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Best of 2011

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The DTOID Show: Our Top Gaming Moments Of 2011!


Dec 25
// Max Scoville
Merry Christmas, everybody! I'm gonna keep this short because idiot thought it was a good idea to put a small tree in my house and then leave a bunch of presents sitting under it, so I need to go get rid of that crap before a...

Best of 2011: Totally Random Awards, Pt. 2

Dec 18 // Allistair Pinsof
Matthew Razak's "Movie That Was Too Much like a Videogame for Its Own Good" AwardWinner: Sucker Punch Normally, we complain about videogames' trying to be too much like movies, but with games' becoming a bigger medium, we see more and more influences from games in film. That's not always a good thing. There's a reason why movies and games are different things, and that reason is because THEY'RE DIFFERENT THINGS. A perfect example of why this should always be remembered is Sucker Punch, which took the plot and goals of a videogame and stuffed it into a movie. A young, sexually appealing girl enters a series of fantasy worlds where she must defeat a series of "bosses" in order to collect a bunch of weapons to defeat her oppressors (in this case, the mental ward she's been committed). Basically, this is a movie about a bunch of fetch quests, which can already be boring enough in a game, but when you give Zak Snyder carte blanche, it gets even stupider evidently. Scenes that should be totally awesome are dull because every scene works like a game's level and not part of a movie. Game plotting is great for games, not for movies. Runner-ups: Battle: Los Angeles, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, Priest, Cowboys & Aliens, Spy Kids 4D: All the Time in the World Andy Dixon's "Game That's Still Fun to Play Even with the Sound Off" Award (a.k.a. The "Happy Family" Award) Winner: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Gaming in a small house with a sleeping toddler is often an exercise in futility. Paper-thin walls coupled with the close proximity of the "family" room to said child's bedroom make for poor gaming conditions, and they require a very specific type of game in order to appease all parties. Features such as subtitles/closed captioning, easy jump-in/jump-out gameplay, and the ability to pause at any time become more than just boxes to tick on the back of the box -- they become necessities. For these reasons, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a family man's dream come true. You can pause the game in almost every scene, subtitles are enabled by default, and the slow, exploration-heavy pacing means taking a break to soothe a fussy toddler back to sleep won't throw off your mojo as it would in other games. Above all else, Adam Jensen's grating voice acting means your experience may actually improve by turning down the volume! Runner-up: Fapping Casey Baker's "Stupidest Moment in a Video Game This Year" Award Winner: Pvt. Augustus Cole (a.k.a "Cole Train") has a midlife crisis and freaks the f*ck out for no real reason in Gears of War 3 While this year was filled with stupid video game moments, from any emergent (and oftentimes hilarious) glitch that has appeared in a Skyrim playthrough to the "press button to stab rat" sequence in Battlefield 3, I feel that the Cole Train's freak-out moment in Gears 3 is the single stupidest moment in gaming for this year. The biggest issue that comes with this moment, when Cole is revisiting his hometown of Hanover with Baird and Carmine, is that it comes abruptly and ends with no real meaningful ties to the greater Gears story. They decide to take a walk down memory lane through the ol' Thrashball stadium after meeting up with the Stranded, who are instantly willing to help the old celebrity and his pals, but his sudden flashback is both abrupt and of absolutely no consequence to the rest of the story, despite the fact that his behavior puts pretty much everyone including himself in serious danger. Nothing else is ever mentioned of this moment, and the bit of backstory it provides is incredibly shallow at best. Gears of War has never been a series about a deep and meaningful story, but at least Dom's narrative in Gears 2 was created in earnest. Here we have an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world scenario where the Lambent are pretty much destroying every last vestige of humanity that hasn't already been raped and pillaged by the Locusts, and the attention is suddenly shifted to Cole Train's mid-life crisis breakdown because -- boo hoo -- he's not a celebrity Thrashball star anymore. ... what?Runner-ups: Skyrim's NPC glitches, Battlefield 3's stab-a-rat quick time event, Cole Phelps has a flamethrower in a f*cking sewer in L.A. Noire Jonathan Holmes's "Why Did U No Play This Thing!?" Award Winner: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP This is one of the best games ever. It's on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, three things that many humans own. Yet, while more copies of Angry Birds have sold than there are people in the United States, Sword & Sworcery fails to become a commercial blockbuster. C'mon people! Don't you like evading death anymore? What about three-eyed wolves or naked bear men? How about games where you don't find out that the main character is a woman until someone tells you? Are you too cool for that now, with your rainbow parties and your Hot Pockets and your Glee 3D movie sing-a-longs? In closing, Sword & Sworcery is better than all of Destructoid's official GOTY nominees, except maybe Portal 2, but probably not. Runner-ups: Bit.Trip Complete/Saga, Rayman Origins, Shadows of the Damned, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Pushmo, Corpse Party, Where-is-my-Heart?, Jables's Adventure, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, Aliens: Infestation, Cave Story, Outland, Jamestown Japanator's "PSP JRPG You Should Have Played but Probably Didn't Even Hear About Because HAHA PSP JRPGs, Am I Right?" Award Winner: Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Japanator reviews editor Hiroko Yamamura says, "Trails was truly the surprise of the year for me. I took a quick glance at the semi-generic looking anime box art and dismissed it for another JRPG snooze fest. Countless fun-filled hours later, you could say that I kind of fell in love. The title shows some of its age, as it is a port of a 2004 PC game, but those shortcomings become distant memories after just an hour or so of play. What you do take away is an addictive, funny, and dramatic storyline filled with some really memorable characters. In year that had some real JRPG snoozers, it would be a crime to sleep on this PSP gem." Runners up: Fate/EXTRA, Corpse Party Fraser Brown's "WTF Just Happened in Skyrim?" Award Winner: NPC madness It might not be as epic as flying mammoths or dragons getting stuck in reverse, but the crazy antics of the residents of Skyrim are a constant reminder of just how buggy yet somehow delightful Skyrim can be. Frustrating as well, oh so very frustrating. Technically I'm cheating, since a plethora of bugs and design flaws went towards making these wonderful buffoons. Followers are, of course, the worst of the bunch. Vanishing without a trace, getting lost on mountains, knocking everything over in your meticulously ordered home, standing on every single trap over and over again. God, they are awful. Yet still, I let them follow me around, but for every NPC that gets stuck or attacks for no reason, there's another with a pot on their head and a shop that's ripe for burglary. So it all works out. Runner-ups: Reversing dragons, flying horses and mammoths, flying player characters, poltergeists/home invaders, chicken crime stoppers Allistair Pinsof's "Japanese Game That Really Should Have Come to the US This Year" Award Winner: Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary More than any other year in recent memory, 2011 seems to be full of promising Japanese games that have been ignored the West. And -- surprise, surprise -- they are mostly for Nintendo platforms. Xenoblade was a shoe-in for this award until the recent U.S. release announcement, which makes me want to draw attention to a different game that has been completely ignored. In fact, most of the series has been ignored in the West. I'm talking about Puyo Puyo, one of the oldest and best arcade puzzle games. Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary is an absolute gem that brings together almost every mode and character that ever graced the series into one giant package. I can't put it down. I wish other Westerners could experience this joyous time-suck of a game. Runner-ups: Akai Katana, Ni no Kuni [DS especially], The Last Story, Pandora's Tower, Xenoblade
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Go to any media outlet this week and they'll be trumping up their best-of-the-year list. We're not so different. However, I wanted there to be a place where staff could sound off on what trends, games, and ideas captured t...

Best of 2011: Totally Random Awards, Pt. 1

Dec 17 // Allistair Pinsof
Alex Bout's "If I Could Pick One Piece That Would Most Affect Gaming Aspects of a Computer, I Would Pick This" Award Winner: Sapphire Radeon HD 6950 2GB I chose the 6950 over the i5 and M4 because of its contributions to gaming performance. While it is unfair to compare the advantages of a video card to a hard drive or CPU, it is undeniable that video cards improve game play the most out of all the other components of a computer. Don't get me wrong, both the i5 and M4 are excellent pieces and shouldn't be discredited as unworthy to buy. There were several different comparisons I made while choosing the 6950 2GB as my choice: for one, the Radeon 6950 (1GB or 2GB) offers excellent performance for the price. The GTX 560 Ti, the Radeon HD 6950's closest competitor, is about the same price despite the 6950's having slightly better performance. Moving on, I chose the 2GB model because it will offer a greater advantage later on as technology advances. The 2GB will not only help at higher resolutions such as 1900x1200 and multi-displays, it will also aid in future game, as they begin to take advantage of the increased amount of memory. Runner-ups: Intel Core i5-2500K, Crucial M4 128GB Max Scoville's "Whoever Decided This Should Be the Title of a Game Should Not Be Allowed to Write Words Ever Again" Award Winner: Ar Tonelico Qoga: The Knell of Ar Ciel Aside from "The" and "of," the only actual word in this game's title is "Knell" which I had to look up. It means the solemn ringing of a bell. "Ar" is the chemical abbreviation of Argon, and "Ciel" is a brand of bottled water only sold in Mexico, Morocco, and Angola. So basically, this game's title is 13 syllables of utter gibberish. If you approached a family member and said, "I want to play Ar Tonelico Qoga: The Knell of Ar Ciel," they would probably think you had a stroke mid-sentence or are possibly possessed by a Satan. I don't care if the game itself is good; the fact that someone decided this was a good name for a product that is sold in stores should be fired and possibly jailed. Runner-ups: Renegade Ops (See Jim's list of better titles), Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution (Colons: They're Cool, But We Should Have a Hyphen Too - There, That's Better), Hunted: The Demons Forge (thank you, Dark Fantasy MadLibs), Dissidia 012 [Duodecim] Final Fantasy (thought the title was a cheat code) Hamza Aziz's "What the F*ck Were They Thinking?!" Award Winner: Seriously, Ubisoft? You're going to release Rayman Origins during the Novembergaddeon of AAA games? Worst of all, you're releasing Rayman Origins the SAME DAY as Assassin's Creed: Revelations? So not only are you competing with other publishers, you're competing with yourselves! Rayman does't have the brand power like it used to, and it feels like it was basically left to drown at retail. Oh, and let's not forget this gem where the sales of Rayman Origins will have an affect on Beyond Good & Evil 2. Runner-ups: The 3DS launch, GoldenEye: Reloaded getting released between the launches of Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, Konami not promoting ANY of their releases (No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise, Frogger 3D, LeedMees, Metal Gear Solid Collection, Otomedius -- probably more that I can't remember due to lack of promotions), EA/Sony/Microsoft preventing consumer rights with their "you can't sue us anymore, haha" terms, the PlayStation Vita's overpriced memory cards, a Tetris subscription fee Patrick Hancock's "Best Superhero MMO That Made the Jump to Free-to-Play in 2011" Award Winner: City of Heroes City of Heroes came out way back in 2004, a few months before World of Warcraft dropped and took the world by storm. That's when my hero, P-Dude (pictured above), was born. It's been seven years since then, and I still find myself enjoying the wide breadth of things to do within the MMO with not only P-Dude but my other characters like Grandmaster Pain, Squirtle, and Sweet Mustache as well. This game is something that Champions Online tried to surpass but ended up only half-emulating. DC Universe Online has the star power, sure, but once you look past that, you may be left wanting more. Now that it's officially free-to-play, anyone can experience the extreme customization options of not only your appearance but your superpowers as well. In the end, I have to give credit where credit is due and give this award to the original superhero MMO, City of Heroes. Always emulated, never duplicated. Runner-ups: DC Universe Online, Champions Online Alasdair Duncan's "Best Impulse Buy on Steam" Award Winner: Sideway: New York I know my choice will surprise most of you, but let me explain why I think that Sideway was the best impulse buy I made on Steam this year. Whilst the runner-ups may be better games, Sideway was the only game I bought this year on a true impulse. I saw it pop up on Steam, watched the trailer, and just bought it. Then I played it and stuck with it all the way to completing it, then I went back and played it again. I didn't even do that with any AAA games this year. With it's lovely graphics, smart gameplay, and the hook of those hidden tags, I'm still playing Sideway; that's why it's the most rewarding impulse buy I made on Steam this year. Oh, and it has nothing to do with my currently being in the top 10 leaderboard! Runner-ups: Terarria, Magicka, Frozen Synapse, Orcs Must Die!, Dungeon Defenders Jamie McGinn's "Most Blood-Boiling, Controller-Smashingly Frustrating Part of Dark Souls That Rhymes with 'Shitetown'" Award Winner: Blighttown Dark Souls is a great if slightly flawed game. Blighttown manages to encapsulate everything wrong with Dark Souls. The camera is constantly being obscured, phasing through wooden walkways, whilst the frame rate grinds to a halt. Enemies can very quickly inflict severe status effects on the player, which can only be cured by items that cannot be found anywhere in Blighttown. Once the player manages to find their way to the bottom, they are confronted with another obstacle, a giant poisonous swamp which is almost impossible to cross without being poisoned. However, the best part of Blighttown is the little flying insects that constantly respawn. The bugs love nothing more than to do their best Cliff Racer impression and hover above you just out of range. When you finally do kill them, they don't drop any experience. Naturally, they do poison attacks. Fuck Blighttown. Runner-ups: Blighttown, Blighttown, Blighttown, Blighttown Samit Sarkar's "When Sixty Bucks Just Ain't Enough" Award In this console generation, we've seen the advent of downloadable content to expand the on-disc experience and maintain mind share... and of course, to get you to spend more money than the original $60 cost. In 2011, publishers went further when they came up with the "Season Pass," a one-time, discounted fee that would get you some or all of the upcoming DLC for one game. If you're already planning on picking up the extra stuff, you might as well save some coin while you're at it, right? Then again, you've paid $60 and are now pre-ordering additional content, sometimes for as much as that initial sticker price. Sometimes, it's a great deal. Sometimes, it doesn't get you all that much. It's probably too early to judge these passes when we don't know what all of the content will look like, but if people are being asked to pay for it upfront then it's only fair, isn't it? Best Season Pass of 2011: "Rockstar Pass," L.A. Noire ($10)Runner-up: "Call of Duty Elite," Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 ($50) Each L.A. Noire case was a meaty piece of content, ranging from 45 to 90 minutes in length. If you dug the game, paying 10 bucks (a 50% discount) for four new cases was a no-brainer. The same goes for Elite -- if you're sure you'll buy every new Modern Warfare 3 map pack at $15 a pop, you're probably a hardcore enough player to also want the additional in-depth content that Elite offers. Worst Season Pass of 2011: "Season Pass," Saints Row: The Third ($20)Damn, a whole 15 percent off? This season pass nets you one currently available DLC pack (with two vehicles and two outfits, wowee!) and three future missions. Oh, and it doesn't even include two other launch DLC packs, one of which just contains... cheat codes. THQ, your shamelessness knows no bounds. (I tried to come up with a runner-up, but really, none of the others were as bad as this.) http://www.destructoid.com/best-of-2011-favorite-new-characters-218007.phtml
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Go to any media outlet this week and they'll be trumping up their best-of-the-year list. We're not so different. However, I wanted there to be a place where staff could sound off on what trends, games, and ideas captured thei...

Best of 2011: Favorite New Characters

Dec 16 // Allistair Pinsof
Out of the four partners you have during L.A. Noire, Roy Earle is the one who really nails the sleazy and corrupt post-war LAPD. He's more interested in getting his money back from a rigged boxing match than upholding the law, but at the same time he shows a surprising amount of pragmatism and harbors no illusions about who and what he is. The fact that he never receives his comeuppance and seemingly comes through the finale smelling of roses makes him even more infuriating.  - Alasdair Duncan My actual mum is a wonderful woman, so I never had a chance to run about a procedurally generated basement, killing my monstrous siblings as I fought my way through hell to slaughter an evil fundamentalist matriarch. Not until I played The Binding of Isaac, that is. Mom allowed me to see what it's like living in a dysfunctional home, and I'm a better person for it. - Fraser Brown I'm not sure if he counts as a proper video game character, but Devolver Digital's walking HR-violation of a CFO is playable in multiplayer, and the amount of lewd and offensive nonsense he spouts off on Twitter provides an uncomfortable amount of personality. Between his love of tequila and farts, and his progressive (?) stance on sexual harassment, he's somewhere between Cave Johnson and Duke Nukem. - Max Scoville One character that stood out for me this year was Adam Jensen. His apartment scene provided more significant emotional background than most other cookie-cutter characters I've seen this year. And the best part was that this information wasn't explained to us -- in that wonderfully typical game fashion -- but rather, shown to us. The apartment itself was a look into the conflict inside Adam after his transformation: the unpacked boxes, the unfinished clock on the desk, the broken mirror in the bathroom, and even the mournful wail of a single cello. It all made me feel like I was learning about the character myself, rather than him telling me his life story. Freaking brilliant. - Ryan Perez In a game like Dark Souls where the atmosphere is so oppressive and hostile, you could really do with a friend. Enter Knight Solaire. He is the embodiment of camaraderie and selfless generosity. He is also bat-shit crazy. The first time you meet Knight Solaire, he is just standing still, staring up at the sun, wishing that he could be so "gloriously incandescent." From that point on, you can summon Solaire to help you defeat certain bosses. He's also the head of the Sun covenant, which is all about helping other players by joining their world as friendly phantoms. Shine on, you crazy bastard. - Jamie McGinn Toad has always been kind of weird, but this new Toad is the strangest, saddest one yet. I feel like I'm his only friend. He pops up out of nowhere ONLY when Mario uses his binoculars. It's as if he refuses to say anything unless someone is using binoculars. When someone around is using them, Toad screams for attention endlessly. He's always stranded on some far-off platform that is impossible to get to, but he doesn't want any help getting down. He only wants you to acknowledge him and receive his greeting from afar. He's happy to stay there, stuck forever, dishing out a seemingly endless supply of Star Coins to anyone who will look at him. Sad. Sad and hilarious. - Dale North Never have I enjoyed going through so many different phases of emotion with a character in a game. It started with admiration; he was a war hero and damn fine go-getter. Cole busted his ass and wanted to be the very best -- what's not to like? But as the story progressed, you learned about his past cowardliness and, on top of that, his less-than-moral ethics. I hated him and was shocked by the game's portrayal of this man. I almost put down the controller in disgust, but I was intrigued by Team Bondi's storytelling and wanted to see where it went. By the end, Cole came full circle and made up for his scarred past. He didn't make amends for the present, but I felt satisfied with his conclusion. The roller coaster I experienced is easily why he was the best in 2011. - Wesley Ruscher It's not often that a character like this comes around. He's a passionate, foul-mouthed Mexican demon hunter (and slayer of pendejos) who hangs out with a wisecracking talking skull that happens to be a shapeshifter with a penchant for the phallic. More than your typical bizarre Suda 51 protagonist, Garcia is the embodiment of machismo, and along with Shadows of the Damned as a whole, represents Latin culture in a way previously unseen in videogames. "Taste my hot boner!" - Kyle MacGregor Ghost Trick is a game full of delightful characters brought to life through gorgeous animation and snappy dialogue, but no character stands out more than one brave little canine that took a literal bullet for his owner. Missile, a peppy Pomeranian, is too adorable for his own good. He’s such a loyal companion that he worries about his owner’s health even after taking a bullet for her. Who wouldn’t want a dog like that? - Allistair Pinsof The funniest new character of the year. Wheatley in Portal 2  -- voiced by the incredible Stephen Merchant -- starts off as a well-written, hilarious sidekick to main character Chell ... but slowly morphs into a genuinely fascinating character with a pretty amazing, twist-filled storyline. After the original Portal, I never thought a robot character could top the greatness of GLaDOS. Wheatley sure comes close. - Chad Concelmo ------------------------------- Did we forget to mention a new character you loved in 2011? Of course we did! Why don't you tell us about it in the comments below? What games’ stories lack in substance is often made up with character. Like, actual characters. Although we often identify franchises by their main protagonist, the smallest side character has just as much of an opportunity to work his or her way into our heart. Despite being a year dominated by sequels, 2011 has left us with a wealth of memorable characters brought to life through winning dialog and performances. Whether they are funny, mysterious, or just damn cool, these are our favorite new faces we got to know over the past 12 months.AlasdairRoy Earle (L.A. Noire): out of the four partners you have during L.A. Noire, Roy Earle is the one that really nails the sleazy and corrupt, post-war LAPD. He's more interested in getting his money back from a rigged boxing match than upholding the law but at the same time he shows a surprising amount of pragmatism and harbours no illusions about who and what he is. The fact that he never receives his comeuppance and seemingly comes through the finale smelling of roses makes him even more infuriating. (don't know if this last line is okay to go in, vaguely spoiler-ish)Fraser"Mom" (The Binding of Isaac) - My actual mum is wonderful woman, so I never had a chance to run about a procedurally generated basement, killing my monstrous siblings as I fought my way through hell to slaughter an evil fundementalist matriarch. Not until I played The Binding of Isaac, that is. "Mom" allowed me to see what it's like living in a dysfunctional home and I'm a better person for it."Hawke" (Dragon Age II) - Hawke is different for everyone, but for me he's a sexy, smug, sarcastic bastard who is more interested in the curves of lovely lady pirates and getting drunk than fighting dragons and saving a racist shit hole like Kirkwall. He also has a sweet beard.MaxFork Parker, Serious Sam 3 --I'm not sure if he counts as a proper video game character, but the Devolver Digital's walking HR-violation of a CFO is playable in multiplayer, and the amount of lewd and offensive nonsense he spouts off on Twitter provides an uncomfortable amount of personality. Between his love of tequila and farts, and his progressive (?) stance on sexual harassment, he's somewhere between Cave Johnson and Duke Nukem.Ryan PerezOne character that stood out for me this year was Adam Jensen.His apartment scene provided more significant emotional background than most other cookie-cutter characters I've seen this year. And the best part was that this information wasn't explained to us -- in that wonderfully typical game fashion -- but rather shown to us. The apartment itself was a look into the conflict that resided inside of Adam after his transformation: the unpacked boxes, the unfinished clock on the desk, the broken mirror in the bathroom, and even the dismal song of a single cello. It all made me feel like I was learning about the character myself, rather than him telling me his life story. Freaking brilliant.JamieKnight Solaire of Astora (Dark Souls)In a game like Dark Souls where the atmosphere is so oppressive and hostile, you could really do with a friend. Enter Knight Solaire. Knight Solaire is the embodiment of camaraderie and selfless generosity. He is also bat-shit crazy. The first time you meet Knight Solaire he is just standing still, staring up at the sun, wishing that he could be so "gloriously incandescent". From that point on the player can summon Solaire to help you defeat certain bosses. He's also the head of the Sun covenant, which is all about helping other players by joining their world has friendly phantoms. Shine on, you crazy bastard.Dale NorthMy favorite new character of 2011 is Screaming, Stranded Binoculars Toad, from Super Mario 3D Land. Toad has always been kind of weird, but this new Toad is the strangest, saddest on yet. I feel like I'm his only friend. He pops up out of nowhere ONLY Mario uses binoculars. It's as if he refuses to say anything unless someone is using binoculars. When someone around is using them, Toad screams for attention endlessly. He's always stranded on some far off platform that is impossible to get to, but he doesn't want any help getting down. He only wants you to acknowledge him and receive his greeting from afar. He's happy to stay there, stuck forever, dishing out a seemingly endless supply of Star Coins to anyone that will look at him. Sad. Sad and hilarious.WesleyMine would have to go to Cole Phelps from L.A. NoireNever have I enjoyed going through so many different phases of emotion with a character in a game. It started with admiration; he was a war hero and damn fine go-getter. Cole busted his ass and wanted to be the very best --what's not to like?? But as the story progressed you learn about his past cowardliness and on top of that less than moral ethics. I hated him and was shocked by the game's portayal of this man. I almost put down the controller in disgust, but I was intrigued by Team Bondi's story telling and wanted to see where it went. By the end, Cole comes full circle and makes up for his scarred past. He didn't amend for the present, but I felt satisfied with his conclusion. The roller coaster I experienced is easily why he was the best -- in my opinion -- in 2011.KyleSurprisingly hard to sum up a character in just a couple lines and be happy with it, but maybe you can use this.Garcia "Fucking" Hotspur -- Shadows of the DamnedIt's not often that a character like Garcia comes around. He's a passionate, foul-mouthed Mexican demon hunter (and slayer of pendejos) that hangs out with a wisecracking talking skull who that happens to be a shapeshifter with a penchant for the phallic. Taste my big boner!AllistairMissile - Ghost TrickGhost Trick is a game full of delightful characters brought to life through gorgeous animation and snappy dialog, but none stands out to me more than one brave little canine that took a literal bullet for his owner. Missile, a peppy Pomeranian, is too adorable for his own good. He’s such a loyal companion that he worries about his owner’s health even after he took a bullet for her. Who wouldn’t want a dog like that?
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What games' stories lack in substance is often made up with character. Like, actual characters. Although we often identify a franchise by its main protagonist, the smallest side character has just as much of an opportunity ...


Best of 2011: Industry Picks

Dec 15 // Allistair Pinsof
1. Johann Sebastian Joust Between the Bastion launch party, Gaijin Games’ barbeques, and Tiff Chow’s Fourth of July extravaganza, I think Joust has officially taken over more parties than any game I’ve ever played.  It’s truly the best use of the Move controller I’ve seen and is one of the very best multiplayer games of all time.  If you didn’t grab it as part of Brandon Boyer’s Venus Patrol Kickstater, you are definitely missing out. 2. Uncharted 3 I’m a single player story kind of guy, and the folks at Naughty Dog nailed it out of the park on this one.  The sinking ship in particular stands out as something that just blew my mind.  I would have loved to watch whoever came up with that idea tell a programmer they were going to have to make it happen. 3. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP I loved Point-and-Click Adventures back in the day and am very very excited to see them making a bit of a comeback.  This one in particular took everything I loved about those old games and wrapped it in a super stylish and modern shell.  I bought an iPad specifically to play this game, and it was totally worth it. 4. Portal 2 I’m a huge fan of the original Portal.  I have played it at least five times.  Somehow, Valve was able to not only give me everything I wanted in a sequel but also avoid every potential pitfall I could see.  They were able to add new mechanics that felt as fresh as the original portal gun, they changed up the art style in an interesting and unique way, and they made the writing even more funny and evocative. 5. Work I know, it’s probably not kosher to include your own stuff in a list like this, but I’m really proud of what we’ve done here at Double Fine this year.  With Stacking, Iron Brigade [Trenched], and Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, we released more games in one year than ever before, and each is completely different than the last.  It’s been a pleasure coming to work every day with a group of such amazingly talented and awesome people, and I can’t wait until people see what we’ve got coming next! 1. IndieCade This year's IndieCade event in Culver City was the first one I ever attended, and it was a pretty big deal to me. The talks were uniformly informative and inspiring, and the things I picked up over that weekend have shaped the way I've spent the latter half of the year and made me a better person. That sounds like hyperbole, and I don't know how much of that was due to IndieCade specifically, but the conversations I had there have had a long and lasting influence on what I do every day.2. Venus Patrol Brandon Boyer's insanely successful Kickstarter to revive Offworld under a new banner made the news just for how much money it raised, but it also got me off my ass and putting together the first new game I've done in... a while (CAPSULE). I'm really glad Venus Patrol is going to be around.3. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Superbrothers & Capy's atmospheric iOS adventure game showed that you don't have to make cute physics games about animals in order to find an enthusiastic audience on the App Store. S:S&S EP is the most important game of the year, at least for me, for this and many other reasons.4. Indies going commercial A few of my favorite game designers finally started releasing full, commercial games to the public. I fervently hope (and in some cases know) that we have not seen the last of Zach Gage (SpellTower) and Stephen Lavelle (English Country Tune), especially.5. Johann Sebastian Joust Johann Sebastian Joust isn't even really out yet, but I think it pretty obviously HAPPENED this year. Tabletop games and folk games are a much bigger part of the indie video game scene this year, and JOUST is basically single-handedly responsible for the folk games part (with a shout-out to Ninja of course).1. Rayman Origins I love platformers, and I've fallen hard for this one. It has incredible music, shit tons of personality and is insanely fun to play.  2. Bastion Made by the super cool guys and gals that make up the small team at Supergiant Games, Bastion is a stellar example of use of story, environment, and narration in a game.  The soundtrack by Darren Korb is also great, and Logan Cunningham's narration is spot on. 3. PAX I love PAX. It's the only time i get to interact with fans, and even though it still feels really weird to say that we have fans, it's great to meet everyone who stops by the booth at PAX to chat about games.  It's incredibly rewarding to talk to people who have played our games and get their feedback.  The entire weekend, though extremely tiring, is a completely uplifting affair.  I always go back to work after PAX completely recharged and ready to make more stuff for people to play.4. Deep Sea Deep Sea is an audio only game I played at one of the monthly Juegos Rancheros meet-ups, here in Austin. You wear a gas mask that completely blacks out your sight and monitors your breathing. You have to echo locate monsters in the darkness by their guttural vocal cues and blind fire your weapon at them. It's incredibly intense. Did i mention that if you breath, you can't hear the monsters? Yeah, intense. 5. Portal 2 I'm picking this one strictly for two little audio touches that i really liked. I love the arpeggiated synth that plays when you slide on the speed boost gel.  And there's a puzzle involving some lasers, some reflective cubes, and some adaptive music that kinda blew me away. Also, Stephen Merchant did a great job as Wheatly. [In no specific order.] Saints Row: The Third This game could have consisted of nothing more than the "deckers.die" mission and the last mission in the game, and it would still be one of my favorite games of the year. Driver: San Francisco One of the rare non-Valve, non-Irrational games where the story honestly and truly works with the gameplay, rather than against it. The fact that the main character is in a coma allows us to (A) immediately accept the illogical, but ludicrously fun "shift" mechanic, and (B) forgive him for taking over the bodies of other human beings before driving them into brick walls at ninety miles an hour. It also doesn't hurt that in general, the game has some of the funniest writing I've heard in a while. I generally hate driving games, but I'm just about to start my second playthrough of Driver SF.Portal 2 Duh.Deus Ex: Human Revolution I like the original Deus Ex as much as the next guy (so long as the next guy likes it just enough to have completed it once, ten years ago, but can no longer bring themselves to get past the "scuttle the tanker" mission nowadays), but I honestly think Human Revolution is the better game. It's got the most satisfying stealth gameplay since Arkham Asylum, and, one time, a character asked me to go kill some drug dealers before he would give me some item I required. So I punched him out and took the item I needed off his comatose body.Rayman Origins After the mild mental crisis I had after playing Skyward Sword for a few hours and realizing I now absolutely hated a franchise that had been incredibly dear to me as a child, Rayman Origins taught me that I am still capable of feeling happiness. Which is good. For us, the best games are generally cohesive, moody worlds that we care about; where we get to make interesting tactical or expressive decisions; where unplanned, unscripted gameplay arises from the player's interaction with systems. [In no specific order.]Portal 2 Each Valve game is a lesson is design. Portal still stands as our favorite in the series, but Portal 2 was definitely one of the best games of the year. Dark Souls Hardcore done right, with feelings of investment that come from hard won progress. Almost no hand-holding; the rare anomaly in modern RPGs. A masochistic pleasure. Skyrim Just wow. I know it's our parent company, but we're all playing this game right now at Arkane and it's just stunning. So much content, so much love; each of that team's games gets better. Standing proof that systemic interaction that allow the player to get creative and solve problems in interesting ways is the way to go. Dead Island This was the surprise of the year. Not a perfect game, but systemically interesting and chaotic. Everyone was blown away by the trailer, a really nice short, and despite the fact that the game was very different, it was worth the initial excitement.Deus Ex: Human Revolution It's always a rare pleasure to play an immersive sim style game that we didn't work on. The game included a lot of love and looked great. It had problems, and was a little too clean for us in terms of systems interactions, but it still belongs on this list because of our personal tastes in games. [In no specific order.] 0Space (PC) 0Space by Beau Blyth is a 2D 2-4 player deathmatch game in zero-gravity. It’s all about floating around in space slowly and perfectly shooting your friends in the face. It’s loads of fun and it’s free. Murder Dog IV (PC) “If murder is a crime, I don’t want to be innocent” - Murder Dog IV is one of the best written games ever.Spacechem (iOS/PC/Mac) We really don’t like puzzle games when there’s only one valid solution. Those games leave no room for player expression. Spacechem is different -- it gives you a problem, some tools and all the freedom to do whatever you want. It also gives you a migraine.Rage Sort of. Rage puts you in a linear level with a handgun and two types of enemies and already manages to be better than most shooters nowadays. Combine that with fancy graphics, a nice world to mess around in and Mad Max. Pretty good.Atom Zombie Smashers This game is so clever, we can’t even start to describe it. Some of the things you can do in Atom Zombie Smashers is naming your landmines, steering a helicopter around and researching a Llama Cannon.[images courtesy of Austin Chronicle and State Press]
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You already know what we think about releases this year, and you'll know our Game of the Year pick soon enough. But, what about game developers? You know, the people that actually matter in this industry. Not many game develo...


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