Unreality’s 2010 Video Game Awards

So I recently flew to LA for Spike TV’s Video Game Awards, but I felt they didn’t adequately capture my feelings about the industry this year. Now I’m no Neil Patrick Harris, but I feel like I can  present my own thoughts in an orderly fashion, so here goes Unreality’s inaugural Video Game Awards ceremony, with special co-host, Felicia Day. What do you mean her flight got cancelled? Goddamn snow!

Anyway, I’m not really all about your typical mainstream “categories” like you’d normally see in a show like this, so I kind of just made my own. And it’s also limited to the games I played this year, so apologies if I left out Force Unleashed  2 and didn’t hand it the “The Worst $60 I Spent All Year Award” or whatever it might have taken home.

Check out the actual awards below, and feel free to chime in with your own thoughts and nominations.

The Wow It Actually Lived Up to Expectations Award

Starcraft 2

When you’ve been waiting for a sequel to one of your favorite games for twelve years, it’s probably a safe bet to assume you’re going to expect a lot out of it. After dicking around with that bullshit known as “Warcraft” for years, I hoped Blizzard was going to devote proper time and effort to making sure Starcraft 2 was the best damn game it could be.

And guess what? It is, it really is, and if I was doing a game of the year, this would be it. there is perhaps no better balanced RTS in history, and though it can be frustratingly difficult at times, as you’ll always hit a wall of players better than you, it is fascinating to both watch and play. With two expansions on the horizon, it’s clear Blizzard is going to be supporting this title for the long haul, as with 12 years in between games, you really do need to have the maximum amount of replay value available.

The Learning From Past Mistakes Award

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Sure, it may look a little worse, and the campaign may be a little more dull, but not since Assassin’s Creed II have a I see a game address so many fan complaints all at once. Though Modern Warfare 2 was a different studio, Treyarch stepped up and fixed nearly every facet of multiplayer that was broken from that game, and believe me, there were plenty.

Noob tubing? Gone, with the removal of Danger Close and One Man Army, not to mention a Scavenger Nerf. Knife runners? No more, as Commando has been banished to the hell from whence it came. Double shotgun whoring? Far harder to do as it’s now main instead of secondary class. The list goes on and on, and what it lacks in graphics and maps, it more than makes up for in gameplay improvements.

The Thank God the Industry Has New Ideas Sometimes Award

Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead is both the most fun I’ve had playing a game this year, and the most engrossed I’ve been in a game’s story, which is a quite a great combo indeed. Open world games aren’t very revolutionary anymore, but this was the first title to bring the genre to a unique place, the wild west, allowing all of us to live out our childhood fantasies as a gunslinging cowboy.

And the story? I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a better scripted and voice acted game (well, Mass Effect maybe), but the ending is perhaps one of the greatest in video game history, as the developers really try to tell a gripping story rather than just hurriedly wrap up the plot with a big boss soliloquy and battle like most games. A truly incredible game all around.

The Biggest Step Backward Award

Halo Reach

It’s tough to see a franchise like this go out on a low note, but fanboys be damned, that’s exactly what Reach did. It’s not a bad game per se, and I did particularly like the campaign, though having the best story in a Halo game is like being the tallest grunt facing off against a fleet of Scorpion tanks.

But rather the tweaks to the gameplay proved to be huge steps backwards for the series in multiplayer, with small adjustments like a rifle butt not killing a person even if they only have a fraction of their shield left completely throwing off the flow of the game, and new loadout abilities like Armor Lock often transforming the once fun shooter into an exercise in frustration with severe balance issues. It just didn’t feel like a step forward in any direction.

The Best Game I Didn’t Get to Play Award

God of War III

Sadly, I still refuse to drop money for a PS3, as I can’t justify the purchase to play only two franchises I really want to. One of them is the Uncharted series, the other is God of War.

Usually, I’ll be able to play such titles at my one friend’s house, but sadly each time I got there his copy was loaned out, and we ended up playing Black Ops instead. But from what I hear, the game is pretty incredible, even if the once stellar plot has gotten a bit off the rails at this point.

The Best DLC Masquerading as a Game Award

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Alright, so I’m about eight hours into this game right now, as I recently got it for Christmas. It’s a lot of fun, because Assassin’s Creed 2 was a lot of fun, and really, it’s more or less exactly the same game. There are little tweaks, just so they can say it is in fact different, but they’re so minor, you barely even notice them, and it’s clear that this was just an easy way to sell more games by making their old title 70% longer.

The other contender for this title was Fallout: New Vegas, which employed the exact same tactic, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I really wish that instead of making titles like this (and DLC in general), studios would just focus on getting the next game in the series out faster, and make TRUE and SIGNIFICANT positive changes to it instead of just trying to cash in on the character and environment models they already have lying around.

The True Neutral Award

Mass Effect 2

The original Mass Effect is one of my favorite games of all time, and I was unreasonably excited for the sequel. I really did enjoy the game, though my enthusiasm wasn’t without a few asterisks. Yes, combat and squad AI is better, as is the inventory system, thought technically it’s disappeared. Yes, you still can have engrossing conversations with everyone from your first mate to the potted plant in your office, and you do feel a real human connection.

But the overall plot of the game just seemed off to me. The entire game was spent assembling a team to head off to fight the Collectors and Reapers, and once you did, that was it. Time to go. And once you got there? Half your crew could be killed if you didn’t spend a few bucks upgrading your ship, and the other half could die randomly depending on the slots you selected for various tasks throughout the level. Very few moral choices actually come up, and who lives and dies seems dependent more on luck than conscious choices you’re making.

The Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here Award

Fable 3

My disdain for Fable 3 is well documented in this epic 3,000 word post that now shows up on the first page of Google when you search for the game, but I’ll try to resummarize here. I love Fable 2, as I thought it made giant steps forward from its predecessor. Yes, there were still issues to be addressed, but if 2 could learn from 1, 3 would learn from 2, right? WRONG. Fable 3 regresses in almost every way from taking away spells, to removing weapon augments, to breaking its promise about the game “just beginning” once you become king, and throwing you into the breech when the year long countdown timer to the apocalypse starts skipping months like they’re seconds.

That’s not to mention my newly retarded dog, the broken breadcrumb trailer, the game breaking glitches and freezes, the mute butler voiced by John Cleese, the even further dumbed down job system and character interaction, and my wife who gave me both an STD and a black child. This is just off the top of my head, but needless to say I have to wonder if anyone even played this thing before it was released, or if everyone was too scared to tell Peter Molyneaux his latest title needed another year’s worth of work.

Alright, that’s all she wrote for this year, see you next year with Mass Effect 3 and Elder Scrolls V headlining things!

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  1. I haven’t played Mass Effect 3 but I’ve heard you complain about how characters can die randomly, apparently from bad luck. While you see this as a bad thing because it’s not based on moral choices you made, I think it’s one of the best ways to get some realism into the story. How silly is it when 10 enemies are shooting at a movie hero and nobody can hit him but he gets 10 kills in 10 shots? People aren’t invicible just because they’re important. This was one of the things Fallout: New Vegas did best. Literally every single person in the game can die, no matter their impact on the story. People die randomly from bad luck every day. Why must you be the center of the universe who decides the fate of all characters? Personally, I think they did it right.

  2. i played both mass effects on pc, and though i agree that 2 is a little thin on story, i still think it’s at least on par if not better than the first. the way it’s set up, you get the most out of it if you take the time to recruit every potential party member and play every one of their “loyalty missions.” sure, none of them did much to advance the main plot, but the missions were varied and engaging, and great ways to explore the imaginatively detailed universe (plus, if you did this and made smart decisions in the final mission, you more than likely kept everyone alive). yup, to me the story of the mass effect series is just an excuse for the player to be a total badass rampaging across the deep and interesting sci-fi world that bioware created.

  3. I agree with both Guy and Gank, as I would agree with Random Leon, but I haven’t gotten around to Mass Effect 2 (yet).

    Although Uncharted 2 is a bit overrated, it’s beautiful to look at and fun to play for the most part. The only thing that was a big drawback was Nathan Drake. I found him to be an annoying and far too cocky character that only survived the events that he did because of his importance to the story (given that he is the main character).
    This main character shield can be allowed if, a) the character is superpowered/superhuman, b) is geniunely badass or at least not annoying, or c) he happens to be Solid Snake.
    Everyone else is just lucky.

    “Why must you be the center of the universe who decides the fate of all characters?”
    I do like that quip. It’s more exhausting having to hold hands of your mentally deficit, digitally incarnated companions than just let them die.
    This is exactly why I enjoy the Fallout series, but NV does push it a little further in terms of NPC’s.

  4. This may sound like heresy coming from someone who absolutely loves the whole God of War series, but, I have a minor quibble with GOWIII.

    It’s quite simply not long enough.

    It’s an incredible ride while it lasts and visually it is excellent, but playing through it I felt it was nowhere near as long as the first or second titles.

    Maybe I’m looking back with rose-coloured glasses but it just didn’t seem like the game was as long as the other two, which is a shame, because while it lasted, I haven’t had as much fun playing a game since, well, God of War II.

  5. @thegreatfatsby
    I played the remastered versions of gow and gow2 right before gow3 and they were each about 12 hours but gow3 only took me about 10 hours. So you’re right it is shorter.

  6. Fable 3 was a disaster. I loved the first Fable. The introduction of guns along side of magic, one button combat, bread crumb trail pretty much ruined the franchise.

    Mass Effect 2 was actually a huge disappointment for me. Bioware stripped away too many RPG element out of the game. It’s basically Gears with poor combat mechanics and an interactive dialog.

    I would recommend Vanquish as a contender for the refreshing game play award of 2010. It’s basically bayonetta meets Gears meets Halo. Yeah, it’s cheesy and unnecessarily over the top, but the game mechanics is solid.

  7. Great list.
    I enjoyed playing Mass Effect 2 but can’t get over the impression that the whole story arc was a setup for the next episode in the series.

  8. Whether or not characters die in ME2 isn’t based on luck at all. Its based on how you handle conflicts, and if you complete the characters’ loyalty missions successfully. Where as luck entails randomization, the fate of ME2’s characters relies on a huge swath of the game’s content (like nearly half in fact). Structurally this is an unusual choice for a game but it actually empowers the player to choose how the campaign plays out quite a bit.
    Also, I don’t see how you were so engrossed in Red Dead’s plot, when 80% of it was robbery and murder missions with a cast of 50+ characters who aren’t well developed. The last few hours of that game are great, but all the good stuff in the ending doesn’t translate to the rest of the game at all. You’re clearly projecting qualities onto that game that it doesn’t have.

  9. Great list, totally agree with all of our comments and had very similar views.

    The two that really got me for the year were the disappointment of Halo Reach and the surprising quality of CODBLOPS. I’m a huge Halo fan, but just couldn’t get sucked in to Reach and gave up on the multiplayer after a matter of hours. On the flipside to this, I have never been a huge COD fan and found MW2 to be poorly balanced and heavily biased against new players. CODBLOPS completely flipped this for me though and has been one of those games that I just can’t stop playing (even now!).

    Love these sort of review / lists so keep ’em coming.

  10. Screw you people. Halo Reach is the bomb. The whole reason why every thing is different in the game is so that you dont rely on old strategies from the previouse halos. The reason why you cant kill some one in one hit on multiplayer when there shields are down is to make the game more chcallanging and so you have to rethink most of the strategies in the game. I mean who wants to see the same old things when the whole idea of reach is to see change. Where else can you assasinate an Elite with a knife to the face and where else can you own a grunt whil he cries to mommy.

  11. I dont get why you refuse to “drop money on a PS3”. If you are in fact games fan.

    How can you possibly go through this generation of video games without playing titles like God of War 3, Uncharted 1+2, Infamous, Killzone 2, Little Big Planet, Wipeout HD, Resistance 1+2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Motorstorm 1+2, GT5, Heavenly Sword, Demon Souls, Flower etc… As far as I can see the two greatest exclusives the 360 had were Mass Effect and Bioshock, both of which are on PS3 now leaving only Fable and Gears of War as any kind of remote pull to that machine.

    I can understand if you have built up a massive gamerscore and you dont want neglect adding to that as I can see how addictive that can become and i’m in no way saying you should scrap the Microsoft boy but from my experience, when you do eventually get a PS3 you 360 will be used for nothing more than listening to CD’s or playing odd, extremely rare exclusive.

    Also, with very little of note to speak of in terms of up and coming titles for the 360 and nothing short an epic 2011 for PS3 owners looming with releases like LBP2, Killzone3, Infamous 2 and of course that saliva inducing Uncharted 3 on the way…it seems the longer you go without having a PS3, the less your opinion on this sort of topic will be of relevance.

  12. Metro 2033
    Civ 5
    Super Meat Boy
    F: NV

    I know that you’re a console player, but half of my list you can get on the box.

    Biggest disappointment for me was Medal of Honor. And I still don’t understand your love affair with Assassin’s Creed II… especially considering the cuntish move Ubisoft pulled on Outerlight just so they could steal the multiplayer from the Ship to use in Assassin’s Creed brotherhood.

  13. Totally agree with you on ME2.

    Well, not totally…. It was my biggest disappointment of 2010.

    I was browsing internet forums the other day and I read something amazing to describe ME2:

    “You play the game thinking some depth is just around the corner, but it never arrives”.

    Thats absolutely true.

    Okay, Bioware had to do something about ME1. As much I loved it, it had its problems. However, ripping the stuff out that they did and just focusing mostly on shooter combat wasnt the answer.

    ME1 may have been flawed, and at times a little messy (clogging up the inventory is not something anyone wants to deal with, and I miss the inventory), but Bioware grossly overreacted.

    I think its A) lazy to take the response they did, basically being “instead of improve, remove” when it comes to RPG in ME2. I also think that B) ME1 gets kudos for the attempt. It might not have been perfect, but it still gave the game DEPTH.

    ME2 is all polished shooter combat, and its a shallower experience for it.

    Add in the fact that the main plot consists of railroading you a few times while your filling your schoolbus (ship) up with misfits, and doesnt progress beyond ME1s ending, and its a recipe for a truly disappointing game for some of us.

    I swear, every time I play that game, I feel boredom settling in, because I cant stop myself from noticing nearly EVERY single environment is a basic A to B, just littered with cover. The (samey and boring) load screens and a godawful mission complete screen only add to the destruction of my sense of immersion.

    Heres a tip Bioware: for ME3, do to ME2s poor elements (sidequest main plot, errand based character development, linear shooting galleries) what you did to ME1s poor elements: strip the living hell out of them until they almost dont exist. Then take the BEST of ME1 and ME2, and build ME3 around them.

    ME1 had a much better sense of scope, a better plot, better characters that fit into the story (instead of being side missions). Levels that felt like real places, not shooting galleries.

    ME2 looked better, was smoother on the shooter side, had more dynamic conversations (though I think all characters tended to talk less as a result).

    Damn this wall of text.

    Basically, do what a lot of people have been calling for: try and mix THE BEST OF BOTH. And believe me, ME1 contributes a lot towards what makes up the “best” of the series so far. More than Bioware seemed to realise when developing ME2 I feel.

  14. Everyone in my crew lived at the end of Mass Effect 2. All my buddies who’ve played it have lost MULTIPLE people. I think I just got lucky, or something.

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