Last (and certainly least), Pants offers up his choices for game of the year. Did he give any awards to Assassin’s Creed III?
I think this was a really good year for games. I didn’t buy a lot of new games, but the ones I did buy were all excellent, and most were contenders for at least one of these awards. When I read back over this list, I can still think of others that could have won certain categories. But I’m sticking to my choices now, and I’m pretty satisfied with them!
The “Why the Hell Did They Release This Garbage” award for Super Shittiness: Like Shiggy I didn’t personally play anything that I would consider garbage – I managed to be quite lucky and only bought games that turned out to be very, very good. But there is a black sheep there, so I’m changing this award to ‘Most Disappointing’, and the unfortunately obvious winner is Assassin’s Creed III. With three years in development, I simply expected better. Too many missions that amounted to ‘go here, talk to this character, go back, talk to that character’, an uninteresting protagonist, and an appallingly lazy conclusion brought this game down. It’s not garbage, I’m doing a slow second playthrough right now, and when all is said and done I certainly had fun with it. But it’s definitely a disappointment.
Most Bomb-Ass Character: This is a tough one, and I’m very happy about that. I didn’t think Handsome Jack would ever be a serious contender, but he was. He’s a crazy, over-the-top, hilarious, and utterly maniacal villain, but he has layers, and the mission that peels those layers back is one of my favourites of the year. But in the end, he lost out to Clementine from The Walking Dead game. I’ve never felt a stronger connection to a character in a video game. It isn’t just about protecting Clementine because she’s a child in a post-apocalyptic world. There’s just so much to her character. She’s scared, she wants to find her parents. She’s brave, she uses the walkie-talkie as a coping device. And she’s mature, she wants Lee to be honest with her, no matter the situation. Clementine is the player’s walking moral compass, but she’s never defined by that role. The obligation to save her doesn’t come from the fact that she’s a child. She’s a character worth saving.
Coolest “HOLY SHIT” Moment: The airport sequence in the final level of Max Payne 3 is the culmination of hours of epic gunfights and consistent failures on Max’s part. It’s the most open combat section in the entire game, and can take a very long time to complete. But that isn’t a problem, because the soundtrack uses HEALTH’s ‘Tears’ throughout the sequence. In a game where I felt like a badass quite often, this was the absolute highlight.
Special mention goes to the strange sequence where Juliet crushes hundreds of zombies with a combine harvester while ‘You Spin Me Round (Right Round) plays in Lollipop Chainsaw.
Most Kick Ass Multiplayer: I didn’t play a lot of multiplayer games this year. But then, I don’t play a lot of multiplayer games at all. I feel like this could have gone to Halo 4, but I don’t own that yet. It could have gone to Assassin’s Creed III, but that got repetitive too quickly. Instead, it goes to Borderlands 2, a game I never expected to own, nor to enjoy to the extent that I did. Borderlands 2 has the potential to ruin friendships, what with fighting for epic loot (or, being sneaky and stealing the orange loot dropped by the final boss before anyone realises it even dropped). But it was a bonding experience, and a bit of a personal one (4 player co-op with some friends I hadn’t played games with for a long time felt like a callback to days long gone). Whether over the internet or at a LAN, I immensely enjoyed the chaotic gameplay, frantically reviving each other, driving around aimlessly, and occasionally actually getting a mission done.
The “This Music is Making Ear Love to Me” award for Best Soundtrack: Austin Wintory and Journey should win this on the strength of the track Apotheosis alone. A game without dialogue has to rely on other sounds to convey emotion, and this is one of Journey’s greatest strengths. The way the music swells in Journey makes it an incredibly immersive experience. The sand-surfing sequence is already beautiful, but the buildup of the soundtrack, as you move faster, further down towards the end of the level, is absolutely amazing. And nothing bad could ever be said of Apotheosis, which plays in the most emotional sequence of the game.
Keanu Reeves’ “Whoa” Trailer of the Year: I don’t make a habit of watching game trailers. I think they’re too misleading. Sometimes they don’t even show in-game footage. So I really struggled with this award. I wasn’t going to go watch a bunch of trailers on Youtube, because I’d be looking for a certain reaction, the experience would be tainted. I thought ‘…what trailers have I even watched this year?’ and only three came to mind – the Mass Effect 3 trailer with the child playing with a toy ship, the incredibly misleading, ridiculously patriotic Assassin’s Creed III trailers, and one of the story trailers for Grand Theft Auto V, which essentially wins this award by default. I’m not overly hyped for the game, but Rockstar know how to make a good trailer.
The Outta Left Field award for Most Surprising Game: I didn’t hear about Sleeping Dogs until maybe a week before it came out. When people started saying good things about it, I picked it up for my dad as a birthday present, and somehow found myself absorbed in it (I’m the worst son, buying a game for dad then playing it myself). Sleeping Dogs stands out because of the focus on melee combat. That focus changes the scale of the game. It feels more local, more intimate. It does have problems, mostly when that focus gets turned to substandard gunfights, but the sum of the experience was enjoyable, and the locale was something a little different to what I’m used to. It’s something that simply shouldn’t be avoided.
Best Use of Your Money award for DLC: This year I’ve avoided DLC. I haven’t bought this one yet (because I’m lazy when it comes to buying Microsoft Points) but I played the Trials Evolution ‘Origins of Pain’ DLC at the EB Expo for a good half hour and I was certainly sold on it. I don’t have anything else to say that Shiggy hasn’t already said. It’s simply great value for money.
The “Someone Painted This With a Goddamn Rainbow” award for Best Art Style: When writing this list, I talked to my sister about Journey, and realized she hadn’t heard of the game before. So I loaded up the game and showed her the sand-surfing sequence, and that made it immediately clear to me that nothing else this year held a candle to Journey’s stunning visuals. It’s all about that sand, how it almost looks like ocean waves under strong winds, the way it moves as you walk across it. I’ve never been one to say ‘you should buy this game because it looks beautiful’ because I don’t believe that graphics make a game. But for an experience like Journey, those visuals are an essential, and that’s how I recommend the game now. Of course, it isn’t just about the visuals – it’s a fantastic game. They simply accentuate what’s there, and what’s there is lovely.
And now, the thrilling conclusion!
Most Dick Kickingest Game of the Year: This is difficult. Really difficult. I agonized over this decision, which, again, is great. I had a Word document with six names listed. Most of them won an award here! In the end, I’m giving it to Borderlands 2. I gave a good two or three weeks to that game, running through every sidequest and listening to Scooter cry ‘CATCH A RIIIIIIIDE’ far too many times. The important part is that there was always a compulsion to go back to the game. I may have hated the Caustic Caverns, but when I closed the game I’d inevitably find myself itching to play it again, no matter where I’d ended at before. It’s not the strongest story this year, but it’s good, and the dialogue is exceptional. Everything is crazy – the locations, the heroes, the villains, Claptrap, the plot developments. And then sometimes it turns serious, and manages not to feel awkward or out of place. There’s a good balance there. Borderlands 2 is simply an incredibly fun experience, and for that it is my game of the year.
So there you have it! What do you think of my choices? Do you agree or disagree? Leave your comments below!