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2005 Winners

The 33 media outlets voting for the Game Critics Awards: Best of E3 2005 are proud to announce this year's winning games.  Spore from Maxis and Electronic Arts leads with 4 wins including "Best of Show."

Fast Facts: Read winner breakdown by game, publisher and platform here.

Best of Show
Spore
(Maxis/Electronic Arts for PC)
If God were one of us, he'd look a lot like Will Wright. At this year's E3, the hype for the new consoles was so deafening that the games themselves became an afterthought. But once the sound and fury faded into background noise, one game stood undeniably above the rest. The concept behind Spore is deceptively simple--you guide the evolution of a single-celled organism from a drop of water to the furthest reaches of the universe--but a better word might be accessible. Wright and his team plumb our collective unconscious, extracting barely remembered biology, astronomy and history lessons; they weld its high concept to now-classic gameplay from titles like Pac-Man and Civilization; and they tie it all together with tools that are as intuitive as Lego blocks and as playful as Silly Putty. Wright calls Spore a tool for epic creativity. We call it Best of Show.

- N'Gai Croal, General Editor, Newsweek

Best Original Game
Spore
(Maxis/Electronic Arts for PC)
Ask Will Wright about the research he drew on to create Spore and the reading list will include At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity, and The Anthropic Cosmological Principle -- two bleeding edge science tomes that are dangerous to crack open without a PhD. There is also a film on the list: Powers of 10, a 1977 short by the designers Ray and Charles Eames. The nine-minute film begins with a photo of a man at a picnic, and then in one fluid shot pulls out to the intergalactic level, then back down to earth and into the man’s hand until the camera reaches the microscopic view of a single carbon atom. What does this have to do with Spore winning best original game? It proves that everything is inspired by something else. But instead of re-treading the same Hollywood action/horror fare that infects E3 annually, Wright chose better source material.

- Noah Robischon, Contributing Writer, Entertainment Weekly

Best Hardware/Peripheral
PlayStation 3
(Sony Computer Entertainment / Nvidia / IBM / Toshiba)

At an E3 in which hardware was the big story, the Sony PlayStation 3, hands down, delivered the most impressive performance. OK, the system won’t be available for many months to come -- spring 2006  -- and the system was not playable at the show. But Sony did show impressive live technology demonstrations of the CELL chip and Nvidia RSX graphics processor to show why PS3 will be be the most powerful next-generation video game system. If it even approaches the realism and depth shown in Electronic Art’s demonstration of Fight Night Round 3, the cinematic grandeur of SCEE’s Killzone and the artistic humanity of Sony Studios’ virtual Alfred Molina (Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man 2), the PS3 promises to be a true next-generation revelation for gamers.

-- Mike Snider, USA Today

Best Console Game
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
(Nintendo for GameCube)
Each morning when the E3 show floor opened up, throngs of people stampeded towards Nintendo's booth to get in line to play The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. No other game at the show drew this kind of a crowd. Much of the battle for E3 this year was waged at the big press conferences before the show. But with Zelda, Nintendo delivered an important reminder about what probably matters most of all: giving people a chance to actually play the hottest upcoming games. At the end of that hour-long wait was an experience well worth the premium amount of time -- a game that seems poised to live up to Nintendo's beloved action adventure series, while featuring numerous surprising twists, a beautiful look, and gameplay that already feels responsive, varied, and exciting. Look no further than a perfect example of how to reinvigorate a classic franchise at E3.

-- Greg Kasavin, Executive Editor, GameSpot

Best PC Game
Spore
(Maxis/Electronic Arts for PC)
Although not due for at least another year and a half, Maxis' Spore was by far the most impressive game on any system at this year's big show, and wowed the E3 critics enough to garner the win for Best PC Game, as well as several other awards.  In terms of scope, Spore promises to be the largest game that we've ever played. The basic concept sees you as the ultimate architect for a new species, choosing the evolutionary path of a creature from its genesis to the progression of the species into an advanced society.  Since you're playing the development of an organism from its crawl out of the primordial ooze to a space-faring, universe-exploring (and most likely conquering) civilization, Spore has almost limitless playability. Couple this with the fact that the game will automatically upload your gameplay content to other players and download everyone else's ecological and cultural data to your computer, and you're talking about the potential to truly explore a virtual universe consisting of millions of planets on your hard drive.

- Tal Blevins, Editorial Manager, IGN.com

Best Handheld Game
Nintendogs
(Nintendo for Nintendo DS)

Awwww, so ceeey-ute. That's the unavoidable reaction when first spying Nintendo's endearing and extremely involving pet simulation, which is already a massive hit in Japan. And now Nintendogs is just as likely to win over both kids and the kids at heart in the U.S. The game features incredibly lifelike canines who play, eat, do tricks, win Frisbee competitions, and respond to an owner's customized voice commands (or not, if they're feeling naughty) -- even Arnie couldn't call you a girlie-man for falling in love with these adorable pups. And get this: Pop the DS into your pocket, take the train home from work, cross paths with another random Nintendogs owner, and you may find a new doggie visitor when you open the device back up -- all thanks to a clever implementation of the system's wi-fi capabilities.  The DS has been short on great software, but Nintendogs could finally be the handheld's killer app.

-- Richard Greenhill, Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo! Video Games

Best Action Game
F.E.A.R.
(Monolith/Vivendi-Universal Games for PC)
Standing out from the crowd in this hotly-contested category ain’t easy. F.E.A.R. didn’t just stand out, but leapt out with its paranormal/horror skew built into one of the most impressive first-person action systems we’ve seen so far. While graphically impeccable, F.E.A.R.’s most striking accomplishment seems to be in its enemy A.I. and how that helps crafts unique action scenes – one enemy pulls a shelf unit down to block your path, and as you back off another crawls through the gap it leaves to try and get a bead on you. A bullet-time mode creates such indelible moments of grenade explosions and bullet fire that they promise to sear themselves in your head as much as the freaky mind-messing moments destined to send shivers down your spine.

-- Rob Smith, Co-Chairman, Game Critics Awards
Editor-in-Chief, Official Xbox Magazine

Best Action/Adventure Game
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
(Nintendo for GameCube)
Amidst all of the fanfare of next generation consoles, Nintendo’s stalwart GameCube delivered the most immersive adventure experience of the show. Link has traversed the ages with intuitive gameplay that’s opened the role-playing genre to the masses. With its breathtaking visuals, realistic animation and unique new gameplay, Twilight Princess is the game that Nintendo fans have always dreamed about. Like the millions of fans around the globe that grew up playing him, Link has matured in this new adventure, outgrowing the cel-shaded visuals of Wind Waker, while retaining its natural controls. Whether exploring the massive lands of Hyrule on horseback or by foot, this captivating game promises a rousing adventure unlike anything yet seen in the franchise. Interacting with animals and people within the world and utilizing weapons to vanquish assorted monsters, Twilight Princess is the perfect blend of gorgeous graphics, dynamic sound and deep gameplay.

- John Gaudiosi, The Hollywood Reporter

Best Fighting Game
Soul Calibur III
(Namco for PlayStation 2)
Fighting games have become a quiet genre of late except in the house of Namco, who refuses to put the sheath to Soul Calibur. This game has been consistently championing the cause of weapons fighting with brilliant action, consistently improving presentation, a constantly growing stable of combatants, and innovative features. Soul Calibur 3 was the hard core standout fighter at E3. There are three new characters this time around, which brings the entire cast up to a total of 25. They each wield a unique weapon, of course, including the world’s most deadly “hula hoop.” Even so you won’t be limited to the stock on hand since this season’s offering enables you to create your own fighter. Soul Calibur remains as sharp as ever.

-- Wes Nihei, Editor, GamePro

Best Role Playing Game
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
(Bethesda Software for PC / Xbox 360)
One of the first games to be declared for “next generation consoles” but demonstrated on the PC, Bethesda’s latest installment in the classic Elder Scrolls franchise enjoyed a virtually flawless E3 presentation. We expected the spectacular visual style (and hope for even more realistic detail when running on final Xbox 360 hardware), but were still blown away by the scale and detail of this open-ended world. NPCs fulfilling regular daily routines, accurate lip-synching helping convey emotion in the dialogue, as well as supplying the location to the nearest creatures to batter, and a lush game world to explore sets up Oblivion as a true next generation RPG. In crafting a living, breathing fantasy world to explore, Bethesda seems well on track to eclipse the critical and commercial success of Morrowind.

-- Rob Smith, Co-Chairman, Game Critics Awards
Editor-in-Chief, Official Xbox Magazine

Best Racing Game
Burnout Revenge
(Criterion Games/Electronic Arts for PlayStation 2, Xbox)
Criterion Games has done it again. In 2004 Burnout 3: Takedown won this category and ended up on many Game of the Year lists. This year Alex Ward and his talented team in Guildford, UK deliver a sweet after touch: The Best Racing Award for a second year running. This fourth installment of the Burnout series shows why this franchise continues to define the next generation of racing. While other racing games pursue realism for the sake of detailed simulation, the Burnout team chases realism with a big-budget Hollywood action slant. The result is a stunning game set in Detroit, Rome and Tokyo that plays like an intense movie chase sequence that lasts 20 hours. You ram rival cars with pyrotechnic splendor and take part in a new crash mode where your car flies through the air like a missile.  It's more than just a racing game -- it's an interactive destruction derby where, thankfully, you don’t pick up the insurance bill.

-- Geoff Keighley, Co-Chairman, Game Critics Awards
Contributing Writer, Business 2.0
 

Best Simulation Game
Spore
(Maxis/Electronic Arts for PC)
It should come as little surprise that Will Wright, the founding father of the Sim genre, makes off with the Best Simulation Award of E3 2005. EA’s remarkable Spore first caused a stir at the GDC conference in March, but few were prepared for the ambitious, breathtaking game nestled in the back of the company’s cavernous E3 booth. From the dregs of the primordial swamp to the outer reaches of the universe, players will be handed the reigns of an evolutionary epic, growing a single-celled organism into a high-tech civilization. If you can wrap your head around that, try mentally chewing on the game’s innovative use of procedural animation technology (hand animators, get those resumes updated), astoundingly intuitive editing tool or the fact that the entire universe is populated by user-created content. Evolution is supposed to take time, but we simply can’t wait to get our hands on this brilliant blueprint.

-- Ben Silverman, Game-Revolution.com

Best Sports Game
Madden NFL 06
(EA Tiburon/EA Sports for All Platforms)

EA may have knocked off the competition through an exclusive deal with the NFL, but the Madden NFL team is not resting on its laurels. Determined to prove that their game has lost nothing but its competition, EA's Tiburon team used E3 to demonstrate new innovations to Madden NFL such as "QB Vision Control," a range-of-vision dynamic that impacts the quarterback's ability to complete passes. EA has also upped the simulation aspects of Madden NFL 06 with a new superstar mode that lets virtual lifestyle decisions players make off the field impact the way the NFL athletes play in the game.  Even having added impressive new features and innovations, EA continues to work on the gloss and polish that have become its trade. As Sony and Microsoft prepare to launch new game consoles, EA has demonstrated its commitment to make the next generation Madden NFL the most visually striking sports game of all-time.

- Steve Kent, Contributing Editor, Seattle Post

Best Strategy Game
Company of Heroes
(Relic/THQ for PC)
While high-end graphics cards are the norm for PC gamers looking to get their action groove on, rarely are these cards bought with the intention to play the latest real-time strategy game.  That may change with Company of Heroes, which  wowed the crowd with both its visuals and its core RTS elements from the creators of Homeworld and Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War. The movement of the soldiers during different encounters was as impressive as the game's environments - almost anything on the screen can be blown up and used for cover, giving a fundamental realism to the battle sequences. Company of Heroes proves that in order to stand out in a genre that has become stocked with the ordinary, there can be no boundaries.

- Derek Collins, Games Editor, Comcast.net

Best Puzzle/Trivia/Parlor Game
We Love Katamari
(Namco for PlayStation 2)
Despite its quiet launch, quirky Japanese premise and often-mispronounced name, Namco’s Katamari Damacy (“Cat-a-marri dam-ah-see”) became one of the most talked-about video games of last year. As the inch-high son of the King of All Cosmos, you’re sent to Earth to create a round katamari, or clump, achieved by first rolling small objects such as thumbtacks and erasers, before tackling larger items such as people and cars – all within predetermined time limits. Unveiled at the E3 ‘05, the aptly-named We Love Katamari proves you can create a sequel that doesn’t stray far from an original formula but adds many new features to satiate fans of the franchise. Due out this October, this PS2 sequel introduces new objects and interactive environments (ranging from an ocean floor to the streets of Paris), bonus playable characters, enhanced split-screen multiplayer battles and the piece de resistance, a cooperative mode so two players can simultaneously roll the same katamari. Indeed, We Love Katamari.

-- Marc Saltzman, Gannett News Service

Best Online Multiplayer
Battlefield 2
(Digital Illusions/Electronic Arts for PC)

Digital Illusions has owned the hearts and minds of online warriors for a long time.  Now, with a near final version of Battlefield 2 available at E3 this year, one could easily surmise that this trend may never end. Battlefield 2, apart from looking leagues better than its predecessors, also delivers significant enhancements in its gameplay. Now players can not only employ any weapon or vehicle they can see--split among modern US, Chinese and fictional Middle Eastern forces--they can also rise through the ranks in the game to the level of Commander and provide strategic orders to the soldiers fighting on the front lines. More emphasis on teamwork is the key this time and to aid in player-to-player communication, voice-over-IP is built right into the Battlefield 2 engine. Best of all, the wait won't be long. This E3 award winner hits stores in a matter of weeks!

- Victor Lucas, Host/Executive Producer, Electric Playground

Special Commendation for Graphics
NON-PLAYABLE GAMES ELIGIBLE IN THIS CATEGORY
Killzone
(Guerilla Games/Sony Computer Entertainment Europe for PS3)
Every E3, a demo comes along that exceeds our expectations of how compelling and engrossing a game can be. This year we tip our hats to Sony. Not only did it manage to keep PS3 under wraps until its press conference, but it also concluded the event with an awe-inspiring video of the next Killzone. The action was frenetic and over-the-top: ISA soldiers engaging Helghast forces in a war-torn urban city.  Vehicles exploding. Rockets firing. Your fellow comrades screaming in agony. We were speechless. Has gameplay finally matched the visual splendor of cinematics? After speaking with Sony, this was indeed only a demonstration of what can be expected of PS3 – a visual target. But if it is any indication of what games are going to look like, all we can do is wait with bated breath and hope for greatness next year.

-- Tom Ham, Contributing Editor, Washington Post

Past winners:
[2004] [2003 - 1998]