The 2010 Listen Up Awards!

Well well well, here we are again, the end of another excellent year of games. We’ve been to deep space, the Wild West, crazy darkness worlds, and many other places through these last 365 days. While we’ve played and enjoyed it all, a lot of the enjoyment came from what we heard, whether it be a joke from a couple of wiseguys, a speech infused with courage and valor, or a sad lament to a tragic turn of events. Either way, the 2010 gaming year is impacted just as much by its sounds as it is the sights. Let’s recognize what stood out this year with the 2010 Listen Up Awards!!!!

First up: Best Environmental Sound!




I don’t think any game creates an environment as expertly as Limbo does. The eerieness of this world brimming with dangers is escalated with every footstep, as you’ll hear creaks and cracks that will make your hair stand on end. It’s interesting that a game like this has very very little music (the occasional swell of strings is all) but instead uses silence to create the environment. All you hear is the world around you, nothing more. The tension and creepiness created from a lack of sound makes Limbo an obvious choice for Best Environmental Sound.

HONORABLE MENTION: Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake


Dead Rising 2 "I saw what you did there."

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Oh Chuck Greene, how you make me laugh.

There’s two jokes in one here. Not only the obvious "saw" joke as Seymour is killed by a circular saw, but also the circumstance itself. Think about it: Seymour tells Chuck he’s "twice the man" Chuck is, then BAM! He’s gets cut in half. He’s twice the man Chuck is, just not in the way he originally thought himself to be. A lot of Chuck Greene’s quips after defeating psychopaths warrant a chuckle (killing Randy in the chapel is another good one) but this one takes the cake, earning the 2010 Listen Up award for Best One-Liner.

HONORABLE MENTION: Most of John Marston’s lines, Most of Joe Barbaro’s jokes


Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – Women Provide Little Distraction

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Well…this is certainly something you don’t expect to hear. We knew Leonardo was smart, but we always figured he didn’t have time for the ladies and that’s why we never saw him with one. Turns out that might not be the case after all. Luckily for the assassin, Ezio doesn’t quite pick up on Leonardo’s little nugget of information, creating an awkward and hysterical moment amidst the chaos of the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood storyline. Leave it to the experts at Ubisoft to throw lines like this where it’s least expected. For the second year in a row, the Assassin’s Creed franchise takes home the Best Dialogue award for 2010 thanks to Leo’s newfound, um, "interests."

HONORABLE MENTION: Mass Effect 2 – Giving Al-Jilani What She Deserves, RDR Undead Nightmare – Herbert Moon’s Tolerance Policy



Mafia II

Mafia II

The voice-acting in 2010 may be the best overall year for gaming voices in the history of the industry. Games like Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Dead Rising 2, and others really put a lot of emphasis on making their character speak as if they were talking right to you. No game this year, however, captured the essence of the dialogue better than 2K’s Mafia II. This game sounded like an old gangster movie a la "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas." There were times when I forgot I was playing a game and I truly thought that I was watching one of the aforementioned films. Even outside of the cutscene, when characters are speaking to each other in real time, the dialogue sounds natural and believeable, and that’s quite a trait. Because of this, Mafia II takes home the Best Voice Acting award for 2010.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, Dead Rising 2


Red Dead Redemption – Rob Wiethoff as John Marston

Red Dead Redemption

In my gaming history, I don’t think I’ve ever had a harder choice to make for an end-of-the-year accolade. Robert Constanzo as Joe Barbaro in Mafia II was exceptional, the kind of voice-acting performance some games can only dream about (sorry Heavy Rain). However, at the end of the day, Rob Wiethoff gave life to John Marston better than any other voice actor gave his character this year. When John had to be a tough guy, Rob made him sound like a tough guy. When John needed to be compassionate, Rob delivered. When John was being a jokester, Rob made the joke seem natural. The range of emotions that Wiethoff accomplishes for his character is extraordinary, something that Barbaro lacked (let’s face it, all he had to do was be a mafioso wise guy). It was a hard choice, but in the end, the range of emotion that needed to be conveyed gives the edge to Marston and Rob Wiethoff, my choice for Best Male Voice Actor of 2010.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mafia II – Robert Costanzo as Joe Barbaro, Mass Effect 2 – Martin Sheen as The Illusive Man


Mass Effect 2 – Yvonne Strahovski as Miranda Lawson


Not a lot of people agree with me here, but I thought Yvonne Strahovski did a fantastic job as Miranda Lawson. She perfectly portrayed the "not-so-perfect perfect woman": Miranda was genetically tailored to be the "perfect" woman, but inside that tough shell is a vulnerable, guilt-ridden woman. Strahovski puts the soul of the character into her voice, communicating all of the conflicting feelings that Miranda possesses as they come up. One instant, she could be the hardened Cerberus operative, the next she is talking about her sister and becoming upset. Without the voice behind it, the entire character suffers, and that’s why I feel Yvonne Strahovski is most deserving of the Best Female Voice Actor award.

HONORABLE MENTION: Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – Kristen Bell as Lucy Stillman, Starcraft II – Tricia Helfer as Sarah Kerrigan


Red Dead Redemption – "Compass (Red Dead on Arrival Version)" by Jamie Lidell

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The entire soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption is amazing. Every song seems to be perfectly written for the situation. However, I don’t think there’s ever been a scene in which the song creates the entire moment like "Compass" did in Red Dead Redemption. After John completes his task and he can finally go home to his family, he starts to ride away and this song begins. What follows is what I believe to be the best single moment in 2010 gaming. The smooth voice of Jamie Lidell fills the air, his words communicating love and a wish to see those lost, and the ride to your ranch is made all the more powerful. What a tremendous moment in a tremendous game, one that solidifies "Compass" as the 2010 Song of the Year.

HONORALE  MENTION: Mass Effect 2 – "Illusive Man," Heavy Rain – "Painful Memories:"


Jack Wall for Mass Effect 2

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No one knows how to write quite like Jack Wall. His knack for composing the perfect song for any situation is unbelievable. EVery song he worked on for Mass Effect 2 is an incredible listen, from the above "Illusive Man" to "Reflections" to "The End Run." Jack once revealed in an interview with me that he is able to watch the scene without any music at all and write his works around the scene he is witnessing. This allows him to imagine a tone that he wants his music to set, and he runs with that formula as he writes. This method is clearly working for him, as there’s no competing with Jack Wall as the 2010 Composer of the Year. Who knows, if he writes the music for Mass Effect 3 the same way, we may have a repeat winner on our hands.

HONORABLE MENTION: Normand Corbeil for Heavy Rain, Bill Elm and Woody Jackson for Red Dead Redemption, Gerard K. Marino for God of War III


DJ Hero 2

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Look, Guitar Hero and Rock Band and Dance Central can throw out whatever the hell they want to throw at us, but as long as DJ Hero is taking popular songs and mixing them together to form new, awesome tracks, there’s no way DJ Hero can be unseated from the Best Adapted Soundtrack award. Every time a new game comes out, the number of songs on my main playlist doubles because of all the amazing tracks. This year’s highlights are the Bad Romance Tiesto Mix above, "Just Dance" vs "Ghosts N Stuff," and "Human After All (FSG Remix)." This stuff is too good man, and as long as I keep getting more, DJ Hero 2 can take its rightful place as the Best Adapted Soundtrack of 2010.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rock Band 3, Dance Central, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock


Mass Effect 2

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There have been many great soundtracks this year. Red Dead Redemption‘s music captures the essence of being an outlaw while following John Marston around, but the soundtrack is heavy on tunes from known artists. Heavy Rain is another great soundtrack, but a lot of the songs sound the same, which diminishes the overall value. For my money, the best soundtrack of 2010 comes to us from wayyyy back on January 26th, in the form of Mass Effect 2. Every piece on this soundtrack can be listened to over and over again. Every song lends itself perfectly to the scene it is attributed to. Every single thing you can ask for in a gaming soundtrack, Mass Effect 2‘s score delivers and more. Look no further than BioWare’s epic for the Best Original Score of 2010.

HONORABLE MENTION: Red Dead Redemption, Heavy Rain, God of War III


Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3

I know I just picked Mass Effect 2 for 2010 Score of the Year, but who’s to say they can’t repeat? Jack Wall obviously has a keen grasp of the world of Mass Effect, as he’s now written two excellent scores for two excellent games. I don’t see why he can’t continue his excellence in the third installment. Can you imagine the type of piece he’s going to write for the final battle? Just the thought of it makes me giddy. 2011 is STACKED with games, from Marvel vs Capcom 3 to Gears of War 3 to Uncharted 3, but I don’t see anyone taking Jack Wall’s title from him, unless of course the game is pushed back to 2012. I wouldn’t worry about that.

HONORABLE MENTION: Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Marvel vs Capcom 3


There you have it, the 2010 Listen Up Awards. These were the best of the best as far as sound was concerned in 2010. What will 2011 bring? Well, if the game selection is any indication, I’d say we’re in for another stellar year in the gaming world. Whatever you play, though, don’t forget…

Keep listening. You’ll never know what you’ll miss if you don’t.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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