Mass Effect 3 DLC, Rayman Origins, and a bunch of Poor Decisions.

Hey! I know it's been a while since the last time I wrote up a blog here on GB, (a month to the day, actually), but I'm back! Not that I ever left, I just hadn't been doing much in the way of playing video games. Last week I had no classes, and thus I went home and relaxed while crazy stuff happened around me. But more on (some of) that in a bit.

Resident Evil 6.

I finished Resident Evil 6. If you read my previous blog, then you know that I made it through the first three campaigns (Leon, Chris, and Jake, in that order). And on the first day back home from college, I powered my way through the fourth and final campaign (Ada's).

And I liked Ada's campaign the least of them. Not that it was any worse mechanically (it's definitely not as bad as Chapter 2 of Jake's campaign), I just didn't like it. And I did enjoy a fair amount of the other three campaigns. Maybe I was just in a less forgiving mood, or maybe it was the story, which despite supposedly being the "wrapping up" of the story for the whole game, I wound up more confused than I was before.

Either way, Resident Evil 6 isn't a very good game. I also don't think that the game is as bad as most people think. It's okay. Aside from a couple of spots nothing was really that frustrating or too bad. Conversely, aside from a few spots, nothing really ever rises above mediocrity. I can't say the game was disappointing, because I went in with my expectations incredibly low, but compared to RE4 and RE5, it's disappointing. But we all know that.

Oz The Great and Powerful.

Let me start by saying that The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time. I love that movie so much that even things like the book it's based on seem inferior and shoddy in comparison. I can't overstate how much I love that original movie.

And, on the day after beating RE6, I found myself roped into going to see this movie. It's not bad, but it's also not great. I will say that it's FAR BETTER than any other movie I've seen directed by Sam Raimi, but that's not saying much. I should say that I have never seen Army of Darkness, so I won't go so far as to say that I hate all Sam Raimi films.

I have two central complaints with the film. The first is that it's not a musical. I don't love every song in the original ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is just a little too long), but to not even attempt to make this one a musical is disappointing. Some Munchkins do break out in song at one point, but it doesn't take long before they get interrupted and stop, and it feels more like a joke about the singing than anything else.

My other complaint is that neither of the "wicked" witches were anywhere near wicked enough. And I was rather surprised at that, because most of the reviews praised the witches, and said James Franco was wooden. If anything, I found the opposite to be true. But what do I know? I'm no film critic, and any time I do any acting I always ham it up.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: A much better movie with James Franco in it. He was pretty wooden there though.

Mass Effect 3 DLC.

Then I started in on the DLC for Mass Effect 3. I had already played the Javik and Leviathan stuff, which left Omega and Citadel. If you follow what the GB crew (ie, Vinny and Brad) have been saying about the ME3 DLC, then you know that Omega is okay, but not great, and Citadel is great.

I would go so far as to say that it is fantastic. But I don't really have anything new or interesting to say about this piece of content, other than to say that anyone who is a fan of the series should play this piece of DLC. But if you are a fan of the series, you either already have, or plan to soon enough. Or if not, then nothing I can say will persuade you if what Brad and Vinny have said hasn't.

I think it's a much better end for the series than the actual ending of the game was. At least in the context of all the hullabaloo about the ending and all the time that has passed. I know that BioWare has said that there will be another Mass Effect, but I'm glad that they at least ended the Shepard story arc the way that they did. It was a good ride, but it's over. And I'm kinda sad, actually. I really love these games.

Hopefully Mass Effect 4 is good.

I'll miss you Shepard, but I should go.

Rock Band X Happy Action Theater.

Because Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE refused to go down to reasonable prices (not counting PC downloads), after I finished that DLC, I was pretty much out of stuff to do. So I went over to my cousins' house to do stuff. And after a while, we (mainly me) came up with the idea of playing Rock Band 2 and Happy Action Theater at the same time.

Now, I should say that this is only possible because of the set up my cousins have. Both are still high school age, and I don't want to say that their parents spoil them, but their parents spoil them. As such, they have two TVs right next to each other in one room. Each TV has its own Xbox 360 and PS3 (and they have a few Wiis too, but those aren't hooked up). One of those TVs has a Kinect, and they own Happy Action Theater (and technically Kinect Party as well, but we didn't use any of those games on that day).

So, after a lengthy set up process (the Rock Band stuff was strewn about the house, and we had to use a back scratcher as one of the drumsticks), but we eventually had Rock Band on one TV, and Happy Action Theater on the other. Specifically, we had it set to the lava one the whole time, so we would be playing music in lava.

And we had fun. Eventually it devolved into us taking turns singing Painkiller to see who could do it the best. And I don't mean to brag, but my Rob Halford voice was FAR superior to all the others. I still couldn't hold a candle to the true Halford, but I was better than those chuckle heads I was with.

I think Tim Schafer would approve of combining Happy Action Theater with metal.

Rayman Origins

Once back home, I was incredibly bored. But Rayman Origins was $14 on PSN, so I downloaded it. I later learned that at the same time, the game was about $6 or $7 on Steam, which seems about right.

That is not a comment on the quality of the game, it's a statement about digital product pricing. Why? Because Rayman Origins is a FANTASTIC game. If you have not played that game, then go play that game! It had been quite some time since the last time I had played a straight up platformer (games like Dust and Fez don't count, as one is Metroidvania-ish, and the other is more of an adventure game), and I'm glad that the one I came back to was as great as Origins is.

Now, it's not a perfect game. But it's pretty darn great. I think the hardest levels in the game (and unless I'm mistaken, I believe I played all of them, including the "secret" one(s) in the Land of the Livid Dead) are a bit too hard, but maybe that's just me being not great at the game. Conversely, I did beat all those levels, so I dunno!

But Rayman Origins is incredible. I'm now very excited for Rayman Legends. Can't wait!

I know, Rayman, I'm as shocked as you are that Origins was so great. Though, I say that as someone who never played more than a Dreamcast demo disc of Rayman 2 before Origins.

Replaying Black Ops II and Uncharted 3.

After Rayman Origins and $30 worth of ME3 DLC, I didn't feel like spending any more of my dad's money (aside from the shoes he got me, which are quite nice), so I went and replayed some stuff. Also, I don't have any income of my own, which is why I'm still dependent on my dad for money.

I made sure to get the "best" ending in Black Ops II, but if you follow me on Twitter, then you already saw me talking about that. I do think that the best possible ending has some cool things that could lead to a very interesting/convoluted Black Ops III, but I don't know that they will necessarily keep that story going.

Also, I still think it's hilarious that David Petraeus is in the game. Or his likeness is, the character wasn't voiced by him. If you don't remember the trouble he got into last year, well, don't worry about it.

Uncharted 3 is still fantastic. I know every once in a while someone comes out and says something (negative) about it, but I maintain my controversial opinion about the game. In other words, I still think it's MUCH better than Uncharted 2. Of course, I can't replay Uncharted 2, as SOMEONE borrowed my copy a WHILE ago, and he has yet to play it. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

That was my third time with Uncharted 3. I played it twice close to release, once on normal, the second on hard. This third time I just played on normal again.

All in the name of Stabbery.

No one reading this is going to get that joke. The only other people who would are not reading this, as they don't use the internet much, and they don't know that Giant Bomb exists. But I'm rolling with it anyway!

Yesterday I was back at my cousins' house again. But this was after he had gone to my dad's garage to use his vice to help re-tighten his sword. Because he bought a sword and a dagger off the internet from a Canadian swordsmith, and the blade of his sword loosened when he cut down a "tree" (that later turned out to be a bush of a bamboo-like plant).

And while I was there, we decided to go out in the backyard and attack water bottles with his weapons. I was using the dagger. And while I know that attacking bottles of water with weapons is nothing new, I can say that it's fun. And it was nice to get some practice for my back stabs. I didn't try the sword, as it's a pretty big sword, and I was happier with the dagger.

That dagger looks nothing like the dagger my cousin has.

And now I'm back at college. In a not very long time, I will be graduating from college. Unless I fail a class, but that would be crazy. I might end up with a C in one of them, but I doubt even that will happen.

And until I graduate, I probably won't be playing any games. Maybe I might return for a weekend and play a game, but I don't know. After I graduate? No idea! My plan to make money from my book that I self-published on Amazon (electronic book, that is) has not really worked (due to no one caring). I know these things take time, but it's still demoralizing when my friends tell me the book is good, I know the book is good (or at least not-awful), but people continue to not read it, largely because there's so many dang books on Amazon and no one knows about it.

It also doesn't help for motivating me to finish the sequel. I had been planning on finishing the first draft of it over the break, but of course I instead didn't work on it at all. But I have time. Even without the prospect of finding a job (pro-tip: Don't switch into Political Science as a major halfway into college after a year and a half of Computer Science), I can at least leech off my dad for the time being, so I at least won't starve.

Whatever! Here's Luigi, because it's still the Year of Luigi. I'll buy a 3DS eventually, and play that Luigi's Mansion game on it. I'll also eventually buy a Wii U. Eventually.

Mario is also in that picture. I didn't feel like taking the time to find one with just Luigi. Deal with it.

5 Comments

I Make Poor Decisions: Resident Evil 6: Part 1?

On the most recent Friday before I wrote this blog, I found myself on a failed quest to buy boots that resulted in my being in the video game section of the local Target. Within the span of a few minutes, I decided not to buy Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE, because I decided that $60 was too much to pay for such a short game when I have no source of income, and use my dad's money any time I buy something. Then I thought about getting Borderlands 2, which was on sale for $40.

But all of that changed when I saw what Target had for $20. Resident Evil 6. So, I bought it. Because I make poor decisions.

A little while later I was at home, because I went home for the weekend after not having been home for over a month since the start of the semester, and usually I end up back home for a weekend before a full month goes by. This is meaningful because, if you don't already know, I leave all of my video game apparatus at home so I can focus on schoolwork. Well, "focus."

The first thing I did was check PSN to see if I had gotten one of those codes for $10, because I figured that someone like myself, who had been a member of PSN since I bought my PS3 in 2007, and had spent over $250 buying things in the years since (I did the math) would surely have been considered loyal enough to get one. When I saw that I did not get one, I turned the PS3 off and put Resident Evil 6 into my 360 and started installing it. While the disc installed, I laughed at the fact that the game had no manual, but had a second disc with the languages other than English on it, for those who wanted to play the game in another language and didn't mind installing that second disc to the hard drive.

And once the game had finished installing, I turned it on, downloaded the patch(es) for it, and prepared myself for the worst. Because I make poor decisions.

Instead of taking me to some sort of main menu, like a normal game, Resident Evil 6 opens with a "Prelude" that acts as something resembling a tutorial, albeit a rather poor one, especially for a game with no manual. After I got through that I was at the main title screen, and went through the options menu to adjust my options, which leads me to the first of several things that made my experience with RE6 different than that of most who played it, and help explain my opinion of the game.

In the time since the release of RE6, Capcom went to the trouble to patch the game in several ways to try to improve the experience. The first thing I saw in the options was the ability to change the field of vision, which I did. However, I hadn't noticed this in the in game options I saw in the Prelude (and actually, I knew about that being patched in beforehand, which is why I went to the main menu options after the Prelude), so I then had to go back and forth between Mercenaries Mode (which was faster than loading into the campaign) and the main menu options before I got to a point where I felt comfortable with the FOV. I made sure all the other options were set to my liking, which included turning off the default targeting reticle and turning it back into the laser from RE4 and RE5. But I did not turn on the patched in option to have the game auto-complete QTEs, because I thought that would be going too far to make the game easy.

Once I was done in the options, I went to the campaign, and started playing as Leon Superfly Kennedy, with the game set to Normal. And thus my journey through Resident Evil 6 began in earnest.

That was on Friday, and as of this writing, it's Sunday. In the time between, I spent about 18 and a half hours playing RE6, with most of that being the campaign, all on my own, no co-op. In that time I beat Leon's, Chris's, and Jake's campaigns, but didn't start Ada's because I knew I wouldn't have the time before I went back to college (where I currently am). So, what do I think of it?

Honestly, I enjoyed most of it. I liked just about all of Leon's campaign, despite thinking there were a fair number of poorly designed encounters, and a boss at the end who shows up too many times. The story is total nonsense, but it's so ridiculous, crazy, and dumb that I can't help but like it, even if it is total nonsense. It's for the same reasons that I like things like Snakes on a Plane or Planet Terror. It's really, really dumb, and I think it's glorious in its stupidity.

Chris's campaign started to drag a bit toward the end, but I felt that through most of it I was constantly either on the verge of running out of ammo, or literally out of ammo. Ammo was never really a concern when playing as Leon or Jake, and I really don't know why I had so little of it as Chris. Maybe I was just being too inaccurate for my own good. I dunno. But aside from the final boss, which I wasn't doing well at because of my lack of ammo, I enjoyed most of my time with Chris.

And then there's Jake. Hoo, boy, Jake. Let me wait a minute on Jake, and instead I'll talk about the core combat in RE6. While I definitely don't hate this game like many people do, I'm still not going to try to convince people that it's something great, or that it's really even good. I'd say that it flirts a line between all right and good. Even after spending a good twenty minutes messing around with the FOV to get it just right, the aiming never felt as good as a game like Gears of War, or Resident Evil 5 does without any adjustments at all. And that's not even taking things like the poorly designed roll mechanics into consideration.

And then there's healing. Given the type of game RE6 is, it really should just have regenerating health. It sort of does, but it's Riddick or Resistance Fall of Man style health where it heals up to a certain point, but you have to use a health item to get it up higher. And that's where it gets too convoluted for its own good. To heal, you either have to use a first aid spray, which just fully heals you (but those are very rare), or use herbs. But you can't just use herbs, first you have to mix them and put them into your one button healing slot. In the Prelude, the game teaches you how to do this, but it doesn't tell you about the quick way to do it without fumbling through the inventory to manually mix herbs. I just discovered that you can hold RB and push X to quick mix herbs by accident. Later I did briefly see how to do that flash in a pause screen, but something like that should have been in a better tutorial, or a manual.

But the combat. Most of the time it works well enough that I can take down enemies and have fun doing it. In my experience with the game, most normal encounters with enemies aren't really that tough, and I haven't really run into things that I remember hearing or reading about closer to launch that people complained about. I mean things like having enemies constantly pouncing on you and knocking you to the ground. Am I just lucky?

I think not. Probably the biggest change in the patch(es) is also the one that I know least about. According to the internet, Capcom patched the game to make it easier. But how or where? I dunno. I didn't find that info. So what I'm saying is that, much like with Dark Souls, the game I played was made easier, which in turn made my experience better than most other people's (though, I will accept that some may have liked the grindier Dark Souls of late 2011 better). I mean, I enjoy the combat in this game enough that I was actually playing Mercenaries Mode for fun. I got a 50 kill combo and 73,000 points once, even though the game only considered that a C Rank. But whatever, I had fun there.

But back to Jake. Oo, Jake.

I knew going into this game that Jake's campaign was the worst. But getting through things that I remember people complaining about with few problems (like the rope climbing bit) made me feel like perhaps Jake's campaign had also been patched to make it better. And it probably has, but it definitely has some rough spots.

And by rough spots, I mean that almost all of Chapter 2 of Jake's campaign is AWFUL. The rest of it I actually enjoyed a good amount. I think Jake's hand to hand combat is fun, and I think Jake has the best final boss of the three final bosses I've fought thus far (it's a fist fight over a pit of lava). But man, Chapter 2!

It started off well enough. But soon I found myself doing things like fighting through a blizzard. At first I thought it was neat, because not many games have blizzards in them. But when things like being shot by a sniper from behind that I couldn't see happened, I quickly soured on it. And then there's the icy hill path, which I only slid down all the way once, but I can't ignore how poorly designed that bit is. Then there was the snowmobile bit, which wasn't awful, but I still died more than once. And after that was the stealth sequence.

Yup, a stealth sequence. The stealth sequence actually isn't hard, it was laughably easy. And just laughable, because the "guards" are these weird bug creatures that Jake was literally slapping out of the air. It was so dumb that I actually laughed. But the laughs quickly ended when I got to the end of that part of the game, and what is easily the worst part of the game (at least in what I've played).

Jake and Sherry (the requisite co-op partner) found themselves in a large room where the big fake-Nemesis guy was guarding a corpse with a key that the duo needed. So I boosted Sherry up onto a thing so she could sneak around and steal the key whilst I distract the thing. The only clue the game gives is to use remote bombs. It doesn't say where, just to use them. So, I figured the thing to do was to run to the middle of the room, set a bomb, lure him onto it, and detonate the bomb, which would stun him.

Of course nothing of the sort happened, and what followed were about twenty or thirty attempts at this awful part of the game, every attempt resulting in either Sherry (who, as an AI partner, usually has infinite health) or Jake dying. And it often made no sense at all, with the monster going after Sherry, despite my shooting at him with a magnum and her doing nothing other than grabbing a key.

Eventually I stumbled my way through it (pro-tip, use the bomb on the spot where you boost Sherry up, and then run to the other side of the room, he's attracted by the sound of the bomb), and I got through the rest of Jake's campaign, which I had some fun with. Again, that melee combat, while still kinda clunky, is ridiculous and silly, and I like it.

And here I am, about 3/4 of the way through RE6, and with several weeks before I'll be home again and able to keep playing. And like I said, I've enjoyed most of it. The game is still really clunky overall, and I fully understand why many people hate it, especially given that the game I played is (even on normal), a lot easier and less frustrating than the game people played back in October. But I'm having fun with it, even if buying it may have been a poor decision at the time.

Don't take that the wrong way though, I'm not saying other people should play it. If you're like me, and you like things that are really dumb, and really ridiculous, and if you have a high tolerance for games that are clunky, then you might also enjoy it. But even then, don't pay any more than $20 for this game. Even $25 seems like it'd be a stretch. There are definitely some genuinely good moments in this game, and I feel like those moments are probably worth experiencing if you are a fan of Resident Evil, but those people have probably already played this game. Either that or they're like me, and just waited until the game was $20.

So, yeah. I still have to play Ada's campaign, which will likely happen in mid-March, when I have a week off from school. After that I'll do another thing saying what my final thoughts are, but unless Ada's is somehow worse than Chapter 2 of Jake's campaign, I doubt my opinion will change much. But who knows. This game is weird.

I do definitely make a lot of poor decisions though. I'd like to try to turn that into a semi-regular blog thing, actually. Just write about poor decisions that I make and try to justify them. The only problem is that most of them are things that aren't worth writing about (though I suppose an argument could be made for Resident Evil 6 not being worth writing about). But I mean things like getting dinner, and eating pizza and french fries instead of something healthy. That's definitely a poor decision, but not one worth writing a blog about.

So maybe you'll be seeing "I Make Poor Decisions" returning. Maybe not. Only time will tell! In the mean time, I expect someone to comment here about how I am a crazy person for enjoying this game, or maybe a fellow crazy person will comment by saying that he agrees with me. I can't be the only one on GB with poor taste (regarding third person shooters), right? I mean, a website with so many thousands upon thousands of users...

Oh well. As this continues to be the Year of Luigi, I leave you, once again, with a picture of everyone's favorite ghost busting plumber, Luigi.

1 Comments

Blog Blog Blog!

Boy, it sure has been some time since the last blog I wrote here on GB, hasn't it? It's not that I haven't had anything to write about, it's more that I just never felt like writing. It's one of those things that you have to be in the right mood to do. And after a while I wound up back at college again, so I've been neglecting my blog here.

But that changes today! By which I mean that I'm writing some stuff now, and I'll write again the next time I have something to say, which might be a week from now, might be a month. WHO KNOWS! I don't. But I do know that I played some games since the last time I wrote here.

Retro City Rampage.

Don't know what Retro City Rampage is? Well, GB did a Quick Look of it, if you have the time, or I could just tell you that it's basically Grand Theft Auto, except done up like a NES game. Only not really, because while some of the time the game does a good job of replicating the kinds of weird things you would see in games back then because of self-censoring (like feeling "weird" after drinking too much "milk"), there was a fair amount of humor in there that I don't think would have gotten into a game back then.

And the humor is really the most noteworthy thing about the game, because the game itself replicates the clunky-ness of bad NES games just a little bit too well. It's all intentional, of course, but it doesn't help when the later parts of the game get way harder than they should be to be any fun. The last boss was especially difficult, and took me well over half an hour to beat. It didn't help that it was a last boss that introduced a new thing that wasn't seen anywhere else in the game up to that point (at least not in the main story). I've never been a fan of games that add new mechanics or change them for the last boss fight, and this game does it especially poorly.

But overall I enjoyed Retro City Rampage, despite its flaws. It's fairly lengthy for the price (I got it on sale for $10, but a brief glance at Steam says it's $15, which seems like a harder sell (also, I played the PSN version)). It's all right.

That underwater part wasn't great.

Metro 2033.

Let me say this upfront: Rest in Peace, THQ.

I bought this late last year when it was on sale on Xbox Live for $10, but didn't get a chance to play it until early this year (or maybe super late last year after I wrote the stuff for The Moosies, I don't remember). So yes, I played the inferior 360 version, I know. I still don't have a computer that can handle modern video games, and unless I get a sudden and unexpected large quantity of cash soon, it'll probably be a while before I do. but that's all beside the point.

I really liked Metro 2033. Again, it has its flaws, even beyond the kinda crummy textures and stuff of the 360 version, but they were pretty easy to look past. What I liked best about the game was the atmosphere. Not the literal atmosphere (though lack of quality air to breath is important to the game), but the tone and style of the game. Most of it takes place in the dank and dark tunnels beneath bombed out Moscow, and the game creates a very foreboding atmosphere that almost makes traversing the tunnels scary.

Almost.

Maybe I was playing the game wrong, but I feel like it was kinda easy. Now, I tried to stealth my way through the game, as I always try to stealth my way through games that allow for stealthing. But for whatever reason I almost always ended up slipping up and alerting the enemies and having to shoot my way through all of them. And I never had much trouble doing that. I never found myself wanting for ammo, as I had far more than I ever needed at any given time. I was playing on normal too (assuming there was an easy mode, I don't really remember what there was for difficulty options in the game). Who knows!

What I do know is that Metro 2033 is a great game, and I hope that Metro Last Light is even better.

I have not done a great job of selecting images for this blog thus far. Oops! Not changing it now!

Dark Souls.

This is the one that I wanted to write about the most, but never found the time to do so. Or let me put it this way. Metro 2033 and Retro City Rampage are games that I liked, but Dark Souls is a game that I loved. Had I played this game back in 2011 when it was new, it would have been a serious contender for my game of the year.

Or would it have been? It's hard to say, because from what I've read online about this game, the Dark Souls that I played sounds like a significantly different experience than what most people experienced back in 2011. It seems like in the time since its release From Software patched the game. A lot. Some of those patches were to reduce the effectiveness of certain weapons, or do things like that. But a lot of them were to make the game easier, or at the very least less grind-y. Things like increasing the amount of souls gotten from most enemies, increasing item drop rates (including humanity), and even changing enemy placement in a few spots to make certain areas less difficult.

What this means is that I was able to get through stuff faster than people used to be able to, as I was getting souls and leveling faster. But even at the rate that I was leveling, it still felt just a tad too grind-y for me. So what would I have thought back in 2011? I dunno. I think I would have persevered, because I really loved the combat in this game. I know that a lot of people are put off by the, let's say, deliberate nature of the combat, but I enjoyed that aspect of it. Most melee combat games (I refuse to use the term "character action game," even if it is generally accepted as a thing that people should say around these parts) are extremely fast paced and arcade-y in nature. Playing Dark Souls felt fresh and different compared to those types of games. It was just responsive enough to never feel broken, but just slow paced enough (and hard enough) to be a challenge.

Or at least that was how I played the game. I know there are plenty of really fast weapons in the game (I found a bunch of them), but I always found myself going back to the black knight great-sword that I found relatively early in the game. It was slow, but it packed a punch. Especially after upgrading it a bunch.

Speaking of which, I never really did much crafting in the game. I upgraded some stuff from time to time, but I never did anything crazy, or craft any unique items that used those boss souls. No, I didn't just instantly use those souls as soon as I got them, but I did eventually consume them for souls near the end of the game because I figured that at that point I was never going to use them for crafting.

I also played the DLC for Dark Souls, Artorias of the Abyss. And I have to say that while $15 for it seemed steep at first, especially given the fact that I got the whole game for $20, after completing it I feel that it was well worth my $15, if only for the story aspect.

Yes, the story. I know that Dark Souls gets a bad rap for being so obtuse with most of its story, but I actually got really intrigued by the story in the game, and tried to get every last bit of story out of it that I could. I talked to each and every NPC that I found until they ran out of things to say, and then I'd talk to them again the next time I passed through the area (and they often had new things to say). And honestly, the further down the Dark Souls rabbit hole that I fell, the more I came to really like the story that they crafted for the game, and the world itself. There's a lot of history to the land of Lodran, and I'd like to know even more.

But back to the DLC itself. It's pretty long (I didn't time it, unfortunately), and has some really fun bosses in it. I ended up summoning people to help with three of the bosses, though I feel like with the exception of Manus, the Hand of Fate, I could have gotten through on my own. I'm glad I did summon those people though, because the fight against the Black Dragon Kalameet was really fun with two other people to assist. I'm not sure if this was what they were really trying to do or not, but it felt like they were just trying to distract Kalameet so that I could do most of the damage against him. Or maybe I just happened to get most of the hits in, I don't know. But it was a really fun fight, and sort of made me realize while people like playing something like Monster Hunter with other people.

Or it would if the Monster Hunter games weren't garbage games that played poorly, but I digress.

That Manus though, oo boy. If you can beat Manus on your own, then you have my respect. That dude is FAST. Crazy fast.

And then I beat Dark Souls. It took me about 70 hours (including the DLC), and I loved just about all of it. Not the frame rate down in Blight Town, but hey, what are you gonna do when the PS3 version is the only option? Well, I could have played the 360 version, but then I wouldn't have been able to summon people, because screw paying for Xbox Live.

And after beating it of course Demon's Souls had to appear as a downloadable game on PSN. I was very tempted to buy it, but I didn't. Part of it was that I didn't want to get involved in another Souls game so soon, part was that I only had a week left before I had to go back to college, and part is that Demon's Souls doesn't have an open world like Dark Souls does.

No, Dark Souls isn't a truly open world in the sense that something like Skyrim is an open world, but the interconnected nature of the game was one of my favorite parts. Stumbling my way through an area only to wind up in an area that I was in before was always really cool. The people who made this game clearly put a LOT of time into the level design, and the design of the world as a whole, and I can not understate how much I loved the exploratory aspect of the game.

And a big part of that is how little information the game tells you about what you're supposed to do, or where you are supposed to go. Yes, you can find out a lot by talking to the NPCs, but even then it's mostly just vague stuff like, "I heard of a smith in the forest that can forge divine weapons." Just enough to point me in the right direction.

Or maybe in the wrong direction. Because after I rang the first Bell of Awakening, I ended up going into the forest and doing everything there (from the Hydra to even Sif himself) before I even stepped foot into the lower portions of the Undeadburg, let alone the Sewers or Blight Town. That led to me struggling to beat Sif in an stoic battle where I had no Estus left, and beat him with literally seven health, and then I breezed through Blight Town with relative ease. I say relative because Blight Town is still a confusing mess, and I died once from super poison.

So, yeah. Dark Souls. I loved it, and I can't wait for Dark Souls II. I know some people are worried about them dumbing it down, but I think there's still room to make it a little more accessible without ruining the parts of it that I love. It's obviously much to early to know when all we have are a pre-rendered trailer and some statements from people working on a game that'll be out in 2014 at the earliest.

Okay, now this is a nice image, even if it's not game play.

Super Amazing Wagon Adventure.

This game is dumb. Astoundingly dumb. And I love it.

Let me tell you a story about three travelers, going west. At one point they decided to swim a river that was too deep to ford, and too long to jump. While doing this they braved many a piranha, jellyfish, and narwhal, only to do battle against a giant squid. But the travelers were successful, and as their reward they received a treasure chest. With trepidation they opened it, and what did they find inside?

Why, a trained falcon of course.

This game is amazing. I played way too much of it, but I never beat it. And I'm sure that I'll play even more of it, because MAN. This game is FANTASTIC. And it's only a dollar. Go buy it. NOW.

You can also go into space.

Westerado.

I know this is a flash game, but it's still pretty cool. I also haven't beaten this one, but I enjoyed my time with it. And the music is rad. I've had the main title theme on loop as I've written this blog (by which I mean I have the game open in a different tab, and left it at the main title screen). If you haven't played it, it's worth a look. It is a little buggy though, and the keyboard only controls aren't the best possible controls for this type of game. But they're serviceable.

The Cave.

Yes, I have actually played a 2013 release this year (well, Westerado is a 2013 game too, but whatever). And I won't write too much about The Cave, because this blog is much longer than I originally intended, but I do want to say a little bit about it.

I really enjoyed The Cave. I think part of why I enjoyed it as much as I did was that I played it co-op with two of my friends, and we played the entire game in one sitting. Playing it in co-op does two things to improve the game. The first is that with three brains, it rapidly increases the rate at which puzzles get solved. And the second is that there's way less backtracking when you have different people controlling the different characters, and you can relax and watch other people play during a lot of it.

Again, I liked it. We went Hillbilly (me), Scientist, and Twins. There's some good variety with these guys. I thought a lot of the puzzles were well designed, and I thought the game was pretty funny in spots.

But as much as I liked it, I think I had my fill, which is why I'm glad my friend bought it and we played it on his PC. If you have a couple friends to play with, and a few hours to kill, then I'd say The Cave is totally worth your time.

Also, we somehow lost the post card halfway through the game. That made me sad.

Hillbilly.

So that's it for games that I've played this year. There's been some that I would have played if I had the money to play every game. Namely Devil May Cry and Dead Space 3. But with so many other melee combat action games this year, I opted not to play DmC (yet), and I'm waiting on a sale for Dead Space 3. I love the Dead Space games, but I feel like I ought to wait a bit on DS3.

Metal Gear Rising: REVENGEANCE is out next week, and I'm super pumped for it. So far as I know the only review from an outlet I've heard of for it (as of this writing) is a 39/40 from Famitsu, which is encouraging, but it's also from Famitsu, so who knows. It'll definitely be smarter to wait for reviews that are, A. From people I have heard of, and B. Written in english so that I can read them.

Aside from that? There's plenty of other games this year (probably) that I'm looking forward to, most notably whatever Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain end up being, but even more notably...

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am INSANELY excited for this game. The only problem is that I don't have a 3DS. I'm going to have to buy a 3DS. I need some money.

I just hope that it winds up being another Superstar Saga or Bowser's Inside Story, and not another Partners in Time. Partners in Time wasn't a bad game, it was just really disappointing after Superstar Saga.

Not much of interest has been happening in my life outside of games. I'm still working on my second book, which is a sequel to the first. You can still totally buy that first one on Amazon as an ebook, but I won't link to it because I fear what the mods will do to me for advertising here in a forum. Yeah, this is a blog post, but nobody reads these things if I don't attach it to a forum.

And I am especially fearful for what ZombiePie will do. He laughed at us earlier this week as he mercilessly cut down all our hopes and dreams. I understand that the mods have rules to enforce, but dammit ZombiePie! Can't you let us have any fun?

I'll be graduating after this semester in college. Or dropping out if I fail a course, because I'm not going to another semester just for one class. But I doubt that I'll fail anything. This stuff isn't that hard.

As this is, apparently, the Year of Luigi, I've decided to make a change to my blogs. This is also partly because of a recent Northies related development from Giant Bomb dot com.

There will be no more unrelated pictures of Nolan North in my blogs.

If the GB Crew have retired the Northies from their end of year awards (which I disapprove of, for the record), then I feel like I've let the Nolan North picture gag go on long enough. Thus, unrelated pictures of Luigi shall be the thing I end all my blogs with! Enjoy!

8 Comments

The Moosies Video Games Awards Top Ten Games of 2012!

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the most momentous... Okay, let me be serious for a little bit. This was an interesting year for video games. While there were certainly plenty of really great games this year, there weren't many that didn't have any sort of horrible flaws. Between bad endings/stories, strange bugs, and general jankiness, a lot of really good games this year were also really messed up. And I also didn't play a bunch of really big releases this year, whether it was because of a lack of interest (XCOM, Journey), or because I just didn't have the money or the time (Binary Domain, Sleeping Dogs). Okay, maybe Binary Domain wasn't a really big release, but you know what I mean. The point I'm trying to make is that this top ten list of my ten favorite games this year has several games on it that probably wouldn't be there if I had played more games. But whatever, these are my ten favorite games I played this year (that were released in 2012, at least), even if I didn't really play that many more games than the ten games on this list of my favorite ten games of 2012.

Also, Roman Numerals.

And one more thing. How about some background music to enjoy whilst perusing this?

XI. Dishonored

I'm still very conflicted about Dishonored. On the one hand, I do think it is a very well made game, and there are a lot of really imaginative powers and abilities in the game. The openness of the level design and structure of the game is fantastic. Every level (outside of the tutorial level) is littered with alternate paths and different ways to get through. And most of the time there are different ways to complete the end goal of the level, and those methods are often substantially different, and involve going to different parts of the level and doing completely different things. All of that is fantastic, and I really love that part of the game.

It's just that the rest of the game is kinda lackluster in comparison. Sure, there are a lot of abilities, especially if you like killing enemies. Conversely, there are two ways to knock out enemies in the game. You either get them in a choke hold (which you can only do if the enemy doesn't detect you), or you shoot them with a tranquilizer dart (and you can only carry ten of those). Now, I fully admit that I may have just missed something, but I couldn't find any other way to knock enemies out in the game. I think it's unfortunate that a game that encourages you not to kill every step of the way only has two ways to defeat enemies non-lethally. Sure, there are ways to get away quickly, or stun them (I think level 1 of the wind spell would be good for knocking them over), but the fact that you can't even do something simple like sheath the sword and fist fight is a massive oversight. Or maybe it was intentional, I have no way of knowing. Either way, I didn't like it. I mean, even Snake can CQC guys to the ground after he gets seen in something like MGS4.

And I have the same issues with a lot of the world, and the story in Dishonored. I love a lot of the ideas of the city of Dunwall, and things like super whale oil that can power electricity. But a lot of it just feels half-baked. "How do we explain the main character having magic? How about we make this magic guy who just gives it to him?" That's really dumb. I'm not saying that all games have to have really good stories, but the story stuff in Dishonored is not good. It's bad. And when a game has as much story as Dishonored does, it should be good. I would rather there be no story than bad story, and the story stuff in Dishonored really does lessen the experience. For me it did, at least.

But at the end of the day, Dishonored is a pretty good stealth game that gets bogged down by its limp attempts at story. I still enjoyed playing it a lot, and I am definitely very intrigued at the eventual sequel to Dishonored (or whatever it is that the people who made the game make next).

X. Darksiders II

Darksiders II is another game that I really liked playing it, but didn't care for a lot of other things in it. Unlike Dishonored I did at least think (for a while) that the early plot events in Darksiders II could have culminated in something interesting later on in the game, and I do still think Death was a well written and voiced character. But the story just falls apart later on in the game, as do the dungeons (which has led me to theorize that they did not have the time to make the game they wanted to, but I have no idea if that was really the case or not). And while I do not count myself among the people who really loved the ending of Darksiders I (I still think it's just another cliff hanger "See you next time" ending), the ending of Darksiders II was really lame in comparison.

Don't get me wrong, I really liked the part of Darksiders II where I was playing it. If Darksiders I was a good Zelda clone, then Darksiders II is a good Prince of Persia clone. The game still followed a similar dungeon structure as the first, but the puzzles relied more heavily on environment traversal, like a Prince of Persia game. And while the dungeons ultimately aren't as good or well designed as the ones in Darksiders I, I still had a lot of fun jumping and climbing my way through most of them, and I had even more fun fighting in the game. The camera may have had a tendency to be too close to the action, but the combat was still varied and deep enough to be fun. And it was really fast paced too, and I like my melee combat fast.

I also loved the MAG-like possessed weapons in the game. "Feeding" weapons and gear to other weapons to pass traits and stats onto the other weapon is a great idea, and I think the game handled it really well (aside from my not finding many possessed weapons, and a bug straight that up prevented me from buying them from Vulgrim, which my friend claims is possible, but I could never do it). Either way, I wish more loot based games would do creative things like this with their loot. Crafting is all fine and dandy, but I think there's something weirdly compelling about feeding things to other weapons to make them more powerful.

So what's my final thought on Darksiders II? I was really excited for this game. Excited enough that I pre-ordered it through THQ to get the DLC free (and so that all my money would go to THQ, because THQ needs money). I believe it's the third game that I've ever pre-ordered, and the first one in about five or six years. But then the DLC turned out to be lousy, short, and bug-ridden. A scripting bug prevented me from seeing most of the second dungeon in the second DLC, and then the game crashed on me four times in a row in the same exact spot in the third DLC, so I just stopped trying. On the fourth try I was literally not touching any buttons or control sticks, but the game still crashed the same time after a cut-scene played, just like the previous three tries.

I was let down in a lot of ways, but I still enjoyed most of my experience. The combat was great, and I liked a lot of the puzzles. It's just that the story was lousy, and now we might never see what happens after the events of Darksiders I. And that sucks. But who knows.

IX. Assassin's Creed III

Talk about games I was excited for! I didn't pre-order this one, but everything about this game had me dying to play it. The setting (I live in New England, and there aren't many games set in this zone), the changes to the game play, and the idea of playing through the Revolutionary War had me pumped! It's just that they completely botched most of the story, and almost all of the missions in the game. I've already said all I have to say about the game's awful ending(s), but the story leading up to it was a real downer too. So much potential that was just thrown right out the window! It's a game set in the middle of one of the most important and interesting periods in American history, and they completely ruined it by skipping over most of it, and focusing on the wrong things.

My favorite mission in the game, and the one time where I think they got it right, was the Battle of Bunker Hill. That was a thrilling and exciting mission that had a lot of variety, and got the historical hooks right. You hear the famous, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" line, and it's delivered with the exact right amount of gusto and energy needed by a cigar chomping general. That moment literally could not have been done any better, and the rest of the mission after that is fantastic! There's a great use of a large scale battle, with Connor slipping behind enemy lines, and then there's some stealth where Connor attempts to take out his target. All of that is great, and I haven't even mentioned the (mostly scripted) part with all the buildings blowing up. It's easily the high point of the game (not counting the Haytham twist), and definitely one of my favorite levels/missions of the year.

But aside from that one mission, most of the fun I had playing Assassin's Creed III was either the naval combat (which is good enough that I think they could make an amazing $10 (because screw $15 being the normal price) downloadable game out of it) or just exploring the world. I think the combat was fantastic (best of the year), and the tree climbing was better than I could have dreamed! Sure, most of it was just pushing forward on the stick and holding a button, but hey, that's video games. But even when I was exploring the world and having fun with that, the game's frame rate had to jump in and try to ruin the fun. It never got game breakingly bad (though, this is from someone who suffered through one hundred hours of Skyrim on PS3), but the frame rate was almost always chugging, at least a little, especially in the cities.

So, like the other two games I've written about thus far, I liked a lot of the game in Assassin's Creed III, but the rest was pretty disappointing. And here's a spoiler, that trend doesn't end here.

VIII. Far Cry 3

In a lot of ways, Far Cry 3 is like professional wrestling. There are only about three likable characters, most of which are villains (Vaas and Hoyt), and the rest are villainous in appearance (Sam). It's chock full of great ideas, and has some great moments, even in the story. But any time something truly interesting or has any potential happens, it gets quickly squandered or ruined before anything special can happen. And when it's all over, you just feel dirty for having sat through all that. So dirty that you start to wonder about what it was that you enjoyed about it in the first place.

No, before you ask, I didn't get the bad ending when I played the game. I got the good one, but I still felt dirty, and only felt exponentially more dirty after I looked up the other ending on YouTube. I had no idea that ending would be what it was, but man, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WHEN THEY MADE THAT ENDING?! Really, what were they thinking when they did anything related to the story in that game? I want to say that it's all shoddily made, and that they threw it together at the last minute, but the facial animation is so good that I really doubt that was the case. I mean, it's not LA Noire good, or Uncharted 3 good, but it's still pretty good facial animation.

The story was so bad that in the immediate aftermath of beating the game, I kinda forgot about all the things that I loved about the game. If you asked me what I thought of that game after playing through the first few hours, I would have said that it was easily the best game of the year. In fact, I did say that to my cousin when he asked me (though I believe I did say that I was early on, and that I couldn't speak for the game as a whole). Now though? I still think the core game play is great. The shooting is great, and the stealthing is great. I know Dishonored tried its best to make combat in a stealth game great, but Far Cry 3 is the true victor when it comes to mixing great action with great stealth. It's just that, even with decent weapon variety, taking over enemy outposts gets old after a while. Running out into the woods to hunt gets old after a while when there isn't really that much variety to animal AI.

What I'm trying to say is that Far Cry 3 is a one trick pony. That one trick is pretty amazing, but after twenty nine hours, that trick got old. Sure, a lot of the story missions are actually pretty good, maybe good enough that I might replay a couple of them for fun if the game had the ability to replay missions (I don't think it does). But it's still just the same couple of things over and over again, and it just got old and repetitive. And even the late game appearance Sam (the German) and the increased amount of Hoyt couldn't save the game from itself.

A quick side note, when I made the nominations for this year's Moosies, I hadn't actually beaten Far Cry 3, and I had yet to make it to Sam. If I had, he definitely would have been nominated for Best New Supporting Character, because I do think he is a really great character. His play on the stereotype of Germans as villains is great. But I also really wish they had done more with him. Like I wish they had done more with Vaas, and more with Hoyt.

So what's the moral of the story? Far Cry 3 is another game that has a lot of really great game play, but a lot of the other parts of it are just not done well enough. And maybe that's more a comment on how games have advanced in the last few years. When games like Uncharted 3 and Batman Arkham City come out in years past and combine fantastic story with fantastic game play, it becomes easy to expect that in big budget games. But sometimes you just have to settle for something like Far Cry 3 that has fantastic game play that doesn't quite hold up for its run time, and has a pretty lousy story.

VII. Fez

Now, luckily, I'm getting to the games that I don't feel bummed out about issues with the game. Which isn't to say that Fez doesn't have issues, because this is yet another game that can have a chugging frame rate (and when it was patched, it corrupted the save files for some people). Fez was a fun time, and not one that was ruined by the frame rate, or a lousy story. Unlike the other games, that tried to have stories, Fez didn't even bother. Well, there's plenty of things that can be learned about the world of Fez by examining the environments, and there are NPCs to talk to, but that's not the point of Fez. The point of Fez is the experience of the adventure.

And while there are a lot of people out there who like to say that the real Fez doesn't start until after you beat it the first time, I still really enjoyed my first time through. I think Fez is a really fun platformer with a nifty hook (the world twisting thing). No, it's not hard, or that tricky, but exploring the world was still fun, and I think it still invokes the olden days of my youth when I could get lost exploring a game's world, and just exploring the world. No quests to take, no dungeons to raid, just areas to explore. Okay, maybe there weren't really many games like that when I was a kid, but you understand what I mean.

But then I beat Fez, and I transitioned into detective mode. That was when I broke out the pen and notebook. And yes, I have a notebook with pages of insane scribblings and notes, just like many other Fez players. That was when I tried my best at deciphering the language of Fez, and the other mysteries of the game. The only problem was that I didn't get it. I wasn't able to crack the code. I thought I had figured out a few letters of the Fez alphabet, but when I went online to check, I quickly realized that I had it all wrong, so I just went and looked up the whole alphabet, and the way in which you're supposed to crack the code. Of course, after seeing what that was, I felt like a complete idiot for not noticing it as I quickly jumped through the lazy room in question. And that just led me down a horrible road to looking up the solutions to the truly crazy puzzles in the game. But I never would have figured out some of that stuff, like the telescope one that involved some sort of weird binary or something, I don't remember.

Either way, I really love Fez. So much that I almost wish I could wipe everything I know about Fez from my mind so that I could replay it again, but without knowing anything about it. So I could re-experience things like the rumble puzzles. Remember those? Those were neat, and a really great use of the rumble in the controller. I had never realized that the 360 controller had two discrete rumble things in it that could be operated like how they are in the game. And the whole game is filled with really neat and fun things like that. Go play Fez. It's a fun time.

VI. The Walking Dead

If Fez is a fun time, then The Walking Dead is... Well, it's also a game you should play, but for completely different reasons. This game made me feel terrible, several times. But terrible in absolutely the best way possible. Some of the things that this game makes you do are nuts. It's crazy! I almost can't believe that the people at Telltale Games thought it was a good idea to make people do some of these things in this game. This game is dark. DARK. Almost soul crushingly dark.

The game does a great job of making the characters believable, and if not likable, then it at least makes you realize that you need to work with them in order to survive. Take Kenny, for example. Kenny is both really great, and also kind of terrible. In retrospect, Kenny is another character that probably deserved a nomination for Best New Supporting Character. Conversely, he was messing up and doing the wrong thing as often as he was doing the right thing, so maybe not. But I like that. A lot of people are like that in real life. They do the right thing a lot, but screw everything else up.

That's what The Walking Dead is about. People screwing up. This is not a game to be played to succeed, or to triumph. This is a game that is played to watch people suffer through horrible events. To see people who are, for the most part, good people try to survive through truly awful tragedies, time and time again. And when I think about it that way, I start to feel real dirty again. It makes me question why people enjoy things like that. Why did I enjoy playing this horrible game that made me do all these horrible things? Did I enjoy it, or am I merely recognizing that it's a well made game that is different than any other game I've played?

I dunno. But clearly it left an impression on me, because I got through several paragraphs without mentioning all the game's problems, like the bad action sequences, the lack of tension caused by my knowing that Lee would never die from a random zombie attack, so I never felt worried about his well being (until the final episode, but hey, I won't spoil anything (or have I already said too much?)), and the general bugginess of the game (like the time the camera fell through the world and I had to reload the game because it wouldn't come back up).

Also, I hate zombies. This is the only serious zombie thing that I like, everything else is either a comedy that happens to have zombies in it (Shaun of the Dead) or a parody (Planet Terror). I think that my liking The Walking Dead as much as I do is an accomplishment. I mean, I am surrounded by people who like The Walking Dead TV show and comics (my dad and my cousins, for example), and yet I have literally zero interest in any of that. Even if at the end of the game the choices didn't really matter that much, Telltale made it feel like my choices mattered, and that's really what mattered.

Now I just need to get my dad to play the game, and see how he reacts to it.

V. Asura's Wrath

I'm still baffled by this game. One part beat 'em up, one part Panzer Dragoon, one part Quick Time Event, one part Dragon Ball Z, and about twenty parts INSANE is how I would describe Asura's Wrath. Even that still doesn't really fully explain this game. But if you're reading my thing on Giant Bomb, then you already know enough about Asura's Wrath that I don't need to describe it, especially when I'm really supposed to be discussing what I thought about it. But I guess I am, given that I'm still kinda confused.

Let me start with the things I don't like. The hot springs level was awful, and totally unnecessary. The melee combat isn't quite deep enough, and feels a little clunky (though after I got the hang of the charge attacks, I got pretty good at it (good enough that I got mostly S-Ranks in the game)). And there are way too many times in the game when a flashback appears out of nowhere, and is just Asura fighting Gohma. These parts add literally nothing to the story. All they do is mess up the pacing by making you fight a bunch of uninteresting enemies, and pad out the length of the game.

That's another thing that's been irking me. Any time anyone ever speaks about this game, they make it sound like the game is 90% QTEs, and while I don't know what the exact percentages are, there's definitely a lot more direct control than that in the game, especially if you count both the on foot combat, and the shooting sequences. But that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that this game is totally bananas. It's crazy, it's ridiculous! And up until the true ending of the game, I absolutely love it.

But that ending. While I think it's awful that they made the game's true ending DLC that they charged money for, I also think Asura's Wrath is a better game without the true ending. It has a bad plot twist that trivializes everything done up until that point in the game, most of it is padded with unnecessary fights, and the final boss isn't that fun to fight. There is a neat moment when the boss's button prompts begin to appear during the final QTE section (his have weird symbols on them that aren't on any controllers), and as the fight drags on, he begins missing them, and does worse as a result. That's actually one of my favorite moments in the game, but the rest of the DLC was lousy.

So lousy that it actually made me put this game at number five on this list, instead of number four. I was very conflicted for a long time about the specific ordering of this game and number four, and I kept switching them on my numbered list before I wrote any of this. But my end decision rested on the fact that I didn't really have any serious complaints with number four, and I think Asura's Wrath suffers from the True Ending.

Either way, I still really enjoyed Asura's Wrath, both when my friend and I played through to the on disc ending, and when I replayed it on my own and got through the True Ending (which ends with "To be continued" anyway). And honestly, I'll probably replay it again at some point next year. Something about the game's enthusiastic insanity and madness is very compelling to me. Also...

BURST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

IV. Call of Duty: Black Ops II

I know that over the years it's because quite popular to poke fun at the Call of duty franchise for the games being what they are (running forward and shooting hundreds of guys), but hey, I still like them. And honestly, Black Ops II is easily my favorite in the series yet. Not because of the Zombies mode (which I have to say, I'm quite disappointed that they took out the Smash TV style mode from Black Ops I, which was easily the best part of the Zombies mode in that game), and not because of the non-zombie based online modes.

It's because of the campaign. While Black Ops I combined the traditional Call of Duty style campaign with a pretty good story, Black Ops II went the extra mile with both the story and the game play. When I heard that Treyarch was claiming that Black Ops II was going to have more open level design, and have a branching story, I was incredulous. I thought that they were probably lying about the first thing, and greatly exaggerating the second. But lo and behold, they actually did it. And more importantly, not only did they do it well, they did it so well that it's my favorite game of the bunch, and I really love some of the Call of Duty games.

The horse riding mission (I don't remember the name, and I don't feel like looking it up) early in the game is a perfect example of both the improved level design, and the great way that the story stuff is handled. By Call of Duty standards, that level is huge. It's a big wide open area where Mason and Woods are riding horses from one area to the next where they have to get off and do some shooting. But by the end of the level, all hell has broken loose, and you're riding around this big area shooting rockets at helicopters and tanks. It's thrilling, it's exciting, it's fun, and it's different. Different from the usual Call of Duty fair, at least.

But after the shooting is done, there's a story bit at the end with a, let's say "non-traditional" way of making a story choice. I'm not going to spoil what happens, but in order to make the "good" choice, you have to literally struggle against "something" (by mashing a button) in order to make that choice. Of course, in the heat of the moment it just comes off as another Quick Time Event, but if you don't mash that button, things can go differently. Not differently enough to change the entire course of the story, but enough.

And that is one of the best parts of the game's story, it doesn't always telegraph all of the choices in an extremely clear manner. Sometimes it does, of course, when you see two button prompts on screen, but it often doesn't. In fact, I ended up getting the "middle of the road" ending because I didn't figure out a better way to accomplish something during one of the game's big choice moments. In fact, I didn't even realize that I had a choice in that moment. Though, I do kinda wish that had been shown more clearly, but I can't both praise the game for not showing everything and then complain about it in the next breath. That'd be crazy talk.

Also, the story in Black Ops II is pretty good. I almost gave this game my award for best story this year. The game's two stories (past and future) are interwoven extremely well, with Raul Menendez's convoluted (yet brilliant) schemes serving as the connecting force. He deserves a shout-out as well. While everyone else is out there ranting about Vaas, Menendez has been left out in the cold, despite being a much better fleshed out, and honestly, more interesting villain than Vaas. But that's because Vaas was a mostly blank slate, while Menendez is given a lot of time to have all of his motivations developed and explained. This is a minor spoiler, but you even play as him a couple times through the game, though very briefly. And one of those is a really fantastic moment that I don't want to spoil for those who haven't played the game.

And yes, I should be clear, Black Ops II has a good story, but it's still an "action movie story," and it doesn't even have a crazy twist like the Reznov twist in Black Ops I. But I'm a big fan of that type of story, and Black Ops II does it extremely well, and it does it well with all the different ways that the story can play out. Though, the best ending (and I'm guessing what will probably be the "true" ending for when they make Black Ops III) is kinda crazy, and I wonder how on Earth they would explain what happens there.

So, yeah. Black Ops II is a rad game. I don't play a ton of first person shooters, and maybe if I did I'd be sick enough of them to not be so impressed with Black Ops II, but as it stands, it's one of my favorite games of 2012. I should play some more of the online. I liked running around with just a knife. I wasn't very good playing that way, but I had fun.

III. Xenoblade Chronicles

When I bought Xenoblade Chronicles, it was mostly out of a feeling of obligation. I wanted to buy this game because I wanted to show support for it after all the trouble it took to get Nintendo to release it in the US, and I wanted one last hurrah for my Wii before I rushed out to buy a Wii U (or at least that's what I thought this spring, I still have yet to buy a Wii U). The fact that the game was critically acclaimed and seemed cool from a setting/world standpoint was nice too.

But I didn't expect to get pulled into the game as much as I did. I can be fairly finicky about the RPG combat systems that I do and don't like. I've played a lot of traditional turn based JRPGs, but I hated games like Knights of the Old Republic when I tried to play them. Usually anything that wasn't strictly turn based or strictly real time wasn't anything that I wanted to have anything to do with. But to my surprise, I ended up loving the combat in Xenoblade. I think part of it is that leading man Shulk has a lot of skills based around attacking from the back, or the side, like rogues in many RPGs. And somehow that was also the first time I ever played a non-stealth game where that was a core thing for the character I was using.

Not that the game forces you to use Shulk. You can go into battle directly controlling any of the characters in the party, but Shulk is clearly the main character, and it's always wise to at least have him in the active combat group. Anyway, the combat in the game is cool. A lot of my strategy revolved around using Shulk to knock enemies off balance, and then Reyn would knock them down, at which point I'd try to use a (and at this point, I start to forget the actual names of the mechanics) tag-team move. That's when the game would switch from real time to completely turn based, with control switching from one character to the next until the chain gets broken (I think they're called chain attacks, now that I think about it). I'm doing a poor job of explaining it, but when you do it right, it leads to this crazy chain of one attack right after another, and the characters are absolutely pummeling the enemies into submission. It's truly satisfying, especially when it ends up being the final blows dealt after a long and grueling boss fight.

And that leads me to what is probably my biggest complaint with the game. It involves just a bit too much grinding. I do appreciate that it is always possible to just level yourself to a point where you can defeat whatever stands in your way more easily, but it's just a bit too grindy. Near the end of the game I got to one boss where I literally had to go and grind for eight hours before I could beat it. Now, I fully admit that I was probably missing something in that fight, and that if I went in with different characters, or a different strategy I might not have needed to do that grinding. But instead I ground my way to victory.

And the reason why I didn't just stop playing the game out of frustration was because I was so invested in the characters and the story of the game. Yes, the story is a JRPG story, and there is a very JRPG-ish plot twist late in the game. But unlike another game this year that had a twist like that, this game at least hints at it beforehand, so it didn't feel totally out of nowhere. That twist also led to some of the most insane and ridiculous stuff in this game, so I'm not complaining too much. But like I said, it's the characters that drew me into the story. None of them are super original, or really anything you wouldn't see in any other JRPG (or anime, for that matter), but the voice acting in the game is great, and makes everyone in the central cast (you know, the combat party) likable and believable. It'd be easy to think that a super Japanese game with a budget British voice cast would be half-baked, or not well done, but it's actually quite great.

And please don't take that as an anti-British comment, I love the British voice acting in the game, and I have nothing but respect for British actors. I just mean that it's a miracle that the game got not only translated for Japanese, it also got an English voice over, and a very good one at that. If anything, my only complaint with the voice acting is that there isn't enough of it. All the cut-scenes are voiced, and there's plenty of banter during combat (which is less annoying when you're playing than it seems when you watch videos online, trust me). But there's a lot of dialog in side quests that is just text. I'm fine with that, but there are lots of areas around the world where you have have characters S-Link with each other (or have "heart to hearts," as the game calls them), but those also aren't voiced. And that's unfortunate, because they turn what could be touching moments into throwaway things because those do feel half-baked without voice acting.

But those are minor issues. Xenoblade is a fantastic game, and I think it's a shame that more people won't play this game. I know that even if conditions were ideal (better marketing, not on the Wii) it still wouldn't be a huge hit, but it has more than enough appeal to sell a lot better than it did in the US at least. But that's a discussion for another day. For now, I'll just say that if you have a Wii and you like RPGs, play this game. It's my third favorite game of the year, and my third favorite game on the Wii (second favorite, if you discount Twilight Princess, as that was technically multi-platform).

And man, the music is AMAZING.

II. Dust: An Elysian Tail

In a lot of ways, Dust is probably actually the best game I played this year. Or at least the most consistently good game. I don't have any faults with this game. There's no part of this game that makes me think, "Well, I wish this was better." Okay, I kinda wish the map was more Metroidvania-ish, but that's such a minor issue that I feel like I'm nitpicking for even mentioning.

But you know why I wish the map was more Metroidvania-ish? Because I love this game as much as I do. Because I felt compelled to scour every last inch of the game for any and every item that I could find. And I did. I got to whatever the weird percentage it was that was the max for the game, because of course it wasn't 100%. The game was such a joy to play that I couldn't stop playing it. After I beat it and found everything in the game, I started playing it again, but on hard (to get an Achievement). And then I made my way through the game on hard and got that Achievement.

I suppose a more substantive "complaint" with the game is that it's too easy on normal, and that the combat in the game could have been deeper. But if the alternative was deeper combat that wasn't as fluid, smooth, and perfect feeling as it was, then I would have stuck with the existing combat (not that deeper combat would have made any of that happen, of course). I'm sorry that I don't have a clearer way of explaining what it is about the feel of the game that works, but it just works. And it feels perfect. Everything about the way Dust moves, jumps, and attacks just feels right. You have to play it to understand, and I understood it within seconds of starting the game. By which I mean within seconds of starting the demo, because before I even finished that demo, I knew that I had to play the game from start to finish.

The thing I loved most about the combat in the game was the dynamic between Dust's spin attack and Fidget's magic. I fully admit that the lightning spell in the game is over-powered, but that didn't stop me from spiraling through the air sending out giant bolts of electricity to defeat my foes. Again, it's the kind of thing that you have to play in order to appreciate, especially because you don't start the game with that power. You have to work your way up to get that, and once you figure out how to use it right, it's magical (literally and figuratively).

Unlike a lot of other games on this list, I didn't finish this game feeling bummed out, because this game has a really rad story. Well, rad probably isn't the best word, given how serious the story is (GENOCIDE), but it's a great story. Even if the story wasn't great, the characters are, and it would have been worth seeing through to the end just to see more interactions between Dust, Fidget, and the Blade of Arah. I can't stress enough how perfect this trio is together, and they really are the glue that keeps the whole thing together.

But the most impressive and truly insane thing about the game is the origin of how it was made. And though I know Dean Dodrill isn't actually reading this, I just want to take this moment to congratulate and thank him for making this truly fantastic and unforgettable game. It's mind blowing that one man could have done all this (not counting music and voice acting), and I think that alone is worthy of praise.

Mr. Dodrill created a world that feels alive, and he did it all on his own (again, not counting the audio end). Yes, it took him years to do it, but you can't argue with results. Even though that's exactly what a lot of people do when they look at the game. And, to be honest, when I first saw the game I even thought it looked just a tad too bright and colorful. But it didn't really take too long for me to change my tune and come to appreciate the game's art for being as great as it is. Also, I have to say that a lot of the game is pretty dark and grim looking, which I appreciate, because those parts are dark and grim for a reason.

But I think the thing that speaks most to how much I love this game is that as I sit here typing this, I'm getting the urge to start it up again, and play through it once more. I know I replay games more than most people do, but it takes a lot for me to want to play a game more than twice in one year. But there's only one game this year that made me do that...

I. Mass Effect 3

Yup. Mass Effect 3. I played through this game three times this year. I almost want to say I played through it four times, actually, but some much stuff happened this year that I can't remember, and I'm not going through the trouble to load up the game and figure that out. And this isn't a short game that I was speed running through, this is a thirty hour game. It takes a lot of time and effort to get through Mass Effect 3, especially when one of those playthroughs is on Insanity, again, to get an Achievement. But what could drive me to play through a game that many times?

It's my love of Mass Effect. It's my love of that style of space opera-y science fiction. When I was young, I was obsessed with Star Wars. When I was in middle school, it was Star Trek. When it was early high school, it was Stargate SG-1 (and for the record, SG-1 is better than most people give it credit for, even if it's not up to the high caliber of something like Star Trek TNG). But once Mass Effect came out? I can't even begin to describe how my first playthrough of the first Mass Effect was. It was like when I was six and a half years old and went to see those "digitally remastered" versions of the Star Wars movies in the theater in 1997. It was magical. Yes, the game had tons of technical issues, but that didn't stop me from obsessing over the universe that BioWare had carefully crafted.

Then I played Mass Effect 2 in 2010, and was blown away all over again. They had worked out the bugs in the game end, and upped the ante with a bigger and better cast, better production values, and just better everything. Well, not the story, but everything else was done so astoundingly well that I could easily look over the fact that Mass Effect 2's main story is little more than The Illusive Man sending Shepard off to fight some bug people. It was another fantastic experience that only drew me further into the universe than the first one did (though I should say, I never actually went as far as reading any of the books).

So as you can imagine, I was very excited for Mass Effect 3. Due to college, I wasn't able to jump in and start playing right on the day it was released. It was only a week or two, but it was enough. The internet was filled with people talking about the game, and the ending. While I managed to avoid any spoilers about the specifics of the ending, one thing was clear: people weren't happy about it. So I went into the game wondering how I would feel about it. Would I hate the ending? Would I hate the side content? Would I be disappointed?

And, up until the last hour of the game, I could not have been happier with it on my first playthrough. No, it wasn't as good overall as Mass Effect 2, and the story wasn't as good as Mass Effect 1's, but the game still drew me in. I was still fully engrossed with every decision that Shepard had to make, still fully committed to saving the galaxy from the Reapers. And as I kept going, I kept loving the game more and more. Sure, it's a big coincidence that you end up having to team up with Mordin again to deal with the genophage, but conversely, the climatic moment in that subplot is one of the best moments in that entire series. If you've played the game, then I think you know what I mean.

And the same goes for the climax of the Geth/Quarian subplot in the game. Yes, I admit that it is perhaps too convenient that it is possible for Shepard to solve the situation as neatly as he can if you do it right. But I wasn't thinking that after I did it. I was full of joy at being able to bring about a satisfying resolution to that conflict. I had triumphed in a situation that seemed impossible, and it felt great, even if it wasn't all happy (again, fellow Mass Effect 3 players know what I mean).

But then I got to the end of the game. And even right before the end turns sour, there's a fantastic scene between Shepard, Anderson, and The Illusive Man. Say what you will about the specifics of what actually happens there, and why it happens, but that's a great moment. The moment after that is great too, but again, spoilers, so I won't go into specifics. What I will say is that after three games, it was a very emotional moment, and again, one of the best in the series.

The problem is that what happens after that was the ending, which was complete and utter garbage. But I won't bore you with that, we all have our opinions, and this isn't what this is about. This is about why Mass Effect 3 is my favorite game of the year. And why is that? Because even after I got totally bummed out about that ending, I still went back and played it again on Insanity. And then I played it a third time, but with a different imported save from Mass Effect 2 (I had accidentally picked the wrong one when I started Mass Effect 3, but didn't realize it until pretty far into the game). I wanted to see how things played out differently, so I played it that third time.

Then some time passed. Eventually, BioWare put out the retconned ending. So I went and replayed the final parts of the game, and YouTubed the other endings (because I refuse to go with any ending other than red (aside from the first time when I got the secret fourth ending by "accidentally" shooting the other thing)). And while I still wouldn't say the ending is great, they definitely improved it a lot. Enough that I'm at peace with the ending of the game, even if it isn't how I would have ended it.

But even that wasn't the end of my Mass Effect 3 playing for the year. Then they put out the Leviathan DLC, which I played. And it was really great. I wish that had been part of the main game, just like how Javik should have been there for everyone (like he was for me), and how the ending shouldn't have been as atrocious as it originally was. But that's all in the past.

But what's the point of all this babbling? The point is that no other game took up as much of my time this year as Mass Effect 3 did. And I mean both in terms of actually playing, and discussing online. I was in those forums talking about what I thought would be in the retconned ending. I was discussing the Indoctrination Theory with people. And while that Theory does sound like chem-trail-esque madness now, anything seemed possible back then. And, honestly, I still think that could have been a cool twist, but now it's obviously just forum-created insanity.

So what I'm saying is that while Mass Effect 3 isn't the best game I played this year, it's definitely my game of the year. It's the game I'll remember the most, and it's the game I'll think about the most in the coming years. And I know I'll end up replaying it again, and again, just like I have for Mass Effect 1 and 2. Like I said, I absolutely love the Mass Effect games, and even though Mass Effect 3 is weaker in some ways, it's still an amazing experience, and I'm glad that I was around for the ride. I'm definitely hesitant about the future of Mass Effect, but so long as whatever comes next isn't complete garbage, I'll probably be there, ready and willing as ever.

It's been a good ride indeed.

I'm sure that after reading that rambling mess the last thing you want to do is read more of my stuff, so I'll try and be quick. I just want to say that 2012 was an interesting year, for my life outside of games (college, working on that novel), for the video game industry as a whole (Wii U, other consoles being pushed off too long), and for Giant Bomb (CBS?!). And I feel like 2013 is going to be even more interesting. New consoles are on the horizon, and I'm sure that'll be fun and exciting. I'll be graduating from college, and I'm sure that'll be terrifying and horrifying.

But however weird and crazy 2013 gets, I'm looking forward to experiencing it with the fine folks here at Giant Bomb. Thank you all for continuing to read my blogs, and I hope you continue next year. I just finished Retro City Rampage, and I've played through most of Metro 2033, so I should be doing a write up for those in the near future. Once I've recovered from writing this mess, at least.

6 Comments

The Fourth Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Winners!

Yay, awards!

Abraham Lincoln Award for Best Use of Facial Hair.

Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Black Ops II is a perfect example of how the subtle use of facial hair can improve the overall experience of a video game (or any sort of story, fictional or otherwise). None of the beards in Black Ops II are ridiculous, or over the top. Instead, they're all reasonable, if a bit scruffy at times. But it's the ways in which characters' facial hair changes over time that makes the game's use of facial hair as effective as it is. The overall story of Black Ops II take place over a pretty long period of time, and the state of a character's facial hair in the game is often a physical embodiment of that character's mental well being, or state of mind.

Take the game's villain, Menendez, as an example. The better he's doing, the more well kept and majestic his beard is, but the worse off he is, the more pathetic it looks (and the beard can be pretty pathetic, depending on how the story goes). And that's just one example. For having beards that reflect the inner spirits of characters, Black Ops II easily wins the Best Use of Facial Hair award.

Runners up: Assassin's Creed III, Asura's Wrath

George Washington Award for Best Returning Protagonist.

Winner: Commander "Loco" Shepard

Shepard may have a lot of hammy lines in Mass Effect 3, and Shepard might not be voice actor Mark Meer's finest role (that's Blasto, or maybe the Vorcha), but Shepard really went above and beyond the call this year in Mass Effect 3. Sure, he kinda acts like a creepy stalker guy by overhearing conversations and then traveling halfway across the galaxy to get something for a random person, but conversely, he pulls off a lot of really crazy stuff in Mass Effect 3, especially if you (the player) play your cards right (cough, Quarian/Geth conflict, cough).

But the real reason why Shepard wins the award for Best Returning Protagonist is that his return means more than the return of any other returning protagonist this year. By which I mean all the decisions from Mass Effect 1 and 2. And don't go saying, "Those decisions don't really matter." Yes they do. If Wrex is dead, then Wrex isn't going to show up. I don't care if you still go to the same places and do the same things, if Wrex isn't there, then it's not the same. And for me at least, all this baggage (for better or for worse) makes Shepard the Best Returning Protagonist of 2012.

Runners up: Alex "The Numbers" Mason, Desmond "Nolan North" Miles

Teddy Roosevelt Award for Best New Protagonist.

Winner: Lee "…" Everett

I could say a lot of things about Lee winning this because he's likable, because of his race (given so few leading African Americans in most video games), and numerous other things. But the thing that I liked most about Lee is how no matter what decisions you make in the game, it almost always seems believable. He's the kind of guy who is kind hearted enough to help a young lass through a zombie apocalypse, but also be cold hearted enough to do the truly brutal and awful things that have to be done in order to survive. I won't go into any details, because you either haven't played the game, or you have. If you've played it, you know what I mean, and if you haven't, then I don't want to spoil anything for you, because there are certainly plenty of places online where you can get things about this game spoiled for you. But rest assured that Lee Everett is a fantastically written and voiced character who handily won this award, and will probably go down as one of the best protagonists in video game history. Or at least he's become one of my all time favorites.

Runners up: Dust, Shulk.

Thomas Jefferson Award for Best Returning Supporting Character.

Winner: Garrus "Space Monocle" Vakarian

I think that after three games of constantly having Shepard's back, and just generally being cool Garrus needs to win this award. This award was definitely very Mass Effect 3 heavy in nominees (and for good reason, I think), but even against characters like Wrex and Mordin, I think Garrus takes this. My favorite moment out of any video game this year was in Mass Effect 3 when Shepard and Garrus went out shooting cans on the Citadel. In a lot of ways it's a throwaway moment that doesn't add to the overall story at all, but it's also the culmination of the relationship that's been built between the two over the course of three games. It's a fun bit that shows two buddies taking some time off and enjoying life. And the part when Garrus says, "I'm Garrus Vakarian, and this is my favorite spot on the Citadel" was so perfect that it just sums up not only everything that I like about Garrus as a character, but also Mass Effect in general.

And, if for no other reason, I think Garrus is a really solid character to bring with you in combat, because he's good at range, and that Overload skill is crucial, especially when you play a Soldier class Shepard and are on Insanity (because of Achievements). But discussions of Mass Effect 3 on Insanity are outside the scope of this, so I'll just conclude by saying that Garrus is a rad character, and playing through three games with him was great. Also, he has a space monocle.

Runners up: Mordin "Gilbert and Sullivan" Solus, Urdot "Shepard" Wrex

Mr. Spock Award for Best New Supporting Character.

Winner: Javik "Prothy" The Prothean

Javik is a character where if the writing or the voice acting was just a little off in a few spots, the whole thing could have fallen apart and he would have been forgettable, or even awful. But both of those things hold up, and the end result is a character who is, to be frank, kind of a jerk. But he's the kind of jerk that you can't help but like. Every time he makes fun of one of the other races I couldn't help but smile, and occasionally even laugh out loud. And he doesn't do it because he doesn't know any better, he's purposely making fun of everyone. He takes pleasure in it, even if he never really seems happy on the outside.

Another reason why Javik is such a great character is all the ways in which he fills in holes about the history of the Mass Effect universe. Before Javik, the only direct experience with Protheans in any of the games was talking with Vigil (the AI) in Mass Effect 1. And that part was kept intentionally vague in many ways to keep the mystique about the Protheans alive. And while there is an argument to be made about keeping that mystique, I like that the people at BioWare decided to show us what the Protheans were really like. The fact that they were jerks was only icing on the cake. Yes, it's criminal that they held back the best new character in Mass Effect since Mordin in DLC, but that doesn't change the fact that Javik is a rad character, and one of the best in the series as a whole. And like Garrus, he's pretty all right in combat too.

Runners up: Haytham "I should be the protagonist through the whole game" Kenway, Fidget

Christopher Lee Award for Most Villainous Villain of Villany.

Winner: The Hubris of Man

This was the second image to appear when I searched for "hubris" on Google.

When you get down to it, The Hubris of Man is really the ultimate villain of life itself. Pretty much any bad thing in the history of mankind is caused by someone's hubris. Someone thinking his beliefs were better than others, or that his nation had the right to rule over all other nations. Hubris is at the center of it all, and this year was a shining example of how hubris can be the downfall of a great many people in video games. Almost every major release of the year, from Tokyo Jungle to Asura's Wrath to Dishonored featured the ills of hubris being brought to bear upon someone or something. And while The Hubris of Man is a pretty vague and formless thing in a lot of ways, and my going with it is a bit of a cop out, I feel like it really is the true villain of many of these games.

Take Far Cry 3 as an example. That is not a game about fighting crazy pirates, it's a game about what happens when you and your idiot friends go out partying in a third world country. It's about succumbing to their hubris, which is summed up really well in that intro cutscene with them partying and what not (a scene you may remember as Giant Bomb's best use of a licensed song). It's also the best use of hubris for 2012. But that isn't an award (it will be next year though). And until then, The Hubris of Man remains the greatest villain ever faced by humanity.

Runners up: Raul Menendez, Vaas Montenegro

Nolan North Award for Best Non-Nolan North Voice Actor.

Winner: Adrian Hough as Haytham Kenway

To a certain extent, Haytham Kenway is the most criminally underused character in video games this year. Okay, maybe that award should go to Vaas, but Haytham is a close second. And really, he's a much better and more interesting character than Vaas could ever dream of being (that, however, is an argument for another day). And that's due in no small part to the phenomenal voice acting from actor Adrian Hough, who is not exactly a household name. But not everyone can be Nolan North and be known for voicing numerous well known characters, sometimes you have to settle for voicing one really great character. It's hard to say exactly what it is about Mr. Hough's performance that stood out so much to me, but he definitely delivers each and every line extremely well, and made Haytham into the great character that he is, instead of being another lame character in a game filled with characters that don't live up to their potential. Now if only Ubisoft would give us a prequel just about Haytham...

Runners up: Dave Fennoy as Lee Everett, Michael Mando as Vaas Montenegro

Crash Time Award for Best Overall Voice Acting.

Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust doesn't win this award because the voice acting in it is leaps and bounds better than the other games this year, it's because the voice acting in the other games wasn't as consistently good as it is in Dust. Games like Black Ops II and Mass Effect 3 have a lot of great voice acting, but they also have a lot of pretty bad voice acting. Dust, meanwhile, has a solid cast of no-name voice actors, and they all portray their characters excellently. Yeah, some of that could be considered intentionally bad (I'm looking at you, underground hillbilly), but like I said, it's intentional, which makes it great. Of course none of that would be relevant if the main cast wasn't great. Luckily the voice actors behind Dust (Lucien Dodge), Fidget (Kimlinh Tran), and the Blade of Arah (Edward Bosco) all bring their A games, and make up one of the most memorable trios in recent history. Because of them, and all the great voices behind the numerous NPCs, Dust wins the Best Overall Voice Acting award.

Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Mass Effect 3

Multimedia Celebrity Poker Award for Best "Celebrity" Cast.

Winner: Mass Effect 3

I'm not going to lie, Keith David and Lance Henriksen are the main reasons why Mass Effect 3 won this award. The other reason is that Michael Keaton replaced Ed Harris as Hudson. But even if Ed Harris had returned, Mass Effect 3 still had a larger list of "celebrities" who (for the most part) did better than the celebrities in Black Ops II. But like I said, Keith David and Lance Henriksen are in the game. And Martin Sheen! I know I should really be writing about the great job done by the myriad of other "celebrity" voice actors in the game, but I think I can rest my argument at those three actors. At least when the competition is Hudson without Ed Harris. Come back to me with parallel universe Black Ops II that has Ed Harris, and this will be a totally different fight.

Runner up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Dishonorable mention: Dishonored. No, that isn't a pun based on the name of the game, that's because this game makes really bad use of its "celebrity" cast.

Monty Python Award for Funniest Game.

Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Very early in the game the character Fidget makes a joke/reference to the merchant in Resident Evil 4, and does it in a really funny way. I actually laughed at what was really a kinda silly joke. But right then and there, I knew that Dust was a rad game, and a funny one. And while the story of Dust is ultimately very serious (more on that later), it has plenty of genuinely funny moments peppered throughout the game. Many of them involve Fidget, who is a much better goofy idiot sidekick than a floating ferret thing has any right to be. But like the voice acting as a whole, a lot of the humor comes from the dynamic between the main three characters (okay, mostly Dust and Fidget, because the Blade of Arah is mostly all business, as talking swords often are). Nonetheless, Dust is a very funny game, and by far the funniest game I played all year.

Runners up: Far Cry 3 (mostly random goofy stuff), Xenoblade Chronicles

Bruce Springsteen Award for Best Bosses.*

Winner: Asura's Wrath

Asura's Wrath may not have the best melee combat, but the parts where the you have full control are only a small piece of the boss fights in the game. These are often multi-part fights where one part might be a traditional one on one battle of fisticuffs, the second might be a Panzer Dragoon-esque shooting sequence, and the third would be some sort of Quick Time Event where various acts of insanity occur. But it's the way these parts weave together seamlessly that makes the boss fights work as well as they do. It also helps that the bosses in the game are named characters, and you're given plenty of reason as to why you are fighting them. Not counting the various Gohma bosses, like the giant elephants. But I'll ignore them for now. They're more like mini-bosses anyway, and that's a separate award (that doesn't exist). Regardless, Asura's Wrath has the best boss fights out of all the games I played this year.

Runners up: Darksiders II, Xenoblade Chronicles

*Note, I still do not like the music of "The Boss."

"Push X to Win" Award for Best Quick Time Events.

Winner: Asura's Wrath

BURST!!

The first time I experienced Asura's Wrath, my friend and I were playing the game "Endurance Run Style," which is to say that one of us was playing whilst the other watched. And for the first two thirds of the game, my friend was playing and I was watching (we switched for the last third, and I played the True Ending DLC on my own after replaying the rest of the game). And I was literally yelling "BURST" every time the button prompt appeared on screen when my friend was playing. The Quick Time Events in the game are so well done that they work even if you aren't actively playing the game. But after playing through the whole game on my own, I can say that they are even better when experienced first hand. I was almost worried about breaking the R2 trigger on my controller from slamming it so hard so many times. But maybe that's commentary on the quality of the R2 and L2 on PS3 controllers than anything else.

But back to Asura's Wrath. If you've been keeping up with Giant Bomb's coverage of the game, then you already know about things like filling the screen with button prompts, and the other ingenious ways in which the game uses Quick Time Events. The other aspect I like is how the game rates how successful you are at hitting the Quick Time Events. It's the Synchronic Rate. You know, for how well synchronized you are. Makes perfect sense.

Runners up: The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3

"Never Not Shooting" Award for Best Shooting.

Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Black Ops II also wins the award for Best Horse Riding. But that's not a real award.

There are a lot of things that factor into what makes the shooting in Black Ops II so good, but what it really comes down to are the core controls and handling of the Call of Duty series. Part of it is the ever smooth frame rate, and part of it is the blend of realism and video game-ness. But like I said, that's all par for the course for Call of Duty games. What makes Black Ops II even better than the rest are the improvements to the variety of the guns, and to the sounds of the guns. Unlike the previous games in the series, that were always "bound" to reality, this one features a fair amount of near future goings on, and as such the people at Treyarch crafted a bunch of fictional guns that have some more variety than the regular old normal real world guns in the game. But the point I'm trying to make is that Black Ops II provides not only the best video game shooting experience of the year, it's also the most varied (at least of the games I played, and I didn't play many shooters).

Runners up: Far Cry 3, Gotham City Impostors

Cardboard Box Award for Best Stealthing.

Winner: Dishonored

While I definitely have a fair number of issues with Dishonored as a whole, its core stealthing mechanics are more than strong enough to make up for the issues with the story and a few other small things. Dishonored has a wide array of weapons, items, and magic skills for sneaking past enemies, or killing them outright (though there aren't enough ways to knock out enemies, I think). Get into a pickle? Just use the Blink power to dash away into safety. Or why not stop time and then stab a guy in the throat? Well, that leaves a body. So just summon some rats to eat the corpse. I never did that, because I found that the ability to auto-disintegrate enemies after killing them to be far more effective. Add in the ability to see through walls and it almost becomes too easy to get past the enemies, especially because like most enemies in stealthy games, they don't have good eyesight (at least on normal). But regardless of the nearsightedness of foes, Dishonored wins the Cardboard Box Award for Best Stealthing with a flair and style that few stealth games have. Also, I didn't play Mark of the Ninja.

Runners up: Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed III

"Holy Fistfights Batman!" Award for Best Melee Combat.

Winner: Assassin's Creed III

Over the years the combat in the Assassin's Creed games has gotten progressively faster and deeper. Assassin's Creed III is no different, especially with the new focus on tomahawks as a way to make the combat even faster. And while you could get through a lot of the game by just mashing the attack button over and over again, the combat allows for counters, grapples, throws, and probably other things as well. And it's always fun to go into a fight with no weapon equipped, steal an enemy's weapon, and then fell him with his own blade. Actually, much like Dishonored, Assassin's Creed III gets somewhat easy because Connor is so much more powerful and skilled in combat than the countless unnamed foes that he defeats throughout the course of the game. But Assassin's Creed III's combat is still the best and deepest melee combat in any game I played this year.

Runners up: Dust: An Elysian Tail, Darksiders II

Bob Goddard Award for Best RPG-ing.

Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles

Where to even begin when describing Xenoblade's RPG-ing? There's leveling, like any other RPG, and of course leveling leads to becoming more powerful, more health, and more talents (attacks). But in addition to those things, Xenoblade has Skills, which are passive, things like buffs and whatnot. Each character (you can play as any of them in combat, by the way) has several Skill trees. You pick the one you want to level, and that's where the XP goes for unlocking new Skills until you decide to focus on a different Skill tree. But the part where it gets crazy is that there are another set of "trees" where characters can share the Skills of other characters based on having enough Skill Points and fitting the Skills (which all have different shapes) into the right slots on the trees. It's nuts!

And I haven't even mentioned the combat, with all the tons of status ailments, talents, tag team attacks, buffs, debuffs, and the myriad of other things going on whilst in combat. And then there's the gem crafting! Xenoblade Chronicles is a game with very deep mechanics that is also pretty easy to understand, and more importantly fun to play. Thus it easily wins this award, especially in a year where the other nominees just have skill trees.

Runners up: Mass Effect 3, Dust: An Elysian Tail

Michael Bay Award for Most Ridiculous Game.

Winner: Asura's Wrath

You know, I actually tried ginning up some sort of reasoning as to how I could give this award to something like Xenoblade instead of Asura's Wrath which is, as someone pointed out to me, the obvious choice. And while Xenoblade Chronicles is a very ridiculous game in many ways, Asura's Wrath is the most ridiculous game I've ever played, hands down. It's almost TOO ridiculous. It's so ridiculous that it even puts Michael Bay to shame, and Michael Bay is the Shame-Father.

The moment when Asura's Wrath became too ridiculous for even me was in the True Ending DLC, and I suppose this is a very mild spoiler. But the specific moment was when Asura grew to the size of a planet, and began flying through space while destroying dozens of planets and stars. In some ways, it's just more Asura's Wrath, but with big spheres instead of space ships or space fish, but it's so crazy and dumb that it got even me to roll my eyes at the ridiculousness.

Believe me, part of me definitely wanted to give this award to Xenoblade, which is many other years could have easily won this award. And while Xenoblade has some truly ridiculous and insane stuff in it (especially toward the end), it's still not Asura's Wrath ridiculous. But like I said, Asura's Wrath is more ridiculous than Michael Bay, and that is something I never thought was possible. But it is. IT IS.

Runners up: Xenoblade Chronicles, Tokyo Jungle

Machete Award for Best Use of Blood and/or Gore.

Winner: The Walking Dead

It's easy to assume that a game about zombies would have a lot of zombie related dismemberment, but the memorable dismemberment in The Walking Dead pertains to the living. But I don't want to spoil it for anyone, and if you've played it, then you don't need to me summing it up. But I will say that no other game this year made the removal of body parts integral to the experience like The Walking Dead did, and for that, it handily wins this award. That was an unintentional pun. You know, handily. I'll just move on now before this goes too far.

Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Far Cry 3

Mister Sparkle Award for Most Japanese Game.

Winner: Tokyo Jungle

Tokyo Jungle wins this award both literally for being set in Japan, and metaphorically for being the most Japanese in terms of design. Every little thing about this game screams of Japan. The level design, the items, the item descriptions, the character models, the choices about what animals to include, the sound effects, the music, the menu layout, the stiff animations when you attack, and the generally clunky feel that the whole game has. No, that may not have been a grammatically correct English sentence, but Tokyo Jungle comes off as the video game equivalent of a grammatically incorrect English sentence. The core of something great is there, but it's also broken in some key ways. And the ways in which Tokyo Jungle is "broken" (and that's a bit much, "flawed" would be better) are very Japanese things. The story mode's awful stealth sequences and poor plot twists feel like they are straight out of bad Japanese game design. The unrelenting difficulty of the non-story mode and crazy high requirements for unlocking high level animals are other examples of the game's bad Japanese design. Or maybe that's just bad design in general, I don't know.

In other words, Tokyo Jungle is an extremely Japanese game. In fact, it's the Most Japanese Game of the year, for better or for worse.

Runners up: Asura's Wrath. Xenoblade Chronicles

"I need a cloth map to figure out where to go." Award for Best World (Open or Otherwise).

Winner: Far Cry 3

As much as I wanted Assassin's Creed III to win this award (for being set in and around New England, a place I know moderately well), it's not actually an open world. And while I have adapted this award over time to be open to games that don't have strictly open worlds, the islands of Far Cry 3 are so expansive and beautiful that I couldn't not give this award to Far Cry 3. And more importantly, Far Cry 3 manages to have a much larger world that Assassin's Creed III, and do it with a much better frame rate. I played both games on PS3, and while ACIII was chugging up a storm, Far Cry 3 ran pretty smoothly for me almost all of the time.

Far Cry 3's world feels more natural and real as well. Both games tried their hand at wildlife, and I think Far Cry 3 came up on top, with a larger variety of wildlife, and more realistic actions for those critters to be taking (predators will sometimes run away from you, instead of always attacking, like in ACIII).

And there are vehicles too. Nothing is quite as fun as careening off a cliff in a tiny car whilst goofy music is playing in the background, only to die in a giant explosion. At least in video game form.

Runners up: Assassin's Creed III, Xenoblade Chronicles

Dark Middle Chapter Award for Darkest Dark Game of Darkness.

Winner: The Walking Dead

It's easy for a game to make you do awful things, or put the character(s) in a horrible situation without it really having much impact on the player. But that's not true darkness, that's fake darkness. Like closing the shades at high noon on a cloudless day. True darkness is at the dead of night with full cloud coverage. And that's what The Walking Dead is, but in the best way possible. But I still refuse to spoil anything about the game, so I'll rest my case there, and say once again that if you have not played this game, you should play it. But man, this game is DARK. They make you do some messed up stuff in this game.

Runners up: Tokyo Jungle, Dishonored

"Split-Screen will never die!" Award for Best Multiplayer.

Winner: Kinect Party

First off, I want to say that I couldn't find any good pictures of this game, so I just went with Tim Schafer. Also, this is the only time that a game that requires Kinect will ever win an award at the Moosies. EVER. But, the time I spent "playing" this "game" at my cousins' house during their "end of the world party" was easily the most fun I had "playing" a game with other people all year. It was the only game that got me not only to jump up and down flailing my arms like an idiot, it also got me to yell, "Now I'm the fairy princess, oh wait-" at one point. Black Ops II may have camouflages for knives, but it doesn't have malevolent Tron toasters, or aliens hidden in sand.

But the true "brilliance" of Kinect Party is the way in which is brings people together like those other games can't. Sure, I can online in Black Ops II and shoot internet people to my heart's content, but I'm not interacting with them like how I do when I "played" Kinect Party. By which I mean "accidentally" hitting people in the head. Really, the only thing holding Kinect Party back is the Kinect itself, but we're all well aware of how not great Kinect is.

Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Mass Effect 3

"Mistakes were made." Award for Game I Wish I Played Most.

Winner: Binary Domain

Binary Domain has all the elements of a game that I should have played. It's weird and Japanese (in good ways), it's a third person shooter that isn't terrible, and it has a robot that speaks in English with a French accent. And of course we can't forget Big Bo! But for whatever reason, I just never ended up playing Binary Domain (or buying it, for that matter). But that's what happens when you don't have the money to buy every game that you want to play. I'd like to talk more about Binary Domain, but I never played it, so I can't. BIG BO!

Runners up: Spec Ops: The Line, Sleeping Dogs

"IT'S SO REAL!" Award for Best Graphics Technology.

Winner: Far Cry 3

I have already discussed the vastness of the world in Far Cry 3, so now would be a good time to go into the level of detail in the game. There's a lot of it. The guns all look nice, the faces of the named story characters all look fantastic (side characters, not so much), and it's just a very nice looking game. The fire tech is cool too, but it doesn't spread anywhere near as much as I would like it to. My dreams of lighting entire islands on fire (in a video game, don't be silly) will have to wait until that is modded into the PC version... And I have enough money to afford both a gaming PC and a second copy of Far Cry 3.

Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Assassin's Creed III

Leonardo da Vinci Award for Best Artistic Design.

Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust is a beautiful looking game, from top to bottom. The care and craft put into every last piece of art in the game is absolutely astounding, especially when you take into account the fact that it was all done by one guy. I know there are plenty of people out there always ready to pounce on the game's art style, and its use of critter-people, but hey, those people are jerks. I, on the other hand, love the art style, and think it's goofy and cheery look is a perfect juxtaposition to the game's story. Speaking of which...

Runners up: Fez, Closure

Bill Shakespeare Award for Best Story.

Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail

As always, I like to avoid spoilers, but the heck with it; Dust is a game about genocide. And even if the plot ultimately wasn't about so grim a subject, the other side of the story, Dust's quest to learn about his mysterious past, is much better than such a clichéd plot has any right to be. Part of that is the quality of the characters (which I have already discussed), and the other part is the reveal of Dust's origins, and I definitely will NOT spoil that. Go play the game if you want to know. You should play it anyway, it's a fantastic game. It has a talking sword.

Runners up: Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Xenoblade Chronicles

Koji Kondo Award for Best Music.

Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles

When I was first trying to decide the winner for this award, I was having a tough time, as Asura's Wrath also has some pretty rad music in it. But after going back and re-listening to the music from Xenoblade, I was reminded of how amazing and fantastic the game's music is. It's definitely the best soundtrack since Deadly Premonition, and maybe even better. Every last track in the game is expertly crafted, and it has a lot of music, that spans a lot of different genres. There's the orchestral themes that are very well done, then there's the driving beat that plays during some of the more intense cut-scenes. And I'd be crazy not to mention the insane anime-metal-battle-theme that starts to pop up late in the game. Or my favorite of the bunch, the music that plays during most of the boss fights. However crazy the music may get, it's always appropriate, and always goes the extra mile to invoke whatever mood the game is trying to set at any given time. And more than anything else, it's just plain good.

Runners up: Asura's Wrath, Closure

"POW! BAM! BIFF!" Award for Best Sound Effects.

Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops II

I just wanted to reiterate how good the guns sound in this game. They have a real punch to them in a way that the guns haven't in the previous Call of Duty games. All of the sound effects in the game, from the robots to the tanks sound great, and that's important in a game that has a lot of sound going on at any given time.

Runners up: Far Cry 3, Tokyo Jungle

Antioch Award for Best Weapon.

Winner: The Monado (Xenoblade Chronicles)

The Monado is an amazing weapon. The design is great, in that it looks alien (hence the "Xeno" in the title of the game) in a lot of ways, but also really cool looking. But the Monado really shines in combat, where its large energy beam and ability to do things like let its wielder see into the future combine to make it a killer weapon. So killer that Shulk (its wielder) can't switch to other weapons in the game after he gets it, unlike the other characters. That's right, it's so good that the game makes you use it (unless you go into combat without Shulk, but I think that wouldn't be wise in many encounters).

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the Monado is the only weapon (initially) that can hurt the Mechon. What are the Mechon? Robots, basically. I don't have the time or space here to go into more detail than that, because like any good JRPG, there's a lot more to it than that. Just like the Monado.

Runners up: The Blade of Arah (Dust: An Elysian Tail), Crazy Robot Deity Arms (Asura's Wrath)

Electronic Arts and The BioWare Present: The Mass Effect 3 Award for Most Disappointing Ending.

"Winner:" Assassin's Creed III

Assassin's Creed III is pretty special when it comes to games with bad endings in the year of 2012. Why? Because unlike the other nominees, ACIII has not one, but TWO disappointing endings, an astonishing feat for a game with a totally linear story. (Actually, I lied, several other nominees have multiple bad endings, but you only get one when you beat either of them.) But while people are quick to point out the disappointing "All Story" ending to the Desmond story outside of the Animus, we shouldn't forget that Connor's story inside of the Animus is very disappointing as well, right up to its end. I can sort of understand why certain parts of Connor's story are bad (they were too tied to history, and made one of the central villains a real guy), but there's really no excuse for the awful ending to Desmond's story. Coming up with a good ending is tough, believe me, but when you have so many people working on something, and throwing so much money at it, you'd think they'd be able to come up with something better. But maybe that's the problem. Too many cooks in the kitchen, to use an old Earth saying I heard once.

Runners up: Far Cry 3, Dishonored

"The Dream Will Never Die!" Award for Best Game that Should Exist, but Doesn't (Yet).

"Winner:" Two Human

With all of the sad events that took place at Silicon Knights this year, I think it's pretty safe to say that we will never get a sequel to Too Human. And as such, I feel like this award can only go to Two Human this year, because I may have to retire it from the list of nominees next year. And I wanted to be the only person on Giant Bomb to bring up Too Human in a discussion of any game during game of the year season this year. But of course the GB Crew had to beat me to it with CollectSHUN yesterday, but I digress!

But in all seriousness, while Too Human was definitely a very flawed game in a lot of ways, it had just enough good parts to be mostly fun to play. And more importantly, it had enough promise and potential for growth that a sequel could have been something truly special in the right hands. But apparently the right hands that made the stuff Silicon Knights is (er, was) loved for got cut off in some sort of sword fight during the production of Too Human, and those poor hands never grew back.

It's been a good journey. By which I mean the wait for Two Human. But I think it's come to an end, and not the end I wanted it to come to. But alas, such is the way of things. But let us raise one last glass for Too Human, a game that had potential, and a bad camera. Long live Too Human!

Runners up: A new F-Zero game, Bravo Protocol (the sequel to Alpha Protocol)

"NOTHING STOPS THE GAME ROOM QUICK LOOK!" Award for Best Downloadable Only Game.

Winner: Dust: An Elysian Tail

I've said enough good things about Dust for now. You already know that I really liked this game, and I will have more to say in my top ten list in the near future (spoiler, Dust is one of the games in my top ten list). Until then, I move on to the next award, because if you've read this far, you're either as crazy as I am, bored, or hoping this will end soon.

Runners up: Fez, Closure

"The TRAIN needs some renovations" Award for Best Overall DLC.

Winner: Mass Effect 3

Say what you will about making content that should be part of the main game into DLC (I think it should stop too), Mass Effect 3 had a lot of DLC this year, and it was all pretty good. Now, of course the only stuff I really dabbled with was the story stuff, but let's not forget that the game had a TON of multiplayer DLC. There were new maps, new characters, new weapons, and I think even a new set of enemies to fight. But like I said, it was the story stuff that caught my attention. Javik was an integral part of my Mass Effect 3 experience, and he alone would be enough to win this award this year. But let us not forget the ending retcon DLC that turned one of the worst endings ever into an ending that was simply bad. The Leviathan DLC was great as well, even without the ending that goes even further to make the ending of the game itself slightly less bad. Sure, none of this stuff (not counting Javik as a character) was as good as the best DLC for Mass Effect 2, but it was by far the best bunch of DLC for any game I played this year.

Runners up: Asura's Wrath, Darksiders II

"NOTHING STOPS THE NDX!" Award for Best Individual DLC.

Winner: From Ashes (Mass Effect 3)

As you can probably tell by now, I think Javik was pretty rad. I'd say he's right up there with the likes of Garrus, Wrex, and Mordin for my favorite Mass Effect characters. It's absolutely CRIMINAL that this content was DLC, but since it is DLC, it's up for this award. And while I think Leviathan was great, Javik was there from the beginning for me. And he's a rad dude. And a bad dude. He'd be bad enough to rescue Ronnie. But he wouldn't, because he has better things to do. Like scowl and make fun of people. Did you know that Salarians used to eat flies? At least that's what Javik says. Sometimes I think he was making up stuff, but either way, From Ashes is easily the Best Individual DLC I played all year.

Runners up: Leviathan (Mass Effect 3), True Ending (Asura's Wrath)

Mega Man Award for Best Box Art.

Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles

It's simple and lovely looking. But what really wins this award is the true box art hidden within the game (by which I mean the reversible box art, which is the picture I put above). Now that's a lovely piece of art. But I'm no artist, so I don't really have much else to say. But I do like that the reversible box art has the name of the game down the spine, so I can reverse the cover and still keep it with my other games, and be able to tell which one it is. I hate how all other games with reversible box art don't have that, so they nice art stays hidden. So sad!

Runners up: Assassin's Creed III, Fez

"MOST MODERN PUBLISHERS ARE TERRIBLE" Award for Best Instruction Manual.

Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles

Yet another award handily won by Xenoblade! This instruction manual has it all! Full color, lengthy, explains game play mechanics, and it's also in French. Sacré bleu, c'est un bon manuel! Oh, and Spanish too, I guess.

Runners up: Asura's Wrath, Dishonored

"Even the box is nice!" Award for Best Supplemental Materials with the Game.

Winner: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: Enhanced Edition (360 Version)

Two reasons why Witcher 2 wins this. The first is that it really does have a lot of stuff with the game. First is the cardboard sleeve that contains not only the game, but a mini-guide book thing that has details about how to complete every quest in the game. I never really looked at it until after I beat the game, because I wanted to keep my experience pure, but it's a neat addition. Then inside the game I was delighted to see a thick manual (black and white, but still detailed) a double sided map, and best of all, a soundtrack CD. The Witcher 2's music is quite fantastic, so I was thrilled to get it.

The other reason why Witcher 2 wins is that I felt compelled to mention The Witcher 2 here. It really is an amazing game that excels at just about everything it does. And the 360 version is great too, despite an abundance of loading screens. But hey, you gotta take the good with the bad.

And that is it for awards this year! I'm sorry if you were expecting another story line like in the Retro Awards, but with no sponsor, I couldn't afford to write one (by which I mean I couldn't think of anything good, so I didn't even try).

What's that, you say? No Game of the Year Award? No top ten list? PATIENCE! That's coming this Monday. I still need to write that stuff.

He still hasn't returned my calls.

5 Comments

The Fourth Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Nominees!

As promised, here are the nominees for my awards, right on schedule, despite what some may say (spreading lies, as they do). Unlike my last awards, these aren't sponsored, so you (the Giant Bomb user) won't have to deal with rampant advertising like last time. That also means I probably won't be embarking on any adventures with Doc Brown, but we'll see.

Abraham Lincoln Award for Best Use of Facial Hair.

There's much more to successful use of facial hair than simply including copious amounts of beard flowing out of the chin of every other man in a video game. And that's important to keep in mind, because this is for the best use of facial hair. Huge beards help, of course, but keep in mind that weaving facial hair into a game's story will give it a huge boost for this award.

  • Assassin's Creed III - Colonial beards.
  • Asura's Wrath - Insane godly beards.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Gruff military beards and other assorted facial hairs.
  • Darksiders II - Various giant Viking beards.
  • Dishonored - Massive Russian beard.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail - Cartoony animal beards.
  • Gotham City Impostors - Rugged/burly vigilante (and/or criminal) beards/mustaches.

George Washington Award for Best Returning Protagonist.

Unlike in the Retro awards for this year, I do have the budget for more than one protagonist award, and this one is for protagonists who appeared in at least one game before the appearance this year. There aren't a ton of nominees for this one this year, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

  • Alex "The Numbers" Mason - Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Commander "Loco" Shepard - Mass Effect 3
  • Desmond "Nolan North" Miles - Assassin's Creed III

Teddy Roosevelt Award for Best New Protagonist.

Same deal, but these protagonists are all new. This is also a bit more competitive of an award, because these characters are a bit more than just white guys with short hair (and yes, I am including Shepard in that because don't be crazy, Shepard is the dude on the front of those boxes).

  • Death "Comical Nickname Here" - Darksiders II
  • Dust "Samurai Fox" - Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Lee "..." Everett - The Walking Dead
  • Shulk "Hogan" - Xenoblade Chronicles

Thomas Jefferson Award for Best Returning Supporting Character.

Not only do I have the budget (despite lack of a sponsor) for two protagonist awards, I also have the budget for two supporting character awards. Why? I cut back on decorations, despite wanting to get another fake owl for the yard. Don't ask. They're actually my dad's. Also, these might all be from two different games, but just ignore that.

  • Frank "Frankie" woods - Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Garrus "Space Monocle" Vakarian - Mass Effect 3
  • Mordin "Gilbert and Sullivan" Solus - Mass Effect 3
  • Jason "Mr. Shades" Hudson - Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Tali'Zorah nar Rayya vas Normandy - Mass Effect 3
  • Urdnot "Shepard" Wrex - Mass Effect 3

Mr. Spock Award for Best New Supporting Character.

Unlike the last one, I have more than two games here, and it's a very diverse group of characters too. I got so caught up in my "discussion" of false owls that I didn't mention and specifics about what makes a good supporting character. Did you know that the owls around my yard are suspended in midair? They're quite strange.

  • Clementine - The Walking Dead
  • Dunban - Xenoblade Chronicles
  • Fidget - Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Haytham "I should have been the protagonist through the whole game" Kenway - Assassin's Creed III
  • Javik "Prothy" The Prothean - Mass Effect 3
  • Mike "Rooker" Harper - Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Yasha - Asura's Wrath

Christopher Lee Award for Most Villainous Villain of Villainy.

This is the first time there's been a most villainous award at the Moosies, and that's partly because I think this is the first time (since the creation of the Moosies) that the there are several great villains, and none of them have any sort of secret that must be understand to grasp their villainy (for example, the true villain of Deadly Premonition). I do have to say though, there is one here that is clearly a lot more villainous than the others, making the whole thing really unfair.

  • Deus - Asura's Wrath
  • General Gaius - Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Hoyt Volker - Far Cry 3
  • Raul Menendez - Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Skullmageddon - Double Dragon Neon
  • Vaas Montenegro - Far Cry 3
  • The Hubris of Man - Tokyo Jungle, Dust: an Elysian Tail, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Asura's Wrath, Mass Effect 3, Assassin's Creed III, Dishonored, Far Cry 3...

Nolan North Award for Best Non-Nolan North Voice Actor of the Year.

Nolan North is, of course, the world's greatest living voice actor, and as such he is exempt from my awards (he gets The Northy every year, so he's getting his recognition), because if he wasn't exempt, he would win every year.

  • Adrian Hough - Haytham Kenway - Assassin's Creed III
  • Dave Fennoy - Lee Everett - The Walking Dead
  • Rufus Jones - Dunban - Xenoblade Chronicles
  • Michael Mando - Vaas Montenegro - Far Cry 3
  • Michael Wincott - Death - Darksiders II

Crash Time Award for Best Overall Voice Acting.

You know, I should state here and now that I like bad voice acting as much as I like genuinely good voice acting, so take this award with a grain of salt.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Walking Dead
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Multimedia Celebrity Poker Award for Best "Celebrity" Cast.

"Celebrity" is quoted for a reason. There's a lot of TV "stars" in here.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Sam Worthington, Michael Keaton, Michael Rooker, Oliver North, Nolan North, Robert Picardo, Troy Baker, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.
  • Dishonored - Susan Sarandon, Carrie Fisher, John Slattery, etc.
  • Mass Effect 3 - Keith David, Seth Green, Tricia Helfer, Lance Henriksen, Michael Hogan, Martin Sheen, Freddie Prinze Jr., Carrie-Anne Moss, Claudia Black, etc.

Monty Python Award for Funniest Game.

Humor is hard to get right. Trust me, I know. And that's why I give an award for the funniest game of the year.

  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Far Cry 3
  • Fez
  • Tokyo Jungle
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Bruce Springsteen Award for Best Bosses.*

Boss fights aren't as common as they once were, and good boss fights are even less common. Thus, I award the game with the best ones.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Darksiders II
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

*Note, I do not actually like the music of "The Boss." Also, I received no money from Mr. Springsteen. He may have offered, but I won't take his dirty money.

"Push X to win" Award for Best Quick Time Events.

I know that QTEs are widely beloved by all video games-men, and as such here's an award for the game that has the best ones, because they can be pretty cool some of the time.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Asura's Wrath
  • Far Cry 3
  • The Walking Dead

"Never Not Shooting" Award for Best Shooting.

Instead of having an award for the best shooter, I decided to give the award to the game with the best shooting mechanics. You know, best handling, best weapons, etc.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Far Cry 3
  • Gotham City Impostors

Cardboard Box Award for Best Stealthing.

Okay, stealthing is a lot harder to define, but Far Cry 3 isn't a stealth game, but has plenty of stealthing in it, so I made this about the stealthing, so I could include games that aren't just stealth games.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Dishonored
  • Far Cry 3

"Holy Fistfights Batman!" Award for Best Melee Combat.

Everything from punching dudes to knives in the back.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Asura's Wrath
  • Darksiders II
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Dishonored

Bob Goddard Award for Best RPG-ing.

That's Role Playing Game-ing, not Rocket Propelled Grenade-ing. As we all know, so many non-RPGs have RPG mechanics, and so many RPGs have non-RPG mechanics that the definition of what is an RPG is rather nonsensical, so I made this award for the game that has the best depth in terms of leveling, etc.

  • Darksiders II
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Tokyo Jungle
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Michael Bay Award for Most Ridiculous Game.

This is, of course, the second most prestigious of the Moosies awards (after the facial hair one), so only the most ridiculous of the ridiculous can get this coveted prize.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Far Cry 3
  • Fez
  • Kinect Party
  • Tokyo Jungle
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Machete Award for Best Use of Blood and/or Gore.

Not Al Gore, which is either a plus or a negative, depending on your point of view.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Darksiders II
  • Far Cry 3
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Walking Dead

Mister Sparkle Award for Most Japanese Game.

You ever play a game and think to yourself, "Oh Japan!"? That's what this award is for. And some of these games are MAD Japanese.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Tokyo Jungle
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

"I need a cloth map to figure out where to go." Award for Best World (Open or Otherwise).

Pretty self explanatory.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Darksiders II
  • Far Cry 3
  • Tokyo Jungle
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Dark Middle Chapter Award for Darkest Dark Game of Darkness.

With all the talk of dark middle chapters on Giant Bomb this year, I thought I would give an award to a game that truly excelled in darkness. Bear in mind that this darkness can be literal or metaphorical.

  • Darksiders II
  • Dishonored
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Far Cry 3
  • Kinect Party (The Dark Middle Chapter of party based Double Fine Kinect games)
  • The Walking Dead
  • Tokyo Jungle

"Split-screen will never die!" Award for Best Multiplayer.

While I almost always play games by myself, sometimes I do enjoy playing with other people. Sometimes.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Gotham City Impostors
  • Kinect Party
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Tokyo Jungle

"Mistakes were made" Award for Game I Wish I Played Most.

You know how I had enough games for a separate Retro awards thing? By not finishing all the games I wanted to in a year. And this one was no different.

  • Binary Domain
  • Borderlands 2
  • Halo 4
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • Syndicate
  • Yakuza: Dead Souls

"IT'S SO REAL!" Award for Best Graphics Technology.

This is the part where I say that I only played the console versions of these games and PC video games-men scoff at me.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Far Cry 3
  • Mass Effect 3

Leonardo da Vinci Award for Best Artistic Design.

No, I shouldn't be judging art. But it's too late for that.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Closure
  • Darksiders II
  • Dishonored
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Fez
  • Kinect Party
  • The Walking Dead
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Bill Shakespeare Award for Best Story.

As you might imagine, I am quite fond of quality stories, and this goes to the game that I think had the best story.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Walking Dead
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

Koji Kondo Award for Best Original Music.

And no, there is no award for best licensed music. I haven't played a game with good licensed music since Brutal Legend.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Asura's Wrath
  • Closure
  • Darksiders II
  • Fez
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

"POW! BAM! BIFF!" Award for Best Sound Effects.

Sounds effects are tough to get right. Or so I've been told.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II
  • Far Cry 3
  • Kinect Party
  • Tokyo Jungle

Antioch Award for Best Weapon.

Not sure what the reference here is? Go study up on grenades.

  • Crazy Robot Deity Arms - Asura's Wrath
  • The Blade of Arah - Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • The Monado - Xenoblade Chronicles
  • The Tatau - Far Cry 3

Electronic Arts and The BioWare Present: The Mass Effect 3 Award for Most Disappointing Ending.

Mass Effect 3 is exempt because of course it would win. Also, there were some terrible endings this year.

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Darksiders II
  • Dishonored
  • Far Cry 3
  • Tokyo Jungle

"The Dream Will Never Die!" Award for Best Game that Should Exist, but Doesn't (Yet).

This is when the awards get silly.

  • Bravo Protocol (the sequel to Alpha Protocol)
  • Shenmue III
  • Half Life 2: Episode 3
  • Shadow Complex 2
  • Two Human
  • A new F-Zero game.

"NOTHING STOPS THE GAME ROOM QUICK LOOK!" Award for Best Downloadable Only Game.

As time goes on, all games may be downloadable only at some point, but until then, this award will exist. Or some version of it with a different name. Also, disc-based versions outside of the US do not count.

  • Closure
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail
  • Double Dragon Neon
  • Fez
  • Gotham City Impostors
  • Tokyo Jungle

"The TRAIN needs some renovations" Award for Best Overall DLC.

At this point I have run out of clever things to say! As if I had any to begin with. Remember the owls?

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Darksiders II
  • Mass Effect 3

"NOTHING STOPS THE NDX" Award for Best Individual DLC.

Like the last, but more specific.

  • Asura's Wrath - Real Ending
  • Mass Effect 3 - From Ashes
  • Mass Effect 3 - Leviathan

Mega Man Award for Best Box Art.

Box art go!

  • Assassin's Creed III
  • Asura's Wrath
  • Darksiders II
  • Fez (not really "box" art, but whatever)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

"MOST MODERN PUBLISHERS ARE TERRIBLE!" Award for Best Instruction Manual.

I get filled with joy when I open a game and see it has a proper manual. And if it's in color, I almost faint from happiness! Okay, that was a lie, but manuals are rad.

  • Asura's Wrath
  • Dishonored
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

"Even the box is nice!" Award for Best Supplemental Materials Included with the Game.

This can be anything from alternate cover art on the inside to extra crap included, like a soundtrack.

  • Dishonored
  • The Witcher 2: Assassin's of Kings: Enhanced Edition (360 Version, which was a 2012 release).
  • Xenoblade Chronicles

And that is it! Well, not counting my top ten, but I shan't reveal that yet! Make sure to tune in on Friday for these lovely awards! And the ones I'm awarding too.

Nolan North at Uncharted 2 discussion
7 Comments

Biff Tannen Presents The Moosies Video Game Awards Retro!


The time has finally arrived! Working with Mr. Tannen on these awards has been...interesting, to say the least, but I can honestly say it was all worth it to bring these awardsto the internet on today, December 21st, 2012. Clearly this will be a date remembered only for these Biff Tannen (by which I really mean Back to the Future, but don't tell Biff) themed awards. I feel obligated to say that I was able to convince Mr. Tannen to tone down the level of advertising considerably from what he wanted. I'm fine with advertising with his luxurious casino where money flows like water from the slot machines, but I am not fine with advertising for things other than that surprisingly affordable gambling establishment (with new locations opening soon!). But enough of me talking about the awards, here they are!

Einstein (the dog) Award for Best Use of Facial Hair. 

Winner: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The Witcher 2 might not have the highest number of beards, but the beards that are in the game are all excellently made, especially those of the dwarves. Everyone knows that dwarves are known for long and majestic beards, but The Witcher 2 takes dwarven beards to a new level (well, maybe the first one did it first, but whatever). It's like they have a giant river of hair flowing out of their chins and down their bodies. A beard river. There are other good beards in the game as well, but the dwarven ones put any other beards completely to shame. Well, to be fair, that wasn't a great picture I found, but I didn't feel like searching through hundreds of pictures online to find the right one. There are better beards in there.

Runners up: Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Buford Tannen Award for Best Protagonist.

Winner: The Boss (Saints Row: The Third)

On paper, a character with six potential voices and user created face/clothes could lead to a super generic and poorly written character. But most games that give you that level of control over your protagonist don't have much voice acting for the main character, as a result of having so many choices. Saints Row: The Third throws that idea out the window and gives The Boss tons and tons of dialog. And while I can't vouch for every version of The Boss, I have to say that the British one is a truly great character, with plenty of hilarious lines. Though, I am contractually obligated to say that none of these characters hold a candle to fine upstanding citizens like Biff "Greatest Living Man" Tannen.

Runners up: Geralt "Whitey" of Rivia (The Witcher 2), Augustus "The Cole Train" Cole

Doc Brown Award for Best Supporting Character.

Winner: Burt "F***ing" Reynolds (Saints Row: The Third)

To quote The Boss in Saints Row: The Third, "He's Burt f***ing Reynolds!" 'Nuff said.

Seriously though, Burt Reynolds is in the game. And while he only has a handful of lines in the game, you can call him up and he'll go riding around town with you. And he doesn't carry a weapon, he only needs his fists to fight. Why? He's Burt F***ing Reynolds!

Oh, and I have a really funny story about the time that Burt Reynolds went to Biff's casino one night after.... ( Wait, what's that Mr. Tannen? I can't tell that story? Well then why'd you...?)

Never mind. NEVER MIND!

Runners up: Angel De La Muerte (Saints Row: The Third), Oleg (Saints Row: The Third)

Thomas F. Wilson Award for Best Voice Actor.

Winner: Logan Cunningham - Rucks (Bastion).

If you've played Bastion, then you know that the quality of the narration is a HUGE part of what makes that game as great as it is. And what makes the narration great isn't the quality of the writing (which is fine) so much as it is the quality of the voice acting, and Mr. Cunningham nails each and every one of his lines in the game. Bastion would still be a fun game without Mr. Cunningham's voice work, but it wouldn't be the awesome game that it is without it.

I'm not supposed to tell you this either, but Mr. Tannen is being distracted by donuts, and I can say that he tried to hire Mr. Cunningham to work at the casino for some sort of announcing job, but apparently the pay wasn't good enough. He's coming back now though, have to keep moving!

Runners up: Doug Cockle - Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings), Robin Atkin Downes - British The Boss - Saints Row: The Third

Cyber Ronald Reagan Award for Best Overall Voice Acting.

Winner: Saints Row: The Third

If it wasn't for the story and voice acting in Saints Row: The Third, SR3 would probably be a pretty disturbing game, given the level of violence and sexual "humor" in the game. But the voice actors realized just how insane and ridiculous everything was, and they turn characters that would be psychopathic maniacs in another game into likable characters. There aren't really any individual standouts, which if anything just shows how strong the cast is as a whole. However, if Mr. Tannen (or his otherworldly counterpart, Tom Wilson) was in this game, then either one would (of course) stand out among the others. (He was looking over my shoulder again.)

Runners up: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Gears of War 3

"Let's have Tom Wilson play all the Tannens" Award for Best "Celebrity" Cast.

I have to apologize for the quality of this picture, because I was informed at the very last minute by Mr. Tannen that I had to include both Hulk Hogan and Burt Reynolds in the picture for this award.

Winner: Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row: The Third might not have the largest "celebrity" cast, but the combo of Burt f***ing Reynolds and True American Hero Hulk Hogan are more than enough to win this award. Admittedly, none of the other games nominated had large "celebrity" casts, but this one would have been pretty hard to beat in any case. I mean, it's Burt Reynolds and Hulk Hogan. The only way it could be any better would be if Biff Tannen and/or Tom Wilson were in it! (That I mean, and isn't just because Biff is looking over everything I write.)

Runners up: Gears of War 3, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

Mr. Fusion Award for Funniest Game.

Winner: Saints Row: The Third

While not all of the humor in Saints Row: The Third is to my liking (specifically all the sex/pimp humor), but the rest was pretty hilarious. And not just the writing, or even the mission design. Stuff like all the taunts in the game. The default one is John Cena's "You can't see me." That move isn't funny on its own, but given that it's the default one, I can't help but find that hilarious and amazing. There's plenty of other fantastic taunts in there too, along with tons of other super weird and hilarious things in the game. No other game even came close to being as funny as Saints Row: The Third.

I also have a long list here of "jokes" that Mr. Tannen "wrote," and he wanted me to put one in to show how much funnier he is than this game, but... Let's just say the list "accidentally" got "burned" in a "fire" before I could copy any down.

Runners up: Just Cause 2, Bayonetta

Parallel Universe 1985 Biff Award for Best Bosses.

Winner: Bayonetta

Fighting with bosses in video games may be fun, but after a lengthy argument with Mr. Tannen about "fire safety," let me tell you that fighting with bosses in real life is much less fun. The rule of three does not apply to Mr. Tannen. It takes at least five hits to take him down.

Good boss fights are a dying art in video games. Most games these days don't even have boss fights, and those that do usually have pretty poor bosses. Bayonetta not only has boss fights, it has pretty good boss fights too. Of course a lot of that is the amazing combat that Bayonetta has, but the bosses are well designed too. Both in terms of being fun to fight, and their actual design. The bosses are ridiculous, to say the least. And speaking of ridiculousness...

Runners up: Saints Row: The Third, Just Cause 2

Jaws 19 Award for Most Ridiculous Game.

Winner: Bayonetta

You know, I somehow managed to play what may be the four most ridiculous games of this generation this year (the fourth being Asura's Wrath, a 2012 game). And while Just Cause 2 or Saints Row: The Third could win handily against most games, they don't stand a chance against the insane fever dream that is Bayonetta. This is a game about a witch who fights a wide away of insane monsters with her magic hair, which also happens to be her clothing. And don't forget that (by default) she has guns tied to her feet. And I've just described the premise for the game, and haven't gotten into the level design, the "story," or any of the other completely ridiculous and nonsensical things in the game.

Also, it seems like when I knocked Mr. Tannen out in that fight, he fell onto the "Call Security" button, and now guards are storming up to his "office." I should probably get going...

Runners up: Saints Row: The Third, Just Cause 2

"A Fistful of Dollars" Award for Best Shooter.

Winner: Singularity

Singularity is a fantastic game, and it's a real shame that it didn't get the sales that it deserved. You can certainly play this game like a normal first person shooter, and it would still be a great game. But what sets Singularity apart are the weapons in the game, specifically the Time Manipulation Device, or Time Glove as I liked to call it. Want to age someone into dust? Go for it! Want to create a time slowing down bubble? Sure, why not! It also has some light puzzle solving tied to the Time Glove, but it's the combat where it really shines.

I am now on the roof of the building (with my laptop) typing furiously while I wait for my ride to show up. I hope he can get here, given the lack of roads that lead to this roof.

Runners up: Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Gears of War 3

Rocky 5000 Award for Best Melee Combat.

Winner: Bayonetta

Let's be honest here, Bayonetta probably has the best melee combat ever put in a game. The "feel" of it is just right, and the combat flows so well that even if you don't take the time to actually learn the combos, you can still pull off some really cool stuff just by mashing. And then there's the whole Witch Time mechanic, which involves dodging at the right moment, thus putting all the enemies into slow motion, and allowing Bayonetta to tear them all to shreds. But Bayonetta is a game that has to be played to be understood.

Where is he? Biff's idiot guards are going to find me soon if he doesn't...

Runners up: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Bastion

Delorean Award for Best Artistic Design.

Speaking of Deloreans, here's my ride! I owe you one, Doc.

Winner: Outland

Remember Outland? No? Well, it's the Ikaruga of side scrolling games, by which I mean that you can switch between two different polarities, and that affects various things in the game. While the game itself doesn't always work out as well as it could, the art design is never not amazing, especially when there are streams and streams of shots of the two different polarities on screen. It's a sight to behold, almost to the point of distracting from the game (but not quite).

Runners up: Bastion, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

Time Paradox Award for Best Story.

Winner: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

The story of The Witcher 2 is dense, to say the least. And I probably missed a whole lot of stuff by not playing the first Witcher game, or reading any of the books. But I'm not quite at the Vinny Caravella level of learning the back story for games. That said, Witcher 2's story is still pretty great, especially given all the ways that it can change based on choices made. Even to the point where a large portion of the game is can be in one of two different spots based entirely on player choice. Not many games have that level of player choice, especially not with this style of action-RPG game.

I shouldn't really be surprised, but Doc has some nice Wi-Fi in his car, especially given the speeds at which we're flying here. What's the speedometer say? Oh, of course, 73 miles per hour.

Runners up: Saints Row: The Third, Bayonetta.

Dick Cheney Award for Best Game that Refuses to Die.

Winner: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

I fully admit that I am a crazy person for replaying as many games as I do, and as often as I do. When I played MGS4 this year, it was my fourteenth time playing through of the game. Yes, I have played MGS4 to completion fourteen times. Admittedly, many of those were speed runs, and it had been several years between my thirteenth and fourteenth times, but that's still a lot of completions. The main reason why I decided to go back and play it again was that Kojima and company finally updated the game with Trophies, and of course they don't work retroactively. Now while that means I don't have many Trophies that I would have gotten had the game had Trophies from the start (or rather, if Trophies had existed when MGS4 was released), that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to play it a ton more to get them all. But then again, playing it a fourteenth time just showed me how much fun that game still is, and how easily I was able to get right back into the groove of the game. It's a great game that I definitely would not mind replaying again and again just to get more of those Trophies.

Runners up: Mass Effect 2, Batman: Arkham City

Old Western ZZ Top Award for Best Music.

Winner: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

I'm not going to lie, out of the games I played for these weird "Retro" awards, there weren't many that had music that I was fond of. But even if that hadn't been the case, Witcher 2 would have been a strong contender, because the music in that game is absolutely fantastic (which is why I love that I got the soundtrack free with the game). To a certain extent a lot of it is just "typical fantasy music," but it's very well done. Dramatic and overpowering one second, mellow and lighthearted the next. It's a pretty great soundtrack, in other words.

Doc and I are now out of the city, and getting into the suburbs where his lab is. It was very sad when Einstein died, but I'm glad that Doc was able to move on and get a new dog, even if the new one is a different breed. Get it? Lab? I'll stop now.

Runners up: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Bastion

Hoverboard Award for Best Weapon.

Winner: The Apoca-Fists (Saints Row: The Third).

These are comically over-sized fists that make people explode with a single punch, and cars explode with a few punches. I think that says it all.

In other news, Doc and I have safely made it away from Biff's casino, and I am now creating a fake ID so that I can flee the state without him finding me. I don't want to wind up wearing a pair of concrete shoes like that McFly kid.

Runners up: Time Manipulation Device (Singularity), Bayonetta's Ice (magic) Skates (Bayonetta)

The "I wish Back to the Future Part II showed future video games so I could have a decent reference for this award" Award for Best Downloadable Only Game.

Winner: Bastion

Those other games are pretty rad, but they don't hold a candle to Bastion. And while I didn't play Bastion last year, and get on the Bastion fun train back when the game was new, the game is still absolutely fantastic, and easily one of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade (and the other services it has since been put on). But at this point you already know about the great gameplay, the amazing narration, and all the other things that make Bastion the masterpiece that it is. So I won't bore you with that.

Okay, now it seems like when the cops came to investigate, they found large amounts of drugs in Biff's "office," and apparently some reporters were there as well, so he can't bribe his way out of this one. Looks like I won't have to flee the state after all!

Runners up: Renegade Ops, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Biff Tannen, er, Doc Brown Presents The Moosies "Retro" Game of the Year 2012.

Winner: Saints Row: The Third

Ultimately, this award really came down to a decision between two of 2011's games that I missed in that year. This, and The Witcher 2. And while The Witcher 2 is a fantastic game, and probably better in a lot of ways, it doesn't have the sheer insanity and lunacy that Saints Row: The Third does. Whether it's stealing a bank vault with a helicopter, invading a virtual reality network, or taking part in the greatest wrestling match in video game history, Saints Row: The Third is constantly throwing you into utterly baffling and amazing scenarios that are pure madness. But in the best possible way. And on top of all that, the game itself is really fun to play as well, which certainly helps. The shooting is fun, the melee combat is over the top and silly, and the driving is fun. So is the flying, lest I forget to mention all the planes and VTOLs.

In other words, you should really play Saints Row: The Third.

Also, as you may have noticed, Doc Brown has picked up the sponsorship now that my former sponsor is on his way to jail, and I'm sure this will be a much more fruitful relationship.

Runner up: The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

Picking between Saints Row: The Third and The Witcher 2 was pretty tough, and I came very close to giving it to The Witcher 2, and I feel like I need to say a little more about The Witcher 2 before these awards come to a close. Even though I played the (inferior) Xbox 360 version of the game, it's still a beautiful, challenging, and thought provoking game. Choice matters, the characters are well written, the gameplay is mostly great (especially the combat), and it even has a little bit of humor here and there for good measure. If it weren't for my obsession with Saints Row: The Third, The Witcher 2 would have been the Moosies Retro Game of the Year. 

Either way, both are truly great games that are well deserving of all the awards they received here at the illustrious Doc Brown Presents the First Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Retro! 

Again, I have to apologize for the quality of this picture, as I threw it together at the last minute. 

But that is it for this year's Retro awards! I hope you enjoyed them very much. Stay tuned next week for the nominees and awards for the regular Moosies! Those are still not sponsored, so it's open for buyers! (Nolan North still hasn't returned my calls.) 

10 Comments

Biff Tannen Presents The Moosies Retro: Nominations!

I know you all must be in so much suspense to see what the nominees are for these illustrious awards, but first, a message from my sponsors: "For all your gambling needs, Biff Tannen's Pleasure Paradise is the place for you! It's Biff-tastic!"

Mr. Tannen wanted me to include a video advertisement, but I told him that was too much, and not a part of the agreement, so I did not do that, due to excessive advertisements. But let's ignore my selling out to Biff for funding my awards, here are the nominations for the First Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Retro! Don't forget that these awards are exclusively for games that were not released in 2012, but were games that I played this year.

Einstein (The Dog) Award for Best Use of Facial Hair.

As we all know, facial hair is a vital part of everyday life for many people across the world, especially those gifted with beards (like myself). As such, this award goes to the game that makes the best use of this most important of human hair formations.

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Captain Price's majestic special forces facial hair.
  • Gears of War 3 - Dom's weather worn and greying grief beard.
  • Renegade Ops - General Bryant's commanding mustache.
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - Various ridiculous Dwarven beards, and kingly non-Dwarven beards.

Buford Tannen Award for Best Protagonist.

Many award "shows" have awards for new characters, but usually not for those who have made appearances before. But sticking with just awarding new characters isn't good enough for The Moosies, so this award exists! Or it exists in the regular Moosies, I condensed the separate new/returning protagonists into one award for this because there weren't enough new ones (by which I mean Mr. Tannen only paid for one protagonist award).

  • Augustus "The Cole Train" Cole - Gears of War 3
  • Bayonetta - Bayonetta
  • Captain "Mustache" Price - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Captain "Shpace Mahreen!" Titus - Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
  • Geralt "Whitey" of Rivia - The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Rico "Scorpion" Rodriguez - Just Cause 2
  • "The Boss" - Saints Row: The Third

Doc Brown Award for Best Supporting Character.

If there's an award for the best protagonist (ie, playable character), then there should be one for the side characters that also deserve attention.

  • Angel De La Muerte - Saints Row: The Third
  • Burt "F***ing" Reynolds - Saints Row: The Third
  • Nikola "Mr. Science" Tesla - Dark Void
  • Oleg "Brains and Brawn" Kirrlov - Saints Row: The Third
  • Rucks "The Stranger" - Bastion

Thomas F. Wilson Award for Best Voice Actor.

A well written and interesting character can be all but ruined if the voice acting is lousy, and a great voice actor can turn a one bit role into a masterpiece. Mr. Tannen is a big supporter of voice actors, especially given the prolific voice acting career of his parallel universe self, Thomas F. Wilson.

  • Doug Cockle - Geralt of Rivia - The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  • Lester Speight - The Cole Train - Gears of War 3
  • Logan Cunningham - Rucks - Bastion
  • Mark Strong - Captain Titus - Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
  • Nolan North - Multiple roles
  • Robin Atkin Downes - British "The Boss" - Saints Row: The Third

Cyber Ronald Reagan Award for Best Overall Voice Acting.

This is like the last award, but for the whole cast of a game, rather than one actor. Also, what I define as "good" or "entertaining" may not be the same as what someone else does. I do love me some bad voice acting (as does Mr. Tannen).

  • Bastion
  • Gears of War 3
  • Just Cause 2
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

"Let's have Tom Wilson play all the Tannens" Award for Best "Celebrity" Cast.

Sometimes hiring people known for doing acting other than voice acting can have some less than desirable results, but this award is for the game that had "celebrities" in the cast, and did it well. Also, I put "celebrity" in quotes for a reason.

  • Gears of War 3 - Ice T, Claudia Black, Lester Speight, Dwight Schultz.
  • Saints Row: The Third - Hulk Hogan, Burt Reynolds.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine - Mark Strong

Mr. Fusion Award for Funniest Game.

For anyone other than Mr. Tannen, humor can be pretty tough to get right, and this award goes to the game that gets it the most right.

  • Bayonetta
  • Just Cause 2
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Parallel Universe 1985 Biff Award for Best Bosses.

I was informed by Mr. Tannen that I had to specify that this award refers to meek, car washing Biff as the parallel universe one, because the rich casino owning one is the true Biff. Again, those are his words. Also, boss battles in video games.

  • Bastion
  • Bayonetta
  • Just Cause 2
  • Saints Row: The Third

Jaws 19 Award for Most Ridiculous Game.

Ridiculousness is something that I have always supported fully and completely, ever since I was a young lad. And video games are the perfect place for ridiculous things to occur, and this award goes to the most ridiculous of games. And trust me, these are some pretty ridiculous games here.

  • Bayonetta
  • Just Cause 2
  • Renegade Ops
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

"A Fistful of Dollars" Award for Best Shooter.

If there's one thing that Mr. Tannen and I agree on, it's that western movies are rad. What does that have to do with this award? Well, shooting happens in most westerns (the good ones, at least). And uh...video games.

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  • Crysis
  • Gears of War 3
  • Singularity
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

Rocky 5000 Award for Best Melee Combat.

As good as entertaining as fictionalized video game shooting can be, there's nothing quite like a good old fashioned fist fight. Or sword fight. Or any other type of melee combat, for that matter. And as you may have guessed, this award goes to the game that has the best melee combat.

  • Bastion
  • Bayonetta
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Delorean Award for Best Artistic Design.

Mr. Tannen might not be an art expert, but neither am I. Still, I am going to judge the quality of the art in these games, and pick the one that I think is the best.

  • Bastion
  • Bayonetta
  • Outland
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Time Paradox Award for Best Story.

Mr. Tannen has informed me that I am running low on nomination money, so I need to make this quick. Also, remember what I define as "good" is probably not the same as what someone else does.

  • Bayonetta
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Dick Cheney Award for Best Game that Refuses to Die.

This is the sole award that goes to games that I have beaten prior to 2012. I was going to put it in the regular Moosies, but then I decided not to a few minutes ago. These are all games that I replayed this year (or continued to play from the end of last year).

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Darksiders
  • Hexic HD
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Old Western ZZ Top Award for Best Music.

Music; yay!

  • Bastion
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Hoverboard Award for Best Weapon.

Video games often have a lot of violence in them (which Mr. Tannen approves of), and a good weapon can make all the difference between lousy violence, and spectacular violence. These can be both new weapons, or returning weapons from previous games.

  • Bayonetta's Ice Skates (that use Ice Magic) - Bayonetta
  • Chain Sword - Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
  • The Lancer - Gears of War 3
  • The Apocafists - Saints Row: The Third
  • Time Manipulation Device - Singularity

The "I wish Back to the Future Part II showed future video games so I could have a decent reference for this award" Award for Best Downloadable Only Game.

  • Bastion
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
  • Outland
  • Renegade Ops

Biff Tannen Presents The Moosies "Retro" Game of the Year 2012.

And Mr. Tannen is very proud to be presenting this illustrious award. Or that's what his accountant said when he gave me the check. Either way, this is THE award. All of the other awards are like stinking piles of rotten garbage compared to this one! Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch, but you know what I mean. Probably.

  • Bastion
  • Bayonetta
  • Gears of War 3
  • Just Cause 2
  • Saints Row: The Third
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

And that's it for the nominations. Tune in on Friday for the winners, assuming the world hasn't ended (and I doubt it will). Nothing else to say, but here's Nolan North:

9 Comments

The Moosies Return, with a Vengeance!

That's right, it's that time of year again! If you've been reading my nonsense for the last couple years, just skip the next paragraph whilst I get explaining.

See, most random users on websites like Giant Bomb are content with doing a top ten list of their favorite games of the year. Well, that's not good enough for old MooseyMcMan. Instead, I created the Moosies; my own video game awards. Sure, it'll end with a top ten list, but do top ten lists tell you what game had the best use of facial hair? I thought not!

But this year's Moosies are going to be bigger and better than ever. Why? Two reasons. The first is that I've made a logo!

But that snazzy new logo isn't all! In addition to The Fourth Annual Moosies Video Game Awards, you'll also be getting...

That's right! I was looking for someone to sponsor my new "Retro" themed video game awards, and Mr. Tannen was looking for something to sponsor (for tax reasons, I'm told), so the fit was perfect!

But what is this madness? "Video Game Awards Retro"? As you may or may not remember, every year in the Moosies I have an award for the best game I beat that year that I hadn't beaten in a previous year. But this year I played so many top notch games from previous years that I didn't think subjugating them to one lousy award was enough, so now they have their own completely separate thing.

"But when are these fabulous awards being given?" Well, I'm glad you asked! The Biff Tannen Presents The First Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Retro nominees are being announced on the Monday of next week, and the winners will be announced the Friday of the same week. I'm afraid that even with Mr. Tannen's sponsorship I can't quite afford the dog and pony show that Spike TV can, so I won't be having any trailers with one-armed men or Samuel L. Jackson. Or even video, because it's just a blog (you wouldn't want to see me or hear my voice anyway, trust me, neither is anything special).

Then the Monday after (December 24th, also known as Boxing Day Eve Eve) I shall be announcing the nominees for The Fourth Annual Moosies Video Game Awards. The Friday after (the 28th) shall have the winners for those awards, and my top ten list shall... Well, it'll be two lists of five. The first (ten through six) on Monday (the 31st), and the second (the top five) on Tuesday (the first of the New Year). Why? To create more suspense, and to allow me to write even more nonsense about these games, because I know you guys can only take so much of my writing at once.

And there may be more surprises in wait, but there probably won't be. I don't want to promise anything based on something vague that someone I know said to me, but I've already said too much!

Also, please bear in mind that I live in a part of the world where a freak snowstorm could roll in any day and take out the power, and if that happens I apologize for any delays it causes to The Moosies. And because I have no smart phone or anything, I'll be completely out of sync with the internet should that happen.

But please stay tuned for this year's Moosies! Have I reached too far? Will I, in my hubris filled quest to fly to the sun, wind up burned and careening toward the ground like young Icarus of old? Or will it be a resounding success that future generations will sing songs of? Probably neither!

Nolan North, who did not return my calls where I asked him to sponsor my awards.

2 Comments

My ludicrous theory on The Phantom Pain.

Let me start this off by saying that I acknowledge that the chances of this theory being true are probably pretty slim. But, I haven't seen anyone else say this yet (not to say that no one else has, I haven't checked the entire internet). Thus, I thought I'd write this out as a blog on the very slim chance that any of this theory ends up being true.

Also, spoilers for the MGS games. The only reason I say this is because I know a very specific user here who hasn't played MGS4 yet, despite my telling him to for YEARS, but that's his problem. He'll beat it eventually.

Anyway, my theory is that the one armed guy seen in The Phantom Pain trailer is not Big Boss like most people think, it is in fact Major Zero. Yes, Major Zero from MGS3.

My first two pieces of evidence for this come from my secondary theory that what is seen in the trailer is in the United Kingdom. Why, you ask? Well, there's a UK flag in the hospital room.

Second, the vehicle seen briefly that the one armed man and bandage face are in has the steering wheel on the right side of it.

Now, obviously a flag and a right steering wheel car are not definite signs that the game is in the UK. But, the various theories about the game have thus far placed the location somewhere in Latin America, or the Caribbean. Costa Rica is the leading candidate, due to the whale tail in the Moby Dick Studio logo looking similar to a piece of land in Costa Rica. BUT, people drive on the right side of the street in Costa Rica, meaning that the cars there are left side steering wheel cars.

Now, I of course realize that there are many other places in Latin America/Caribbean other than Costa Rica such as Cuba, where Ground Zeroes (at least partially) takes place. And there are many nations in the Caribbean that were once British colonies, and do in fact drive on the left side of the street. But based on what I know about the Caribbean, Cuba is the only place with decent hospitals, and they drive on the right hand side in Cuba.

I know what you're thinking, "Moosey, you've really lost it this time." No, sir, I haven't! Remember in the Ground Zeroes trailer when it said that, "From FOX, two phantoms were born"? Okay, my theory is that Ground Zeroes is the story of one of those phantoms (Big Boss), and Phantom Pain is the other phantom, Major Zero. Those who played MGS4 already know a fair amount about the split between those two, and we've seen a fair amount of Big Boss's post MGS3 adventures in Portable Ops and Peace Walker. But we haven't seen anything from Major Zero.

Oh, and the part of my theory that is pure speculation on my part is that I think the soldiers shooting up the hospital are working for Big Boss. Why? Why not? Like I said, speculation.

Of course, the counter arguments to this theory are many. Such as the dude looking a lot like the various Snakes in the series, Zero having his left arm at the end of MGS4 (though, so did Big Boss). But like I said, I think the chances of this being true are slim. I just wanted to throw another theory out there to see what others think of it. Either way, Kojima's got me again, and I am very excited to see more of this game in the coming months, and I hope they really go into the one-armed stuff, and make that a central mechanic.

103 Comments