Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Oh, we know how mad you are. Or perhaps it's disgust or flabbergastery. How could X win and not Y. X is so stupid, Y is so much better. I hate GR. I'm never coming back again. These kinds of things happen during every award show. It even happens to us. We hate ourselves. It's a thing we do.
I mean, all of us at GR know that some games, despite our vocalizations, were snubbed—justifiably so, but begrudgingly as well. A part of it was because we decided not to give any game two awards this year just to spread the love, as this year's lineup deserves. So this is where we make amends... though of course there are some have still been overlooked in this article, like The Witcher 2 and Saints Row The Third. Look, if we gave every game an award, there wouldn't be any point to them anymore. Nor would there be if some people were pissed off.
That said, here are Game Revolution's Staff Picks. We stand by them (more or less).
~ Nick Tan, Senior Editor
Nick's Pick - Dark Souls– This came much too close to winning an award, in multiple categories. I thought about handing my pick to DiRT 3 or Catherine, but if we were to have a Best Design category, Dark Souls would have serious contention to win, even over Skyrim.
Though it doesn't have a strong narrative, its medieval world speaks for itself and its iconically difficult enemies and bosses are always beatable if you're willing to spend the time and effort (and you're not completely inept as an action gamer). Dark Souls thoroughly captures the "retro" era and modernizes it into a surprisingly successful independent title that makes us realize just how relevant "retro" truly is. In fact, it's "timeless".
Josh's Pick - Portal 2– It’s both a blessing and a curse that 2011 was packed to the gills with so many great games. In any other year, Portal 2 would have been an overwhelming favorite for GotY status, but the impeccable holiday release schedule, coupled with Portal 2’s relatively early release date, made Valve’s masterpiece a nearly distant memory in many minds. When I mentioned that Portal 2 was my choice for GotY, about half the GR staff responded with “oh yeah, I totally forgot about that one!”
In a year swamped with sequels, prequels, and in-between-quels, Portal 2 demonstrated what a true successor to an already great game should do: It built upon the original’s gameplay, added more great mechanics, and took it several levels above and beyond our wildest expectations with an outstanding co-op campaign that offers an experience unlike anything we’ve seen before. It was a perfect adventure game, a perfect puzzle game, a perfect co-op game—it was just perfect.
Alexsandra's Pick - Alice: Madness Returns–Not to be dramatic, but everything that initially drew me to video games (and my desire to work as an illustrator) is present in Alice: Madness Returns. The level of effort put into character, monster and environment design, the completely absurd and entertaining concepts, varied styles of art and media used to (re)tell a classic story—it’s all there.
I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking of my beloved “Hobby Horse” unicorn mallet and Alice’s various outfit (including Gothic Lolita-inspired!) changes. And to boot, it features one of very few female leads that is not entirely pandering to the “male gaze". Alice may be clinically insane (or is she?) but she’s also a tiny, blood-splattered, parasol-wielding, pig-snout-pepper-grinder-shootin’ badass. To me, she’s perfect!
I know that to some people it might be repetitive, bizarre, and mainly likeable because it's nostalgic, but I can’t seem to care. I’m totally smitten.
Eddy's Pick - Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3– You can say what you will about Capcom's strategy in re-releasing games, but they have revitalized the fighting game genre. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and its 'Ultimate' edition form my favorite game of the year. Many will scoff at paying extra money for a separate disc expansion, but the fee is justified by the amount of changes and content and the Heroes vs Heralds mode now available.
The primary reason why I'm picking this game isn't just because it's the one I've poured the most hours into, or because I know it will continue to engage me on a multiplayer field the same way people will be enjoying Skyrim for a long time to come. It's mainly in the details: the animations, the artwork, the references, the subtleties of game-balancing, the alternate character models and color pallettes, even many of the exact moves the characters use. So many oddball choices that many scoffed at have turned out to provide wild, crazy variety and possibilities. If you can imagine a combo, you can probably make it happen with enough practice. It's that depth and potential for rapid-fire strategy that keeps so many hooked.
The deliberate homage and fan-tribute that make it a celebration of nerdom are why so many of us are fine sending a few more dollars in Capcom's direction for continuing to support the game. (More characters, please!)
Kuulei's Pick - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3– This was a year for shooters and it’s obvious the one game that was left out from the pack is Modern Warfare 3. As a veteran of the CoD series, I look forward to the end of every year. I yearn for that highly-dramatized action, the addictive multiplayer, and the sending of hate messages to the many boosters and glitchers. The Modern Warfare series has introduced many options for players, such as customizing their classes with weapons, attachments, perks, and killstreaks to fit their play style.
When Modern Warfare 3 released, I had high hopes that it would be just as good, if not better than its predecessors. You are given strike packages, pointstreaks, two new playlists, proficiencies, spec ops survival, and the prestige shop!
Not to mention, you also get horrible hit detection, lag, quickscoped, lag, a broken promise that multiplayer was going to be balanced, a barely-working service called Call of Duty Elite and more lag. Oh wait, what award am I going for here? Oh, that’s right, the award for Most Disappointing.
Blake Peterson's Pick - Duke Nukem Forever– Clearly the world of game criticism has slighted this game out of spite over its long gestation period. Sure, I only played the demo, but I know a gem when I see one. Who cares if it’s cubit zirconia or a real diamond? Does it really need to be a functional game to be the best?
Duke Nukem Forever is, from everything I’ve been told by friends who felt it necessary to take the plunge, a museum gaming experience. It’s slow, it’s boring, and you experience the history of an artistic medium piece by piece as you move through it. It manages to attempt to implement all the gameplay advances from the past decade, but still seems horribly anachronistic (OLD, OLD, OLD) in the same way that your racist grandpa does; it hearkens back to simpler (ie: cringeworthy) values, and lacks the gumption or vitality to do anything worthwhile anymore.
From what I played, it was like a distended love letter to blowjobs and Half-Life 2, trying to suck as much entertainment from both as possible. There was some firing a missile launcher at a guy, then some poorly-modelled moving Real Dolls, some mining car stuff (after that it’s kind of hazy--I must have blanked it out).
Duke Nukem Forever shows us the past, but also, just maybe, the future. The future of gaming: misogyny, dick jokes, and throwing poop.