Saturday, December 10, 2011

What Our Game of the Year Was and Why We Felt It Deserved 'Game of the Year!' (3DS, ANDROID, iOS, PC, PS3, VITA, WII, XBOX

By Neal "NeoMahi" Evans

"There are many that may come close to the crown and the glory thereof but, to come close is just never good enough. To be crowned King, to win the Gold Medal, you can never come close; because to come close is to hit the line or straddle that line and when you straddle that line, there's always that chance you can still falter. No, coming close is never good enough, you always need to be spot on. Those that are spot on, are ALWAYS the champions that never say 'DIE.' "

So its that time of the year and the XZONE has been really excited to go through the process of selecting our FIRST EVER 'Game of the Year.' But, before we go into all of that, its extremely important to us that we first thank all those who helped us along in the process. If it were solely up to me one, things would have gone a different direction and there's no possible way I could ever really get through and finely detail every game out there. I don't think any mortal man ever could have. So, its important to thank all of them as well as those who support us everyday including those who support our work. Its an honor to be part of the gaming community.

I can recall so many years ago how I would watch the Video Game Awards through various sites on the internet and recently on television but, its something else to actually be part of the process and its a lot of work. My only regret really, is the talent needed to properly convey your thoughts with limited technology at our disposal. Never-the-less, I look at it all at the end of the day and I'm happy with the decisions that we came too. Granted, the final outcome likely didn't please as many as would have liked to have seen things go a different way but, if it were left up to the fan base every year, 'Call of Duty' would always win. However, we don't want the fanbase to feel left out and when it really comes down to it and the fanbase, well then, it most certainly was your pick of the year:

2011 XZONE Gamers Choice of The Year!

So, the purpose of this post is basically to explain our choices and why we had chosen them. Now, we're not going to cover them all but, a select few but, without further delay, here we go:


We know without question that Mark Hamill plays an excellent Joker in Batman Arkham City as well as Ellen Mclain and Rosylind Ayres; and Nolan North. But, while the vocal's take a beating inside that ADR booth, what Naughty Dog had chosen to gather the best performance possible did in fact require a very physically demanding performance as well. The physical demand for Uncharted even with Richard McGonagle (Victor "Sully" Sullivan BEST ACTOR PERFORMANCE AWARD) really requires you to get in and get going. When pitted up against Nolan North, its definitely arguable but, which I would have taken, but taken into account all of those little subtleties of Richards, it all made sense. Everything that gut laugh to now "just wait a Goshdang minute just all makes sense." With Emily Rose (Elena Fisher BEST ACTRESS PERFORMANCE AWARD) its a lot of physical demand and even those who covered the last half of the game as Claudia Black as Chloe Frazer covered the first part, there was that relationship that could clearly be felt. On top of that, each member of the cast for Uncharted didn't cover the ADR recording and then split onto their next gig rather, Naughty Dog spoke countlessly of their involvement in the process and how much a part of the game development they were. Which is why we awarded Emily Rose and Richard McGonagle as your BEST ACTOR AND ACTRESS PERFORMANCE.


When it came down to BEST GRAPHICS, it was actually really tough. While Battlefield 3 looked great, we found ourselves shuffling the most between Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and Rage. But, when it really came down to it, its what I initially looked at as just having the prettiest picture and I really wanted to pull in Gears of War 3 as well but, when it all came down to it, while Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was visually stunning with an excellent color pallet, Rage did too but what really separated the too was Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception's lighting and physics. We knew that Richard Lemarchand of Naughty Dog always seemed to compliment the lighting and Naughty Dog was quick to emphasize it at E3, Uncharted 3 clearly has superior lighting while looking at the physics perspective shows how much Naughty Dog worked at all the finer details. We'd seen things crumble and collapse in Battlefield 3, which was impressive, but taking an entire ship and flipping it on its side with the technology Naughty Dog used with its wave system allowing everything to flow on its own with its own personality, its clear that the best idea's that come out of Naughty Dog is during their two or three months in between game development. Uncharted 3's texture detail as well as attention to detail coupled with its physics (which they used the Havoc Engine that shocked us), and its lighting earned Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception our BEST GRAPHICS AWARD and shows that the Naughty Dog Engine continues to the raise the bar.


When we'd chosen our pick for this category, we'd chosen our pick not based on the best motion-control device but how well the games this year utilized their respective motion-control device. If such were the case, Killzone 3 with its Sharpshooter would have likely taken it as though while the Kinect continues to outsell the PlayStation Move, PlayStation Move is still the critically acclaimed motion control device with its precision and ease of setup versus Kinect's command area of usage, in the end, we felt that Sony could have really improved their library of Move titles as it appears Sony has more emphasis on pushing 3D we would think as games like Medieval Move: Deadmund's Quest and PlayStation Move Heroes just leave us longing for 'Sorcery' already. No, at the end of the day, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword really showed off what the Wiimotion Plus was capable of doing. Being probably the now, least impressive device, it found whatever way possible there was to use motion control at its optimal. Each enemy you'd battle seemed to have its own strategy rather than the typical just flailing your arms about frantically. Its almost like taking 'Shadow of the Colossus' and giving it Move support. Because of that emphasis and polish, we're sorry Dance Central 2 and Child of Eden, Dance Central we've experienced before and its the next installment, we've got to give it to Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword as our BEST MOTION-CONTROLLED GAME. It was something that really got the hardcore gamer to get up and play a motion-controlled game and that's a feat in and of itself.


With our pick for this category, Forza 4 just had something special with it. While Microsoft never really seemed to standby their claim that Forza 4 was best experienced with Kinect, Microsoft realized that it couldn't deliver 100% on that claim. The controls didn't work as well as they could with Kinect in Forza 4, Microsoft shipped an actual racing wheel that physically put something in the gamers hand. Kinect isn't really even required for the racing wheel. However, the Kinect was merely a bonus and what edged out Forza 4 against the competition. Having the ability to physically explore the car as though you were at the Detroit Car Show was Microsoft and their development studio's big emphasis anyway. It was a racing game, but it was also a simulation game and visual feast. I personally believe Microsoft still has a ways to go to prove its the superior motion-control device and standby their claim its really a 'you're the controller' experience, but Forza 4 is a great start in that direction that allows the game to offer more than the competition and win Forza 4 our BEST RACING GAME AWARD.


This was a really difficult category as well. The question that pop's up is really, "What happened to Gears of War 3?" It wasn't even really included in the list of nominees. Well, the big emphasis on the beta was something that we'd heard before from Epic Games. We're putting more of an emphasis on multi-player and so we're going to work out all the kinks and deliver. It almost seemed to be more of a marketing strategy. Epic has been doing multi-player since day one and have a lot of experience in that area but honestly, as a HUGE Gears of War fan, I was pretty letdown in the end. While Horde 2.0 really changed things up, it wasn't enough to really hold my attention. The games found itself resting on my shelf.

It finally came down to Battlefield 3 and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. With Uncharted 3, putting multi-player in the game was never a bad choice or bad decision. Its got to be one of the best decisions made by Naughty Dog and Sony to include it. It most certainly adds to the lifespan of the game and the kickback addition by the games Lead Multi-player designer was brilliant and their co-op is where they really shine. But, with all that said, I think I found Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to really grasp and hang onto my multi-player time the most. Uncharted 3 makes great and improving strides with weapon customization and all, but had it been my way, Uncharted 3 would have taken the award but, at the end of the day, we feel Battlefield 3 just seems to have a little bit more and thus edges out Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception placing Battlefield 3 as this years BEST MULTI-PLAYER.


When it really came down to it, it was the choice between Disney Epic Mickey and Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. When we heard there could have been the possibility of Epic Mickey coming to PlayStation 3, we started to get really excited that Warren Specter would polish out a lot of the bugs that Epic Mickey had to perfect his craft and we would have loved to see the game in HD. Disney Epic Mickey brought back nostalgia for me of my days playing Mickey Mania on the Sega Genesis. It had a really fun style of gameplay and in ways really shows what motion-control could do. However, the game suffered from a lot of bugs and a glitchy camera that could have been given more attention and made the experience better.

When it really came down to it, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword did it in spades and truly exemplifies the Wii and very best of Zelda. It's clearly what Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess should have been on the Wii rather than as the Gamecube port. You really see the relationship between Zelda and Link in this game and it really overall tells a better story and as we mentioned before, and just really seems to use the Wiimotion Plus best. Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword easily is and gets our BEST WII GAME AWARD.


Sony has really worked hard to get out a lot of quality made exclusives and really surpass the competition in doing so and I believe Sony still does it the best. Sony to me, is much like Sega was back in there day before Sammy bought them out. Sega had a knack for seeking out the best and most talented creators. What frustrates the rest of the gaming universe both fanboy's console developers alike is Sony quiring those developers. Its really hard to know or see what happens behind those closed doors and how Sony goes about it but Sony really knows how to get the best of their crew.

It came down to InFamous 2, Batman: Arkham City and Uncharted 3. We can't not look at Batman: Arkham City and say that it isn't, because it is but, what we wanted out of this category was something that best exemplified the PlayStation 3 in all its aspects, not gaming as a whole across multiple-platforms. So, when it came down to the PS3 specifically, it had to be InFamous 2 or Uncharted 3. For Sucker Punch Studios and Naughty Dog, they really care about the PlayStation platform. Remember that during their development, Sucker Punch Studio's hadn't even been acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment yet. Its all about drawing the most out of the platform even to the extent of downloadable content and support the two studios give to their games.

When it game down to it though, it was a clear choice that Uncharted 3 best exemplified the PS3 really pushing the console to its limits. Extremely detailed environments and set pieces, well written story and colorful characters, its 3D is unlike any other game out there and easily the best looking 3D game. Naughty Dog are well known and synonymous with pushing the console to its limits and really raising the bar. Thus, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is our BEST PS3 GAME.


The Xbox 360 has had fewer games that other platforms have this year, in terms of console exclusives. It really wasn't difficult to select the Xbox 360's Game of the Year. We knew from the get-go that Gears of War 3 was the clear winner. While there isn't much of a story for Gears of War 3, I personally have to say that Gears of War 3 is the best looking Xbox 360 game that I've seen. While others completely disagree with me saying that Battlefield 3 is, I can't seem to agree. The Unreal Engine is clearly best suited for the Xbox 360 and much like Naughty Dog for Sony Computer Entertainment knows the PlayStation 3, Epic Games knows the Xbox 360 well having practically developed exclusively for the Xbox 360. Still, Epic Games really did what they could to close out the series with a great ending. It was the brotherhood between the COG. I found it more gripping and heart-tugging than Gears of War 2 was, which I didn't really feel much for Dom. I just couldn't get it. These are rough and tough guys that are supposed to have a soft spot? Almost unbelievable. But, when you have four-player co-op to take through the campaign with your friends, I've not really seen that throughout the whole game's story campaign.

While Gears of War 3 didn't quite make it to Game of the Year caliber, there's no denying no other Xbox 360 game can do it better.


There's no question in my mind how controversial this claim is amongst the gaming community and that's alright. I mean, the Xbox 360 still outsold the PlayStation 3 this year in the end, and they got Call of Duty DLC first, and Kinect was a success right? Well, we'd agree when it comes to sales figures but, when all was said and done, we felt differently. When you look at where Sony has been and how things have changed made it clear. It wasn't about sales this year, it was setting right what once was wrong and taking care of your fanbase.

Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Corporation and the PlayStation 3 have endured a lot this year. The PlayStation outage was what was believed to have really done the PlayStation 3 is. However, the fact of the matter was that Sony and the PlayStation 3 were the perfect target. The PS3 had just been hacked and Anonymous had everything at their disposal to move in and cause trouble.

I know for a fact, that Microsoft Executives sat back in their chairs having heard what they just did and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief while simultaneously really feeling for Sony. Microsoft not once took a stab at Sony for the events that just transpired. Sony was just selected to be made the example. Microsoft knew just as well that they could have been hacked just as easily as Sony and Xbox Live could have been effected dramatically had Anonymous gone after them. It was a wake-up call to everyone and Sony just so happened to have fallen victim to it. However, Sony dealt with the problem professionally as were acclaimed for their manner of doing so. Sony swept it up, Jack Tretton CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America addressed the issue at E3 this year and when all was said and done with as much as Sony had going at them this year, are only 2 million units behind the Xbox 360.

Sony have also been amazing and releasing exclusive after exclusive this year covering every area even going after the summer drought with InFamous 2 which was excellent! They delivered the PlayStation Vita excellently and they'd really gotten the gaming community excited.

Yes, with all that Sony have gone through this year and still fired back while Microsoft and Nintendo were permitted by luck, to sit back and relax and even learn through 'The Fall,' of the PS3, Sony still managed to maintain solid hardware and keep them coming back, pick up new fans etc, while Xbox 360's sales have not been new comers entirely to the Xbox family, but purchasing new consoles to replace the problem Microsoft has had for four years. Thus, PlayStation 3 and Sony are our console of the year.


That brings us to GAME OF THE YEAR. Each of the three games that came to the table were easily among the best games on all platforms this years. Had we gone five games nominated, which we probably should including Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and probably Portal 2, we felt that when all was said and done, it definitely came down to Skyrim, Batman and Uncharted 3.

Batman: Arkham City was a super-hero unlike any other. Who would have thought a Batman game could have been done so well, let alone any other super-hero game. InFamous 2 nearly took the place of Batman: Arkham City but, we couldn't deny Batman the nominee. A well casted set of characters set in the open world was exactly the idea we were looking for. While InFamous 2 was open world, the personality to games villains just didn't pull it off like Arkham City did. It felt like a Christopher Nolan-style game likely borrowing the personality from The Dark Knight even with its Han's Zimmer-esk sort of musical score. It was the complete package. Finally, the game really made you feel like a super hero and really told a great story. However, the open world nature of Batman: Arkham City was a nice touch and changed things up, but it just wasn't how an open world typically is exemplified. I found myself thinking "Wow, this is really cool!" at first, and then it just became a chore with buildings getting in the way when I needed to get somewhere quickly when I was already crunched for time. The combat system was really all about simplicity and for the most part it succeeded. However, there were frustrating moments where even the more casual gamer would have a difficult time and the battle system felt clunky. It was vastly an improvement over the previous Batman game and seemed to be more compatible over the multiple platforms it was on, rather than that separation.

When you think of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it totally blows your mind. For me, Skyrim was my first ever Elder Scroll's game I've ever played and I certainly wasn't disappointed by any means. Skyrim seemed to the sort of game non-Elder Scrolls fans could help but check out, and when they were, they welcomed into this expansive universe with literally endless hours of gameplay. Its the game that you play and then walk into work and ask everyone where they were at, what they discovered, and how they were playing their scenario to gain tips from them on how to play better (if you're not an Elder Scrolls Vet). There are epic battles and I'd never found it so entertaining to pillage and gather everything you could to sell it off. Skyrim is what Fable maybe should have been and it reminds me of that experience that PS3 gamers can get in on finally. I love gathering those things and selling them, if it means slowing me down on the map to sell and get money, buy a house and even store things there. Custom armor, whatever. Its just an expansive game. However, it didn't quite make it as such a massive game was divided amongst as many platforms. When the game released, its been plagued with bugs that Bethesda is having difficulties fixing. Especially on the PlayStation 3. At the end of the day, the game definitely needed more polish.

When we thought of not only Game of the Year, Developer of the Year had to go hand in hand with perfection. When we awarded Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and Naughty Dog Game of the Year and Developer of the Year Uncharted 3 to Game of the Year Uncharted 2: Among Thieves a few years back and added too it. It was all about set piece's and attention to detail when it came to graphics, it was about getting the best out of your actors and actress' for their performance and really focusing on that storyline. Even the combat system, that totally reminds me a 'Shenmue' back on the Dreamcast. The game was polished and perfected and I believe the only update required was minor tweaking of the aim, but with cinematic style and amazing graphics, set-pieces etc, Uncharted 3 easily claims that prize. Hand-in-hand with that game is its developer Naughty Dog. Naughty Dog have always had an excellent track record. They love getting out and talking with the fans of the game and really promoting their product. Their events they host with Sony Computer Entertainment to show their not afraid to throw it out there and they always back their games with a lot of support and DLC as well as events. Finally, Naughty Dog are very involved with the gaming industry as a whole. While many think they just sit behind closed doors and work under some Conan the Barbarian in sweat shop with a whip and a roll of duct-tape, Naughty Dog are out sharing their tech and idea's with the gaming community.

In The End

Its really all about the love of the game and playing pretty much anything you can get your hands on and really enjoying each aspect. Its a shame, at the moment that Nintendo's console has been so limiting but the developers continue to push past that and find ways to impress and while Legend of Zelda does that, its definitely time for Nintendo to bring something new and fresh. With games like Uncharted, we see how the cinema and gaming go hand-in-hand and beauty and that games don't have to be flooded with alianistic beings. Batman: Arkham City shows us that anyone can step into the shoes of a super-hero and take us on a wild ride taking down villain after villain. Portal 2 shows us that things don't always have to be serious, but can have an art and a humoristic style to them that we can laugh. The gaming industry lacks in that which I think Portal 2 and Ratchet & Clank can really only pull off. Skyrim we find there can endless hours of gameplay at our fingertips and that new territory can be explored and new area's explored.

2011 has been an excellent year for gaming and we've loved every moment of it. They're have been good, there have been bad and there have been dreadfully awful, but we love it, I still have a million games to play to catch up and I can't wait to see what gaming has in store for next year.


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