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Posted by Staff (61 posts) -

The wait is over! Our 2011 Game of the Year awards begin right now and will continue through the rest of this week. Check back every day until Friday for new awards and Top 10 lists from both the site's staff and some special guests. Curious about how we arrived at this list of winners? Check out today's companion podcast to hear our deliberations in full.

2011's 2010 Game of the Year

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Look, we're not even sure how we define this category from one year to the next. Sometimes it's the game from last year we played the most, or at least thought about the most, in the following year. Other times it's the game that got the most and best post-release support and DLC from its developer. Hell, the first year we created the category simply to honor a game we felt didn't get its full due in the year of its release. It's a weird category, OK?

Anyway, we're pretty sure about one thing: StarCraft II continued to make its presence known in 2011. On a core mechanical level, it was an expected matter of course that Blizzard would continue to refine and perfect the game's three-way balance, but it's great to see that even at the highest competitive level, StarCraft II is holding up as well as you can expect as a venue for top-tier players to fairly showcase their skills against each other. Speaking of that tournament competition, it's a safe bet that relatively few people would be saying anything about "esports" right now if it weren't for the continued fervor around the endless high-dollar professional competition taking place entirely within StarCraft II.

And then there's the fact that Brad played more StarCraft II in 2011 than anything that actually came out this year. That guy should probably look into professional help at this point.

Runners-Up: Rock Band 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops

Best Mission/Level

Saints Row: The Third - http://deckers.die/

How do you pick a single moment to highlight from a game packed to the brim with highlight reel-worthy moments? Such was the question pitted to us as we attempted to choose a best level from Saints Row: The Third, a game so replete with crazily memorable missions and events that this category might as well have just been called "Best Mission/Level in Saints Row: The Third." Don't worry though, we did at least consider other games. It was only sporting.

When the dust settled and Jeff had stopped screaming, the end result of our deliberations settled upon the http://deckers.die/ mission. As anyone who has played the game knows, this is the level where you play, at various times, a sentient toilet/sex doll/gun-armed TRON man trudging through a virtual reality world filled with giant murderous avatars, ancient arcade game references, and a straight-up text adventure sequence.

Did you get all of that? Good, because even typing all of that was kind of exhausting. http://deckers.die/ is easily the most ludicrously insane mission of a game predicated entirely on the concept of ludicrous insanity. We're not sure how much better we can sum it up than that.

Runners-Up: Gears of War 3 - Cole Train Flashback, Uncharted 3 - Lost In the Sands

Best New Character

Portal 2 - Wheatley

2011's best new character doesn't have arms or legs or... a face, or many distinguishing features at all, really. Portal 2's Wheatley is a metal sphere with exactly one darting, eye-like viewport, but he does more with that single eye--and the breakneck dialogue that comes pouring out of him courtesy of Stephen Merchant--than any other character this year, no matter how many appendages they have. And considering Wheatley shares the stage with both the inimitably sadistic GLaDOS and none other than the disembodied voice of J.K. Simmons, that's a damn impressive feat. So impressive that he's our favorite new character in 2011.

Wheatley is so great. He's great because he's not just there for comic relief, though he certainly does serve that role at first. It would have been easy enough for the writers to just let Wheatley coast through all of Portal 2 on cheeky quips and lovable buffoonery, but this wayward personality sphere goes through a hell of a character arc, emerging as a villain so menacing that he threatens to bring the roof down on all of Aperture Science with... well, with his runaway ineptitude. Plenty of great characters this year made good on a single hook or gimmick, but Wheatley maintains his core personality trait and yet plays a role in the game's story that's much larger than himself. Then he goes on to take part in what at least one member of the Giant Bomb staff considers to be the most sublime final moments of any game in memory. In a way, it's not too surprising that the sequel to Portal offered some damn memorable new characters, but that doesn't make the game's achievement in writing any less special.

Runners-Up: L.A. Noire - Captain Donnelly, Shadows of the Damned - Johnson

Dave's Eastern Bloc Game of the Year

Dead Island

Duders! Let's be honest. This category began as much so I could make The Hunt for Red October jokes as to highlight the overly-ambitious, but lovingly quirky games that hail from the post-Soviet regions where the PC still reigns King. In most cases these were titles that I'd only recommend to older, more patient gamers who enjoyed novelty above polish. 2011 then marks the year where that explanation no longer fits. From Poland came two games, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and Dead Island, that were downright blockbuster releases accessible to just about everyone. That leaves Cargo! The Quest for Gravity then to slide in under the previous expectations of this "genre". That is to say, Cargo! was a bizarre, creative game that could only come from guys with lots of Vs in their names.

Dead Island then wins by a hair. And by a hair, I mean it's the game I played the most of the nominees. Remember, this is Dave's Eastern Bloc Game of the Year and while you'd think my tastes would lean towards a pure RPG, the early difficulty and clumsy controls of The Witcher 2 made me hold off on that adventure till a proper patch appeared. Dead Island in contrast was an immediately playable and worthwhile experience that brought true innovation to melee-based combat in the first-person perspective. It's something that is sure to be copied by many games going forward and at least in my opinion was the only reason to see any major fault in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, whose combat felt mechanical in comparison. I really don't think any of us saw that coming. Welcome to the New World Sir.

Runners-Up: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Cargo! The Quest for Gravity

Best Music

Bastion

In a year that saw new music from the likes of Akira Yamaoka, Jeremy Soule, Danny Baranowsky, and Koji Kondo, it's clear just how great the music Supergiant Games audio director Darren Korb created for the studio's isometric action RPG Bastion was to be the clear-cut winner in this category.

In crafting a genre Korb describes as "acoustic frontier trip-hop," he created the perfect soundscape to compliment both the surreal, cartoon art style of the game's visuals, with its folksy, narrator-driven storytelling. The slight variances in arrangement and style give each stage its own unique quality.

The songs themselves even become central to the game's story arc. Think about the instant wave of sadness and ache that swarms over you the first time you hear Zia humming out "Build That Wall" in the middle of the chaos around you, or the little lump in your throat you got when you first heard "Setting Sail, Coming Home" swell up over the final credits. Every single note of music feels utterly interwoven with the fabric of what the game shows you. It's original, ingenious, and eminently listenable stuff, and easily stood out as the top class of this year's musical crop.

Runners-Up: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Rayman: Origins

---

#1 Posted by Staff (61 posts) -

The wait is over! Our 2011 Game of the Year awards begin right now and will continue through the rest of this week. Check back every day until Friday for new awards and Top 10 lists from both the site's staff and some special guests. Curious about how we arrived at this list of winners? Check out today's companion podcast to hear our deliberations in full.

2011's 2010 Game of the Year

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Look, we're not even sure how we define this category from one year to the next. Sometimes it's the game from last year we played the most, or at least thought about the most, in the following year. Other times it's the game that got the most and best post-release support and DLC from its developer. Hell, the first year we created the category simply to honor a game we felt didn't get its full due in the year of its release. It's a weird category, OK?

Anyway, we're pretty sure about one thing: StarCraft II continued to make its presence known in 2011. On a core mechanical level, it was an expected matter of course that Blizzard would continue to refine and perfect the game's three-way balance, but it's great to see that even at the highest competitive level, StarCraft II is holding up as well as you can expect as a venue for top-tier players to fairly showcase their skills against each other. Speaking of that tournament competition, it's a safe bet that relatively few people would be saying anything about "esports" right now if it weren't for the continued fervor around the endless high-dollar professional competition taking place entirely within StarCraft II.

And then there's the fact that Brad played more StarCraft II in 2011 than anything that actually came out this year. That guy should probably look into professional help at this point.

Runners-Up: Rock Band 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops

Best Mission/Level

Saints Row: The Third - http://deckers.die/

How do you pick a single moment to highlight from a game packed to the brim with highlight reel-worthy moments? Such was the question pitted to us as we attempted to choose a best level from Saints Row: The Third, a game so replete with crazily memorable missions and events that this category might as well have just been called "Best Mission/Level in Saints Row: The Third." Don't worry though, we did at least consider other games. It was only sporting.

When the dust settled and Jeff had stopped screaming, the end result of our deliberations settled upon the http://deckers.die/ mission. As anyone who has played the game knows, this is the level where you play, at various times, a sentient toilet/sex doll/gun-armed TRON man trudging through a virtual reality world filled with giant murderous avatars, ancient arcade game references, and a straight-up text adventure sequence.

Did you get all of that? Good, because even typing all of that was kind of exhausting. http://deckers.die/ is easily the most ludicrously insane mission of a game predicated entirely on the concept of ludicrous insanity. We're not sure how much better we can sum it up than that.

Runners-Up: Gears of War 3 - Cole Train Flashback, Uncharted 3 - Lost In the Sands

Best New Character

Portal 2 - Wheatley

2011's best new character doesn't have arms or legs or... a face, or many distinguishing features at all, really. Portal 2's Wheatley is a metal sphere with exactly one darting, eye-like viewport, but he does more with that single eye--and the breakneck dialogue that comes pouring out of him courtesy of Stephen Merchant--than any other character this year, no matter how many appendages they have. And considering Wheatley shares the stage with both the inimitably sadistic GLaDOS and none other than the disembodied voice of J.K. Simmons, that's a damn impressive feat. So impressive that he's our favorite new character in 2011.

Wheatley is so great. He's great because he's not just there for comic relief, though he certainly does serve that role at first. It would have been easy enough for the writers to just let Wheatley coast through all of Portal 2 on cheeky quips and lovable buffoonery, but this wayward personality sphere goes through a hell of a character arc, emerging as a villain so menacing that he threatens to bring the roof down on all of Aperture Science with... well, with his runaway ineptitude. Plenty of great characters this year made good on a single hook or gimmick, but Wheatley maintains his core personality trait and yet plays a role in the game's story that's much larger than himself. Then he goes on to take part in what at least one member of the Giant Bomb staff considers to be the most sublime final moments of any game in memory. In a way, it's not too surprising that the sequel to Portal offered some damn memorable new characters, but that doesn't make the game's achievement in writing any less special.

Runners-Up: L.A. Noire - Captain Donnelly, Shadows of the Damned - Johnson

Dave's Eastern Bloc Game of the Year

Dead Island

Duders! Let's be honest. This category began as much so I could make The Hunt for Red October jokes as to highlight the overly-ambitious, but lovingly quirky games that hail from the post-Soviet regions where the PC still reigns King. In most cases these were titles that I'd only recommend to older, more patient gamers who enjoyed novelty above polish. 2011 then marks the year where that explanation no longer fits. From Poland came two games, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and Dead Island, that were downright blockbuster releases accessible to just about everyone. That leaves Cargo! The Quest for Gravity then to slide in under the previous expectations of this "genre". That is to say, Cargo! was a bizarre, creative game that could only come from guys with lots of Vs in their names.

Dead Island then wins by a hair. And by a hair, I mean it's the game I played the most of the nominees. Remember, this is Dave's Eastern Bloc Game of the Year and while you'd think my tastes would lean towards a pure RPG, the early difficulty and clumsy controls of The Witcher 2 made me hold off on that adventure till a proper patch appeared. Dead Island in contrast was an immediately playable and worthwhile experience that brought true innovation to melee-based combat in the first-person perspective. It's something that is sure to be copied by many games going forward and at least in my opinion was the only reason to see any major fault in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, whose combat felt mechanical in comparison. I really don't think any of us saw that coming. Welcome to the New World Sir.

Runners-Up: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Cargo! The Quest for Gravity

Best Music

Bastion

In a year that saw new music from the likes of Akira Yamaoka, Jeremy Soule, Danny Baranowsky, and Koji Kondo, it's clear just how great the music Supergiant Games audio director Darren Korb created for the studio's isometric action RPG Bastion was to be the clear-cut winner in this category.

In crafting a genre Korb describes as "acoustic frontier trip-hop," he created the perfect soundscape to compliment both the surreal, cartoon art style of the game's visuals, with its folksy, narrator-driven storytelling. The slight variances in arrangement and style give each stage its own unique quality.

The songs themselves even become central to the game's story arc. Think about the instant wave of sadness and ache that swarms over you the first time you hear Zia humming out "Build That Wall" in the middle of the chaos around you, or the little lump in your throat you got when you first heard "Setting Sail, Coming Home" swell up over the final credits. Every single note of music feels utterly interwoven with the fabric of what the game shows you. It's original, ingenious, and eminently listenable stuff, and easily stood out as the top class of this year's musical crop.

Runners-Up: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Rayman: Origins

---

#2 Posted by Winsord (1210 posts) -

Gentlemen, let the games begin!

#3 Edited by HydraHam (1338 posts) -

Loving the video.

We need a FMV ryan game.

#4 Posted by samcroft90 (95 posts) -

Looking forward to this GOTY stuff

#5 Posted by Wunder_ (1169 posts) -

WOO!

#6 Edited by adamfedoruk (219 posts) -

Best time of the year!

Oh dear god this video is the best thing you guys have ever created!

#7 Posted by AlexW00d (6238 posts) -

Dead Island? Oh Dave.

#8 Posted by billyhoush (1192 posts) -

Saints Row The Third is such an awesome game.

#9 Posted by Weeber (36 posts) -

Holy crap, that Video is amazing. Well done guys. I am pumped to see the rest.

#10 Posted by NissanSkyline (106 posts) -

Dead Island? You lost some respect points there, Dave.

#11 Edited by Little_Socrates (5675 posts) -

OH MY GOD MAKE SURE YOU WATCH THE VIDEO! Unforgivably good, you guys. Hope this isn't the only time we get Mad Dog McCree references from now on.

EDIT: Not sure how I feel about this becoming a Quick Look for Saints Row: The Third, but it's nice to know that I have a video of http://deckers.die any time I want one! Thanks, duders!

#12 Posted by queenulhu (302 posts) -

Yay finally!

#13 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

Disembodied Vinny is best Vinny.

#14 Posted by vizionblind (114 posts) -

skyrim music is better than Bastion's.......

#15 Posted by Jayzilla (2560 posts) -

Love the picks. Not mine, but I totally respect the choices. I love GiantBomb.

#16 Posted by Bakumatsu (354 posts) -

Damn it. Thought that Ryan was going for Portal 2. Oh well...

#17 Posted by bybeach (4792 posts) -

Hey, Dead Island got tons of attention on this site for a while, and I mean by the members, just not the staff. I think it took a while for the jank to settle in, whilst Witcher 2 I heard put it's faults up in front. Personally I would have forgiven Witcher 2 because they did the time honoured eastern dev thing of patching afterwards, a tradition grandly set by initial near-unplayable Stalkers. well, they got better at a finished product by Call of Pripyat. And though I have yet to get it, I will because the Witcher 2 looks beautiful and now has decent game-play.

But just to cap, there were a multitude of threads about Dead Island at the time. PPl. did what seems a recurring theme of well received, lots of play and threads (some honestly negative), and then the inevitable pissing on as the cool runs out.

#18 Posted by victorferreira128 (34 posts) -

HOLY SHIT VINNY IS THE WIZARD OF OZ!

#19 Posted by CitizenKane (10506 posts) -

Man, I wish I could have played at least some of the great games this year. Oh well, at least I got Modern Warfare 3 for Christmas.

#20 Posted by TheMathlete (323 posts) -

I think that I'd have to go with Murderbrawl over http://deckers.die as the best mission, but that's just my opinion.

#21 Posted by TheHT (11155 posts) -

Wheatley maintains his core personality trait

Well done, well done.

#22 Posted by AlexanderSheen (4975 posts) -

@victorferreira128 said:

HOLY SHIT VINNY IS THE WIZARD OF OZ!

He's the Big Brother.

#23 Posted by mithhunter55 (602 posts) -

Ahhhhhh---mazing

#24 Posted by jakob187 (21665 posts) -

OH GOD THE VIDEO! OH GOD...THE VIDEO!!!

#25 Posted by MEATBALL (3195 posts) -

Wheatley was so great. One of my favourite menus of the year is when Wheatley first replaces GladOS. It was a really joyful before he started to turn, and I can remember thinking to myself "Oh no! No, no, no!" as I watched that bumbling little ball I'd become so attached to turn into a bumbling monster.

#26 Posted by morecowbell24 (100 posts) -

Bastion music is so good

#27 Posted by Andorski (5287 posts) -

Good start. Love all the choices they made.

#28 Posted by Tokubetsu (38 posts) -

How the hell did Dead Island beat out Witcher 2? Are you serious?

#29 Posted by LiK (921 posts) -

Awesome job, Vinny!

#30 Posted by TooWalrus (13173 posts) -

So uh... nice use of FMV in this... FMV...

#31 Posted by big_jon (5723 posts) -

I love Giantbomb.

#32 Posted by JasonR86 (9658 posts) -

The Dead Island hate, due to the Witcher 2 not winning, will be strong with this thread.

#33 Posted by probablytuna (3621 posts) -

So, it has begun.

#34 Posted by Vexxan (4619 posts) -

FMV Ryan is best Ryan(?)

#35 Posted by Silver-Streak (1347 posts) -

Vinny, Drew, and the team are madmen. I now want Sega to give GB the rights to Night Trap. Anyone want to start a petition?

#36 Posted by IshimuraD (396 posts) -

I LOVE THIS SITE SO MUCH.

GOTY time is so great for content.

#37 Posted by StalkingTurnip (150 posts) -

@Vexxan said:

FMV Ryan is best Ryan!

Fixed

#38 Posted by EuanDewar (4896 posts) -

Fuck yes Wheatley. Best character evarrrrr

#39 Posted by mythrol (303 posts) -

That video was amazing. Amazing.

#40 Posted by Nentisys (889 posts) -

What the fuck? Dead Island over The Witcher 2? Dave has gone insane.

#41 Posted by gbrading (2019 posts) -

Nice to see Captain Donnelly a runner-up in Best Character. When he gets angry he is absolutely amazing.

#42 Posted by Irishmarkerhead (38 posts) -

No Shadows of the Damned for best soundtrack?! RAAAAGGGE!!!!!*

*Note: Have not listened to deliberations and still think Bastion's soundtrack is awesome.

#43 Edited by mutha3 (4985 posts) -

The songs themselves even become central to the game's story arc. Think about the instant wave of sadness and ache that swarms over you the first time you hear Zia humming out "Build That Wall" in the middle of the chaos around you, or the little lump in your throat you got when you first heard "Setting Sail, Coming Home" swell up over the final credits. Every single note of music feels utterly interwoven with the fabric of what the game shows you. It's original, ingenious, and eminently listenable stuff, and easily stood out as the top class of this year's musical crop.

I'd bet 200 Brad bucks that Brad wrote this.

#44 Posted by The_Reflection (245 posts) -

I think Kinzie or Killbane should have gotten the character nod over Donnelly.

#45 Posted by the_Hollow (70 posts) -

Dead Island better than Witcher 2? lool! (too hard...) Everything in same category with Witcher 2 should lose.There is no equal.

#46 Posted by Dany (7887 posts) -

Rucks is a character that narrates the story and is present in the game, drives the story forward and you can speak to him. He has a small 'arch' as a person but he fits...

#47 Posted by Gabriel (4061 posts) -

Deus Ex for music in 2011 is to God of War 3 for best Graphics in 2010.

#48 Posted by wordfalling (193 posts) -

@Hollow_Stark: If the category were "Games that run at more than 5-10 fps on my computer," Dead Island wins simply for being playable and running smoothly, even when a lot is going on. I played through the The Witcher twice so seeing that Witcher 2 Collectors Edition box over there, with the game mostly unplayed, is mighty annoying.

#49 Edited by gike987 (1752 posts) -

@wordfalling said:

@Hollow_Stark: If the category were "Games that run at more than 5-10 fps on my computer," Dead Island wins simply for being playable and running smoothly, even when a lot is going on. I played through the The Witcher twice so seeing that Witcher 2 Collectors Edition box over there, with the game mostly unplayed, is mighty annoying.

Yeah, Dead Island had the real playability of shippping a broken debug build were you can press Y to noclip and the fact that game does not run at all if you have multiply monitors connected to your PC, just because they care so much of the PC gamers. You having a bad computer is not the fault of the developer and should not get accounted for, shipping a disgrace of a PC port should.

Anyway it's Dave's choice and he seems to understand that Dead Island is broken so whatever.

#50 Posted by ProfessorK (822 posts) -

I personally think the lucha match towards the end was better than deckers.die