Video game awards shows are usually about as good as one might expect, which is to say, they’re bad. There is the occasional bright spot – Samuel L. Jackson is a very good sport, for instance – but generally speaking they’re all the worst bits of normal awards shows plus the vacuity of the still-young games industry. Which is why Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards, held Friday in Las Vegas, was a bit of a refreshing surprise.
Sure, The Game Awards 2014 suffered from the usual failings of pop culture awards programs – it was big, grandiose, and more than a little dumb at times. But there was none of the smarmy disdain that Joel McHale brought to SpikeTV’s VGX awards show last year (seriously, he seems to despise games – why was he tapped to host?), and along with the bigwigs from industry giants like Nintendo and Sony, indie developers got quite a bit of stage time.
That said, the bulk of the “big” awards did go to AAA publishers – Dragon Age: Inquisition earned the Game of the Year trophy, and at 22 hours in I can’t say I’m displeased with the choice. Other nominees were Bayonetta 2, Dark Souls II, Hearthstone (which won best handheld game – seriously, get this for your iPad, it’s free), and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (which won Best Action-Adventure honors).
Trey Parker was on hand to accept his award for Best Performance, for being half the cast of South Park: The Stick of Truth.
There was also a very touching Lifetime Achievement award presented to Ken and Roberta Williams, founders of Sierra Online. I might have welled up a little at this – the Williams created the worlds I first got to explore in video games, and their influence – particularly Roberta’s vision for how games could be used to tell stories – cannot be overstated.
Video game awards shows do have a special kind of draw – the reveal trailer. “World Premiere” was splashed across the screen so many times between awards presentation that I had to wonder if that phrase means the same thing to me as it does to Keighley. But here are my picks for the most compelling titles shown at the 2014 Game Awards.
Japanese developer From Software created the Souls games, and Bloodborne looks like it’s taking the successful Souls formula and giving it a more Victorian setting, plus werewolves. Based on the trailer, it will be featuring the unforgiving level design, combat, and gloom of its forebears, and that’s good: More Souls means more fun. Unfortunately, it’s being developed as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, meaning PC and Xbox One owners will have to hold out for a port. It’s scheduled for release March 24.
This one’s from Gone Home developers Fullbright, and there’s not a lot to go on in the Tacoma reveal trailer. You’re an astronaut exploring a lunar base that’s apparently experienced some kind of disaster. I liked Gone Home quite a bit as a piece of interactive fiction, and I also like that it causes massive amounts of butthurt in certain “consumer movements” related to gaming.
Another first person space game aboard another disaster-stricken space station! This looks basically like Gravity: The Game, and I’m fine with that. As a bonus, the lack of a vicious alien monster chasing me will probably be better for my blood pressure.
- The Zelda game for WiiU
I’m not a big Nintendo follower. Back when the NES hit shelves, my parents were convinced it was evil. But I have loved my limited experiences with the Legend of Zelda games, and it looks as if the next entry will be a massive, lovely-looking open world.
There were a couple reveals that really didn’t jazz me, though. Here are a couple.
There’s a woman in a towel facing down a heavy-breathing, mask-wearing maniac. It’s Halloweenpsychosaw: The Movie: The Game. Who cares?
The Human Element
There’s just about nothing in this trailer to make it stand out. I could just as well fire up my old copy of id Software’s RAGE, or get around to finishing Borderlands 2. Large beefy men on motorcycles versus zombies of some kind in the desert. The time for this game has come and gone.
Being that this trailer starts off rather pretentiously with a quote from Albert Camus, it’s a bit disappointing to find that it’s yet another zombie apocalypse game, with some Mirror’s Edge parkour (Dammit, Jim, I’m a parkour instructor, not a… guy who shoots zombies in the face). It’s entirely possible that this game will be terrific, but this vertical slice look at it fails to excite.
No Man’s Sky
This game was really exciting about a year ago. But there’s not really anything here that shows development from where it was back then. No Man’s Sky is promising an awful lot – a universe to explore that’s procedurally generated down to the atom. But this is starting to feel suspiciously like another title that’s overpromised on what the studio can actually deliver. We’ve had no information about the in-game systems, player goals, or moment-to-moment gameplay. A year after its initial reveal, that’s worrisome.
I’ll have my own picks for games of the year later this month, so watch this space. And remember, never pre-order.