Sunday, February 26, 2012

#60 -- WTF's 2011 Game Of The Year Awards

". . .is the 2011 Game of the Year, and it deserves a trillion-trillion words to be spoken, written, and shouted in its honor."

It's awards season! 

Naturally, the most prestigious, and most accurate, awards are always handed out last, and even though the other games sites and magazines (hah!) have distributed theirs for 2011, we took our sweet-ass damn time to figure out what the best games were this last year. Because we can. Because you deserve to know which contain the most artfully-crafted designs, hammered and sharpened into entertainment-pinnacles that spike your reality-hating hearts, and you realize you should never choose a jaded soul over chop-sockey optimism. This is basically the Oscars of videogames.

It's better than the Oscars of videogames.

Reigning 2010 Game Of The Year Champion:
-- Sin & Punishment: Star Successor --
It will be difficult for anything that came out in 2011 to beat out last year's Game of the Year, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (S&P2), which is not only the Best Game On The Wii, but one of the only game on the Wii that could only exist on the Wii. The Wii was a stop-gap and it's been trying to disown its mediocrity and motion controls ever since the developers realized sword-fighting is fucking awesome and waving plastic at a TV is not sword-fighting. S&P2 is so smashy, so carbon-fiber, so willfully-illiterate, so Japanese, so small-minded and grandiose, it's an entire roast beef sandwich forced onto a small dinner role and you have to dislocate your jaw like a Burmese python just to take a bite out of it.

It had. . .
2 characters: Dude and Girl; Dude has direct-accuracy and Girl has auto-lock
2 types of shots: Manual and lock-on
2 types of power-attacks: Sword-slash and power-charge

And that's it. No power-ups or new weapons or abilities to acquire. You can't squeeze blood from a stone and you can't grind success out of S&P2 without dying a whole lotta times. Your reward for playing well is that you get to survive long enough to keep playing. It moved as fast as a hovercar escaping post-apocalyptic Route 66 and it never surrendered control for a moment -- you were always shooting, blasting, firing, slicing, exploding, rocketing, bashing, flying, and surviving. That was why it was the Game of the Year in 2010. We almost inserted a clause that the new GotY had to be better than the previous game of the year. That made things too messy though and this process was already fairly protracted. This is the WTF GotY's, not the end of an awkward Thanksgiving dinner.

We got a buzz on, let's just knock this thing out.

Other unique caveats have been worked into our selection process though. We chose to add these rules because they strengthen the games that we chose. 

First, when we go back over the best games of a year, it doesn't necessarily mean the game came out in that year. It just means that we played it in that year. It's even more commendable that a game from a past year can still compete with new games, speaking volumes of its quality. This was a rule initially created so we didn't have to talk about how technically Mass Effect 2 came out in 2010, but we didn't play it until it came out on the PS3 in January of 2011, but then just decided, "fuck it, we run the show here and not many quality, memorable games came out in 2011 anyway." Spoilers, Mass Effect 2 appears somewhere on the countdown. Also, this qualifier removes the nostalgia goggles from actually new games and we don't have to say, "shit, they don't make games like this anymore." You don't have to say that and we're very guilty of it (even in this very countdown we are, how about that?!). Those old games still exist. You can go back and play A Link to the Past if you want, and we encourage you to do so. It's $8 on the Wii and it's way better than the Zelda game released in 2011. . . .


Best Game You Only Need To Play Once:
-- Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception --
It's a crime that this game is a one-shot. A damn good one-shot, but it simply does not play well enough to warrant a revisit it for the gameplay. They were almost too diligent at times with their level-design, usually in order to serve the story, which wounded it as a videogame. The best parts are where the game removes itself from the registered design-norm. The tragedy is that it didn't go far enough. It wanted to tell a movie-like story, pushing its tech to mimic a cinematic vibe. It's a videogame though. You play it on your PlayStation 3 console. It should be laughing at cinema's inadequacies and presented a story that could not be told in a movie.

It wanted to be a combination of Lawrence of Arabia and Die Hard, but instead, we got Speed 2: Cruise Control.  

There's a part where you have to wander through a desert and it does some passage of time stuff, and then the villain voices-over with some quotes from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" it is very cool. It was there to evoke the desert's expansiveness. It's over in about 10 minutes though. Some desert. This should take days. Literally, you should not be able to beat the level in one play session. We fucking dare a developer to transplant the misery of walking through a desert into a player. They won't.

Best Thing, Perhaps, That We Love To Hate On:
-- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim --
Below, we've transcribed an actual conversation that we've had with multiple friends, in person, via instant messenger, on the phone, or in any way humans communicate. It should be noted that these are not people that we would not label as active videogame-players.

Friend: "Hey, did you get Skyrim? I took an arrow to the knee!"

Response: "Bitch, please, we play Dark Souls."

Friend is no longer online.

A thing like Skyrim can't exist. It's too big, and so much time was put into making it big that there was no time to fill it with tangible things, and as a result, each thing, be it a quest or a sword, became as (in)significant and (un)important as the last. It is yet another sword. It is yet another quest. The "Main" quest was as brief and underwhelming as a swamp level in a JRPG, except it only lasted ten hours. Ah, but there's more in the world, right? Well, if people laud the game for having 90+ hours of content and they keep saying: "And we've barely scratched the surface!" then what have you been scratching at? What game gives you happiness, but also the qualifier that you've gone nowhere in 90 hours? What star-iron is this game made of that no amount of stomping on it will yield a scratch, hours later? That's a confused little game lacking focus right there. "It's so ambitious and expansive!" Its questing is a long shopping list. Its combat is a fly-swatting simulation. Remember how all sites started handing out freak-out positive scores to Skyrim and then everybody did an about-face and started posting apologist op-eds? Yeah, saw that coming.

"The dragon battles are epic!" You've been fighting dragons in videogames since 1985, how is this a selling point? "They can come at any moment!" Fantastic, you've invented random-battles (side note: No you have not.)."There's so much loot to collect. It makes my guy look cool." Then go buy a doll or adopt some fashion taste of your own, like, in real-life, man. Also, you play from a first-person view, you can't even see what you're wearing. "Third-person view is totally manageable this time." It still doesn't require any skill or technique to kill things.

The Game That Should Have Done Less:
-- Batman: Arkham City --
It's a fantastic fight engine, rad puzzles, logical story progression, reverence for the Batman mythos, and enjoyable locomotion. It's what Zelda should have become by now if Nintendo had balls. However, it treats the open world as an arcane menu-system to select activities from. The game was also surprisingly short. How can that be? We kept on planning on going off the beaten path when things got too tough at a boss fight, like you do when you realize you don't have enough missile tanks to properly confront Kraid. Rocksteady, go back to the Metroid-style, isolated environments like the first game, it served it infinitely better.

The Game That Makes Us Feel Like Children:
-- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword --
Stop assuming that your audience has the intelligence of the coma-participant, Nintendo. We have functioning eyes. We can't review Skyward Sword (but we tried). It isn't modern. It isn't old-school. It will be good today, and it will be good tomorrow, but it won't ever be great, and if we were three years old and had never played a single videogame before, we might think it was the greatest thing ever. This game is the enemy. While other people were out trying to figure out how to be tasteful and fun in 2011, Nintendo seems keen on just writing to a librarian in Oxford, England, demanding that they change the very word "fun" to something that is more agreeable with their own marketing department. Skyward Sword is a signpost pointing to what developers think we want and deciding what we are. If you feel like it, don't listen to us. Instead, go buy a Wii, and a copy of Skyward Sword, and forget that other videogames exist for 30 hours. That's the only way you'll be able to to decide if you're three years old or not.

Game With The Most Fucked-up Moment In 2011:
-- Shadows of the Damned --
Did that man with the harmonica welded to his mouth just rip out his own heart? Did he then eat his own heart? Did the heart give him powers? Did the powers just turn him into a demi-weregoat? Did the demi-weregoat just summon lightning that turned a statue into a horse with a cat's face? Did the demi-weregoat just eat the cat-horse's heart and grow ten stories tall and then eat the rest of the cat-horse? Did the ten-story tall demi-weregoat just piss darkness into a fountain? Did the grim reaper just come down and cut off the ten-story tall demi-weregoat's head?

No, none of those things happened to you because you're a sane person and because you didn't just fight the second boss in that game. If you know nothing about Shadows of the Damned, and you like any of Sam Raimi's horror movies, then we cannot recommend it enough, otherwise, eh, it's just a strange little third-person shooter.

Honorable Mention For Games That We Don't Want To Leave Unmentioned:
-- Rayman Origins -- 
-- Super Mario 3D Land --
-- Child of Eden --
-- Resistance 3 --
-- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker --
-- Driver: San Francisco --
-- Orcs Must Die! --


The sequel to Banjo-Kazooie that we never got as kids. And that makes us angry. Fuck Rare. Fuck Banjo-Tooie. Fuck hours 5-87 of Donkey Kong 64. Fuck Nintendo for letting Rare fall into mediocrity. Fuck Nintendo in general. Fuck the people that won't let Free Radical make another TimeSplitters game. Fuck Halo, and fuck Call of Duty, and fuck Xbox Live, and fuck creative freedom, and fuck our always-was-there desire to shoot shit ever since we played Contra on NES. Fuck Activision for realizing all these things could be compounded into the most profitable mixture in videogames. Fuck the death of the platformer. Fuck false incentives created to lure players through shitty games instead of making moving from point A to point B fun like Sly did all those years ago. Fuck the assholes that don't get boners for cel-shaded games. Fuck those same assholes that'd rather simulate murder than simulate an endless Saturday morning cartoon marathon. Fuck Disney, make real animated movies again! Fuck Pixar, stop making us cry! Fuck Cars 2, what a terrible movie! Fuck Nintendo again for not giving their characters character or context or a reason for being. Fuck all the indie devs that'd rather make platformers based on their old college creative writing pieces like Braid or Limbo instead of making them out of screws, nails, and undercooked Stegosaurus steaks, like Super Meat Boy. Fuck the iPhone, the videogame equivalent of a Dan Brown book. Fuck us for not playing the Sly Cooper games all those years ago.

#8 -- inFamous 2('s ending) --
This is a twist on a modern morality-slog.The problem is that "morality" in games has become a stat, a number, that you collect, the same way that you used to collect stars in Mario 64. Stars unlocked doors so you could play more levels. Morality in games like inFamous 2 and Mass Effect 2 are commodities that unlock more missions, conversations, and "game." If you think that they're trying to be representative of who you are when you play the game, like some sort of real-time tarot card reading, you might notice a stench and some signage around you reading: "Your Butt Welcomes You: Scenic Colon Overlook On Your Left!" In almost all cases, you are not playing as yourself in these games with morality systems because good is far too angelic and evil is like a ladling up yourself another helping of slow-roasted puppy meat at the Hades Buffet. Face it, you're just playing one side or the other because you want to either shoot evil lightning or have a heal-ray -- don't protest, that is always how the powers are divided up at the end game. What inFamous 2 does to great effect is force you to the opposing polarity after you've been playing the other for the entire game as if it knew you were being bad because you wanted to see the bad ending, not because you were actually a bad person.

After hours of being a goody two-shoes, it forces you to (++ SPOILERS ++, we guess) team up with the "evil" girl and then commit suicide to save a city that hates you. It forces you to take the moral high-ground to the n'th degree. If you've been bad the whole game, you must team up with the icy, callous, slightly-xenophobic, but supposedly "good" girl, who forces you to kill your best friend to stay alive. In the world of moral choices, inFamous 2 went the extra mile by forcing you to go further than you could have expected and after feeling in control for the entire game, it takes control away when you need it most.

#7 -- Dark Souls --
In the true sequel to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Dark Souls is the first ever game derived from a discarded NES game-design document to be released in HD. This is a game that goes. You know the kind. No downtime. No load times. Not a moment to rest. No map, just your brain. It's like a 400 page book with only 8 chapters and you've lost your bookmark but if you lose focus, you have to go back to the beginning of the chapter and start reading it again.You learn Dark Souls. There is no hint system to call up and no way to escape destiny besides moving ahead to face destiny.

Skill can take you so far. After that, it's all will, man. You have to face your addiction to failure and you have to want to get better.

#6 -- StarCraft II('s multiplayer) --
The best competitive (re: non-N64) multiplayer game ever. StarCraft II is a football game if you controlled every muscle, thought, and reflex of all eleven players on the field simultaneously. Also, your team, nay, your entire franchise is reset after every match, and corporate espionage and off-season trades are all part of your ongoing strategy inside of one game of StarCraft II. When you're doing it right, you should be forgetting that you're playing. This is another game that has changed so dramatically in the year since its release that we can unerringly justify it being listed here. StarCraft II, shit, Blizzard games in general, are becoming not just games, but social platforms. There is just the right balance of educated guess work and luck, coupled with total precision and game-knowledge, creating the best digital one-on-one mind-game to date. It's exciting to watch how it's played in one single game and it's even more exciting to watch how it's played in one single year.

Premium motor-oil for a dying genre. It makes Grand Theft Auto IV look like a corpse. It won't elicit any of the big words from game reviewers like visceral, immersive, meticulous, or revelatory. It isn't polished, refreshing, or innovative -- it simply wants to be drip fun into your veins, uncut. It's an antidote to the open-world tedium. Missions are handed out over your phone, limiting the backtracking through vacant landscapes that plagued games like Jak II or Red Dead Redemption (both exquisitely-crafted games in their own rights). Running and shooting is exactly what you want it to be: running and shooting, not put-the-dot-on-the-head. The dialog is funny, the story is self-deprecating, and as we said in our review, it's a strong feminist statement if you play as a woman. It does what it does and it has no flaws when it does them.

#4 -- (the first half of) Deus Ex: Human Revolution --
This game did five things well and then did those five things five times in a row. It's a late CD-Rom era computer game thrown in hyper-sleep for about a decade. It was then exhumed, given a texture package, and had the last third of its content excised. Yes, it ends abruptly and the story forgets to exist during the second half. However, it's first half by itself is superior to nearly everything else we played this year. You creep, manipulate, experiment, explore, and then go loud if you must, because that's your last choice. Eventually though, it becomes too much of a meta-game that irks you if you come across a bot you can't destroy or a safe you can't hack. You become obsessed with maxing out your stats, and that wasn't the point of the game at first because it was richer and purer, and that's where things turn. The first half of the game alone is still the fourth-best game of 2011 though.

#3 -- Mass Effect 2 --
The game that made us afraid for it to finish. The game that made us sure that everything is in place before confronting our immortal enemy at the center of a supermassive black hole. It instilled the compulsion to make sure that everybody gets out alive. To get out alive, you must grow stronger. To grow stronger, you must explore the galaxy. To explore the galaxy together, your crew must trust you with their secrets. Ergo, the best assurance that you can give yourself that your friends will survive is if they are your friends. To assure this, you must ply the stars of the Milky Way. You must learn alien cultures. You must negotiate when you can and know when the time for emotionless diplomacy is over. There is a tool for every task and you will need all of them -- weapons, friends, wisdom, focus, and emotion, to get everybody, including yourself, out alive. In order to survive, you are asked to find the strength to count your blessings before going to war.

#2 -- Portal 2('s writing) --
The way Portal 2 plays is inferior to the way that Portal played. Portal was about serendipitously discovering how smart you are and how much smarter the people that made the game must be than you. Comparing Portal and Portal 2 is like arguing over Alien and Aliens -- both are unequivocally creative and beautiful for different reasons, and you could argue preference for either, but what you won't argue is that one is good and the other is bad. True, Portal 2 had the speedy-gel and the bouncy-gel and fun co-op levels, and yet all of that falls by the wayside when you realize that it has some of the keenest, blackest, most chaotic, and most hilarious writing you'll find on this side of sanity. It has, what, four speaking-roles? Wheatley, GLADOS, Cave Johnson, and we'll even count the Turret. And you, Chell, the mute, all combine to build the best ensemble one-act play ever to coalesce in a videogame. You'll play the game for the puzzles, but you'll want to finish the game so you can listen to the Personality Cores shout at one another. You'll know what we mean when you get there. It's the writing in Portal 2 that will be immortalized for years to come.

-- Bulletstorm --  
2011 Game of the Year
Bulletstorm is the 2011 Game of the Year, and it deserves a trillion-trillion words to be spoken, written, and shouted in its honor. We want to go to the bar and get shit-housed on grog and go up to random patrons and explain to them just what exactly a Bullet Storm really is! See, Bulletstorm is sorta like a 2D Mario game with the B-button taped down, but you're also always fireball. Bulletstorm is like having three dicks. If you've ever been drunk on a pontoon-boat, and you are American, then you've been tempted to experiment with pistols and flare guns on a tropical-sticky afternoon, and Bulletstorm combines these temptations into one weapon. Bulletstorm was probably first designed for SNES with a Game Genie on, and then remade wholesale for the PS3, all within one development cycle, and it shows, man, it shows. Women should not look directly at Bulletstorm, it may cause them momentary discomfort, followed by nausea, followed by shortness of breath, followed by a complete slough of her skin, wherein she shall be born again and receive total consciousness. Men should give up trying to write poety; Bulletstorm exists. There are special whistles that can hit octaves usually reserved for canines -- Bulletstorm's weapons hit octaves usually reserved for over-sized coal-mining equipment. Bulletstorm will give sheep Post-Traumatic Joy Disorder. Bulletstorm will one day be cited as the inspiration for those famous words uttered by the first human to walk on Mars: "Continue to follow me, and I will kill your dick!" That human will be the baddest woman ever to strap on a space suite, by the way. 

Don't experience Bulletstorm under the influence of illicit substances -- it will in fact turn your urine to soft-boiled egg-yolk. Bulletstorm was conceived during sex on, like, a really nice spiral staircase. Shaving a sedated polar bear cub with a straight razor requires speed and precision, and Bulletstorm hands you a katana blade, demanding that you have the exact same speed and precision when negotiating with that sedated polar bear cub's momma. Wrapping an explosive bola around a mutated Australian-biker and kicking him so hard he disobeys Chrono-Law is Bulletstorm reminding you why flipping tennis balls to yourself and smacking them with a metal baseball bat into your neighbor's above-ground pool was the best date you've ever been on. It's a game that hates other games while embracing modernity and does meta-gaming so tastefully.

In fact, Bulletstorm also won FOURTEEN other honors from us in addition to being the 2011 GotY. Check them all out, we've listed them here:
  • The Funniest Game since Psychonauts
  • The Most Excited To Ruthlessly / Violently Dismantle Enemies since 4 | Resident Evil
  • The Best Housecat Playing-With-A-Dead-Mouse simulation since Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.
  • Best Space Pirates since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
  • Finest Shotgun since Doom 3.
  • Funnest Movement In A Shooter since Vanquish.
  • Best Female Sidekick Since Fucking Ever.
  • Most Gruesome Use Of A Cactus since Final Fantasy VIII.
  • Greatest "It Penetrates All The Enemies In A Line" Gun since Perfect Dark.
  • The Special Bayonetta Casual, Repeated "Fuck-Yeah" Award goes to Bulletstorm's plasma leash, which lets the player reel in, kick out, and inflect an area-of-effect juggle-attack onto enemies.
  • The Valkyria Chronicles Guaranteed Multiple-Orgasm Award for fastest "Start New Game" after watching the credits, 'cuz the first go-around was so goooooood for us.
  • Stickiest Sticky Grenade since Halo 2.
  • Killingest Kill 'Em All moment since Jet Force Gemini.
  • Best Time-Attack Mode since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
How did we do? You can point out some factual inaccuracies or try to persuade us otherwise. We might listen.

Recommended related reading:
[F-Zero GX | * * *] by Doberman
[ExciteTruck | * * * *] by Ghost Little
[Final Fantasy IX | * * * *] by Ghost Little

-- Ghost Little and Doberman
on Twitter | @GhostLittle_WTF


  1. Thank you thank you thank you for calling out Skyrim on it's bullshit.

    The combat sucks, the story is okay, I guess, but the quests are the same as Oblivion, just going into caves and dragging out loot to carry back to town. Sure, the world is huge, but you always end up fast-travleing, so it ends up being all loading screens all the time.

    Haven't played Bulletstorm, but definitely have to check that out now!!