PEOWW Awards 2011: Writer’s Choice.
2011. What a year. I thought it was going to be two thousand and beleven given how gash the previous two years were for gaming but overall it’s been, as Tori Amos would warble, a pretty good year. Instead of the usual vote ’em up awards nonsense, the PEOWW write-oh-staff have assembled (like Voltron) to give you their votes for this year’s awards. But don’t get two comfortable because BLEOWW we’ve got rid of every category apart from DKADEOWW the best and worst games of the year because otherwise it gets to unwieldy to read and because you know that Bobby Kotdeath is always going to be our Cunt of the Year and that Sony will always be our LOL of the Year. So with no further ado, we present the 2011 PEOWW Awards-o-tron!
Game of the Year – Saints Row 3
An open-world gangster game getting my vote was never a likely prospect but Saints Row 3 was a truly special game. Losing the drab anchor of reality that pinned GTAIV to floor, Saints Row 3 is a sugar-frenzied caffeine bomb of a game that combines spectacular action, relentless pacing and genuinely funny humour into a game that arguably has more impact than anything I’ve ever played.
Add to that the excellent co-op play, awesome soundtrack and excellent story and side missions and you’ve got a game that is unashamedly ridiculous but all the more fun for it. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give you is that after Saints Row 3, Skyrim seemed just too pedestrian for me to persist with it.
We’re not doing second places but it’d be Dead Island. Third would be Mindjack. Shut the fuck up, it’s good.
Worst Game of the Year – Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
This was supposed to be awesome. Earth Defense Force 2017 remains one of our favourite games and Vicious Cycle were saying all the right things during the pre-release hype. EDF but with online co-op? Just the thought of it made us cum oil all over our dads.
Unfortunately, Vicious Cycle lived up to their weak softography with a barely finished, botch-job of a game. Everything was smaller than before. The enemies, the levels, the destruction. It was just so underwhelming and when the game abruptly finishes just fifteen levels in, you know that they ran out of time and ideas but decided to release this lemon anyway. They then extended out a mere three hour long game to two hundred hours thanks to a set of unbelievably joyless achievements. Absolute shit. Vicious Cycle, you are all cunts.
Game of the Year – Skyrim
Deus Ex entertained me with its stealth gameplay, Dark Souls made me feel like a true warrior with its unforgiving nature, but my Game of the Year 2011 has to go to Skyrim. I have to admit this came as a surprise to me, I wasn’t even necessarily going to get it at launch until a friend’s excitement for it transferred to me. Oblivion was good, but to me Skyrim is something else.
The world is more beautiful in many ways. I remember first seeing waterfalls, geysers and salmon swimming up stream and I just had to stop and look for a moment. In a linear game it would have meant nothing to me, but in such a massive world these touches just made it all the more believable. I still haven’t finished the main story but I have experienced so many other stories which could easily be considered main stories in their own right, some long, some short. The skill trees allow you to build a character as you want, and there are plenty of levels in the game allowing you to dabble in other skills if you want. The UI can be a bit slow and cumbersome and the 3D map isn’t the easiest thing to navigate but despite these things I cannot put the game down.
I’m over a hundred hours in and it still feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface and I’d be happy to spend another hundred with Skyrim. Then maybe create a magic based character and start all over again.
Worst Game of the Year – The First Templar
L.A. Noire disappointed me immensely thanks to its repetitive missions and Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was just boring as hell but the worst game I have played this year has to be The First Templar.
I’d heard that despite its low budget there was fun to be had with this game and with two player co-op I couldn’t resist. I wish I had. It’s a very basic hack and slash game with low quality graphics and voice work. That doesn’t bother me, especially as it’s co-op. What we also found out to our displeasure though was that the game hadn’t been thought through properly, with game saves only applying to player one (so any cumulative achievements were a no no for player two), broken objectives, repetitive enemies and forced stealth sections which simply do not work.
It wasn’t without its charm. You could buy skills with points you acquired throughout the game which is always nice and, um…well I guess the combat could be fun sometimes. Even in co-op this game was pretty painful to experience, and to help each other my friend and I went through it twice thanks to the funky achievement situation. Just avoid it, it may be boring but at least EDF works on the most basic level.
Game of the Year – Saints Row 3
Whilst recently I’ve been engrossed in Skyrim, it is a slow burner of a game taking a fair amount of time to get going. Saints Row 3 throws you into the deep end with some great set pieces to begin with before slowing the game down ever so slightly. In the GTA games the most fun you could have was when you put in cheat codes to spawn a tank and just went around blowing everything up. In Saints Row 3, that is a side mission. Pure fun from beginning to end and just sticks two fingers up to more poe-faced games in the process.
Worst Game of the Year – Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon
Earth Defence force 2017 is a great game that whilst being very flawed in the technical department, was a lot of fun and had a good variety of enemies. The sequel, Insect Armageddon flips this and is more polished technically, yet lacks a lot of the fun and vision of the prior game. The game is incredibly short and gets very repetitive, which is some feat since the game can be completed in a few hours. Overall it was such a disappointment, because it lacked the vision of the prior game.
Game of the Year – Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Wait what? A PSP game?! Yeah technically this is a re-release of an old Playstation 1 RPG but to my knowledge it never reached our country until this year and boy have we been missing out.
Tactics Ogre is a turn based strategy RPG that allows for a lot of customisation and has an interesting story with multiple paths with wildly different outcomes depending on what choices you make. It a meaty RPG like this that really shows off the strengths of the PSP as a device for playing slower paced role playing games, the type of games I really love hence why this is my personal game of the year.
Worst Game of the Year – Sword of the Stars II
URGH! what a absolute clusterfuck! I am not sure who is at fault here between the developer who could not make its development milestones to the publisher who released that game regardless of it quality just so that they could claw some money back but this has easily been the most disappointing game of the year and will be remembered as one of the worst video game launches for some time to come.
To make things worst I was REALLY looking forward to this game and this game was barely playable on my PC for months due to menu unresponsiveness to the point where I could not even start the game even though the recommended spec stated my PC should be able to play the game with ease. Further more the game lacked (and still lacks some might say) a lot of the core features promised while it was being sold on steam.
You want to know what the worst thing was? There was barely any coverage of this shame of a release. A lot of people could and probably did get suckered in to picking this up because at the time there where much more important games to be covering so nobody took notice of this game’s terrible launch. This game is going in to v1.0 soon, it still won’t be everything that they promised and my faith in Kerbeross and Paradox Entertainment will be tarnished forever despite both releasing great games in the past.
Game of the Year – Arkham City
Work’s been sidetracking me but I might as well wax lyrical about Arkham City for Game of the Year. It was a surprisingly close call between that and Deus Ex but the way Rocksteady have built upon an existing framework has just pipped it. They’ve added to an already impressive combat system by adding more gadgets, counters and moves whilst still maintaining the DC fanboy feel of the original.
The world is brimming with almost too much to do but it speaks to my completionist nature and doesn’t feel too long in the tooth. Its a remarkably accomplished experience that even the Catwoman DLC couldn’t sour.
Worst Game of the Year – Duke Nukem Forever
Duke Nukem Forever took fourteen years and THOUSANDS of individuals to develop and, when it fell to Gearbox, there was some optimism. Having just come off Borderlands I hoped they could add some colour to a potential painting of smeared shit. What we got was an outdated clusterfuck. There seems to be very little of the Gearbox charm to this and it looks as if they’ve just put it out on shelves. You’re better than this. Chinese Democracy is better than this.
Game of the Year – Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Yes I know Skyrim is so good I’d happily elope with it and have it’s little Dovakin babies but I’m all for supporting the underdog so my vote goes to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s not easy to follow a game as good as Deus Ex (Invisible War tried and failed spectacularly) but HR managed it not just in terms of gameplay with it’s potent mix of 3rd person stealth, 1st person shooting and hacking mini game but more importantly with a well written script and unique atmosphere. We’ve all seen upteen number of Blade Runner clone cityscapes filled with gray concrete and garish neon, HR avoids such obvious tropes and mixes amber tinged renaissance aesthetics with 80’s style cyberpunk to make it look at once familiar but original. The writing too takes familiar cyberpunk concepts like the loss of individual humanity and the rise of corporate dominance and refreshes them with such poise and depth that you’ll gladly talk to every character you meet not just to find the scores of excellent side missions but to just hear what they have to say about a world that’s so detailed and well drawn you could happily replay multiple times and still not see every outcome and unexpected twist. Sure Skyrim may be bigger but playing HR is more akin to reading a well written novel from cover to cover as opposed to flicking through an encyclopaedia and being left with a rough idea of what it was about.
Worst Game of the Year – Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon
I managed to lap this in less time than I’ve have extended bowl movements which is appropriate as it’s a steaming pile of shit.
Game of the Year – L.A. Noire
Given my somewhat fleeting dalliance with games this year, I was, for the most part, lucky enough to avoid encountering anything that actively offended me. But with Skyrim currently proving itself to be a disappointingly buggy hash-job of a game – but by no means worthy of lemon candidacy – selecting my game of the year has proven to be more troublesome than I’d initially anticipated.
It’s with some surprise therefore that I’ve ended up singling out L.A. Noire, Team Bondi’s undeniably flawed but entirely playable noire ‘em up released back in May. While it appeared to receive little more than a collective shrug from a large proportion of gamers, no doubt deterred by its emphasis on slow paced, well-executed storytelling rather than punchy thrills, it’s a game that admirably substituted pace for tension, often building up to some wonderfully outlandish action set pieces, which more than justified the drawn out build up.
It was the game’s ghoulishly nasty crime sequences, however, along with the outstanding use of facial mapping technology and a genuine sense of intrigue that created the big draw, combining together to form a truly immersive experience, much more nuanced, mature and wilfully intelligent than anything that has preceded it. The naysayers will argue that it’s little more than a glorified cut scene, but this was perhaps the first time that video games and cinema had legitimately collided in something other than a Uwe Boll car crash sort of way, and that was a genuinely impressive sight to behold.
Game of the Year – Dark Souls
Despite the odd decision to use peer-to-peer rather than dedicated servers (like in Demon’s Souls) which results in the whole experience being less stable and endless “SUMMONING FAILED” messages, Dark Souls has one of the most engrossing and unique multiplayers you’ll ever play. It has one of the best melee combat system since…well, Demon’s Souls. One wrong move and you’re sent all the way to the last activated checkpoint minus all the souls you’ve collected so far, die again after that and you’ve lost the souls forever. The never-ending threat of possible invasions from other players coupled with the gloomy art style and clever use of ambient sound brings a constant sense of dread and an almost unparalleled, tense atmosphere that few other games rival.
Worst Game of the Year – Uncharted 3
As pretty as the game looks, the gameplay is still damn near identical to the first game in the series and it wasn’t exactly stellar to begin with. Same endless set-pieces of caves/buildings/vehicles falling apart around Nathan Drake as he attempts to shamble his way out. Same identikit bullet-sponge enemies who flinch at a point blank shotgun blast to the face. Same horrendous Gears of War-lite combat that they’ve somehow managed to make even worse than the previous game due to completely messing up the aiming controls (so much so that they actually invited fans of the series to their studios to help fix said awful aiming). The series needs to be put to bed for a good few years before reinventing itself.
Game of the Year – Driver: San Francisco
Ashamedly only purchased when the price fell to acceptably low levels, Driver: San Francisco has to be a major sleeper hit. Take a massive freeroam driving only environment with missions, races, challenges and the inexplicable ability to possess any vehicles you see – much like Burnout Paradise, sans the vehicular possession.
Just dicking about, going for a ride, doing some stunts, ‘leaping’ into cops chasing some robbers and best of all listening to the brilliant (and very funny) dialogue Tanner must listen to from his passengers while trying to run the bad guys down all gels together to make a very enjoyable experience.
It’s like being in your own buddy cop movie, but not half as shit as it sounds.
Worst Game of the Year – Nintendo 3DS
Adopting a new console on day one is always a risk but when a company themselves effectively leave its success in the hands of third party devs they really are accessing for a failure of epic proportions.
There are some good games out for the 3DS, don’t get me wrong but in the budding early years of any machine, to receive such lacklustre support from the creator is pretty inexcusable.
A further slap in the face from the sizable price drop didn’t make things any easier. Nintendo tried to compensate the early adopters with 10 free NES and 10 free GBA games but this just isn’t the same as cash in your pocket.
I am hopeful for 2012 and even a few gems at the end of the year in the form of Mario Kart and World still gives me hope, don’t screw it up again Nintendo, we need real games.
Game of the Year – Portal 2
For me the game of the year was Portal 2. It arrived in February after the usual Yuletide nonsense release schedule but I grabbed it a couple of months after the hype had died down and discovered what all the fuss had been about. It took the core of the first game and massively expanded it, both conceptually and narratively. It’s still a physics puzzler and you still feel like you’re getting a mental workout when you come up with the solution to solve each individual test chamber. No such ‘cake is a lie’ nonsense this time, more what purports to be an escape from Aperture Science.
The cast expanded beyond the first game’s Glados with the jovial Cave Johnson (voiced by J.K. Simmons) and Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) being the two significant additions. The story, such as it was, could pass you by if you concentrated just on the puzzles in the game. But if you scratched the surface you could unearth a sprawling backstory complementing the Half-Life universe. The gameplay supplemented the simple place two portals concept of the first game by introducing three ‘gels’ that changed the physical properties of a surface. To wit: repulsion gel makes surfaces bouncy, propulsion gel that accelerates your progress and finally conversion gel that makes surfaces previously unreceptive to portals become so. These three extra variables open up a whole new aspect to the already great spatial awareness puzzles the game has.
Valve surpassed themselves by including a whole separate co-op campaign for those that like the social aspect of gaming. This proved to be a stroke of genius as it was some of the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time. Some of the test chambers look impossible to begin with, the iterative deduction required being some of the most rewarding moments I’ve ever experienced gaming. Now that it’s cheaply available you really have no excuse not to play this game, especially since there’s free co-op DLC available too.
Game of the Year – Skyrim
While games like Deus Ex, Iron Brigade and Saints Row 3 deserve honourable mentions it was only ever going to be Skyrim for my game of the year. Just a fantastic game that ticks all the boxes and has a massive game world to explore.
Worst Game of the Year – Various
I played too many lemons this year to peg just one. Duke Nukem, Dungeon Siege 3, Child of Eden, Bodycount and Call of Juarez:The Cartel all shit. oh and homefront also terrible. This year was really front loaded with tonnes of garbage.