It’s the end of the year, and that means awards season is upon us. Spike’s Video Game Awards (VGAs) kicked things off this year with a show that was at times entertaining and perplexing.
The star of NBC’s show Chuck, Zachary Levi, was the host of the VGAs this year. He proved to be a decent choice; he seemed to know what he was talking about and even cracked a few funny jokes. Sure, his opening video sketch was terrible, but these things usually are, right? At least Spike didn’t go with some completely random host like they sometimes have in the past. Artist Deadmau5 was on hand–complete with goofy mouse headgear–to provide some techno music (I think it’s techno?) to fade to commercials with.
The first award of the night went to Batman: Arkham City. The game won for best action/adventure against stiff competition from the sequel to 2009’s game of the year, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Next up was a big reveal trailer for PS3 exclusive The Last of Us. When I first heard of the game’s existence, I was praying it wasn’t just another zombie game. Well, it is another zombie game…from developer Naughty Dog (the Uncharted series). No actual gameplay footage or details were shown, but judging by the CG trailer, the game appears to be heavily inspired by the Will Smith movie I Am Legend. The Last of Us seems to focus on survival in a world overrun by the undead (hence the movie similarities) and is being developed by one of the best video game developers in the world, but do we really need another zombie game?
Mass Effect 3 was announced as the winner of the viewer’s choice most anticipated game award (not BioShock Infinite?). A new trailer was shown featuring in-game footage that focused on a Reaper–the giant alien/machine hybrids that are the main threat in the Mass Effect series–fighting a giant worm reminiscent of the sand worms from Dune. The game looked action-packed, but Mass Effect 3 is supposed to be an RPG–where are the role-playing elements, BioWare? BioWare also revealed its new project to be Command and Conquer Generals 2. A very brief CG trailer was shown that revealed the game will use the Frostbite 2 engine that powers Battlefield 3 and that Generals 2 won’t be releasing until 2013. No other details were announced.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Patriots was also given a brief CG trailer with no gameplay footage. I feel bad for anyone watching the VGAs just to see Rainbow 6 footage–what a complete letdown. A new game that we got a much more intriguing glimpse of is Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, an upcoming downloadable Xbox Live Arcade game. Incorrectly rumored to be named “Alan Wake: Night Springs,” American Nightmare looks like a full-blown sequel to the underrated Xbox 360 exclusive horror/thriller Alan Wake, no matter what developer Remedy Entertainment has said. If you haven’t played the original game, I suggest you do so; it plays like a Stephen King novel with third-person shooter gameplay. Maybe American Nightmare won’t be as long or as in-depth as the original Alan Wake game, hence it not being called a direct sequel? Regardless, I’m really excited about Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the gameplay footage shown at the VGAs.
Legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikmin–how’s that for a resume?) walked on-stage to induct the Legend of Zelda series into the “Video Game Hall of Fame.” I’m fairly certain that other video game halls of fame exist, but Zelda is apparently the first inductee into the VGA Hall of Fame (?). Despite my confusion, it was great to see Miyamoto-san on-stage, especially in light of all of the rumors concerning his position at Nintendo this past week. A trailer for open-world movie game The Amazing Spider-Man was next. It….looked like a Spider-Man game.
Pro wrestler Hulk Hogan was on-hand to introduce a video package showcasing a whole bunch of awards that were quickly glossed over. Among these, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception won for best PS3 game and best graphics–apparently, no one voting on these things has played Battlefield 3 on a decent computer yet. In fact, Battlefield 3 also lost the coveted multiplayer game of the year award–seemingly a shoo-in for Battlefield 3–to….Portal 2? What the…? Rock band The Black Keys (who?) then performed a song. The best part of the performance was the reaction shots of Miyamoto-san and actor/comedian Seth Green, who looked confused as to why a video game awards show had a rock band performing who have nothing to do with video games.
Leggy ex-WWE Diva Stacy Keibler (I’m a big wrestling fan, so I know who these people are) was on stage next to show off a CG trailer for the upcoming game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. The game is being billed as the sequel to last year’s third-person shooter Transformers: War for Cybertron and is unrelated to the Michael Bay films. Completing the VGA shutout of excellent first-person shooter Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 took home the award for best shooter. Look, I know that video game tastes are subjective, but Modern Warfare 3 is almost identical to Modern Warfare 2, whereas Battlefield 3 brings multiplayer shooters to a whole new level. Battlefield 3 is generally considered to be the far-better game by those who’ve played it, especially the PC version; maybe it lost due to it’s polarizing campaign?
Infamous developer Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski (Gears of War) took the stage to show off Epic Games’ new IP Fortnite. In stark contrast to the gory shooters like Gears of War and Unreal that Epic is best known for, Fortnite looks cartoony and less violent. Epic didn’t share many concrete details about the game, but CliffyB made Fortnite sound similar to PC indie sensation Minecraft. Next up was the oddly named Gamer God award, presented to Blizzard Entertainment. A montage video showed off the developer’s many successful franchises–World of WarCraft, StarCraft, and Diablo. A few members of Blizzard then took the stage to show off the stunning CG opening cinematic for Diablo III. I was never a big fan of Diablo or Blizzard’s other franchises, but the Diablo III cinematic was stunning.
Stunning female video gamer/celebrity Felicia Day next went on-stage to show off an amazing trailer for Irrational’s highly-anticipated BioShock Infinite. The game wowed critics at E3 with its amazing demo, and it wowed the VGA audience tonight, as well. After BioShock Infinite, the publicly voted award for character of the year went to Mark Hamill’s gleefully sadistic portrayal of The Joker in Batman: Arkham City. I think the absolutely hilarious robot Wheatley from Valve’s first-person puzzle game Portal 2 (voiced by British comedian Stephen Merchant) should have taken the award, but The Joker’s win video showed a teaser for Arkham City‘s possible sequel, Batman: Arkham World. Is this merely a joke from developer Rocksteady Studios or a hint at what’s next for Batman?
The last–and biggest–award of the night was Game of the Year. There were five nominees, all great games: Batman: Arkham City, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Portal 2, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Only one game could win the award, and Bethesda’s massive open world RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was that game. While I haven’t played it yet, Skyrim has become an addiction for millions of gamers and has even managed to best big-name FPS games Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 in a number of key areas relating to popularity. The game is selling like hotcakes at retailers and is the talk of the gaming world right now. I predicted that Skyrim had the greatest chance of winning game of the year, but I also thought that Batman and Uncharted had legitimate shots, as well.
The VGAs wrapped up with a new look at the renamed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Kojima Productions’ head honcho and namesake Hideo Kojima took the stage to awkwardly introduce the trailer. Kojima-san doesn’t speak English very well and seemed nervous, but the trailer was awesome. Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Shadows of the Damned, Vanquish), Metal Gear Rising is an extremely violent and over-the-top action game that seems to have shades of Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden franchise. I’m not a fan of previous Metal Gear Solid games, but Metal Gear Rising looks like a ton of fun. It’s too bad that the Metal Gear Rising trailer leaked online hours before the VGAs started, as it was supposed to be the night’s biggest reveal.
Overall, I’d say the VGAs were a mixed bag this year. I like Skyrim as Game of the Year, but why shut out Battlefield 3 and have celebrities that have nothing to do with gaming taking up so much air time? A few stupid skits went on far too long, too; this time would have been better spent focusing on the smaller awards. Some games’ reveals really disappointed, as well. It could have been better, but the 2011 Video Game Awards also could have been much worse (as it has been in previous years). If you haven’t seen it yet on TV, I’d say don’t bother–now that you’ve read my thoughts on the event, look up the reveal trailers online and skip all the filler stuff in-between.
*list of 2011 VGA (Video Game Awards) winners:
- Game of the Year: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Studio of the Year: Bethesda Game Studios (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
- Best Xbox 360 Game: Batman: Arkham City
- Best PS3 Game: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- Best Wii Game: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- Best PC Game: Portal 2
- Best Handheld/Mobile Game: Super Mario 3D Land
- Best Shooter: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
- Best Action/Adventure Game: Batman: Arkham City
- Best RPG: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Best Multiplayer: Portal 2
- Best Individual Sports Game: Fight Night Champion
- Best Team Sports Game: NBA 2K12
- Best Driving Game: Forza Motorsport 4
- Best Fighting Game: Mortal Kombat
- Best Motion Game: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
- Best Independent Game: Minecraft
- Best Adapted Video Game: Batman: Arkham City
- Best Song in a Game: “Build that Wall (Zia’s Theme)” from Bastion
- Best Original Score: Bastion
- Best Graphics: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- Best Performance by a Human Male: Stephen Merchant as Wheatley in Portal 2
- Best Performance by a Human Female: Ellen McLain as GlaDOS in Portal 2
- Best Downloadable Game: Bastion
- Best DLC: “Peer Review” for Portal 2
- Cover Athlete for EA Sports’ NFL Blitz: Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens (public vote)
- Character of the Year: The Joker in Batman: Arkham City (public vote)
- Most Anticipated Game: Mass Effect 3 (public vote)
- GameTrailers.com’s Trailer of the Year: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations E3 2011 Trailer