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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 66: 2011 Awards Spectacular

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Fifteen awards, six podcasters, and countless surprises. You'll be stunned by our pick for Game of the Year, and by the vigorous debate that follows its reveal. Plus: we announce the two winners of our Holiday Contest! Thanks to everyone for entering! With Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Mike Bracken, Richard Naik, Daniel Weissenberger, and Tim "Maybe Next Year" Spaeth. From all of us at GameCritics, have a fantastic holiday, and we'll see you in 2012!

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Hey all, Thanks all for a

Hey all,

Thanks all for a great 2011 Awards podcast. Always one of my favorite listens of the year. As usual, your podcast is a delight because of the substantive discussion of the games themselves.

Here's an assortment of comments in no particular order:

Richard, I wasn't the listener who called you a philistine but The Witcher 2 was my GOTY pick. I just want to chime in here to let you know that, while I do think it's a title that definitely brings out the PC elitist crowd in spades, there's a lot to love about the Witcher 2 apart from its graphical horsepower. They've patched the opening of the game to be a little smoother with the difficulty. At the least, take a peek on YouTube at some gameplay footage from later in the game see what the combat system plays like once you get a couple hours in.

Tim, I picked up Bastion recently on the Steam Sale. Like Brad and others, I was really turned off by what I felt to be an over-enthusiastic response to its minimalist narrative. It felt like most of the reviewers I follow were praising it to boost their "indie cred." I was also suspicious that many reviewers did not go into much detail about the combat. But when it came on the Steam Sale, I remembered that you had mentioned to me on Twitter that the combat was actually the part of the game that was really pulling you in. So I gave it a shot and - surprise - I really enjoyed it. The demo belies the depth of the combat. And, while I wasn't blown away by the storyline, it was perfectly serviceable. So, yes, there's some Bastion love among your audience.

And to all of you, bravo for being vocal about flaws in AAA titles. One of the reasons why I never miss an episode is that you are honest about how a game plays. Brad put it best when he said that this year it felt like the gaming press and the quality of the games were like two trains going in opposite directions. Like Tim, I was so hyped for LA Noire. I am a sucker for old film noir and, while I play shooters, my interest is instantly piqued by games that have unique mechanics like, in this case, interrogation based on facial expression. It got fantastic scores across the board. And then I played it. The interrogation sequences were terrible. Just terrible. Now, months out from its release, I feel like I have heard a lot of reviewers and podcasters admit that, yes, the interrogation system in LA Noire is broken. But these are the same outlets that gave it 9s and 10s on its release! Same pattern with Uncharted 3. So I want to echo the sentiment expressed on the show and say that I am sick of this trend of throwing up a perfect score on release day and then slowly admitting a game's fatal flaws thereafter. I don't always agree with the cast's idiosyncratic opinions on various AAA titles, but I always appreciate the fact that you all seem willing to really be up front about what's bugging you about a game.

Happy holidays to each of you. I'll hear from you all again in the new year!

Best,
Alan

Excellent podcast, as

Excellent podcast, as always. Just for the hell of it, here's my picks for the awards:

Best New Franchise: Catherine

Nail in the Coffin: Dragon Age II

Indy GOTY: Grapple Boy (XBLI)

Worst Story: Warhammer 40K: Space Marine

Best Story: Ar tonelico Qoga

Too Human Award for Inexplicable Excellence: Ar tonelico Qoga

The Internet is Wrong Award: Portal 2

Worst Part of an Otherwise Fabulous Game: Batman: Arkham City's ending

Non-2011 Game of the Year: Lost Odyssey, by a landslide

Biggest Disappointment: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

WTF Moment of the Year: True Crime: Hong Kong being cancelled (Although it has since been picked up by Square Enix)

Made-Up Category: Best Soundtrack: Sonic Generations

Worst Game of the Year: Knights Contract

Game of the Year: 3) Ar tonelico Qoga 2) Catherine 1) Dead Space 2

Great. I still have two more

Great. I still have two more work days left for 2011 and I've already consumed the last GC podcast episode of the year. What am I gonna do in the meantime? Listen to music while working? Pshaw!

Great work from you guys, as always! Although I still wonder what happened to the Adventure Game show you guys said you were gonna record last March/April. I have a sneaking suspicion who couldn't follow thourgh. ;-)

Anyway here are my picks:

Please take a break: Street Fighter or ANY Capcom fighting games not named Darkstalkers. Good grief, wasn't it just two years ago when SFIV looked fresh with its 3d models built for a 2d fighter (and revitalized interests for fighting games) and now we're going, what, THREE Street Fighter games with the same graphical style (SSFIV Arcade Edition, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Street Fighter x Tekken)? Stop it.

Indy GOTY: Pocket Academy. Because building schools is all great fun!

Worst Story: Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3. The endings are insultingly stupid.

Best Story: Ghost Trick. This ALMOST made up for the two soul-crushingly mediocre Apollo Justice and Miles Edgeworth, two games that ruined another Shu Takumi's (the director of GT) IP. Engrossing mystery, striking vector art look, and has the cutest, most adorable dog I've seen in videogames. Honorable mention goes to Catherine.

Too Human Award for Inexplicable Excellence: Pokemon White. I am a frustrated Pokemon gamer. Always wanted to get into it, have played EVERY gen, but I always quit after 3-4 hours and never get around to beating them. I have yet to beat Pokemon White -- I will probably do it in the next few days -- but I have now clocked in around 100+ hours. My Gen 5 Pokedex is near complete. What changed? I dunno. I guess I didn't need to grind Magikarp?

The Internet is Wrong Award: (Ultimate) Marvel vs Capcom 3. People really need to start evaluating games BEYOND the fanservices they offer and see how the mechanics hold up. This game is seizure inducing, way unbalanced, floaty and jumpy. And because most characters' HPs are so small, a lot of characters take 8 hits to kill. Some, like Phoenix, dies in TWO hits. As a result, every fights feel like boxing matches with NO clean hits.

Also, no one else sat through *Arkham City spoiler* Joker singing Only You *spoiler*? That sent chills down my spine, man.

Worst Part of an Otherwise Fabulous Game: Batman: Arkham City's final boss, which is the easiest one and which makes the ending all the more unexpected and stinging.

Non-2011 Game of the Year: Arkham Asylum. I hereby declare Arkham Asylum the non-current-year GotY hall of famer!

Biggest Disappointment: That nearly no AAA titles held my attention long enough for me to beat them. At many points of this year I took sabbaticals from videogames. Tim Spaeth style.

WTF Moment of the Year: "Hey, we're making Mega Man Legends 3 as a gift to our fans." "As gifts to our fans we want your inputs on all of our designs and characters." "Are you excited for 3DS launch? Coz if you're still on the fence, we're releasing the demo simultaneously!" "Oh, my bad, we have to delay a month to work out on kink." "Also, you need to pay to download the demo." "Welp, I guess we're not making MML3 after all. Why? Coz no one wants our paid demo and it's all YOUR fault." (cue non-fans telling fans who have been dicked around to "get over it")

Made-Up Category:
Best comeback: Mortal Kombat, King of Fighters XIII
Best proof that iOS loves Richard Naik: Aquaria and Machinarium for iPad
Best educational game: Quarrel (it's Scrabble with very basic Tactics RPG elements thrown in, and it teaches you big words!)
Best Soundtrack: iBlast Moki 2, Contre Jour, To The Moon (which I still haven't played but I heard the soundtrack online and I loved it)
Most adorable character: Missile, by a mile

Game of the Year: 3) Mortal Kombat 2) Arkham City 1) Ghost Trick

Guys, fantastic podcast!

Guys, fantastic podcast! Just finished listening. The problem I had with games in 2011, besides most AAA games ending up being nothing extraordinary, was that too many games were released in the last quarter of '11. I know this happens every year, but the release schedule felt incredibly crowded. I love Dead Island, but I didn't feel I could vote it Game of the Year after only playing for about 7 hours. Why did I play for only 7 hours? Because then Gears of War 3, Dark Souls, Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City and a crap ton of other titles came out in a span of, like, 1 month. That is INSANE. So I've decided what to do. Cut out multiplayer gaming for the time being. That is the only way I will ever complete all of the single player games in my backlog. This Christmas, I will be splitting my time between Dead Island, and of course, a second round with Francis York Morgan. So says Mr. Stewart.

@Alan I actually have

@Alan

I actually have checked out the tutorial for Witcher 2, and while that does address a lot of the problems with the opening segment, the flaws themselves are still there, like sluggishness, targeting problems, the potion system, etc.

I want to like Witcher, especially now that I've read the first book, so I've still got a sliver of hope for Witcher 3.

wow, if that game is GOTY

wow, if that game is GOTY this must have been a terrible year for gaming.
Their 2007 game was the only one i consider really good and were i was slightly interested but since i did not like the stealth part of the game i never played more than the demo. This was at least pushing limits visually, in the gameplay mechanics and had a damn great main character. Not the wannabe mainstream they release since then.
I really hope this is not close to what this type of game can be like and i really hope that studio releases after all their years of existence finally two games in a row with a decent quality and hopefully better than this GOTY.
But what do i know, i hardly played 2011 games so my choice is a free 15min long interactive puzzle documentary or whatever its genre is: The Cat and the coup.

Great podcast nevertheless.

GotY Show

Excellent, excellent show, guys!
This is why you're the only podcast I listen to religiously ;)
The hours just fly by!

I must admit I'm quite surprised at the GotY pick.
Maybe I should try it myself, but all the negative stuff I keep hearing kinda scares me off. I never liked Dead Rising either, and this sounds like an even buggier version of it but with prettier graphics.

My personal choice for GotY was Rayman Origins.
It's a damn shame the game hasn't even been so much as mentioned at this site, but it's flown under many a radar, I guess, despite getting pretty much unanimous high praise across the board.
Ubisoft decided to release it on the exact same day as AC Revelations, so they pretty much damned it to obscurity themselves, which is an absolute, utter shame.
It's gorgeous, it's got great music, tight controls, it's challenging and, above all, it's not buggy as hell. No other game can quite claim the same this year.

Also, I really feel the need to mention Radiant Historia.
So: Radiant Historia.

Looking forward to your shows in 2012!

Happy holidays everyone!

Excellent Show

Hey Guys,

Nice show and at almost three hours you're spoiling us. Well done though, and the effort is much appreciated.

The Readers' votes were bizarre, frankly. Witcher 2 second and Skyrim joint worst? I'm ascribing this to the Disaffected PC Gamer vote, and their sinister motives*. The Skyrim vote in particular is reminescent of the infamous Metacritic zero user ratings.

Luckily the console gamers baled out you guys and gave us some credibility back by voting in the obvious game of the year, Dark Souls. ;-)

Looks like I'll have to pick up a lot of these contenders in the new year to check them out, including the GOTY. In fairness nothing I've read or heard has given me the impression that it's not pretty rubbish, but will give it a go, in co-op maybe. Bastion and Terraria will be downloaded and tried out. I may even try Jurassic Park.

Brad does seem out of sorts this year; Dark Souls disappointing, and New Vegas better than Fallout 3? Shocking. :-)

Anyway, thanks for all the quality output this year, Game Critics. Hope you all have a nice holiday and 2012 is a good year.

*Joking of course (mostly).

I wish I'd gotten a chance

I wish I'd gotten a chance to play Rayman: Origins before the show. I'm hoping to get to it in the next week or so, but there were just too many games in November/December this year to play them all in time for the podcast. I got almost everything, but that was the big one that I missed. I'm disappointed Ubisoft released it in this quarter, too, where it was certain to be overshadowed by all these other big games. Apparently, they learned nothing from Beyond Good and Evil.

Awesome job, guys

This was the most quotable GameCritics.com Podcast ever. So much fun listening to it. Please keep up the good work, gentlemen.

Aquaria and Machinarium

Nightdreamer wrote:

Best proof that iOS loves Richard Naik: Aquaria and Machinarium for iPad

The fact that you mention these is interesting because I almost hate Aquaria but I consider Machiarium one of the best point-and-click adventure games ever made.

Btw, video game podcast of year: Gamecritics.com.

Rayman Origins

You're in for an absolutely wonderful ride, Mike!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it here!

The Witcher 2

I was very glad to hear "The Witcher 2" come up during the podcast. I'm hopeful that its popularity among the readers will lead to some in-depth discussion of the game and its elements in the future because while I think it can probably best be described as a hot mess (based on playing it until about halfway through the second chapter) it is an incredibly ambitious game in pretty much every way imaginable and, therefore, I think it's noteworthy, even if one's opinion of it is not very high.

Great podcast.

Great podcast.

Podcast thoughts

Solid podcast, guys. I appreciate the diversity of viewpoints, and Tim does a great job as moderator/host. Some clever categories, too.

Mike Bracken: I'm sure people have told you this before, but you need to stop swearing so much. You have some really interesting things to say, but the constant profanity is really distracting. I know this is hard to keep under control sometimes. In my experience, nerves often have something to do with it. Bear in mind, I'm not saying this because I'm ultra-religious and somehow offended (quite the contrary). I just think it will improve the podcast if you (and everyone else) cut down on the cussing.

Chi, I appreciate the way you called out Brad and Mike for criticizing Skyrim's proliferation of "fetch quests", but failing to criticize Dead Island for its similar problem.

Brad, on that note, you were very critical of Dark Souls for being "rushed" and for having problems that required several patches. Yet, you effusively praised Fallout: New Vegas, which was far more flawed and buggy when it was first released. Patches and bugs really aren't that big a deal, and haven't been for over 20 years, as long as the developer provides prompt patch support. (FWIW, I've played Dark Souls on 360 for over 100 hours now -- haven't even finished my first playthrough yet! -- and I only encountered input lag once.)

And as far as 2011 being a disappointing year for video games, I strongly disagree. I suppose if Dark Souls is the kind of game Brad finds "disappointing", I would be quite content if every game I played were as disappointing as Dark Souls. Looking back, this is probably the best year for gaming this generation. Deus Ex HR and Dark Souls are on top of my list, and I won't go into my own personal top 10, but overall this has been a pretty high quality year for games.

I agree with Brad's "15-hour rule": if a game doesn't grab you after 15 hours, there's no need to play further. In my opinion, any game that keeps me playing longer than 20 hours is a solid investment.

So, to recap: great podcast, looking forward to listening to future episodes in 2012.

Hey, Richard just an FYI on

Hey, Richard just an FYI on Red Orchestra 2:

Apparently the reason why a manual was not included was because the devs thought it wasn't necessary. "People don't really read them anyway so why bother?" was supposedly the thinking. They did release a draft PDF manual because people complained about the slew of unexplained features, game modes, etc like you complained about. It's a sticky in the official Tripwire forums. The link is here:

http://forums.tripwireinteractive.com/showthread.php?t=68622

BTW, that thing you selected as an engineer that blew you and your teammates up was a demolition charge used to wreck building and take out tanks. It's not a mine per se. Some buildings on certain maps can be destroyed with demo charges. Tanks can be knocked out with proper placement and such. I think throwing the charge on top of a tank will do it. Remember this is RO2 and not Team Fortress 2 so no turrets or placeable ammo dispensers. Extra ammo for MGs can be given by squad mates to the machine gunner by getting close enough to the machine gunner and pressing the use/cover/bandage button (aka the interaction button). Everyone else gets their ammo replenished at the ammo crates.

Summary please!

Quite honestly, most people don't actually have the time or inclination to sit through a three hour podcast on a subject as clearly susceptible to bias and opinion as GOTY. Seriously, I'd rather spend my precious spare time actually trying out the games!

Please can you start summarising your discussions - isn't that what most other media sites do - put out textual content off the back of internal brainstorming sessions?

Thanks, Brad!

Dragon Age II snapped me out of love with Bioware, too. Shocked and disgusted I searched the Internet for a review that wasn't one of this "Perfect! 95%" crap. And then I came across GameCritics, fell in love with Brad and am a happy reader of your site ever since.
Brad, thank you for your "steaming pile" rant. It warmed my sad old gamer's heart.

Alv wrote: Quite honestly,

Alv wrote:

Quite honestly, most people don't actually have the time or inclination to sit through a three hour podcast on a subject as clearly susceptible to bias and opinion as GOTY. Seriously, I'd rather spend my precious spare time actually trying out the games!

Please can you start summarising your discussions - isn't that what most other media sites do - put out textual content off the back of internal brainstorming sessions?

If picking the best games of the year from the perspective of six different people isn't worthy of a long podcast, I don't know what is. Plus, you always have the option to either take breaks or fast forward. ;)

Hey Sleeve. Just to clarify,

Hey Sleeve.

Just to clarify, I intentionally waited a year to play New vegas because I knew it was so buggy, so my only experience with it was after all the patches had come out. If I'd played it back when it was new, I imagine I'd have raged a fair amount.

Also, most of the "rushed" parts of Dark Souls aren't things a patch would have fixed... It was lackluster level design and a general low quality to the mid-to-late game areas that weren't up to the standards I expected. That said, the game should have NEVER gotten out the door with the attack delay. I have no idea how From missed that since it constantly plagued my game before the patch hit.

Anyway, cheers!

Disagree

Alv wrote:

Quite honestly, most people don't actually have the time or inclination to sit through a three hour podcast on a subject as clearly susceptible to bias and opinion as GOTY. Seriously, I'd rather spend my precious spare time actually trying out the games!

You sound like you're being forced to sit through the podcast ;)

Better late than...

Kinda late to the comments section here, but finally managed to finish listening to the podcast today and just wanted to echo what others have said by congratulating you guys not only on this podcast, but on all of them (along with your work on the website itself); your opinions on gaming are so much more refreshing, insightful, and credible than the majority of gaming media out there, so big kudos from me.

aHei wrote: You sound like

aHei wrote:

You sound like you're being forced to sit through the podcast ;)

Quite the opposite, I never listen to these podcasts as I have other things to do with my 3 hours. Not saying this site should not do podcasts, but for the majority that are just interested in knowing what games to try out, rather than interested in passively listening to a subjective debate to which they cannot contribute, this site needs to start summarising these podcasts - a far wider audience will be reached.

As for the comment that I can fast forward - where exactly do I fast forward to in a 3 hour debate?

Alv, if you don't like the

Alv, if you don't like the podcast, that means you arent interested in the group's opinions... so why then would their picks for GOTY even matter to you? The whole point of having a game criticism website is EXACTLY that you get to experience what someone's thoughts and feelings on a subject are... if you just want a score, go to a aggregate review site, and skip the human element that you 'don't have time for'.

on that note:

GREAT PODCAST GENTLEMEN, I ENJOYED IT IMMENSELY. KUDOS FOR A FINE YEAR AND BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW!

RandomRob wrote: Alv, if

RandomRob wrote:

Alv, if you don't like the podcast, that means you arent interested in the group's opinions... so why then would their picks for GOTY even matter to you? The whole point of having a game criticism website is EXACTLY that you get to experience what someone's thoughts and feelings on a subject are... if you just want a score, go to a aggregate review site, and skip the human element that you 'don't have time for'.

As I said, doing podcasts is fine - I have no problem with that at all. But, not having an accompanying textual version is not. It's lazy journalism if you ask me - anyone can easily sit around a table with 6 of their mates and discuss GOTY, but not anyone can thoughtfully summarize or edit a piece for publication, and that's precisely what I come to this website for - the written reviews. Gamecritics is still a website last I heard, not a radio station, so put up some text!

Besides which, all other review sites that do a GOTY will do a very extensive textual piece, most, after much considered internal debate and discussion, the very best will also have a piece on each of the nominations - why can't Gamecritics do the same?

Full-time jobs

Alv wrote:

Besides which, all other review sites that do a GOTY will do a very extensive textual piece, most, after much considered internal debate and discussion, the very best will also have a piece on each of the nominations - why can't Gamecritics do the same?

Because for one, maybe those other sites are doing their main (full-time) job?

Alv wrote: As I said, doing

Alv wrote:

As I said, doing podcasts is fine - I have no problem with that at all. But, not having an accompanying textual version is not. It's lazy journalism if you ask me - anyone can easily sit around a table with 6 of their mates and discuss GOTY, but not anyone can thoughtfully summarize or edit a piece for publication, and that's precisely what I come to this website for - the written reviews. Gamecritics is still a website last I heard, not a radio station, so put up some text!

Besides which, all [B]other review sites that do a GOTY will do a very extensive textual piece[/b], most, after much considered internal debate and discussion, the very best will also have a piece on each of the nominations - why can't Gamecritics do the same?

Here, let me take a crack at this, Alv. This is just my view, so if I come off as a jerk, don't hold it against the others. :)

"Other review sites" also have lame-ass categories like "Best Shooter" or "Best Graphics". These dull, inhuman categories are very easy to simplify into an objective, monolithic voice for the website. Something that's not easy to simplify into a single paragraph? A critical discussion, which is what GameCritics is about. That's the same reason there's no nominees for these categories, either. Such a rigid structure would badly limit the discussion. With six different perspectives on fifteen unique categories, a conversion into text simply wouldn't do it justice. Of course, that's just my opinion, I can't speak for Tim and the others.

Michaela wrote: Dragon Age

Michaela wrote:

Dragon Age II snapped me out of love with Bioware, too. Shocked and disgusted I searched the Internet for a review that wasn't one of this "Perfect! 95%" crap. And then I came across GameCritics, fell in love with Brad and am a happy reader of your site ever since.
Brad, thank you for your "steaming pile" rant. It warmed my sad old gamer's heart.

I agree wholeheartedly and I am still waiting for my letter of apology from Bioware.

drewman wrote: I agree

drewman wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly and I am still waiting for my letter of apology from Bioware.

Ha! It would take major brain surgery to make me forgive and forget! ^^

Nice podcast and nice remix

Nice podcast and nice remix on Megaman & Bass for your break song

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