Thursday, January 12, 2012
RMGB Awards 2011: Part One
Welcome to my selection of the best games that were released during 2011, broken down by format, genre and then some overall awards. It's been a few years since I last did this, mostly because I normally don't play enough new games within a given year to be able to make an informed choice. This year though I was able to buy all the games that I wanted, due to having a nice redundancy payout from my previous employer. However I still didn't have enough time to play all the big games that were released, especially those towards the end of the year, so instead I will just have to include them in the honourable mentions category at the end and try to come back and review them in future. The awards will be split over two days, with the first covering each individual format plus a few other categories such as Most Disappointing Game, and the second covering the various gaming genre, Most Anticipated Game of 2012, and my actual game of the year. So without further ado, let's get on with the show...
Best Xbox 360 Exclusive
Where Gran Turismo was once the undisputed king of realistic driving games, now the Forza series has stolen the crown without a doubt. Forza 3 was really the game that pushed the series to the heights that it now enjoys, but the fourth entry in the series adds further refinements to the gameplay and the presentation. Forget the worthless Kinect modes - instead, enjoy a lengthy single player career mode, a gargantuan range of events to race in, and a true online community of racers, tuners and painters. Where in the third game you could progress to level 50 fairly quickly, this time the cap is a massive 150. What's more you have a separate level for each car manufacturer, which goes up to 50.
Whilst the two previous entries in the Gears trilogy were certainly good games, Epic Games raised the bar considerably with the final part of the Marcus Fenix saga. The single player campaign is much more diverse in both location and colour palette, and each of the major characters from Delta Squad get their own moment in the spotlight before the curtain falls. The Horde and competitive multiplayer modes have also been significantly overhauled, and a persistent levelling mechanic added across all the various modes. With the promise of significant single player DLC recently coming to fruition with the release of the Raam's Shadow pack, Gears of War 3 cements its place as one of the finest Xbox 360 releases from 2011.
Best PS3 Exclusive
Whilst Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is a very hard act to follow, Naughty Dog have almost but not quite bettered it with their third instalment in the series. This time things get rather personal as we get a glimpse into Nathan Drake's past and his friendship with Sully, before racing an ancient organisation to be the first to discover the mythical Iram of the Pillars. Drakes pride may just cause him or one of his friends their lives, as he journeys around the world, finding clues, solving puzzles and getting into many life threatening situations. This game once again shows the developers technical and storytelling prowess, and not only a fantastic single player campaign, but also a in depth mutliplayer mode and a co-op mode.
Best Wii Exclusive
The outcry from US gamers who believed that they would never see this game released in their territory was well deserved, as this is a truly remarkable RPG and one of the best games ever released on the Wii. Playing rather like an offline MMO, and delivering hundreds of hours of gameplay, Xenoblade Chronicles also pushes the hardware to the limits of its performance with its huge breathtaking vistas and epic score. Thankfully Nintendo have recently announced that the game will indeed get a US release later in 2012, thus serving as a fitting swansong for the Wii before it is usurped by its successor, the Wii-U.
It may have taken until the Wii is on the way out as a viable gaming platform, but Nintendo has finally captured the full potential of motion control with the release of the latest in the Zelda franchise. Though the graphics are beautiful for the most part, the Wii does occasionally start to show its age, and the MotionPlus controller does have to be recalibrated just often enough to make it become a minor annoyance. These issues are just enough to knock Skyward Sword down to the runner up position.
Best DS Exclusive
Solatorobo is actually the sequel to a much loved yet little played PS1 game called Tail Concerto. Both games take place in world populated by anthropomorphic heroic canines and antagonistic (or just plain naughty) felines as the travel amongst a chain of floating islands in their airships and robotic walkers. These games have all the charm of a classic Miyazaki animation such as Castle in the Sky, and are essentially action RPG's that also feature flying sections quite heavily.
The original Okami was one of the most beautiful games to be released on the PS2, and this DS follow up does a brilliant job of shrinking everything down whilst maintaining same style. Quite literally, in the case of the wolf god main character Chibiterasu, who is the smaller, cutesified son of Amaterasu from the first game. The controls are not quite perfect which prevented Okami-den from stealing the top spot, but in every every aspect this is a great action adventure game and easily rivals the Zelda games available for the DS.
Best PSP Exclusive
I reviewed a game in the Legend of Heroes series in the early days of this blog and gave it quite a high score. In hindsight it wasn't quite as good as I said at the time because it has an appalling translation, mediocre story and unremarkable mechanics. When you compare this latest entry to that one, the difference is quite astounding. You can still tell they share the same lineage, but XSEED have spent much more care in localising Trails in the Sky, and combined with the charming graphics and excellent soundtrack it all adds up to a fantastic package for fans of playing RPG's on the go. The battles are still a little traditional, but you probably wont care as the rest of the package is just so much fun.
Most Disappointing Game
Compared to Fable II, it just felt that Molyneux and Lionhead Studios had basically phoned in this entry to the series. Most of the enemies you encounter are reused from the previous game - in fact the whole experience feels like a hand-me-down and not the least bit fresh. I did still quite enjoy playing through it but compared after all the excellent new mechanics of the second game in the series it just didn't do enough to stand out in a year that has seen a staggering amount of top class games released.
The new facial animation technology developed by Team Bondi and implemented in L.A. Noire is extremely impressive, and the grimy setting is also a fascinating place to explore, but mechanically this game was not without it's problems. The main one was the interrogation scenes - you would often press the button to challenge a suspect and expect protagonist Cole Phelps to say one thing, only for him to completely go off on one without warning and basically accuse whoever happens to be in the hot seat of murder. The other issue I have is the the pacing - the game is entertaining up to a certain point and then it feels like it should have ended, only it keeps going for many hours past this point. A briefer game would have actually been more enjoyable in my opinion.
Worst Game of the Year
I am always keen to try out as many RPG's as I can that are released throughout the year as it is my favourite genre, but boy do I wish I had never tried this one. Stupid anime characters that barely feature any animation whatsoever explore the most boring random dungeons ever seen, or star in barely animated cut scenes that contain some of the worst dialogue and misguided attempts at humour ever to be included in a video game. Whatever you do, do not buy this game!
That's it for part one, come back soon for part two which will include genre awards, the most pleasant surprise of the year, and my overall game of the year!