If I had infinite time and infinite money, I might be qualified to make some sort of official game of the year list with numbers and rankings. But since I don’t have either of those I can only play so many games in a year, many times missing awesome stuff in favor of other awesome stuff and sometimes not. The Sarumarine Awards are my way of putting a spotlight on the things I loved, things I enjoyed, and things I didn’t care for. As usual, I feel it’s important to mention that this is only my humble opinion. Everyone likes different things and I am 100% okay with that. Video games, guys!
Let’s get started!
WARNING: There are spoilers for Sleeping Dogs, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Mass Effect 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, The Walking Dead Episode 1, and probably Anarchy Reigns too. So watch out if that kind of thing bothers you!
The Most Killer of Soundtracks Awards: Anarchy Reigns, Rhythm Heaven Fever, Hotline Miami
Guys, I have a serious complaint with the year 2012 in video games. There have been way too many awesome soundtracks released this year. How am I supposed to pick one for my personal awards topic when there are so many great choices? I had to give up and make a three way tie between the off the wall hip-hop/rap of Anarchy Reigns, the insane techno beats of Hotline Miami, and the feel-good nonsense of Rhythm Heaven Fever. These are three collections I listen to regularly and will probably continue to listen to for a long time after I stop playing their respective games. Because I do love a good video game soundtrack, and I think these three are real standouts.
Now, as a challenge in the spirit of picking 3 winners, I will pick three songs from each soundtrack to highlight, even though each one has about a dozen awesome tunes I could choose. This was really, really, really hard to choose. I want you to know that.
1. Jaw by MuzeOne
2. Soon Enough by Sick YG
3. Find You by Doujah Raze
|Rhythm Heaven Fever|
1. Air Rally by Tsunku♂
2. Ringside by Tsunku♂
3. Remix 9 (Beautiful One Day) by Tsunku♂
1. Hotline by Jasper Byrne
2. Paris by M.O.O.N.
3. Knock Knock by Scattle
Runners Up: Sleeping Dogs, Max Payne 3, Journey, Mass Effect 3, Syndicate Promotional Songs
Unsolved Mysteries Award: 'Broken Nose' Jiang - Sleeping Dogs
One character this year that kept me guessing way after the story was over involves a lady Triad boss from Sleeping Dogs. The Sun On Yee Red Pole known as 'Broken Nose' Jiang has a great start with a fantastic nickname. Why do they call her that? Does she break other people's noses for crossing her? And it only gets more puzzling as the plot unfolds. How come the Hong Kong police can't find out her real name? How does she pull so many strings? That security footage at the end of the game was a pretty big reveal for a Triad gangster. I want to believe she's possibly a government agent from mainland China sent to keep the Sun On Yee in check or something- but I don't know. Either way, I have a feeling we'll never find out the depths of Broken Nose Jiang unless Sleeping Dogs gets a sequel somehow.
You win this time, Broken Nose.
Runners Up: Face McShooty - Borderlands 2, Those Guys from Donk-Donk - Rhythm Heaven Fever
Most Unsettling Award: The Walking Dead
I have to confess I never got past the first episode of Walking Dead this year. Mainly because this game doesn't make me feel good. It's not exactly a game you play to kick back and relax. I find it really, really oppressive because the characters are good enough that I don't want to see anything bad happen to them. Even with my time in the first chapter I felt really bad about: Telling Clementine that I wasn't sure if we would survive getting shot at, leaving an old guy's son for dead, hacking Lee’s zombified brother with an ax, not letting an infected woman kill herself with a handgun, and making no attempt to save a man because he wasn't armed with a handgun that could be useful later on. I realize this game's forte is giving you shitty choices to pick from... but I can't take it this year right now, man.
So, I'll just play it later when I'm in the mood for that kind of thing. Later. Much later.
Runners Up: Frozen Expressions on Minecraft Characters, The Violence of Hotline Miami
The Dead Space Quality Achievement Award: Sleeping Dogs
This award is given to a game that does nothing new in terms of gameplay, graphics, story telling or pushing limits... but still manages to be a solid, fantastic experience anyway- much like when Dead Space came out years ago.
This year's winner is Sleeping Dogs, a GTA style open world game where you play as an undercover cop Wei Shen and break laws trying to take down a Triad gang. But with the action taking place in the video game version of Hong Kong involving tons of local flavor and style, with a satisfying melee combat system that is very Batman-like, I couldn't help but have a blast breaking everybody's legs over and over again. It has a lot of great characters, characters I can remember, and some of the best gang names I've seen in a long time. It also brings a weight to knives and guns crime games don’t normally have.
And it had a badass final level where you tear through a construction site and wreck every thug stupid enough to get in your way. Totally great moment considering everything that leads up to it.
Also, that Ice Chipper. I don't think I'll forget that Ice Chipper in a long time. Big smiles everyone.
Most Wasted Character Award: Slenderman - Slender
I cannot help but feel the massive amount of wasted potential for the urban legend known as Slenderman. As a faceless, towering man in a business suit with an all pervasive lingering presence, it seems like a total waste that he's stuck running the horror circuit capable of nothing more than jump scares. His sheer imagery alone makes him a perfect fit as an avatar of shady, ice cold corporate business practices with no regard to art or creativity. The majority of the things you and I love, video games included, spring from the well of business. Slenderman could be the physical presence of the darkest side of this equation. The side that exploits people’s love for the sake of profit. He could be so much more symbolic and psychological than appearing behind you at random.
That's why I think it's a shame he's stuck sneaking up on people and whispering white noise into their ears. The man wears a suit. He’s got far more class than that.
Runners Up: Bertha - Operation Raccoon City, Garuda - Anarchy Reigns, Jake Muller - Resident Evil 6, Vaas Montenegro - Far Cry 3
Favorite Weapon Award: Revolver Cannon - Anarchy Reigns
Due to a number of factors that I will list soon, the Revolver Cannon is my favorite weapon of the year. One, it's a revolver. Two, it's a large cannon. And three, it's actually built into Durga's mechanical leg that he works into his Taekwondo fighting style. It unfolds and fires in the midst of high kicks and knee combos, and I find it endlessly entertaining to see in action. It's like they took Adon's Jaguar Revolver move and spun it out into a literal interpretation. One of my favorite uses of this unusual weapon involves Durga's mutant execution where he jumps in the face of a big lizard monster, sticks his cannon leg down down the monster's throat, and unloads all six shots.
Runners Up: Gauss Rifle - Syndicate, Mr. Tong's Machete - Sleeping Dogs, Shotgun - Spelunky
Most Villainous Co-op Team Award: Umbrella Security Service - Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
2012 has been a great year for villainous teams in co-op. While the quality of Operation Raccoon City as a game is certainly in question, the villainy of the Umbrella Security Service you play as is not. In the middle of a zombie crisis plaguing Raccoon City, they help speed along the deaths of survivors by taking out the city's power grid, rebooting Umbrella bioweapons, setting hospitals on fire, and murdering tons of U.S. government soldiers to make sure no one suspects the Umbrella Corporation's involvement in the disaster. Of course, you don't actually kill any civilians personally or see the fruits of your villainous labors... but there is an option at the end of the game to execute Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield right in front of Sherry Birkin if you feel extra dickish. Maybe the results are mixed, but the ill intent is certainly there.
Oh, and you can also use zombies as meat shields. That's pretty mean too.
Runners Up: Wulf Western Agents - Syndicate, RAAM and his Locust Homies - Gears of War 3 (technically a 2011 release, but I played a bunch of this earlier in the year and felt they were worth a mention)
Moment that Left Me Feeling Pumped! Award: Uniting Geth and Quarians - Mass Effect 3
Personally I feel that the journey is far more important than the destination, and Mass Effect 3 is probably no better example than that. But one event that made me feel like a badass on the level of Mr. Torgue from Borderlands 2 is when I made the Geth and Quarians play nice and join together at the end of Rannoch instead of wiping each other out. In an either/or situation I chose the third option prompting a real "I'm Commander fucking Shepard" moment topping off a pretty cool mission that involved calling in an orbital strike from an entire fleet. I've had a lot of fun this year, but getting Tali and Legion's respective parties out alive had me riding high for a long time. For whatever reason, it meant a lot to me.
Runners Up: The Ice Chipper - Sleeping Dogs, Mad Survival "Mad World" Round - Anarchy Reigns
Best Rock Band DLC of 2012 Award: All I Wanna Do - Sheryl Crow
Holy shit guys, they are still releasing songs for Rock Band! This has to be the most impressive commitment to DLC I’ve ever seen. Harmonix is still going strong after all these years, somehow. This category was actually pretty damn hard to decide, but I had to give it to "All I Wanna Do" by Sheryl Crow. Personally, no song better represents the 90s for me than this one right here. That guitar hook at the beginning along with the claim of "This ain't no disco" hits me with all kinds of memories from that time because I am old. So it was a real pleasure to see it finally reach Rock Band where I can do a real crappy job trying to sing along until I hit the chorus, or kill it on drums, guitar or bass. Cause all I wanna do is have some fun, and I got a feeling I'm not the only one.
You might notice "Never Gonna Give You Up" among the runners up, but that's some legitimate appreciation. I bought the song as a joke, but since playing it I've realized that it's a decent song in its own right. Plus it's fun to sing. Kinda sorry that one turned into an internet meme.
Runners Up: Metal Health - Quiet Riot, Love Shack - B52's, Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley
Proving It's Impossible to Predict the Future Award: Pokemon Conquest
Video games have proven time and time again that it is absolutely impossible to predict the future. It's a large contribution to the reason why I'm really starting to dislike prophecies and destinies as story telling conventions. To show you what I mean, I present to you Pokemon Conquest. It's a crossover of Nobunaga's Ambition (a feudal Japan strategy game as old as the hills) and the Nintendo classic catch-em-all monster training game Pokemon. If you told me in 1998 that one day the gameboy game I loved to play would be combined with Japan's warring states period I wouldn't even know what you were talking about because I was like 12 years old. My favorite Pokemon was Cloyster back then. I didn't know nothing about Nobunaga. But here we are in the year 2012 and this tactics-style DS game is actually pretty decent. Don't be put off by the main story, because the post game scenarios are tough as titanium nails. Ouch.
Honorable mention goes to Black Ops II's post credits stinger that features the band Avenged Sevenfold in a bewildering sequence so hard to watch that it risks eroding any characterization they might have built up with the game's main cast. Name anyone who played the first Call of Duty that saw this coming, and I will call you a liar. Also Lord of the Rings LEGO. I bet Tolkien knew this day would come.
Runners Up: LEGO Lord of the Rings, Black Ops II's Post Credits Sequence
Notable Video Game Performance Award: Michael Mando as Vaas Montenegro - Far Cry 3
Characters are tough to pull off. Doubly so in video games where they are often secondary or nominal importance to game play. But one of my favorite character performances from this year involves one of the villains of Far Cry 3. Michael Mando provides the voice and motion capture of Vaas Montenegro, a slave trading pirate who loves to break people down with words almost as much as he loves to kill them with bullets. This guy is intense and completely menacing, but still a joy to watch as he belittles his captives and the main character with sadistic glee and plenty of good old fashioned profanity. Helping his sheer presence is a ton of excellent animation to highlight his personal quirks like his whistling, hand motions, and his tendency to go back and forth from an indoor voice to out-and-out screaming with effortless transition. Vaas captures attention as well as he captures hapless tourists.
Runners up include Robert Pine who does a great job voicing the disturbed Max from Anarchy Reigns, which is impressive considering he has to deal with the likes of the Blacker Baron in the same game. And for what it’s worth, James C. Burns was pretty entertaining as Old-ass Frank Woods from Black Ops II. Yeah, I know. A Call of Duty game. Don’t hurt me.
Runners Up: Robert Pine as Maximilian Caxton - Anarchy Reigns, James C. Burns as Frank Woods - Black Ops II
- Most Video Game-ass Video Game: Trials Evolution
- Biggest Mouth Award: Handsome Jack - Borderlands 2
- What an Asshole Award: Agent Merit Shooting Up Civilians on a Train for No Reason - Syndicate
- Super Meat Boy Difficulty Award: Spelunky
- Best/Worst Character of the Year I Can't Decide On Award: Edgar Oinkie - Anarchy Reigns
- Less is More Award: Journey
- Better Played Late than Never Award: Doom II: Hell on Earth
That wraps up the year 2012 related to video games. I also played a ton of games from years past like Dead Island, Demon's Souls, Arkham City, regular ass Doom and more. Personally I didn't really find a game I absolutely hated like Okamiden from 2011. Or least I didn't play a game that left lingering frustration well after I put it away. So I hope everyone has a nice holiday and a great new year. Thanks for stopping by!