Thursday, December 1, 2011

2011 VGA Picks

The Spike Video Game Awards will air tomorrow on Spike TV, and while they may not be as prestigious as the Oscars, they do hold a certain weight to the game industry. Last year I wrote up my picks for the awards, and here are my picks for 2011. This year was an amazing year for games, especially in the latter half. I’m excited to see what 2012 holds in addition to the great titles releasing in the early part of next year.

Below is a list of nomination for each category. I will put my pick in bold with a small description of why I think so below it, along with any omissions I think should have been included. These aren’t predictions of who I think will win, but whom I would vote to win.

Game of the Year
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Portal 2
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Skyrim is the kind of game leaves you with memories of your adventures years later. Like Oblivion, it’s a game so big that you can easily spend more than 200 hours playing and still not see everything. The only kinds of games that typically produce that much content are MMORPGs. To get such a vast and yet functionally solid game makes The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim my pick for Game of the Year.

Studio of the Year
  • Bethesda Game Studios, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Naughty Dog, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  • Rocksteady Studios, Batman: Arkham City
  • Valve, Portal 2

What should be the determining factor for Studio of the Year? Just because you released your game that you’ve been working on for the past two or more years this year, does that mean you were the talked about studio year round? No, I don’t think so, which is why I picked Valve. They had a spectacular release with Portal 2 this year, but they also constantly update games like Team Fortress, oversee and manage Steam, and were a prominent studio in the news throughout the year, not just the month of their game release.

Best Xbox 360 Game
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Forza Motorsport 4
  • Gears of War 3
  • Portal 2

Not only is Gears of War 3 a great game on its own, but it shows what a company can do when they understand the technology they are working with. Epic Games worked close with Microsoft on the construction of the Xbox 360, and that relationship is paying off with the fluid control and visual fidelity of games like Gears of War 3.

Best PS3 Game
  • inFAMOUS 2
  • Killzone 3
  • LittleBigPlanet 2
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception shows off the technology of the PlayStation 3 flawlessly. The game’s cinematic approach to gameplay, making animations and interaction with characters look like a scene taken out of a movie, integrates well into the PlayStation 3’s architecture to create something that plays and looks spectacular.

Best Wii Game
  • Epic Mickey
  • Kirby's Return to Dream Land
  • Lost in Shadow
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Skyward Sword is the Zelda game we should have got at the beginning of the Wii’s lifespan, instead of at the end. The 1:1 gameplay with Wii Motion Plus creates an engaging experience in every sense of the word. Although this game would look better on an HD capable console, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a masterpiece of a Wii game and one that every Wii owner should have.

Best PC Game
  • Battlefield 3
  • Minecraft
  • The Witcher 2
  • Portal 2

This was a hard category to narrow down because all four of these titles are, or will be making their way to other platforms. But which one plays the best on the platform it was released for, the PC? The Witcher 2. While Battlefield 3 was designed for and looks staggeringly better on PC, it plays just as well on console. Portal 2 sold loads more on PC, but again, it plays just as good on consoles, and looks about the same with the aging Source engine. Minecraft, while a true creative game that only could start on the PC, doesn’t have the visual aesthetics to me that is a signature of the PC. The Witcher 2 uses CD Projekt’s RED engine, a big upgrade from the previous Aurora Engine from BioWare, and it shows.

Best Handheld/Mobile Game
  • Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
  • Infinity Blade
  • Super Mario 3D Land
  • Jetpack Joyride

Infinity Blade is more than just a mobile game. It’s more than just a good-looking game. It’s a game that does all of the above better than anyone else in short sessions with tons of replayability. Not many people will play a handheld game for hours on end, so a game that allows the player to get the full experience in short bursts  with the graphics of the Unreal 3 Engine is hands-down the game to play on the go.

Best Shooter
  • Battlefield 3
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Gears of War 3
  • RAGE

When talking single-player campaigns, it’s hard to beat Call of Duty. Modern Warfare 3’s campaign follows minutes after Modern Warfare 2, and while it may seem linear and straightforward, the game throws so much at you that you don’t have time to think of anything else other than shoot back.

Best Action Adventure Game
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Take the combat, characters, and graphics of Batman: Arkham Asylum, put them in an open world environment with even more gadgets, takedowns, and ways to take down villains and you have Batman: Arkham City. The exploration is exponential greater with over 400 Riddler hidden trophies, and finding them yields a showdown with the Riddler himself.

Best RPG
  • Dark Souls
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Dragon Age II
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

So many things have been said about Skyrim that it’s hard to come up with a new way to describe it. Regardless, Skyrim is a massive game that you will not run out of things to do in anytime soon. The notable omission in this category is The Witcher 2, which is an exceptional game that should have at least received a nomination.

Best Multiplayer
  • Battlefield 3
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Gears of War 3
  • Portal 2

There is nothing more frantic about being pinned down behind a rock while enemy fire is whizzing over you and watching a fellow solder take our your enemy with jet from 1000 feet in the air. Battlefield 3 has so many moments of emergent gameplay that every match of conquest, rush, or team deathmatch never feels the same.

Best Individual Sports Game
  • Fight Night Champion
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters
  • Top Spin 4
  • Virtua Tennis 4

Fight Night Champion plays less like an arcade exhibition boxing game, and more like a developed, story-driven experience that teaches you the controls and moves needed to succeed in the game.

Best Team Sports Game
  • FIFA Soccer 12
  • NBA 2K12
  • NHL 12
  • MLB 11: The Show

Modern basketball games are great, especially when there is no season. However, being able to play as classic players from decades ago was just icing on the cake. NBA 2K12 offered the ability to match legacy players like Kareen-Abdul Jabbar and Bill Russell up against modern players like Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

Best Driving Game
  • DiRT 3
  • Driver: San Francisco
  • Forza Motorsport 4
  • Need for Speed: The Run

Forza Motorsport 4 offers the visuals, customization, cars, and tracks that racing fans are looking for, and it does it all while integrating player made content from previous Forza games.

Best Fighting Game
  • The King of Fighters XIII
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 3
  • Mortal Kombat
  • WWE All Stars

The last time a Mortal Kombat game released was back in 2008 and because of its T rating, it wasn’t as well received as proper Mortal Kombat games. This year’s Mortal Kombat was a return to form, with no additional character, just returning familiar characters. It’s a fighting game for those not wanting to delve into the minutia of combos or hyper-bars, just raw, brutal combat.

Best Motion Game
  • Child of Eden
  • Dance Central 2
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • The Gunstringer

All of these games are great examples of motion controls done right, but only Skyward Sword uses its controls to make you feel as if you are Link and you are the one slashing your sword through the air.

Best Independent Game
  • Bastion
  • Minecraft
  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
  • The Binding of Isaac

From Supergiant Games, with former GameSpot Editor-in-Chief Greg Kasavin as writer, Bastion is a game that exemplifies the word charm. The narrated gameplay is more than just a gimmick; it plays into all aspects of the game from weapon selection to difficulty. The artwork has a vibrant feel to it that looks great whether you’re playing on an Xbox 360, PC, or in your Chrome browser.

Best Adapted Video Game
  • Back to the Future: The Game
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Captain America: Super Soldier
  • LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

Batman: Arkham City is the clear winner in this category. Not only is it considered of the best games of the year as a game by itself, but the fact that it’s a game using the Batman DC license shows how much confidence DC has in Rocksteady.

Best Song in a Game
  • “Build that Wall (Zia’s Theme)” by Darren Korb, Bastion
  • “Exile Vilify” by The National, Portal 2
  • “I’m Not Calling You a Liar” by Florence + the Machine, Dragon Age II
  • “Setting Sail, Coming Home (End Theme)” by Darren Korb, Bastion
  • "Want You Gone" by Jonathan Coulton, Portal 2

The ending theme of Bastion is a clear winner here if you’ve played Bastion. The song sets a perfect backdrop against the ending of the game and tragedy that’s fallen onto the world of Caelondia.

Best Original Score
  • Bastion
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Portal 2

This kind of ties into the previous category, but music plays such a heavy part into Bastion. It was necessary to have a score that hits each of the story points in the game, giving nuance to each character, their background, and their motivations.

Best Graphics
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • L.A. Noire
  • RAGE
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

I picked L.A. Noire for this category purely based on the facial capture technology present in the game. This isn’t to say that Batman: Arkham City, RAGE, or Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception doesn’t have fantastic visuals, because they do, but L.A. Noire introduced a new technology that changed the way we think about faces in video games.

Best Performance by a Human Male
  • J.K. Simmons as Cave Johnson, Portal 2
  • Mark Hamill as The Joker, Batman: Arkham City
  • Nolan North as Nathan Drake, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
  • Steven Merchant as Wheatley, Portal 2

This is probably the hardest category to choose. All of the nominations deserve to win. J.K. Simmons embodies Cave Johnson, putting as much enthusiasm into the character as any one of his movie roles. Mark Hamill is the voice of the Joker, there’s not even a question about that. Nolan North has such a dynamic vocal range that it’s shocking how many different characters he can play. That all said I have to give this to Steven Merchant as Wheatley from Portal 2. Merchant was able to give a robot the full inflection of the human voice that it’s hard to separate the voice from the character.

Best Performance by a Human Female
  • Claudia Black as Chloe Frazer, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  • Ellen McLain as GLaDOS, Portal 2
  • Emily Rose as Elena Fisher, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
  • Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Batman: Arkham City

The popular voice may be for Ellen McLain as GLaDOS, but to me, the character is created through digitalization of her voice. Tara Strong gets recognition for doing a good job at following Arleen Sorkin as the voice of Harley Quinn since her inception. It’s not easy to slip into the role of a character that is literally based on the person who you’re following, but Tara Strong does it with enough passion that it comes across genuine.

Best Downloadable Game
  • Bastion
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
  • Stacking
  • Iron Brigade

For reasons I’ve stated before, I’ll list them again. The complex combination of weapons, the narration, the music, the writing, the art design, and replayability make Bastion a downloadable game that you have to play.

Best DLC
  • Fallout: New Vegas - Old World Blues
  • Mass Effect 2 - Arrival
  • Mortal Kombat - Freddy Krueger
  • Portal 2 - Peer Review

This category is kind of determined by the lesser of two evils. Peer Review wasn’t much of downloadable content with exception of additional co-op maps and time trials added to single-player. Freddy Krueger for Mortal Kombat only added a new character, but nothing in terms of reason his reason for being; no story element of him added to single-player. The last DLC for Mass Effect 2, Arrival, added new story elements to the game, but didn’t hit the high notes that previous DLC did. This leaves Old World Blues, which adds more weapons, story, and gameplay in addition to the already massive amount of content in Fallout: New Vegas.

Most Anticipated Game
  • BioShock: Infinite
  • Diablo III
  • Halo 4
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Last Guardian

I suppose Diablo III should be the most anticipated game, since its last addition to the franchise was released over 10 years ago, but having played it at the past two BlizzCons, I can already tell it will be a fun game and am content to wait for its release. Mass Effect 3 is also on my list of can’t-wait-for games. Since playing the first Mass Effect, the franchise and its vast backstory is easily in the top five of my favorite games. The good thing about this category is that I can easily anticipate several of the games in the category and don’t have to pick only one. That said, for the sake of consistency, I chose BioShock Infinite because of the unknown. We’ve seen the footage from E3, but there is still a lot we don’t know about the game and the themes that it will explore, and the team over at Irrational Games are known for cerebral experiences into their games. Trailer of the Year
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations, E3 2011 Trailer
  • Batman: Arkham City. Hugo Strange Reveal Trailer
  • Dark Souls, Ignite 11 Debut Trailer
  • Dead Island, GDC 11 Cinematic Trailer
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Purity First Infomercial
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, In-Game Debut Trailer
  • Hitman: Absolution, E3 2011 Trailer
  • Prey 2, E3 2011 Trailer
  • Tomb Raider, E3 2011 Trailer
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, E3 2011 Trailer

Love it or hate it, the Dead Island trailer elicited a strong reaction from the public. Whether you loved it for its Mad World inspired take on a zombie outbreak, or hated it because of its exploitation of a child put in a bad situation, the result was the same; the trailer made people stand up and pay attention to a game they might have never heard of before.

No comments:

Post a Comment