Thursday, January 20, 2011

The annual KFM Gaming Awards

I'm going to be honest with you; I haven't really been paying much attention to the games I am/have been playing to come up with a proper list this time 'round. It'll be much better this year.

But, here we are. Let's get this snowball rolling.

-The "I Liked Your Sister Better" Award-
for Minigime That Was More Fun Than The Actual Game

I know what you're thinking - Lost Viking from Starcraft II, right?

Well, no. For one, StarCraft II is a lot more fun than Lost Viking. Second, by minigame I mean any smaller 'game' that was packaged with the actual game, such as... well, that neat little part of Spore that you didn't spend on the editor, for example. Or those, I guess you could call them minigames where you were tasked to kill a specific someone in the first Assassin's Creed game, as opposed to just killing time being a rooftop dwelling Batman - saving people from guards and following people into a dark alley to rough the up a bit before gutting them.

But the winner of this award was actually seperate to the 'real' game. It's a little sad I had more fun with you than I did the campaign, my friend.

I am, of course, refering to Call of Duty: Black Ops - Nazi Zombies. Whatever complaint I have with Nazi Zombies, be it stupid team mates, the random box not showing up where it's supposed to, or stupid fucking team mates, Nazi Zombies is still a great minigame, one I hope Treyarch makes into a proper game, with more levels, larger levels, more customization in guns, etc. And nothing beats picking up a Thundergun and watching the Nazi undead fly across the room like evil zombified paper dolls in a hurricane wind.

-The "Giving the Ring to Saruman" Award-
for The Most Mind Boggling Decision in Gaming

There are many healthy candidates for this award - almost too many. Make no mistake, this is aimed not at characters, but at companies. And there's no better company to aim this particular cannon at than Activision.

I really don't know how Mr. Kotic is still the CEO of Activision. It's like he doesn't care that the gaming community hates hi, his company, and his stupid face.

But I'm going to rotate this cannon a wee bit and aim slightly to the right. It brings me great displeasure to say this, Patch 4.0 for World of Warcraft, but you win this award.


I don't know which one of you did this, but patch 4.0 did a lot of annoying things. For one, it rendered more than one addon (I'm looking at QuestHelper in particular) totally useless and incompatable.
But, the worst thing, and most mind boggling thing, patch 4.0 wrought upon Azeroth was the removal of information.

Back in the good old days of World of Warcraft, a spell or ability would actually tell you how much damage it did or how much healing it did.

Previously, the shaman healing spell Healing Wave told you how much healing it dished out. Now, the tooltip just says "Heals a friendly target".
It's not just healing spells. Some shocks are also missing damage information, and some buffs forget to tell you how long it'll be active for.

But it's not just shamans! It's effected every single class. But what's wierd is it's only effected certain abilities. Some abilities tell you exactly what they do, and some are more vague than telling someone to 'look for a gamer-type nerd' at Blizzcon.

It's mind boggling on three levels.
1. There was no real reason to do it, at all.
2. Only certain spells are effected - why? Why not go all out?
3. The numerical information is actually on the spell effect/buff icon in your top right corner, so why the fuck couldn't you have just put it in the goddamn tooltip in the first place?

-The "Dead Babies On The Walls. Staring. Judging." Award-
for Scariest Game

A lot of people can't quite grasp true horror these days. It's not about having some multi-armed freak bursting out of a door and going "AGARBLEWARGLE" at you. Because you could do the exact same thing in any game - a WWII shooter where a german kicks down a door, runs out and starts yelling at you. Or perhaps an RTS where the enemy are burrowed and you bring your force in the middle of it, and then BAMB. Ambush.

No, a horror game must be crafted, from start to finish. Someone making a real horror game has to really think not just about what would really scare the hell out of a player, but what would unnerve that player. What would make that player on edge the whole damn time. What would truely terrify the player.

No other game deserves this more than you, Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

For one thing, the game is dark. It's opressive. You keep hearing noises - footsteps on hard wooden floors. A baby crying. Even the ambient soundtrack does everything it can to make the player as jumpy and shaky as possible, so when they do wheel out the standard enemy you'll be running from, it makes it all the scarier.

Did I mention you don't have any weapons? Faced with a bad guy, you have two choices - run and hide, or get eaten. And by bad guy, I mean this... thing.

The atmosphere is very unsettling. Even rooms that are completely safe and monster free keep you on edge. And when they do wheel out the monsters, it's either an intense chase (I swear those guys run slightly faster than you) or a horrific death.

I haven't finished it yet. I officially abandoned the game when I got to the prisons (that's the one where you ride the elevator down) because I didn't want to deal with any more of... whatever the hell they are.

-The "Slamming Your Head Against A Desk Won't Make It Any Better" Award-
for Most Frustrating Game

This game gets this award purely because of the controls. Every other aspect of this game is damn near perfect - the story, the characters, the soundtrack, most of the gameplay, all great.

But the controls. Oh god, the controls. It's like I'm operating some kind of caffinated squirrel that just wants to half run up walls and doesn't understand that you're just trying to jump from one beam to another.

And most of the time it'll switch to the guard with full health instead of the one which is bending over in pain, just waiting for your weapon of choice to be buried in his back.

In fact, if it wern't for the controls it would be my favourite game of the year. Literally, everything else about this game is pretty much perfect.

I refer, of course... to Assassin's Creed II.

Maybe it's the fact that it was ported from consoles to PC. Maybe it was just designed this way (although that seems unlikely). Whatever the reason, Assassin's Creed II has some of the most frustrating platform sections I've ever played. And while Assassin's Creed II is far, far better than Assassin's Creed is damn near every way, they share the same awful control problem.

And those damn minstrels. Thank god I can just pick their pocket to make them bugger off.

-The "Golden Block" Award-
for Best Indie Game

I would give this award to Amnesia: The Dark Descent if it wern't for the fact that A) it already has an award and B) it's too bloody frightning for me to keep going.

No, there is another game out there who deserves this award. A game that started small. It was nothing more than a big box, with a bunch of little boxes you could use to make stuff. But now, the game world is infinite, and you can make so many wonderful things, even though you're still constrained to using big cubes.

You've figured it out by now. Come up here, Minecraft.

For all of Minecraft's faults, such as buggy multiplayer and creepers, it really is the best indie game to come out this year. I have a lot of fun with it, and apart from spiders and goddamn creepers, it's a beautiful, fun game that I highly recommend.

-The "Oh Screw It, Let's Just Call It The 'Angry Birds' Award" Award-
for Worst Indie Game

With the intrigue and subtlety of the award cut away like a combine harvester cuts grain (and any inconvenient evidence), the worst indie game I played this year was Angry Birds.

Not only was it both frustrating and unforgiving, but it was done much better somewhere else - a game called Crush the Castle (and here's the second one).

While Angry Birds forced you to use certain birds for any given castle, CtC will let you choose your load out on the fly. The main reason for doing this is so you can go back to later levels with the triple bomb projectile and watch the castle that gave you so much difficulty back then fall beneath the sound of three satisfying explosions and the cries of the castle occupants.

Angry Birds not only won't let you do that but makes you complete levels with birds that are simply not suited to the task.

And most of the time the birds need to hit EXACTLY these places at EXACTLY the right time or you'll have to start all over again.

-The "My Name Is Commander Shepard, And I Have Too  Many Favourite Stores On THe Citadel" Award-
for Good Games of 2010

Man, this is never an easy award to hand out. I played a lot of good games, and I know full well that there's no such thing as a perfect game.

Unfortunately, I don't have a favourite game this year. I've played some really good games, but none of them really stand out in my mind as being a favourite.

But, because I'm a kind and generous person,all those games I've listed up there win this award.
And here's why.

- Assassin's Creed II: This game wins this award because it's improved so much. Assassin's Creed was bland, and Altiar wasn't very interesting as a character. Fast forward to Assassin's Creed II, and they solved the HELL out of those two problems. It's better in every way to the original.

- Amnesia: The Dark Descent: This game wins this award because it's just so good. As terrifying as it is, I can't help but love it to pieces for it's brilliantly crafted atmosphere and excellent audio. Gameplay's damn good, too.

- Minecraft: As frustrating as loosing your inventory to a casual creeper explosion or a drop into lava, Minecraft has done the impossible - it is the true sandbox game, and an infinite one at that. It's just a hell of a lot of fun.

- Fallout: New Vegas: I haven't played much of F:NV, but what I have played is pretty good. It's brighter than Fallout 3. It's still a wasteland, but at least it's not a grey wasteland populated by wankers and mutants who want nothing more than to stick your head on a pike.

Of course, the bloody merchants I sell my stolen loot to (I am, and will always be, a kleptomaniac in the Fallout universe) never 'regenerate' caps, so I can't keep selling to them.
- Black Ops - Multiplayer: The campaign is fine, and Nazi Zombies is a lot of fun, but Multiplayer is where I spend a lot of my time. It's annoying in several areas, and could use some serious redesign, but... I can't say it's a bad game.

- Killing Floor: I played the christmas edition of Killing Floor and loved it. Seriously, shooting an undead gingerbread man in the face with two desert eagles has never, and will never be, more fun.

- Mass Effect 2: This could have been my game of the year, almost. The game is great. But the whole planet scanning/mining mechanic is more boring than watching dry, white paint.

- Just Cause 2: It's massive. That means plenty to explore and plenty to destroy, and executing a perfect assault on a base with the right weapons and well placed explosives can make for barrels of fun. Of course, it's massive. And trying to get 100% completion is insane.

- StarCraft II: Campaign's good, and while the editor is a confusing and purpously difficult thorny tangle of data, I hear it can make some amazing things.

-The "15 Year Old School Leaver" Award-
for Biggest Dissapointment of 2010

The game that most dissapointed me is actually an easy choice.

Reviewers called it 'zen like', as if playing it was relaxing. I imagine it would have been if it wasn't so mindbogglingly boring. I regret paying for it. Thank god I bought it on a steam sale, I'd never forgive myself if I payed full price for it.

The main character is some kind of underwater tellytubby, floating through rocky caverns lighting up plants. And collecting instrument playing monkeys.

There's nothing too it. It's boring as dirt, the puzzles are meh, and the soundtrack is weak.

Please step forward, The UnderGarden.

I expected more than an arty game. I expected an actual puzzle game that wasn't trying to appeal to little children by being all about colourful plants and some underwater telly tubby pulling along a instrument playing monkey. I knew I was in trouble when a big letter G in a green field came out of nowhere.

-The "Feed The Dev Team Broken Glass" Award
for Worst Game of 2010

Unlike my Best Games award, this one is very straightforward. This has to be the worst mainstream game I've played in 2010.

It doesn't win the award because it has subpar gameplay and this tedious mechanic (although it does). It doesn't win because the actors are weak, except for the main (dare I say) only real character (even though it does). It doesn't even win because it just feels... unpolished.

It wins because it seems like a massive implied insult to the entire series it ended.
(And also for all the above, but the last reason expecially.)

I played this game and instantly regretted paying money for it. In fact, the only good thing about the game was it came with a free tee-shirt.

The developers could have ended the series on a classy note. They could have gone "You know what, lets try to make this one like one of our first games and try to return to those 'good old days'."

But no, they had to go and end the whole damn franchise on a terrible, feces ridden note. A note that came packaged with a couple of plague rats if you thought it wasn't smelly enough.

Please step forward, Command and Conquer 4: Tiberium Twilight.

You murdered the Command and Conquer series so thoroughly, C&C4. Instead of trying to be one of your earlier games, you made it jump on the particular RTS bandwagon where you didn't have to build a base. Even worse, you tried to integrate multiplayer with single player, and it seemed like you tried to make the game like a multiplayer first person shooter - you get more cool stuff the more you progress through the game.

Problem is, that just doesn't fucking work for a Real Time Strategy. Not that you cared, EA. You didn't want to end the C&C series with a bang. You wanted to use the last game as an experiment for a game mechanic no RTS has even used, and with damn good reason.

THAT is why you earn this reward, C&C4. You're an insult wrapped in a bad gameplay mechanic wrapped in an unpolished game.

Tee-shirt was alright though.