The 2011 ZZoMBiE GotY AWARDs. Sponsored by Phenotrans

Like most of us, I had a pretty busy gaming year in 2011. Mostly at the end of it, but many games were great all throughout. Here are the ones I wanted to recognize for excellence, infamy, and even downright holding back the industry. Let's get started.

First up, I want to acknowlege a game that had a lot to prove. It came in with a legacy as diverse as a YinYang symbol and lived up to it's name:

Next, I'd like to honor one crazy piece of software. A game that made me laugh, cry with shame, and generally made me as joyous as it made me uncomfortable:

From there, I need to show a little humility in my, and many others, choices. So here we go:

For this next one, I'd like to add a little personal background. I LOVE the Dead Rising games. But regardless of that, this one deserves a dubious mention:

And as long as we're pointing the finger at a certain "Activision of Japan" developer/publisher, let's get this one out of the way:

Now, before I start kissing any games ass, Here's a double up for collective awesomeness, and deep seeded loathing all in one:

I've never liked an MMO before. WoW, City of Heroes, all good games but not my cup of tea. So to my surprise, they finally made one I enjoy this year (barely):

Now, if I may, I want to acknowledge a game that literally came back from the brink and restored a near dead franchise to it's former glory:

And finally, my most loved, most played, and most adored game of 2011 by a mile. A game I have almost no criticisms for. None other than:

I'd also like to take a second to point out of couple of great games that didn't get much love in the bloated 2011 GotY scene from many of the other publications. First of all, Dead Island. Now I know the zombie thing has been beaten to death like a... well like a zombie in an island breakout. But Dead Islands unique melee system was more fun than it had any right to be. And shame on Techland for not even making it a bullet point on the box. If it weren't for GB's QuickLook, I would not even have known about it and would likely have skipped Dead Island altogether.

And lastly, I want to mention InFamous 2. The game isn't really deserving of any awards I can think up, or really any at all given how packed the PS3's exclusive catalog has been this year. But it was still fun and exciting and it had one of the better endings I've seen in games. At least the "Light Side" Cole ending. I couldn't make it very far into "Dark Side" Cole's story because the choices were so stupid. But I still loved it and it's my most enjoyable PS3 game this year. Maybe not the best, but the most fun I've had with the Dual Shock controller since ReZ packed in a trance vibrator.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making it.

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The best thing about Skyrim

Of course this may not really be the absolute best thing about Skyrim, but it is a biggie for me personally. I'm the type of gamer who absolutely hates spoilers. I like to watch some vids to get me excited for the design and art style and gameplay of a game, but I don't want to know too much. But in our modern gaming culture, you can feasably end up knowing more than you wanted to know without ever even looking for it.

That's the nice thing about Skyrim though. You could probably tell me the entire story outright, and it really wouldn't much matter. The joy of a game like Skyrim is in experiencing the world. Spending time there, exploring, learning about the lay of the land. Those are the things that make a game like this work so well. The story, and I am looking forward to it, but in this case it's pretty secondary.

Of course a spoiler doesn't have to come in the form of a story piece. Batman: Arkham City was very guilty of giving away too much in the media that was a prelude to release. Honestly, it would have been much much better if I didn't know just how many villains were in the game or which ones were there. If I'd never known (and as hypocritical as this makes me, Arkham City spoilers will follow; get out now if you're sensitive to them) about certain villains their impact would have been far greater had they not been readily advertised beforehand. Specifically, I think it'd have been so much nicer not to have known about Solomon Grundy. The way the game is set up, you hear a little bit about him if you listen to the thugs around town. But honestly, if the ads hadn't outright told us that the Penguin had a Solomon Grundy trap set for you, how awesome would it have been to be dropped down that big pit of the Iceberg Lounge and suddenly there he stands. Like an undead Hulk, waiting to chew on your sensitive areas. It would have been much more impactful than the video where the all but told you he was waiting.

I get how a studio can make this misstep. It's fun to go through con season with lots of goodies to build up the project you've spent over 2 years working on. You're proud of your work and your team and it's nice to pop that crowd with your big reveal. But ultimately, that is selfish on Rocksteady's part (or whoever, they are my example but they are hardly the only offender). It's selfish because when you're building a game you should know that the big pop is going to come to the player in his home. It's not like a film where you can run a test screening and get that elation that comes from a crowd reacting to your work like you may have hoped. But games are different. And getting big pre-release press may be important. But not at the expense of the experience. Which happens more often that I like.

Is it the developer's fault? The publisher's? Maybe it's our fault for wanting our constant need for hype and aksing places like GameTrailers or The Escapist to feed that need. But, it is nice when a game is all but spoiler proof. When "the knowing", doesn't really take away anything from "the doing" which comes after the game drops. And that, for a gamer like me, is the nicest, best thing about Skyrim.

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Dead Island, a pleasant surprise

You know, it's kinda funny actually. I'm a huge fan of all things undead. Zombie films, Zombie games, Zombie novels (Max Brooks FTW!). But Dead Island was a wholely unappealing mass of game that I had little to no interest in right up until the day it released. Or rather, right up until the Quick Look went up on GiantBomb.com that is.

Despite my interest in the core set of enemies, Dead Island looked like Dead Rising with all the fun bits sucked out of it. Techland should be ashamed of the way they've marketed this hidden gem of a game. The interviews, their gameplay videos, and that original misleading trailer that got us all so excited, none of them managed to interest me in the least. But a few minutes into GB's QL video and I couldn't make it to the local games retailer fast enough.

Just goes to show you how important the marketing phase can be, and how easily it can be botched if not handled properly. I've been enjoying this game a lot, and I almost dismissed it outright. Thankfully, GiantBomb was here to pick up the developers slack. This time anyway.

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