December 31st, 2011 by TheMissingNin
Another year with nothing really worth personally blogging about, and another year’s worth of great entertainment to round up. I’ve consumed, some might say, too much media over this past year. Including Books! who would’ve thought…
This year’s awards will cover the Bests and the Worsts from the world of Videogames that my purview has brought, along with some of the more defining titles outlined in the ‘Alternatives’ section. Including a round up of the best Non-Gaming media that I’ve picked from the past 12 months of consumption.
Most of the categories are the same as last year’s, and feel free to click the links to find out more about my chosen pieces. Without further ado, I bring you…
My 2010 Game of 2011 – Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PC, X360, PS3)
I spent a heap of time with Bad Company 2 this past year, mostly due to a cheap £5 purchase via last Christmas’s Steam Sale – it allowed me to see the game in a new light, running on it’s highest graphical settings, wielding a Mouse and Keyboard – a much greater experience than it’s console counterparts, and one that led for me directly into the release of Battlefield 3.
Most Fun on a Shitty PC – Frozen Synapse
Frozen Synapse is a refreshing twist on the Strategy genre, somewhere between real-time and turn based, you command a bunch of mind-controlled soldiers in short 5-second chunks of time, planning out everything from where they look, when and where they shoot, and where to duck for cover. All before that 5-second chunk of time is compared to the same 5-second chunk from your opponent’s viewpoint. I’ve never played anything like it before, I highly suggest you check it out, and you have no excuse, because there’s no way your PC won’t run it.
Most Appropriate Achievement List – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC, X360, PS3)
Bethesda always wins this award – they always do a great job of it, I think it’s because they use their achievements as a sort of “tour guide” to the worlds they have created. Looking for something truly meaningful to do in Skyrim? Then pop open your achievement list and see what’s there for you to do. Compete the list, then you’ve probably played enough Skyrim for a lifetime. It doesn’t drag you through the shit like most other games try to do with their hardest achievements, and it doesn’t allow you to ‘miss’ any along the way – it is an indication of how much have you allowed yourself to be immersed in their world.
Most Innovative Online Experience – Battlefield 3 (PC)
Many people have complained about Battlelog since it’s inception, and for myself it took a little getting used to – but once you understand what DICE are trying to do with it’s revolutionary web-based game launcher, and learn how to navigate it, jumping into a game of Battlefield has never been easier. Marrying that with the game’s stat-tracking, battle reports, player progression, and player messaging and party setup – they’ve basically built a Facebook just for Battlefield players. Sure, there are still some kinks in the system, but since it’s all web based, it doesn’t take long for DICE to iron out a problem.
Best Overall Narrative – L.A. Noire (PC, X360, PS3)
L.A. Noire may be the sneakiest attempt at a mass-market point and click adventure, and is one hell of a game, but where it really shines is in it’s narrative. Police Procedurals are nothing new these days, but in videogame form they’ve never been so enticing. The game’s pace matches up flawlessly with your usual 40-minute TV show – and is full of twists and turns that kept it fresh all the way through. Whilst the overall story of Detective Phelps and his post-war troubles may have had a lacklustre conclusion, the game’s story really shines in those 40-minute ‘episodes’ of gameplay, where characters are effectively introduced and new evidence comes to light, mixed in with an occasional action sequence – it all comes out of the mixing pot rather well, and is one of 2011’s most unique experiences.
Best Game Out of Japan - El Shaddai, Ascension of the Metatron (X360, PS3)
I’ll admit, I haven’t actually finished this game, it just blows my mind every time I play it, overwhelmingly so. Character Action games are basically about half of what Japan seems to be pumping out these days, but El Shaddai feels fresh and exciting – an experience that may top Bayonetta from a year ago. With a story that is utterly bonkers – and somehow based upon the Book of Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls – Action that goes over the top and a visual style that you’ll never see anywhere else, El Shaddai is the most Japanese-assed Japanese game I played all year.
DICE didn’t just give the Battlefield 3 community four new maps with this DLC pack, they gave us new weapons to shoot, new vehicles to crash, new game-types, and new challenges (in the form of “Assignments”) for us to work with and towards. The re-imagining and tweaking of some of Battlefield 2’s greatest maps is an utter treat to play, and the best throwback map-pack I’ve ever put time into. Let’s hop that DICE continue this trend with expansions in 2012.
Best Franchise Re-Imagining – Mortal Kombat (X360, PS3)
I was too stupid to play any of the old Mortal Kombat games ‘back in the day’, but with this new iteration, I really feel that I’ve caught up. Fighting games are always hard to get, but this new re-imagining of the classic western fighting series felt like a fresh and streamlined experience to me – despite how unforgiving the game can be sometimes. It does wonderful things with it’s single player content, presenting a story mode that’s entertaining and immediately gets down to business – with the inspired elimination of loading screens between cut-scenes and actual fighting. An awesome training mode in the form of “the Tower” where the game will throw any kind of crazy modifiers at you, from flipping the gravity, to turning your characters appendages into launchable projectiles. Mortal Kombat is a great experience, and I urge lapsed players of the series to really give it a try.
Greatest Impact on the World – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC, X360, PS3)
When two co-workers, double your age, start babbling about Killsteaks and weapon attachments, it’s hard to deny that Modern Warfare 3, like it’s predecessors, has a unique impact on the world. Unique in that it seems to easily penetrate the “Non-gamers” of the world – the kind of people who bought their PS3 for a cheap Blu-Ray player. Whilst most of us seasoned FPS players are probably tired of the Call of Duty formula (I know I am), the people who just play Call of Duty, are still just playing Call of Duty – no matter how much you try to tell them that there are other games out there, it seems that this is all they actually want.
Most Offensive Game (In the Good Way) – Saints Row: The Third (PC, X360, PS3)
My inner child still feels that odd sort of joy a 12 year-old would experience by bludgeoning a prostitute with a bat the shape of a gigantic purple dildo (complete with realistic rubber-waggle). Saints Row The Third is an exercise in concentrating all the offensive things your parents would shriek at into a single game, but it pulls it off spectacularly.
Most Irrelevant Game – Duke Nukem Forever (PC, X360, PS3)
And so the legacy of Duke Nukem comes down to this. I think we all thought that once Duke Nukem Forever finally came out, that it’d be at least a fun throwback to the shooters of old, and that the game’s humour would find new light in modern times. But no. It is a patchwork game made for release a decade ago. With today’s design conventions, it’s just plain broken and irrelevant. Though I can’t really say “don’t play Duke Nukem Forever”, because there’s probably no chance you were even considering it yourself – don’t worry about it, you’re missing a thing.
Most Bullshit Game (That I Didn’t Play) – Dark Souls (X360, PS3)
No matter how much you may try internet, Dark Souls is a game that I just do not want. You may claim how rewarding it is, and how strategically deep it is, and how dying and losing all your time and progression from your last distant check-point is an excellent game mechanic – but you shall never make me play this game. You out there may be tired of the apparent “hand-holding” in modern games – but this total flip on such a concept is not the way to approach it. No thank you, please go away now and leave me alone.
Most Disappointing Game – RAGE (PC, X360, PS3)
Getting past the game’s glaring graphical problems, and a few minutes into the game itself, RAGE is an experience totally derivative of other games you’ve probably played – Fallout, Borderlands, Doom – but never coming to a proper apex of enjoyability or cohesiveness. The entire game feels like a gigantic fetch-quest, even without any proper player progression to give it any sense of purpose. Don’t be fooled by this game’s graphical styles or it’s seemingly-RPG like conventions – there is very little reason for this game to exist, let alone for anyone to play it.
It is probably one of the Video Games industries greatest tragedies that it took the implosion of their studio, and the sheer torture of their staff, to create one of the best and unique games of the year – such an experience we will likely never see again. Team Bondi did some truly pioneering work in the industry, and whilst Ancient Alien theorists may disagree with regards to the pyramids, it brings to light an ancient proverb: Slavery get’s shit done.
The Non-Gaming Awards
Before we get into the best of the best games that 2011 had to offer, let’s take a break to observe some of what I think is the best non-gaming things of the year…
Worst Movie – “Battle: Los Angeles”
Awesomest Anime Thing – “The World God Only Knows” (Series)
Best New TV Show – “Game of Thrones”
Most Disappointing TV Show – “The Walking Dead”
Games of the Year
Like last year, it’s going to be the best Exclusive Title from each platform, and then the top 3 Multiplatform. Nothing from the PS3 this year, because I didn’t buy or play a single PS3 game all year – I really didn’t need to. An additional category this year, is “Best Online Multiplayer”, because frankly there is just not enough space to fit in all the best games of the Year.
Best Exclusively Downloadable Title - Trenched/Iron Brigade (X360)
How long has it been since you’ve played a western-made Mech game? Well for me it’s been a good many years. Energy Swords and Super-Sonic Booster Rockets are nothing compared to the good old lumbering legs of a western Mech. Trenched, or Iron Brigade as it now has to be called, is a short but modernised take on the genre, where you build your Mech from a variety of parts and march it on into battle – though this time you’re taking deployable turrets (ala’ tower defence) and Double Fine’s classic humour with you. In 2011 there is still something extremely satisfying about strapping 6 machine guns onto a Mech and letting them just spit hell at your enemies.
Best Handheld Game – Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP (iOS)
Whilst I haven’t really played a lot of iPhone games this year, there are few games on the iOS platform that I could deem as a “game” game. You know, some proper assed gamey game stuff. Swords and Sworcery, as well as enjoying an additional ‘W’ in it’s title, is one of the few games that you really feel is built in whole for the touch-screen platform. It has a dark and very creepy fantasy setting, aided in full by it’s amazing pixelated bit-art and chip tune throwback soundtrack. It is simply a joy to behold, and is in no-way hampered by the touch-screen limitations of it’s platform.
Best Online Multiplayer – Battlefield 3 (PC, X360, PS3)
There just isn’t a FPS experience out there quite like Battlefield, and Battlefield 3 takes that experience to the next level. Huge 64-player games of map Conquest with players going on-foot, in jeeps and tanks, to piloting Helicopters and Jets; all adds to the melting pot of chaos the series is known for. It feels like an actual battlefield, there’s just something great about that – the pure sense of scale the game has just dwarfs any other shooter I’ve ever played. Tied to the gameplay is the usual tried and tested progression system, though with battlefield objectives fulfilling most of a players final score – progressing properly in the game will force you to actively participate with your team, which, when it works is a beautiful thing to be a part of. This game will keep me online for a very long time.
Best X-Box 360 Game – Gears of War 3
Few of the games this year, that had a ‘3’ in the title, actually did a satisfying job of properly concluding their Trilogy. Gears 3 is one of those games. This third instalment is the best and most refined entry in the series – it looks great, it plays great, and the story is pretty great too. Whilst I stayed away from Multiplayer almost entirely – I was happy to see that the game actually looked for Gears 1 & 2 data on my Hard Drive, and said “hey, we see you haven’t played Gears Online an awful lot, so we’re going to keep you away from the hardcore players until you feel you are ready”. In all, it goes without saying that if you own an X-Box 360, you should really think about getting Gears of War 3.
Best PC Game – The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings
This year has been the year we’ve really been able to say that the PC is truly outshining the Consoles in terms of performance. My pick for best PC game of the year pushes my high-end PC well beyond it’s capabilities for beautiful results. The Witcher 2 is a goddamn PC-Assed PC game, full of odd quirks and design decisions, but it all melds together into one of the most unique experiences of the year. The world and individual settings the game takes place in is full of detail, woven around a plot of monsters, assassinations and political intrigue, as you forge your way through as Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher. A story, which I must say, is entirely your own to command – there is even a final boss battle that you don’t even have to fight if you don’t want to. And as a final note, It got me to actually read a book – how crazy is that?
Top 3 Multiplatform
#3 – Batman: Arkham City
Rocksteady have exceeded themselves in making this sequel to 2009’s much-beloved Arkham Asylum. What I loved the most has to be the story; you may think it rather unbelievable that the people of Gotham would let some unknown security firm wall off a whole section of their city to convert into an open-air slum-asylum, but remember we’re dealing with comic book source material here. Once you’re let loose in the city – after a short stint as Bruce Wayne - it’s not long before all the usual suspects make an appearance, and later some not so usual suspects as events get somewhat weirder, all culminating in one of the most OMGWTF final bosses and sequences I’ve seen in a long time. All in all, this is a game where it feels like a great privilege to be the Batman.
#2 – Portal 2
I think we all understand now that Valve doesn’t make bad games – so it wasn’t really surprising that Portal 2 managed to stand up to their constant standard – and yet Portal 2 was a constant surprise from start to finish. It’s still strange to even think of it all as a puzzle game, with all the layers of plot going on, mixed into the amazingly vast and dynamic environments. And the puzzles are just perfect – not frustrating in the least, they made me think and feel smart when I finished them. Portal 2 will without a doubt go down in history as one of the greatest Videogames ever made.
Skyrim is everything I want from a game – simply it’s as close to “another life” as I’m going to get. Bethesda have created, yet again, another deep and beautiful world for us to all get lost in. Skyrim is the game I’ve thought about most this year – which is to say I think of it too often when I’m not playing it; thoughts that usually start with an internal rendition of the game’s main theme. I can’t wait to play more of it, yet I find myself able to control my intake. I’m happy to know that it’s there, so I’m doing my best to savour the experience. It’s one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever had in a videogame, and I even love the time when the game turns into ‘animal crossing’ where all I’m doing about town is shopping, crafting and putting everything in it’s place in my in-game home. I’m proud to say that, probably like many more of you out there, Skyrim is my 2011 game of the year.
Another year of games, sorted and ordered to my preference, blogged for the sake of my internet archive. Still no intention of Blogging throughout next year either, in case any of you were wondering – less intention now, since I finally joined the Facebooks, not sure if I’m entirely happy yet with that decision… Regardless I’ll see you all again for a blog post next year, unless we next meet before that in halls of Sovengarde.