January 10, 2013

~ PART 1 ~

It's clear that the current generation is in its twilight years. Nintendo have already released the Wii U, and Sony and Microsoft have, apparently, started shipping early development kits for their next-generation consoles - both of which we hope to see on shelves by this time next year. But the latter years in any console life (and I'm talking PS3 here, not the rather new PSVita of course) still offers some great titles - often the best during the cycle of any system and 2012 had some real crackers. Here we tell you what's the best on offer...

There are a couple of rules for games to be entered into consideration. Firstly, the games must have been released in Australia during the 2012 calendar year, so no 2011 or 2013 titles are in consideration (even if they were already released in Japan or America in 2012). Also, all these awards have been considered by those here at Future Gamez, and not the public. While we give scores for reviews throughout the year, the highest score may not be the winner in these awards, as long term appeal, post-release support and a lot of hindsight is taken into consideration. Finally, all gaming categories are for PS3 and PSVita titles, except for graphics and sound where they were considered separately. So let's get to it...

Biggest Disappointments of 2012
3. Studio Closures and Struggles
Sadly this has been a major topic over the last couple of years - the number of development studios that have been forced to close, restructure or sell off. In 2012 even the might THQ has fallen and has filed for bankruptcy to restructure and try to survive while most of their distribution arms around the globe, including Australia, were closed. Other studios to be closed this year include Radical Entertainment (Prototype), 38 Studios (Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning), Big Huge Games (Rise of Nations, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning), 4mm Games (Def Jam Rapstar), Eurocom (Bond games), Ubisoft Vancouver (Pure Futbol), Zipper Interactive (SOCOM) and Hudson Soft among many others.

2. Next-Gen PS4/XBox 720 Fails to Make Appearance
Naturally Microsoft and Sony are remaining tight lipped about their next-generation consoles, announcing them too early would only harm their current offerings, but with Nintendo launching their "next-gen" Wii U, and with rumours of the real next-gen releasing late this year (yes, it's 2013), it would have been nice to see or hear something small from Sony or Microsoft. It's not all silent however with some companies showing off some next-gen engine footage. Expect to hear a lot in the coming months with a major deluge at E3 2013.

1.PSVita Struggles To Sell
Sony's PlayStation Vita should be a massive success - a phenomenally powerful piece of hardware, gorgeous touch screen (and visuals from the games), rear touchpad, cameras, Wi-Fi and optional 3G. While not being swamped with software there are some phenomenal titles including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Rayman Origins, Sound Shapes and LittleBigPlanet, although some duds too not least of which being the much-hyped but utterly unplayable Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified. Sales for the PSVita have been sluggish at best with PSP still outselling the unit in Japan, and (according to VGChartz) the Nintendo 3DS selling almost 27 million units to date compared to about 4 million for the PSVita. Sony need to do something and quick - a price drop, cheaper memory cards and more third party support. The system isn't close to dead, but it needs a bit of shot in the arm.

Biggest Surprise of 2012
3. Rise of Crowd Funding (eg Kickstarter)
While there has only been one project on Kickstarter which will result in a PS3 game as such, the impact this option for crowd funding games in the industry is already being felt. Certainly the massive funding success for the OUYA (Android based) console (see it here) means there will be a new player in the market soon and while its long term viability remains in question, over 60,000 people (ourselves included) were willing to take the $100+ gamble. Many classics such as Leisure Suit Larry, Elite, Shadowrun, Carmageddon and Broken Sword are all getting updated or a sequel thanks to Kickstarter. It's only going to boom...

2. Q'1 2013 looks bigger (game wise) then Christmas (Q'4) 2012
There's no doubt that Christmas 2012 had some phenomenal releases including Assassin's Creed III, NBA 2K13, COD: Black Ops II, Far Cry 3, Dishonored, Borderlands 2 and Hitman Absolution were all great titles, but early 2013 will see DmC: Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Crysis 3, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Dust 514, Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, God of War: Ascension, Army of Two: Devil's Cartel, Dead Island: Riptite and possibly Beyond: Two Souls to name a few.

1. Watch Dogs at E3
Really? A game announcement was the biggest surprise of 2012? Well yes it is for several reasons. First of all this Ubisoft title was a complete surprise. No one knew it was coming, no one knew what it was. When Ubisoft unveiled the title at E3 2012 jaws dropped - was it a next-gen game? Well apparently not as it's heading to the PS3, possibly in late 2013. It was a jaw-droppingly impressive title that was not only the best game at E3 2012, but is now near the top of almost everyone's Most Wanted lists.

Best Australian Distributor of 2012
Winner: All Interactive Entertainment
All Interactive Entertainment aren't a company many gamers would really hear of, but that's not their role in the industry. Their job is to get the product from the developers and publishers and get them onto the Australian shelves (or digital shop fronts). 2012 saw some major changes to the Australian distributor landscape with AIE picking up or distributing titles from Capcom, Bethesda, THQ (although that now won't happen obviously), JoWood, Koch, Little Orbit, Bohemia and Nordic. This arguably makes this the largest distributor of gaming software in Australia and 2013 and beyond should be phenomenal for the company.

Best Publisher of 2012
Winner: 2K Games
2K Games had a cracker of a year in 2012 with a couple of tent pole releases that may have had some question marks over them prior to release, but exceeded all expectations. While starting off slowly with The Darkness II the company surprised with the morally challenging Spec Ops: The Line, the brilliant basketballer NBA2K13 and then two of the best games of the year - the FPS Borderlands 2 and the turn-based strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Best Developer of 2012
Winner: Firaxis
There were many great games in 2012 but the biggest surprise was the quality of the turn-based XCOM: Enemy Unknown which is not only a wonderful reimagining of the classic PC game but one of the few strategy games which has succeeded on consoles (on other was their own Civilization Revolution in June 2008).

Best Hardware
Winner: PSVita
While the PlayStation Vita may be struggling to sell in massive numbers there is no doubt that the hardware is a technical marvel with stunning visuals, design and options. Sony need to put a lot more love into the console (and perhaps need to stop shutting down studios such as Studio Liverpool and Zipper Interactive and perhaps move them from PS3/4 to PSVita development - even for mini-games) but as a piece of hardware it's a very sexy kit.

BLU-RAY AWARDS NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond our control (that being the death of several family members of mine, including my father) I scaled back our Blu-Ray reviews for 2012. Having said that with over 200 Blu-Ray's viewed during the year we have still checked out a sizable number to offer some thoughts. We are hoping during 2013 the reviews will pick up again, and we can offer a more comprehensive viewpoint on a wider range of releases.

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Video Quality
Winner: Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D Edition (Paramount)
As I mentioned last year picking the best video quality in a Blu-Ray release is now extremely hard with around 50 titles in the running for this award. It goes to Michael Bay's behemoth which was released in its 3D form in February 2012. This is a visual tour de force, has some brilliant 3D visuals and has some of the biggest explosions and stunning visual effects ever seen on the Blu-Ray format. The runners up are all worth contenders too, and we've even expanded the list to 4 runners up.
Runners Up: Prometheus (Fox), Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (Fox), The Hunger Games (Village Roadshow), The Adventures of TinTin (Paramount).

Best Blu-Ray Movie - Audio Quality
Winner: The Expendables 2 (Village Roadshow)
What better way to show off a new audio system then with a bombastic, lively action film. It doesn't get much more action packed then this effort starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham and Willis, but that's not all. This disc contains a cracking DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (24-bit/48Khz) track which, if you have the right equipment, supports NeoX which brings the audio out to 11.1 sound!
Runners Up: Katy Perry: Part of Me (Paramount), The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony), Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount), The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Brothers).

Best Blu-Ray Release - Extras
Winner: Prometheus (3D release) (Fox)
Prometheus is a film that divided opinion - we were on the side the loved the film - and while the 2D Blu-Ray release was light when it came to extras the 3D Blu-Ray release (which included the 2D version) is filled with some of the most impressive extras we've ever seen including documentaries running much longer than the feature film, audio commentaries and so much more. It's worth the extra money for these extras alone, and you'll get the 3D version of the film too!
Runners Up: The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony Pictures), Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D Edition (Paramount).

Best Blu-Ray Release Overall
Winner: Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One (Paramount)
This selection may surprise many as it's a catalogue release of a TV series released 25 years ago, but the work that has gone into re-scanning, re-editing and re-Visual Effecting all these episodes is phenomenal. The transfers are nigh on perfect and put many recent TV shows to shame. Throw in some brand new extras and this is an essential purchase for Star Trek fans, and those unfamiliar with the show should check it out too.
Runners Up: Prometheus 3D Edition (Fox), Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D Edition (Paramount), The Hunger Games (Village Roadshow), Brave (Walt Disney), The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony Pictures), The Expendables 2 (Village Roadshow), The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Brothers), The Raid (Madman), The Avengers (Disney).

Best Download-only Game
Winner: Journey (PS3, thatGameCompany)
While we never reviewed this game on the site, we certainly have the title and absolutely loved the experience so much so we played it from start to finish on the first bootup. Admittedly it's not a long game, but it's an emotional experience and when you run into another online gamer this game just springs to life and is a complete joy.
Runners Up: Anomaly: Warzone Earth (PS3, 11 Bit Studio), Joe Danger 2: The Movie (PS3, Hello Games).

Best Game Based On Pre-Existing Property (Print or Film)
Winner: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (PS3, High Moon Studios)
While we never reviewed Transformers: Fall of Cybertron it's still winning this award as it expands on the previous title in many ways. Admittedly this was a pretty lean year for games based on pre-existing properties, but this one deserves your attention. It looks and sounds the part and with some entertaining online gameplay is well worth picking up.
Runners Up: Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (PS3, Traveller's Tales), 007: Legends (PS3, Eurocom).

Most Original Title
Winner: Journey (PS3, Thatgamecompany)
As we mentioned above while we never reviewed Journey for the site, we have played the game extensively and there's no doubt it is not only one of the best games of 2012, but also one of the most original game we've played, not only this year, but in this entire generation. The game sees you controlling a mysterious traveler trying to get to a mountain. For what purpose remains somewhat elusive, but when you encounter a second player (someone else online) it's a magical, and often emotional experience. Stunning.
Runners Up: Tokyo Jungle (PS3, SCE Japan), The Unfinished Swan (PS3, Giant Sparrow).

Best Offline Multiplayer Game
Winner: Dead or Alive 5 (PS3, Tecmo Koei)
Technically there are more polished titles, gameplay wise there might be better brawlers, but in terms of an easy to access, fun local multiplayer title this game is enjoyable for both newcomers and skilled players alike.
Runners Up: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PS3, Sumo Digital), Sports Champions 2 (PS3, Zindagi Games).

Best Online Multiplayer Game
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PS3, Treyarch)
There were some fantastic games with online components yet again this year - and we were so close to handing this award to several other games - but the massive amount of game modes and options, great level design, and slick gameplay puts this Treyarch title at the top of the pile yet again - that despite the fact that this release offered little new over previous years games. It's a testament to Activision's franchise that other companies are still playing catch-up after so many years.
Runners Up: Borderlands 2 (PS3, Gearbox Software), XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PS3, Firaxis).

Continue to Part 2 of the 2012 FutureGamez Awards
Continue to Part 3 of the 2012 FutureGamez Awards

I hope you enjoyed reading the 2012 FutureGamez Awards. If you have any comments feel free to e-mail me at the usual address: admin@futuregamez.net.