GOTYe Awards 2015

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As 2015 winds down and we begin our reflection of the past 12 months, critics and gamers alike are starting their lists of the best games of the year. While I could take the easy route and explain some of my favorite titles, I wanted to put a bit more thought into such a blog.

I decided to take a different approach; comparing games to Gotye song titles. Why would I do that, you ask? Well, apart from comedic value, this is my blog and you can fuck yourself. So, with that said, let’s kick of the GOTYe Awards 2015!!

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Somebody That I Used to Know Award – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5

It’s always sad when a cherished franchise becomes a former shell of itself. Activision had thoroughly milked the Tony Hawk license after the 5th game, but we kept getting sequels. I guess implementing things like dune buggies and tennis wasn’t enough, so Activision and Neversoft were content with throwing literally everything into a game.

This led the series to open-world territory, “realism” based trick systems and eventually a plastic skateboard controller. The series has been in flames for longer than my young cousin has been alive.

When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was announced, gamers let out a sigh of relief. We were finally going to get a game that properly continued the legacy of the original titles on a next-gen system. Except, that isn’t what happened.

The game we ended up receiving was a broken mess of an overpriced coaster that barely functional properly and had very little content. I mean, I’ll all for having Tony Hawk roll around on the ground like he’s having an epileptic seizure, but I’m not willing to shell out $50 to do so.

It just takes me back to being a teenager and playing the hell out of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. It was the first game I bought with my own cash. It was the game that inspired me to listen to hard rock. It was also the catalyst to me becoming a completionist. THPS5 is basically a reminder that nostalgia is a lie.

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Board With This Game Award – Yoshi’s Woolly World

At this point in time, I’m going to assume that Yoshi’s Island was a complete fluke. I was utterly captivated with the game upon it’s release. It was all my 7 year old self could think about. I was a big fan of Mario, but playing this new Yoshi title was so different. It was colorful, inventive, laid-back and beautiful.

All of it’s mechanics made sense, were implemented in creative ways and never got old. Even the music was timeless, with tunes stuck in my head 20 years later. When I had originally played it, I thought Nintendo would be able to make an ever better game with more powerful hardware. The SNES was old by the time Yoshi’s Island rolled around, after all.

That game has never been given to us. Yoshi’s Woolly World was the best attempt at recreating some of the old-school magic, but Nintendo appears to be more focused on targeting nostalgia then anything else. I miss the Nintendo that took risks with their IPs.

Mostly, I just found the game utterly boring. It’s devoid of challenge and plays things so safely that I often had to stop after beating a few levels to prevent myself from falling asleep. I love those amiibo that were made to commemorate the game, but they don’t make me forget Yoshi’s Island.

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Here In This Place Award – Grow Home

When I saw Jim Sterling talking about an actual good Ubisoft game, I immediately got intrigued. I’ve been a fan of some of their franchises, but their more recent output has been plagued with bugs and issues that often cripple the entire experience. Even “classics” like Assassin’s Creed 2 had major game breaking bugs.

Still, Grow Home looked right up my alley. It was a free form game with a simple goal and endless opportunities to explore. I love exploring, I’m a fan of highly stylized art and I can never say no to original ideas. Grow Home may not be a classic, but it’s very charming.

It’s sense of scale is without equal. Climbing ever higher and peering down to the islands below is enough to take your breath away. It also makes your gut sink if you’re playing on a big enough television. The visuals may not be realistic (in any sense), but god damn if they don’t encapsulate exactly what developer Reflections was aiming for.

The sandy beaches, vibrant colors, endless sky and oddly shaped enemies make you believe you’re in a different world. It’s truly a great concept with awesome execution. It also reignited my love of rock climbing with some mechanics that correctly mimic the motions one makes while scaling a mountain.

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Thanks For Your Time Award – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

MGSV may not have been the send off for the beloved Metal Gear franchise we all hoped for, but it was a very well built game. It’s unique approach to stealth with an open world that felt like a real land mass made for some of the most intense and endlessly replayable scenarios in recent memory.

MGSV also did something that no other game really nailed quite as well; it acknowledged the player’s role in the legacy of Metal Gear. Sure, the ending twist is revealed in a sloppy manner and kind of muddles the already convoluted plotline ofMetal Gear, but the true message was that we are Big Boss.

We are the ones who have gone through all of the trials of tribulations of Snake. We have seen his best and worst times. We rose to the challenge to save this virtual world on multiple occasions. We started our own private army to combat digital mercenaries and prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Without us, Kojima would have never been able to create such an engrossing experience.

It’s sad to know that the future of Metal Gear is basically dead. Konami is a tired excuse of a once golden company. We can be grateful that Kojima won’t have to spend the rest of his days wasting away at a worthless sinkhole.

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Like Drawing Blood Award – Mortal Kombat X

I was pleasantly surprised with Mortal Kombat (2009). While the game was maybe a bit too similar to Street Fighter IV, it took a dying franchise that once captured the attention of the United States and brought it back to life.

The older games were focused on making the most gory and explosive experience possible. The first two haven’t aged particularly well, but Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3remains a classic. It’s combo system, innovative block button mechanic and aggression meter all make the game feel unique and brutal.

The 2009 reboot captured that same essence. It has the gore factor in check (and jacked up to 11), it has lots of combos strings and move cancels and it’s got plenty of diversity with it’s cast selection. Mortal Kombat X is basically a lesser version of the 2009 game.

While it’s graphics are insane and the gore is even more stomach turning, the game just feels off. From it’s garbage PC port to the milking of DLC with almost literal cheat codes bearing a $1 price tag, the game just feels gutted.

The story mode that was so fun to play in it’s predecessor has been cut down to a measly few hours with no real purpose. The online functionality has somehow gotten worse, despite being on more powerful hardware. Even the DLC fighters feel like a wasted opportunity, going with film nostalgia over any real innovation on or celebration of the MK legacy.

For a game that looked so promising to basically fizzle out after being launched is just sad. Playing it is like visiting the doctor’s office. You don’t want to be there and watching the needle draw blood is enough to make you pass out. It really sucks, as I thought Mortal Kombat was going to be here to stay.

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Easy Way Out Award – Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Another year, another Call of Duty game. A series that I once looked forward to is now a running joke with most gamers. It’s also a good case study for how to save on production costs between sequels.

Ever since Call of Duty 2, there has been a new game in this series every year. We are on the 12th entry in almost as many years. Having two developers working on a series should make for a fresh approach with every passing game, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Treyarch was, for a small while, attempting to do different things with the tired COD recipe. Black Ops brought things to the Vietnam War Era and Black Ops II attempted to inject some different gameplay elements into the mix, but Black Ops III just falls on the same bullshit as before.

I guess Advanced Warfare was a roaring success, because┬átrying to actually distinguishBlack Ops III from the last title is a nigh on impossible task for anyone but diehard COD fans. The game doesn’t even make sense with the Black Ops name, having little connection to the previous games in it’s own trilogy arc.

Activision doesn’t care about that. Why try putting effort into your titles when you can take the easy way out and produce the same garbage year in, year out? For as much unfounded flak as the Call of Duty series gets, Black Ops III is an example of when the internet is actually correct about something.

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I Feel Better Award – Bloodborne

When Demon’s Souls came on the scene, many people took notice. Here was a game that was going against the norm and actually challenging gamers to think on their feet. There was no floating arrow to point you in the direction of the objective. There were no easy ways out of difficult situations. If you sucked, you weren’t finishing the game.

While Dark Souls seems to have stolen everyone’s heart, I’ve always had a fondness for the smaller ambitions of it’s predecessor. I loved the level structure, darker tone and more challenging combat of Demon’s Souls. I wanted a game with more brutality and with a stronger sense of challenge.

Bloodborne delivered on that. It’s level design created a sense of tension and dread in the early stages that gave way to more expansive and mind-bending labyrinths in the late game. It’s enemies were fast and ferocious with stronger AI and a thirst for blood.

Beating any single area felt like a massive accomplishment, let alone surmounting the bosses. Coming to terms with the combat, getting a feel for the world and making forward progress all led to a really gratifying sense of fun. The DLC was just icing on top of the cake.

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I’m not sure if this list ended up being as funny as I originally planned it to be. The whole Gotye craze that happened a few years ago seems to have disappeared. The guy clearly wasn’t trying to be a pop sensation, but the masses wised up to some decent music for once. It was frightening.

Regardless, I feel that “Somebody That I Used to Know” is still a part of the internet’s collective conscious. If you don’t get the reference, then too bad. Gotye certainly doesn’t care.

Anyway, happy 2015 everyone. Hopefully next year, I can think of some more Gotye related song titles to go with some awards. Or maybe it will just be “Smoke and Mirrors”.

Rock (Band) Isn’t Dead!!!!

One of the biggest complaints you will hear in regards to modern music is that rock is dead. When Gene Simmons claims Rock is dead, it’s probably a pretty decent sign that the genre is on the way out. Statements like that reinforce the cynical nature inside of older people who just want a return to the old days.

The same echoes with the rhythm gaming genre. When Activision and Harmonix killed off Guitar Hero and Rock Band, gamers were left without any kind of successor. Sure, other types of rhythm games popped up, but nothing that utilized the guitar controllers and plastic drum kits we had collected over the years.

It seemed like all of that investment and trust was just thrown to the curb. Harmonix did their best to support Rock Band 3 with DLC well into 2012, but they eventually closed up shop. Since the genre had seen better days, there wasn’t much purpose in producing content for a game that people weren’t buying.

Just like how most people claimed that rock was dead, so was Rock Band. We all had our fun and now just have memories. No one will ever make the same classic game again. Why would you? We have all moved on.

Except that isn’t even true. Not only will Rock Band 4 be releasing tomorrow (with Guitar Hero: Live releasing later this year), but rock is not dead. Far from it. It may not hold the mainstream appeal it once had, but people haven’t forgotten about rock.

Sup?

A little band by the name of Ghost have done everything in their power to resurrect the 60’s style of gothic/satanic inspired pop/rock for a new era. Mastodon, once a progressive metal band, have transitioned into mostly their own genre with lots of throwbacks to classic rock styling.

For that matter, The Darkness released a new album in May of this year. They are a band founded on bringing back 80’s hard rock. To even claim that rock has died is just being ignorant; if anything, rock is more specialized now then it ever used to be.

Certain things fade in and out of fashion all the time. Music is the easiest to track as it has been around for as long as people began speaking. Much like how the Middle Ages was overrun with chamber music and the Renaissance brought about classical music, most of the 20th century was dominated by rock.

You can even go further by dissecting different decades and identifying sub-genres. The 50’s was the dawn of rock’n’roll. The 60’s brought pop/rock and the 70’s started with prog rock. Even now, in 2015, rock has mostly turned to metal with some bands clinging to old-fashioned ideals.

Gaming has had a similar resurgence of the past. 2D Platformers had all but died in the early 2000’s, but we now have more made every month then were released in the entirety of the 6th console generation. It’s almost as if the SNES never left.

If only you could buy one of these brand new.

To say anything is dead is to know where humanity and public interest is going. If you can logically see into the future, then you can make the claim that something has moved on. How can that ever come to fruition when so many people talk about it?

Could rock music ever die? There are indie bands no one has heard of pumping out sweet licks every week. There are people in their bedrooms recording songs made solely by them. Even gigantic, mega famous bands like Metallica are going back-to-basics and producing music in the vein of their origins.

Rock isn’t dead. Far from it. The same can be said for Rock Band. Now that the time is right and the consumers are hungry for a return to basics, Rock Band will get to thrive where it’s needed most; in the hearts of true fans.

The genre may have crashed before, but Harmonix never left the building. They let other acts take over the stage while they calculated how to one-up the competition. Allowing users to retain DLC between console generations is completely unprecedented and will definitely lead to sales from cynical folk.

More importantly, we may finally have that dream version of Rock Band we always wanted. Every single hit song from every decade on one console. The fact that I can load up Jimi Hendrix, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Talking Heads and The Police in one setlist is beyond amazing.

Better still, Harmonix has the power to make new music known. Most people who will buy Rock Band 4 are probably going to be younger then the target demographic (18-34). They will get to experience the best of the past and the brightest of the present all under one roof.

Long Live Rock!!

I don’t think there is a better time for rock then right now. If you still think it’s dead, you’re just delusional.