GameSpot's 2009 "dubious honor" awards for most despicable in-game ad placements, the only award show AdLab faithfully covers every year, are in. And either the Gamespot editors are getting soft, or there wasn't a whole lot of interesting (or annoying) ad stuff going on in games this past year.
The winners are Pepsi machines in Bionic Commando. They don't look really all that horrible (but yes, somewhat out of place in an post-apocalyptic world), and it's not even clear if they are product placements at all.
Gamespot writes: "The game doesn't just feature Pepsi machines--it features multiple machines within a few feet of each other. It doesn't seem likely that the people of the near future will need so many carbonated beverages in such a small area. It's also ridiculous how pristine most of these machines look when surrounded by postapocalyptic debris, as if the Pepsi machines of the future were constructed out of an indestructible alloy while the rest of the world burned to the ground."
But Destructoid says the machines are not a paid placement, but a tribute to the brand by the game's developers. Plus, they dispense free drinks if you shoot them just so.
Other interesting nominees:
T-Mobile's Sidekick phone in Tony Hawk Ride, a title Gamespot gave only 3.5 points out of 10. The reviewer hated the entire game, and the Sidekick controls, while not helping, hardly were the $120 game's biggest problem.
iPhone in Mysterious Island 2.This one isn't actually a placement paid by Apple at all; it's a promo for the related puzzle mini-games available in the App Store:
"One moment you're bungling in the jungle with Jep [a monkey sidekick], and the next you're staring at an iPhone that has popped up out of nowhere. You can't use it, either. It just appears on the side of the screen, sticks around for a little bit, then vanishes. This icon actually indicates that you can port a puzzle out of the PC game to solve on the go with your iPhone, although if you don't own Apple's latest must-have device, this comes off as nothing but an out-of-the-blue product placement."