Made2Game's 2011 Video Game Awards: FPS
Welcome to the FPS category of the 2011 Made2Game Video Game Awards! We've already tackled dragons and sorcery and beards in our 2011 RPG awards, and have plenty more lined up for you. But today, it's time for some good old fashioned and extremely manly gun action.
Shooting dudes. It's part of a balanced gaming diet and in 2011 the man-shooter found its sense of fun again after a few years of the modern military 'cinematic' spectacle shooter taking center, left and right stage.
It's been a thrilling year, with entries from the majority of the genre's biggest developers. Ignoring the massive, over-documented, overblown 'showdown' between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 there was a new shooter from genre grandaddy in ID's RAGE. People can Fly followed up their old school Painkiller with swear-a-liffic slaughterfest Bulletstorm. Sony's two premier FPS' both received their third entries in Resistance 3 and Killzone 3. Indie studios fought back with Hard Reset and Serious Sam 3. 2011 even found space for an archaeological find as Duke Nukem Forever laid thirteen years of FPS history on the autopsy table in one messy specimen of crass gameplay over design.
So let's stop with the jabbering and just agree that it was a fantastic year for the FPS and get on with the awards!
And before you ask, no. Portal 2 is not an FPS. It's a puzzle game. Get over it.
Nanosuit (Crysis 2)
You are the weapon. That's the difference between the Nanosuit and every other 'weapon' that we got our slippery mitts on this year. Crysis 2's armour was designed to compliment the flimsy 'guns' you would inevitably need to rely on. It was designed to empower them. It was designed to help you rise above your enemies.
Should you go invisible so you can sneak around the side before quickly turning on the armour, grabbing an enemy and hurling him into his mates? Or perhaps you could use super speed to run through your foes, punching them each quickly in the jaw on the way past. Then again, you could just kick cars into their smug, squid-like faces...
The Nanosuit is a weapon in and of itself and its various applications mean it can help you out in every situation no matter what firearm you're currently wielding. To say Master Chief was looking greener in Anniversary Collection would be an understatement.
HE .44 Magnum (Resistance 3)
Pistols are things of beauty and while 2011 reintroduced us to Halo's classic handheld marksman device the best pistol of 2011 was undoubtedlyResistance 3's remote mine shooting beauty. Responsible for one of 2011's grimmest deaths as well...
Exploding cannon ball (Bulletstorm)
It squashes people. It causes mini earthquakes. You can kick it around for mass destruction. And it squashes people. Squelchy squelchy squishy fun. This almost went to the Harpoon gun for the breakdance skillshot being brutally hilarious, and arguably the greatest FPS kill in any game ever. But there's just some sadistic satisfaction to that squelch...
The artistry of the shotgun is a three step process. The shot, the kill and the reload.
The Boneduster's shot is a four chamber explosion that sends the combined force of fifty Rhinos right into the gut of the sod unlucky enough to stroll past your barrels. BOOM!
The kill is grotesquely indulgent; the foe - or foes - (un)fortunate enough to be in your sights are practically hurled off their feet and sent ragdolling several meters away. Often into spikes or into lava or off an cliff or into an electricity storm or onto a cactus or into a wall... The list goes on.
The reload? A massive, DOOM 2 style opening clunk before four gargantuan death dealers are dropped into the chambers. This is concluded with a meaty clunk as the gun is restored to its primary killing position.
Textbook shotgun satisfaction. Plus you can charge it up and cause an incinerating wave of death that would have dragons snarling with jealousy. If you need this gun justifying any further, play Act 5 Chapter 2 with it. It's so so so so sadistically satisfying I've got a feeling I might be sectioned if I describe the joy it delivers in words.
Rossmore (Resistance 3)
You're handed the Rossmore just before you're introduced to the zombie-like Grimm enemy, and with perfect reason. These voracious Chimera are hankering for some tasty human steak but the Rossmore strikes with a punch normally reserved for the films of Jackie Chan and is able to send numerous close up Grimms ragdolling over the hills and far away without a second thought. Level it up and it will even set things on fire. Let down only by its flimsy reload.
Shotgun (Duke Nukem Forever)
Seriously. Yes, seriously. Look, just let a Pig Cop go berserk and leap at you, mouth agape and arms windmilling with all the poise of a tap dancing Grizzly bear, then feed him a full buckshot from trusty Mr. Pump Action and giggle as he flops lifelessly backwards and flalollops to the ground with all the grace of a sack of mouldy potatoes.
Best use of Swear Words
Bulletstorm's script was delivered by Rick Remender, a prolific comic book artist who also helped mould the words that helped Dead Space to shamble from beginning to end.
Remender's Bulletstorm script was crass but definitely memorable. Mostly because it was unashamedly stupid. I shall remember Waggleton P Tallylicker for a long time yet...
But this award? Bulletstorm wins either for the incessant use of the word dick in place of other, more obvious profanities, or for the combination of anatomy that resulted in the now classic insult 'dicktits'. Pure Shakespeare.
Some of the soldier's random shouts in multiplayer are ace and most are filled with that essential contemporary layer of 'crude' for a more authentic modern feel.
Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Oh, yeah, sure, Call of Juarez: The Cartel was full of unnecesary swearing but that's not why it's here. Oh no. It's the creative cussing that would issue forth from anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves playing Call of Juarez: The Cartel. This mention is for those people. You poor unfortunate sods.
The thing lacking from most video game explosions is the essential feeling of that sudden punch. Most developers choose to make their explosions big and flashy, unnecessarily elongated orange flares that deliver all the satisfaction of a cold cup of tea.
Battlefield's explosions were different because, most importantly, they were quick. There's no dawdle, no mess. It's just one bright spark, one bassy audible thwak, and it's done aside from the pitter patter of raining debris and the slow, choking smoke that rises to reveal that beautiful Frostbite 2 powered destruction (we'll take that paycheck now EA). Battlefield 3's explosions are damaging, yes, but they're also disorientating and frightening. And they can tear holes in your carefully selected cover to boot.
The average kaboom has lost its power in recent years, mainly due to the decrease in the regularity of Gibs - the way an enemy would explode into meaty chunks when hit with an explosive, most often found in PC FPS' circa 1997 or so. RAGE went old school with its pineapples and let us watch as quick vicious explosions literally tore foes apart. Squelchy...
Steve Blum as Grayson Hunt (Bulletstorm)
Vocal chords tempered by a diet of swear words and five gallons of harsh space scotch a day, Grayson Hunt – voiced by Steve Blum, who also voiced 2011's Garcia Hotspur (Shadows of the Damned), Mass Effect 2's Grunt, Marvel vs. Capcom's Wolverine and Taskmaster and many many many many many many many more – is a gravelly toned arse unafraid to speak his mind. Even if he isn't all that clever.
But that's the true joy of Grayson, he's an absolute guilty pleasure in audible form. While other characters use their sandpaper voices to emphasize that they are deadly or world weary, Grayson talks like a macho bad ass but behaves like a bit of a spoiled child. Sure, he's effective at what he does, but he messes up and makes a fool of himself in equal measure, adding a fragility to all his manly charms. Making it all the more impressive that he tries so hard.
Billy Murray as Captain Price (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3)
After two games Price has even less love for flowers and daisies, even more hatred for unnamed terrorists and an even more gravely voice. All hail Billy Murray.
John St. John as Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem Forever)
So Duke Nukem Forever wasn't as good as anyone wanted, fine, we're over it – almost – but you've got to admire John St. John's eager delight and charm as the crass Nukem. Even when the script is lacking, St. John is still delivering the overblown action hero cheese like a hero.
Best Facial Hair
Captain Price (Modern Warfare 3)
Fact: If Infinity Ward are releasing a game that features Captain Price – and let's face it, when does an Infinity Ward game not feature Captain Price? - then he will win this award. Hands down. Forever.
Just look at that beautifully cultivated facial foliage. Even when he's looking dishevelled, abandoned, and in the midst of a fight against the whole world those classic WW II era mutton chops still stand proud.
2011's model may be a bit more beardy but still. Captain Price, we salute you.
Dr. Malikov (Resistance 3)
Malikov has been through a lot. A little hunched in Resistance 3 his snow white chin extrusions have matured into a Santa rivalling bush of old man defining brilliance. Classic ancient beard design that loses points for un-originality.
Sam (Serious Sam 3)
Sam isn't rocking any sort of cultivated bush on his face, instead opting for the permanent sandpaper texture of some ever lasting 'stubble'. It's enough to say 'I mean business' without ever committing to a style or stereotype.
You've not heard a game in action until a helicopter has ruffled your hair as it thunders towards a tank fight on the horizon, when the sudden crack of a sniper shot has caused you to hit the ground, or as explosions shake the very skeleton of the buildings around you and splinter your hearing through devestating, disorientating aftershock with the world returning to catastrophic, bullet ridden clarity one blurry decibel at a time.
Battlefield 3 isn't so much a massage for the ears as a devastating onslaught. A deafening, triumphant, atmosphere generating audible assault.
Also worth noting is the Caspian Border antenna collapse. Twnag, pang, twang. Creeeeaaaaa-snap- snap-snap-aaaaaaBOOOOOOSH. Award single fall-edly justified.
It may have been insomnia-curing to play but Killzone 3 sure sounded the absolute nuts. Choking gunfire and heady bass combined to create an atmosphere of complete war and terror.
Eurocom's Goldeneye re-imagining features the classic N64 alarm sound alongside more Monty Norman goodness than you could ever wish for. Winner.
It's the dirtspots on the screen. Just look at them. Look at the realistic sun glare as you emerge from the water, and the burning skyline opposite that re-emphasizes the war all around. The subtle dirt kicks. The animation as an army charges across the open fields of Caspian. The stacatto flashes of a roadside flare. Sense how a raining arena feels moody and dark, but Caspian Border's blue skies give the battle an odd vibrance and beauty.
Battlefield doesn't just look realistic, it looks real. And unlike other realistic looking games it manages to pull it off with an eye for diversity so often lacking from the grey and brown brigade of recent years. One of Battlefield's maps is green, another is dark blue. One map focuses on the chocking claustrophobia of fighting through a Metro tunnel with all its reflective marble surfaces. One gives you a huge open Pacific island to snipe across as jets ignite the skies above and trees shake and collapse under military machines.
Obviously Battlefield kind of has the advantage, what with being built for high end PCs and everything, but it really does look jaw dropping when your helicopter swings over a battlefield to reveal death and destruction, explosions leaving pock marks on the landscape as vehicles rumble from point to point and you're popping shots all the small dots running around below you.
When you stop and look around you - just don't look too fast - RAGE's destroyed wastes are actually quite the lookers. The occupied contemporary buildings with juxtaposing caveman scrawls are gorgeous. And the variety of cartoonish animation between the wall-bouncing enemies and exuberant NPC's are rather appealing after the realistic po-faced style of most other shooters.
What Crysis 2 lacked in open mission structure and a fun opening it more than made up for it raw, full-sugar, Wonka approved eye candy. Gorgeous. 3D too if you want to play looking like you're recovering from an 80's hangover.
It's for the moment when you're running across the battlefield and see a pair of Jets dogfighting above you, engaged in a cinematic conflict controlled by human minds and no element of scripted predictability.
It's for the time when you and a group of friends are moving through the cramped tunnels of the metro, your medic keeping everyone alive as you lay suppressing fire against a primary choke point, funnelling foes into your allies in the main area.
How about that bit when you were in the buggy as you saw a tank coming straight at you, so you suddenly veer up the ramp to the right and avoid a deafening shell as your buttocks rise you a few inches in pure adrenaline fuelled fear and your ride badump-badumps down the road and you flatten an unfortunate enemy stepping out into the road.
It's for that crazy time when you're flying in a helicopter tearing up the battlefield and the lock on starts to buzz in your ears. A jet is closing in. You and your friend kick out and look up as your chopper is disintegrated in missile fire, you engage your parachute and cling to the strings as debris showers around you. You both whoop and hollah at each other as you prepare to land and run back into the fray.
Every Battlefield 3 match creates moments like this and when played in a group of friends no other team focused multiplayer comes close. Even when you're losing you're writing stories and simply enjoying your events. That is why Battlefield 3 is the best.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Modern Warfare 3's tight arenas feel like snacking on Quality Street when compared to Battlefield's indulgent Galaxy bar buffet map but this speed kill, no sniper reworking of the popular franchise took it even closer to its Quake roots than ever before. Consider its extensive spread of modes and formidable community support and you've got a competitive multiplayer for the ages.
Say what you will about Splash Damages' hackneyed attempts to breathe some Call of Duty smelling air into their Enemy Territory formula but at top level - when everyone is fiddling and playing around with all of the class abilities and gadgets they should have had from the start - Brink plays a fun, thoughtful multiplayer game.
Best Single Player
It's interesting really. In a year that saw the return of 'classic' FPS franchises and developers with Duke Nukem Forever and ID's RAGE, alongside the returning popularity of the preposterous and creative boomstick with titles such as Bulletstorm and Hard Reset, it was a somewhat unexpected underdog that managed to blend old and new to offer the best solo shooting experience of the year.
Resistance 1 and 2 were good but never great games. The first suffered some serious 'it's just not CoD' syndrome while the second fell foul of many modern tropes and featured some uncharacteristically bland shooting, even if a massive nasty wrecking New York around you was a pretty cool set piece.
Resistance 3 is never any of this - You can carry all of the game's inventive guns in your jean pockets and an old school health bar meant you had to think about when and where you employed them. Oh and the enemies are nicely varied while bosses are massive without ever undermining the raw gameplay.
Sure, most of Resistance 3's progression and ideas are stolen wholesale from Half Life 2 but is this such a bad thing? Absolutely not. Besides, Resistance 3's weapons are more inventive than the contents of your local Hawkins Bazaar – soon to be the contents of your local landfill - making it stand out regardless.
Mix this with a touching, if unfortunately hurried plot set on an H. G. Wells-esque infected Earth and you've got a winner. Seeing the game's classic 1950's architecture corrupted by Chimeran electronics and plant life following an unsuccessful defence by the human race is a far more disturbing dystopic vision than most games manage to muster. This was no instant apocalypse, no slow takeover, this is the visible efforts of the alien Chimera quickly and brutally ravishing the earth to claim it as their own whilst mopping up the dregs of a pitiful human resistance.
It's a little messy at times, sure, but it's also brave and individual. Resistance 3 is not just better than its forebearers – it's better than most single player FPS' full stop. Especially that Killzone rubbish... Resistance 3 is an unsung artistic triumph.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
The conclusion to the Price and Soap bro-mance was an explosive tour of a world under siege. Michael Bay the game? Yes, but a hugely entertaining and often refreshingly unpredictable ride regardless.
Silly weapons, silly script, silly fun. Bulletstorm was an inimitable FPS rollercoaster riding on a rail of swearing, blood and explosions and left a lasting impression with everyone who played it. A mostly good one as well. Underappreciated? Absolutely.
Bang bang bang! And that signals the end of the Made2Game 2011 FPS video game awards. Disagree with our picks? Well why not sound off in the comments below? We'll have more awards for you over the rest of the week!
Words by James Bowden (@Dalagonash)