January 3, 2010

~ PART 1 ~

2009 was meant to be the "Year of the PS3" and while it wasn't quite the killer punch that some, mostly Sony, would have hoped for the system certainly caught up with the competition and with more and more people looking for High Definition video, the Blu-Ray inclusion is looking more and more tempting for a wider audience. Impressive game sales and some tremendous titles put sales momentum into the system, and 2010 is looking like a cracker year for the system.

As for Sony's other systems - very different fortunes. The PS2 is now well past its prime and that shows with very few new titles to even mention let alone get excited about. The PSP continues to sell, but the system refresh with PSPgo was a major misfire with the removal of UMD Drive but higher price then the current system. Strange, and poorly handled Sony. Still, there were a few entertaining PSP titles in 2009...

There are a couple of rules for games to be entered into consideration. Firstly, the games must have been released in Australia during the 2009 calendar year, so no 2008 or 2010 titles are in consideration (even if they were already released in Japan or America in 2009). 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 2009
3. PSPgo is launched, system fails at retail
We've known for some time now that the PSP was struggling. Sure systems were selling through but the lack of titles was starting to hurt. Sony were interested in refreshing the system and launched the PSPgo which, well, went nowhere. The system has a smaller screen, and drops the UMD drive in favour of a download-only model of game sales but with the system costing more then the old PSP, and games on the Playstation Store dearer then their UMD retail counterparts why would people bother? They didn't, and sales are dismal for the PSPgo - bring on PSP2 we say.

2. Number of Games Pushed to 2010
It seems that everyone was scared shitless of Modern Warfare 2 so much so that almost every other major release jumped ship to Q'1 or Q'2 2010 for "additional development time". Ultimately it can only serve to benefit those titles but it left those without a liking for Infinity Ward's shooter had few other options this Christmas. It would have been nice to see a couple more games make it out pre-Christmas as there is now a major glut of games due around March 2010. Expect more delays to several key titles to avoid that busy period now.

1. Lack of Online Video Service in Australia
The Playstation 3 is now the media center of choice in millions of homes the globe over, and rightfully so with the ability to play or view photos, music, videos, music videos, games, Blu-Rays and even record or watch TV. One aspect where the PS3 is failing in Australia though is the lack of the online video service. Out in America for over a year and in Europe for a couple of months now the ability to download and either hire or purchase movies or TV shows is something we want, but Sony Australia still haven't delivered. I know we're a small territory, but still...

Biggest Surprise of 2009
3. Sales Performance of 50 Cent Blood on the Sand
No we are not crazy, not at all. 50 Cent may divide opinions but when the original game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof amassed sales of over 2 million units despite mediocre review scores (it averages 54% on Gamerankings) seeing the superior sequel (averaging 73%) sell only 230,000 sales on PS3 and 360 can only be one of the biggest disappointments. We've played the game, and while still not great, it deserved to do much more.

2. MAG actually runs with 256 players online!
When MAG was announced there was much anticipation with PS2 SOCOM developers Zipper Interactive promising 256-players online, in a single map, at the same time. Surely it couldn't actually work could it? Well all indications from the current Beta are that it does work and while there is occasional lag this is likely put down to gamers varying internet connections, and will hopefully tighten up with tweaks to the final code before a launch in Q'1 2010.

1. Red Ant Goes Broke
In 2008 Red Ant seemed to have it all. They had secured the rights to distribute Konami, Bethesda, and Capcom's titles from March 2009 in addition to their previous deals with Midway, 505 Games, Deep Silver and Blackbean in a deal which would have made them one of the, if not the, biggest distributer in Australia for 2009 and possibly beyond. Then the bombshell struck - on January 21st 2009 Red Ant went into administration and effectively closed down which left other distributers scrambling to make deals (with THQ and Namco Bandai the big winners picking up Capcom and Konami/Bethesda respectively). Talk about going from hero to zero in a matter of weeks...

Best Australian Distributor of 2009
Winner: THQ
So THQ may not have had the biggest year in terms of quality titles, but the company deserves plenty of credit, again, for bringing out a wide range of titles, even if their sales potential is extremely limited. From guaranteed sellers such as the brilliant UFC 2009 Undisputed to Red Faction Guerrilla the company also brought us games such as X-Blades, 50 Cent Blood on the Sand and Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires.

Best Publisher of 2009
Winner: Sony
It's so hard to pick the best Australian publisher, but looking at the games released, the marketing, and the overall impact one simply can not go past Sony this year who pushed a wide range of titles, marketed them quite brilliantly, and essentially resurrected the Playstation 3. Titles were spread throughout the year starting with Killzone 2 in February before moving onto Infamous and picking up Ghostbusters for June, Uncharted 2 and EyePet in October before finishing off with Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time in November. Of course there was also the four SingStar releases and a couple of Buzz! titles as well.

Best Developer of 2009
Winner: Naughty Dog
There were so many great developers with individual titles this year, but we simply can't go past Naughty Dog. We know that they have a brilliant game engine but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of the most polished, impressive, games we have ever seen with stunning cut-scenes telling a brilliant story with plenty of humour. There are also plenty of jaw dropping moments too including the train sequence, and of course the bridge collapse.

Best Peripheral
Winner: PlayTV (Sony)
Sure this device doesn't have anything to do with games, but who said the category was limited to peripherals only for that purpose. The PlayTV is a brilliant addition to any PS3 that turns it into a TV tuner and recorder. Being able to record a TV show while watching a Blu-Ray or playing a game is superb, and the overall quality far surpassed our expectations. A perfect addition to your system, as long as you live in Europe or Australia where it was released.

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Video Quality
Winner: Star Trek (Paramount)
We never actually reviewed this disc here at Futuregamez but boy do we love this release. We're big Star Trek fans here, and absolutely loved JJ Abrams reboot of the franchise in cinemas. This Blu-Ray provides an absolutely pristine, stunning transfer which stands out at the top of the pack in 2009. If you have a home theatre, and want to show it off, use this movie.
Runners Up: WALL•E (Walt Disney), Sin City (Walt Disney).

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Audio Quality
Winner: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Paramount)
While the second movie in this franchise was criticized from a storyline point of view, no one could dispute the superb visuals, and stunning audio on offer. This disc provides reference quality audio from start to finish that will shake your room and really leave you asking for more.
Runners Up: Valkyrie (Fox), WALL•E (Walt Disney).

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Extras
Winner: WALL•E (Walt Disney)
Besides the brilliant movie this release is choc full of extras from the superb PIP Cine-Explore commentary, to a second audio commentary, a couple of animated shorts, 23 minutes of deleted scenes in storyboard form, and numerous featurettes with well over an hour of footage. What clinched this win though is the "The Pixar Story" by Leslie Iwerks documentary which is a 88 minute chronicle of the history of Pixar from being a part of ILM to troubles with Disney and their final reteaming. This is worth purchasing this disc for in itself.
Runners Up: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Paramount), Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (Walt Disney).

Best Blu-Ray Release Overall
Winner: WALL•E (Walt Disney)
Released at the beginning of 2009 WALL•E was one of the most delightful CG movies ever seen and in our opinion quite possibly Pixar's best. This Blu-Ray release is sensational with a perfect audio visual transfer and stunning bunch of extras. This must be in every collection - even if only for the stunning 90 minute Pixar documentary... Stunning, superb, essential.
Runners Up: Star Trek (2009) (Paramount), Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (Diamond Ed) (Walt Disney), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Paramount), Valkyrie (Fox).

Best Download-only Game
Winner: Shatter (PS3, Sidhe)
Sure this is a clone of Breakout, but developers Sidhe have put so much polish into this game that it can't fail to impress. The game has also been released at a very low price so there is no excuse for not picking this title up. Superb.
Runners Up: Flower (PS3, thatGameCompany), PixelJunk Shooter (PS3, Q Games).

Best Game Based On Pre-Existing Property (Print or Film)
Winner: Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3, Rocksteady Studio)
We never actually reviewed this game but we sure as hell played it and while most superhero games typically struggle to be good, let alone great, relative newcomer developer Rocksteady Studios, hit all the right notes with this game with a great story, gorgeous visuals and tremendous gameplay to match.
Runners Up: Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (PS3, Traveller's Tales), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (PS3, Vicarious Visions).

Most Original Title
Winner: DJ Hero (PS3, FreeStyleGames)
Some would argue that the gameplay in this title is too similar to that in the Guitar Hero games, or perhaps too "technical", but we beg to differ. The turntable peripheral is well built and certainly gives you a feeling of being able to mix the songs (although the inability to select two tracks and them mix them yourself disappoints). Still, anyone interested in DJ'ing will likely get plenty of entertainment out of this Activision release which is going quite cheaply if you shop around.
Runners Up: Flower (PS3, thatGameCompany), EyePet (PS3, SCEE).

Best Offline Multiplayer Game
Winner: Buzz! Franchise (PS3, Relentless)
We couldn't really seperate the Buzz titles are they are essentially the same but with different questions. No doubt about it though, no matter which title you choose getting a few friends around for a bit of trivia is sensational entertainment.
Runners Up: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, Infinity Ward), Band Hero (PS3, Neversoft).

Best Online Multiplayer Game
Winner: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, Infinity Ward)
There really wasn't any doubt about this one.., Infinity Ward's shooter blitzed the competition with some of the most intense multi-player action as well as a brilliant 2-player co-op mode playable online. A tonne of customisations and weapons makes this a game you will be playing for weeks on end, if not more.
Runners Up: Killzone 2 (PS3, Guerilla Games), Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3, Naughty Dog).

Continue to Part 2 of the 2009 FutureGamez Awards
Continue to Part 3 of the 2009 FutureGamez Awards

I hope you enjoyed reading the 2009 FutureGamez Awards. If you have any comments feel free to e-mail me at the usual address: admin@futuregamez.net.