The Rolies 2012 (aka. Rolls of the Year, aka. ROTY)

To us, gaming is more than a simple pastime. It’s more than entertainment. We might not be able to precisely pin down exactly why games matter to us, but we aren’t playing around when it comes to games … well, we are, technically, playing around, but you get what I mean. We take games verious (that’s very serious, but we take them so serious that we can’t waste time with a bunch of extra words).

But, enough with all of that. We want to see the games. We want to see the Rolies. That’s just how we ... R-R-ROOOOOOOL-L-L-L!!!!!

[Cue Mortal Kombat techno ... What? ... We don’t have that track? And this is an obscure video game blog and not a televised awards show that doesn’t really make any sense? No matter ... roll on!]

Gamers and duders, welcome to the second annual Rolies--the first and only video game awards dedicated to the roll. Last year we handed out a bunsload of great awards to the best rolls in games: the Schwarzeneggerest Roll (Captain Titus of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine), the Rickest Roll (Garcia “Fucking” Hotspur of Shadows of the Damned), and the Thunderest Roll (Cole MacGrath of inFamous 2) just to name a few. Some categories are back again this year, but we’re gonna knock your socks off with our all new categories in 2012--and those soon-to-be-knocked-off socks better get neatly rolled, not bunned ... we want to be very clear about that.

As always, we want to take a moment to honor Giant Bomb and the great community of users for making the Rolies possible. Here is what you guys at the greatest site on the planet have agreed is a suitable definition of the roll:

A roll consists of simultaneous vertical and horizontal movement of a body. There are several variations of a roll, and some vehicles are also capable of this movement.

So here we are again, ready to show the world what the roll is all about. The 2012 Rolies are here. So hold on to your butts ... we’re ready to roll.

[Cue music: “Picture Me Rollin’,” by Tupac ... Oh, right .... blog, not TV show. Okay, cue Rolls-Royce sponsorship banner ... No? Rolex either? Alright, let’s get this amateur hour over with then.]

The Tootsiest Roll

A roll is a roll. We know a roll when we see it. A roll is simple. It is elegant. A roll’s beauty is in its transience--it is here one moment, and then it is gone, just like that. But like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the classic film Tootsie, some rolls sort of waffle between two things. Sometimes we don’t know if we’ve seen a roll or if we’ve seen something else … something that seems to defy categories.

In Assassin’s Creed 3, you’ll occasionally see Connor dodge roll while engaged in combat, but that isn’t the roll we’re talking about. His is more traditional.

No. What we’re talking about almost doesn’t qualify as a roll at all. In fact, many of you might dispute its eligibility for a Rolie. But for its amazing ability to capture our attention and curiosity, Assassin’s Creed 3 takes the Tootsiest Roll for having the most confused roll of 2012:

The “Dude I’m So Totally Rolling” -est Roll

Max Payne. Here’s a dude so badass that we can’t even begin to sum up his badassery in a way that would do him justice. Rogue cop. Vigilante. Killer. A man out for revenge who will stop at nothing.

Also: BULLET TIME!

And this is a guy who knows how to roll. Rolling in slow motion. Rolling behind cover. Rolling while reloading. Max Payne is a veritable rolling aficionado. And his rolls in 2012’s Max Payne 3 did not disappoint fans of the series nor fans of the roll. But his combat roll isn’t what earned him a Rolie this year. For undoubtedly rolling balls on a cocktail of drugs and alcohol consumed in large quantities throughout the game, Max Payne in Max Payne 3 is your 2012 “Dude I’m So Totally Rolling” -est Roll.

From the forums: http://www.giantbomb.com/max-payne-3/61-23398/do-you-roll-in-max-payne-3/35-551418/

Max Payne 3 is also this year’s The Multi-ballest Roll for including the most mid-roll actions.

The G-est Roll

The bravado one must posses to carry a G-roll (a wad of rolled-up cash, held together by a rubber-band and carried in one’s pocket) frightens most grown men. Carrying a G-roll says, “Y’all don’t want none of this. I carry a G-roll ‘cause ain’t nobody gon’ step to me. I’m unf--kwit’able.”

This attitude defines 2012’s G-est Roll. The roll in this game is so volatile that you actually have to earn the right to roll. Only the realest of the real can roll in this game. For making the roll a purchasable upgrade only available to certain classes, this year’s G-est Roll is Dragon’s Dogma.

The Pelvicest Roll

A roll, when done right, is sexy. It deftly combines a violent, aggressive, and powerful maneuver with one that is elegant, subtle, and graceful. In that balance, there is a potent recipe for sensuality.

But other games bypass that elusive interplay with animal magnetism and just shove suggestiveness right down your throat. For getting us all up off the couch and shaking our sexy asses, the Pelvicest Roll of 2012 belongs to Just Dance 4.

The Schwartzeneggerest Roll

Only the fiercest roll has even a chance to earn this next award. This category is saved for those rolls that simply get the job done. For this game, the roll is the answer. Need to get behind cover? Roll. Need to dodge some bullets? Roll. Need to run? No you don’t. You need to roll.

For rolling like a action movie stars, this year’s Schwartzeneggerest Rolie goes to Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil 6. Yippie ki-yay, motherfucker!

(caption: the Schwarteneggerest Roll has deep roots in gaming history: True Lies)

Rolling Ballsest Roll

If you have friends who ever say, “Dude, I’m, like, totally rolling balls right now,” you might want to think hard about how you are choosing your friends. Ecstasy is a dangerous drug.

But the Rolling Ballsest Roll isn’t about popping mollies. This award honors the video game that made the best use of one of the rolliest of objects: the ball. For being the best game that featured a ball, this year’s Rolling Ballsest Rolie goes to NBA 2K12.

Unravellest Roll

As fans of the roll, we really take notice of a good roll. Like connoisseurs, we like to taste a good roll, revelling in its intricacies and delicacies. A good roll is meant to be appreciated and reflected upon. But, as rollos--as we like to call ourselves--we can fall into the trap of thinking that any game could be better with a good roll.

But this is not always the case. Sometimes a game comes along in which every gameplay feature was executed so flawlessly that it simply didn’t need a roll. In fact, sometimes a roll, in all of its wonderful flavors, can bloat a game with complexity. Sometimes a developer’s choice to leave the roll out does more for the idea of rolls than if they had crammed it in where it wasn’t needed.

For being the game that most closely executed the spirit of the roll without actually including the ability to do a roll, this year’s Unravellest Roll goes to Borderlands 2.

Drew A Barrel Roll

This one is for the duderest of the Giant Bomb duders. We were all entertained with hours of great video and podcast content here on Giant Bomb. For fans of the site, the Giant Bomb crew talk about games in a way that makes them cool, interesting, funny, fun and so much more.

But some of the best moments on Giant Bomb come from where you’d least expect it. For instance, 2012 likely be remembered as the year of Drew taking us, Vinny, and Dave on a number of entertaining and thrilling rides into the sky in a feature series called Flight Club.

Because it provided us with some of the most bewilderingly hilarious video moments of the year, this year’s Drew A Barrel Roll goes to Digital Combat Simulator: P-51D Mustang.

Rock-n-est Roll

Music and video games. Just saying those two things together sets our minds racing through our memories.

Memorable moments in gaming music from games like Chrono Trigger or many of the Final Fantasy games still hold up strongly against the amazing soundtracks of the games of the World of Warcraft and Mass Effect series of today. But a good licensed soundtrack can go a long way... just ask anyone who remembers Rock ‘N Roll Racing.

For melting our faces in 2012 with a killer Rock soundtrack, this year’s Rock-n-est Roll goes to Lollipop Chainsaw.

Mary Lou-est Roll

Every year, there is that one roll. That one roll that, above all others, rolls the roliest. It rolls so goddamn good that we all have to pause just to absorb the absolute wonder of the moment. This roll gets it. This roll gets us. This roll rolls. It’s perfect.

For being everything we want in a roll and more... for being a roll that inspires us to keep rolling... for dreaming to roll and then rolling its heart out... for making the Rolies possible, this year’s best, Mary Lou-est Roll goes to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

Rolies 2012 Wrap-up

There it is, folks. Another great Rolies in the bag, all rolled up and ready to pack it in for next year. We all hope you enjoyed this strangely endearing homage to the year in video game rolls. There are lots of great rolls to look ahead toward in 2013. So keep playing games, keep coming back to Giant Bomb, and keep rolling.

[*Cue Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin’”]

16 Comments

ungaming for an unachievement

As a gamer, you don’t always get the chance to play the games you want to play (chex muh blog on the games of 2011 I missed); there are just too many games that come out for an average duder to afford the time and money to devote to all the good games out there. But even when circumstances make it so you can’t play all the games you want, there are always those games that stay on your radar. You watch the shelves and sales, waiting for the right time and the right price to delve into your backlog. We’ve all been there before.

I recently loaded up my reserve tank with some games to stem the tide of the post-holiday drought of good releases. With Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Mass Effect 3 on the horizon, I needed a few cheap, fun experiences to get me through the cold, days of the annual winter of videogames’ discontent. Luckily, I was able to dive pretty deep into the current gen’s stable of quality titles to find some critically acclaimed games at a bargain price. For about $20, I picked up Resident Evil 5 and Red Dead Redemption. I felt pretty good about my purchases, and was excited to jump into them.

The first game I slid into the PS3 was Resident Evil 5. I’m a long time Resident Evil fan. Marking one of the few times I’ve ever done this since the PSX generation of consoles, I finished the original Resident Evil without powering down the console throughout the entire play through. I also look back on Resident Evil 4 as one of my favorite games from the previous generation of consoles. But I’ve grown a bit weary of Capcom beating the franchise into the ground with countless remakes, handheld iterations and crappy spin-offs. So when I missed Resident Evil 5 when it rolled out as a new release, it was an intentional choice based on a nagging, unfortunate skepticism. To me, this was a game that could wait for its inevitable appearance in the bargain bin.

So finally I had my chance. The game was in. The room was dark. I was ready for the creepy sense of horror mixed with unintelligible Japanese weirdness to transport me back into the crazy zombie infested world of Umbrella’s own corporate greed come back to bite it and the rest of the world in the ass, neck, guts and brains. Here we go, I thought.

That thought was quickly replaced with, I wonder what’s on TV, when I was greeted with the requisite software update and install waiting times.

About an hour or so later: Okay. Installs and updates done. Let’s do this. Again, no. Not quite ready to start yet. Before I can jump into that third person, zombie blasting action, there is an important decision to make – one that has only recently started to trouble me to no end: selecting a difficulty level.

I’ve played games for ages now, and I’ve recently really started to delve into dissecting the experience of gaming and writing about my thoughts. In doing so, I’ve become more aware of the tone of the gaming community (thank you Giant Bomb) and the general consensus of journalists, critics and reviewers in the industry. While I had always previously been content with playing games on Normal difficulty, I’ve recently discovered that not only do many gamers consider the only authentic experience offered by games to be the maximum difficulty, but many reviewers are now saying that the appropriate setting is often Hard (am I mistaken that the Gears of War 3 dev even said Hard is the right setting for people who played Gears of War 2?).

So there I was. Gaming time to kill. A game I was excited to play booted up. Just one simple choice to make and I’d be in a game, passing time in one of favorite ways. But, for some reason, I couldn’t make the choice. And I’m the kind of person the loves choice in games.

Usually, though, choice in games is basically an inconsequential, impulsive action which only ever adds up to some slight tweak in the way the game presents itself to me (open world, sandboxes like Skyrim excluded). The choice of difficulty level was going to influence every encounter – important and insignificant alike – for the entire game. I’m not opposed to a good challenge in a game, just as I don’t turn my nose up at one that allows me to let my guard down for some simple fun. But I don’t want unnecessary difficulty in a game that should be easy, and I don’t want to be handheld by a game that should require a bit of skill, patience and forethought.

I don’t know that I can fully explain why, but deciding whether to play Resident Evil 5 on Normal or Hard backed my psyche into a corner. Was Normal going to be too easy, with ammo drops and save points at my disposal while ghouls dropped with slightly ill-placed headshots? Was Hard going to be too punishing and unforgiving? What, exactly, would the differences be, and at what point would my choice rear its ugly head and cause me to regret my decision?

I danced around the choice for more than an embarrassing hour, my self-esteem and confidence (not as a gamer, but as a man able to make a simple choice) continued to circle the drain. By the end of it all, my investment in the game had been flushed away along with any remaining patience I had for it. When I finally made the choice – or rather pressed the button without ever coming to an intellectual decision – I hardly felt it was possible for me to enjoy the game any longer. I made it about 30 minutes into the game, never actually playing or enjoying it – just searching for every flaw in gameplay, storytelling and accessibility that I could find. In a fit of rage and shame, I threw my hands up at the game, boxed it back up, and sold it back to the store for a slight loss.

Now, I can’t decide if it was the best or worst $2 (the difference in what I paid compared to what I got back from selling it) I spent on a game. There will be other games in my backlog to get through, so I’m okay missing Resident Evil 5. My only real regret is in ever bowing down to the frivolity of trophies or achievements, because if my experience with Resident Evil 5 hasn’t earned me the right to some kind of reward, then my resolve to not care about achievements is only more steadfastly hardened.

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The Rolies 2011 (aka. Rolls of the Year, aka. ROTY)

Mario didn’t need it. Sonic took it to a level that has yet to be surpassed. It is used for escaping, evading, dodging, maneuvering, attacking and, occasionally, for traversing. It is an easy button press in many games, and it is an easy way to break your neck in real life. It is the roll.

Gamers and duders, welcome to the first inaugural Rolies – the first and only video game awards dedicated to the roll. Call it what you will – dodge roll, evade roll, rollout, etc. – this oft overlooked video game trope finally gets proper recognition in a look at the top rolls of 2011.

We have been acquainted with the roll mechanic in games for generations, and we have come to love the beauty of a good roll. Giant Bomb lists the following definition of the roll:

“A roll consists of simultaneous vertical and horizontal movement of a body. There are several variations of a roll, and some vehicles are also capable of this movement.”

Soccer balls and basketballs roll in games, but they have no place here. Tires roll, but get them outta this category. The people have spoken, and they want good ol’ fashioned rollin’. So, let’s dispense with the lofty introductions and get straight to the awards – the Rolies, honoring the best in rolling in video games of 2011!

(Rolex sponsorship pending; gold watch awards pending)

The Schwarzeneggerest Roll

When this hulking mass of muscles and hammers rolls, you feel it. He rolls like a freight train. He rolls like the full impact of the galaxy’s defense force. He rolls with a purpose, and when he rolls he leaves orcs flattened in his path.

The winner of the Schwarzeneggerest Roll of 2011 is Captain Titus of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

The Rickest Roll

The Rickest Roll, owing its namesake to the cruel bastards who rickroll us to Rick Astley’s fabulously awful “Never Gonna Give You Up” video, honors the most immoral, the most loathsome, low and obscene – essentially, the evilest roll in games this year.

2011’s Rickest Roll goes to the game that sinks gamers into the pits of hell, dodge rolling around on putrid, rank and foul floors covered in agony and blood. This game’s vulgarity is relentless. Whether your spraying murderous ghouls with Big Boner shots as a demon-hunting biker or you are running across the gigantic manifestation of your girlfriend’s naked boobs in a nightmarish dark void, you’ll need this guy’s fantastic roll ability to get you where you are going.

So this year’s Rickest Roll Rolie goes to Garcia “Fucking” Hotspur of Shadows of the Damned.

The “Dead Sea Scrolls”-est Roll

There are many classic rolls to which modern day rolls owe their inspiration. Many would consider Metroid (NES) to be the granddaddy of all rolls, debuting the mechanic all the way back in 1987. But when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time unveiled the ability to dodge roll in a 3D space, the face of rolling would never be the same.

For carrying on the storied tradition of the green-tuniced roller, the “Dead Sea Scroll”-est Roll belongs to Link from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

The Springest Roll

He is vengeance. He is the night. He has one helluva dodge roll.

We hesitated to even call this a roll, although, by definition, it meets the criteria – much the same as the vegetables in the deep fried spring roll at Chinese food restaurants which have been stripped of all semblance to vegetables but which, technically, are still vegeteables.

This roll has legit, jaw dropping air under it. This roll ain’t playin’. This roll will slap yo’ momma. He rolls so high and so hard, and seemingly with such ease, that this roller isn’t happy just rolling. He’s gotta jump and roll. He’s gotta jump so high he’s landing on dudes backs to roll over them. Watch out when this roll is coming at you – that is if you can see it amidst the flurry of face punches he’s dolling out.

This year’s Springest Roll is Batman from Batman: Arkham City.

The “Party Rock”-est Roll

Think rolls are just for the main character? Think that for two seconds in this game, and you’ll surely die. Well, you’ll surely die repeatedly in this game anyway, but you’ll die even more when this set of enemies comes rolling at you. There’s a party in the hellish underworld, and everyone is invited to roll in.

Granted you can roll in this game. You can do many things in this game, but that isn’t going to stop the ruthless undead warriors from using an unrelenting bag of tricks to take you down – rolling being one of their terrible arsenal of attacks.

2011’s “Party Rock”-est Roll goes out to the heroes and villains of Dark Souls.

The Thunderest Roll

The mythic thunderbird flaps its wings in the dark grey shroud of a storm cloud, and in the shadow of its monstrous wingspan, the Earth below quivers in the deafening sound of the thunder roll.

The Thunderest Roll can only be given to one who holds the power of gods in his hands and in his rolls. Of all the nominees for this award, only one wields a lightning infused weapon which he uses to bat baddies out of the air after rolling their feet out from under them and launching them to their unfortunate, defenseless demise.

Hands down. No contest. This year’s Thunderest Roll Rolie winner is Cole MacGrath of inFamous 2.

The Multi-ballest Roll

Ahh…the sweet satisfaction of unlocking the multi-ball on a pinball table. What splendid freneticism. What a freeing sense of accomplishment. What an unabashed flash of points aggregation.

The Multi-ballest Roll winner displays an uncanny knack for pulling off additional actions mid-roll, and this year we have a benchmark in the realm of multitaskrolling. Whether picking up ammo, reloading, or dropping a grenade, this hero never saw a roll he couldn’t do more with.

Our winner for the 2011 Multi-ballest Roll is Nathan Drake of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.

The “Poetic Tickling of the Danglies of the Concepts of Time and Space”-est Roll

Let’s face it, at this point we’re starting to see that the roll can pop up in damn near any game, and it isn’t hard to imagine the roll mechanic being implemented by some developers without proper care and respect. But that only makes a good roll stand out even more.

Incorporated as an integral addition to the combat arsenal, the dodge roll in this game is one that must be mastered and feared. It can take down an enemy or send the spritely hero barreling over the edge of the continually forming world around him into a cataclysmic abyss. This roll needs the player as much as the player needs it, and the fate of the world, the past and the future lie in question without it.

It is subtle. It is nuanced. It is asking for players to step up to the challenge of mastering it.

The “Poetic Tickling of the Danglies of the Concepts of Time and Space”-est Roll Rolie belongs to The Kid for his performance in 2011’s Bastion.

The Stickiest Roll

Sure, we’d all love to go rolling about all willy-nilly, but sometimes that just ain’t in the cards. Sometimes our rolling is best left to only those most essential moments. Sometimes we only roll when we have to.

Therein is the heart of this year’s Stickiest Roll award winner. He rolls with the best of them. In fact, many envy his graceful roll. But his roll, like all of his actions – like his entire demeanor – is done with absolute seriousness, clarity and purpose. No effort is wasted, and when he takes to the ground for a roll it is only with the most clandestine intentions.

So, for having the most contextually sensitive roll, The Stickiest Roll of 2011 is Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

The Unrollest Roll

We love a good roll, but we appreciate the fact that the roll can’t fit in every game. The Unrollest Roll honors the game which could have, but thankfully didn’t, include a roll as a gameplay element.

Delicately nuanced facial animations. Slow and deliberate crime scene investigation. Thoughtful, multi-tiered dialogue trees and options. This game revels in its quiet moments. But it also delves into the genre of open world action complete with driving and shooting gameplay. It would have been easy for the developers to fall into the trope of the roll so popular with action shooters, but it didn’t. It made the bold and, by our opinion, wise choice to ground the game in realism, shedding the need for a roll animation.

So, for its adherence to the aesthetic of subtlety – for not rolling – we honor Cole Phelps of L.A. Noire with the award for the Unrollest Roll of the year.

The Best Roll

Finally we’ve come to the Best Roll of 2011. This year’s winning roll captures such a prismatic, brilliant and skillful radiance that it shines above the rest. This roller rolled away from a more diverse stable of dangers and adversaries than any other. He rolled into more wide-ranging actions than any other. And he rolled with such style and dignity that all others look to him for inspiration. He is the hill that all others roll down. He is the globe rolling on its axis. He is the Best Roll winner of 2011. He is Geralt of Rivia of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

Rolies Wrap

And that brings us to the end of the Rolies. Again, this was a great year for rolls. We’d like to thank all of our winners and apologize for not having trophy watches to hand out (Rolex, I will gladly distribute the gold watches if you’d like to send them my way). This is a promising time for rolls. We’re seeing roll revivals with great re-releases of such as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Devil May Cry HD Collection, Shadow of the Colossus in HD. We’re also looking forward to another great year of rolls with some highly anticipated rolls in Mass Effect 3 and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. So to all the rolls, rollers and roll fans out there, thank you, and we wish you the best rolls in 2012.

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Top 10 best games of 2011 I didn't play (and why I didn't)

As an adult with responsibilities and a budget, a number of games on my “to play/to buy” list for 2011 never got checked off. But so many good games came out this year. How could I be sure I’d get the most bang for my buck out of the games I bought? A mathematical formula would be nice – some combination of review scores, gameplay hours, sales figures, etc. But I wouldn’t buy a milkshake based on such sterile numbers, and I damned sure won’t spend $60 bucks based on this kind of data.

As the year draws to a close and top 10 lists and industry awards spread throughout the gaming world like a zombie horde, I thought I’d contribute my own list to the fray. But, as I looked at many of the Game of the Year nominees on various sites, I came to realize that, while I was very observant of the top games of 2011, I hadn’t played all, or even most, of them. Fancying myself an active participant in the fresh, new hotness of video games, I started to wonder why, outside of not having limitless funds and free time to invest in all the games I might want to play, I had chosen to play the games I played and to pass on those I didn’t…there had to be a reason why I picked the games I played. And I’m math-dumb, so we can rule out that whole formula thing.

I don’t know if review scores matter all that much to me, and being no good with sophisti-plication charts, I can’t supply a fancy infographic balancing my purchasing history against metacritic scores. I’m also not snobby enough to throw my hands up at the notion that gameplay hours effects my decision to buy a game – sometimes I want a game that I can get wrapped up in, and sometimes I just want to breeze through a game in a weekend. In a perfect world, I would play all the games that caught my eye. But, alas, as the great actor Charlton Heston once famously said on screen, “Soylent Green is people!” No, wait, it was, "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape." Ughh. So we can all agree math and movie quotes aren’t my strong suit. Whatever. Here are the top 10 best games I didn’t play this year.

10. Battlefield 3/Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

The 10th spot on my list could’ve belonged to many different games. I could have chosen a game from the fighting game genre…something like Mortal Kombat or King of Fighters XIII. I could have chosen a sports game like FIFA 12. I could have chosen Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3, but, judging from their appearance on the list, I obviously didn’t. Let’s look at why. MW3 would probably have been my first choice of the two, but only because the franchise, like Madden has done in the football game genre, has all-but become the default leader of multiplayer first-person war shooters. I know the multiplayer community is active and engaging, but I’m too proud to let those 12 year olds make me look like a fool.

But MW3 isn’t the clear choice. This newest Battlefield game is using some flashy new tech in the Frostbite engine, so it looks super-duper pretty. Which do I choose, which do I choose? The answer is neither because I feel like the ref is getting ready to call this match a technical knockout as the genre of multiplayer soldier shooters has been beating the shit out of me with flurry punches for too long, and the blows are coming so fast that I can’t even see them anymore. I’m staggered, and dizzy, and I can’t tell how many FPSs you’re holding up in front of me. All of that said, and somehow, I keep climbing back up the ropes, trying to see that glorious prestige through my swollen eyes. ADRIAN!

9. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

PC box art (cropped)

I played Assassin’s Creed, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. How the hell did this game make it on this list? Easy: burnout. I don’t blame Ubisoft for making this game. When a series brings in the dough like AC does, I’m all for the decision to keep giving gamers what they want. But I’ve made the mistake of sticking with a game or franchise too long. I fell in love with Final Fantasy as a kid, and I’ve played many of its more disappointing iterations (seriously, how many sequels, prequels and spinoffs to Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts do we really need? And what in the name of Ghandi is Theatrhythm Final Fantasy? And do I really want to know? And how ashamed should I feel for kinda wanting to play it?). I’m sure Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a good game. I’m sure of this because I’ve played the other games in the series, and Revelations, despite its title which would suggest otherwise, doesn’t look like it is going to change the experience enough to keep me coming back. I’m willing to trade in my familiarity with the developments in Desmond’s story in exchange for a long wait while the story gears up for its next jump in setting like it did from AC: 1 to AC:2.

8. Dark Souls

360 box art (cropped)

I didn’t play Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls’ 2009 predecessor, but I knew it was considered one of the most difficult – no, punishing – no, insanely unforgiving games of this generation of consoles. Frankly, that scares me. I consider myself an experienced gamer, but without even playing this game, I questioned my ability to complete it. But dangling there in front of me is the possibility of getting a real sense of accomplishment out of a game, knowing I’d done something that others hadn’t or couldn’t. Yeah that sounds nice. Real nice. Yeah, spank me Dark Souls.

Wait. Who am I kidding? I’m only ever going to casually appreciate this game for what it is. I’m okay with knowing that this game deserved a fleeting moment of my attention, but I’m not going to play it. I’m passing on this one because, for some odd reason, the answer to this SAT question is clear to me:

Spreadsheets : Dull :: Video games : ________

A) Entertaining

B) Laborious

C) You don’t need any other options because the answer is A

7. Rayman: Origins

360 box art (cropped)

From what I understand, Michel Ancel made this game look almost as if the concept art had come to life. That seems like an awesome approach to designing a game. Pair the amazing art direction with what reviewers are calling tight and precise controls, and you have me hooked. But am I really willing to overlook what have been some lackluster games from the Rayman-verse? Even if I forget about the Raving Rabbids games (I’m not saying these are bad games, they just aren’t “must buys” for budget-conscious gamers), I still look at this game from the perspective of what I am getting for the price. At 29 years old, my supply of friends who want to get together to play a cartoony, jokey, colorful side-scrolling platformer is somewhat dwindling, so I wouldn’t really get much out of the multiplayer aspect. And I’m not really sure if I see this game living up to other recent high-quality platformers in this aesthetic (ie. LittleBigPlanet). So, while I’m sure I’m probably passing on a great game, to Rayman: Origins, I have to say…

(*switches tabs to watch the Rayman: Origins trailer…again)

6. The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword

US Cover

Missing The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword saddens me. I really do want to play this game, but there are too many obstacles standing in my way. Unless circumstances drastically change for me, I may never have the chance to play this newest entry in what is one of gaming’s most beloved franchises.

2011 was the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, so if you pay attention to the industry at all, you don’t need me to go into detail about what made the series so great over the years. Suffice it to say, I consider Wind Waker to be my all-time favorite game. Period. And, while Twilight Princess held my attention despite being, what I considered, somewhat underwhelming, I still thought there was life to be squeezed out of future Zelda games. And Skyward Sword might do just that. It might be a great game, though reviews and criticisms seem all over the place. Ultimately, this just comes down to the simple fact that this is a Wii game and a motion-controls game. You can tell me that this might change the way I think about motion controls (yes, I’m looking at Patrick Klepek). You can tell me anything you want about this game. But, like most gamers who would be reading an obscure contributor’s comments about 2011’s top games, the Wii just isn’t for me. I haven’t been interested in a Wii so long that I completely forgot Nintendo even added a Motion Plus attachment to the Wiimote. I haven’t been interested in a Wii so long that I lost my Wii. I haven’t been interested in a Wii so long…okay, that’s getting old. In all seriousness, I’m not about to invest in a game that seems to be teetering on the final seconds of a console’s lifeline, especially if I need to buy a new piece of hardware to even play it. Still, not playing Skyward Sword leaves me feeling like I told an old high school buddy I couldn’t help him move when I very easily could have…I just didn’t want to.

5. L.A. Noire

Like video games, new tech – TVs, cell phones, PCs, etc. – spark the “informed consumer” side of my personality. This stuff is expensive, and no one wants to get burned on something that seems new, fresh and cool but turns out to be a dud that fails to stand up to closer scrutiny. I’m a salesman’s nightmare: the educated, decisive and quick shopper. So, no video game salesman, I don’t want to go ahead and put money down on a pre-order copy of L.A. Noire, even though I’m sure I look like a duder who played the shit out of some Grand Theft Auto.

I felt the same way about L.A. Noire as I would about a new model of a cell phone or some new type of TV, both of which buy as an early adopter. I prefer to let developers work out the bugs in time for the newer, better 2nd generation. The game was obviously gaining considerable attention in the gaming world (it is hard to overlook a game that Tom Bissell reviewed), and its big offering was the revolutionary facial animation technology: motion scan.

I watched some video of the game, and I’m not going to deny how fantastic it looked or argue that this game doesn’t set a new benchmark for facial animations and sophisticated video game storytelling. Critics have applauded the game’s animations and the performances given by the voice actors – the biggest surprise about the voice acting, perhaps, is that Nolan North is not on the cast. But just below the shiny surface of those high review scores and praises, I kept getting an aftertaste of what seemed like some frustrating gameplay elements. Ultimately, the threat of poor driving mechanics, tedious and repetitive scenarios and lack of control or consequences in the story left me turning away, waiting for something more promising to come along. When Team Bondi employees started coming forward about the poor work environment surrounding the development of L.A. Noire, it only solidified my resolve to move on to greener pastures and pass on this game. So, I’ll just sit back, waiting to read about a game that “uses the same facial animation technology developed for L.A. Noire.”

4. Batman: Arkham City

PC box art (cropped)

I loved Batman: Arkham Asylum. I’m not a Batman super fan or anything, but I did grow up at a time when Batman: the Animated Series was just about the coolest chiz I’d ever seen. I never read the comics (that is, until I played Arkham Asylum), but Batman has been a cultural phenomenon whose reach extended far beyond the nerdy walls of comic book stores for ages. All of that said, let me reiterate, I loved Batman: Arkham Asylum. Call backs to the Animated Series (the game used many of the voice actors from the 90s show) interspersed with the dark, adult Batman from some -- I repeat, some -- of the movies allowed Rocksteady to strike an emotional chord with their game.

So, I should probably play Arkham City then, right? Yeah. I know I should, and I was completely ready to play it in the months leading up to the game. But when people started playing it and writing about it, I backed away from my excitement. Sure, everyone said the game improved on its predecessor. But were slight tweaks to the combat system, a few new weapons and a larger world to explore really a bright enough bat signal to entice me out of my bat cave and to the mall to fork over my hard-earned cash to jump back into something that was going to feel so similar? Arkham City looks great, and I’ll get around to playing it, but I don’t feel any sense of urgency to run out and buy it now. There are other games out there that I can’t wait to play, so I can hold off until the cheaper Greatest Hits edition to come out.

3. Saints Row: The Third

360 box art (cropped)

Under no circumstances would I ever have been interested in Saints Row: The Third as one of my top games of the year. I looked at the series as cornering the niche market of bro-dudes who could be easily tricked into buying any game where open-world mayhem similar to GTA could be found. That’s why I was so surprised when Volition’s third iteration in the series – despite having a weapon’s list that included the Penetrator, a three-foot-long purple dildo attached to a baseball bat handle, and the Fart in a Jar – began to capture the praise of reviewers, journalists and a healthy chunk of the gaming community.

I love that this game is a game. It seems intent on capturing an odd – yet refreshing – brand of entertainment. The mechanics, aesthetic and concept all look to be stripped down to offer gamers a fun, ludicrously insane experience. I love that. But, I couldn’t bring myself to take the plunge to buy this one. Despite all the praise, there was one nagging aspect of the discussion of Saints Row: The Third that kept me from pulling the trigger: the excuses. Each time a reviewer interjected with “…but the asinine humor is self-aware”, or a friend explained “…but it isn’t re-eally just an open-world facsimile with a layer of the absurd”, a part of me felt that they were asking me to look past something – something that would probably bug me just enough to force me to face my old nemesis: buyer’s remorse.

2. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Final Box Art

Let’s just get it out there: I didn’t play Skyrim. But I know it belongs on this list. I’ve seen the frenzied popularity of the game. I watched all 12 hours of Giant Bomb’s video feature of Greg Kasavin adventuring through the land of Skyrim. I’ve even watched dozens of other Skyrim videos online (Skyrim - Unarmed Badass Viking Commentary is my personal favorite). I’m very aware of the staggering sales and popularity and the rate at which Bethesda is gobbling up various GOTY awards. If I was creating a profile of the kind of person who would play this game, I – being a male, ages 18-35, and actively interested in gaming and new games – would kinda be the prototype.

But I’m not going to play Skyrim. The only reason I’d play the game would be to participate in the cultural phenomenon, and even then, slogging through the vast landscape, managing inventory, inspecting every nook and cranny and cycling through massive amount of menus and source text would seem like a chore to me despite the undeniably cool concept of becoming a dragon-slaying warrior in an archetypal, but awesome, fantasy land. Since the rise of the Western RPG, I’ve only played a few. The closest I’ve come to a Skyrim-like experience was Fallout 3, and I’m not sure I particularly enjoyed that one. And because Skyrim seems to be the Mt. Everest of Western RPGs, it seems to require a level of commitment that intimidates…no, frightens me. For a lifelong, dedicated gamer, this is simply too much game for me.

All of that being said, I’m glad this game exists and that people like it. Just because it isn’t for me, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the ambition and the scope of the game. I recognize that Skyrim will likely be a benchmark in gaming from here on, and even I think it deserves every GOTY award it receives…hell, I suspect it might be the first and only game to win GOTY in consecutive years.

1. Bastion

Looking at what I played and what I didn’t, it was actually easy for me to put this at the top of my list of games I missed. Of all the games I didn’t play, this action/RPG is one I want to pick up the most, appearing to encapsulate everything I love about the genre. Like a sports car, an action/RPG needs to have precision handling, speed and styling for me to really love the experience. The colorful art style – with its spritely character design and unique weapons – coupled with the intriguingly innovative concept of dynamic narration seem to make this a “can’t miss” title.

So why did I miss it?

I wish I had a witty answer to that question. But all I can think of is that as soon as I finish this list, I’m probably going to go grab this off Steam. Man, now I can’t think of anything else…what was I saying? Oh yeah, concluding my list.

And the winner is: Bastion!

(*rushes off to get Bastion on Steam’s Christmas sale)

50 Comments

The Double Jump convention in Video Games

I've never really understood this gaming convention.  I mean, how does one double jump?  Assuming this is just a video game trope, then what "real world" equivalent was this odd phenomenon derived from? 

mario wall jump
The wall j ump is something I can understand.  In the real world, I can foolishly run towa rds a wall, jump a fee b le white boy jump at it, plant one foot, and, basically, just redirect m y trajectory.  However, my full intention in this embarrassing ende avor would be to miraculously use the wall as a second platform from which to elevate my sorry vertical leap.  So, I t otally get why the wall jump has been a gaming tradition for so long; I can remember using this convenient move on nearly every console from the NES ( Batman: The Video Game; Ninja Gaiden) , to the SNES ( Super Metroid), to the N64 (oh so gloriously in Super Mario 64), to PS1 (the Mega Man games), to a revitalization on the PS2 ( Devil May Cry series) , and even to the current generation on the PS3 ( Assassin's Creed).  I absolutely love reliving this parkour fantasy without the risk of totally demolishing my groin on a stair rail or picnic table .  

But then we have the double jump-- described here on Giant Bomb as "the ability to jump while already in mid-air to get some extra lift."  What kind of non-sense is this?  What kind of weirdo thought of this trick? And how in the hell did it catch on?
 
Scout From Team Fortress 2 performing a double jump.
Don't get me wrong; however incredibly senseless this action may be, it doesn't cease to thrill me each time a game includes it.  The first double jump I ever  really took notice of goes down in my all t ime list of "Holy Sh*t" moments.  As a kid, my brothers and I were sick Sega Genesis addicts, and, like all GENies, Sonic was a childhood hero.  So, each Christmas whe n the new Sonic game in the series (yes, even Spinball), I spent glazy-eyed hours in a colorful world filled with a  whirlwind of speed and action.  In Sonic the Hedgehog 3, each new power-up item granted Sonic with a special ability or two. The electric shield would not only magnetically attract the precious gold rings from the surroundings to Sonic, but it also gave him the ability to double jump.  The first ti me I found that a second button tap at the height of Sonic's jump would propel him further into the cool, crisp blue air of the Green Hill Zone, I had a moment where I understood that each and every action video game I was to play after that would include a "double jump test", and, naturally, an inevitable comparison to Sonic 3.
 
I don't mean to imply that every game after Sonic 3 (which I'm sure wasn't the first game to use double jump) was somehow worse, as if the quality of a game depended on whether the developers incorporated double jump into the gameplay experience, but I do mean that the lack of double jump became glaringly obvious in most Mario Games (I always suspected the addition of the double jump into Mario games was a Sonic rip-off, though I was disappointed that the gliding concept from Super Mario World was never used in the side-scrolling Sonic games).  But, enough of my Sonic fanboy digression.
 
I really loved the acrobatic gameplay in the Devil May Cry games, especially the eventually earned "Air Hike" that was obtained, upgraded upon, and compatible with theatrical, mid-air gun-spray.  Also, Prince of Persia made good use of the double-jump by having an AI character companion essentially "slingshot" like a trapeze artist. But it in some games that the ridiculous ignorance of physics becomes so profoundly noticeable that I have to wonder about the origins of the double jump.  In Prince of Persia, there was no stylish technique to execute the double jump as was the case in Kingdom Hearts (a front flip double-jump) or Devil May Cry (a magical/demonic temporary platform to front flip off of), and I love to see it done right in examples like these.  But, until I can understand the inspiration for such a weird idea, I'll probably remain critical of its use in the future.  Wait a minute...maybe it is real after all: 
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