December 29, 2005

~ PART 1 ~

What a year it has been in terms of gaming. March 2007 saw the release of the Playstation 3 in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and many other territories. It sure was expensive, but you knew you were getting a serious piece of kit. The launch line-up was solid with a couple of standout titles, and while there was a mid year drought the games came through thick and fast over the last couple of months. The PS2, in what will certainly be its last 'big' year had some fantastic titles, while the PSP seems to be having a quiet time on the game front, but is still managing to sell in numbers as well.

There are a couple of rules for games to be entered into consideration. Firstly, the games must have been released in Australia during the 2007 calendar year, so no 2005 or 2006 titles are in consideration (even if they were already released in Japan or America). 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. Finally all categories are for PS3, PS2 and PSP titles, except for graphics and sound where they were considered separately. So let's get to it...

Biggest Disappointments of 2007
3. Playstation 3 Home goes AWOL
It was touted as one of the saviors of the PS3, but Playstation Home wasn't with us this Christmas as originally promised with the social networking application requiring more development time. A release date of Q'2 2008 now seems likely, although beta testing will apparently begin in the coming weeks so a release after Q'2 is quite possible as rumours have suggested. One can only hope that the system is robust enough to work well, but the potential for Home to become a hit is there. Imagine a Sims type world where you can download movies, share movies and photos, compare game achievements and socialise before heading into the heat of battle in online games.

2. Sony dumps backwards compatibility on the PS3
So the PS3 was struggling for sales, and the high price certainly wasn't, and still isn't, helping. Sony decided that one of the best ways to reduce the cost was to remove the Emotion Engine thus removing backwards compatibility. Sure, they may save some money, but you can't honestly say to me that by removing this feature Sony were able to 'shave' $300 off the system. Hell, an entire PS2 only costs $229 here at the moment. By our reckoning it may be about a $40-$50 saving but it was a slap in the face for consumers who had been told by Sony that backwards compatibility was a key component of the system.

1. High Price of Games and Consoles - compared to overseas
So the Australian Dollar is at record highs - you would think that games would be dirt cheap as a result. After all, prices jumped up when the dollar slumped to record lows a couple of years ago so why haven't prices dropped. $159.95 for The Eye of Judgment in Australia - or $69.95 in America (about $AU80)? Which would you prefer? How about a 40GB PS3 $US399 in America (or about $AU450) while we pay $AU699. Something doesn't seem right and to compound the issue even further Sony Australia have moved the RRP for many of their new releases such as Heavenly Sword to $AU109.95 - in America it sells for $US59.95 ($AU67). Is there any reason we should buy from our own stores any more?

Biggest Surprise of 2007
3. The Sixaxis controller can cope with Rumble!
While Sony has been stating for well over a year that rumble was not possible in the Sixaxis due to the tilt sensing technology the new Dual Shock 3 controller proves otherwise. Obviously it was all due to the lawsuit with Immersion which was settled a little while ago. We have the new controller and have to say it's a pretty sexy piece of kit - although it hasn't really been modified in terms of rumble technology - at least as far as we can tell. Australian consumers will be able to get their hands on this controller around March/April 2008.

2. Just as the High-Def war is almost over, Paramount/Dreamworks start it up again!
Obviously we're talking about movies here. Blu-Ray seemed to have the format war in the bag against HD-DVD, but then someone paid Paramount and Dreamworks a bucket load (around $US150 million apparently) to side with HD-DVD only and dump Blu-Ray. So who paid them the money? Well neither Toshiba nor Microsoft will confim it was them. Strange. Still, Blu-Ray is dominating sales and with rumours that Warner Brothers may choose one format (read: Blu-Ray) following the Christmas sales, one can only hope this war ends soon.

1. The birth of small, downloadable, cheap games
So the PS3 was struggling for sales, and the high price certainly wasn't, and still isn't, helping. What is one of the biggest changes to the industry, and a change which is only set to get bigger, is the number of quality downloadable titles. The PS3 has quite a library already with games like Super Stardust HD, Tekken Dark Resurrection Online and Warhawk all deserving attention. There are dozens of other titles too including Lemmings, Sudoku and Gripshift all worth the purchase - about a Big Mac Meal!

Best Australian Distributor of 2007
Winner: Ubisoft
Ubisoft has had a fantastic 2007. As well as their own key titles such as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas, Assassin's Creed and Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 the company has also distributed many other titles including Square-Enix's Final Fantasy Tactics War of the Lions, and Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth to name a few.

Best Publisher of 2007
Winner: Sony
It was the year for Sony to excel. A new system, great titles and big sales. While the numbers weren't impressive in some territories Australia loves Sony, the PS3 and the games. What a list of games Sony had as well on the PS3 we saw them publish titles like Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, Motorstorm, Resistance: Fall of Man while on the PS2 games including God of War II, Rogue Galaxy and the SingStar and Buzz! titles. Of course they also had a host of PSP games published as well! Impressive.

Best Developer of 2007
Winner: Insomniac
So technically one of these games is well over a year old, but due to the PS3 launching here in March Insomniac have two of the best games on PS3 right now - Resistance: Fall of Man and Ratchet and Clank Tools of Destruction and both hit our shelves during 2007. The developers are ahead of the field in terms of technical accomplishment on the PS3 and both their games are must haves. While nothing has been confirmed you can bet they will be back in 2008, quite possibly with a sequel to Resistance: Fall of Man.

Best Peripheral
Winner: Guitar Hero III PS3 Guitar (Activision)
So the original guitars were great, but this latest one just feels so much more balanced. It weighs more, feels a lot more solid on the fret buttons and is wireless to boot. Now in our review of the game we did comment that some notes appear to be missed occasionally - but we put that down to our own playing, not the controller.

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Video Quality
Winner: The Simpsons Movie (Fox)
Call us crazy, but for us The Simpsons Movie in 1080p on Blu-Ray is simply perfect. Not a single blemish, sharp lines, wonderful animation and of course being in Widescreen makes this well worth checking out. What really astounded is that even with the rather plain colouring the bitrate was often around 40Mbps!
Runners Up: Black Book (Sony Pictures), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Fox).

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Audio Quality
Winner: Die Hard 4.0 (Fox)
No matter what you think of the movie (and we personally loved it) there is no denying that this Blu-Ray disc provides some of the most aggressive and impressive use of audio to date. The DTS-HD Master Audio track, even at 1.5Mbps from a PS3, is as impressive as one would expect with great explosions and gunfire, but also crystal clear sound.
Runners Up: Spider-man 3 (Sony Pictures), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Sony Pictures).

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Extras
Winner: World Trade Center (Paramount)
The movie was fantastic, but it was the almost 3 hours of extras in high-definition, as well as 2 commentary tracks, that made this release so special. Not only did the extras focus on the creation of the movie, but also the actual events and heroes upon which the movie was based.
Runners Up: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Sony Pictures), Dreamgirls (Paramount).

Best Blu-Ray Release Overall
Winner: Planet Earth (Village Roadshow)
Sometimes a product is better then the sum of its parts. That is the case with Planet Earth which has some variable video quality (primarily due to the extreme weather conditions it was being filmed in), and some minimal audio which is dominated by commentary. There aren't any extras either but when you look at what this package contains you will understand why it is the best Overall Blu-Ray release of 2007. What we have here is over 10 hours of the most remarkable footage ever shot on the planet. It took years, and a budget of around 13 million ($AU30 million) for the BBC to make this remarkable series and for under $AU100 (much less if you shop around) this 5-disc set this is a must-have Blu-Ray title for all nature lovers.
Runners Up: Spider-man Trilogy (Sony Pictures), World Trade Center (Paramount).

Best Downloadable Game
Winner: Super Stardust HD (PS3, Housemarque)
Quite simply one of the most addictive, impressive looking shooters we have ever played and for a bargain basement price of only $AU13.45. Indeed for the price of a cheap lunch you will get weeks of gaming from this gem which is an update to the classic Asteroids. The only disappointment is that no 2-player online modes are included (although a new version just released hints that online gameplay may be coming for a small fee of around $AU6.50), but online rankings are. 80,000+ particles on screen at once in 1080p - sheer brilliance.
Runners Up: Tekken Dark Resurrection Online (PS3, Namco), Warhawk (PS3, Insomniac).

Best Game Based On Pre-Existing Property (Print or Film)
Winner: Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (PS3, Traveller's Tales)
As individual titles the Lego Star Wars games were brilliant entertainment on the Playstation 2. This Playstation 3 version combines both those games, adds in plenty of new features not least of which is online gameplay. The sense of humour is brilliant, the graphics superb and audio, well, John Williams. One to add to your collection.
Runners Up: Conan (PS3, Nihilistic), The Darkness (PS3, Starbreeze Studios).

Most Original Title
Winner: The Eye of Judgment (PS3) (PS3, Sony Japan)
Sadly we never got around to playing this game enough to do up a review - Sony are still awaiting our review copies apparently! This game blends classic card-based gameplay with the PS3's power and all new PSEye camera to create and engrossing title. It's is certainly rather original gameplay and very entertaining as well.
Runners Up: Okami (PS2, Capcom), Every Extend Extra (PSP, Q? Entertainment).

Best Arcade Conversion
Winner: Tekken: Dark Resurrection Online (PS3, Namco)
Again we faced a year that, due to the death of arcades several years ago, had few arcade ports released on consoles. Even those that were released were mainly retro or upgrade, and that could be said of this downloadable game on the PS3. Brilliant graphics and gameplay combine to make this an essential, but rather cheap, purchase.
Runners Up: Virtua Fighter 5 (PS3, Sega AM2), Activision Hits Remixed (PSP, Backbone Ent.).

Best Offline Multiplayer Game
Winner: SingStar (PS3, Sony Europe)
We waited for so long for this release but finally Sony managed to launch SingStar on the PS3 in time for Christmas - just. An improved interface and almost limitless songs thanks to the SingStar store. The two player battles and duets are as entertaining as always - especially if two players have similar singing abilities - or lack of!
Runners Up: Guitar Hero III (PS2/PS3, Neversoft), Buzz! Quiz Titles (PS2, Sony Europe).

Best Online Multiplayer Game
Winner: Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3, Insomniac)
A pretty solid year for online gaming on the Sony's systems, with the PS3 getting the lions share. At last Sony has a platform that offers enough grunt to make online gaming what it always should have been - fast, frantic and massive. This launch title still leads the pack in terms of online gaming - 40 players, brilliant graphics, local servers and a tonne of fun. If you want online gaming then this is for you - there's even some bonus items to purchase thought the store, and regular patches to make the game even better on a regular basis. Bring on the sequel in 2008 - hopefully.
Runners Up: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PS3, Infinity Ward), Motorstorm (PS3, Evolution Studios).

Continue to Part 2 of the 2007 FutureGamez Awards
Continue to Part 3 of the 2007 FutureGamez Awards

I hope you enjoyed reading the 2007 FutureGamez Awards. If you have any comments feel free to e-mail me at the usual address: