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BAFTA Game Awards: Action/Adventure

As the nominations for this year’s British Academy of Film and Televisual Arts Video Games Awards were announced today, so begins our coverage.We’ll be previewing the genre awards as well as the coveted Best Game and the Game Award of 2008, the only award to be voted for by the public.First up, we’ll look at the nominees for the Action & Adventure category as well as offering our tip for the award.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Activision/Infinity Ward)A slightly odd nomination, given that it’s the only game on the list not to be released in 2008 (Nov 2007) but ours is not to question the wisdom of BAFTA.After the lacklustre Trayarch-developed Call of Duty 3 failed to pack the same critical impact as its predecessor, Inifinity Ward once again took control of the franchise. The fourth COD game moved the action away from WWII into near-future Middle Eastern and European settings. The result is not only visually spectacular, no other console shooter (and, yes, we’ve played Killzone 2) comes close to matching its inspired mix of butter-smooth controls and frenetic atmosphere. Dead Space (EA)Normally, games which revolve around gore don’t tend to offer much in the way of depth, but EA’s Dead Space turned out to be the exception to the rule. The game’s intelligent combination of high production values, Event Horizon-style atmospheric horror and “strategic dismemberment” proved compelling and it turned out to be one of the sleeper hits of the year. Fable II (Microsoft/Lionhead)Prior to the game’s release, Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux pleaded with critics to make sure they played the game with a non-gamer in order to grasp its universal appeal. It turns out he needn’t have bothered, because Fable II managed to effortlessly charm the pants off critics and gamers alike. Focusing on pure gaming freedom, action and consequence are what drives Fable II and, when combined with an engaging story and wonderful voice acting, we have one of the best RPGs around. Grand Theft Auto IV (Rockstar)The most anticipated game of last year saw the series take a step away from exaggerated, campy violence (see Saints Row 2) towards a darker, more realistic tale. That’s not to say GTA became The Wire, however, as the game retained its predecessors’ comic, satirical edge, this time taking on the dark side of the American Dream. Main character Niko proved to be the gaming character of the year as he bumbled his way through the underworld of Liberty City, searching for “that special someone.” Prince of Persia (Ubisoft)2008 saw the return of the Prince to our consoles, albeit in a slightly remixed fashion. An open world PoP was apparently the aim, but a troubled development period put pay to that as the developers struggled to reconcile the acrobatics with the setting. Luckily, the core gameplay was as engaging as ever and, while the Prince’s wisecracking American makeover proved to be a more than a little annoying, it was nice to see the wall-runner back. Tomb Raider: Underworld (Eidos/Crystal Dynamics)Our hopes weren’t high for Lara Croft’s latest adventure, especially after it transpired that Eidos had attempted to block negative reviews from being published before the game’s release. Whilst not exactly a AAA title, and an odd choice for Action/Adventure game of the year, Underworld deserved praise for its lush visuals and fluid animations.  IncGamers’ WinnerAs much as we love Call of Duty 4 (Crossfire is still shooter nirvana), we’re not sure it belongs in a list for the Action/Adventure games of 2008. As such, we believe Molyneux’s Fable II deserves the award not only for its unique sense of freedom, but also because it features some of the best achievements yet (e.g. Take part in an orgy, responsibly).Honourable MentionIt is traditional, in the context of awards, for some highly deserving titles to be criminally overlooked and so we’ll be offering up one game for each genre which hasn’t been nominated. For the Action/Adventure category, we believe Saints Row 2 should have made the list. Now before anyone feels the need to cry “OMG!!!1!!! GTA CLONE! INCGAMERS SUXXORS”, we’d like to point out that, with the shifting tone of GTA in 2008, Saints Row 2 finally found its place in the genre. While Niko’s tale managed to be simultaneously clever, dark and funny, Saints Row 2 was 100% balls-out, batshit insane and all the better for it. Any doubters should grab a cheap copy with a mate and get stuck into one of the best co-op experiences of 2008.The British Academy Video Games Awards will take place on Tuesday 10 March at the London Hilton, Park Lane and will be hosted by Dara O’Briain.

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