Technical graphics aren’t so much the art style, but what’s under the hood. Usually, games that introduce new engine or technology tend to be the best. This year was huge for DirectX 11 games on PC which can not be down on consoles. State of the art graphics cards are needed and a few games really showed this off this year. Usually, high-resolution textures, great modeling, lighting, water effects, weather, and other elements make up a good-looking game.
Were you surprised? Battlefield 3 was the only game to truly use DirectX 11 exclusively and completely left out DirectX 9 and 10. While the PC version only got this treatment the console versions looked pretty close. Battlefield 3 sported some amazing lighting effects as well as water and the textures looked real. Nothing really pushed graphics cards harder this year than Battlefield 3 so it takes the cake.
The first thing that needs to be known is that the most disappointing isn’t the worst. These are games that were greatly hyped and had so much promised, but in the end, didn’t deliver any of it. These games are playable, but barely enjoyable, but also not really terrible either. There weren’t too many disappointing games this year, but the ones that were really made an impact this year.
Rage had such strong potential over all the disappointing games this year. It had the atmosphere, guns, and even the developer behind it…like the inventor of first-person shooters id Software and they managed to screw this up. The PC version got hit the worst with bugs and glitches that are so bad id won’t even bother patching them. The console versions saw some frame rate issues, but overall better graphics were promised, a fully open-world area to explore, and the game is very repetitive with a terrible ending. Rage put me down more than any game this year so shame on id.
Multiplayer can be put into any game, but a good multiplayer (whether it be cooperative or competitive) has to have balance, a good amount of modes, and something to set it apart from the rest. Shooters tend to be the main course when it comes to multiplayer. However, those tend to always be the same, but something needs to set it apart. Usually, it’s well-made maps, balanced weapons, and customization. Even something like poorly run servers can make online play bad. There were a lot of shooters this year, but only one topped them all.
Great maps, a beautiful game engine, vehicles, and a change in pace for unlocks and perks is what makes Battlefield 3 the top dog this year. All the rest were just perfections of what has already been down, but Battlefield 3 perfected and added on to what’s already been done. Excellent maps, great balancing, and starting you out with crappy load-outs to force you to be good makes this one shine. Not to mention up 64 players on huge Rush or Conquest matches is an absolute blast and no other shooter can pull this off.
Downloadable games get opportunities to take risks that AAA titles can’t take. Downloadable also offer one-of-a-kind experiences for a small price, and this is the place to look for that kind of experience. Downloadable games are perfect to get small doses of great gameplay, but only one can come out on top. This year showed a ton of great games that didn’t even make it onto the list. It was a tough choice, but the decision has to be made.
Vampire Smile is a stylish game that’s both gory, dark, and bursting at the seams with unique art. The story is interesting, the combat is fluid, responsive, challenging, and deep. Smile featured tons of crazy bosses, great enemies to fight, and two whole story modes to go through. Sure it was punishing sometimes, but that’s what made it rewarding. It topped them all due to all of this combined despite many amazing downloadable games this year.
A new character is very important to a game because it can make it or break it. There are also hundreds of memorable characters out there so making a new one and trying to make it on the list is hard. There were very few new characters created this year, but among the few, there was only one that was very strong.
This was an easy pick this year. Wheatley is a very funny and strange character, but being just a blinking orb makes him all that harder to pull off. It’s his personality and voice acting that really make you remember him and put him among the best. His British humor mixed with the insane world of Portal 2 really makes you want to hear him talk and come back into the world. Wheatley’s character is perfectly balanced and you get doses of him throughout the game, and you just can’t help but love him.
Voice acting is what delivers the personality in characters, and good voice acting is key to any good game. What makes it the best is a wide variety of personalities delivered by the voice actor and thus bringing out the greatness of characters. Good voice acting makes them unique, lovable, and makes you become attached to them. This year had some great AAA titles with amazing voice acting, but only one can take the prize.
Portal 2 delivers some amazing characters through witty whimsical writing and some talented voice actors. Portal 2 doesn’t just have good voice acting but diverse, funny, and unique voices for characters that are one of a kind. This is what made it top the others and is definitely something to be remembered. With characters like Wheatley, GlaDOS, Turrets, Cave Johnson, and other characters you just can’t beat that.
Graphics are great when it comes to textures, resolutions, and lighting but what about the art itself? Some games are living breathing pieces of art and are one of a kind. Sometimes a game may be inferior technically but surpass in style and better art. This year was more geared toward technical showcases, but there were a few artsy games that popped up.
Alice won over everything else because it is just oozing with art and substance from American McGee’s crazy mind. It brings out the darkness in Alice in Wonderland and every single speck on the screen has something unique about it. It has been a long time since something like this has come out where you want to hang every screenshot on your wall. Alice truly deserves this award hands down, but all I can say is you have to play it to understand why.
A great story is usually memorable and you will talk about it for years to come. You need good characters, voice acting, and a lot of other elements to make a good story. Usually, there has to be a great ending as well as some twists and turns, but it also has to make sense. A good story is probably the hardest thing to find in the video game world, but there were a lot of great ones this year, but there can be only one.
This was the toughest category this year. With so many great stories I could only choose one. Gears of War may be considered a meat head’s game, but the story branching over the three games is full of great characters and a struggle for survival that eats at your heart. These people are fighting a genocidal race of bugs, and in the meantime, they are losing their loved ones right in front of their eyes. The delivery from the voice actors just makes you care so much about Delta Squad, but overall the ending and story in Gears 3 finish the story with a tightness that most sequels can’t really pull off.
Great sound design isn’t the music but everything else you hear. Not only is variety good, but it has to match and be unique to the game and atmosphere. Everything from the wind blowing through cracks, swords clashing, breathing, grass rustling, and bullets whizzing it all makes the audio experience.
What makes the Battlefield series in the general top most games in sound design is the audio directional placement and just the sheer realism of battle. No other war game has pulled off such rich and visceral sound from bullets whizzing by your head to being able to find a sniper from distance and direction. Everything sounds hyper-realistic, but also completely ensnares you into the battle. This realistic and technically phenomenal achievement puts it over the top of everything else.
An atmosphere is what delivers emotion and overall feelings in the game. The atmosphere can make a game scary, colorful, cartoony, or make you feel alone and sad. Atmosphere much matches and represent the idea of the game. Sometimes the atmosphere isn’t delivered right and can make a game feel boring, or just look bad.
The Best Atmosphere category was even harder than last year’s because so many great AAA titles came out with strong atmospheres. There were also some games I didn’t get a chance to squeeze into the runner-up’s area so that tells you how well this category did this year. While some of the others may have better art to back up their atmosphere L.A. Noire does something that most can’t: Make an atmosphere without fancy art or licenses. L.A. Noire is a new IP and pulls off a 1940’s era in realistic detail and really pulls you in and brings you into a time period that most games don’t explore outside World War II. L.A. Noire had amazing visuals to back it, but to make the game feel so true to an era is very hard to do. You don’t need fancy art for that.