Day three of Giant Bomb's Game of the Year 2011 is under way! Looking for further illumination into our decisions? Look no further than our latest deliberation podcast!
Best Competitive Multiplayer
A great competitive multiplayer game has multiple, disparate masters to serve. Something that might be fun to goof and with your friends in on the weekends might not present the necessary depth to keep you coming back night after night, testing new strategies and shaving points off your kill/death ratio. On the other hand, a hardcore tactical game might require such a stiff time commitment to get good enough to even have fun that it might spook the more casual players. It's a delicate balance, and one that's difficult to obtain.
Battlefield 3 manages to strike a balance--all within the context of a chaotic 64-player firefight, no less--by giving everyone something to do. Whether it's precision sniping, leading a small tactical group, providing medical support, or manning the gunner position in an attack helicopter, the variety is rich, and doesn't favor any one play style too heavily. The scope of the battles, in addition to being fairly impressive technically, also means that if you're still learning how to effectively handle that F/A 18 Super Hornet, your team isn't overly penalized. Compound all that with a strong and sticky player progression system, plus the excellently implemented Battlelog system, and Battlefield 3 is an easy choice for Best Competitive Multiplayer.
Best Use of Nolan North
Our Best Use of Nolan North award--that's "The Northies," for short--gets harder and harder to judge every year. While his starring role in the Uncharted series continues to impress and, yes, earns a nomination this year, it's great to see little bits of America's Favorite Voice Actor showing up in unexpected places doing unexpected things. That's what made North's performance as the Penguin in Batman: Arkham City so exciting, but that spirit goes even further with North's multiple robotic roles in Portal 2.
Whether it's his brief bits as "Rick" the Adventure Sphere, the Fact Sphere, the Space Sphere, or the broken turrets that populate much of the game, the quality of the performance shines through. That's extra-impressive when you consider all the effects thrown onto the voices in Portal 2 to make them sound more like computer people. Oh, and it certainly doesn't hurt that those four roles have almost all of the game's best, funniest lines. We could--and, for a time, actually did--listen to clips from Portal 2's spheres on loop and crack up at it just about every time. And for that, we're both proud to announce Nolan North as this year's winner and sad to have to say "better luck next year" to Mr. North for the runners-up that didn't take home the prize. Congratulations?
When it comes to judging visuals, the "fair" way is to separate them along technical and artistic lines, which allows you to give some dap to whatever the hot new engine technology is while not forgetting that without proper artists doing proper art, those engines are essentially useless. But we never said these awards were fair. So we've continued to conflate those two things into one category, mostly to make it harder on ourselves. But when one game can do both really well, even this task becomes fairly easy.
The Witcher 2: Assassin's of Kings is one of those games that reminds you why the PC's inherent hardware advantage can be so spectacular. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's hitting when we're at the tail end of a generation of consoles, which only allows CD Projekt's gem of an RPG to stand out that much more. The art team has crammed this world full of some fantastic-looking characters that stand out whether you're running around the world or partaking in a cutscene. Outstanding models, nice effects, and a technical side that allows it all to run at an outstanding frame rate on the right configuration makes this a beautiful game from every angle. It'll be interesting to see what corners need to be cut to get a game that looks this great running on consoles next year.
The “Check Yourself Before You Wriggety-Wreck Yourself” Award for Things That Need to "Take a Break" Before They Become the “Worst Trend”
In the past, we've awarded a "Take A Break" offering to franchises that just feel like they're wearing out their welcome while also delivering a "Worst Trend" for the nastiest things happening to the business behind the games we play. This year, we felt a little more alarmist about the way some things are heading these days, leading to what we're fairly certain is the longest, dumbest category name we've ever had.
Capcom's long-running trend of re-releasing its games with a bit of extra content went to new lows this year with the ultra-quick turnaround on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. And the way EA seems to be slapping the BioWare brand onto any studio or game that isn't making a football game or a shooter certainly has us wary about where one of gaming's most trusted studio names is heading. But in the end, the thing that got to us the most in 2011 is that feeling that this year's sequels just aren't doing it like last year's sequels did.
With Brad bumming out on Batman: Arkham City's open-world additions, Ryan finding this year's Assassin's Creed lacking, Patrick's issues with Uncharted 3's shooting and overall pacing, and Jeff's general malaise about the quality of this year's Call of Duty release, it seems like the new models just ain't doing it like the last ones did. Chalk it up to the length of this generation of hardware and the notion that studios are probably holding their big guns back for an assumed 2013 console launch if you must. But regardless of the reasons, it's the thing that cast the most ominous shadow over gaming for us this year. So let's just hope we're getting worked up over nothing and carry on, OK?
Runners Up: BioWare Infinite, Capcom Re-Releases
Best Use of 3
As the cost of making games has gone up, the desire to stretch out a franchise just one more time becomes really appealing. The easiest way to keep people on the hook is by hiding story secrets until the next one, then dangling even juicier details if players come on board with the next game, too. Then, when a developer finally decides to spill those closely guarded answers, you risk disappointing everyone in the process!
We were genuinely surprised how much closure Epic Games gave players with Gears of War 3. Sure, at least one prominent mythology question was strangely ignored, but when the screen faded to black in Gears of War 3, it was clear that the story of Marcus Fenix had come to an end. There was no dangling, groan-inducing cliffhanger, and nothing after the credits.
When a series is still hugely successful and breaking sales records, to say "no, we've told the story we wanted to tell, and now it's time for something new" is a decision worth applauding. There will be another Gears of War game eventually, but now we've been primed for a totally new experience, and that's incredibly exciting.