Best Sound -- Call of Duty 2
Part of the allure of the original Call of Duty was the way the sound helped draw players into the battles, taking our award for Best Sound in 2003. Call of Duty 2 continues this trend with sound effects that will rattle you whether you're playing with a full-blown surround sound setup or a pair of headphones.
To start, the weapon sounds in CoD2 were so sharp that you could practically feel your weapons rumble as you fired them. You'll want to duck as bullets whizz overhead, and run for cover with every huge explosion. An orchestral score was used sparingly, more to provide a brief emotional effect at the end of a mission than as a traditional soundtrack, and a new "battle chatter" system helped create a chaotic battlefield where soldiers on both sides were constantly screaming orders at each other. The Call of Duty games have always been about making you feel like you're in the middle of the action, and CoD2's sound achieved that better than any other PC game in 2005.
Best Music -- The Movies
The Glitz! The Glam! The Tympani Drums! The Movies is a game about our love affair with Hollywood, and it backs it up with a stellar soundtrack. The loading screen / main theme has a great classic glamorous Hollywood feel, and as you progress through the eras the in-game music shifts accordingly. Simple piano numbers accompany your earliest silent films, but by the time you get to your epic blockbusters of later eras, there's music available for every genre. Sultry saxophone solos suitable for mysteries, booming action movie drums, heroic orchestral cowboy scores, funny romantic quartets... even if you're lousy at actually making movies, you can always count on Lionhead's brilliant soundtrack to give your pictures some class and recall the glory days of Hollywood.
Honorable Mention: Civilization IV - The main theme from the hit sequel is a unique "World Fusion" kind of sound, part African Drums, part chanting, part orchestral, that really calls to mind the epic sweep of the title. Throughout the rest of the game the music highlights the different eras, with different themes depending on if you're at peace or at war. The original scores eventually give way to contemporary orchestral themes that should sound familiar to most gamers, but the original music definitely deserves a nod.
Honorable Mention: Age of Empires III - With a full orchestral composition that captures the scope and majesty of the frontier, Age III's music really sets the mood. Long-time strategy gamers will recognize the original Age of Empires anthem coming through the music, which evolves from harsh percussion to full orchestras as you zoom through the ages.