GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2012

GOTYMain

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

GOTYInnovation

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)

GOTYDLCCon

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 🙂

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

GOTYMostAnt

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

GOTYVita

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

GOTYStory

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)

GOTYScore

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)

GOTYLicensed

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

SleepingDogs 3

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

GOTYMulti

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

GOTYGame

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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GregHorrorShow: The Films Of 2012

Losers

I think 2012 has been one of my more prolific film watching years in recent times – granted 99% of these were on DVD but I still got to see some great stuff. Here’s what I’d recommend seeing:

  • Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
  • District 9
  • Star Trek
  • Thor
  • The Road
  • The Losers
  • Moon
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • The Avengers
  • 13 Assassins
  • The Town
  • Total Recall (1987)
  • The Artist
  • Drive
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Let me start with my favourite film of 2012, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone who read the review, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (or just The Avengers as I like to call it 😆 ). I’m not a comic book guy although I had seen the films based around these characters (Thor also made the list – really enjoyed that) but I am a big Joss Whedon fan and I was glad to see him deliver in such style. I can’t wait to check this out again soon.

AvengersFOTY

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was a film I wished I’d seen in the cinema but just never got around to it. Very quirky and definitely one for the geeks 😆

I thought District 9 raised some really good points about segregation and class issues, while also being a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi flick. I’ve never been a Star Trek fan but I liked the ‘reboot’ and the highlight for me was Karl Urban as ‘Bones’ – great casting and a spot on performance.

I was prepared for The Road as I had read the book and it was as depressing and bleak as I expected. Wonderful acting from Viggo Mortensen – he’s become one of those actors I trust, I’ll always give the film a chance if he’s involved, a talented actor.

Moon

A big surprise for me was The Losers which was one my favourite films of the last few years – it’s how I imagine a Battlefield: Bad Company film would be. Funny with larger than life characters and some huge explosions. Very cool.

Another actor I’ve grown to trust is Sam Rockwell, who I rate as one of the best in his generation. Moon cements this and Rockwell is outstanding. This is a great film that is both sad and moving. Really recommended. Rockwell was also in Seven Psychopaths, alongside Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Colin Farrell. I thought that was a great film as well. Very funny in places with some memorable performances.

13 Assassins was a crazy movie that took bloodshed to a new level. With some great swordplay and interesting characters this was one foreign language film that really delivered. Ben Affleck seems to be getting better and better behind the camera. The Town was a well crafted and nicely shot heist flick that was full of great acting. I liked the sense of tension and sinister undercurrent that ran throughout.

As a blast from the past I watched Total Recall (1987), which I’d previously only seen on VHS (yep that long). I barely remembered any of it to be honest so it was fun to check it out and discuss the various theories on the film with LeftyFlip.

Drive

I finally got round to seeing The Artist, which I thought was good – maybe not quite as great as everyone said but definitely worth watching. Another big film of last year that I caught up with was Drive, which I thought was fantastic. I think the ‘more-style-than-substance’ arguments I’d seen are valid but it’s still a cool, if violent, crime flick.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol lived up to it’s blockbuster billing and I really enjoyed the chemistry between the characters – I hope they bring them back together for another one.

So there you go, those are the films I watched this year that I think you should check out. Any I missed? I do have a backlog (including True Grit, which I *really* must watch soon) but any suggestions are most welcome.

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GregHorrorShow: The Books Of 2012

LemonCake

So the awards season kicks into gear for 2012 and first up it’s books.

I’ve read some really great books this year. I admit my reading time did take a bit of a battering when my Vita arrived in February… for about a month I didn’t read on the commute to and from work, as I was too engrossed in my new shiny handheld toy 🙂

So as usual in no particular order, here are the books I’ve read in 2012 that I’d recommend checking out:

  • ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’ – Edmund De Waal
  • ‘Beyond The Shadows’ – Brent Weeks
  • ‘I Am Ozzy’ – Ozzy Osbourne
  • ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest’ – Stieg Larsson
  • ‘Battle Royale’ – Koushun Takami
  • ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters’ – Ben H Winters
  • ‘Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect’ – James Swallow
  • ‘The Odyssey’ – Homer
  • ‘Neuromancer’ – William Gibson
  • ‘Ready Player One’ – Ernest Cline
  • ‘Listen To This’ – Alex Ross
  • ‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake’ – Aimee Bender

BeyondShadows

I kicked off 2012 with ‘The Hare With Amber Eyes’, Edmund De Waal‘s interesting look at the history of a collection of Netsuke that has been in his family for hundreds of years. While I did feel the book dragged a little in the middle I thought overall it was an entertaining read.

I rounded out the Night Angel trilogy with Brent Weeks‘ ‘Beyond The Shadows‘ which was thoroughly excellent and while on the subject of closing trilogies I also wrapped up the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson with ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest‘. Dark and gritty doesn’t really cover it but it truly is one of the best set of books I’ve ever read. Seriously, if you haven’t read them check them out!

I Am Ozzy‘ is Ozzy Osbourne’s hazy attempt to piece together what has happened in his life 😆 and was interesting from various viewpoints. Of course the band history and music side were entertaining but it also gives you a good insight into how much the music scene changed people’s lives in the UK in the 60’s.

BattleRoyale

Koushun Takami‘s ‘Battle Royale‘ took up a big chunk of my time, it’s a long book but well worth the effort. I haven’t seen the film so I went in cold and absolutely loved it. An intricate and clever story with plenty of mistrust and betrayal, it’s the tale of a class of school mates essentially dumped on a secluded island and told to fight to the death.

After enjoying ‘Pride And Prejudice And Zombies‘ a while back, I was intrigued to check out ‘Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters‘ by Ben H Winter and (of course) Jane Austen. Unfortunately it didn’t quite hit the heights of the zombie romp but it was enjoyable and gave me a (somewhat distorted) idea of the plot of the ‘real’ Sense And Sensibility. I actually saw Deus Ex: The Icarus Effect in a second hand book shop for the princely sum of £2.00. I couldn’t resist at that price and I’m glad I picked it up. Expanding the universe of the game from last year it really showcases the strong point of the fiction, with lots of augmentations and cyborg parts.

I always like to try and read one ‘classic’ a year and I was most impressed with ‘The Odyssey‘, Homer‘s tale of Odysseus’ journey to try and get back to his family. Of course reading something this old does take a bit of patience but I would say it is definitely worth reading. You can see bits of lots of other stories that have ‘borrowed’ from this classic work over the years. Another older novel I read was ‘Neuromancer‘ by William Gibson, which is set in a cyberpunk universe and tells the story of a ‘crippled’ hacker who ends up fighting for his life to turn the tables on the corporation that has set him up.

ReadyPlayerOne

As a big gamer ‘Ready Player One‘ by Ernest Cline was right up my alley. The quote on the front of the book sums it up best ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’. A challenge is set for gamers everywhere – the person that solves the puzzles will inherit a global powerhouse of a computer company – with all the cash benefits that would bring. Well written and really engaging, if you’re into games (especially retro games) then check it out. Alex Ross walks you through some of the different figures in music through the ages in ‘Listen To This‘. From Mozart to Radiohead, there is good reason to delve into this and find out some more about music and it’s makers.

But my favourite book this year has to be ‘The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake‘ by Aimee Bender. This beautifully written story is about a girl who suddenly discovers that her food no longer tastes of food – she can instead taste the feelings of the person who made it. Tragic and heart-breaking in places, warm and funny in others, this was a book I read in one day. I literally couldn’t put it down. So good and very much recommended.

So there you go – what have you guys been reading? Anything you’d recommend checking out?