Somehow, it's that time again: the best of the best must be given their just due and although it's a difficult process, the deed is done. Below you will find no less than 26 different awards, ranging from the technical categories to the genre awards.
Some winners were easier to choose than others, while some took a great deal of thought and deliberation… The shooter category was impossible .
Anyway, let's get started:
Winner: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Naughty Dog continues to astonish us. The beautiful animations, exquisite detailing in terms of both character modeling and environmental design, and special effects continue to boggle the mind. In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception , we were invited to participate in an epic journey and no matter where we went, from cluttered alleys to expansive deserts to rolling ships, we were always mesmerized. Truly a fantastic technical production from top to bottom.
Winner: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
A game's soundtrack keeps us involved. It keeps us interested in what's going on. It's one of the most crucial elements of the interactive experience, and at no point in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception did we feel the music was lacking. The terrific assortment of classical tracks fit each situation perfectly, and accentuated each and every significant plot point. When you toss in the top-notch acting, you've got one of the best sounding video games in history, bar-none. This is the very definition of a captivating, beautifully orchestrated soundtrack. Pay attention, devs.
Best Sound Effects
Winner: Battlefield 3
You know, there are certain moments in Battlefield 3 that are capable of blowing you out of your seat. They came at a rapid clip in the single-player campaign and if you check YouTube, you'll see plenty of multiplayer "WTF" moments. The common factor in all such moments? The explosive, unbelievably well implemented effects. One of the reasons this is one of the most authentic military shooters out there is because the quality of the audio is just amazing. In comparison, some of the weapon fire and explosions in MW3 and even KZ3 seemed tinny and uninspired. In the world of speaker-rattling effects, only DICE's invigorating shooter can be the winner.
Winner: L.A. Noire
Once again, this was an extremely difficult category for us. Uncharted 3 has stellar acting, as do all the nominees (who can forget some of the unbelievable characters in Batman ?). But in the end, we had to go with L.A. Noire for the same reason we chose Red Dead Redemption last year: the bottom line is that we're looking at a very, very large cast, and almost every single one of the actors and actresses were excellent. Small roles, big roles, all ranges of emotion; it was all covered beautifully and don't forget that the innovative MotionScan tech meant the characters themselves actually had more intricate performances.
Winner: L.A. Noire
As much as we enjoyed the adventure in Uncharted 3 , and as impressed as we were with the innovative adult approach to a controversial topic in Catherine , the one story and script we most fondly remember was found in Team Bondi's L.A. Noire . Poignant, involving, and extremely well presented and well acted, we'll never forget the ending, and we'll never forget many of the wonderfully drawn characters. For an open world game, this one really thrived on the story and plot, and it somehow remained interesting even after going off to do extra stuff. Gotta love the setting and theme, too! Just so unique.
Best Artistry/Art Direction
Winner: LittleBigPlanet 2
It was another tough category but the seemingly endless imagination and creativity found in Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet 2 was unparalleled. No matter what you did, no matter where you turned, you were met with yet another exquisitely designed and extremely charming landscape. Fantastical, silly, and oh so appealing on multiple levels, there's no doubt that LBP2 was the epitome of diverse artistic expression in 2011. Dead Space 2 deserves a nod, though…certain imagery from that game stuck with us.
Best New Character
Winner: Wheatley, Portal 2
He kept us entertained throughout. From the moment we woke up, we were chuckling at his incessant, hilarious witticisms – often mocking in a cute kinda way – and he was more than comic relief. He was an important character and one that made us adore the entire Portal 2 experience. GLaDOS was fantastic but she was a returning character and as for Catwoman, we nominated her because she was actually playable , which was cool. But nobody could compare to our favorite mechanized buddy, Wheatley.
Winner: Duke Nukem Forever Return of the King Trailer
As a reminder, the nominees consist of games that were released in 2011; it doesn't matter when the trailer in question was released (which is why that Resistance 3 announcement video from 2010 is included). Anyway, while that CGI trailer for Dead Island is a phenomenal piece of work and we love that Uncharted 3 trailer, only the Return of the King kept giving us good ol' nostalgic thrills. It's also a supremely well done trailer. Unfortunately, Duke Nukem Forever turned out to be a colossal disappointment, but that doesn't take anything away from the trailer. Hail to the King, baby…perhaps one day you can try again and make us all happy.
The winner in this category managed to be innovative and progressive on two levels: Catherine was very original in terms of both the puzzle-based gameplay and the storyline. Featuring a subject not commonly tackled in video games and a style of "climbing" gameplay never seen before, this was a highly addictive and rewarding adventure. The game itself could get a tad repetitive but we always wanted to see more of that story, and getting to the top became an obsession for long periods of time. A fantastic, forward-thinking production.
Winner: Resistance 3
Given the stacked lineup of shooters for the latter half of 2011, we were worried that Insomniac's Resistance 3 would get overlooked. And unfortunately, that's exactly what happened; reportedly, the game didn't sell well at all (especially in comparison to the previous entries), and R3 is arguably the best in the series. Featuring a fantastic single-player campaign that was well paced, the single best assortment of weapons we've seen yet (no joke), and pretty decent online multiplayer action, this one should've received more attention from gamers.
Last year, it went to the first White Knight Chronicles but you knew critics wouldn't like the sequel, either, so we had to go with another selection in 2011: id Software's RAGE , which received far too much flak from critics. This was a blend of shooter, adventure and RPG elements and shouldn't have been compared to more linear shooters like Killzone 3 . RAGE looked amazing and as far as we're concerned, it was the game Borderlands should've been. Addictive and always a joy to play, this is one of those hybrid quests that continues to deliver, despite a ho-hum ending.
Most Anticipated Game
Winner: The Last Of Us
For the majority of 2011, GTAV had this award all locked up. And then Naughty Dog went and unveiled The Last Of Us , and everything changed. Although we have tremendous faith in games like Bioshock Infinite and God of War IV , we just can't get past the debut trailer and early gameplay details for Naughty Dog's newest project. We could be looking at one of the last truly mind-blowing and innovative titles of the entire generation; the hype is already building but we're certain Naughty Dog will step up. And when they do…oh boy.
Best Multiplayer Game
Winner: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Everyone loves the vehicles in Battlefield 3 and we really do believe Uncharted 3 deserves a nod, as does the incentive to play with others in WKCII. But when all is said and done, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 simply offers the most robust, in-depth, and endlessly entertaining online multiplayer out there. Normally, we're not big fans of phrases like, "millions upon millions can't be wrong" but in this case, it's accurate. All you have to do is log on and see what Infinity Ward offers in terms of multiplayer, and you'll understand why MW3 is simply a cut above.
Best Downloadable Game
While Trine 2 made a very strong push right at the end of the year, we had to give this award to the dark and compelling Limbo . It featured a singular style and some ingenious puzzles mixed with accessible side-scrolling platforming elements. It was creepy and atmospheric and satisfying in every sense of the word, and we hope to see more from developer PlayDead. This is one of those titles that is both original and memorable. Oh, and we just had to laugh at the rag-doll physics…talk about comic relief. 😉
Best Puzzle Game
Winner: Portal 2
It isn't often that a puzzle game is so damn good, it's considered to be one of the generation's best. But that's exactly what we got with Valve's Portal 2 , which was, strictly from a puzzle standpoint, absolutely genius. But when you combine the second-to-none acting and very slick environment, you've got an awesome experience that should be enjoyed by all. It was the creation of the puzzles in this game that blew us away; they were just so wonderfully designed, and the slowly increasing difficulty was almost perfect. There's just so much to love here.
Best Music/Rhythm Game
At this rate, we won't even have a "Music/Rhythm" genre next year, as such titles seem to be gravitating towards the Wii, and both Guitar Hero and Rock Band are dead (if only temporarily). As a result, this year was easy; only the excellent Rocksmith could win. More than a video game, this one acts as a true-blue teaching tool. You use a real guitar and if you practice and remain dedicated, this piece of software will let you hone your skills. In many ways, it's an advanced version of all the Guitar Hero games in the past.
Best Racing Game
Winner: DiRT 3
The Need for Speed titles let us down this year, so we couldn't in good conscience nominate either SHIFT 2 or The Run , which means we're left with the four above nominees. We had a blast with Apocalypse but the best overall driving package last year was undoubtedly DiRT 3 . Boasting excellent physics, a ton of content, and a simulation feel that somehow remained accessible to most all racing fans, Codemasters got this one right. With great technicals and a bevy of different events that will keep you occupied for a very long time, DiRT 3 is a surefire winner.
Best Sports Game
Winner: MLB 11: The Show
It's time to give the nod to a series that has rejuvenated our interest in the national pastime. MLB 11: The Show is not only the year's best sports game, it's also one of the finest simulations of the generation. The developers tweaked and fine-tuned an already rewarding experience, and the result was the most complete baseball sim in existence. This is the closest you're going to get to the diamond if you're not a pro; we loved everything about it and we especially loved the replay value. Heck, you can play each new The Show entry until the new one arrives and never get bored!
Best Role-Playing Game
Winner: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
With all the great RPGs that came out this year, you would think this would've been more difficult. But The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a step above everything. Although PS3 owners will still complain of one well-documented issue, the bottom line is that Bethesda's latest is a sandbox masterpiece. The Radiant Questing System allows the game to literally never end, the soundtrack was beautiful, the gameplay was solid and engaging, and the world was just breathtaking. Huge and shockingly immersive, this is the game that can drain your life away, so be prepared to put aside a hefty chunk of hours.
Best Fighting Game
Winner: Mortal Kombat
There were several top-notch fighters this year but only one marked the triumphant return of an ailing franchise. Yes, we're taking that into account; The King of Fighters XIII and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 might be more appealing to hardcore fans of the genre, but Mortal Kombat is iconic and this new entry felt like the next-gen MK we've always wanted. There's something to be said for a truly successful reboot, and we won't downplay the significance of MK's return to form. We just refuse.
Winner: Killzone 3
Welcome to the hardest damn category for us. It was tough to even narrow it down to three, let alone two. We love RAGE for what it is ( different than the other nominees), we love the multiplayer in MW3, we love so much about BF3, we love Crysis 2 , we love Resistance 3 … Damnit . Almost impossible. But we finally had to give the slight edge to Killzone 3 . It had the best campaign of 2011 in our eyes and there's a lot to like in the multiplayer. This story-driven adventure wasn't necessarily "military," either, and we loved the new characters and returning sci-fi style.
Hardly an easy choice, though. 2011 might well be dubbed "the year of the shooter" in the near future.
Best Action/Adventure Game
Winner: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
This is always one of the most difficult categories and 2011 was no exception. Batman: Arkham City makes a strong case and we have a special love for inFamous 2 , but nothing can top Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception . It's another riveting journey from this generation's top developer; it's gorgeous and entertaining from start to finish. There are so few games in recent memory that can compete with this title in regards to everything from technical achievement to movie-like traits, and we were continually amazed at every twist and turn. Yet another masterpiece.
Best Multiplatform Game
Winner: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Once again, there's a huge list of fantastic games that are on multiple platforms, although it was once again a great year for PlayStation 3 exclusives. And again, we just can't think of anything that tops The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim , which is one of the generation's most impressive accomplishments. It also helps that the game is better on the PC and Xbox 360, thereby making it even more worthy of this particular award. Skyrim does so many things right and has become the go-to game for those looking to immerse themselves in one of the most amazing virtual worlds of all time.
Best New IP
Winner: L.A. Noire
For the record, we are aware that Dark Souls is essentially the spiritual successor to Demon's Souls , so it might not be considered a "new IP" by some. But we feel it needed to be listed here. At any rate, L.A. Noire is the new title that wowed us all in 2011. We regret the demise of developer Team Bondi; they really cranked out a gem, as the MotionScan technology brought faces to life, and the combination of detective-style gameplay and an open-world sandbox feel worked extremely well. The story was great, the setting was inspired, and we'll definitely remember this one for some time. Give us more MotionScan soon!
Best Non-PlayStation Game
Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
There are always some fantastic games that don't find their way to a PlayStation platform and in 2011, there was none better than the Wii exclusive, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword . We have a soft spot for the Gears franchise and Forza always makes a strong showing, but Link's new adventure just can't be ignored. It's one of those games that has proven impossible to put down, and the critics just love it. If you've been wondering why you kept the Wii, this is the reason: every time The Legend of Zelda comes back, we're reminded that Nintendo can still make some memorable, enduring games.
Special: The PSXE Favorites
No specific award is handed out here; we simply list the games we had the most fun with during the year. As you can see, it's typically a large assembly of top-notch productions that we look back on with great favor. Games like inFamous 2 and Sonic Generations may not be elite titles in comparison to the stiff competition, but we love 'em just the same. When it comes to anything Batman , Uncharted , or Assassin's Creed , we tend to enjoy the ride, regardless of the final score. And people really needed to give more love to RAGE and Resistance 3 !
And now, here we go…moment of truth…
You know, one of these years, we're going to have to start paying this woman royalties. We just love her little sign there. And the expression on her face is perfect. Oh…Game of the Year? Sorry, you want to know, don't you? Oh, all right.
Game of the Year
Winner: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Skyrim is an amazing experience. Arkham City is one of the best follow-ups we've seen in a long time. L.A. Noire is everything we had hoped for. Portal 2 is downright ingenious in all respects. LittleBigPlanet 2 is a bastion of creativity, imagination, and continued innovation. But only one game dropped our jaws every hour on the hour.
People can complain about what they perceive to be a lack of solid pacing, but for the life of us, we can't fathom that criticism. You never do the same thing twice and in truth, there are more varieties of gameplay style and mechanics than there were in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves . We're not about to compare the two; we're just going to say that from top to bottom and front to back, including artistic and technical elements, there was no production in 2011 that was superior to Naughty Dog's latest.
The acting was superb, the writing was great, the adventure was memorable, and although we do question the "shooting straight" thing, we came away fully satisfied. In regards to the competition, in all honesty, we really had to think twice about both Portal 2 and Skyrim . But the problems the PS3 version suffered disqualified the latter in our eyes (despite our belief that it remains a ridiculously ambitious and supremely accomplished title), and in comparison to Uncharted 3 , Valve's fantastic puzzler just felt somewhat one-dimensional.
That's hardly a knock, however. This really was a tougher decision than some of you might think, but we just couldn't get past how amazing Uncharted 3 was; specifically, the fact that it seemed to excel in so many different categories of game making is what clinched the title. The game simply seems to outstrip the competition in multiple categories and that's that.
Okay, there you have it. The PSXE Awards for 2011 have been decided and we look forward to another great year in 2012. Of course, we'd be nowhere without our readers, so we always reserve the last segment of this annual feature to pay homage to our most dedicated members. Much thanks to:
We can't mention everyone, of course, but trust me, we know you're all there, supporting us! 🙂