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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 47: Third Annual Holiday Awards Spectacular

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Gather round the fire, friends, as we celebrate the year in games—the good, the bad, the really bad, and everything in between. It's our 3rd Annual Holiday Awards Spectacular! Plus, Brad's son stops by to share his best and worst of the year, and we announce the winners of our Game Credit Giveaway! Featuring Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, Richard Naik, Dan Weissenberger, and Tim "Counting is Hard" Spaeth. Happy Holidays to all our listeners!!

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When was Sonic Adventure bad?

Wiat when was Sonic Adventure bad? Unpolished sure but bad? Its no worse than Mario 64.
Sonic 1,2,3 and Sonic and knuckles were pretty good, Mario was a better platformer but it was not free roaming.
And Sonic Unleashed is half right.

Er what? CV 64 is better than Lords of shadow, I'll take an adventure style game over a god of war want to be. Also Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness were as bad as Lords of shadows tho they are bland and flat and iffy pacing LOS might be paced better but just has worse content.

HL2+eps is ok the main reason it holds up so well.... quality averages have come down...

Dantes inferno? Mmmmm I think Lords of Shadow is more polished mechanic wise but Dantes inferno is better story/pacing.

I don't get Mario Galaxy I find it shallow, a gimmicky mini game posing a a real whole game.

Bayenetta, its dumb fun with solid and slightly deep combat, its what games are meant to be.

Solyent Commando sucked because the gameplay was antiquated it worked well enough but the story and ending was just horrible.

Forgotten Sands was better than (08s) oh god that was a horribly game.

Wow Metroid:AM or FF13...... wow....... FF13 is worse defeinalty , Metroid:AM was solid enough, the mechanics worked at least, sure its less than Metroid Prime but what isn't, I am trying to ignore the story......

FF9 is alot better than 7........ And 12 is not that bad boring as hell but the level design is great.

Lords of shadow is your average game you guys give high score to half the time.....
Tho LOS is a tossed together Frankenstein but still....samey as all the other crap the industry tries to put out *rolls eyes*.

Would I say I liked Castlevania?

I don't know if I would say I liked Castlevania. I was pretty meh on it. But I guess with your guyses crazy rating scale, a 5.5 means that I liked it. lol ;)

I think the suspense of

I think the suspense of knowing the Steaming Pile award is totally worthy of the ending music from The Best of Both Worlds part 1.

What...?

I still cannot understand the love for Deadly Premonition.

I picked that game up based solely on GameCritic's non-stop praise of it and it is a horrible, horrible game. Maybe the game gets better as you get further into it and interact with everyone - I don't know...because after being exposed to the last-gen-at-best visuals, shoddy presentation, laughable cinematics and horrid controls I promptly put the disc back in the case and sold it online.

However, I loved Alan Wake and even dug up a recent podcast where you covered it (#44) and you guys got hung up on not liking Alan - when he was clearly modeled after the protagonists in many Stephen King books. The story in the game was phenomenal, as were the graphics (aside from facial animations), the soundtrack, voice acting, pacing and presentation. And I loved the gameplay/combat system.

You can get through Alan Wake in about 8-10 hours...and you guys were bitching non-stop about the levels (of which there are only SIX) being TOO LONG. TOO LONG!

On other reviews you happily invest 50+ hours (looking at you Demon's Souls with your crappy autosave system and ruthless death penalties) and you don't even flinch.

But getting back to Deadly Premonition, you guys really should be ashamed of yourselves. $20 price tag or not, DP is a horrible game. If it's a "neat experiment" then it shouldn't be labeled a video game - it should be an edutainment/simulation/etc. piece of software. But as a game, it is broken on so many levels.

I won't demand $15 back from you (I picked DP up during an Amazon sale) but after hearing/reading the "all over the place" reviews on GC, I'm not ever going to blindly take your word for anything...which is a shame - because some of the stuff you cover (like Heavy Rain sucking and Castlevania: LoS being so awful) is so dead-on.

I wasn't a fan of Mario Galaxy 2 at all (it's the EXACT SAME GAME as 2007's Mario Galaxy...LITERALLY the same damn thing) but I would have rather you guys picked that than DP...because I know tons of people are gonna buy that game based on your recommendation and be looking to sell it the same day they start playing it.

@Scott I agree that DP isn't

@Scott

I agree that DP isn't GOTY material. It's just too broken, which I made perfectly clear on our DP show. It was actually close to being my "Most Disappointing" entry.

That said, it isn't reasonable to automatically assume that you will like a game because someone recommends it to you. Dan talked me into giving DP a whirl, and I bailed after the second episode. Brad talked me into playing Vanquish, but I wasn't impressed with it. The choice to try those games out is on me, not them. Asking them to "be ashamed of themselves" makes no sense at all.

Thanks for responding!

...yeah - I 100% agree that you're more likely to get burned from totally trusting a site all the time...but I just discovered GameCritics earlier in the year...and while not every review hit close to home, whenever you guys covered more story-line/cinematic titles you spoke the truth, even if it didn't please developers/publishers or fans. I like that - way too many sites give everything an '8' or higher automatically if they fear advertiser or readership backlash.

Now I can accept that you guys didn't like Alan Wake - to each his own - and if that was the general consensus among GC, no biggie. (As a note, I never read reviews of games before I buy them) However, after seeing 12+ posts about Deadly Premonition being "Game of the Year" MONTHS before the year ended, I figured review or not (seeing those headlines were unavoidable even though I had no plans on reading them before playing DP), based on the sustained coverage and headlines clearly indicating GC's love for the game, it was a solid bet. Maybe not MY GotY...but a game with that much praise can't be all bad, right?

I really liked your podcast though - I used to only listen to Gamescoop and the Games for Windows shows for the longest time...but I think now I'm totally gonna listen to you guys discuss things.

There's a certain "edge" about GameCritics that I appreciate - you guys do come across as not censoring yourselves for $$$/traffic and that's what I like best.

I would like to hear WHY games that get super high marks are rated that high by reviewers BEYOND the review though. A review just states the opinion of the reviewer...a follow-up would attempt to discuss the issues gamers have with it and in effect, defend the review. That's one reason the universal love for Mario Galaxy 2 irked me so much this year - NO ONE on ANY site addressed the issue that so much of it was a blatant ripoff of the first Mario Galaxy...and yet everyone gave the game '10', '100%', 'A+', etc.

I think even in the GC awards show you guys mention a game early on (Crackdown maybe?) where you say the series is dead because the 2nd game is EXACTLY the same as the first...yet when the time to discuss MG2 came up, not one peep was made. I've gotten to a point where the sacred cow series of gaming - Mario, Zelda, Halo, etc. are so immune to criticism that nowadays I immediately doubt the validity of any claim as to how great they are (and this is coming from a gamer who loved Mario, Zelda, Halo, etc. years ago!). In short, if you're gonna hate on a series for a problem you see as inexcusable, make sure that carries over to other series, no matter who the characters are or if a "Miyamoto" name is attached to it.

I just think that no matter who you are on whatever site/pub you represent, you should truthfully address major issues. It's one thing if a game is just not everyone's "cup of tea"...but to endorse a game as one everyone will enjoy is a pretty serious claim and should be treated in that way.

Keep up the awesome work overall though - especially on the podcast (thank goodness you all have pleasant voices...it's amazing how many podcasts are out there with super-boring or trying-to-hard hosts).

Oh, and I'm glad the GC crew has some Shenmue love too - you'd be hard-pressed to even find a younger gamer nowadays who even knows what that was!

Gosh, Scott-

I wish you'd taken the time to read at least the first couple of articles before selling the game. The GOTY piece is as much about acting as a guide to help people through the early, rough parts of Deadly Premonition as it is an analysis of all the game's high and low points.

Also, everyone should feel free to message me when they're going to be selling their unloved copies of DP on eBay - I'm bidding whenever I can pick one up for under 15$. That sounds low, but it's what I can pick them up for new, and it's irresponsible to pay more than the new price for a used game.

Sorry! :)

Here's the thing, I'm of the belief that there are really two ways for gamers to approach any given game:
#1) Make the gameplay so intuitive and enjoyable that gamers of all types can start enjoying it immediately.
#2) Make the gameplay so frustrating/difficult/confusing that the steep learning curve forces players to look "outside of the game" for help (websites, FAQs, Youtube videos, etc.)

I've played both types over the years and thankfully, the #2 approach is rather uncommon. Demon's Souls was a game that was so punishing I doubt very much even one player went through their whole play time w/o consulting outside help of some sort.

Another example is the Monster Hunter series - a series that I have grown to love. But I won't lie - that game has a ridiculous learning curve and control/camera issues that will turn so many players off within the first hour. I tried to get my friend play it and he absolutely hated the controls and unforgiving nature of the levels.

So in order to complete these games, or get the experience we know we want (the best one) but are unsure about how to get (without investing dozens of hours into a title), we have to rely on content that is separate from the game.

What is the old saying, "If you have to explain a joke, it isn't funny?"...same here. Why should I have to read a 12+ part series on DP to understand that it's a great game? As you guys discussed in your holiday show with Patrick Stewart's narration about Gabriel in Castlevania: LoS, don't TELL ME, SHOW ME.

I may not be a professional reviewer, but I've been writing game fanzines since the 90s and have written reviews for hundreds of games over the past 14 years...and surprisingly, lots (to me anyways) of people visit my site (years ago I had tons of fanzine subscribers and was even featured in Tips & Tricks twice) and I would like to think my advice is useful to some people... ...because of that, I can't honestly recommend Deadly Premonition after my time with it.

Just as you can't forgive Heavy Rain's awful plot regardless of the pretty visuals, sound and rather unique take on gameplay (though they screwed up controls in it often), I can't excuse the shoddy everything if there's a "great" story in there. If there is, that's a shame. Really is.

For you sci-fi/film nuts out there, just take a look at David Lynch's Dune. As a movie for the masses, it's one of the worst sci-fi films ever. It's rubbish. But if you "deal" with the awful acting, narration, editing, pacing and overall product, you get to experience great settings, pretty impressive visuals (sans space travel segment), a complex and intriguing plot and characters who you'd like to know more about, even though what you see isn't that well presented.

Maybe Deadly Premonition is like that and to get the true value of it, you have to ignore what you normally look at in a game.

But that begs the question – why were you all so willing to invest that much time and energy into DP when there are countless and blatantly-obvious bad games released left and right? Where's the 12-part series on Mirror's Edge or the 6-part series on the greatness of Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?

Dan, you sound like a very intelligent guy in the podcasts I've heard, so I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this...but Deadly Premonition, regardless of one's insane love for it should have never come close to GotY considering all the other titles that were much better experiences overall.

Kudos to you for picking DP.

Kudos to you for picking DP. I played a lot of great games this year, but DP is my GOTY as well, and I'm glad there's at least one website out there that gives this game the credit it deserves.

DP (Will I ever discuss anything else? Probably not.)

You're right about different types of players engaging in games different ways - and the absolute horribility of Deadly Premonition's combat puts up quite a wall to every survival horror gamer post-RE4.

There were other criteria to picking game of the year, though, and this year it came down (for me) to 'what's the most singularly wonderful time you had playing a game this year'? 'What game raised the bar on videogame story and characterization'? 'What game's perfect conclusion will you continue thinking about for years to come'?

Also, for the record, only about half of the articles so far have been about 'how to play' the game - the rest are just close readings, because Deadly Premonition is the rare game that both invites and rewards analysis. Compared to something like Heavy Rain, which the developer discouraged people from playing twice (probably because very little holds up if you think about it for more than a second), DP is a game that encourages players to consider its mysteries, and get more out of it than a series of shocks and thrills.

Deadly Premonition was the best game of the year despite its flaws - if the action sequences looked and played like Alan Wake, it would have been everyone's game of the year, not just ours. If you absolutely won't go back and give it a second chance, consider simply going to Youtube and watching the story - because it's the best movie you'll pay nothing to watch this year.

Oh, and speaking of Alan Wake, the reason the game's levels felt so long despite the whole game only being ~6 hours was that there was A: so little variety in what you had to do, making them feel repetitive, B: they were all so dark that you couldn't really see most of the detail work, making each one feel like you were walking through the same dark hallways whether you were in a forest, chalet, or town.

Sounds good.

Dan - I may just do that. I know watching Youtube videos might be like watching the cinematic DVD from the XBox version Shenmue II...

I was thinking of doing the same thing about FFXIII since I could only put up with 15 hours of it before the gameplay turned me off.

And I totally agree with you that "Game of the Year" should be reserved for a game that raises the bar in a significant way like no other title. Maybe after I see the storytelling in DP I'll feel that way. Maybe after watching the story unfold I'll change my mind and recommend DP as the best game you should never play. I'll give it a shot!

I will admit though, 2010 - despite having so many AAA titles - really felt like a ho-hum year, didn't it? (I thought so)

Hey Scott. Thanks very much

Hey Scott.

Thanks very much for your comments.

I basically echo everything that Dan said… the reason that DP took the crown this year was because it took so many risks that paid off, had phenomenal writing and characterization, and its approach to the material was revolutionary compared to a sea of games that may have looked and controlled better, but were essentially safe, low-risk, low-imagination projects that were iterations of things we've seen many times before.

I also want to point out to you that if you go to the actual reviews that were turned in for DP, Sparky’s main review (the one that goes to MetaCritic) scores the game a 4, and my second opinion only gave a 7.5. In light of those scores, I think it's pretty safe to say that we definitely took into account the issues with control, presentation, and so on. By no means was DP anywhere near being the highest-scored game at the site this year, but it has certain undeniable qualities that we felt must be recognized.

Also, this is a little bit of a tangent, but you brought up Demon’s Souls and Monster Hunter, both games that are near and dear to my heart. While it's true that each of those projects have legions of websites devoted to them offering in-depth information, I think part of the appeal of both of them is that there is so much for players to discover on their own. In both cases, the point of having so much information "hidden" is not to force players to search for outside sources, but to offer them incentive to dig deep into the material and figure things out on their own.

Deadly Premonition is exactly the same as Monster Hunter or Demon’s Souls. It offers a surprising amount of rich, deep content, but it's only apparent after someone takes the time to sit down and experience the game for themselves. Of course, that player will have to get past the low-rent graphics and clunky controls, but in no way would I say that DP was a “tell it” game at all. It's the definition of a “show it” game -- you just have to be open to it.

Like MH or DS, DP isn't something easily digestible by the masses, but really, I think that's what makes it so special.

Scott wrote: However, I

Scott wrote:

However, I loved Alan Wake and even dug up a recent podcast where you covered it (#44) and you guys got hung up on not liking Alan - when he was clearly modeled after the protagonists in many Stephen King books. The story in the game was phenomenal, as were the graphics (aside from facial animations), the soundtrack, voice acting, pacing and presentation. And I loved the gameplay/combat system.

Well, to be fair, I really liked Alan Wake too. I think the game has some significant flaws (unlikeable protagonist being the biggest), but I had a lot of fun with it and would rate it as one of my favorites of the year.

I don't really see the King correlation with Alan being a giant dickhole, though. King's protagonists are almost always likable -- he's never written anyone as obnoxious as Alan in the part of a lead in one of his novels. I guess you could maybe make a case for The Shining, if you count Jack as the protagonist, but even he has a lot of redeeming qualities in the book that were lost in the film.

I really do like the game, though.

Quote:

You can get through Alan Wake in about 8-10 hours...and you guys were bitching non-stop about the levels (of which there are only SIX) being TOO LONG. TOO LONG!

It's an issue of pacing, really. The game is going to be the same length regardless, so why not break up the levels more frequently to allow for the game's story interludes (which we both loved) to be a focal point more often? The episodic approach was cool -- why not make it a longer season with more episodes?

For me, it was never about the overall length of the game, but really just the feeling that the longer episodes spaced out story elements in a way that seemed detrimental to the flow of the narrative. That's just my take, though.

At any rate, I'm glad you dug the show. Hope you keep listening -- and this might be the first time someone's ever said anything nice about my voice...

Great Show

Congratulations on your third anual award show. It was a joy to listen to and a great way to end the GC-year. I always enjoy listening to your GOTY-picks and other awards, because they are so different from all the other gaming sites (I didn't hear Mass Effect 2 mentioned once, I think). I don't always agree with your ratings and picks, but I can always follow your reasonings and it is interesting to hear some different takes on the games.

After the awards show I immediately downloaded "Game Dev Story" for my iPhone after hearing Tim give it such praise for the second time. I was addicted from the first moment and it reminded me a lot of the good ol' days, when I was playing "Theme Hospital" on my PC. I'm looking very much forward to a review of the game by Tim as I do have a lot of complaints about the later stages in the game and I wonder if those'll be mentioned.

As for the GOTY-pick, that was a little bit of a shocker, although the many editorials on the game might have been a bit of a giveaway. I have not played the game yet, but I will definitely pick it up and give it a try. Even if I don't like it, it's worth seeing what all the fuzz is about :-).

I have a suggestion for next years show though and that is to maybe change the way the GOTY is picked. It always feels kind of random, because one game gets the pick of just two people. I don't have the feeling it reflects the overall gamecritics opinion. Perhaps each of the critics should make a top 3 with a scoring mechanic.

Top 3 with a scoring mechanic

That's a good idea about the top 3 with a scoring mechanic. Would certainly add some drama and suspense.

Good to hear SOMEONE say

Good to hear SOMEONE say ANYTHING good about Heavy Rain, for once. Kudos, Brad. ;P

And it was Sonic Unleashed, Richard.

Thanks and some responses

I again want to thank everyone for listening and especially for taking the time to comment. This episode in particular was a blast to prep for and record, and I'm thrilled so many of you dug it.

Scott wrote:

I wasn't a fan of Mario Galaxy 2 at all (it's the EXACT SAME GAME as 2007's Mario Galaxy...LITERALLY the same damn thing)....That's one reason the universal love for Mario Galaxy 2 irked me so much this year - NO ONE on ANY site addressed the issue that so much of it was a blatant ripoff of the first Mario Galaxy...and yet everyone gave the game '10', '100%', 'A+', etc.

That's reasonable. I did touch on that briefly in our Galaxy 2 podcast (and I'm too lazy to see if Richard's review addresses it). I come at it from this angle: In my mind Galaxy 1 was near perfection, and Galaxy 2 was near perfection continued. Even more than that, the very essence of the Galaxy games is variety. Yes, you could whittle every level down to "star collecting via 3-D platforming" but every level is so different that at no point does it feel repetitive or samey. If you were coming to Galaxy 2 looking for a change to the game's structure or goals, sure, I totally get the disappointment. But in my mind this is the rare case where "more of the same" is perfectly acceptable and praiseworthy.

scott wrote:

I've gotten to a point where the sacred cow series of gaming - Mario, Zelda, Halo, etc. are so immune to criticism that nowadays I immediately doubt the validity of any claim as to how great they are. (and this is coming from a gamer who loved Mario, Zelda, Halo, etc. years ago!). In short, if you're gonna hate on a series for a problem you see as inexcusable, make sure that carries over to other series, no matter who the characters are or if a "Miyamoto" name is attached to it

Well, our anti-Zelda and semi-anti-Halo stances are pretty legendary at this point. Indeed, when we tore into Skyward Sword on the E3 show, we took an incredible amount of heat for it. And as for Miyamoto -- I think New Super Mario Bros. Wii WAS an uncreative rehash, Super Paper Mario was wildly ill-conceived, Wii Music is atrocious...I could go on. The guy's not perfect, not by any means. But when he hits, damn, he HITS.

karn1 wrote:

I have a suggestion for next years show though and that is to maybe change the way the GOTY is picked. It always feels kind of random, because one game gets the pick of just two people. I don't have the feeling it reflects the overall gamecritics opinion. Perhaps each of the critics should make a top 3 with a scoring mechanic.

Agreed! While I think we've lucked into Fallout 3, Demon's Souls, and Deadly Premonition actually being fairly representative of the staff's opinion, I'd hate to see some crazy anomaly take the prize next year (unless it was MY crazy anomaly, obviously.) And like Mike said, it would definitely increase the suspense.

Agency in DP

Daniel Weissenberger wrote:

Also, for the record, only about half of the articles so far have been about 'how to play' the game - the rest are just close readings, because Deadly Premonition is the rare game that both invites and rewards analysis. Compared to something like Heavy Rain, which the developer discouraged people from playing twice (probably because very little holds up if you think about it for more than a second), DP is a game that encourages players to consider its mysteries, and get more out of it than a series of shocks and thrills.

Deadly Premonition was the best game of the year despite its flaws - if the action sequences looked and played like Alan Wake, it would have been everyone's game of the year, not just ours. If you absolutely won't go back and give it a second chance, consider simply going to Youtube and watching the story - because it's the best movie you'll pay nothing to watch this year.

Due to the abundance of discussion about the game on this site, my curiosity in Deadly Premonition has certainly been piqued. However, these comments make me reluctant to give the game a try.

Why?

It makes it seem as though “playing” the game isn’t important. Heavy Rain's plot may not be perfectly water tight, but I really felt as though I was an agent in the game world and my decisions definitely affected the outcome. (I think the developer discouraged people playing it twice not because of the plot holes, but because they felt multiple playthroughs would cheapen the value of the first. In my opinion, that position is debateable). In contrast, it doesn’t sound as though the player has much of an effect on the outcome of the story in Deadly Premonition.

The distinguishing feature of games is the player’s ability to affect how the story plays out. Is the player simply there to unlock static bits and not change them? Is it a fresh and interesting game, or a fresh and interesting movie? While movies certainly are worthy pieces of art, I question elevating a game that basically would be an awesome movie but the game elements are terrible. You briefly touched on this in the podcast, but I am still unsure why Deadly Premonition was necessary to be game in the first place. Do you really have any agency in the world of DP?

Agency!

Deadly Premonition does not have branching conversations that you control. Nor will you receive a different ending depending on how you play the game. Save a couple of dead ends, of course.

Despite these facts, I have never experienced a game that more thoroughly pulled me into the world. As I said to Richard on the Podcast - you saw a great story by watching it on Youtube - but you missed out on the experience of BEING Zach Morgan, which is one of the great videogame experiences of all time.

As I stated, I consider going to Youtube the worst possible way to see the story - but it's a story that everyone deserves to see, so if you're absolutely dead-set against playing the game, by all means, do it.

Seriously, though - go and buy and play the game. It's completely worth it.

P.S. - Thanks for using the correct word there. Really bugs me when I see people's interest being 'peaked'.

DP had a great story

Quote:

Despite these facts, I have never experienced a game that more thoroughly pulled me into the world. As I said to Richard on the Podcast - you saw a great story by watching it on Youtube - but you missed out on the experience of BEING Zach Morgan, which is one of the great videogame experiences of all time.

OBJECTION!!!

Sorry, that had no real purpose. I've just been dying to say that for like four months.

DP had a great story. It just has the misfortune of being told by an immensely shitty game. As I also said on the podcast, I really hope this game gets a remake rather than a sequel where design decisions are entirely up to the devs and not the publisher.

But yeah, it's worth taking the time to watch on YouTube.

How would you guys compare

How would you guys compare DP to Eternal Darkness and ICO? Although very different in style (ICO was minimalistic), each of those games had a great story. The combat, IIRC, was the weakest aspect of the gameplay (more irrelevant for ICO than ED, IMO), but it did not drag out. I think both of those games invested you in the story by requiring you to explore and solve puzzles, and I did enjoy those games. That sounds what DP is like.

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