2004 Winners

Fast Facts on Winners: Read a breakdown of wins by game, publisher and platform here.

Best of Show
Sony PSP
(Mobile Gaming System - Sony Computer Entertainment)
The tenth anniversary of E3 was overflowing with impressive new videogames. But more than any one title, the headlines were captured by two new mobile gaming devices. The DS demonstrated Nintendo's ability to innovate, but Sony’s PlayStation Portable (or PSP) is the device most likely to initiate a revolution in handheld gaming. There are, to be fair, unanswered questions about the PSP -- not the least of which is how much it will cost. Still, the PSP won our hearts and votes thanks to a sleek jet-black form factor and a spectacularly large and bright screen -- which is nearly as large as both Nintendo DS screens put together. But more than anything else, our confidence in PSP is rooted in Sony’s demonstration of games that will make the system appeal to players over 18. Walking away from E3, we are hard-pressed to imagine a post-pubescent gamer who won’t aspire to own the device when it arrives in the US by the end of March 2005. The PSP captured our imagination at E3 and, in turn, wins the Best of Show award. The dawn of a new age for portable gaming will soon begin.

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

Best Original Game
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
(Nintendo for GameCube)
Let's face it: Sony's year-old EyeToy is the kind of quietly brilliant peripheral that should have come from Nintendo, but didn't. So when word came that Nintendo's response would be a pair of bongos, for yet another rhythm game, the collective response was a quietly uninterested yawn. Then the Kyoto giant unveiled Donkey Kong Jungle Beat at E3, provoking a loud "Holy Sh*t!" from even the hardest of the hardcore gamers fortunate enough to get their hands on it. The concept -- a platformer built around the drum peripheral designed for Donkey Konga -- is so crazed that only Nintendo could have dreamt it up, yet it just feels so...right. Easy to learn, difficult to master and accessible as all get out, one can only hope that Donkey Kong Jungle Beat becomes the gateway drug that turns millions of people back onto Nintendo. Quiet, it ain't. But brilliant? Hell, yes.

- N'Gai Croal, General Editor, Newsweek

Best PC Game
Splinter Cell 3
(UbiSoft Montreal/UbiSoft for PC)
You have to work hard to keep improving on a winning formula. With the original Splinter Cell, stealth action received a sensational redefinition in a thoroughly captivating gaming experience. The franchise leapt over its own high bar with the sequel, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, thanks to an amazingly innovative multiplayer mode that rightly captivated gamers. With a strong field of candidates in the Best PC Game category, innovation was a key factor, and Splinter Cell 3 delivered. Its graphical fidelity was impressive on its own, helping construct stunningly realistic environments for skulking and stalking.  But the standout was the fresh cooperative multiplayer options. Two spies working together, pulling each other into new locations, using each other's skills to access different areas and hanging in the shadows to avoid detection - it's a thing of beauty, standing proudly above the PC gaming competition as the Best PC game of E3 2004.

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

Best Console Game
Halo 2
(Bungie Studios/Microsoft for Xbox)
Beating back every other title in this category for the second year running is no small feat. How did Bungie do it? Simple: It upgraded last year’s single player demo to a multiplayer frag-stravaganza. There was nothing surprising about the Spartans’ obscenely polished visors, or the umpteenth permutation of capture the flag on the Zanzibar map. No, it was the subtleties -- the way it felt to rip through a Covenant Elite with weapons in each hand, or watching a Warthog wobble off course after having a single tire blown off. An obsessive familiarity with the original Halo, while not required, made these nuances even more drool-worthy. And just when you figured out how to ride the fan blade to the top and shoot the latch that drops the platform leading to the killer Plasma Sword, well, the next demolition crew was on deck. And suddenly November 9th seemed like a long time to wait.

-- Noah Robischon, Entertainment Weekly

Best Peripheral/Hardware
(Mobile Gaming System - Sony Computer Entertainment)

From its sleek, black ergonomic design to the large 4.3-inch 16:9 widescreen screen, PSP emits coolness. Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s dominance of the handheld market has the potential to become the iPod of the entertainment world by fusing videogames, movies and music into one compact travel accessory. With graphical power on par with PS2 games and visuals that border on HDTV clarity, no portable gaming system has ever packed this kind of power. Of course, a game system is only as good as the software, and Sony has aligned 100 third part publishers to help the system get started on the right foot. A bevy of wireless connectivity opens up new gameplay options as players can interact with other PSPs, PCs, and PS2s. While Sony’s PSP will stand on its own as a game machine, its Universal Media Discs will introduce a new format to view movies and music videos on the go. In a crowded field, Sony has produced the best portable entertainment device yet.

-- John Gaudiosi, Hollywood Reporter

Best Action Game
Halo 2
(Bungie Studios/Microsoft for Xbox)
The original Halo not only set a new bar for intelligent, action packed shooters -- it also cast a huge shadow over all of the Xbox games that would follow it. The doubters believed the system would never receive a better game. They were wrong. Halo 2 is loaded with a feature set that makes every gamer weak in the knees. The graphics, sounds and gameplay have all been vastly improved. Want destructible vehicles and environments? You got ‘em. Want to be able to carjack an enemy’s ride? You’re all set. Shoot two weapons at once? Yep. Slice up foes with a Covenant Energy Sword? Done. Best of all, thanks to Xbox Live, there’s no need to share tiny sections of a TV screen, look for online “tunnels,” or find rich friends with an Xbox LAN. Ask yourself this: What other game will you be playing November 9th?

-- Victor Lucas, Executive Producer/Host, Electric Playground

Best Action/Adventure Game
Splinter Cell 3
(UbiSoft Montreal/UbiSoft for PC)
The line between what is real and what is a game keeps getting blurred.  Just look at Splinter Cell 3.  The latest chapter of the stealth action series does the franchise proud with cutting edge – not to mention atmospheric -- graphics. As Sam Fisher trudges through one mission, rain begins to fall and his outfit gets noticeably wet.  But perhaps Splinter Cell 3’s greatest contribution to the stealth action genre may come from its online multiplayer mode. Cooperative play has been underutilized in games, but this game’s co-op mode forces players to use teamwork to complete tasks like climbing up over ledges and crawling through air vents. Get in line to buy this one when it is released; you won’t be disappointed.

- Pete Metzger, Los Angeles Times

Best Fighting Game
Def Jam: Fight for New York
(EA Canada/EA Games for All Console Systems)
Though the days of dumping quarters into arcade fighting games may be over for most of us, the surging popularity of online-enabled video games means there's a renewed demand for titles in which two (or more) players can beat each other up. A number of noteworthy games in this category were on display at E3 2004, and the one that impressed the judges most of all was Def Jam: Fight for NY, EA's upcoming sequel to 2003's Def Jam Vendetta. This visually impressive game promises to deliver an even more action-packed combat system, borderline-ridiculous numbers of new characters and customization options, and a grittier style than its predecessor. The promise of being able to fight online using your favorite muscle-bound hip-hop artist or even your own creation is one reason why we can’t wait for this fight to get underway.

-- Greg Kasavin, Executive Editor, GameSpot

Best Role Playing Game
Jade Empire
(Bioware/Microsoft for Xbox)
After winning the Best Role Playing Game award for five out of the past seven E3 shows, we think it's safe to say that BioWare knows what they're doing when it comes to RPGs. With this year's winner -- Jade Empire -- the Canadian RPG masters are taking their expertise to the next level by putting a new twist on a venerable genre. That twist is blending the rich storyline and deep character development we've come to expect from an RPG with a real-time, twitch-based combat system. Set against a mythological Chinese backdrop, this RPG doesn’t follow the model of every other RPG we've played in the past – and that’s why it’s a fitting winner as this year’s Best RPG.

- Tal Blevins, Editorial Manager, IGN

Best Racing Game
Burnout 3
(Criterion Games/Electronic Arts for PlayStation 2, Xbox)
While other racing games may be more simulation than peddle-to-the-metal racer, the Burnout series has never strayed far from its over-the-top, high-speed action crashes. Amen to that. With this third installment, developer Criterion Games is taking the speed and the spectacular pile-ups to a new level -- online. Burnout 3 screams to be played online and now up to six players can play simultaneously on either the PlayStation 2 or, for the first time, over Xbox Live. With more than 70 different cars, tight controls and spectacular visuals, this game has moved itself from the middle to the front of the racing pack.

                                                 -- Derek Collins, Editorial Director, Happy Puppy

Best Simulation Game
The Sims 2
(Maxis/EA Games for PC)
The sequel to the best-selling PC game of all-time, The Sims 2 is the Seinfeld of interactive entertainment. Like its predecessor, The Sims 2 celebrates the mundane situations of life, letting players control an on-screen character and tend to his/her needs. And with its fully 3D presentation, you can now observe the action first hand. Some of the less entertaining tedium of life -- like cleaning and bathing -- has been stripped away and replaced with “personalities” which let players specialize their sim’s talents and interests. The original The Sims won acclaim for its wit and originality. The Sims 2 captures this year’s Best Simulation award for having improved game mechanics, a more immersive player perspective, and most importantly, the same absurd sense of humor that made the original such a classic.

-- Steve Kent, Seattle Post

Best Sports Game
Madden NFL 2005
(EA Tiburon/EA Sports for All Systems)

Although Madden NFL Football has long been the measuring stick that all sports games are measured against, EA Sports has not wasted the off-season resting on its laurels. This year’s edition, Madden NFL 2005, will give fans of defense plenty to celebrate. Players can now counter quarterback audibles by changing defensive formations and coverages at the last second, just as we see defenses do on TV. And with the new Hit Stick, you can gamble that your tackler can deliver a bone-shattering hit -- using the right analog stick -- and perhaps cause a fumble. In addition to these revolutionary additions, EA Sports has improved the look of the players and the environments. The skies in the background, for instance, look incredibly realistic. Once again, EA has taken another step closer to letting players simulate their own any given Sundays.

- Mike Snider, USA Today

Best Strategy Game
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth
(EALA/EA Games for PC)
What’s the most lasting impression of the Battle for Middle Earth? Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of orcs all lined up baying for blood. At least that’s what it seemed like. The epic battles of the Lord of the Rings movies have been brought to the PC in spectacular fashion, and the first question from the lips of most that saw this game was, “How could they possibly have done that?”  Best of all, the huge armies aren't just groups of mindless brutes -- they are aware and react to their surroundings. Squads of combatants bait each other before (and during) battle. And with each passing victory, the troops get whipped up into a fervor that further enhances the experience. Once again, Electronic Arts proves that it can tap into the essence of a film franchise and produce a game perfectly suited for both the fans and the platform on which it appears, the PC. A worthy winner -- and a victory write-up without a single Middle Earth cliché in sight!

- John Davison, Editorial Director, Ziff Davis Media Game Group

Best Puzzle/Trivia/Parlor Game
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat
(Nintendo for GameCube)
The bongos peripheral Nintendo is hawking for its Donkey Konga rhythm game is cool, but it’d be easy to see it being doomed to one-shot status like the maracas from Samba de Amigo or the room-sized controller from Steel Battalion. Fortunately, the Big N isn’t going to let these drums go gently: Witness Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Upon first glance, it may seem like an ordinary platformer. But then you realize that the only way D.K. will boogie across the screen is if you start tapping the bongo skins. Pound the left bongo to run left, pound the right bongo to run right, pound them both to jump, and just pray that your general lack of rhythm isn’t enough to doom Kong to an early grave. Combined with a bunch of mini-games (such as a boxing scene in which you have to rapidly strike the drums to punch out an opponent), Donkey Kong Jungle Beat’s unique twist on platforming stole plenty of hearts at the show. You can bet Matthew McConaughey already has his copy on order.

-- Eric Eckstein, UGO

Best Online Multiplayer
Halo 2
(Bungie Studios/Microsoft for Xbox)

Last E3, when Bungie showed us the brilliant single player gameplay of Halo 2, we cheered. This year, after Bungie revealed the much-anticipated multiplayer gameplay, we cheered again. Of all the multiplayer games on the show floor this year, none left an impression on us like Halo 2. Capture the Flag was the name of the game, and the African beachfront of Zanzibar was the location. With Covenant forces taking control of the city, it’s up to the Master Chief and his fellow Marines to go in and conquer. With 16-player support, new weapons, improved graphics and an incredibly complex damage model, Halo 2 multiplayer is everything we’ve come to expect and much more. This is online multiplayer redefined.

                                                         - Tom Ham, Washington Post

Special Commendation for Graphics
Splinter Cell 3
(UbiSoft Montreal/UbiSoft for PC)
For all of Sam Fisher’s stealth, there was still no surprise when Splinter Cell 3 won this award. The first two Splinter Cell games were visually stunning; the third takes the series’ visual pizzazz to the next level. Spectacular shadows and lighting heighten the game’s tense ambiance. Amazing facial animations show every pained expression. And new environments effects like rain draw you further into Fisher’s world. Many games at E3 featured great eye candy, but Splinter Cell 3 earns this award because its graphics help create rich and compelling stealth scenarios -- ones we can't wait to play later this year.

-- Darren Gladstone, Senior Editor, Computer Gaming World