It's day three, ya'll! Get ready for us to heavy drop some fine award category nonsense in your general direction, including our Best Looking Game, our favorite Flash game of the year, and the one gaming trend we'd really, super duper love it if it just stopped, like, forever.
Best Use of Skrillex
Skrillex. It's a divisive word, but then these are divisive times. When we find ourselves in need of some big-beat-dubdrum-st'p (which is what we're told by a bunch of very reasonable people is the appropriate terminology when dealing with a genre-bending force such as Skrillex) we reach for the brand name. The name of record. The real deal. Saul Skrillex, professional wobble bass enthusiast.
Apparently we're not alone this year, as 2012 was also the year that game developers reached out and placed a little Skrillex into their lives and into their games. That's not to say that every dubstep track to fit into a video game this year was a Skrillex banger, but, well, the best ones usually were. In this case, we're awarding this prestigious category to Far Cry 3, for its use of Skrillex in the mission where you grab a flamethrower from a government official that may or may not exist and... make it bun dem pot fields down bo bo bo bo bo. The hot collab between 'ex and Damian Marley, called "Make It Bun Dem," is pretty much the perfect soundtrack for one of the game's first forays into large-scale destruction.
Congratulations are due, but we're not exactly sure what this category is attempting to honor, so instead we'll just say "we noticed that many games used Skrillex music on their soundtrack and we think this is probably the best one." Congratulations?
Best Use of Nolan North
This was not exactly a banner year for Our Greatest Living Voice Actor. At least not in terms of video game work. One quick glance at his IMDB page sees plenty of work in television, but as for games, North largely stuck to unnamed side characters and occasional re-doings of his past characters--most notably returning as Desmond Miles in Assassin's Creed III, and a brief credited reprisal of Nathan Drake in PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale.
And then there's Spec Ops. Like a shining beacon through a largely foggy, indistinct year, North's performance as Captain Martin Walker goes beyond merely standing out amid the crowd. It helps, of course, that Spec Ops: The Line features some of the toughest, strangest, and outright most disturbing writing of any game this year. Walker, along with his two compatriots, find themselves trying to make sense of disasters--both natural and man made--so overwhelming that it's not quite surprising when psyches begin to fray, and people begin to lose their lives as a result.
North does a terrific job of maintaining that fragile balance between a man on-edge, and a man completely over it. It's certainly one of the better voice performances of the year, and it is by far the best use of Nolan North in 2012.
For all the complaining some players have about thatgamecompany's...unusual approach to game development, rarely does anyone have an unkind word to say about what the developer does visually. This is a company that makes beautiful games, from the simple, yet mesmerizing visuals of flOw, to the gorgeous landscapes of flower, and now the transcendentally beautiful deserts, hills, caves, and mountains of Journey.
Above all else, Journey feels like a "complete" visual experience. Possibly helped by the game's relatively meager length, Journey's graphics are painstakingly crafted, with each seemingly minor piece of the environment that surrounds you seemingly there for good reason, and not just for the sake of filling in the background. As your nameless journeyer hops and floats around this gorgeously built world, some of the most breathtaking lighting effects you'll ever see shine a light over every resplendent detail, creating a visual experience that truly feels like nothing that's come before.
DLC That Should Be in the Main Game
Worst Trend. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself. This category has borne a variety of names over the years, but they all amount to the same thing: Please stop doing this awful, no good, very bad video game thing you are doing. So we decided to cut straight to the heart of the matter and call it exactly that. If you're guilty of anything on this list, just knock it off, alright? You're really harshing everybody's mellow. It's not cool.
Downloadable content is certainly an idea that's drawn its share of flack over the years, but it's one that we at Giant Bomb have generally felt OK about, with a couple of provisos. Chiefly, in terms of raw content, the game you get for the initial purchase price needs to feel satisfying and whole. As long as the game out of the box doesn't seem like it's missing anything, who cares what else they're selling on the side, right? And up until this year, we felt like the game industry was doing a pretty good job of policing itself in that regard. But not anymore.
The discussion of this topic practically begins and ends with Mass Effect 3. It held back a profound piece of content on release day in the form of From Ashes, which added an entire new party member (one who we consider one of the best new characters introduced this year) and accounted for significant additional drama and back story throughout every stage of the game. And months later, the Leviathan DLC added painfully necessary context to Mass Effect 3's controversial ending, context so necessary the entire game becomes better for having it. But there were other offenders. Just when Asura's Wrath seemed like it had wrapped itself right up, it dropped a last-minute plot twist out of left field that required you to buy an additional episode to fully resolve. Street Fighter X Tekken shipped with bonus characters that unsavory players managed to hack right off of the disc, but those characters didn't actually go on sale until months after release. Examples like these simply strained our patience for the way DLC is produced and sold.
Hey, publishers: We get it. You need to make a buck. But if you're going to sell additional content on the side, make damn sure the base game doesn't suffer for its absence. When that happens, nobody wins.
URL of the Year
Frog Fractions is a bit like Fez. There will be people who play Frog Fractions, and never plunder its true secrets. They will close a browser window, and wonder why a badly made fraction game with a Typing of the Dead section had people in stitches. Frog Fractions masquerades as something it is very much not, and while it hints something is going on, it maintains a poker face. There is never a big, glowing arrow that says "go here to have your mind totally fucked." You have to find that for yourself.
The crazier part about Frog Fractions is that just when it feels like it's crossed the apex of insanity, it keeps going. What starts as a subversive commentary on our expectations for math games (or browser games, really) becomes a thrilling rollercoaster of forgetting what the designer has cooked up next and enjoying the ride. Pure non-sequitur humor would not work in most hands, but Frog Fractions is not just weird and bizarre, it's really damn funny. Its surprises work because they're unexpected and hysterical. Your first impulse is to turn to a friend. "PLAY THIS!"
This category came to be when we had a list of games we really loved that didn't seem to make sense in our traditional categories. It's a bit how the "download" category came into existence, too. One day, and a day that's probably not far off, these browser games will be no different from all the other games we play, and this will no longer make sense. But we felt compelled to highlight these experiences because of what they do so well within such a limited scope. That limited scope is what allows them to succeed so brilliantly, and subvert our expectations.
And if you're playing and still confused at what the hell we're talking about?