By Jeff Neuenschwander / January 25th, 2013
If any of you are wondering what categories were the most difficult to vote on, look no further than these next two categories: Xbox 360 and PC. PC because we had a log jam that took a few rounds to work out. Xbox 360 because we had trouble coming up with enough titles to fill the spots. But we figured it out for both of them. Here to present both awards is oprainfall newcomer Brad Williams.
|BEST XBOX 360 GAME|
BRAD: The nominees are…
2009 Dream-Build-Play winner Dust: An Elysian Tail immediately impresses with its gorgeous art design and animations. What begins as a cliched story with a main character suffering from amnesia quickly develops into something far more dark and mature, compelling the player to push forward. Dust‘s design is that of a faster-paced Metroid-vania title, with an explorable map that opens up as you find new abilities. Combat evokes a feeling reminiscent of Devil May Cry as you mix magic and melee attacks both on the ground and in the air. The fantastic music rounds out the package and makes this a title demanding your attention.
- Halo 4
The announcement that 343 Industries would be developing Halo 4 meant they would need to create a title that both met series’ fans expectations while still bringing something new to the table. It comes almost as a shock, then, that the development house’s first major project not only met but exceeded all expectations. Halo 4 succeeds graphically in both tech and art direction, with particular attention paid to the Prometheans’ character and weapon designs. The story is likewise excellent; Master Chief and Cortana are more relatable heroes that players can truly become invested in. Add in the always excellent mutliplayer modes that the series is known for, and Halo 4 is a true contender.
- Forza Horizon
As another major series handed to an unknown developer, Forza Horizon takes Turn 10’s racing series and brings it to the open road. Playground Games adds their own touch through a mix of arcade and sim racing that can only be described as glorious. References to the Burnout series are in full effect here as you smash traffic, crash through billboards, and race against helicopters and hot air balloons, while still feeling like the cars have a measured weight that the Forza series is known for. The environment is big, open, and beautiful, with a day/night cycle that adds to the joy of exploring the map for collectables. Forza Horizon is simply fun, and anyone who is even remotely interested in driving fast owes it to themselves to give it a spin.
After years of delays, Fez finally released this year in great form. At first glance, this is a rather simple 2D side-scrolling platformer. However, after a few minutes the game’s deeper mechanics begin to emerge. To solve puzzles, the player spins the world to see different perspectives on the landscape as what was once a wall reveals a doorway or a platform leading upward. The perspective shifting is not the only piece of the game, though, as the underlying narrative is compelling as well. Fez is a game that deserves to be played by anyone who likes platformers or puzzlers.
AND THE WINNER IS…
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Beautiful, charming, and mature, Dust: An Elysian Tail is a masterpiece. The animated art evokes a hand drawn look, gameplay is sharp and responsive, and the story is excellent, with an ending that leaves the player satisfied in a way few titles this year have. Dust: An Elysian Tail demands a permanent home on your hard drive, and is easily our pick for Xbox 360 Game of the Year.
|BEST PC GAME|
The nominees are…
- Torchlight 2
What many consider the true sequel to Diablo II, Torchlight II is a loot-fest through and through. The four classes all feel distinct, with unique abilities and skill trees that should thrill any RPG fan. The art design is beautiful and vibrant, with sound direction to match. Add in a New Game+ mode that includes randomized dungeon and monster layouts and you end up with an incredible amount of game for your money.
- FTL: Faster Than Light
Combine the addictive but hard-as-nails nature of rogue-likes with the delicate balancing act of space ship simulators, and you come out with FTL: Faster Than Light. The difficulty spikes can almost feel unfair, with the random nature of encounters sometimes throwing your crew against impossible odds. Still, every encounter is a lesson learned making you constantly adapt and improve your strategies, and death just increases the desire to fire up the next round. Even if those rounds sometimes end with a mouse flying through a monitor.
- Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 moves the MMORPG forward in several important ways. The game brings more active combat to the table, requiring players to pay attention to enemy tells and dodge incoming attacks. Thanks to this more active role players are required to take, Guild Wars 2 turns genre conventions on their head by largely doing away with the holy trinity of tank/healer/DPS. Now players are responsible for their own healing and damage, which can be multiplied by combining attacks across multiple classes via a combo system. Guild Wars 2 deserves a look from everyone, but especially those who were not necessarily fans of the genre before.
- Hotline Miami
At first glance, Hotline Miami appears to be a simple top down beat-em-up game. Dive into the game, however, and find a bizarre adrenaline-fueled game that feels like a digital acid trip. Combat is fast and brutal, and since the player is just as fragile as the enemies, death can come swiftly without a well thought out plan. The visuals are trippy with excellent use of color but also incredibly violent, and the excellent soundtrack creates a very unique presentation. Hotline Miami has to be seen to be believed, and PC gamers owe it to themselves to give it a spin.
- Frog Fractions
If you have not yet played Frog Fractions, you really need to play it. In fact, you should do so before reading any further, as spoilers abound. It will take around 30 minutes of your time, is free, and worth every second.
What starts as a game that “teaches” about fractions quickly turns into a bizarre nostalgia trip through gaming history. From a frog eating bugs, to a DDR game teaching about presidential elections, ending in a text adventure, the whole package is surreal, absurd, and self-aware to the point of hilarity.
AND THE WINNER IS…
FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL: Faster Than Light is minimalist in its presentation, but what clinches it for us are its addictive qualities. Much like the Civilization series, every death is followed with “just one more round,” particularly when the random number generator goes horribly wrong in the first sector. No matter how difficult, FTL: Faster Than Light is a fun experience that every PC gamer should look out for.
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