rewarding guitar sim with a great selection of music, this solid rocker is in an arena all its own.



 

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Monolith

Platform: Xbox 360

The best Xbox 360 launch title that doesn't involve wheels, this creepy crawler from the mad masters at Monolith r0x0red our b0x0rs, while scaring us out of them. Unusual for its slow pace, gruesome melee combat and twisted plot, this gore-fest kills the competition, then eats it with a nice chianti and some fava beans.



 

We Love Katamari

Publisher: Namco

Developer: Namco

Platform: PS2

And we know you do, too, so we just had to give it an award. No, it didn't come with a bigger ball or a more complex control scheme, but it did unfold the hilariously operatic saga of the King of All Cosmos, while giving us exactly what we wanted from the original � more Katamari. Plus, the songs. THE SONGS.



 

The Warriors

Publisher: Rockstar

Developer: Rockstar Toronto

Platform: PS2 | Xbox

Perhaps the most surprisingly great game of 2005, The Warriors evades the curse of the movie license by deftly ducking into its namesake's backstory. Instead of simply telling you what you already know and showing you what you've already seen, it provides a glimpse into the everyday lives of these vested hooligans. Can you dig it? We sure did.

 

 

 

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Attempting to hoist only 5 games above the throngs is risky business, the sort of process that ruins relationships and starts really nasty drug habits. Not that we've succumbed to either, but yeah, we have.

Anyway, here they are, the Top 5 Games of 2005. Feel free to complain, argue, rejoice, do an awkward victory dance. Whatever. but be forewarned that we stand by our rickety math until someone disproves it. Please submit all theories in writing.



Civilization IV

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Firaxis

The game that keeps on giving, Civ 4 is a study in smart strategy design. Expounding on the best gameplay elements of its storied past, this latest culture war raises the bar with its sweet engine and intelligent online play. He might be older than Gandhi, btu Sid Meier still knows a thing or two about brilliant gaming.

 



 

Battlefield 2

Publisher: EA

Developer: Digital Illusions

The long-awaited sequel finally arrived in 2005, bringing with it a massive suite of reinforcements. No other game can match Battlefield 2's combination of great squad mechanics, superb delivery and deep gameplay, but the real reason we keep coming back is that it's just so damn fun. If we knew war was this cool (and virtually painless), we would have enlisted years ago.

 



Shadow of the Colossus

Publisher: Sony

Developer: Sony Japan

Are games art? Are you f***ing kidding me? Rarely will the entire office stop and gather around a console to watch a single-player game, but that's exactly what happened during our memorable time spent with Shadow of the Colossus. Gorgeous, morose, emotional, meditative, thrilling – a giant in every sense of the word.

 



God of War

Publisher: Sony

Developer: Sony Santa Monica

Sony's action masterpiece almost unfairly plucks at our geekiest soft spots with its unwavering tale of mythological vengeance. Then, it delivers incredible graphics and sound, not to mention the year's coolest protagonist and gnarliest weapons. Beware, cookie-cutter sequels and licensed hooey – Kratos has arrived, and he's not happy about it. We, however, are.

 

AND NUMBER 1? (DRUMROLL PLEASE…) >>

 

 



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Resident Evil 4

Publisher: Capcom

Developer: Capcom

Platform: Gamecube | PS2

 

Really?

Yeah, really. Though it didn’t win a top genre award, that’s only because it’s such a renaissance monster. Resident Evil 4 does everything right: it fixes its classic camera problems ingeniously, ups the ante on console graphical design, changes the very nature of survival-horror gaming and, more than anything, delivers the most complete gaming package of 2005. Heck, they even got rid of the zombies. Sort of.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about RE4 is the fact that it plays equally well on both the PS2 and native Gamecube, a rarity in this era of quick, shoddy port jobs. You can’t overlook the care given to this game, and while in general we try to distance ourselves from supporting sequels, we know greatness when it scares the crap out of us. Well done.