Composed by Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, David Kates, and Jimmy Hinson, the Mass Effect 2 OST is a quintessential example of doing game soundtracks right. While it won't win awards for originality, the themes are memorable and - most importantly - are specifically tailored to the locations or characters they were written for, including specific combat themes.
In addition to being memorable, the different themes are rarely intrusive, outside of the combat tracks that are supposed to prepare you for what’s to come. The themes work very well together for the various locations they are meant to present, and, in our opinion, that’s really what game soundtracks are all about.
Fallout: New Vegas (Runner-up)
The Fallout: New Vegas soundtrack is partially scavenged from history, richly using tracks from the older Fallouts, and adding new songs from veteran Fallout soundtrack composer Inon Zur, who generally did a more subtle and thus better job here than on Fallout 3. It may seem odd to give an award for recycling a soundtrack, but we feel New Vegas made the right choice in doing so, as the tracks bring back pleasant memories while also fitting in well with the game's atmosphere. The PipBoy radio is also back, though it once again suffers a bit from simply not having enough tracks on it. GTA did the radio thing well by only playing it while you are in a car, and like the GTAs the PipBoy radio is best enjoyed in limited doses, turning it off regularly. But turning it off completely would be a shame, as the songs featured are once again a strong selection of golden oldies, including some with lyrics rewritten and sung by Obsidian's own crew.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (Winner)
When picking this award, we felt that it isn't a fair race for anything paired up against Blizzard's latest. With so much content and mostly positive game changers packed into one expansion, the nod has to go somewhat easily to World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
While Cataclysm falls somewhat short when strictly comparing new content with previous expansions, what it does is refine the entire experience by giving players a bit of everything: massive talent changes that slim-down customization but make it more accessible, itemization streamlining, new races (where are the new classes?), a new level cap, and some new areas - but even the sum of these would not equal its largest change. Cataclysm went ahead and re-designed the visuals of all base-game content and made them accessible to flying mounts. Yep, they finally gave players what they'd always wanted - free-flying around everywhere, for those that are high enough level, of course.
For the veteran WoW player who simply wants to "reroll" and start anew, innumerable changes are in store which makes the entire experience more replayable than it's been for quite awhile. We’re still hoping for more content and a couple new classes when Blizzard gets around to releasing the fourth expansion pack, but until then Cataclysm will do just fine.
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (Runner-up)
BioWare put a lot of quality content into their Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening expansion pack - including a variety of new ways to develop characters, a smorgasbord of well-written and well-acted characters and dialogue, and a new 20-hour campaign to (possibly) finish off the story of the warden character from Origins - and that was enough to lift their effort over most of the other expansion pack / DLC contenders this year.
Had they only spent more time stamping out a few more bugs (like the annoying Silverite Mine bug), and made all of the changes backwards compatible with Origins to encourage further replayability, then Awakening just might have taken over the top spot.