2016 Game Awards of the Year of 2011

Yes you are reading that title correctly and no this is not an awards show for the games that came out during 2016. Instead this is a look back at the year of 2011 in games. I will be awarding games as if I had never played them until this year! 

Saints-Row-The-Third

(Some games like Orcs Must Die and Saints Row The Third I actually never played that year )

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Why am I doing this? Well a while back I had wrote an article about how to better improve gaming awards shows, and one of my suggestions was waiting five or maybe even ten years before we give out awards. Because when you actually sit down and play games from that long ago you may be surprised by both how you yourself have changed, as well as the industry at large. One example of this from said article was the year 2003, a year when Knights of the Old Republic, Beyond Good and Evil, and Prince of Persia came out. But what did tons of publications give game of the year? Madden 2004.

This wasn’t the only year like this and so this year instead of picking my favorite games of 2016 I decided to give my delayed awards show a fair shot and see what truly stood apart in 2011. In doing so I was shocked, not just by how well some games stood the test of time, but how others did not. And how games I didn’t care much for from that year such as L.A. Noire or The Witcher 2, held up far better in many categories than games I loved five years ago like Human Revolution and Skyrim.

Speaking of categories, I have never cared for the ambiguous awards given out such as “Best Action game” and the like. Judging from my reviews, one could easily tell I really like to focus on aspects that individual departments of a development studio worked on. So it would be only natural of me to do the same for an awards show. (Hey i'm already making an award system that is purposefully five years too late, I may as well continue going out of the norm.) So without further ado here are the categories that I decided to go with for the 2016 Game Awards for the year of 2011!

2011-09-06-deus ex-DXHR_screenshot_Adamstealthcover
Unbound

Now for the list of games that will be qualifying for these awards. Please understand that I am only one person on this silly quest and I don’t have all the money or time in the world to have played every single game from five years ago. For example I don't own a single Nintendo system :( So unfortunately their games are completely absent from this list. Maybe they should actually let other platforms sell their games.... Just a thought. Regardless, here are all the games I was able to get some time with. Please be aware though not every game listed here received a nomination  in the forthcoming categories.

40k Space Marine

Batman: Arkham City

Bastion

BulletStorm

Dark Souls

Dead Island

Dragon age 2

Dues Ex: Human Revelution

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Hard Reset

L.A. Noire

Mortal Kombat 9

Orcs Must Die

Portal 2

Rage

Saints Row: The Third

Uncharted 3

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

2011_Mashup

Well we know the games so let's waste no more time and start the show! Starting us off it's a category near and dear to my heart.

Let’s take a look at what the best Animations where in gaming five years back.

Best Animation

What can I say? I love animation. It's what I focused on the most while learning how to make games in school, and its nominees all received high praise from me for their great use of it.

The Nominees are:

Batman: Arkham City
Dark Souls
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Mortal Kombat 9

And the winner by a very narrow margin is....

Batman: Arkham City

I'll be honest I was really leaning into this or Dark Souls. Dark Souls for its amazing work on so many different character rigs for the wacky enemies you fight in that game. But the precise and fluid motions combined with key frame poses that look like they where hand drawn first, it's hard not to give the animators over at Rocksteady the credit they deserve.

Having recently played Alien Isolation for GameClub I can attest to just how important this next category is to both atmosphere as well as player feedback.

Let's have a listen to the best sounds 2011 had on offer.

Best Sound Design 

These cats do hard work that never gets appreciated and is half the feedback from any game you play. Go ahead and play the new 2016 DOOM on mute, it looses its balls. These nominees deserve a lot more than an award from an obscure gaming website five years too late.

The Nominees are:

Batman: Arkham City
Portal 2
Bastion
Mortal Kombat 9

And the winner is brutally....

Mortal Kombat 9

Every combination of Slashing, Crunching, Screaming, Ripping, and Tearing are impeccable examples of great foley work. At times the audio can upset you at a core level, even without the visuals. I don't think I've ever played a game where I could hear the sound of meat and muscle being violently pressed against an opponents bones as accurately the audio team has managed here. These extremely well crafted sounds had some careful attention to detail. They are sounds you wouldn't tend to notice in a fighting game that make the environment feel lived in. I just can't give this award to anyone else. 

Best Environmental Modeling

Speaking of Environment. Games are rarely fun to play if the space you're in is not fun or compelling to be in.  Not too be confused with a later category, Environmental Modeling takes a peculiar attention to detail and a LOT of tedious texture work. 

The Nominees are:

Batman: Arkham City
Batman_Model
Dark Souls
Souls Envoirnment
L.A. Noire
LaModel
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Uncharted Modeling

Man I really hated trying pick a winner in this one. But i had to go with the one that did the best job at creating a world that would be extremely difficult to replicate...

L.A. Noire
LA_Win

Say what you will about Rockstar's games. One thing very few developers can do as well as them is environmental modeling. Yes the texture sizes aren't as large as other games due to the size of their worlds, but making textures as detailed as these in a 512x512 square is way harder. Put aside that incredible work and it would still get the win for somehow managing to perfectly replicate the city of L.A. in the 1940's. Not just replicate it's many roads and monuments that are long gone, but make it feel alive and tangible. 

Best Lighting

While a lot of the shadow mapping and technical effects don’t always hold up too great over the years, good Lighting is still something that is more than worth celebrating. It is an essential part of any visual medium and one of the hardest to master. Lighting teams hardly get any credit in any visual medium. Animation and gaming both make the job at least twice as hard. This is due to the need to create digital lighting effects that trick the eye in the first place. They don't have light sources they can just place around a room. They need to finely tweak and re-value every little aspect of any light that is created for a room or scene. Seriously, these games deserve some credit.

And the four best lighting teams where those who worked on...

Dues Ex: Human Revolution
Dues Ex lighting
Batman: Arkham City
Batman_Lighting
Dark Souls
Dark Souls Lighting
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
uncharted_li1ghting

And the winner is..

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Unchated3_light

While there may not be as many fill lights or varied shadow types like in Human Revolution, Uncharted 3's uncanny ability to capture the lighting of so many different types of locations. From the harsh light of the desert to the looming shadows and warmth of torch lights of its many caverns, no other game from 2011 was really able to light so many drastically different locations as well as Naughty Dog. 

Best Voice Acting

There's a reason why a voice acting strike is a huge deal to the industry. Without these talented actors and actresses all our games would sound like Two Worlds. Rather than choose individual voice performances though I wanted to celebrate the game that was able to let all their voice actors shine brightest.

The nominees are:

 

Batman: Arkham City
L.A. Noire
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Portal 2

And the winner is... 

Batman: Arkham City

Honestly this category was a lot closer than you would think. But yeah it's hard not to say that this game came into this category with a bit of an unfair advantage. Because while L.A. Noire had many great film and Television actors, they weren't all quite as good at voice acting as they are on screen. But between Kevin Conroy, Nolan North, Tara Strong, Troy Baker, and of course Mark Hamill, the cast here has well over 50 years of combined voice acting experience. And all of them deserve the praise they've received over the years for their performances. Every one of them has held up incredibly well. 

Best Level Design

You can have the most well modeled environments in the universe. But it won't mean jack shit if the level