Here at Sparky Industries, we've decided that merely producing a GOTY list would be just too normal. After reviewing all the games on my Games I've Played in 2011 List, I've decided to give each of them an award, possibly with runner-ups, possibly not. This list will be chock full of games from other years as well, as it's not just limited to 2011 games, but all the games I've played this year. Let's jump in, shall we? We shall.
Obligatory GOTY Award
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skrim is stunning. It's exactly what I wanted out of a sequel to Oblivion, one of my most beloved games. It takes the open-world RPG formula, injects a good amount of steroids, and unleashes Skyrim on the world like some Hulkified monstrosity. There's so much to see and do in this game that it's staggering. Like I've said before, for every bug and rough patch, there are a thousand amazing things to easily make up for it. This is a grand adventure, one I'll likely revisit time and time again.
Dead Island, Portal 2
Best Adventure Game I Played This Year
Heavy Rain on paper doesn't seem to be very appealing as a game. It's mostly an interactive movie of sorts, set in various chapters with a small cast of interesting characters. But as a longtime adventure gamer, I thought I'd give it a shot and see what I thought. I was really glad I did, as Heavy Rain deserves to be a contender as one of the top adventure games ever. The story, while full of some very game-like holes and strange moments, is startling and intriguing, bringing a maturity to its approach that took me by surprise. And you can keep your LA Noire faces - this game has some of the best fully-featured actors and actresses I've seen. It's a gorgeous, fun game.
Back to the Future
Funniest Game of the Year
With sharp, clever writing and voice talent to match, Portal 2 is the easy clear choice in this category. Be it Cave Johnson ranting, GLADOS's quiet vitriol, or Wheatley's dumbassery, everyone is hilarious.
Back to the Future, Bulletstorm
Best Operation Babe Hunt!
Persona 3 Portable
It's true! Best Babe Hunt of the year goes to this gem! Never before have we seen such amazing Babe Hunt technology, brought to the palm of your hands! Wait. That came out wrong. Wait - THAT came out wrong. Ah, damn it.
A bar on Valentine's Day?
Best PC Game of the Year
Back to the Future
Remember, this is just for games that I played, and unfortunately, those were relatively sparse. I adored this game from start to finish. Hearing both Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox make returns to the movies that I love so much in video game format just tickled every pleasure center in my brain. Doesn't hurt that the gameplay was pretty solid for an adventure game, too.
Hector: Badge of Carnage, World of Goo
Best Weapons AND Use of Disco Balls as a Weapon
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
I still love the Ratchet and Clank formula, and this game was no different. Insomniac throws everything but the kitchen sink into this game, and it really works well. Not all the weapons are super useful, but all of them look great and have that sort of classic goofy feel.
Runner-Up (for Best Weapons, anyways):
Resistance 3 (no surprise, as it's Insomniac),Bulletstorm
Look, I get that people didn't like the over-the-top juvenile dialogue of Bulletstorm, but I absolutely loved this game. I thought it was a riot, and a hell of a lot of fun to play. The skill kill system adds a lot of replayability, and the guns feel appropriately badass. I really hope there's a sequel for this in the works. Note that the runner-up in this category, Resistance 3, is also really fantastic, but I think the addictive gameplay of Bulletstorm edges out in the end.
Best Open World Game that Really Shouldn't Have Been an Open-World Game
Surprised? I was too. Mafia 2 is a surprisingly good game, with a solid (if cliched) story, solid characters, a great look, and really great gunplay. However, like the glaringly obvious runner-up LA Noire, the open-world elements just really should have been dropped or have more interaction and distractions (credit for that term goes to dankempster and his recent blog on GTA V). However, especially for the discount price, Mafia 2 should not be missed.
Best Team Brawler and the Biggest Asshat Move by a Publisher (aka The Sparky Raspberry Award):
Marvel vs. Capcom 3
I really enjoyed this fighting game, even if Mortal Kombat would eclipse it later in the year. However, I do not support Capcom's decision to add what amounts to DLC on a disc for stupid amounts of money. It's ridiculous, stupid, and incredibly asshole-ish. Thus, you, Capcom, get the Sparky Raspberry Award for the year. Piss off, you stupid jerks.
As much as I enjoy the Command and Conquer universe, Starcraft 2 has such an insane amount of polish and fun to it that this one wasn't even close. The campaign is brilliant and a whole lot of fun.
Command and Conquer 4
I've played far worse games this year (hang on for that one), but no game quite disappointed me as much as LA Noire. As a huge fan of Police Quest, I had a veritable nerd boner thinking that this would be a modern take on that classic gameplay. And it was... and you know what? It kinda sucked. I liked the investigations and the atmosphere. But the gameplay beyond the investigations was repetitive and boring. The open-world was something of a joke, but thankfully it could be skipped... which is perhaps the most damning part of this description. I shouldn't have wanted to skip a moment of this game, but I did.
None, really. This is perhaps the most surprising statement in this entire list.
Best Diamond in the Rough
I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that inFamous 2 was perfect. The wave based enemies were annoying and, at times, frustratingly buggy. Traversing the world didn't feel nearly as smooth as the first game. Cole was "dumbed down" to be more family friendly and appeal to a wider audience. But even with all these negatives, inFamous 2 was a hell of a lot of fun. It didn't hurt that there was a great innovation in the user-made content and quests, which added a lot of fun ideas and really varied up the quests.
Bulletstorm, Trails in the Sky, Yakuza 4
Best 3rd Person Open-World Game
Just Cause 2
This game, man! This game! I don't think I've revisited a game so often this year, There's a ton of stuff to do, great weapons to play with, incredibly fun stunt gameplay, and a truly beautiful world. This also deserves huge props for being such an amazing step forward in the series. It fixes the mini-map issues of Just Cause and completely blows away the first in nearly every regard while still staying true to its goofy roots.
Most Forgettable Decent Game
Crysis 2 isn't awful, but it's a game that never really knows what it is. In its quest to appeal to a wider audience and be released on consoles, it loses the intriguing open-world elements of Crysis, loses the insane graphics, and manages to muck up a decent story written by none other than Richard Morgan. There are some great gunfights, there are some neat upgrade elements, and the latter half of the game definitely picks up. But overall, it's just forgettable, neither really good or really bad.
Coolest Indie Game
Terraria's sort of an odd little gem. It's not a particularly great game, but it is fun and bizarrely addictive. Seeing the work fellow Giant Bombers have done on the servers has been an amazing experience, even if I haven't been able to contribute anything beyond random signs with random quotes.
Hector, World of Goo, Zombie Driver
Most Surprisingly Great Game
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
Up until the release of Skyrim, there was only one game that really hooked me enough to stay up until an absolutely stupid time of the night (morning?) to finish it. That game was Enslaved. I love this game. The story is excellent, the characters have a sharp, believable, and natural rapport, and the gameplay is so damned fun.
Best Game I Should Be Ashamed of Playing
Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4
I liked the first few Harry Potter books, and I've liked each of the Lego games I've played. That's all I'm gonna say.
Best Game I Just Couldn't Get Into
Batman Arkham Asylum
Unlike its sequel, which will make an appearance later, this game didn't resonate with me. Part of that is my indifference towards most of the DC Comics universe, which I've never much cared about outside of Christopher Nolan's films. The gameplay was fine, and I thought it was a solid game. It just never quite clicked with me.
Worst Game Ever
Record of Agarest War
I've played some shitty games, and I never thought anything could be worse than Metal Dungeon or Gods and Generals. But this game, besides being awful and absolutely no fun at all, is horribly, stupidly offensive. I might be a man, but even I was cringing at how goddamn sexist this game was. If there's a game that makes me embarassed to be a gamer, this is it. Avoid this one at all costs.
If you haven't kept on my blogs recently, I've been doing a series of blogs on this game and its story. I adore NIS games. They're goofy, incredibly strange, childish, and the deepest damned RPG's you'll ever play. Disgaea 4 is far and away the best entry in the series, both in terms of plot and gameplay. Its upgrades seem small, but overall, if you want to get into a Disgaea game, you cannot go wrong with this one.
ZHP, Trails in the Sky
Most Internally Divisive Game
There are a lot of aspects of Yakuza 4 I can't stand, like its attitude towards women as subservient dress-up dolls, but there are a ton of aspects that I absolutely love. It's such a cool idea - an "open world" game within a relatively small section of a city, complete with a great amount of stuff to do. Two of the charactes are really solid too, and I wouldn't mind playing future games.
Best Use of Nolan North in an Otherwise Shitty Game
Nolan North is one of the few great things about this otherwise crappy game. Remember kids, great ideas do not necessarily make a great game.
Best Arcade Racer
I'm not sure how much I can say about this game that hasn't been said, but I'll say this - this is the first time I've gotten into this game, and I'm really liking it. It's aged well.
Best 2D Platformer
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Oh man, this game is one giant ball of awesomeness. It brings a welcome degree of familiarity, as it's only a light upgrade to the classic gameplay of its predecessors, while bringing in some damned gorgeous visuals, clever level design, and some real difficulty while allowing for options to make it easier on the player if they so choose. It's a jewel of a Nintendo game. I haven't played Rayman Origins, but it looks really great too.
Game I Loved Playing the Most in 15-Minute Spurts
Monster Hunter Tri
This game is really a hoot in small doses. I love popping it in for a few minutes at a time, doing a quest or two, and then calling it a day. There's not much of a story, and there are control elements that drive me crazy, but honestly, it's a distinctly Japanese game that I actually get. It's really well done.
Donkey Kong Country Returns, Forza 4
Best Racing Game
I love the Forza series for being incredibly accessible and forgiving, not to mention being fun and loaded with all the stuff I love about cars. The ability to rewind makes my eyesight problems moot, the cars are a great blend of classic and modern, and the career has become even better about keeping things varied and interesting.
Best Use of Mark Hamill
Jokes aside, this game surprised me. I'm still not huge on DC comic characters, but the core storylines in this game are surprisingly good and actually drew me in. Hamill's performance as the Joker really is ramped up a notch, but so is everything else about this game.
Resistance 3 is a great sci-fi shooter, but what really blew me away was the inherent bleakness of the world. Save for your protagonist, the people aren't bulked up warriors or heroes. They're survivors giving out a few grim gasps of life as they try their hardest just to cling together. Hope isn't dead - it's non-existent. No one is safe, anyone can die, and even once the game is finished, there's no guarantee that mankind's survival is assured. This is an amazing experience.
LA Noir, Mafia 2, Heavy Rain
Most Unique Story
Not only is this a great rogue-type game with some new, awesome elements to its gameplay (dying actually can be a positive), but the story is hilariously ridiculous and so goddamned Japanese that it's hard not to like. You play a guy who literally cannot die, fighting against a seemingly unbeatable boss who kills you time after time after... well, you get the idea. The real game, though, is in between these sessions, where you're essentially training to fight the boss again. This is NIS, so go in expecting all the great weirdness of their particular games. Oh, and it's insanely addictive too.
Most Room for Improvement in a Sequel I'll Inevitably Buy
Trails in the Sky
Trails in the Sky has a lot of good elements, namely in its combat and magic systems. Its traditional turn-based combat, with a lot of abilities to learn and destroy your enemies with. There's a godsend of an option that will "dumb" down difficult battles if you die repeatedly. There's an absolutely huge world with the potential to be great. But there's still a ton of room to improve things. While there are a handful of side quests, the game never takes advantage of blatant opportunities for some distractions or side-games/quests. A few more optional dungeons and areas would go a long ways towards increasing replayability, and for a game about airships, there is a distanct lack of them as your characters actually make a point of walking all over the place. It's a frustrating game, but it's also surprisingly decent at times.
Best Surprise of the Year
I absolutely love Dead Island. The combat feels great, I like the weapons and the upgrade systems, and the loot-based quest gameplay makes me wish I was playing it right now. If it weren't for Skyrim, this would easily be my game of the year. It matched and far, far surpassed what I hoped for out of it.
Best Overall Fighting Game
This is a return to form for one of my old favorites. The storyline felt right, the character choices were (up until the DLC) smart, and the combat system felt right. There was no 3D nonsense, no trying to beat the newest kid on the block, no introduction of stupid characters. This is classic Mortal Kombat in a shiny new package, and I love it for that. Plus? Stryker!
Best Combat Racer
This was a good year for PSN sales after the hacking debacle. Sony is still in full damage control mode, but this was a game that came up early as a "thank you" for users sticking with PSN. It doesn't come close to assuaging my doubts about Sony's security or, more importantly, their attitude towards their customers, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little bit grateful that I finally got to check this game out - and for free, too. It's not a game I'd have paid for otherwise, but as it stands, I really did enjoy it. There's an old-school simplicity in every aspect, from the tough-as-nails racing to the ship and level designs. It's got a great score, some great gameplay variants, and a nice sense of style.