The place where we champion eccentricity and bullshit. Congratulations to all involved. Mostly.
Most Like Call of Duty
Winner: Battlefield 3
Man, we all thought Modern Warfare 3 had this in the bag. Killzone 3 gave it a damn good shot at the start of the year but then DICE went and released Battlefield 3. Its single player was so lacking that it’s actually a black mark on Call of Duty’s name that it’s winning this award but it really is more like Call of Duty than Call of Duty was this year.
Whether you were traipsing behind the neon “FOLLOW” signs floating above your AI buddy’s head or plodding toward the same garish blue “MOVE” waypoints dotted about the excruciatingly linear environments, it was forever doing its best to ape Black Ops. Half the time your presence was perfunctory, the other half the game played itself. Its wanton tale of nuclear threats to America and its xeroxed interrogation backstory were nonsense and the quicktime events completely soul-destroying.
Battlefield 3 was a game that dedicated five minutes to ramming home just how fucking sweet a jet fighter is, before not letting you fly one. Instead you watched on in ten minutes of vaguely interactive cut scene. I think anyway, I couldn’t see beyond the tears.
Winner: Duke Nukem
Dead babies are a goldmine for comedy, ask any comedian. There’s nothing funnier than a baby being dead. Ha-ha-ha, a tiny little dead baby. A-ha-ha-ha. Funny, right? Duke Nukem knows this. Hell, Duke’s the master of comedy, of course he knows this. Duke’s the kind of guy who throws actual human shit at another human being; the granddaddy of hilarious. And that’s why, when he cracks jokes about abortions while stood in front of dying women, we’re all laughing along with him. Ha-ha. You’re dying, your unborn child is dead. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. This is comedy gold I tell you. How about a rape joke? Ha-ha-ha. What comical timing! What satire!
Honorable Mention: Connor (Homefront)
Connor wasn’t nearly as cruel or stupid as Duke Nukem but he was certainly more irritating. You could throw grenades at Duke’s feet. Connor was impervious to your bullets and ire.
Connor saves Homefront’s tight-lipped protagonist from the prospect of a short life spent in a forced labour camp and for that he takes ownership of your soul. The rest of the game is spent traipsing in Connor’s wake like a naughty child in a supermarket. He barks and barks. Go here, do this, fire your gun, kill this man, pull this lever, drive this vehicle, touch my willy. On and on he prattles. Never says please. Never justifies why. He commands. You perform. The whole four hour campaign plays out like this. Think you’re capable of opening a door? Afraid not. That’s Connor’s job. Opening doors requires a certain tact, a deft skill and you’re a dolt. Say it. SAY IT. I AM A DOLT.
Winners: The Joker (Batman: Arkham City), GLaDOS (Portal 2), Wheatley (Portal 2), Johnson (Shadows of the Damned), Sullie (Uncharted 3), Washington (House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut)
This was the toughest category to take a stance on. Not because the year was lacking in strong characters, rather the opposite. I’ve never liked the cast of Uncharted more, Sullie in particular. I want to watch Nathan and Elena’s relationship twist and turn, I like the impenetrable friendship that binds Nate to Sullie. We all want that, right? Even the new guys, goddamnit I actually want to watch cut scenes in these games. Eat your heart out Kojima. I groan when more than five minutes passes without a back and forth between two of these guys because they’re damned relatable and the combat tires quickly. But still I play! I can’t not, I have to know what happens to this merry band of happy-go-lucky pirates.
Characters like Johnson from Shadows of the Damned, Washington from House of the Dead Overkill and the guys from Bulletstorm oozed their own quirky likability, through their ribald brand of humour and then otherwise. The cast of Saints Row, Zimos in particular, were startlingly easy to grow fond of. A bunch of reprobate gangbangers! Rocksteady have a notable head-start but they still do all the hard work. The Joker, wow, and even Bats himself. Real quality. I stood over that crime scene not for a damn achievement but because I felt a connection with the non compos mentis costumed freak. We both knew what it meant; it was the reason we were both stood their in the dank and the dark wearing a Batsuit. Rocksteady could have easily screwed that sentimentality up.
Bastion. Portal 2. The many zany weirdos in Atom Zombie Smasher. Hell, you don’t even need to be on a PC or console! Hard Lines took one of the most vapid characters in gaming’s archives (the Snake) and transformed it into something acutely loveable, so laden with charm and character that it borderline breaks the game. I spend so much time reading what the buggers have to say that I’m not paying any attention to the actual game.
The stories these characters find themselves embroiled in may not be of a particularly high standard, but they themselves most certainly are. In a year that played host to Duke Nukem and Connor, it has still been a first-rate showing for videogame personalities. Kudos games industry.
I just can’t for the life of me decide on which one. It’s the leash, probably. The matriarch at the head of the most wonderfully destructive family of the year; the leash tied all of Bulletstorm’s wonders together. You’d aim at a dullard, crack the whip, he’d come hurtling your way (in slow motion) and from that moment on he was your voodoo doll. There were dozens of ways to maim, mutilate and emancipate the woefully ill-prepared baddies of Bulletstorm. Simply kicking an airborne enemy into a cactus was a gooden while sending one soaring into the air and jamming a pistol flare into its stomach created a neat little firework display.
But then what of Grayson’s bum-slide? Slide with the Penetrator (think Bioshock’s Big Daddy drill) and you could rack up a neat little train of “drilldo’d” foes. WEEEEEEEEEE!
Hell, I’ve barely even spoken about the actual weapons. The sniper with post-fire control and explosive bullets, the triple barrel Boneduster shotgun or the explosive Flailgun and its charring secondary fire.
I can’t choose. They’re all so goddamn wonderful. All hail Bulletstorm.
Honorable Mention: Driver San Francisco
Driver San Fran was batshit insane. It played out in the comatose fever-dreams of vegetable-cop Tanner, yet mirrored the events of the real world and at one point you had to save yourself from the prying hands of Death by driving a car in the trail of some Ambulance lights (in a scene reminiscent of Max Payne’s horrendous blood-trails nightmare). But more batshit insane than any of that was the fact that Driver San Francisco was a genuinely good game and it’s here in the Best Weapon category because of The Schoolbus (although this could be any vehicle, I’m merely using the Schoolbus for comic effect).
Tanner’s vegetable state provided an apt excuse for a core mechanic that allowed you to shift into another car at the press of a button. Doing so transferred Tanner into the brain-box of the driver, giving you full control of the vehicle in the process. This proved plenty fun if you were joyriding about on your time but was a hell of a lot more fruitful if you were caught in the midst of a high speed game of cat and mouse. You’d leave your car on autopilot, hijack the nearest bus full of screaming school children and pilot it wantonly into your unsuspecting and terrified pursuer. Boom! Dozens dead and Tanner back unscathed in his car. Ace.
Best Scene of a Sexual Nature
Winner: Saints Row The Third
There was a distinct lack of sex scenes this year. I think Dragon Age 2 might have had one, but I steered well clear. That’s alright though because, while Saints Row The Third doesn’t have any explicit scenes of adult copulation, it does have scenes of a sexual nature so brilliant that they demand to be viewed. So I’ll shut up.
The problem with most horror games is that they’re not psychological; they never really get inside your head and tug in the way that films like The Thing or The Shining or The Exorcist seem to so effortlessly do. There’s nothing effortless about it, it’s bloody hard. Especially in a world where every news broadcast and paper headline screams bloody terror; we’ve all got AIDS, breathing gives us cancer and the Doom Clock is seconds away from striking twelve. As a result, we’re pretty hard to scare and spooky frights are an easy thing to brush off.
With that in mind it was refreshing to see F.3.A.R ditch horror entirely – during its campaign anyway – and instead focus on being a goddamn satisfying, beefy first person shooter (one with a wonderful co-op mode) that occasionally put you in the dark.
But then it ramped up the scares online. In its F*cking Run players, er, run away from a wall of howling death. Along the way you have to weigh up the pros and cons of either attempting to sprint through the ramparts of enemy soldiers (soldiers oblivious to the loudening doldrums of doom booming away behind), or pause to murder them and risk being swallowed up. If any member of your four person team cops out it’s game over for everyone, so it’s no good adhering to the ‘every man for himself’ adage.
It’s basic predator vs prey stuff but something so few horror games manage to capture and making the choice between ditching your comrades and making a dart for safety was one of the hardest decisions I had to make all year. Even knowing we’d certainly fail, running back towards that wall just did not make sense.
Winner: L.A. Noire
In a year chock full of disappointments L.A Noire emerged the most disappointing of all. It’s not that it was the worst of the disappointments, far from it, but that it squandered the most potential. Three cheers!
L.A Noire fell to pieces when it became apparent that the choices you made bore no significance to the story. You could make a mess of interrogations, fumble through crime scenes like a blind cat in heat and tar the L.A.P.D’s name and ten minutes later be on the end of a whopping great big promotion. Well done sir, your constant tom-dickery and perennial inability to tell a rapist from your own grandmother has earned you this promotion. Here here!
On and on this dizzying charade went as the story of an everyday cop fizzed out to be replaced by a tale of massive conspiracy and other nonsense that robbed L.A. Noire of its greatest asset: the crime scene.
Poor old L.A Noire lost its sanity completely during its final act during which the protagonist guy ditched the LAPD, found some serious firearms and went on a killing rampage, culminating in a scene in a sewer with a flamethrower and then a torrent of piss.
L.A Noire began the year on the tip of everybody’s tongue; a 21st century point and click adventure set in a 1950s GTA-esque city. Yes please. It looked the part. It sounded the part. It felt the part. It featured the cast of Mad Men. But it ended up being a mess. A fancy mess with oodles of potential, but a mess nonetheless.
While nothing’s going to match the levels of stomach-churning bastardry that Gearbox let loose on the world, Homefront at least had a go with “press X to jump in mass grave”. A context sensitive prompt, it saw you and your merry band of chumps well… jump headfirst into a mass grave obviously.
Hmm, how about we just fight? Cos, you know, we’ve made it this far and everything without jumping into any graves. Hell, a few minutes ago we were fighting a couple of tanks with nothing but handheld ordinance! Yeah. Another zenith in the gaming calendar that one.
Failed Assassin Award
Stealth in Skyrim depends on one thing: which hat I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter if I’m pottering about in the daylight or at night or even if there are jingly-jangly bells attached to to the tips of that hat. Simply wearing it is enough to conceal me from the prying eyes of everyone. Even those cat people, with their stupid night vision.
Naughty Bear taught us a thing or two last year about hiding – the master pedophile in a bear suit effectively concealed himself from the bears of Paradise Island using nothing but a leaf (although he wasn’t averse to hiding in a closet either). My character in Skyrim teaches even Naughty Bear a lesson.
For example, if I so happen to be wearing the Jester hat I can sashay up to someone and do so unnoticed until I’m close enough to earn a spot on the sex offenders’ register. I’ve murdered countless idiots thanks to this Jester hat. Probably I look like a tosser but it’s infalible. And fucking ridiculous. But such is the way with RPGs.