Tag Archives: Batman: Arkham Asylum

Naughty Dog wins everything (except for that Tim Schafer game) at DICE 2010

We knew Naughty Dog’s time was coming, but did the Santa Monica developer have to win 99% of the awards at the 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards held at DICE 2010 in Las Vegas?

The answer is “yes.” Darn tooting. Naughty Dog is now officially in chapter 3 of its stunning career, the post Crash Bandicoot, post Jak and Daxter chapter, and it’s doing quite well, thank you. 

In addition to the AIAA award for best game of the year, the studio once known for its Crash Bandicoot games and now, clearly known for its Uncharted series, won nine others: Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction, Adventure Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Animation, Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering, Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction, Outstanding Achievement in Story – Original, Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition, Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering, and Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design.

Luckily, there were some other awards left, like sports, RPGs, and simulation. And hey, my other favorite games of the year, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Brutal Legend, took home awards, too.

One should put these awards in context of the bigger picture. You’ll notice there are almost no Japanese games included here. That’s because in order to become a contestant in a category, publishers have to pay a membership fee. I remember hearing my friend Matt Casamassina (from IGN) complain how Resident Evil 4, originally exclusive for GameCube, didn’t win in 2005 because Capcom wasn’t an AAIA member. Looks like Capcom remedied that issue since, as it won this year’s AIAA fighting game of the year award. So, yeah, the Annual Interactive Achievement Awards aren’t a good or complete global representation of all the games across the planet.

The full list of awards reads like this:

Game of the Year: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Producer: Sam Thompson
* Creative Director: Amy Hennig
* Game Director: Bruce Straley

Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Producer: Sam Thompson
* Creative Director: Amy Hennig
* Game Director: Bruce Straley

Casual Game of the Year: Flower
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
* Developer: thatgamecompany
* Producer: Kellee Santiago
* Creative Director: Jenova Chen

Fighting Game of the Year: Street Fighter IV
* Publisher: Capcom
* Developer: Capcom
* Producer: Yoshinori Ono

Role-Playing/Massively Multiplayer Game of the Year: Dragon Age: Origins
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: Bioware
* Producer: Mark Darrah
* Creative Director: Mike Laidlaw
* Game Director: Mark Darrah

Sports Game of the Year: FIFA Soccer 10
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: EA Canada
* Producer: David Rutter
* Creative Director: Gary Paterson
* Game Director: Kaz Makita

Racing Game of the Year: Forza Motorsport 3
* Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
* Developer: Turn 10 Studios
* Producer: Korey Krauskopf
* Creative Director: John Wendl
* Game Director: Dan Greenawalt

Outstanding Achievement in Game Design: Batman: Arkham Asylum
* Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: Rocksteady Studios
* Lead Level Designer: Ian Ball

Adventure Game of the Year: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Producer: Sam Thompson
* Creative Director: Amy Hennig
* Game Director: Bruce Straley

Social Networking Game of the Year: Farmville
* Publisher: Zynga
* Developer: Zynga
* Producer: David Gray
* Creative Director: Mark Skaggs
* Game Director: Bill Mooney

Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year: Brutal Legend
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: Double Fine Productions
* Producer: Caroline Esmurdoc
* Creative Director: Tim Schafer
* Game Director: Tim Schafer

Action Game of the Year: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
* Publisher: Activision
* Developer: Infinity Ward
* Producer: Mark Rubin
* Game Director: Jason West

Family Game of the Year: The Beatles: Rock Band
* Publisher: MTV Games
* Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
* Producers: Paul DeGooyer, Jeff Jones, Alex Rigopulos
* Creative Director: Chris Foster
* Game Director: Josh Randall

Outstanding Innovation in Gaming: Scribblenauts
* Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: 5th Cell Media
* Producer: Joseph M. Tringali
* Creative Director: Jeremiah Slaczka
* Game Director: Jeremiah Slaczka

Outstanding Achievement in Animation: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Lead Animators: Josh Scherr, Jeremy Lai-Yates, Mike Yosh

Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Technology Director: Pal-Kristian Engstad

Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Art Directors: Erick Pangilinan, Robh Ruppel

Outstanding Achievement in Story -Adapted: Batman: Arkham Asylum
* Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: Rocksteady Studios
* Writers: Paul Dini, Paul Crocker

Outstanding Character Performance: Batman: Arkham Asylum – Joker
* Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: Rocksteady Studios
* Writers: Paul Dini, Paul Crocker
* Voice Actor: Mark Hamill

Outstanding Achievement in Online Game Play: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
* Publisher: Activision
* Developer: Infinity Ward
* Lead Online Designer: Todd Alderman

Outstanding Achievement in Story – Original: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Writers: Amy Hennig, Neil Druckmann, Josh Scherr

Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Composer: Greg Edmonson

Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack: Brutal Legend
* Publisher: Electronic Arts
* Developer: Double Fine Productions
* Music Supervisor: Emily Ridgway

Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Lead Game Play Programmer: Travis McIntosh

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
* Developer: Naughty Dog
* Sound Designer/Audio Lead: Bruce Swanson

Outstanding Achievement in Portable Game Design: Scribblenauts
* Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: 5th Cell Media
* Lead Level Designer: Matt Cox

Portable Game of the Year: Scribblenauts
* Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
* Developer: 5th Cell Media
* Producer: Joseph M. Tringali
* Creative Director: Jeremiah Slaczka
* Game Director: Jeremiah Slaczka

Thanks to Gamasutra.com for the full list of winners.

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The Best Original Games of 2009 (On VentureBeat)

Franchises. Sequels. Big summer movie games. Despite the glut of that familiar games that crowds retail shelves each year, gamers witnessed a respectable outpouring of original titles in 2009. Developers know that making a new intellectual property isn’t easy, and most publishers won’t take risks on them often. But creators, executives, and gamers all know the reward of making a successful original game is worth the most satisfying endeavor. After all, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, even New Super Mario Bros. Wii were all once original gamess. Here are my picks for the best new original games of 2009.

Who made the cut? Check VentureBeat.com for the full story.

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What’s wrong with the VGAs

When Zach Braff (Scrubs) stepped on stage at the VGAs Saturday night, his face said it all. Escorted on stage by a model dressed as valkyrie warrior (or something), Braff sized up the tall vixen at his side, feigned fright, then appeared on the verge of laughter. He looked embarrassed. To begin his speech, he yelled, “Hello, fellow nerds!”

Last night as I watched the VGAs, a landslide of feelings poured across me, and like Braff, one of those feelings was embarrassment. I felt pride, happiness, and angst, too. But it’s the former emotion that raised my hackles. I was embarrassed by the very tall model having to wear those stupid get-ups. (She never spoke, but she certainly gave Braff a look.) I was embarrassed by the mention of the phrase “balls” more than a half dozen times, courtesy of Jake Gyllenhaal’s game of the year monologue and Joel McHale’s catchy little mid-show appearance. And I was angered by Hollywood’s general sense of embarrassment at appearing on the VGAs, while talented and hardworking designers and producers got on stage, unfolded their acceptance speeches, and bravely flashed their souls in front of millions of people.

Naughty Dog's Amy Hennig receives the game of the year award at the VGAs (AP).

The Video Game Awards (VGAs), the closest thing the video game industry has to Hollywood’s Oscars, still has a long way to go before it really makes sense of the videogame industry–and before it’s taken seriously by the Hollywood stars that line its runways. What I saw last night was a flashier, better produced, and certainly more star-studded show than ever before (with fewer gaffes, to be fair), but I still got the sense that, from a show about video games, video games are still very much Hollywood’s nerdy little cousin–and they still haven’t found their place on TV.

I wonder, is it possible to air a video game show without the constant flash of violence, big tits, and an endless array of explosions? The collage of images I saw Saturday night showed little intrinsic value to video games. Perhaps that’s why Braff, along with Olivia Wilde (who was thrown off her short script by calls from the audience), didn’t take it seriously. If there is anything genuine, human, and real about the video game industry, is there is any art, innovation, or brilliance, it wasn’t shown at the VGAs.

There were sparks of human emotion, and these were the few moments where I felt the show succeeded. It’s great, truly great, that Flower won the Best Independent Videogame Award and that Chair Studio won Best Downloadable Game. These weren’t even categories a few years ago. One of the most genuine acceptance speeches I saw all night was from the Flower team, where they briefly explained the absurdity of pitching a game about emotions and blossoming to Sony, and ended by asking all of the millions of laid off game makers to join them in indie development.

Naughty Dog creative director Amy Hennig gave a heartfelt acceptance speech, and because I have spent many hours talking with Amy about games, I could tell she delivered a genuine heartfelt speech that didn’t fit any mold or formula. I am so happy for her and her team. They fully deserve all the recognition they get.

It was great to see the Assassin’s Creed II team receive their award for best action-adventure game. The Ubisoft Montreal team spoke in both English and in French on stage, didn’t ham it up and, for anyone paying attention to the shift in talent traveling to Canada, represent some of our Northern neighbor’s growing top talent.

Perhaps the biggest win of the night was the best studio award. The guys from Rocksteady, basically an unknown English studio whose claim to fame was the totally ignored Urban Chaos: Riot Response, were grateful, excited, and earnest. Their success story is just fantastic, and their game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, is equally fantastic. It perfectly balances high production values and smart writing that shows the writers really get the Batman character and the universe, and an excellent balance of stealth, action, and adventure. Every comic book videogame from now on will have to reach as high as Batman Arkham Asylum from here on out.

When I think of the Oscars, I often remember the collages of movies and actors who have been a part of the industry’s success; the retrospectives about people who made a difference. When the great directors, actors, writers, and special effects technicians who excel at their craft are recognized and rewarded for their achievements, it puts in perspective what the industry has achieved in the past in comparison to the achievements its awarding today. When I saw the VGAs Saturday night, I saw a show that gave no recognition to its past, that gave no award to its founders, that didn’t seem to have a past or a future, just a right-here, right-now orgasm of action, flashing lights and…the Bravery. Yes, I too like action, flashing lights, and a little Snoop Dog in my cultural diet, but when I eat a meal, I don’t just eat steak by itself.

What’s perhaps equally disturbing is that all night I listened to invisible “professional announcers” guide me through the show. There was no guide, no host, no person, who represented the world of videogames to hold my hand, make me laugh, show me the history of the industry, and again, put the awards, and the industry, in perspective. What does it mean to win best shooter of the year? Who won last year? Are their any journalists out there who could be interviewed to put the games in perspective? One easy solution is to have the previous year’s winner present the current year’s award, informing the audience and passing the torch in a way that means something.

There is a reason no real host was called upon last night. That person doesn’t exist. For starters, actors regularly fail at representing the industry because it’s clear they get paid lots of money to act in films, and that they appear on videogame shows for charity or because of a contract agreement (with notable exceptions like Vin Diesel). Second, there is no charming gamer nerd with the savvy to get up on stage and ride the fence between games and film/TV with moxie, perspective, and charm. From the game industry, the closest anyone has come to nailing that perfect blend are Tim Schafer, Will Wright, Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski, and Ken Levine. I am sure there are other talented game creators and personalities around who could pull it off.

Perhaps the show could hire better, funnier writers, too. The joke Tony Hawk told about action adventure games created a dreaded void of discomfort afterward. Almost every actor who took the stage was given sub-par lines, and the Tiger Woods jokes were just plain terrible. Stevie Wonder’s appearance was smart and his challenge to developers to create games for the blind and handicapped will be remembered as a highlight of the show. Jack Black’s entertaining skit for mistaking his best game of the year acceptance speech was pure Jack Black–silly, ballsy, and fun. But in all, instead of being helmed by a person, the host-less VGAs were peppered with Hollywood actors who looked out of place, embarrassed, and itching to get off that stage.

In the end, the VGAs represent the video game industry’s struggle for acceptance in the mainstream world in just the same way movies and TV are accepted. The truth is, the video game industry isn’t the same as the movie industry–though with shows like the VGAs, it’s clear the desire to be like Hollywood still burns brightly. And while I understand last night’s show was fully sponsored by Mountain Dew (the night’s biggest message), and it has to make money and attract an audience, the game industry needs better representation than last night’s show. It needs smarter, funnier video game people and less Mike Tyson. It needs fewer embarrassed actors and more genuine ones. It needs better writing that doesn’t rely on mentioning testicles over and over again to show that the industry actually has balls, and it needs to show its rich heritage, interesting origins, and the stories and characters that made it what it is today. And I don’t mean just trotting out Nolan Bushnell again and again (although he is great in his own way), but getting Shigeru Miyamoto out there to give us a sense of where we started and have come. Putting Will Wright out there to share with us his rocket scientist vision of the future of games. Hauling out Jordan Mechner to put the upcoming Prince of Persia movie in perspective–and not just his happiness at its acknowledgement. What about getting Ken Levine on stage to show us his quirky brilliance? Or having David Jaffe up there? That man’s blog is a world of entertainment.

With a better mixture of video game talent, more relevant Hollywood talent (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jack Black = good; Tyson, Jersey Shore = bad), a perspective, and a smart host, the VGAs could really be something worthy of the industry it represents. As it is, the VGAs are just a sideshow in Hollywood’s ongoing carnival.

Check this story for the show’s full list of winners (a lot of news stories out there show incomplete lists).

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Mini-Review

Every night that I play Batman: Arkham Asylum, a little Xbox oval pops up on my screen to tell me “friends playing this game.”  This is a newish addition to the Xbox Live communication functionality, but with this game, I hardly need to see it. It’s redundant. Whenever I play Batman, all of my friends who have their Xboxes turned on are playing Batman and nothing else.Batman

There is a good reason for this. With some games, you get a beautiful presentation, but behind the pretty facade, there isn’t always enough game to match it. With Batman, you get a gorgeous facade that is intricately tied into every aspect of the game. So not only is there pretty eye candy grabbing your attention all the time, it ties into functional aspects.

Find a Riddler item? You’ll hear an audio response from the Riddler and a menu pulls up to show you what it was.  A quick legion of bats flies by to note you’ve collected something else, and because of these simple little things, you’re drawn just a little deeper into Batman’s world.

I’m only 22% through the game, but I am so impressed by the well-thought out overall world of Arkham Asylum. If you die? During the reloading screen the Joker appears and gives you shit, until the retry button appears. What about water or falling off a cliff? If you fall in water, a cutscene shows you climbing out of it. Oh, the game is telling me not to go in the water. I don’t die like in old GTA games, and there are no invisible walls preventing me from the water–like in a dozen other games. If I fall off a cliff, in slow motion I’ll have the option or using the grappling gun to save myself. Similar to the water scenario, I’ll climb back up. These seems like natural, logical ideas, but how many games have actually done this?

Those are the little things that add up, but Rocksteady nailed all the big ones, too. Batman isn’t just a beat’em-up, it’s a Batman game — one part action, one part detective story, one part adventure, and one part living comic book. Rocksteady really knows its Batman characters and it has done an excellent, excellent job at not only getting their looks right, but capturing them the way they would be in the comics; this too is another thing that most comic book games miss.

Come to think of it, DC has been pretty screwed when it comes to video games. I mean, the best comic book games are, what? Spider-Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance? Not bad, but there hasn’t been a good Spider-man since like 2004, and once you’ve played Ultimate Alliance, erm, I mean Marvel’s Ultimate Diablo, you’ve played them all. Batman has never been handled so well or transposed into the videogame format as he has been in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Thank you, Rocksteady, for making the best Batman game I’ve ever played.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Collector’s Junk

Yesterday afternoon I bought the last copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum from the local EB Games store. It was the Xbox 360 Collector’s Edition, $40 more than the standard price. I was sick of waiting for Eidos to send the game my way, so I spent my Edge Card savings and traded in some games (Transformers, MLB 2K9, and a few others I knew I wouldn’t touch again).  The game is beautifully crafted, presents everything with an amazing amount of class and style, and the actual gameplay mechanics and design are superbly done and make sense for the Batman character.Batman

But this Collector’s package is pure lunacy. For $40 more I got a huge, space-taking Batarang-shaped box and a whole lot of bat-shaped foam.  With a game DVD came an “extras DVD”, which I have not explored yet, a plastic mounted batarang, a leather-bound bookelt, a faux psychologists diary of sorts that lists the line-up of baddies Batman faces in the game and their prognosis. By the way, the diary includes Batman as a potential candidate for the Asylum. The package also includes two stickers, with redemption codes for free downloadable multiplayer modes, and some other crap.

Those extra levels are cool. And I love Batman stuff, but this Collector’s business is crazy making behavior; this stuff is totally worthless and it’s a waste of resources. I shouldn’t bitch, because after all, I didn’t actually spend any money on the thing, but still. It’s junky stuff. For instance, if you simply play the game you’ll collect all the villain cards and get the same information digitally; you don’t need a leather bound book, too.  The plastic mounted batarang just takes space. It’s not good for anything, like the Lord of the Rings bookends, or the Twisted Metal business card holder made of chains and sheet metal (and which is sort of ugly). And everything except the two DLC levels are pretty much fluff. I guess I’ll just put that old batarang up next to my Master Chief SPARTAN helmet. Blech.

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E3 2009: Top 10 Best Games at E3

With the video game consoles somewhere in the middle of their theoretical five-year cycle (I did say theoretical), this year’s Electronics Entertainment Exposition showcased almost exactly what it should: loads of new software.

Yes, we watched Microsoft and Sony unveil their own wireless remotes, which will more than likely serve to extend the current generation consoles to well beyond their five or six-year paths. But given the fact that, with the exception of Nintendo, neither Sony nor Microsoft has made solid inroads into reaping the benefits of software sales match their expenditures on hardware, they are hell bent on issuing as much hardware-pushing games as possible.

Infinty Ward does not disappoint.

Infinity Ward does not disappoint.

In selecting my top 10 games, I could have easily picked all Xbox 360 and PS3 games, for there are enough good sequels to make the grade. And I could have picked all shooters and action games. But there are some different games coming out that I was taken by, and I feel like taking chances, doing something even slightly new, is worth rewarding, which is why I picked the games I picked. All of the games I selected were playable, either by myself or someone else and are presented in descending order.

Heavy Rain doesn't always provide a happy ending.

Heavy Rain doesn't always provide a happy ending.

10. Heavy Rain (System: PS3; Release Date: early 2010; Publisher: Sony; Developer: Quantic Dream): I watched a full 45-minute presentation of this game given by writer and director David Cage and saw characters Norman Jayden and Madison Page go through their scenarios. I was particularly taken when the chose the death path of Jayden; this choice gave the game some finality, some real repercussions, and it made the whole thing feel much different than any other game on the show floor. It’s great to see Sony supporting this kind of game, which is way off the narrow path of action games and shooters.

9. Brutal Legend (System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC; Release Date: October 2009; Publisher: EA; Developer: Double Fine): You know, every time I see this game it gets funnier and crazier. I don’t actually think the game play is all that modern or will be totally sophisticated-stunning in the technical way that, say, Modern Warfare will be. But the writing will be top notch, the scenarios will be ridiculously funny and outrageous, and the story will be better than entertaining. So for whatever reasons it might not match up technically, I am already willing to forgive it because I know it’s too fucking funny to not own.

8. Borderlands (System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Release Date: October 2009; Publisher: Take-Two; Developer: Gearbox): I had yet to see this game until my Thursday visit, and wow, I was surprised and excited. Not everyone in the demo was, but I have to say that it’s difficult to get excited about any game on the final day at 3 pm, one hour before the show shuts down. Still, the progression system looks awesome, the new graphical treatment is less realistic and “hardcore,” but it’s also more distinct. Also, this game is funny as shit: Animals are named “Bad-ass,” and dudes have their skull plates flying off and their brains bursting into the air. When enemies die, they yell out the most heinous and hilarious death screams. There is something weird, goofy, and irreverent about Borderlands that makes me lust for it.

DJ Hero: Activision's biggest gamble or biggest jackpot?

DJ Hero: Activision's biggest gamble or biggest jackpot?

7. DJ Hero (System: PS3, Xbox 360; Release Date: September 2009; Publisher: Activision; Developer: Freestyle Games): I am still uncertain whether anybody will buy this thing. It could end up buried in the Western desert next to ET. But it could also succeed beyond everyone’s wild dreams. Truth is, DJ Hero is a wild card. No screenshots can make this game look any more appealing or exciting. For me, I had to watch someone play this, checking both the screen and his hands, to see just how it all came together. I walked out of the demo thinking yes, this might be complicated, but the hardware was so cool that I felt, not thought, “I must have DJ Hero.” I also love the fact that all of the mixes were made for the game, and that you can hook up a guitar and play along with scratching. Effing rad.

6. BioShock II (System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Release Date: November 2009; Publisher: Take-Two; Developer: 2K Marin): I kinda just picked this because I have faith that 2K Marin will take what was easily the most original, haunting, and brilliant new IP of 2007 and not screw it up. I’m not certain I want to be the prototype Big Daddy, but on the other hand I do want to fight the Big Sister mano-a-mano. I just hope they can create the nasty weirdness that permeated the original game. The demo looked rocking. It was pretty, full of wonderful watery images, you’ll have to defend the creepy Little Sisters; plus, the new mixture of attacks, like little tornadoes and fire blasts, looks great.

5. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (System: Wii; Release Date: Fall 2009; Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo): Wow, I got my hands on this on Thursday and had a hard time putting the controller down. The addition of cooperative multiplayer is simultaneously both impressive and unimpressive. It’s not like anyone else has done this before–many, many developers have! But when Shigeru Miyamoto does something like add cooperative multiplayer functionality to a side-scrolling Mario game, he always executes it with such imagination and skill that it’s almost always brilliant. This game is just pure, unadulterated joy and it’s a must-have Wii title.

Cooperative multiplayer Mario is more fun than you can imagine.

Cooperative multiplayer Mario is more fun than you can imagine.

4. Rock Band: The Beatles (System: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii; Release Date: September 9, 2009; Publisher: MTV Games; Developer: Harmonix): So I’ll admit this upfront: I am a Beatles fan and have been since I was six. I did a survey of about 10 people and most the result was split: Some people didn’t care (and they skewed a little younger and didn’t care about the Beatles much), while others loved this game (skewed a little older–30s, 40s, and liked the Beatles). Whether you’re a fan or not, these things seem to be self-evident: The Beatles are one of the most popular rock bands ever; their songs are copied, sung, and re-recorded for albums, commercials, and movies every year, and this game will sell tons of hardware because casual players will buy a system just to play Rock Band The Beatles. Only Rock Band Led Zeppelin or Rock Band Jimi Hendrix would get me as excited as this.

God of War III looks like it's in excellent hands.

God of War III looks like it's in excellent hands.

3. God of War III (System: PS3; Release Date: March 2010; Publisher: Sony; Developer: Sony Santa Monica): As Jake Blues said in the Blues Brothers movie, “Holy shit!” If one game ever looked as good and played as good as its original, it’s God of War III. The demo shown at Sony’s booth was just plain awesome. The new ramming maneuver–grab an enemy and use him as a ram to mop up crowds of enemies– is incredibly fun to play, and as are the flaming arrows. Just like BioShock 2, my feeling about this game is more from the gut than from the brain. It’s like I just have to play it. There is very little thinking involved. And having seen the GDC and the E3 demo of Dante’s Inferno–which is good–and now having seen God of War III, at this point, there isn’t much comparison. God of War III is my pick.

Naughty Dog completely rewrote its graphics engine and the result is extraordinary.

Naughty Dog completely rewrote its graphics engine and the result is extraordinary.

2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (System: PS3; Release Date: September; Publisher: Sony; Developer: Naughty Dog): Naughty Dog’s first Uncharted was not fully appreciated for its subtle strengths and hidden gifts. How many games these days throw characters that talk and act and remain ordinary into heroic situations? The story and dialogue in Drake’s Fortune was exquisite and subtle. And sure, the puzzles were kinda easy, but did you actually use the melee system? For an adventure game, it rocked. Actually against most action games, it rocked. Among Thieves switches out the cliff sides and switches in dilapidated buildings, crumbling villages, and gives you rooftops and helicopter chases that are just amazing to watch, not to mention play. That, and the addition of multiplayer should wake up a few million people and let them understand why they should own a PlayStation 3.

Modern Warfare 2 gets my vote for best game at E3 2009.

Modern Warfare 2 gets my vote for best game at E3 2009.

1. Modern Warfare 2 (System: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii; Release Date: November 10, 2009; Publisher: Activision; Developer: Infinity Ward): I feel a little queasy picking a sequel and a first-person shooter published by the sequel machine, Activision, for my top game. And if Modern Warfare 2 wasn’t made by one of the best developers in the world, I would feel a little sad, a little pathetic inside. But I don’t. The quick demo I watched at the Microsoft conference was followed up by a bigger, more interesting one behind closed doors at Activision’s booth, and it’s pretty obvious that this game is going to slay everything that comes close to it this fall. For a game that started as a WWII first-person shooter, Infinity Ward has created what looks and feels like the modern world James Bond game — the one that EA never made. The one that most developers only wish they could make. From the brilliant snow drift that clouds the air to the more open-world design to the ice picks used to stop snowmobiling enemies to the brisk downhill snowmobile ride itself, Modern Warfare in just a 10-minute demo convinced me right quick that few other games were going to match it at the show. And when all was said and done, and the three days of demos were over, no other game did.

Top Five Honorable Mentions

How many words can you think of that start with A?

How many words can you think of that start with A?

5. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (System: Wii; Release Date: fall 2009; Publisher: Konami; Developer: Climax Studios): Yes, the Silent Hill series is old, and when I saw this demoed at Konami’s Gamer Day in March, I was still unconvinced. At E3 I got to play it, and that changed everything. The smooth responsive controls, the instant reactions of the flashlight and gun, and the amazingly simple yet surprising real world puzzles energize this former limping series with new life. This is going to be an excellent holiday season to own a Wii.

4. Homefront (System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360; Release Date: 2010; Publisher: THQ; Developer: Kaos): On the second and third day of E3 2009 I must have seen one hundred billion action games and first-person shooters, which made it tough to remember one from another. But for all of the me-too stuff that THQ does, Homefront looked different. Based in a not to distant future and using the energy crisis to set its stage, players take on a ragtag resistance group of Americans fighting against an occupied USA. Taking notions from Frontlines: Fuel of War and building them into a bigger, badder first-person shooter, Kaos has made something very worth your while.

3. Scribblenauts (System: DS; Release Date: fall 2009; Publisher: Warner Bros. ; Developer: 5th Cell): Weird, surprising, and original, this should prove to be one of those breakthrough titles we’ll all look back on fondly and say, I remember when… The game’s hand-drawn graphics are basic but charming. The premise is simple, too. But it’s the massive database of recognizable words that is so cleverly incorporated into the gameplay that captures the imagination, something much needed in today’s rather familiar landscape of game concepts.

As you can see, Rocksteady Games has captured the essense of the characters in the Batman universe.

As you can see, Rocksteady Games has captured the essence of the characters in the Batman universe.

2. Batman Arkham Asylum (System: PS3, Xbox 360; Release Date: Summer 2009; Publisher: Eidos/Warner Bros.; Developer: Rocksteady Studios): Although I only played through the first 20 minutes of the game, what excited and please me most about this new Batman endeavor had everything to do with the way in which Rocksteady Games captured the essence of the Batman universe, from the character models to Arkham Asylum to the voice actors of Batman and the Joker themselves. This looked and felt like a Batman game; and there are very few Batman games one can say that about.

1. Shadow Complex (System: Xbox 360 DLC; Release Date: Summer 2009; Publisher: Microsoft; Developer: Chair Entertainment): This “little DLC game” is going to be the biggest and coolest new game on the system. It’s about five times as big as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and will weigh in at 500 MBs, a monstrous size for a DLC game. And the foam gun? Lovely, just lovely. The level of exploration, the amount of weapon acquisition, and the range of combat all come together beautifully in this game.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum Video

Another hell-effing-yes video of a game I want to play–Batman: Arkham Asylum.

I’m sure other folks have this, but I found this lovely bit of loveliness (that’s lovely loveliness) on Destructoid.

The Freeflow System is a fancy way of calling Batman’s fighting combos in a beat-’em-up, but you know, doesn’t Freeflow System sound better? Also, in case you didn’t notice, Producer Sefton Hill is mighty British.

This is going to be a great year for games.

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