Hey guys! Have a great Christmas? Rad! Get anything good? … No? Oh. Bummer. Well, like first-degree murder, it’s the thought that counts, right? At least I’ve got these shiny awards here, just for you.
And so, another year, another set of stupid awards for me to express a bunch of opinions I really feel the need to voice. Well, that, and also because I like to design things and it gives me an excuse to make a bunch of pretty banners so that these blogs are some fun kind of presentable. You guys like that, right? Presentability? Maybe I’ll throw in some clipart and WordArt next time. It’ll be so fab. Just you wait! 2013 WILL BE MY YEAR.
For now, though, enjoy the fun little categories I’ve come up with for this year. The schedule for the award-givings will be split across five days. Day 1, 2, and 3 will be the Annual Award Bonanza. Day 4 and 5 will be my Game of the Year awards, though that might end up being a single day. I haven’t decided yet. I get pretty long-winded with some games and I don’t know if it’s worth splitting into two separate blogs or not. Probably not. We’ll see, I suppose! But that comes Saturday. Today, enjoy the inaugural award ceremonies. Make sure to tip your waiter.
When playing through The Walking Dead, my friends and I would crowdsource each other’s opinions to know what the person controlling the game should pick as a dialogue option whenever one came up. We’d sometimes argue, but we’d usually come to a pretty unanimous consensus because all of us adopted the same goal: protect Clementine. It’s one thing for a character to be well-written and likeable, but it’s on an entirely different level to have one that nestles in you an absolute imperative to do whatever it takes for them. I can like a character for the fun, and sometimes haunting, quirks that make up their personality, but to feel a need deep down in my heart to save them? That comes few and far between, if ever.
Runners Up: Lee Everett, The guy in Black Ops II who asks you if you wanna get paid, then tells you to move it.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is not on my Game of the Year list for a reason that is entirely my point of view, I suppose. To me, XCOM is completely broken. The core that makes up that game is fucking terrific and had me glued to the screen for the first few hours. The crew management, the streamlining of battlefield tactics, the R&D sub-game--all of it brilliant. But a few hours in, the game turns. The difficulty spikes, and does so in the most unfair and unbalanced manner. The enemies get stronger (much stronger) and your soldiers seem to be nothing other than heavily-armored imbeciles. The hit percentages get lower and lower and even then, the numbers feel like complete lies. 80% Chance to Hit? Fuck you, more like 40%! How does a heavily-trained soldier meant to defend Earth from unknown forces miss an enemy with a shotgun when the enemy is standing so close that the shotgun’s geometry is CLIPPING THROUGH THE ENEMY? How does a sniper miss when the target is not behind cover, ever? How does how does how does how does how does ajhsfalskjfdhlasdkjfh. It’s infuriating. I understand that dice rolls are in the nature of turn-based strategy, but you need to tailor the numbers when taking into account what you are playing as and what weaponry you are using to fight. There are shots I would take that I know no soldier would ever miss, and it would happen turn after turn after turn.
After hours of fiddling around, trying to win fights that I couldn’t because the game actively made me feel like it was all up to luck, I stopped. I took the disc out, and quit the game. I’ve never, ever done that with a single-player game before. Ever. It especially sucks that I had to do with a game of such high-quality.
Runners Up: Hotline Miami, My soul
I was originally going to award this solely to Journey’s Soundtrack (which I already gave props to on my Favorite Albums of 2012 list) but felt I needed to talk about so many other soundtracks that I started to realise... man, 2012 was a fucking great year for videogame soundtracks.
Journey’s soundtrack is an absolute masterpiece, being as integral to the experience as the online partner is. It’s theme, and its various interpretations throughout the game, are beautiful, memorable, and take you through the most amazing emotions as it builds into a serene, emotional, and breathtaking climax.
Fez’s soundtrack is both a terrific accompaniment to the game and a great standalone chiptune album. Melodic and haunting, calming and cheery, Fez’s soundtrack helps lock in the wonderfully retro appeal of Fez’s design with some intelligent, minimalist sounds that will make you get chills when revisiting.
Max Payne 3’s soundtrack is something I am baffled to like, considering HEALTH is not a band I am particularly excited about. Their Get Color album sits in my iTunes library with little plays. Their brand of post-rock, experimental yang is not my thing. Clearly, however, they are a bunch of talented dudes who can make something worthwhile. Not only is Max Payne 3’s soundtrack a great standalone listen, but no OST this year establishes its game’s tone like MP3’s soundtrack does. And that airport song, oh my god.
Borderlands 2’s soundtrack could have been a serviceable mix of beats, synths, loud noises, and guitar riffs to set an aggressive and playful tone to accompany the game’s badassitude and whatnot. Instead, it’s a surprisingly well-composed mix of clever, interesting rhythms and atmospheres that complement the game’s environments extremely well. There are no clichés in the soundtrack-- it all sounds genuine and fun. Some of the tracks are downright groovy, even. It fits the areas it accompanies well, and complements the game’s tone even more so.
Hotline Miami’s soundtrack, while not entirely originally composed, is still a terrific collection of 80’s-like synths and loops. The addictive and bass-heavy soundtrack strikes strongly with the game’s tone, alongside creating a bizarre atmosphere when playing for longer than a few minutes. The simple, repetitive nature of the tracks starts to blend in with the non-stop murderfest, and it nestled a drone-like feeling in me that began to make me feel really weird when I thought about it.
There’s more that I could bring up, both those five are my favorites of them all. As a whole, 2012 is a pretty memorable year for game music.
Especially Black Ops II, for its terrific use of dubstep.
Runners Up: Apart from nominees mentioned above, FTL: Faster Than Light, Black Ops II, NiER, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
This is a disheartening award to give, because I think Black Ops II accomplished a lot this year that are seriously meaningful changes for first-person shooters. At least, for their single-player campaigns. The way the narrative is presented, the choices you make, and how the game hides/presents those choices to you are seriously some of the most interesting things I’ve seen done in a first-person shooter. It’s great.
The multiplayer, on the other hand, was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be new. A reinvention of the tired formula that’s been used in five games now. It isn’t. The Pick 10 system is great, the scorestreak system works much better than traditional killstreaks, and League Play is an interesting idea. The persistence, the leveling, the unlocking, and the grind are all the same. It’s still, ultimately, the same god-damn multiplayer game we’ve been playing and sinking our teeth into this whole time. It’s... kind of a bummer. It’s a bummer in a way that I’m having a hard time dealing with. This is the most robust multiplayer experience yet, so I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m having even more fun with it when I play it with friends. But I know I can’t keep doing this. When the ride is over, I don’t know if I’m on board next time.
And the problem with that? Infinity Ward is making the next Call of Duty game. If Modern Warfare 3 is any indication, I’m completely unexcited to see how much of a step back their next game will be as well.
The series’ multiplayer needs to change. They need to make something different. The game needs a new “persistent leveling” or “perk system”. It needs that new “thing” that will change the stage for console multiplayer. I’m just not sure, at this point, if Call of Duty itself will be the one to bring that change.
Runner Up: Assassin's Creed-- woops, too late.
Now is not the time to discuss the kerfuffle that came about from Mass Effect 3’s ending. That comes later. Now, I want to talk about the effort that was put into all three games, into the universe of the series, and into how fucking amazing it is that a single studio in Edmonton crafted a sci-fi universe to rival, I believe, that of Star Wars and Star Trek. Shit, there are probably a good amount of people that have experience neither of those, but love Mass Effect to the core and recognise it as the only one worth giving a shit about. Also, SPOILERS.
Look at Mass Effect 1 and what the game was. Actually, not even just that-- think about what that game promised. It established a universe where humanity had prospered and colonised space, met multiple alien races, established itself as a dominant force in the galaxy, and was consequently under threat of absolute extinction by a race of sentient robots of unknown origin. The gradual knowledge you gained of the universe and the locales you visited were absolutely dwarfed by the time you learned who the Reapers were and what Ilos and the Protheans were. And when it was over, you learned it wasn’t. It was very fucking far from over. And better yet? The actions you took in this game would carry over to the next, as would your character. Crazy!
And then came Mass Effect 2, a game that improved on nearly every single aspect of the original game. It presented a haunting threat as an opponent, established a group of characters that will forever be remembered as greats, and coupled the two with some of the best gameplay, side-missions, and storytelling we’ve seen this generation.
Mass Effect 3 had the arguably impossible task of living up to the first two games and while the ending may have faulted with some, the journey to that ending is comprised of some of the most meaningful events to happen in that entire series. The genophage ends. The war between the Quarians and the Geth is resolved. You learn who the Protheans truly were and the role they played. You get to see a fucking Thresher Queen headbutt a fucking Reaper into the fucking dirt jesus fucking christ. Regardless of its faults, what you play through in the game with the characters that you do comprise some of the most exciting and memorable sequence of events that I can recall this side of the last few years. That I played through it as my character, the character I’ve had since the start, alongside the friendships and companions I’ve endured years of events with... I can’t even begin to express how incredible it is, and how absolutely insurmountable it must have felt for the Bioware team to have to make all of that happen.
The sheer volume of collaboration and effort put into it is immeasurable. It’s nothing short of astonishing that it even happened and it feels insane that it culminated into something so incredibly awesome. Mass Effect is, without a doubt, my favorite videogame series. The lore, the games, the universe... everything about it is breathtaking in scope, and I am absolutely thrilled I got to be a part of it.
Runners Up: Sleeping Dogs for actually seeing the light of day, scrubbing yo momma down.
And that's a wrap for today, folks! Come back tomorrow for Day 2, where five more categories will be named and awarded to their respective "winners".