Hey guys, welcome to the Machinima.com Annual Something Something Gaming Awards 2011. We stomped all over E3 this year and have the foot blisters and waning hangovers to prove it. It’s not the best physical state to be in when it comes to arguing about games, but we did it nonetheless. Here’s our awards for this year, and excuse us while we quietly celebrate ourselves for not stabbing each other at all this year.
After each award, we’ll provide a brief glimpse into why we gave the chose the particular game.
Best Online Multiplayer: Gears of War 3
(Developer: Epic Games / Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios)
Reinventing and reinvigorating the deeply competitive online multiplayer gaming space makes this a hugely challenging category. For an established franchise the task appears even harder, but the developers at Epic appear to have hit on a great enhancement to Horde mode with the addition of hardware and defenses that you can buy. In practice it works very well, with money earned for kills and achieving objectives then reinvested in the maps to purchase barriers, turrets, and even a mech.
If you thought for this third go-around Epic would need to bring out the big guns of ideas an innovation, you’d be right, and in this revamped mode the team appears to have nailed a terrific addition to the multiplayer component.
Best Downloadable Game: Journey
(Developer: thatgamecompany / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America)
Describing the appeal of Journey isn’t an easy task but if you’ve played either of thatgamecompany’s previous titles (flOw or Flower) then you might have a pretty good understanding of where we are coming from. Journey is a game that emphasizes the importance of your experience playing it rather than any one particular mechanic or goal. There’s no mini-map or quest log. It’s just you, the desert, and, in some cases, a random co-op partner. From what we’ve seen, Journey will end up being one of the most unique and heartfelt games to come out when it releases later this year.
Best Handheld Game: Uncharted: Golden Abyss
(Developer: Bend Studio / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America)
When launching a console it’s important to not just have a slick, new feature set but also an impressive catalog of software that properly shows off your slick, new feature set. The “killer apps,” if you will. Uncharted: Golden Abyss is the PlayStation Vita’s killer app. If what we played is any indication, Uncharted: Golden Abyss will end up being about as close to delivering a console-quality experience on a handheld as we’ve ever seen.
Best Strategy Game: From Dust
(Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier / Publisher: Ubisoft)
We had been looking forward to From Dust for a long while, but even still, playing the game was a pleasant surprise. It mixes simulation and strategy in a way that recalls games from the early 2000s, but also infuses the experience with physics and terrain alteration to form an interesting, charming downloadable title. We sat in a room with a group of other games press, cheering on the tribal runner who was racing to bring the secret of music back to his village while a titanic wall of water threatened to engulf the map. As the timer expired and doom seemed certain, the little tribesman made it to his destination and saved his people, a protective bubble of safety warding off the tsunami as it spilled over the landscape. The room erupted in raucous applause. This experience promises to make Eric Chahi’s first game in years a very enjoyable and quirky experience, and why it was the best strategy game at E3.
Best Sports Game: NBA 2K12
(Developer: Visual Concepts / Publisher: 2K Sports)
Maybe it’s a little unfair. 2K Sports’ NBA game has been a leader for a few years now, enough to cause the mighty EA Sports to take a couple years off to reflect rather than compete with a dominant franchise. And it appears that 2K is not taking its foot off the gas this year. The refined gameplay adds even more realism to the experience that’s been so effective in the past few years. As a result, NBA 2K12 is poised once more not only to represent the best in sports gaming, but stand as a respected force across all of gaming.
Best Fighting Game: Street Fighter x Tekken
(Developer: Capcom / Publisher: Capcom)
The fighting game genre at E3 this year turned out to be pretty competitive. Capcom had two games nominated (SF x Tekken and Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition), but ultimately we chose SF x Tekken as the winner. While it still uses the same visual style as Street Fighter IV, the graphics have been turned up several notches; it’s sharp, colorful, and very distinct. The inclusion of the Tekken roster actually changes the gameplay quite dramatically: we noticed the game was faster and more responsive that SF IV, and included the ability to perform partner tag combos for big damage and wake-up rolls to escape danger. It was a little odd to see King suplex Ryu, but it was also damn fun. It may not be the crossover event that everyone wanted, but the game is going to surprise a lot of people with its beauty and fun factor.
Best Racing Game: Driver: San Francisco
(Developer: Ubisoft Reflections / Publisher: Ubisoft)
Driver: San Francisco was one of my biggest surprises of E3. Initially, I didn’t expect too much, but once I got my hands on the controller and played around in Ubisoft’s virtual recreation of San Francisco, I was very impressed. The game looks amazing, sure, but where it really shines is in the gameplay department. Driver SF will change the way people think about racing and driving games. You can Shift at any point, which basically means you leave the car you’re controlling, fly around the city, and enter any other car in the game world. This provides for some truly unique multiplayer modes, like a game of tag where any NPC vehicle can suddenly become your enemy. I also played a mission where I had to get two cars across the finish line of a race in first and second place; this was accomplished by Shifting between both of them on the fly and making sure they stayed at the front of the pack. Driver: San Francisco is a truly original experience, and one that will challenge the preconceived notions of the genre.
Best Role Playing Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
(Developer: Bethesda Game Studios / Publisher: Bethesda Softworks)
Deep into this console cycle it appears that The Elder Scrolls team is as comfortable as any developer with the tools and capabilities of the systems. The early showing of Skyrim is perfect evidence, with its expansive vistas, detailed character interactions, and, YES!, dragons. On the back of high expectations based on a track record that has produced critically and commercially successful RPGs in this series for so many years, it’s hardly a surprise that Skyrim stands out. But it’s showing is worthy of the anticipation, and a taster of what’s to come as Tamriel opens for yet more adventure.
Best Action / Adventure Game: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
(Developer: Naughty Dog / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America)
The Action/Adventure category probably encompasses more games than any other category on the show floor at E3, thus making it incredibly competitive. But when it came down to it, Uncharted 3 was hands down the best of the bunch. Beyond setting a new bar for technical achievements on a home console, the Uncharted series has established a reputation for delivering powerful, character-driven narratives led by everybody’s favorite suave anti-hero, Nathan Drake. Couple this with what is looking to be an insanely fun multiplayer experience and it’s easy to see how Uncharted 3 made an impressive splash at this year’s show.
Best Shooter: Battlefield 3
(Developer: DICE / Publisher: EA)
In the wake of Call of Duty’s unprecedented amount of financial success, the modern military first-person genre has exploded with copycats and wannabes hoping to steal even just a small percentage of the fan base of the world’s largest entertainment property. Many have tried and many have failed. But if there’s one game that will give Modern Warfare 3 a run for its money this Fall, it’s Battlefield 3. With some of the best looking graphics we’ve seen, well, ever, tight shooting controls, and what’s shaping up to be an action-packed single player campaign, it’s not tough to see why we came out of E3 excited to play the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise this October. Oh, and, the multiplayer is pretty fun too.
Best Hardware: Wii U
Between the Wii U and the PlayStation Vita, this year’s Best Hardware of E3 category was pretty competitive. Honestly, it could have gone either way but ultimately the decision came down to the potential of each device. Yes, the PS Vita has some rather impressive technology backing it up (as our best handheld game of the show, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, proves) but, pretty graphics aside, there’s not a whole lot that’s new about the system. It’s PSP 2.0. On the other hand, the Wii U’s controller opens up some rather interesting game design possibilities that haven’t really been explored before. It’ll just take someone smarter than us to figure out exactly what to do with it.
Best PC Game: Star Wars: The Old Republic
(Developer: BioWare Austin / Publisher: EA)
Star Wars: The Old Republic is like the perfect storm for nerds. Of course it’s got IP of Star Wars combined with the story telling prowess of BioWare but it’s also got the fundamental RPG mechanics that have made the MMO genre thrive. It’s not exactly common to see a game at E3 three years in a row but it has to mean something when that game manages to impress each and every time, right? Now if only we could get that release date.
Best Original Game: Bastion
(Developer: SuperGiant Games / Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)
It’s easy to become disenchanted with shows like E3 when it seems as though every game on the show floor has a “2” or “3” on the end of it. But, occasionally, a breath of fresh air comes along to remind you of how great these shows are for discovering hidden gems. And while we hardly consider Bastion to be “hidden” at this point, it is most definitely a gem. The slightly Japanese/Wild West etherial art style looks great but perhaps the most interesting element of Bastion is unique manner in which it delivers story to the player through an omniscient narrator. Bastion wins our best original game of E3 2o11 because, well, it’s exactly that. Original.
Best of Show: Bioshock Infinite
(Developer: Irrational Games/Publisher: 2K Games)
To stand out as a Game of Show at this point of the console cycle takes something very, very special. So many developers are now so intimately familiar with the current platforms that it takes much more than graphics wizardry and online integration to force the giddy gamer gene out of us. So when the Bioshock Infinite demo causes long, long-time, hugely respected games journalists to tear up, it’s clearly having an impact.
Your character, Booker, alongside the doe-eyed Elizabeth, make for a fresh combination whose relationship will clearly anchor the Bioshock Infinite experience. Amid the distinct and stylized air world of Columbia Elizabeth’s abilities to manipulate tears in space and time will meld with your combat strengths in an experience that already has everyone who has seen the demo chomping at the bit for more.
Exhilarating, stylish, and profound, Bioshock Infinite set itself as the must-see game of every observer who relishes the concept of games as art.