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The 2nd Annual One Man Awards
Written By:
J. Michael Neal

Another year, another year. I have to say, this year was amazing. It more than made up for the relatively uneventful 2002 calendar year. It was packed with huge blockbusters, triumphant returns, much-anticipated sequels, and more sleeper hits than you can shake a stick at. Let’s see how one man weighs in on the year that was 2003…

Best Water - Pirates of the Caribbean (Xbox, PC)

About the only thing this game did right... but it did it really, really well.

Runner Up – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Coolest Visual Effect - Tron Glow – Tron 2.0 (PC)

That special Tron glow was the backbone of this game's "retro-cool" visuals, and a pretty neat way to show off your PC hardware to friends.

Runner Up – Real time deforming sand – Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (Xbox)

Best Make-over - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)

If you can play this game for more then five minutes and still Monday morning Miyamoto the decision to go cel-shaded, you have a heart of stone.

Runner Up – Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)

Worst Make-over - Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC, Xbox)

One of the many things that kept this game from being fully embraced by fans of the original was the perplexing decision to "anime" the character designs. Someone should have explain that whole "if it ain't broke" thing to Warren Spector. 

Runner Up – Final Fantasy XI (PC)

Technique That Should Die a Horrible Death - Fixed Cameras

You all thought I was going to say "cel-shading", weren't you? Maybe next year. Fixed cameras, be they on pre-rendered backgrounds or fully polygonal ones, should go far, far away and never return. They make for horrible controls, horrible gameplay, fighting enemies you can't see, and making jumps you can't judge. If a game can't be created with an intuitive camera it shouldn't be created at all.

Runner Up – Quake III engine games


Technique That Should Return from the Grave – FMV

Surprised? You shouldn't be. FMV is a joke in the industry now, but what's wrong with it, huh? People laugh about sitting through FMV cut-scenes instead of playing the game - they didn't seem to have the same problem when Final Fantasy X or Xenosaga came out, did they? People laugh at the low production values - how many games use terrible in-game visuals to make terrible cut-scenes, no one seems to swallow their tongue over that, am I right? Play a game like LOTR: The Two Towers or Return of the King and you'll see that, surprise-surprise, live action cut-scenes aren't the end of the world. Ok, they are taken from Peter Jackson's epic to end all epics, but the point remains the same - FMV is not poison, and if done right, in the day and age of DVDs and cheap digital cameras, it can be pretty damn effective. How many genres would benefit from live-action cut-scenes?

Runner Up – Spooling Levels

Best Original Score - Michael Giacchino (Call of Duty; PC)

Leaving behind his signature Medal of Honor series for Activision's WWII, the John Williams of gaming delivered yet another award worthy score. Let's hope after his inevitable explosion into the "mainstream" he still finds time to score "interactive entertainment" for all us poor shlubs.

Runner Up – Grabbed by the Ghoulies (Xbox)


Best Licensed Soundtrack - Grand Theft Auto Double Pack (Xbox, PS2)

Nothing can match the combined brilliance of GTA3 and Vice City's soundtracks.

Runner Up – Amplitude (PS2)


Best Audio Overall - Medal of Honor Rising Sun (Xbox, PS2)

EA's Medal of Honor series continues a fine tradition of unparalleled sound design with Rising Sun. Boasting absolutely amazing 5.1 THX certified sound and a dynamic orchestral score, Rising Sun's audio clearly stands hand and shoulders above the competition this year.

Runner Up – War of the Monsters (PS2)

Best Story - Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, Xbox)

You find me a game with a better story and I'll hand you a mirror to show you a fool.

Runner Up – Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC, Xbox, PS2)

Best Controls - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multi)

Possibly the most effortless controls in the history of gaming.

Runner Up – The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC)

Game Best Suited for a Film Adaptation – Manhunt (PS2)

I could see the film version in my head as I played this, I really could.

Runner Up – The Getaway (PS2)


Movie Best Suited for a Game Adaptation - Kill Bill

I think this movie was made to be turned into a game, but that could just be me.

Runner Up – 2LDK

"When will this gameplay end so I can see the next cut-scene?" Award - The Getaway (PS2)

The story rocked. It was like watching Snatch two-minutes at a time. Too bad in between you had to drudge through some of the most painfully slow and frustrating gameplay of the year. It would have probably done better to skip the game rank and go straight to video.

Runner Up – Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb (Multi)

"When will this cut-scene end so I can actually play the game?" Award - Xenosaga: Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2)

Oh my God, can a game get any more long-winded? This was a new low - remember people, the thing that separates interactive entertainment from everything else is the INTERACTIVE part. Moving some bow-legged broad from point A to point B then watching a 2 hour cut-scene isn't a game, it's a nightmare. If I wanted to see a hundred some hours of really bad, really boring, really ugly movies I'd just watch Battlefield Earth two dozen times.

Runner Up – Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)

Most Utterly Nonsensical Commentary - Bobbito Garcia (NBA Street Vol. 2; Multi)

Hilarious, annoying, and bewildering all at the same time. 

Runner Up – Steve Carell (Outlaw Volleyball; Xbox)

Most Painfully Cookie-Cutter Story - Rogue Ops (Multi)

No game managed to marry as many clichιs this year as Rogue Ops. Bravo!

Runner Up – Unreal 2 (PC)

Worst Game Announcement - Fight Club (Multi)

I am Jack's total loss of faith in humanity. Someone please stop this madness before it's too late!

Runner Up – Reservoir Dogs (Multi)

"Most Japanese" Game of the Year - Viewtiful Joe (GC)

It's like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain.

Runner Up – Ape Escape 2 (PS2)

Most Juvenile - Postal 2 (PC)

This game might have been entertaining to the 4th grader in all of us if it were even slightly fun to play.

Runner Up – Outlaw Volleyball (Xbox)

Nicest Gift – Enemy Territory, Activision

With a price of $0 and system requirements to match, Enemy Territory became a PC game everyone could play and enjoy. Thank you Activision!

Runner Up – America’s Army 2.0, U.S. Armed Services


Best Sequel - Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC, Xbox, PS2)

The epitome of what a good sequel should be.

Runner Up – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multi)

Sequel We Could Have All Lived Without - Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness (PC, PS2)

Just let it die already! And don't think Crystal Dynamics can pull this turd of a franchise out the crapper either, less I force you to play Blood Omen 2.

Runner Up – Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)

Franchise of the Future - Wakeboarding Unleashed (PS2, Xbox)

Right out of the starting gate, Wakeboarding Unleashed had gameplay to rival any "action sports" title before it, up to and including the Tony Hawk series. It had superb level design, excellent controls, awesome soundtrack, and original level objectives, everything the THPS name USE to be known for, plus a co-operative career mode to accompany its competitive multiplayer. It didn't have Create-a-Player, Create-a-Level, a lot of boards, a lot of riders, or any online play, however, and that hurt the game in the public eye. If Shaba can correct these issues without loosing any of the greatness of the first game, they will have a hit on their hands. I called THPS minutes after playing the demo, and I’m calling this one now.

Runner Up – Auto Modellista (Xbox, PS2, GC)

Revival That Almost Wasn't - Tron 2.0 (PC)

For a minute it almost seemed like Monolith was going to miss the mark with this one, but luckily they pulled through and delivered the game everyone knew they could - beautiful, original, and fun as hell, Tron 2.0 does the pioneering blockbuster justice indeed.

Runner Up – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multi)

Revival That Almost Was - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Multi)

Damn. This could have really been something special. A good beat-em-up AND a trip down memory lane? Too good to be true I guess. Oh well, I hear they are working on a sequel. Better luck next time.

Runner Up – Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)

Best Minions - Hunter: The Reckoning: Redeemer (Xbox)

Wave after wave of undead hordes + infinite supply of ammo = time of your life!

Runner Up – Grabbed by the Ghoulies (Xbox)

Coolest Main Character – Viewtiful Joe (Viewtiful Joe; GC)

I smell a new mascot character. Watch out Mario!

Runner Up – Dragoon and Orta (Panzer Dragoon Orta; Xbox)

Coolest Secondary Character – HK-47 (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic; PC, Xbox)

Coolest secondary character? Try one of the coolest characters ever, meatbag!

Runner Up – Vinnie Gognitti (Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne; PC, Xbox, PS2)

Coolest Villain/Boss Character – Piggsy (Manhunt; PS2)

Easily the scariest, most disturbing, and most memorably villain to come around in a very, very long time.

Runner Up – Darth Malak (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic; PC, Xbox)

Best Original Character Designs – Guilty Gear X2 (PS2)

A sexually confused, yo-yo wielding nun and demonically possessed teenager are two of the more normal characters in this game…

Runner Up – Grabbed by the Ghoulies (Xbox)


Cutest Character – Link’s Grandma (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker; GC)

Adorable, fragile, little soup-making Granny everyone can love!

Runner Up – Ninja Imps (Grabbed by the Ghoulies; Xbox)

Hottest Female Character – Mona Sax (Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne; PC, Xbox, PS2)

The most fully realized female game character since Cate Archer is amazing as the lynchpin to this noir masterpiece.

Runner Up – Vanessa (P.N. 03; GC)

Worst Main Character – Drake (Drake; PC, Xbox)

You can practically hear the marketing department come up with this one. Spare us. Please.

Runner Up – Tak (Tak and the Power Juju; Multi)

Worst Secondary Character – Raiden (Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance; PC)

The whole Raiden thing wasn’t the end of the world, but really, I think we’d all be happy if he just went away and never returned. Ever.

Runner Up – Sid the Dummy (Buffy the Vampire: Chaos Bleeds; Multi)

Worst Villain/Boss Character – Osama Bin Laden (Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror; PS2)

There aren’t words to describe just how embarrassing or lame this concept really was, but whoever came up with it should be exiled to the same island the game industry sent John Romero.

Runner Up – None even come close.

Posted: 4-15-04
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