GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2012

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So another fantastic year of gaming draws to a close and it’s time to look back to see what’s impressed in 2012:

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

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WINNER: Spec Ops ‘Degradation Of Characters’

It’s crazy to think that this has never been done before. In Spec Ops: The Line as well as physical changes, you and your squad also take a psychological beating. Later in the game as your character starts screaming his orders instead of calmly giving them it makes a huge difference. Even reloading calls are shouted through gritted teeth. It just makes the game feel incredibly visceral. Big shout outs to both Dishonored and Hitman: Absolution for bringing some new, inventive mechanics to the stealth genre. I expect both Blink and Instinct will turn up in other games at some stage.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Dishonored – Blink
  • Max Payne 3 – Bullet Time in Online Matches
  • Hitman: Absolution – Instinct

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Battlefield 3 – Close Quarters

While Borderlands 2 gave us a substantial chunk of gameplay with Captain Scarlett’s Booty and Uncharted 3 delivered some clever, new maps, for sheer awesomeness this award has to go to Battlefield 3 for Close Quarters. This map pack with two new game modes was a brilliant addition to the Battlefield package. The maps in here are some of my favourite in the entire game’s roster – Operation 925 and Ziba Tower are so well designed it hurts. Sure these maps slightly favour a shotgun but when has that ever been a problem :smile:

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 3 – Map Pack
  • Mass Effect 3 – From Ashes
  • Borderlands 2 – Captain Scarlett’s Booty

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BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME

Journey 1

WINNER: Journey

Journey is unlike anything I’ve ever played – it truly is a game that needs to be experienced rather than discussed but if you’d like to read more, check out my review from earlier in the year. A truly stunning game. Also have to congratulate the guys at Evolution on Motorstorm RC – when I first saw the reveal I wasn’t hugely impressed but the game turned out to be fantastic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Motorstorm RC
  • Sound Shapes
  • When Vikings Attack!

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2013

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WINNER: Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar continue to deliver top quality games – since the last GTA we’ve had L.A Noire, Max Payne 3 and the superlative Red Dead Redemption. Grand Theft Auto V looks set to continue that (check out the trailer in the next section) and I can’t wait to see what advances have been made since the last game back in 2008.

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BEST GAME TRAILER

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WINNER: Borderlands 2

I love this trailer. It completely sums up the game and when Claptrap… well I won’t spoil it but check it out.

I’ve also included the runners up below so you can check them out as well.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Bioshock Infinite

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BEST PS VITA GAME

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WINNER: Motorstorm RC

There have been some fantastic games for the Vita in it’s first year and I certainly don’t think the console is lacking in titles. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation came close to making this list but was edged out by the excellent Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Sony Bend Studios delivered a great Uncharted game and Gravity Rush was a blast, despite some frustrating combat issues. However the award in 2012 goes to Motorstorm RC, a completely addictive racer that took up far too much of my time. Beating friend’s scores on the tracks gave everything a competitive edge and I enjoyed it so much I bought all the DLC to get more tracks. In my opinion a perfect title for the Vita.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • Gravity Rush

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BEST GRAPHICS

GOTYGraphics

WINNER: Max Payne 3

Usually best graphics is one of those categories where you can immediately arrive at a shortlist and the tough part is narrowing that down to a winner. But this year we’ve had a number of games that shone in various different styles. It’s been extremely difficult and titles like The Darkness II, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Hitman Absolution and Gravity Rush have all failed to make the cut. For me, although it was a linear experience, Max Payne 3 really delivered a mix of great technical work and graphical style to create a fairly unique and stunning looking game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Journey
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Borderlands II

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BEST STORYLINE

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WINNER: Spec Ops: The Line

I had been keeping an eye on Spec Ops: The Line ever since it’s first reveal back at the Video Game Awards in 2009, so I was most pleased to see it finally get released in the summer. Promising tough moral choices, an interesting story and some good use of desert sand to trap enemies it looked like Spec Ops might dominate the barren Summer release schedule. It didn’t quite work out that way but Spec Ops: The Line tells one of the more engrossing stories in games of the last few years. The way things unfold is well choreographed and having seen some of the conversations with the writers of the game it seems almost everything in the game was planned that way from the beginning. It’s a slow start but well worth sticking with – one of the best storylines for a while.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Max Payne 3
  • The Darkness II
  • Dishonored

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

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WINNER: Max Payne 3 – Health

There have been some fantastic scores this year, from the usual military bombast of Call Of Duty: Black Ops II through to the quirky and lovable Sound Shapes on Vita. But most would be hard pressed to match Health‘s score for Max Payne 3, which fitted the game so well it was pretty much another aspect of Max’s character. Journey probably ran it closest, the sweeping joy and sorrow of Austin Wintory’s music really bringing a depth of emotion to the game. Big shout out as well to Hotline Miami, I haven’t even played that game but the soundtrack is fantastic in it’s own right.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Journey – Austin Wintory
  • Gravity Rush (Vita) - Kohei Tanaka
  • Sound Shapes (Vita) – Various

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

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WINNER: The Darkness II

It’s also been a great year for licensed music uses in games – in fact it’s the first year I’ve truly struggled to get a shortlist, never mind a winner. FIFA continues to impress by delving into indie territory and Sleeping Dogs ‘Grand Theft Auto-esque’ radio station approach threw up some great tunes to cause carnage to. Eventually it was a two horse race for this award and despite a few excellent choices (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – “Nowhere to Run” and Deep Purple – “Hush” in particular) by Spec Ops: The Line, The Darkness II steals it with tracks like Ram Jam – “Black Betty”, Metallica “Some Kind Of Monster”, Stereo MCs – “Connected”, The Flamingos – “I Only Have Eyes for You”, Dean Martin – “In the Chapel in the Moonlight”, The Offspring – “Self-Esteem” and of course, Tone Loc – “Wild Thing”. Fantastic stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • FIFA 13
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Spec Ops: The Line

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BEST VOICE ACTING

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WINNER: Sleeping Dogs

Square Enix assembled an all star cast including Hong Kong actor Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu and Emma Stone to bring the characters of Sleeping Dogs to life. They do a great job and really help to pull you into the world the game creates. Nolan North again pulls a Nate Drake performance out of the bag, this time on the small(er) screen of the Vita. He also took on the main role of Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line – you can see why he’s one of the most in demand, and best, voice actors in gaming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Max Payne 3
  • Spec Ops: The Line

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

Journey Main

WINNER: Journey

Journey is a gaming experience like no other. As you make your way across desolate, sandy dunes the game will run you through a gamut of emotions. It’s such a wonderful game, play it online and in one sitting (it’s 2-3 hours long) – you won’t regret it. While in some respects Mass Effect 3 was disappointing, overall I thought it was a solid, enjoyable game. There were some interesting missions and choices you could make that meant, while the ending might not have been different, how you got to the conclusion of the story varied depending on your actions. Sleeping Dogs was so much fun I think I played almost the entire thing with a smile on my face but the dark horse in this race, sneaking up on the others with a fibre wire, is Hitman: Absolution. After a mis-step with Kane and Lynch 2, IO Interactive really delivered with Hitman. Accessible and challenging – definitely one of the best single player games out there this year.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Sleeping Dogs

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Borderlands 2

It hasn’t really been a great year for online multiplayer in my opinion – too few new games grabbed our attention and it was far too easy to jump back into titles like Battlefield 3 or Uncharted 3. However Borderlands 2 would be a worthy winner any year. Getting online with 3 of your friends and blasting through madcap missions was insane fun and the dash for spilled loot only added to the comedy. Mass Effect 3 successfully introduced multiplayer, it was only a horde mode of sorts but most enjoyable and the added depth of different character races gives it some longevity. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II was the most accessible and flexible yet, with some really great maps to boot. Max Payne 3 adds something different with modes like ‘Payne Killer’ and ‘Gang Wars’ but stands up as a third person action shooter in standard modes like Team Deathmatch as well. I was quite impressed with Max Payne’s online, especially the way the developer factored in bullet time but it didn’t seem like that many people were playing it beyond the first couple of weeks of release.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Mass Effect 3
  • Max Payne 3
  • Call Of Duty: Black Ops II

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GAME OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: Borderlands 2

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog or following me on Twitter it’s probably not too hard to guess this year’s winner. For Borderlands 2, Gearbox Software ramped up the game and refined it to such an extent that it is genuinely hard to find fault with it. It’s fun on your own but truly comes to life in online co-op. Memorable characters compliment the game’s wicked sense of humour and an outrageous amount of classes, guns, shields, mods and relics just add to the chaos. Borderlands 2 is a huge game that you will love playing through.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Journey

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So there you have it, another great year for gaming and the above is only the tip of iceberg. There were some great titles that didn’t make the shortlists but are still worth checking out. Things like Syndicate, Binary Domain, X-Com: Enemy Unknown and Need For Speed: Most Wanted for a start. Or how about Unit 13, Everybody’s Golf and LittleBigPlanet for the Vita.

I never got around to playing a few of the big games from this year, most notably The Walking Dead and Resident Evil 6 but I’ll hopefully get a chance to experience those soon.

There’s been plenty to play this year and 2013 looks interesting, especially with new hardware on the horizon.

What is your game of the year? Let me know what you agree/disagree with in the above and what titles you would’ve had in there.

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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Review (PS3)

It has to be said that a lot of people were wondering whether Naughty Dog would be able to improve on the superb ‘Among Thieves,’ a game that walked away with awards for ‘Best Voice Acting,’ ‘Best Graphics,’ ‘Single Player Game Of The Year’ and the biggie – ‘Game Of The Year’ in my end of year round up for 2009.

Where both ‘Drake’s Fortune‘ and ‘Among Thieves’ concentrated more on the relationship between Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher, this instalment focuses on Nathan and Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan. As a big fan of Sully that’s a plus in my book.

The gameplay is as fluid as ever although the same gripes from the second game do raise their head. The main one being when certain gameplay parts flow (such as a chase or escape scene) they *really* flow but if you fail the section and have to re-do it a few times it totally breaks the immersion for a bit.

This isn’t indicative of Uncharted specifically, any game that is scripted this tightly (for example the Call Of Duty games – in particular I had this issue with the snow sled escape in MW2. I’m sure it was amazing if you got through it in one go – not so much when having to re-do it) often have this problem but it feels so much more harsh here because the game does such a good job of dragging you in.

The banter between characters is fantastic and it is one of the few games I found myself chuckling along with. You can tell these actors have known each other a long time and worked together to build these character relationships.

The gameplay itself isn’t anything new, a mixture of climbing, shooting and solving puzzles but after the success of ‘Among Thieves’ refining rather than changing was probably the best route Naughty Dog could’ve taken.

The plot is great and throws up a few curveballs but nothing like the backstabbing double-crossing of the last game. ‘Drake’s Deception’ is the story of Nate and Sully and it was great to find out more about their relationship.

I wrote a detailed look at the multiplayer experience during the early access we had (which can be found HERE) and thankfully not too much has changed. Multiplayer really has improved from the last game and the whole experience feels a lot deeper – the medal kickbacks and power plays add a tactical element to proceedings and allow players to quickly escape a sticky situation if they’ve earned the right to.

I’ve seen some reviews of the game picking holes in ‘Drake’s Deception’ and while I admit it doesn’t have the same impact as the last game (how could it?!) Naughty Dog have done a great job on tightening things here and there to deliver a stellar title. We have been spoilt with the last two games in the series, which is why I think some people are a bit down on the game.

For me this is another complete package – the best third person multiplayer on the market coupled with a great story and the best character design you’ll see in a game. While watching the last cut-scene of this campaign I actually had goosebumps – surely the sign of something special.

Rating: 10/10

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Uncharted 3 – Multiplayer Beta Impressions (PS3)

As a big fan of the Uncharted series I’m really excited to play the third instalment, Drake’s Deception, which hits in November later this year.

Although that’s still a little way off, the guys and girls at Naughty Dog have given us a taster in the form of an online multiplayer beta.

While the Uncharted games are renowned for their awesome single player campaigns, when multiplayer was added to the second game it turned out to be a solid, well rounded addition.

So I was there as the clocked ticked over to 10pm and the beta was released. I downloaded it no problem but unfortunately so did the rest of the world and it was nigh on impossible to get on for the first few days, with various connection errors etc.

Thankfully it settled down and I was treated to a tour de force of online action.

There are two maps (with a third having arrived this week that I haven’t had a chance to play yet) Airstrip and Chateau – both visually great and a whole heap of fun to play.

As with the previous game you’ll be climbing all over the place and the maps have various vertical levels for you to use.

Airstrip even starts with one team in a plane and the other chasing on jeeps for the first few minutes. The entire thing is a sight to behold and after a couple of minutes a cut scene signifies you’re onto the Airstrip itself to battle it out.

You can customise your characters in a big way and even design a logo that will appear through the map if you’re the best player.

There are now different loadouts (though changing between them in game costs medals), weapon mods and a new system called Medal Kickbacks. As you collect medals during the game they stack up until you can activate your kickback. So one might spawn an RPG into your hands or another will let you disappear in a puff of smoke and respawn somewhere else on the map :cool:

In addition to those, Boosters return from the second game but seem a lot more effective and rounds now feature Power Plays – basically a shot in the arm to the losing team. So the losing team may be able to see all of the winning team’s locations on screen.

These are great because it can help swing a match back in the losing team’s favour but also because the winning team get a boost as well, such as double cash for each kill during the power play. They last a minute and don’t happen too often to cause any problems.

The game modes are as expected, with some nice additions: ’2v2v2 Team Deathmatch’ does what it says on the tin but adds a new dynamic to proceedings and ‘Objectives’ has now morphed into ‘Warzone’ from the Killzone series. A selection of random game types within one round – great stuff.

Uncharted 3 plays like the previous games and I think refinement as opposed to change have benefited the game greatly.

Sure it still takes a lot of bullets to down an opponent but it takes him the same amount to kill you so all’s fair, right? The main thing I took from this beta is that it was fun, first and foremost. It’s certainly not realistic but it makes a change to the more po faced online shooters we’re used to (which I also love but that’s beside the point).

Uncharted 3 is shaping up to be a great multiplayer experience and with what we’ve seen of the single player also looking stunning, could Naughty Dog bag another heap of Game of The Year Awards? I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Review (PS3)

Uncharted 2 Main

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was an immense game and to this day remains one of the best single player games around.

The follow up, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, has been hyped up all over the place – one European magazine going so far as to give it a, frankly impossible, 21/20. :lol:

Having enjoyed the first game I desperately tried not to buy too much into the hype for the sequel so I wasn’t disappointed.

There was no need to worry.

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Uncharted 2 is a complete gaming package. There is plenty of taking out bad guys, lots of puzzles and some wonderful dialogue.

Naughty Dog really have done a great job on the voice acting and the expressiveness of the character models. It is easily the best I’ve come across (though Heavenly Sword was a close second).

I won’t spoil the story but for those who don’t know, Nathan Drake gets pulled back into that murky world of treasure hunting for hire. I loved the story of this game – with a few twists I saw coming and a few I didn’t.

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The gameplay opens in epic fashion, with Drake desperately trying to escape a train that has derailed and is hanging over a cliff edge, and continues in that vein for the rest of the game.

The puzzle sections are nicely done, with you using Drake’s journal to solve them. They aren’t too hard which is good with me. :lol:

Uncharted 2 gives you a lot more options of how to do things than it’s predecessor. If you can get away with it you can stealth some sections of the game – not bypassing enemies but by taking them down silently along the way.

Graphically the game is superb and the audio is also top notch. With a varied set of exotic locations Uncharted 2 keeps things fresh and some of the views on high climbs are particularily impressive.

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I played the game on Normal and it was nicely challenging (clocking in at just under 11 hours) but the range varies from Very Easy all the way through to Crushing (Very Hard) so there should be something for everyone.

Indeed, even if you’re not a big gamer, stick it on Very Easy and give it a go – it’s a game everyone should play.

The multiplayer aspect, which I was worried would be just tagged on the end after the single player, is a well thought out and very enjoyable experience. See here for my more detailed look at the beta.

Being able to traverse the terrain on so many levels vertically in multiplayer really adds some depth and with some interesting Boosts (Skills) to aquire this looks like one I’ll be playing online for a while. :cool:

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Overall I think the guys at Invisible Walls made a great point on the game – Uncharted 2 doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or new but it improves on the original by borrowing the best bits from other games, adding them into the mix and bringing in it’s own amazing characters and great story.

If you own a PS3 there is no reason not to own this game – if you only have an XBox 360 or Wii then get yourself a PS3 Slim and enjoy one of the most finely crafted games I’ve ever experienced.

Rating: 10/10

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