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by Ethos

Call Me Lameish – Game of the Year 2010

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

May I have the envelope please…

On a more personal note, thanks to everyone who’s voiced their support for the Call Me Lameish video series. Since I signed on with this venerable troop of misfits earlier in the year, it’s made all the difference in my motivation to continue writing and producing the best content I can. See you in 2011.

-Lameish

The One that Got Away 2010 – Riddles

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood

I know I’ve spoken sort-of-ill about Brotherhood in recent weeks. Y’know, like making the suggestion that maybe – just maybe – they released Brotherhood a little too soon after Assassin’s Creed II.

And I hold that opinion. Brotherhood did come too soon. (That’s what she said.) Assassin’s Creed II was a legitimately excellent and memorable game that brought the franchise unto its own, and call me an oddball, but an accomplishment like that should be let alone for more than twelve months. Y’know? And now they’ve confirmed another big Assassin’s Creed release for 2011, market saturation, editorial waiting to happen, blabla.

Anyway. That’s all rather irrelevant to the point of this article. It also makes it sound like I don’t want to play Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Which isn’t true at all; I do want to play it. I want to see the story of Desmond and Ezio continue, because frankly, aside from the epic space opera of Mass Effect, it’s the most intriguing continuing story of this generation. In many ways, I view Assassin’s Creed as the spiritual successor to last generation’s Prince of Persia titles. And yes, I’m well aware of the existence of both current-generation PoP games, but frankly, those games only confirm my opinion.

I love Assassin’s Creed. I’m sure I’ll love Brotherhood when I get to it. I just hope that Ubisoft maintains some goddamn respect for their own franchise, and lets the series breathe. If your game’s good enough, you don’t need to pump out a sequel every year to maintain the public’s interest in it. If that was the case, true classics would never be born.

Runner Up: Epic Mickey

Well, this one I don’t regret quite so much since Ethos’ lukewarm editorials on the game, but it’s the best I could come up with for a runner-up. For a time, I was really looking forward to Epic Mickey, and while I’m disappointed to hear that the game fell on its face in a few ways, I’m still determined to experience it for myself at some point. Cue announcement of PS3 port?

Most Surprising Game 2010 – Riddles

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Bayonetta

Most Surprising was a little difficult to decide this year, largely because, well, not much really surprised me. In fact, a lot of games that I wanted to surprise me, didn’t. *coughALANWAKEcough*

That being said, I have chosen Bayonetta, as you have all gathered. Bayonetta hardly came from left field – I was fairly confident in the fact that I would enjoy the game – but I didn’t expect I would enjoy it quite as much that I did. And, to be perfectly honest, I never expected the gameplay and mechanics to shine the way they did. So, I suppose you could say, the game impressed me with its shine – and I don’t just mean style.

If you’re like me, you don’t look to Japan for much these days. And certainly, you don’t look to Japan to deliver a game that can almost – almost – be called the definitive action game of this generation. Bayonetta’s combat mechanics are so polished and intelligently designed, they can be called a piece of programming art. It can be summed up simply: utterly accessible, yet insanely complex. It’s better than Devil May Cry, better than God of War, better than Ninja Gaiden. In fact, it’s better than just about anything else out there.

Obviously, more than just pure and simple gameplay must be considered when deciding the best titles of the year. But, I can say this: of all the games I played in 2010, not one of them was as much pure, unadulterated, consistent plain fun as Bayonetta. And yeah, I’ll admit, I didn’t quite expect that.

Maybe in Bayonetta 2, they can work on making all the other parts of the game equally sensible.

Runner Up: Mass Effect 2

Ah, well this was even harder to decide, but I promise it’s not a cop-out. Again, I didn’t think I’d enjoy Mass Effect 2 as much as I did. Know why? Because I really didn’t fall in love with Mass Effect 1. I managed a single bare-bones playthrough, appreciated the depth of the universe and some of the mechanics, and wondered why they didn’t do a better job of delivering a game with these concepts. Well, Mass Effect 2 takes those concepts, and delivers that game. And it’s amazing to witness.

The One that Got Away 2010 – Ethos

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Gran Turismo 5

I play a lot more video games than I used to. Not that I put in more hours, per se. If that is true, it would be a minimal increase. I mean that I way play more titles in any given year than I used to.

I used to pick up any major first party Nintendo release (see: Mario, Zelda, Wave Race), any major Final Fantasy entry, and precious little else with a few exceptions. The rest of my time was spent on replaying Ocarina of Time and FFIX.

One of those exceptions seemed to be the Gran Turismo series. I loved the detail present in every facet of the game. I – perhaps surprisingly – liked the challenge, and loved slowly working my up to better cars and more interesting races.

I actually fell off the series for a bit. I purchased – but barely played – Gran Turismo 3, and never touched 4. Still, I was looking to get back into the series.

However, Nintendo had a surprising year end with Donkey Kong and Epic Mickey, and then Sly Cooper came around and turned out to be awesome, so time and money didn’t seem to lend itself to Gran Turismo 5, despite dedicating a theme week to the game.

I know I have Forza 3 and it’s really good, but I would truly like to try out GT5 for myself and have a real opinion on the series for the first time in a while. Especially because this one seems to be splitting the masses. This is the generation for the fall of the Japanese greats, is it not?

Runner up: Fallout: New Vegas

Yesyes, I barely played Fallout 3. Also, I stunk at it. But I did really like it. The mood was great, the size of the world was daunting, and the writing and RPG mechanics were good too. I considered New Vegas to be a bit of a second chance. I missed my second chance.

Game of the Year Nominees

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Check in tomorrow when we reveal our winner, super-fans.

- Lameish

Biggest Letdown 2010 – Ethos

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII

How can I follow up Riddles’ hilarious post with the same pick? While I think he’s completely wrong about the battle system, he’s bang-on with everything else.

I was extremely excited for Final Fantasy XIII. I thought the world looked beautiful, I loved the idea of a badass female lead, and because I’m a really big fan of Final Fantasy XII I couldn’t imagine the game could be bad.

Boy was I wrong. The game is almost less of a game than Heavy Rain. And that’s saying something. In fact, before the credits roll, the title is less of a game. No decisions matter. The leveling up system is pointless, the upgrading system is worse, and progressing forward is quite literally a tunnel. We’re not joking when we make the comparison.

The fact that Final Fantasy XIII becomes a fun game after the final boss, and as such the back-end leveling and upgrading systems start to make a difference and actually become great systems really makes little difference.

The point is that this was supposed to be a worthy entry into the esteemed series, a HD JRPG that I could really dive into. FFXII had my hopes high, and XIII tore them to pieces. Granted, it took me a while, I was in denial for a bit. But a 60 hour price to get to a good game is too much.

If you had asked me a year ago if I’d ever sell Final Fantasy XIII, I’d say “hell no”. But I sold it and I have no regrets. Vs XIII will have to do a lot to regain any sort of trust in the series.

Runner up: Epic Mickey

When last year’s runner up in this category earned a “N/A” from me, it’s a little depressing that I was deciding between 3 titles for this year’s second biggest letdown.

Still, life must go on and while Guardian Signs was a step backwards from Shadow of Almia, and Heavy Rain turned out to not be a game, the fact is that my hype was never huge for those titles. Epic Mickey had me pretty excited. I wasn’t expecting the controls and camera to be top-notch, but I also wasn’t expecting them to practically ruin the experience. The game could have been truly excellent. Unfortunately, the technical flops squashed this possibility.

Seriously, this could have been a true Game of the Year contender. Instead, it’s a decent game. There’s nothing wrong with the content, but the sad fact is that if you can’t properly play or view an excellent game, it is no longer an excellent game.

It’s truly a shame, but it’s the truth. This was definitely a year for loving more games and different games than I expected, and for being let down by hype and previous standbys.

Except Super Mario Galaxy 2. That was a standby and exceeded my hype.

Best Atmospheric Experience 2010 – Riddles

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Limbo

Finally! Due credit can be given to this downloadable gem of a game. Mass Effect 2 and Heavy Rain both built dense, palpable atmospheres – but Limbo builds an atmosphere unlike anything seen before, through methods never used. It’s a game that truly stands in a class of its own, and it must be experienced firsthand.

With barely a backstory explaining it, Limbo throws you into a dark, uninviting wood, where you must search for your missing sister. Everything is black and white – the protagonist is a small, silhoutted boy with beady, glowing eyes – which always shine, even in the darkest surroundings. The pale white lighting flickers like a failing street sign, which adds a subtly bizarre atmospheric effect.

As you go forward, it becomes clear that this forest is the personification of a child’s nightmare. Night-shrouded woods, infested with bullies, gigantic spiders, and devious traps. In spite of its juvenile protagonist, Limbo has an unexpectedly brutal side to it – deaths are brutal and bloody, often involving beheadings or skewerings. Certain puzzles, even, display an unexpectedly macabre nature – at one point, you must drag the dead bodies of children to a lake, then use them as stepping stones.

Background and foreground layers fade and become more distinct to create different atmospheric effects. All the while, a minimalist sound design is utilized – Limbo has no musical score to speak of, and instead chooses to assault your ears largely with dead silence and footsteps. It works brilliantly.

I wish I could say more about Limbo, but I must remember that I’m here only to discuss its atmospheric merits. Limbo is unlike anything I’d played before it, and it’s easily the best atmospheric experience I had in 2010.

Runner Up: Heavy Rain

Well, anything I say here will sound a little tepid in comparison to Lameish’s recent gushing article explaining the game’s atmospheric merit. Oh well. Heavy Rain is a game that builds its atmosphere not through bizarre and fantastical fantasy worlds or heavily stylized aesthetics, but rather, through the gritty realism that permeates its world, characters, dialog, and graphical presentation. It’s well-written, well-acted interactive thrillride, but it’s real life –  and it’s impressive to see a game build such palpable atmosphere through such meager conventions.

Biggest Letdown 2010 – Riddles

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII

Like this is a fucking surprise. I realize that, in spite of my utter and complete hatred for the game, I’ve never had the opportunity to simply ramble about it. The majority of the shit I’ve written for the game, I wrote during its first week of release – when I was desperately clinging to the feeble notion that the game was, somehow, good.

I knew the game was crap thirty minutes after booting it up.

And now, I’m going to fucking tear the shit out of it.

Final Fantasy XIII is that girlfriend who you spend copious amounts of money on for Valentine’s Day, only to have her ditch you five days later.

Final Fantasy XIII is that stepdad who seems cool, and takes you out to bars with him, except you end up just watching him get super-drunk and cheat on your mom.

Final Fantasy XIII is that dog your parents’ bought you as a kid, only to be taken away a few weeks later because your crotchety neighbors kept complaining, and your parents’ decided that their social status in the neighborhood was more important than your vulnerable, eight-year-old emotions.

Final Fantasy XIII is that drug dealer who tells you he’ll be good the day before your big party, only to have him cop out and get arrested at the last possible second.

Final Fantasy XIII is a liar and a cheat. Final Fantasy XIII is the textbook slut who slipped past your carefully-built defenses. Final Fantasy XIII is a dirty dirty whore.

But seriously, though, Final Fantasy XIII was more than just a letdown, it was a calculated slap in the dick to gamers of all kinds. In place of a rich, immersive gameworld we were given a series of linear tunnels littered with battles. In place of an in-depth, strategic combat system we were given a stripped-down, automated jumble of nonsubstantial flash. Instead of memorable characters and storylines, Final Fantasy XIII’s narrative unfolded with all the grace and prose of a second-tier anime program.

Suffice to say, I hate the game a lot. Sure, I may not have ever even reached Gran Pulse, but I doubt it would magically change my opinion. Given the number of rich, epic RPGs that have been released this generation (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Fallout and Lost Odyssey to name a few) it’s painful – and comical – to see Final Fantasy, the former king, descend into such a pit of shallow, style-obsessed mediocrity.

Runner Up: Alan Wake

I wish I could have loved Alan Wake as much as many people did. But, while I enjoyed the game a fair bit, as my review indicates, I just couldn’t help feeling disappointed. I certainly didn’t have the same elated expectations that I had for XIII, but I still was looking for just a little more than the game ended up delivering: gameplay that was fun, but ultimately repetitive and far too easy, and a storyline that was far too unfocused and loosely written to truly be effective (or scary). Don’t get me wrong, it was good; but it should have been much better.

Woof [Happy New Year] [Standby]

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Alright, so we’re a little behind on our award schedule – or at least I am. But I’ve been busy with work, seeing that New Years’ and the surrounding week is the restaurant industry’s busiest time.

Also, last night being New Years’, I’ve only managed to rise from bed an hour ago. Crazy stuff, crazy stuff.

But, I still have the evening set before me, so it’s time to play some catchup.

In other words, don’t go nowhere; the show ain’t over yet.

~Riddles

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

We’ll return to our regularly scheduled awards in due time. For now, enjoy your hangovers, play some Flower to relax, and Happy New Year.

Hurrah for stock photos!