Sparky's Awards Extravaganza!

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.

Runner-Ups:

Dead Island, Portal 2

Best Adventure Game I Played This Year

Heavy Rain

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.

Runner-up:

Back to the Future

Funniest Game of the Year

Portal 2

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.

Runner-Ups:

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.

Runner-Up:

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.

Runner-Ups:

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

Best FPS

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.

Runner-Up:

Resistance 3

Best Open World Game that Really Shouldn't Have Been an Open-World Game

Mafia II

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.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

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.

Best RTS

Starcraft 2

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.

Runner-Up:

Command and Conquer 4

Biggest Disappointment

LA Noire

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.

Runner-Up:

None, really. This is perhaps the most surprising statement in this entire list.

Best Diamond in the Rough

inFamous 2

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.

Runner-Ups:

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.

Runner-Up:

Mafia 2

Most Forgettable Decent Game

Crysis 2

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.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Coolest Indie Game

Terraria

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.

Runner-Ups:

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.

Runner-Up:

Mafia 2

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.

Runner-Up:

None

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.

Runner-Up:

Crysis 2

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.

Best JRPG

Disgaea 4

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.

Runner-Ups:

ZHP, Trails in the Sky

Most Internally Divisive Game

Yakuza 4

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.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Best Use of Nolan North in an Otherwise Shitty Game

Alpha Protocol

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.

Runner-Up:

None

Best Arcade Racer

Burnout Paradise

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.

Runner-Up:

None

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.

Runner-Ups:

Donkey Kong Country Returns, Forza 4

Best Racing Game

Forza 4

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.

Runner-Up:

Burnout Paradise

Best Use of Mark Hamill

Arkham City

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.

Runner-Up:

Errr.... nothing?

Best Atmosphere

Resistance 3

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.

Runner-Ups:

LA Noir, Mafia 2, Heavy Rain

Most Unique Story

ZHP

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.

Runner-Up:

Disgaea 4

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

Dead Island

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.

Runner-Ups:

ZHP, Bulletstorm

Best Overall Fighting Game

Mortal Kombat

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!

Runner-Up:

MvC3

Best Combat Racer

Wipeout HD

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.

Runner-Up:

None

6 Comments
6 Comments
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

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.

Runner-Ups:

Dead Island, Portal 2

Best Adventure Game I Played This Year

Heavy Rain

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.

Runner-up:

Back to the Future

Funniest Game of the Year

Portal 2

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.

Runner-Ups:

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.

Runner-Up:

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.

Runner-Ups:

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

Best FPS

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.

Runner-Up:

Resistance 3

Best Open World Game that Really Shouldn't Have Been an Open-World Game

Mafia II

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.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

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.

Best RTS

Starcraft 2

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.

Runner-Up:

Command and Conquer 4

Biggest Disappointment

LA Noire

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.

Runner-Up:

None, really. This is perhaps the most surprising statement in this entire list.

Best Diamond in the Rough

inFamous 2

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.

Runner-Ups:

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.

Runner-Up:

Mafia 2

Most Forgettable Decent Game

Crysis 2

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.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Coolest Indie Game

Terraria

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.

Runner-Ups:

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.

Runner-Up:

Mafia 2

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.

Runner-Up:

None

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.

Runner-Up:

Crysis 2

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.

Best JRPG

Disgaea 4

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.

Runner-Ups:

ZHP, Trails in the Sky

Most Internally Divisive Game

Yakuza 4

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.

Runner-Up:

LA Noire

Best Use of Nolan North in an Otherwise Shitty Game

Alpha Protocol

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.

Runner-Up:

None

Best Arcade Racer

Burnout Paradise

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.

Runner-Up:

None

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.

Runner-Ups:

Donkey Kong Country Returns, Forza 4

Best Racing Game

Forza 4

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.

Runner-Up:

Burnout Paradise

Best Use of Mark Hamill

Arkham City

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.

Runner-Up:

Errr.... nothing?

Best Atmosphere

Resistance 3

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.

Runner-Ups:

LA Noir, Mafia 2, Heavy Rain

Most Unique Story

ZHP

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.

Runner-Up:

Disgaea 4

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

Dead Island

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.

Runner-Ups:

ZHP, Bulletstorm

Best Overall Fighting Game

Mortal Kombat

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!

Runner-Up:

MvC3

Best Combat Racer

Wipeout HD

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.

Runner-Up:

None

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

Already put out your list? That's great, I guess. I'm going to wait a bit before I do my two obligatory listblogs (Games that did come out in 2011 and games that didn't), not only because I need to play more Dark Souls before I make any sort of wide-swept opinion on it, but also because finals week is coming up and I will probably be occupied... hating my life.

That out of the way, I approve of your categories and award choices. I mean, I still have yet to play any significant amount of Disgaea (whereas my roommate is already on his NG+ playthrough), but I'm sure the 4th one of those continues to be alright, and I like that we share consensus that Nolan North as Steven Heck is one of the few redeemable aspects of Alpha Protocol. And of course Skyrim. That game is pretty good.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@ArbitraryWater:

Thanks for the positive feedback! I decided to get it out of the way early this year, as I don't plan on playing any new games until early next year. I figured, eh, why not? I noticed too that I left off a couple of games, so this isn't a complete list yet. But none of the aforementioned categories are going to change, as the two games in question (Wipeout HD and Mortal Kombat) both have very distinct categories that they've won.

In any case, yes, Disgaea 4 continues to be a great game - just not GOTY material by any stretch of the imagination. It should also garner a retrospective award for possible biggest time sink, though I'll have to tally that against Skyrim next year.

And yeah. Steven Heck was one of the few bright spots of that game. I'm also really digging the rapport between him and the crew in Uncharted 3, though that game has to be put on the back burner for a few more weeks as I try to cut down the staggering oak that is Skyrim.

Moderator
Posted by dankempster

A great end-of-year write-up, Sparky. I really like the fact you've given everything an award - that's an approach that I might be tempted to borrow from you when the time comes for me to write my own retrospective. Hopefully our game-playing habits overlap enough for me to offer some comments about at least some of your choices. Let's find out!

  • Your gushing praise of Skyrim is just reminding me how much I want to play that game. Unfortunately, a combination of having no job and it being the holiday season have conspired to put me in a position where I can't afford it right now - I need to spend what little money I have on gifts for my nearest and dearest, instead of squandering it on myself. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a copy in the New Year, and see what I've been missing. In the meantime, every great thing I hear about it makes the wait seem unbearably drawn out, but also inevitably worth it.
  • I can't argue with your Portal 2 award. Every single character in that game is laugh-out-loud funny, and the whole thing is so well-written.
  • I fall into the camp that wasn't disappointed with L.A. Noire at all, but as somebody who doesn't usually play adventure games, I can totally understand why it might not live up to the expectations of somebody who's played a lot of them. I think it showed a lot of potential for a more fleshed-out experience, perhaps incorporating the crime-solving mechanics into a more involved world, but I wasn't disappointed with the overall package we got.
  • Nice to see some love for Just Cause 2 on this list! I played the hell out of that game last year, and actually ended up S-ranking it. Despite feeling like I was done with the game at that point, I have returned to Panau a couple of times this year, purely for some crazy open-world chaos. It's a really well fleshed out environment, and there is so much going on that you're never short of things to do. I'd be really interested to see how Avalanche expand on the concept, if they ever bring us Just Cause 3.
  • Some Terraria love reminds me that I really must give that game a proper chance at some point. I think it's the lack of initial direction that's holding me back, though - maybe I should turn to a FAQ to help me through those opening hours? I have a feeling that if I can get over that hump, I'd really enjoy the game.
  • Enslaved was without a doubt one of my favourite games that I played this year. The way it handles character development is brilliant - Monkey and Trip are both very believable characters, and their relationship is probably one of the industry's greatest to date. It did come off a bit like an excuse for Andy Serkis to massage his own ego in places, but as a big fan of his work, I think he's entitled to it after being underappreciated for so long in the film industry. Its spot on your list is definitely well-deserved.
  • Your negative stance on Alpha Protocol has me worried about picking that game up. I bought it because the concept sounds awesome to me, and I'm pretty sure that I'd be able to stomach most of its well-documented issues. Even so, every time I hear somebody speaking badly of it, I can't help but mentally push it further down my Pile of Shame.
  • You are 100% right about Monster Hunter. I played some of Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite on the PSP earlier this year, and came to exactly the same conclusion. My first few hours with the game were spent in one solid chunk, trying to wrap my head around the mechanics, controls and structure of the game, and I really wasn't enjoying it. When I eventually came back to it, I decided to approach it in the same way I would a game like Animal Crossing - a little a day, working towards little personal goals (the first of which was to craft a complete set of Velociprey armour). As soon as I changed my approach to the game, I started having a lot more fun. It really is a game designed to be played in short bursts, and in that respect I think it suits the PSP perfectly.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about Forza 4 at this moment in time. After spending most of my year grinding through Forza 3 on-and-off, I feel like I'm done with racing games for a while, or at least that style of racing game. I think when I finally do get a hankering for more cars, I'm going to want something a bit different - perhaps ToCA Race Driver 3, a precursor to GRiD which offers a very differently-structured career mode from the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo. I'm sure I will get around to playing Forza 4 at some point, just not in the foreseeable future.
  • Finally, Dead Island. I haven't played it, and to be honest it had never really been on my radar until a few weeks ago. Then I read somebody describing it as kinda like 'Borderlands with zombies', and that really made my ears prick up. I'm not sure when exactly, but I can definitely see myself picking up a copy in the next year or so.

Once again, great list Sparky. Here's hoping 2012 will prove to be just as fruitful and enjoyable a gaming year for you.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster:

Thanks Dan! Feel free to borrow any blog or list ideas from me that you want, since I so often (and usually) borrow ones from your blogs. Hah! Whew, that's a heck of a response. Let's see here...

I managed to save enough from odd jobs to pick up a decent amount of games from Amazon sales over the last few weeks or so. Thankfully, my Christmas shopping was pretty well done by then (again, thanks to Amazon, who I can't pimp out enough, seemingly), so I didn't feel too bad about it. It's an incredible game, top to bottom, and hopefully as a bonus for you waiting, you'll get to nab it after most of the bugs have been worked out. Honestly though, in my 50-some odd hours of playtime, I've only encountered one frustrating moment. Let's just say this - when you play it, save any and all claws you come across.

Terraria's a hard sell based on those initial first few hours. If you concentrate at first on just building temporary shelters for the nighttime ghouls and goblins, and then work your way on from there, it does become much more enjoyable. However, that being said, working with a FAQ is highly recommended, especially with all the little crafting ins-and-outs. It makes things a bit easier.

Definitely try Alpha Protocol and Dead Island, though for very different reasons. Alpha Protocol has some very neat ideas, especially in terms of dialogue and your choices' long term payoffs. I almost think it's the sort of game that makes future developers, in that the programmers have done a fascinating job of bringing to life some great concepts while never quite having the time to flesh out a decent game around those core ideas. It's sort of sad, as you can really tell that it could have been a game on the level of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Crap, that reminds me, I forgot to add that game to this list. Thank God we can edit blogs.

Dead Island, on the other hand, is thoroughly enjoyable, at least by my standards. I'm not sure comparing it to Borderlands is going to be entirely accurate - Borderlands is, by and large, a much better game and far more polished. But Dead Island has a lot in common with it - it's a loot based first-person game, with people all over the place giving you quests. It involves much tighter spaces than Borderlands, with a smaller, narrower feel to the world. But in its own right, Dead Island is a superb, fascinating romp simply because it does so many things right. Weapons break constantly, requiring you to constantly be on the move looking for weapons and repair stations, giving an urgency to the action that Borderlands doesn't have. There's an absolutely absurd number of quests to do and people to interact with. And the whole thing just looks gorgeous and visceral. At $60, it's hard to say you should run out and buy it, because I've oversold it to people who haven't enjoyed it nearly as much as I have. But at a discount price (and by now, it almost certainly will be, with no harm in waiting even longer), it is almost certainly worth it. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the co-op is a blast too.

Moderator
Posted by RenegadeSaint

Damn, you played a lot of games last year. My GOTY goes to Skyrim, despite the fact I've barely scratched the surface.