Since the 2011 Film British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards aired over the weekend (our heartfelt congrats to The King’s Speech), it now seems like the perfect time to discuss the Video Gaming BAFTA Awards, which will be held on 16th March 2011 – amazing to think that it’s already nearly a year since the BAFTA Video Games Awards 2010.
The nominees for the GAME Award 2010 were announced last week. 10 games are shortlisted by a BAFTA panel and the winner is chosen by public vote. It’s worth remembering that the BAFTAs also aim to reward innovation and excellence, not just entertainment value. Here are our thoughts on this year’s shortlist:
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Nintendo’s only game in the shortlist this year, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a fantastic bit of entertainment. Few tweaks have been made to what was already a superb format in the original game. Most notable is the new ability for the second player to stun opponents, a level of participation that was sorely lacking in the original Super Mario Galaxy. As much fun as SMG2 is, I’m not convinced that it adds enough innovation to gaming as a whole to really give this my vote.
Red Dead Redemption
Even now, 9 months after Red Dead Redemption was released by RockStar, gamers are still talking about this Western. An example of the stellar storytelling and gameplay for which RockStar are known, this game is affectionately known as “Grand Theft Horsey” and praised for its combat mechanics and atmosphere. Rockstar have done a great job translating their core gameplay into the Western setting and this game is worth considering. Rockstar actually declined to enter RDR in the BAFTAs this year so this is the only category in which it is nominated.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Coming from Criterion, the studio that created the Burnout series, it’s easy to dismiss this Need for Speed game as Burnout Cops and Robbers. In fact, that’s basically what it is in my books. Don’t get me wrong – NFS: Hot Pursuit adds a nice twist to arcade racing, giving both the cops and the racer factions a sweet set of power ups to use against each other. The game is great fun and looks brilliant but besides the Autolog feature that recommends other gamers and challenges your friends when their times have been beaten in a very social gaming kind of way, I’m not convinced it’s pushing any new boundaries.
Mass Effect 2
Disclosure: I am a huge BioWare fangirl and will buy pretty much everything they create. I absolutely love the Mass Effect series and will definitely be getting Mass Effect 3. However, many of the great qualities in Mass Effect 2 are derived from previous BioWare titles. Dialogue, NPCs and storytelling mechanics are arguably done better in Knights of the Old Republic. The role-playing and combat elements come straight out of Mass Effect 2 and, in my opinion, the weapon choices are actually a step backwards to accommodate poor UI design. ME2 would absolutely be my pick for game of the year, but for a BAFTA? No.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Call of Duty: Black Ops is the latest in the megalodon that is the Call of Duty series. Praised for its televisual style and characterisation in the ~7-hour campaign mode, COD:BO was also notable for including top-down zombie shooter Dead Ops and Infocom’s entire text adventure, Zork. Despite doing little to innovate upon the successful first-person shooter formula, this primarily multi-player FPS was widely reported as the fastest-selling game in history. With the inclusion of wager maps and prestige, this game does add an interesting twist to multiplayer.
Quantic Dream’s third major title, Heavy Rain is notable for its focus on consequences and its success in having players feel what their character is experiencing. In Heavy Rain, if one of the protagonists dies through the player’s failure, their part in the unfolding narrative is over and serves to affect the final outcome. Some have criticised the game for its heavy-handed emotional manipulation but there’s no arguing that the game is very different from your typical triple-A title. The attempt to translate character actions and emotions through the player’s controls is commendable and done significantly better than its predecessor. I’d push this as a serious contender.
It’s a Halo game! But without Master Chief. What’s going on? Yup, this game introduced Team Noble in a prequel to the epic adventures of Master Chief. Halo Reach adds a few classic RPG features to the FPS. Players can acquire special abilities by picking up armour drops – skills like camouflage, a shield boost with EMP charge and decoy holograms can be deployed, but are limited by cooldown times. Halo Reach also features a plethora of multiplayer modes and a comprehensive stat-tracking system on Bungie.net.
Fifa 11 is another entry from a behemoth gaming series. This version brings in something called Personality+ which makes each in-game footballer feel and play like a unique personality. It also features much finer control over dribbling and passing and allows you to play campaign mode as a player, a manager or a player/manager. Rather than bringing in swathes of new features, the notable thing about Fifa 11 is the subtle tweaks that combine into a gestalt of vast improvement over its predecessors (or so I’ve been told).
I love Dance Central. Without a doubt, this game showcases the Kinect brilliantly and is proof positive that a single game can have truly cross-generational appeal. Not only have Harmonix done a great job of compensating for the input lag, they’ve built the best hands-free interface I have ever seen. If only they would combine this with a 3D television; we’re only months away from Minority Report. (Minus the back-street surgery and eyeball theft)
The only independent entry in this list, Limbo is known for its black and white aesthetic, haunting atmosphere and hiliariously gruesome deaths. Danish developers PlayDead have done an incredible job of interpreting exactly what your average gamer will try to do when faced with a problem and hiding an insta-death trap there instead. It’s brilliant. You should play it.
So there you have it, quite a selection of games this year for you to vote for, I’m sure it won’t be an easy decision for most of us. You can cast your vote for your choice in the BAFTA Game Award 2011 at Baftagameaward.com and check out the rest of the BAFTA Video Game Award 2011 nominees while you’re at it.
Once you’ve voted, feel free to let us know which of the nominated games above did you vote for and why in the comments section below!