Winner: Corvo Attano (Dishonored)
Runner up: Mark (Mark of the Ninja)
It’s been a bumper year for wily bastards in videogames, from Far Cry 3’s Jason Something to Dishonored’s Corvo Attano and Mark from, er, Mark of the Ninja. Not to mention characters from the likes of Lone Survivor and Hotline Miami. Both games did great and subversive things with stealth.
But it’s Dishonored’s disgraced bodyguard and murderer extraordinaire Corvo who scoops the award for King of the Wilies (mind the lone ‘l’ there). Corvo’s knack for teleporting gave him the upper hand over his peers, but even without that his deep well of tricks and murdering abilities (conjuring rats and commanding time to a standstill two of the best) meant Corvo was well out in front of the pack. Presumably loitering in the shadows somewhere like a steampunk Gary Glitter.
Shit the Bed
Winner: Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor is a game that speaks to survival horror praxis of old. For the first half hour you’re unarmed, caught like a rat in a claustrophobic 2D maze to which only conniving, half-human, nightmarish bastards and their bastard friends call home. To get by these hostile cretins you place rotting meat on the ground, sink into conveniently placed grooves in the walls and skulk by as they distort and snarl mere inches away. Then you get the pistol, and the horror slowly bleeds out.
This sudden and vague sense of confidence is snuffed out later in the game by the Stompy Man; a huge mass of unkillable I-don’t-even-know-what that comes thundering toward you like a ravenous hell-hound the moment you enter his domain. STOMP STOMP STOMP. As you recover your wits and come to realise you’ve shit your real-life pants, Stompy Man thumps digital you so hard you devolve into a thin, pasty creature whose eyes and asshole are indistinguishable.
Worst Boss Fight
Winner: All of them (All the games)
Here we are again, one year on lamenting like withered old men for another year has drifted by in which the collective games industry has refused to outlaw the use of boss battles, or at the very least make their use a crime punishable by a slow death.
BioWare hit a home run with its Reaper boss fight, breaking all the rules during a pointless ten-minute spell with insta-death, shitty cameras, shittier checkpoints and typical rule of three bollocks at the top of a long list of heinous crimes. Resident Evil 6, Warped and even Hotline Miami called on the “talents” of obnoxious boss men. Team Ninja managed to take a franchise with legitimately good boss fights and transform them into twaddle. The worst of these was the indefinably pathetic robotic T-Rex fight (video above). The T-Rex defied the holy trinity of science, common sense and history by leaping into the air and landing on its face until it was dead. Really.
Ultimately though, how can one distinguish between such festering toss? One can’t, and so the champion of 2011 resurfaces from the fetid quagmire of shit and bollocks it calls home to claim what is rightfully its. Hooray.
Best Ego Massage
Games are mostly about empowerment. In Dishonored, Corvo’s cache of party tricks did a sensational job of conferring on the player a gross sense of power. But it was a moment of hush, a transient scene at the end of a level that featured almost no killing, that triggered that feeling better than any other.
It came after Corvo had weasled his way into a fancy dress party dressed as himself (in what was basically the best Hitman level all year). Having hidden in plain sight and satisfied the mission objectives Corvo left the party, but not before scrawling his name in the guest book.
A sensational ‘fuck you’ to all the guards who made your getting there awkward, and a tangible sense that it was your wits and not your trigger finger that had got the better of Dunwall’s finest. A real moment of class.
I don’t think anyone expected Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead to be such a success story. It sparked the collective imagination of the entire industry and while I thought it was a little too clumsy a little too often, you’d have to be a crueller man than I to deny Telltale did a first-rate job of making the relationship between the player and Clementine one to remember.
Winner: Hitman: Absolution
Hitman: Absolution carved a fairly clean divide between its detractors and advocates with one camp decrying the lack of proper stealth and the other praising IO’s decision to bring the franchise screaming into the modern age. By my reckoning Hitman: Absolution was a pretty good game. The trouble was it was also a pretty bad Hitman game. IO robbed Absolution of much of what made Blood Money great, trading its yawning levels and focus on player enterprise for Splinter Cell style linearity and funnelled design.
A genuinely weird one. I enjoyed Hitman but of all the disappointing games this year it squandered the most potential. Hitman had gone from strength to strength since inception, but that trend came to a stop in 2012.
Juliet & Nick (Lollipop Chainsaw)
Lollipop Chainsaw was as criminally unloved as Goichi Suda’s other recent (and probably better) game Shadows of the Damned. While the blow-by-blow bedlam was enjoyable enough it was the leads that gave Lollipop Chainsaw its soul. The chitchat between Juliet and her bodiless boyfriend Nick was sharp as they bickered, flirted and sliced through the carnage with humorous quips. The result? The sense that you were watching the drama of a genuine relationship amidst all the soaring limbs and gore geysers. Aww.
Cormac McCarthy Award for Bleakest Game World
Winner: I Am Alive
Runner Up: Day Z
Runner Up: Nintendo Land
An early XBLA title that severed opinion in spectacular fashion. It may not have been the most polished game of the year, but Ubi sure did bleak with some panache.
Haverton was a spiteful and uncaring place, painted in stark greys and home only to those robbed of their humanity. During one particularly memorable scene two men hunched over a fire offered you a hunk of meat. It was an alarmingly selfless gesture from characters caught in a world that had, until that point, offered up only sadists and the dead. If you snooped around a little, though, you soon found the cages. And the human skulls in them. Haverton was powerful in its wickedness, and did a good job of papering over some of I Am Alive’s more prominent flaws.
Winner: Hotline Miami
Runner Up: Mark of the Ninja
I lovingly dubbed Hotline Miami Disco-Mordor (for obvious reasons) when I reviewed it earlier in the year. Cutthroat, ungenerous and bloody excellent, Dennaton’s top-down action-hit was one of my favourites of the year. But its pooches… oh god its pooches. Miami’s mutts had a lust for human flesh and a knack for rocketing out from just off-screen, which made them the most bastard-annoying bastards of the year. Sure, you could don a mask a transformed them instead into abiding canines, but then the pendulum swung the other way and they were suddenly the victims of your callous hate. You couldn’t win with Hotline Miami’s dogs.