2011 Calvin Awards: Best Videogame
February 14, 2011
The videogame industry has come under fire for its inability to launch new franchises, instead monetizing known quantities that are safe business ventures. Our winner in the Best Videogame category last year, Arkham Asylum, was even guilty of this in that it was far from the first Batman game created. What made it special was that unlike all previous Batman titles, it was good. 60% of our top five selections as well as 80% of our top ten are also known quantities done well. Better yet, a couple of the sequels are not well known franchises, making almost half of this year’s Best Videogames list relatively new entities for us…but not first place.
From the moment Halo: Reach was released, its victory in this category seemed like a foregone conclusion. For that matter, even prior to its release, the beta available through Halo 3: ODST had become all consuming to our staff. This is particularly noteworthy given that we largely shrugged our shoulders at this previous Bungie title, one that failed to make our top 10 last year. So, why does Halo: Reach grab us in a way that ODST did not? And what makes it the best videogame of the year? Bungie refused to go out with a whimper, choosing instead to deliver plenty of bang to gamers.
Halo: Reach is ostensibly a prequel to the four previous Halo titles yet it effectively serves as the end of an era. Players once again take on the role of a faceless everyman (or woman) hidden behind a Spartan helmet. This affords them the opportunity to identify with the character throughout what appears to be a hopeless battle that is already largely lost. Even as Noble Team suffers losses, the Spartan called Six continues the fight. At key storyline intervals, the game teases that maybe your character has a more glorious fate, though, keeping tension alive all the way up until the final level, the one that occurs after the game is beaten.
In addition to being a satisfying single player storyline, what makes Halo: Reach utterly addictive is the credit system. Every time a person does anything in the game, they are graded according to Bungie-guidelines for expected performance and awarded credits to reflect their play. Daily and weekly challenges have also been added to give Halo addicts the ability to test their skills in several different ways in a given week.
Several BOP staffers have been waging a not so silent (we are talking about Xbox Live after all) war to become the first to General status. Personally, I am about to reach Colonel status, so I am out of the running, but I do love the game so much that I’ve built up 850,000 credits since its release. The replay value of the Halo franchise has always been what separates it from the pack, but even by Bungie’s lofty standards for the series, Halo: Reach is special. It is designed to give players something to do all the way up until the next Halo game, the first one by someone other than Bungie, is released. Their passing this franchise off to Microsoft represents the end of an era. So, BOP finds Halo: Reach a fitting finale to a quintet of revolutionary games. This is why it is the BOP staff’s choice as Videogame of the Year.