Yes, this part is a bit late, but it is not due to lack of trying. These votes are the most important of the Golden Joystick awards, and they seriously can’t be taken lightly. If you haven’t voted already, cast your votes and tell the community what your picks are. Let’s get this show on the road:
Best Gaming Performance – Freddie Prinze Jr., as The Iron Bull (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
In a period when voice actors are gaining more and more recognition for their work, this is an essentially important category that could mean the continued success of an VA in their field. They haven’t made this category easy this year, but it boils down to the old vanguards of voice acting against the up and coming wild cards. The voices of Troy Baker, Mark Hamill and Stephen Fry are easily recognizable, while surprising contenders have emerged in Patrick Warburton and Molly Stone. Does one vote for the veteran efforts, or the people whose careers in video gaming are yet to take off in full?
My thoughts swing towards the latter. After all, as much as I feel terrible for not giving these amazing voice actors more praise, the world of voice acting is such that recognition is key to success. As such, the award needs to go to one of the dark horses of the contenders. Molly Stone’s performance as Talia Forrester could well win by virtue of her singing in Game Of Thrones alone, while Ashly Burch brings a nuance to Chloe in Life Is Strange that much of the script – as well as many of the VAs – tend to fall short on. The biggest surprise, however, and the winner of this award – The Iron Bull in Dragon Age: Inquisition, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.
The Iron Bull is a surprising complex character, displaying hypocrisy, temperance, loyalty and savagery in equal measure, similar to his Mass Effect analogue, Wrex. He is openly pan-sexual, unapologetic in his actions despite some of them going against the strict code of honor of his people, and accepting of ways of living that may be aberrant to him. So imagine my surprise when Freddie Prinze Jr. – yes, THIS Freddie Prinze Jr. – was responsible for verbalizing this man’s thoughts and feelings. It is a brilliant, understated and stand-out performance coming from the most unlikely place. Give this man more VA gigs, please.
Also, I just said Freddie Prinze Jr. should be in more things. After seeing what he did to Scooby Doo, I didn’t think I’d ever see the day.
Honorable Mentions – Molly Stone (Talia Forrester) from Game Of Thrones, Ashly Burch (Chloe) from Life Is Strange.
Best PlayStation Game – Bloodborne
Alright, let us be very, very clear before we get into these console-exclusive awards: remakes, remasters and ports get no awards. In any other setting, I will relent that these repeats of games are not inherently bad, nor should the efforts of the people bringing these experiences to a new group of game players be denied. But this is Game Of The Year contention, and no one gets brownie points for doing the same thing they already did again with a fresher coat of paint. So goodbye God Of War III, Uncharted and Tearaway Unfolded. Thanks for coming.
So what remains? After all, we are looking for a game that exemplifies what the console is made to do, and as such we want the games that show off exactly why you should buy a PlayStation product. Little Big Planet 3 gets massive props for not only promoting the PlayStation 4’s sharing-is-caring creed, but also for being a colorful, gorgeous and well-voiced platformer. Until Dawn, though a little late to the party, provides for those that want strong narratives in their games, giving the PlayStation 4 library much needed diversity. But when all is said and done, the best exclusive PlayStation title to drop is Bloodborne.
I have heard testament after testament that the only reason people have purchased a PlayStation 4 is to experience Bloodborne, and it isn’t hard to see why. It is meticulously crafted to be tough as nails, dark as hell and an experience to rival Dark Souls in its intensity. Yet there is something fascinating about creating an experience that is not only brutally difficult but fair in equal measure, and there is no denying that a death in Bloodborne is no one’s fault but your own in 99% of circumstances. Above all else, it is truly a game made for the audience: no one goes into Bloodborne with any doubts that it isn’t exactly want they want, and with Playstation’s slogan being “For The Players”, Bloodborne keeps that ethos alive and well.
Honorable Mentions – Little Big Planet 3, Until Dawn
Best Nintendo Game – Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
As previously stated: goodbye, Majora’s Mask 3D and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. Although I do have to admit that it was agonizing to not give the award to Xenoblade Chronicles solely because of the historical struggle it has had making its way to a European and American release, not to mention taking a monstrous RPG and making it portable. With those games gone, the bracket looks eerily familiar to the Best Family Game category, with one notable exception: Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, the winner of this award.
It perpetually staggers me how Nintendo take colossal games that for any other developer should receive a console release and ram them into the Nintendo 3DS. More to the point, it staggers me how damn good they all are, hence my previous gripes with not giving the award to Xenoblade Chronices. And yet, here they are, cramming over a hundred hours of content, questing and monster killing action into a cartridge that is only 35mm square. Nintendo’s current shtick is to march to the beat of its own drum, giving players something both inherently familiar and utterly different in equal parts. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate may be the ultimate portable time sink, and more importantly, it is a completely unique title that Nintendo can proudly hold on its shelf, next to its who’s-who of exclusive video games titles.
Honorable Mention – Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Best PC Game – Kerbal Space Program
Goodbye, Grand Theft Auto V. Wait, only one remake in an entire category? Well, holy shit.
This category is possibly the toughest of the exclusive title awards, solely because of the amazing diversity of its competitors. What this award signifies is the very best in what the PC can do over the consoles that it looks down upon from its fortress built from NVIDIA GTX 980s. The thing that PC does the best, other than looking pretty, is exemplified by the keyboard and mouse: the strategy tites, the space exploration titles, the 4X behemoths. Endless Legend scratched an itch in the 4X community that hadn’t been scratched since Civilization V, Elite Dangerous may well be the best space exploration sandbox ever conceived, and Cities: Skylines will tie up the modding community for at least the next five years. And yet as much as I struggle against giving two awards to one game, the best PC game of the last year is definitely Kerbal Space Program.
I have sung its praises already, but why it earns this award is very simple: what Kerbal Space Program provides is completely unique to the gaming landscape and, unless something very interesting happens to consoles in the foreseeable future, is an experience that can only exist on the PC. It is a game that is as diverse and complex as the format it sits within, but also carries with it a certain simplicity and charm that suckers you in. When all is said and done, the success of Kerbal Space Program should mark a shift in how we deal with PC gaming: complicated enough to reward the dedicated, but simple enough so that we don’t forcibly excommunicate anyone that doesn’t have thousands of dollars to burn on a glorified toaster.
Honorable Mentions – Endless Legend, Elite Dangerous, Cities Skylines
Best Xbox Game – Forza Horizon 2
Goodbye, Gears Of War, Halo, State Of Decay and Rare Replay. Jesus, it feels like I’ve stepped back in time to 2011. What remains in this bracket is nothing particular to write home about, which signals to Microsoft that they really need to pull their thumbs out of their asses and create some in-house followups that are going to make them some money. #IDARB gets points for being completely off-the-wall and different, as does Sunset Overdrive and Kalimba. However, my inner racing game enthusiast sees Forza Horizon 2 on this list and praises the heavens.
I find my loyalty to Need For Speed – the formative franchise in my love of racing games – tested of late due to their incessant demands to want to play with people. Forza Horizon 2 takes gorgeous visuals, a technically stunning weather cycle and some amazing driving mechanics, and just lets you drive. No forced multiplayer bullshit, no pressure to be railroaded into anything in particular. You want to race? You can race. You want to shut out the world and drive around for hours? Go nuts. It is, pound for pound, the best racing game since 2010’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, and despite my apathy for most of what Microsoft are doing, I love Forza Horizon 2 to pieces.
Honorable Mentions – Sunset Overdrive, #IDARB
Most Wanted Game – The Last Guardian
Good God almighty, would you look at all of these sequels? In a bracket of fifteen potential titles to release in the next year, only three are original projects, and that is me being generous is calling Total War: Warhammer ‘original’. Hell, one of the options is just called the “New Zelda”. Are you fucking kidding me? Throughout this collection of brackets we have seen diversity in a whole slew of innovative and creative ways to develop our medium, but in this category we see the threat of slipping into another year of more repeated bullshit. At least Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate isn’t on this list, or I might have to shoot someone.
Well, if we are in line to pick a sequel, we’re going to pick a sequel that is going to make a damn decent splash in the video game landscape in the way it goes about doing things. Rise Of The Tomb Raider ticks many positive boxes, and would be a contender for the award if it wasn’t for some timed exclusivity bollocks. Fallout 4 and Uncharted 4 have the development teams to make something amazing, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided actually hopes to make good on its promises by getting closer to its original magnum opus than ever. But, surprise surprise, we aren’t picking a sequel. We’re picking The Last Guardian.
From the brains that brought us Ico and Shadow Of The colossus – two unique and challenging games in their own right – Team Ico set to make yet another esoteric masterpiece that is flanked by protagonists that evoke nostalgia from their last two efforts. Not only is it wanted for being elusive, having been in development for eight years now, but it is from a developer that has not put a foot wrong, that has always made compelling gameplay, and is always ready to do something different. Not to mention it looked spectacular in its trailers, marketing manifestos aside. In a year of sequels and remakes, we are going to see something original and heartfelt in The Last Guardian, and I can’t wait.
Honorable Mentions – Fallout 4, Uncharted 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Ultimate Game Of The Year
This goes without saying: the winner of this award should be a game that isn’t merely good, or even merely great. It is a game that has to change something about the video game landscape: a piece of work that stands as the pinnacle of what a year can do for gaming as a medium. In this sense, we have some bunker busters in the final bracket, and with good reason. With everything left said and done, only one can be considered head and shoulders the best – not because it is simply a better game, but because it did more for the gaming world than every other competitor.
This pick is never easy, because what video games are to you may differ from what video games are to others. But what to choose? The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the jack-of-all-trades of the picks, with everything being just right but never quite revolutionizing anything. Bloodborne and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate offer the difficulty and reward for the dedicated game enthusiast, the one that prides skill and finesse above all else. You have the visual masterpieces of Ori And The Blind Forest, and the maturity and emotional depth in Life Is Strange and Dragon Age: Inquisition. And of course, you have the revolutionaries: the ones that broke moulds and did things no one ever expected, like Kerbal Space Program and Her Story.
The game of the year must go to a game that did all of these things, and more. That game is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus faced controversy from the off, from the release of Ground Zeroes as a full-priced prologue to the game, to Kojima’s departure from Konami for reasons unknown to the controversial drop of his name from the box art. From this point, it seems certain that this is the final Metal Gear Solid game, or at least the last one Kojima has a hand in, which may well be the very same thing. But what a way to go. The evolution to open-world stealth was the next logical step in the franchise, Kojima weaves his own insane tale of intrigue and political shenanigans, Venom Snake is as complex as ever, and the Fox Engine makes everything look absolutely stunning.
Above all else, Metal Gear Solid V is a sign of the times. Kojima’s vision was not fully realised because Konami was unhappy with how much money was spent on the game, and Konami wanted to release the game early, cutting critical story elements that would have tied in to other aspects of the story. It is a critical juncture where the publisher’s demands inhibit the vision of the developer, when all the publisher sees is a product. Video games are not merely products. They are creations and labors of love, and the ones that stand out are the ones that throw caution to the wind and create something amazing, consequences be damned. It’s a romantic vision, I know, but it is a sentiment that is reflected in game quality, and shown when publishers rush games to meet their own demand schedules. Metal Gear Solid V is still an amazing game, but what it could have been if Konami had not stuck its fingers in the pie leaves a bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Nevertheless, Metal Gear Solid V is the swan song of a video game series based on innovation, nuance and fun. It is the pinnacle of everything video games should aspire to be. It is, without a doubt, the Game Of The Year.
Honorable Mentions – Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Kerbal Space Program, Life Is Strange
So what do you think? Do you think I fucked up somewhere? Have I touched some raw emotional center in you? If you liked this breakdown of the Golden Joysticks, don’t forget to share it, comment on it, talk about it and let me know what you think.