December 24, 2004

~ PART 1 ~

Another stellar year for Sony and the Playstation 2, and dare I say it, easily the best game when it comes to the overall quality of titles. The number of very poor titles was low while the number of "AAA" titles was quite amazing. These awards aim to highlight what we believe is the best of the best this year.

There are a couple of rules for games to be entered into consideration. Firstly, the games must have been released in Australia during the 2004 calendar year, so no 2003 titles are in consideration. Also all these awards have been considered by those here at Future Gamez, and not the public. While we give scores for reviews throughout the year, the highest score may not be the winner in these awards, as long term appeal and a lot of hindsight is also considered.

Biggest Disappointments of 2004
3. Gran Turismo 4 delayed until 2005, and loses online gameplay
Hang on a second... Wasn't this in the same spot in last years awards! Yes it was, but this year we can also add in the loss of online gameplay as a disappointment. Although Polyphony Digital have promised an online version/add-on at a later date it really should be built into the main game - especially with the delay until an unspecified 2005 date.

2. Closure of Acclaim
In recent years the company has had some pretty average releases, in fact the games that shouldn't have been released probably outweighed the ones the should. Having said that Acclaim's upcoming games were showing plenty of promise. Juiced was looking pretty good (and has been picked up by THQ) while The Red Star and 100 Bullets were both shaping up very nicely, but as yet, haven't found another developer or publisher as far as we know.

1. The OFLC's Refused Classifications
2004 is the year that games grew up (again) but Australian gamers are still kids - according to the OFLC at least. This year we saw the Refused Classification rating given to several titles including Shellshock Nam 67, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, and more recently THQ's The Punisher which has just be re-submitted and given an MA15+ rating. Of course if that wasn't bad enough the OFLC also managed to overturn the MA15+ rating given to Manhunt in October last year, effectively banning any sales of the game here. Admittedly it's extremely violent, but still, it's no worst then most R rated movies.

Most Anticipated Games of 2005
3. Kingdom Hearts 2
The first game was a surprise hit, but in hindsight a match made in heaven. The wonderful characters from the stables of Disney matched with arguably the greatest RPG maker in the world, Square. This sequel promises more of everything and early indications are of an even bigger and grander game. Keep and eye out for this game in late 2005 (hopefully).

2. Wanda and Collusus
This isn't a sequel to the cult hit game ICO, but rather something original, and perhaps even more unique and exciting. Wanda and Collusus sees the hero having to climb giant monsters in order to kill them. As they move around, however, their bodies move and transform. If you don't move quick enough you may end up plummeting to the ground. An original concept, great graphics and strong gameplay should make this a massive hit. Let's hope it sells in greater numbers then ICO though...

1. Gran Turismo 4 (Polyphony Digital)
How could this game not be in this position. We actually almost dropped it out of the three games altogether when we discovered that the online gameplay was missing. But when you consider over 500 cars, almost 100 tracks and sublime gameplay it's hard not to see this being the hottest game of 2005 - at least from what we see on the schedule. Release date... I'm not even going to guess.

Best Publisher of 2004
Winner: Electronic Arts
Electronic Arts may have gobbled up many good developers during the 1990's but it is evident that they have been branching out to more original, albeit often licensed, titles in recent years to run alongside their yearly sports updates. 2004 was extremely impressive not only due to the range of titles, but moreover due to the typically high quality of the games. Highlights include Burnout 3, Final Fantasy X-2, Madden NFL 2005 and Def Jam Fight for NY to name but a few hits. Fortunately there were very few poor titles from the company during the year with Catwoman being one of the weakest.

Best Peripheral
Winner: SingStar Microphones (Sony)
There may only be two games that use the official microphones to date, but their solid build quality, and the pretty good output quality make them the clear winner of Best Peripheral this year.

Best New Technology/Engine In A Game
Winner: Burnout 3 (Black Box)
It's fast. Damn fast. In fact I have no idea how Criterion even managed to push the system so hard. The graphics engine also has some of the best visual effects such as sparks and motion blur and a collision model to die for. This is the ultimate thrill ride and well deserving of the best new engine in a game.
Runners Up: Viewtiful Joe (Capcom), FlatOut (Empire/Bugbear).

Worst Game of 2004
Winner (or is that loser?): Urban Freestyle Soccer (Silicon Dreams)
Actually now that I look at this title I can see why Acclaim went belly-up. This is stinky in a big way and exactly how it made it to shelves I will never know. It's slow, looks crap and is just no fun to play. Technically there is worse, but in terms of lost potential this is the bigger loser. Let's just hope that EA Sports BIG get their FIFA Street going in the right direction. It will certainly be better then this drink coaster.
Runners Up: Space Invaders Anniversary (Taito), Underworld (Play It!).

Best Intro & Cut Scenes In A Game
Winner: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar North)
It may not have the best quality graphics, and the cut-scenes are generated in realtime, but overall this game has a great story told at a great pace and with fairly seamless transitions to the gameplay. The voice acting, with Samuel L. Jackson in particular, is superbly implemented allowing Rockstar North's title to take the Best Intro & Cut Scenes award for 2004.
Runners Up: Final Fantasy X-2 (Square-Enix), Jak 3 (Naughty Dog).

Best Game Based On Pre-Existing Property (Print or Film)
Winner: Star Wars: Battlefront (LucasArts)
LucasArts wins this game due the fact that they finally got a Star Wars title right from start to finish. Everything in this game deserves credit from the great graphics, arousing John Williams score, excellent gameplay and superb online action. It was a close race as EA's Bond title is also superb but this game just wins out due to the multi-player aspect.
Runners Up: Bond: Everything or Nothing (EA Games), Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (EA Games).

Most Original Title
Winner: Singstar Party (Sony Europe)
A pretty lean year for original gameplay styles, however Sony's SingStar Party wins due to the fusion of karaoke with gameplay. Yes it's been done in the past, but not released in PAL territories and the quality of this title is extremely high. All-in-all an amazing title that deserves to be in the collection of all party/karaoke fans.
Runners Up: DJ Decks & FX (SCEE), .Hack RPG series (BanDai).

Best Arcade Conversion
Winner: Metal Slug 3 (SNK Playmore)
Every year the number of arcade based games diminishes, and this year was very slim picking. However one game stands out from the crowd for bringing back perhaps the best 2D side scrolling shooter ever, Metal Slug 3. We haven't managed to finish the review of this game prior to these awards, but needless to say it's a perfect port of a perfect game. With a RRP of only $AU49.95 this is a must have game.
Runners Up: Time Crisis: Crisis Zone (Namco), Midway Arcade Treasures 2 (Midway).

Best Multiplayer Game
Winner: Ratchet & Clank Up Your Arsenal (Insomniac)
Without a doubt this is the best multi-player game this year. With up to 8 players battling it out online the gameplay is frantic, but the entertainment levels extremely high. It's great to see Insomniac move this game from a platform title to something much bigger which, despite the very cartoony graphics, is very much for the older gamers too.
Runners Up: Star Wars: Battlefront (LucasArts), Singstar Party (Sony).

Continue to Part 2 of the 2004 Future Gamez Awards

I hope you enjoyed reading the 2004 Future Gamez Awards. If you have any comments feel free to e-mail me at the usual address: