Find out how we came to these conclusions, as well as our picks for Giant Bomb's Top 10 Games of 2011 by listening to our final, jumbo-sized deliberation podcast!
Giant Bomb’s Worst Game of the Year Presented By Alex Navarro
On our final live show of 2011, our own Patrick Klepek quipped during a particularly brutal play-through of Batman Forever: The Arcade Game for the Sega Saturn that for as bad as bad games in the modern era might be, there is a decided, identifiable level of improvement from the days of yore. As terrible as a terrible game on a console, handheld, or the PC might be in this day and age, they'll always have something over the completely busted messes of gaming's more primordial days.
This is clearly the statement of a man who has never played Blackwater.
Now, don't get us wrong. Blackwater is hardly a Big Rigs or E.T.: The Extraterrestrial in terms of sheer bustedness, but the moment the game dumps you into its despicable, ramshackle world, the overwhelming stink of suck still manages to knock you back on your Kinect-owning ass, like the unspeakable stench of a freshly-unsealed tomb.
The key difference between the awful games of yesteryear and today is that not only are today's games still broken, but they actually have the ability to come encumbered with awful ideas as well. Blackwater a busted-ass on-rails light-gun shooter full of idiotic enemies, horribly sluggish controls, and an audio/visual presentation that suggests a bizarre fondness for the "classic" works of Jarhead Games. It also happens to be a giant promotional tool for a private military corporation accused (and in some cases, convicted) of myriad crimes during the Iraq War. Not that you'll hear about any of that in the game, as you shamble through the game's various North African locales (which include "War-torn City," and, uh, "Slightly More War-torn City"), shooting the same five terrorist models and quipping one-liners that sound ripped from the broken subtitles of a Chinese bootleg copy of Delta Force.
While bad games of old may have simply been unruly, broken messes, games of the current age get to not only be horrible play experience, but also get to stand for horrible things as well. We suppose that's progress...?
Dumbest Motion-Controlled Moment
Rise of Nightmares - Movement/Steering
It's impossible to not laugh at the ridiculous promotional videos Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have produced to show off how motion control technologies are "supposed" to work, and third-parties have struggled just as much to demonstrate how "becoming the controller" is supposed to be more...entertainingly immersive? Whatever.
Look no further than Sega's TV commercials for Rise of Nightmares, which show a company shrugging its shoulders at how to not make its games seem totally stupid.
Thing is, the Kinect-driven motion controls of Rise of Nightmares are totally, totally stupid. Fortunately, if you're a fan of the types of movies Rise of Nightmares is aping, that's actually a good thing. It strangely, oddly fits. So long as you're going into Rise of Nightmares with the right mindset, when you're staring forward, arms drawn to the side, shifting from right to left in order to look around the game's crudely rendered, barely "next-generation" environment--the act produces nothing but laughter. Like the publisher's House of the Dead series, the game never takes itself seriously enough that you can really hold it against the game.
It's still pretty dumb, though.
Higher-Quality PC Ports of Console Games
As this generation of console hardware stretches on and on, more people--including several of us here at Giant Bomb--are turning to the ever-increasing power of the PC to deliver a smoother, better experience. Whether you're outputting your rig to your TV and playing with a controller, effectively turning it into a super-powered console, or you're sticking with the traditional pairing of mouse and keyboard, there's no denying that today's gaming PC simply runs laps around what those old dedicated boxes are capable of. That assumes the quality of the software you're running on that PC is up to snuff, though. These days, it's just a fact of life that the development of the vast majority of multiplatform games leads on consoles, and unfortunately many of the PC ports of those games in the last few years have gotten short shrift, resulting in otherwise great games that launch on the PC with all manner of technical issues and invasive DRM.
While there are still plenty of PC games that roll out with major issues--we're staring daggers at you, Rage and Dead Island--it seemed like this year there were also a number of PC ports that got the attention they diserved. Eidos Montreal went as far as enlisting an external developer, Nixxes, to make sure the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution ran properly on the PC and worked well with a mouse and keyboard, and indeed several aspects of the gameplay were best played on that setup. And after the complete mess that was Saints Row 2 on the PC, it was great to see Volition take the proper care with Saints Row: The Third, which inarguably looked and ran better on the PC than its console counterparts. Relic's Space Marine was another solid example of a game designed for consoles that still played great and looked better on the PC. In some small way, this trend makes us hopeful for a future where everyone can enjoy an ideal game experience, regardless of what platform they're playing on.
Runners-Up: Cloud Saves, Better Stat Tracking (Battlelog, COD: Elite)
Supreme Court Defending the 1st Amendment Rights of Video Games
When the Supreme Court said it would take up a case involving video games being treated differently than other media, no one was surprised. It was inevitable the highest court of the land would have to rule on our favorite medium, and while no one expected the Supreme Court would rule against the rights of video games, being put in front of the Supreme Court means it's always a possibility. The stakes were immeasurably high.
Fortunately, everything went in our favor.
Video games are now a protected artistic medium, whatever cranky film critics like Roger Ebert might say to the contrary. It's possible that another case could involve video games being challenged again, but there's now modern precedent for games being on the same stage as movies, music and literature. The importance of this decision is hard to convey, but one only needs look to what happened to comics when the government decided it was time to regulate a medium that was supposedly destroying youth culture. Video games have come under the same scrutiny, and while the Supreme Court's ruling won't stop places like Fox News throwing a stink at the latest violent video game, at the end of the day, we can point to this Supreme Court's decision and be proud of how far it's all come.