Unlike subsequent iterations of Coint & Plick, the inaugural edition was executed as a straight-up poll – i.e. pick one game from this list and vote for it. The complete results of the poll are presented below the cut; click “more” to see them.
Click “more” to see an index of the full winners’ list in the 2008 Coint & Plick Awards, complete with hyperlinks to each entry.
266 points, 15 votes, 6.5 TOP GAME votes
Mordy: Somehow, Bethesda went from the quirky, though fairly generic world of Elders Scrolls, to the thematically rich, emotionally painful, and – fuck it – literary world of Fallout 3. No game ever moved me this year as much as Fallout 3 did. When I left Vault 101 for the last time, marching back into the wastes after reconnecting with the friends of my youth, I choked up. I found myself thinking back to the vault for the next hour or so, thinking back to what was forever lost, to what I’d never see again. Fallout 3 was full of these kind of gorgeous moments. An unexpected Town House excursion exposed beds full of skeletons and a still functioning robot. When turned on, he read a poem to the children’s dead skeletons. The poem? Sara Teasdale’s There Will Come Soft Rains. The Town House had no connection to any quest, no goods worth salvaging. But it was my most amazing moment of gaming in 2008.
John Justen: Absolutely no question that this is the best, most involving RPG I have ever played. This is the way to get people who don’t like RPG’s to take a second look. I really hope there is an achievement for obsessively turning on ham radios and opening toilet stall doors, because I’m pretty sure that I’m in the lead on that one. There really isn’t anything that this game does wrong, music included.
CraigG: It’s both exciting and daunting in terms of how big this game seems; I’ve barely made a dent in this after ten hours of play. It’s part of what really got me into gaming as a hobby.
Mitch Krpata: The most fully realized game world since Crackdown, at least. I’ve yet to play it for less than three hours at a time.
Circa 1916: Awesome so far, despite weird little things. Animation is awkward and comical sometimes. Combat can get a little wonky. I killed a guard with one bb to the chest (?) and enemies don’t really react to getting shot. Only 3 hours in. Spent most of my time wandering around a town chatting with people and I can’t wait to get back to it. Scarily addictive and ridiculously fucking awesome so far. I’ve already logged 20 hours and I haven’t even really touched the main quest yet. The sidequests are mostly excellent and feature a surprising amount of different outcomes. The game feels huge but not stretched thin. The replay value is ridiculous. I’m super impressed overall, it’s worthy of the Fallout name. Every time I fire this up I become more and more enamored. This has got to be the best RPG of the 00’s. Eh?
Forksclovetofu: Now that I just got past my first (wounded) deathclaw and marauded the shopping center, I got to say this is so addictive and fun and engaging. Improved Oblivion basically with a much more agoraphobic and nihilistic setting. I’ve been real happy with the pirate radio on the PIPboy. The further I get into this game the more vast it feels. Just got a house with requisite robot butler and am on the third chapter of Moira’s crazy book and am ready to take some time off from that particular quest batch. I can’t walk out the door without some oddball thing happening: robot firing lasers at me, three man merc hitsquad after my bounty, giant crab men chasing me down the street, fire ants that breathe actual fire, mine infested bridges… it’s always something new! I am regularly struck by how uncomfortable I am killing folks who’ve set up little shelters under bridges or in utility sheds; they see me running up the hill with an assault rifle and of course they’re going to start firing. Then I kill them and take all their stuff. And _I_ get the good karma?
I ran into a shitload of freezes getting by some mirelurks and then more when I was going to rivet city. Weird music/sound hitches. A spot where the world geometry came apart and threw me into a black hole. At least five cases where I’ve run into divots of rough terrain that I simply couldn’t extricate myself from. Doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason and it comes and goes. But I can’t stop playing! The carrot for me now is to visit all the places on the map that the wanderer perk opened up. I’m going through by quadrant and the main hassle is fear of running out of ammo; the alien blaster has been a real consistent life saver and I don’t think there’s any more ammo to be found for that weapon. As soon as that starts to wear, I’ll certainly head to the end. I’m expecting to be done with this game in the first week of the year and then put it in lukewarm storage in anticipation of the DLC. Still finding surprises round every corner tho! Button Gwinnett robot! Nukalurks!
Roberto Spiralli: i definitely agree with the scarily addictive tag. First time in a long time that I’ve done that thing where i thought 10 minutes had past and it was an hour. When I first arrived at Megaton and did my early exploring it really did feel like I was just back playing Oblivion, but the more I play, the less I find I can rely on the tactics and the approach I used playing that game. I am also going the ponderous/exploratory route. I lack the self-discipline to stop myself being distracted by everything I wander across so the main quest hasn’t seen much love.
Jim: OK, I have killed so many people already. This is a buggy piece of shit. Just jumped off the bridge that goes over the river in the south-east going across to DC and the second I hit the water it crashed. Jesus Jones. There’s plenty of games I’ve enjoyed playing more, but I’ve notched up 37 hours in a week and despite now having it crashed eleven times and corrupting a save game I’m still persisting at it. Actually if I was to enumerate all the lame things in this game that pissed me off, it would sound like I disliked it, but that couldn’t be further from the case.
Kingfish: Found Hubris Comics last night, and the text adventure in the basement. I like having the Explorer perk, as it reveals every single place; I feel like I’m cheating but I’m not! Huzzah! The guys at Obsidian and Bioware would have probably done a better job of strengthening and filling out the story bits for the quest, but for a big-budget/blockbuster title, I’m happy with what we got. Needs more funny, but it does wonders in expanding the world and backstory. Not only do you get to see more of their ruined society, you get to investigate museums to see how their ruined society spun off.
Cozwn: The water mechanic doesn’t feel properly developed enough for it to have any significant or meaningful impact on the way you play the game and so the way you interpret its meaning – however I do agree that the end of the game does undermine a lot of what’s gone before (inasmuch as its somewhat redemptive)… for me, it’s the finality that jars (I know, right? the game has to end) as so much of the game is about the world and its inhabitants scratching through but for the most part slowly wasting – memories wasting, and bodies wasting physically (psychologically, and emotionally)… I would have preferred something a little more elliptical, less obvious, more elision less bang.
S1ocki: It’s kinda crazy how much I THINK I’ve done, but you guys are all talking about weapons and techniques and shit I’ve never even heard of yet!!
Goole: i don’t really have much to say except this game is awesome and it’s taken over my life.
104 points, 10 votes, 3 TOP GAME votes
Mordy: This lacks the emotional punch of Fallout 3, or even the sympathetic protagonist of Violet: A Distraction, but GTA IV was still the most ambitious, mainstream game to come out this year. I have to imagine that forcing 13 year old trash-talkers to think about morality (and mortality) can’t be bad. Maybe Rockstar is really a subversive Kantian think tank trying to trick kids into playing Mafia games that are really about the immigrant experience.
Jeff Levine: Say what you will, it’s an amazing technical achievement.
Iroquois Pliskin: The single richest, most culturally detailed and vibrant environment created for a video game, and one of the most ambitious as well, on a narrative level.
Polyphonic: A very disappointing game, especially after the embarrassing overpraise that preceded its release. But this is also the game I played the most this year, and it isn’t without its pleasures. If the first GTA game released on the 360 is meant to solve the basic issues of marrying the GTA world with the physics and graphical capability of next-gen systems, hopefully the second game will provide the fun and depth that Vice City and San Andreas provided to the template of GTA III.
Jamescobo: The Journey alone commands points.
104 points, 4 votes
Mordy: The greatest love story (after Violet: A Distraction!) this year came by way of a platformer that played with time. Also, this might not be a love story between the protagonist and the princess, but between a scientist and an atomic weapon. Either way, the game’s final moments (as the explosion goes off and time runs backward one last time) are understated and beautiful.
Brilliam: In spite of there being a lot about this game I didn’t like, I still loved a lot about it. I hate laundry-listing games, but the mechanics and the pacing and the art are all utterly top-notch. I LOVE Hellman’s art style. What I didn’t like was everything else about the presentation; the story, the text dumps, and even the setting left me a little flat. Still, no platforming game has been this incredibly well put-together. Blow might be a bit of a dick, but he knows how to think up insane puzzles, and that’s awesome. I hope his next game doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth like this one did, because he’s clearly an incredibly talented director.
CraigG: Just a wonderfully mellow, yet often frustrating platformer. I play this to relax after getting worked up over Fallout.
Mitch Krpata: Twisted my brain like a pretzel. This is a game in which everything comes together in perfect harmony. Whether it’s the hand-painted visuals, the oblique textual narration, or the darkening storyline, Braid casts a spell. During development, it got its share of attention for the sometimes colorful personality of its creator and sole designer, Jonathan Blow. Since its release, debate has raged as to whether Braid is an artistic high-water mark or pretentious wankery. But there’s no need to decide at this moment whether Braid is an important game. That’s for history to decide. Enough for now to say that it’s a damn good one.
Polyphonic: This is probably the most innovative game of the year, and the short time I spent with it was among the best gaming experiences I can recall. I have shown this game to so many people, many of them gaming neophytes, and everyone has been blown away by this game, and usually a little overwhelmed by it. It’s a profoundly unusual experience to play this game, but to play it well is satisfying in a way that few games are. There are plenty of games that provide a test of your reflexes, but few that challenge your intellect as much as this game. One of the best puzzles of all time.
How do you go about reviewing a videogame in which the main character is named after yourself, a videogame made by someone you’ve met and had dinner with, someone you’ve watched drink Chartreuse and conversed long with about videogame design? It’s a difficult encounter. How do you go about reviewing a game designed by someone who is a confessed devoted fan of your writing?
Brilliam: This game was instrumental to my friends’ ability to keep in touch once everyone moved across this giant, freezing country. Now, I’ll be honest: this is a game best experienced in groups of four or eight. Once you throw strangers into the mix, it’s less fun. But, when you play with a crew that you’ve been gaming with ages, and you know each other’s weird gaming idiosyncrasies and you’re forced to take care of each other while a sadistic AI attempts to bleed you out over the course of a dozen incredibly thoughtful set pieces, you end up realizing how awesome those gaming relationships can really be. My favorite gaming moment of the year was probably when Andy was charging ahead, and Angus was trying to be super-careful and thoughtful, and Travis was accidentally shooting everyone in the back, and I wasn’t paying any attention and a smoker choked me to death. Even though we hadn’t really displayed those tendencies in this game yet, it was so us. And it was great. Add to that some of the most thoughtful social satire in zombie-related media since Dawn of the Dead (‘I miss the Internet,’ the how-many-zombies-I-killed pissing contests, Zoey calling zombie bullshit) and you’ve got a game that was really worth the long wait.
John Justen: Online is great, single player feels mostly pointless and included only as a means to online play.
Nhex: My Left 4 Dead vote is based solely on the demo levels, which were damn good.
JeffLevine: The co-op zombie apocalypse game we always dreamed of.
Mitch Krpata: Each playthrough tells a new and different tale. Left 4 Dead doesn’t follow the traditional rules of survival horror — it’s as slick and responsive a first-person shooter as you’ll find — but it does make its resources scarce, in the classic genre tradition. Each player can carry only one health pack at a time, with the rare opportunity to find more scattered throughout the levels. At least once a game, you’ll have to decide whether to give a spare health pack to a dying teammate or hang onto it because you know you’ll need it later. One of the true pleasures of Left 4 Dead is discovering how other players answer these questions — and how you do.
Polyphonic: Maybe it’s a little weird to put a game I’ve only played three times this high on my list, but this is a seriously impressive game. I tend to overrate games that provide great storytelling and atmosphere. This game has that in spades, and no game has ever been more tense, and few games have ever been as fun to play with friends.
75 points, 6 votes, .5 TOP GAME vote
Circa1916: Man, super addictive. It’s hard playing with the Xbox controller, but I’ve learned you’re better off just using the analog stick because that d-pad is hopeless. This is like 1000x better with a stick. Night and day. I’m actually hitting dragon punches regularly. Best fighting game netcode, like, ever btw. This cleaned up 14 year old piece makes most modern fighting games look pretty shitty.
Cozwn: It’s so addictive too; I’ve just gone like 0-20 against two guys in the lobby I’m in and I’m still really enjoying it…
Jamescobo: I’ve kind of fallen in love with the inscrutability of hardcore (or apparently even semi-hardcore) SFII players. Reading through reaction threads feels like reading Clockwork Orange again for the first time. Between this, Wipeout HD, Chrono Trigger, Mother 3, Space Invaders Extreme, and (I guess) Okami, 2008 might be an even better year for remakes than for ‘new’ games.
MPX4A: The online in this is great. Getting stuck in a lobby spectating a match ought to be boring, but scouting some flash guy winning in straight rounds and expecting to get caned, then playing him and winning is fun.
Jamescobo: Best remaster since ‘The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads’.
73 points, 6 votes, 1.5 TOP GAME votes
Nhex: I don’t own a current generation console besides the DS, so my picks reflect that for the most part – my time with next-gen games comes mostly from playing friends’ machines during visits. That’s why Rock Band 2 scores so highly, and the two Wii games that were quite fun but played less score lower down the list.
Mitch Krpata: The most purely fun game I played in 2008. Alone or with friends, for five minutes or five hours, it always leaves me smiling. The gameplay is just terrific. My drum skills are at the point where medium difficulty is a little too easy and hard difficulty is just about within my range. It seems like Harmonix has calibrated the difficulty levels exactly — the toughest songs on medium seem about equal to the easiest songs on hard. It’s a simple and logical progression for the low-talent drummer.
HI DERE: I got my wife to start a band with me! She’s playing bass and every now and then gets mad at me because on easy, the guitar parts are way easier most of the time.
Mr. Snrub: WHY DOES THE WII VERSION SUCK SO FUCKING BAD??? Screw it. I’m getting an 360 and buying that version. I don’t care if it costs $550 or whatever.
Polyphonic: Disappointing. It’s like they just released the first game with new songs, and even made it harder to unlock songs. Maybe it’s better if you have the $300 drum kit but the regular new kit isn’t much better than the old one and a lot of the early songs in the playlist kinda suck. Too easy even compared to the last one.
64 points, 5 votes, 1 TOP GAME vote
Brilliam: More games need to steal this idea: make an engine that is SO GOOD that nothing feels like a chore.
John Justin: Seems like it’s getting kind of slept on because ‘yawn another Burnout game’ but the open architecture is a great idea and all the free DLC makes it feel like Christmas all the time. Other game devs should wise up and realize that free DLC is the way to build continual sales into your product and to maintain your user base.
S1ocki: There are some serious problems with this game–free-roaming racing just don’t make much sense– but it’s still fun to grab for an hour here and there.
Jamescobo: If Little Big Planet gives you a complete set of tools, Burnout Paradise gives you a closed system with nigh-unto-endless variables – a single city which can instantly be populated by other human players at the press of a single button. It’s SimAnt at 200mph. It’s great. Also big ups to the developers who keep supporting this game with free new content to this day; I just wish I could have been a fly on the wall when they pitched it to EA (for god’s sakes). Also: LCD Soundsystem on the soundtrack!
Jeff Le Vine: I love the graphics, especially now that they added a day night cycle, but the racing just sucks.