2012 Spike Video Game Awards Nominations And Predictions

Tomorrow night is Spike TV’s annual Video Game Awards show. This year’s edition of the VGAs is billed as the 10th anniversary of the show even though it’s only the 10th edition of the show since its debut in 2003. As was the case last year, the awards are not voted on by the public but by a panel of video game writers and publication editors.

While the VGAs are often the target of criticism for being a glorified popularity contest, it is the starting point of the video game awards season. So let’s take a look at 2012 crop of VGA nominees and give you what our vote would be if we were on the expert panel and our predictions for who will be the night’s winners.

GAME OF THE YEAR
Assassin’s Creed III
Dishonored
Journey
Mass Effect 3
The Walking Dead

Our Pick: Journey
Prediction: Dishonored

Let’s go game by game. Assassin’s Creed III is the first one I eliminated from contention. This game was good but nothing spectacular. I found AC:Revelations to be long and drawn out with Ezio the only character I cared about. In AC3, while the setting was more interesting than Istanbul (if only for the historical intrigue of the Assassins operating during the Revolutionary War) and the graphics were largely a step up, that’s all the improvements over ACR that I found. The characters weren’t particularly interesting, especially Desmond. And let’s not talk about the ending.

The Walking Dead was a superbly written game. If there was a writing award this year (and I don’t know why there isn’t one), the great plot and character development in this game (or episodes) was the best in the industry this year. However, this is a video game award. The game was glitchy at times to the point I almost gave up at the start of Episode 2 because the game save the opposite of every decision I made. How can you have a game that tailors itself to your decisions and get that wrong?

Which brings me to Mass Effect 3. It was a great character study of Commander Shepard, had a fantastic score and was really fun to play. But unlike The Walking Dead, your decisions from previous games really don’t matter. The original ending was hardly an ending. While the Extended Cut improved it slightly so the ending wasn’t a colour swap depending on your choices, that was only released due to massive public pressure. If I evaluate the game based on what BioWare released, another ending failure keeps it from the top spot.

That leaves Journey and Dishonored. Fortunately, that means that my top two games of 2012 are both new IPs. There’s still like in this generation yet. I’ll be upfront and say that these two are the only GOTY nominees I haven’t played this year. Dishonored I haven’t had time for. I wanted to buy Journey but the PlayStation Store won’t take my money.

Reading through reviews of all five games nominated for GOTY would leave me inclined to think that Journey has a slight edge over Dishonored. As much as everyone liked Journey, I can’t see Spike’s panel of gaming writers handing the GOTY award to an independent downloadable title. That’s why my prediction goes to Dishonored.

STUDIO OF THE YEAR
343 Industries (Halo 4)
Arcane Studios (Dishonored)
Gearbox Software (Borderlands 2)
Telltale Games (The Walking Dead, Law & Order: Legacies)

Our Pick: Telltale Games
Prediction: Arcane Studios

Prior to the introduction to the expert panel in 2011, the best studio award was treated as a consolation prize to the runner-up in GOTY voting. Last year, Bethesda won SOTY while Skyrim won GOTY. I think the panel will give the studio behind the Game of the Year the best studio award too. Since I think Dishonored will win GOTY, I’ll make Arcane my prediction here. My vote would be for Telltale. Say what you will about the gameplay of The Walking Dead, this little studio put together a narrative masterpiece. They took a license that was struggling on TV (at the time) and did a better job of it as a video game. That gets them the win in my books.

BEST XBOX 360 GAME
Assassin’s Creed III
Borderlands 2
Dishonored
Halo 4

Our Pick: Halo 4
Prediction: Halo 4

Wait, there was only one exclusive game on the 360 this year or were the rest all terrible? I’m not saying that AC3, BL2 and Dishonored were bad games and unworthy of a nomination. I just think that GOTY and genre nominations are more appropriate. This award should go to the only exclusive on the list in Halo 4.

BEST PS3 GAME
Assassin’s Creed 3
Borderlands 2
Dishonored
Journey

Our Pick: Journey
Prediction: Journey

Man, this year must have been a terrible year for console exclusives. I don’t think these best of a console awards should be given to a multi-platform game unless there were actually no good console exclusives. So on that basis, I think Journey is the best PS3 game in 2012. Let me try that again with more emphasis: Journey is the best PLAYSTATION 3 game this year… And probably the Game of the Year.

BEST WII/WII U GAME
New Super Mario Bros. U
The Last Story
Xenoblade Chronicles
ZombiU

Our Pick: Xenoblade Chronicles
Prediction: Xenoblade Chronicles

Unlike the other best of a console lists, the Wii/Wii U nominees list is only console exclusives. The two Wii U games (New SMB U and ZombiU) are said to be pretty good but I don’t think any game has received as glowing praise as Xenoblade Chronicles. When you see multiple reviewers saying thinks like it’s the all-time best game on the Wii, the best RPG of this console generation and one of the best RPGs of all-time, there’s no denying Xenoblade this award.

BEST PC GAME
Diablo III
Guild Wars 2
Torchlight II
XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Our Pick: Torchlight II
Prediction: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Of the console awards, this one is definitely the closest. Diablo is out straight away for the initial lack of an endgame, an archaic always-online mandate to play and the complete disaster at launch where no one could play. XCOM was good but it was multi-platform for I’m less inclined to vote for it. For me, it’s a toss-up between the MMO Guild Wars 2 and the Diablo-esque Torchlight II. I’m inclined to give this one to the indie game that out-Diablo’d Diablo. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the panel give this one to XCOM based on nostalgia for the original XCOM, the fact that it was a pretty faithful update to the game and it’s gameplay is fairly unique in today’s market.

BEST SHOOTER
Borderlands 2
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Halo 4
Max Payne 3

Our Pick: Borderlands 2
Prediction: Halo 4

Where’s Spec Ops: The Line? I’d have picked that but Spec Ops isn’t in the nominees list. (No, the voice acting nomination for Nolan North doesn’t count.) No, it wasn’t quite as polished in terms of gameplay as the rest. However, it had a plot and characters and decisions and a desire to be more than COD or Halo where plot is irrelevant and people only want to pwn noobs in multiplayer. The desire to be more than a cookie-cutter shooter is what makes Spec Ops my pick for the year’s best shooter. But since it’s not on the list, I’ll go Borderlands 2 which has a plot, humour, tonnes of guns and offensive powers beyond just shooting. The panel will probably pick Halo 4. COD might sneak in there but I think they’ll give it to Xbox’s anchor franchise.

BEST ACTION ADVENTURE GAME
Assassin’s Creed III
Darksiders II
Dishonored
Sleeping Dogs

Our Pick: Dishonored
Prediction: Dishonored

Doing something different from the norm is always a good thing in my books. Despite the new character, setting and game engine, I don’t think AC3 was an improvement (apart from naval battles). Darksiders II and Sleeping Dogs were actually very good games and deserve their place on the nominees list. Dishonored, however, is different enough from the other games out there that you should play it. It does have some similarities to Deus Ex in that you can approach a task multiple ways but it is otherwise a unique and immersive universe. There’s no way it loses here. I refuse to be cynical and speculate why AC3 would win. ($$$)

BEST RPG
Diablo III
Mass Effect 3
Torchlight II
Xenoblade Chronicles

Our Pick: Mass Effect 3
Prediction: Xenoblade Chronicles

The ending not withstanding, Mass Effect 3 was still a great game. However, as I wrote in the Best Wii Game section, no RPG has received quite the praise that Xenoblade Chronicles has. It’ll probably go down as a “cult favourite” but that has less to do with the quality of the game and more to do with being a Wii exclusive and not having a AAA marketing budget behind it. Like I said up top, if a game is referred to repeatedly as the best RPG of this console generation, it has to be a damn good game.

BEST MULTI-PLAYER GAME
Borderlands 2
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Guild Wars 2
Halo 4

Our Pick: Guild Wars 2
Prediction: Call of Duty: Black Ops II

I think that if Halo 4 wins best shooter, COD will win multi-player and vice versa. However, I think that Borderlands and Guild Wars have very good opportunities for an upset because of how different they are from COD and Halo. GW2 is an MMO so it’s basically all multi-player with both co-op and competitive aspects to it. Borderlands basically requires a team working together to succeed to it encourages co-op multiplayer. You guys probably know how much I love co-op multi-player. Given a choice between the two, I give a slight edge to Guild Wars 2 but GW2 and BL2 are both very good games.

BEST INDIVIDUAL SPORTS GAME
Hot Shots Golf World Invitational
SSX
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13
WWE ’13

Our Pick: N/A
Prediction: WWE ’13

Man, this year seemed to be a crappy year for individual sports games. I don’t want to dwell on this category too much but WWE ’13 sounded fairly good so let’s go with that. Has anybody else go from playing mostly sports games as a teenager to playing almost none after high school? That’s basically me. I’ve bought two (non-driving) sports games since high school. One because it was 40% off during Blockbuster’s bankruptcy sale and the other because I thought my dad would like it.

BEST TEAM SPORTS GAME
FIFA Soccer 13
Madden NFL 13
NBA 2K13
NHL 13

Our Pick: NHL 13
Prediction: FIFA Soccer 13

This one is process of elimination. FIFA was the best game of the bunch if you ignore the Wii version this was actually a roster update from FIFA 12. Sorry, if you’re that lazy, you shouldn’t get an award. The NBA 2K series wasn’t really a step up this year. Madden was the worst reviewed of these four games so it’s out. NHL 13 might not be the best game on this list but it’s also sounds like the least disappointing on the list. That’s not the best reason to get our pick for the award but I just can’t, in good conscience, pick FIFA for this award.

BEST DRIVING GAME
Dirt: Showdown
F1 2012
Forza Horizon
Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Our Pick: Need For Speed: Most Wanted
Prediction: Forza Horizon

It’s always great when Criterion comes out with a new game. Burnout meets NFS in Need For Speed: Most Wanted and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hence, it get my vote. The VGAs have shown a historical tendency to giving awards to the Forza series. No reason to expect them to change it.

BEST SONG IN A GAME
“Castle of Glass” by Linkin Park – Medal of Honor: Warfighter
“Cities” by Beck – Sound Shapes
“I Was Born For This” by Austin Wintory – Journey
“Tears” by Health – Max Payne 3

Our Pick: “I Was Born For This” by Austin Wintory – Journey
Prediction: “Cities” by Beck – Sound Shapes

I hate to sound like a broken record but, yeah, Journey. So why do I think the panel will contradict me on this? I think they’ll just try to break up the clean sweep by Journey at some point during the show. You never know, Journey could and should sweep. I just don’t think it’ll happen. Hence the various Journey endorsements with predictions that the panel chooses otherwise.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Halo 4
Journey
Max Payne 3

Our Pick: Mass Effect 3
Prediction: Journey

Seriously, where’s Mass Effect 3? That team did a great job and didn’t stop with release but still composed new music for the Extended Cut ending without losing the soul of the original. (I’m looking at you, John Williams for changing of the Ewok song at the end of Return of the Jedi.) Journey was a game that used the art and music to convey emotion. Okay, all games do that. However, Journey did it best this year.

BEST GRAPHICS
Assassin’s Creed III
Dishonored
Halo 4
Journey

Our Pick: Journey
Prediction: Halo 4

This one could come down to what the panel likes as an art style. Do you like the historic AC3, the steampunk universe of Dishonored, shiny sci-fi of Halo 4 or the artsy Journey? I really think that any of these could win. (Yes, even AC3. Despite the fact that I wasn’t particularly impressed overall, the boys at Ubisoft do a good job of creating a realistic historic environment.) I loved the art style of Journey the most. I’m not entirely certain which game will win but I just have an inkling that trying to push to limits of the 360 will give the award to Halo 4.

BEST INDEPENDENT GAME
Dust: An Elysian Tale
Fez
Journey
Mark of the Ninja

Our Pick: Journey
Prediction: Journey

I have a rule of thumb when it comes to picking winners: If something is the only game nominated in a category that’s also on the Game of the Year list, you have to pick that game. It’s not the most scientific method to use to select Journey as the year’s best independent game.

BEST FIGHTING GAME
Dead or Alive 5
Persona 4 Arena
Street Fighter X Tekken
Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Our Pick: N/A
Prediction: One of the above

I don’t play fighting games. I don’t like fighting games. I bought the old Mortal Kombat games on the Playstation Store out of nostalgia. I realized that they’re fun but I don’t particularly like them. I’m sure someone here knows which is best. I’m not going to lie to you guys and say I know which one is best. I don’t know and, quite frankly, I don’t care.

BEST HANDHELD/MOBILE GAME
Gravity Rust
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Sound Shapes

Our Pick: New Super Mario Bros. 2
Prediction: New Super Mario Bros. 2

I don’t have a handheld system so I’m making an educated guess. I do know that Nintendo doesn’t half-ass Mario games. That’s the staple franchise. Fucking up a Mario game would be an unforgivable sin at Nintendo. Logic dictates that it’s probably the best.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN FEMALE
Emma Stone as Amanda Cartwright – Sleeping Dogs
Jen Taylor as Cortana – Halo 4
Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3
Melissa Hutchinson as Clementine – The Walking Dead

Our Pick: Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3
Prediction: Jennifer Hale as Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3

This one shouldn’t even be close. It will be because Emma Stone going on stage to receive an award will be more newsworthy than giving it to Hale. Mind you, the voice acting winners were listed with a half-dozen other awards right before a commercial break during last year’s show so Hale might not even get to make a speech. There’s an outside chance that Hutchinson could score the win but Hale is the best of the bunch.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN MALE
Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack – Borderlands 2
Dave Fennoy as Lee Everret – The Walking Dead
James McCafferey as Max Payne – Max Payne 3
Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker – Spec Ops: The Line

Our Pick: Dameon Clarke as Handsome Jack – Borderlands 2
Prediction: Dave Fennoy as Lee Everret – The Walking Dead

Find me someone who didn’t like the characters in Borderlands 2. I’d bet you would have a hard time.  A character can be good with bad voice acting but can only be great when the whole package is there. That’s why I go with Clarke here. I think the panel will go with Fennoy. I think The Walking Dead has enough momentum after the recent release of Episode Five that the panel would give some awards to the little game that could. The number of different lines Fennoy would have to record to cover the various decisions made in the game also helps his case.

BEST ADAPTED VIDEO GAME
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
The Walking Dead
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Our Pick: The Walking Dead
Prediction: The Walking Dead

One of the four games nominated above was also nominated for Game of the Year. I think that should take care of any arguments about who should and will win the award for best adapted game. I didn’t think that The Walking Dead was going to be nominated for GOTY, though. It’s a very good game (and the best listed here) but I didn’t think it was best of the best this year just because of some of the technical issues. Still, it was just a damn awesome experience. By the time you get to Episode 3, you’re hooked.

BEST DLC
Borderlands 2 – Mechromancer Pack
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
Mass Effect 3 – Leviathan
Portal 2 – Perpetual Testing Initiative

Our Pick: Portal 2 – Perpetual Testing Initiative
Prediction: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard

It’s no big secret around here that I am a huge fan of Portal 2. It’s my favourite game of this generation. (Yes, above the Mass Effect games too and you know how much I love them too.) That’s why my vote would go to more Portal. DLCs are different things to different people so I’m not sure which one will win but I think that Dawnguard from Skyrim is likely to be the winner. After all, Leviathan was underwhelming and Mecromancer was a new class and guns which I wouldn’t consider award-worthy DLC.

BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME
Fez
Journey
Sound Shapes
The Walking Dead

Our Pick: Journey
Prediction: Journey

This one will come down to a choice between GOTY nominees Journey and The Walking Dead. I loved both these games but I think I have to give the edge to Journey. If I picked it for Game of the Year, I suppose I have to pick it here. Not that GOTY winners regularly win console or genre awards at the VGAs anyway so don’t think it’s the end of the world if The Walking Dead wins here.

BEST SOCIAL GAME
Draw Something
Marvel: Avengers Alliance
SimCity Social
You Don’t Know Jack

Our Pick: Don’t Care
Prediction: Draw Something

I don’t know what the best social game is and I don’t care. I’ve heard of Draw Something so I’ll just guess that the panel will give them the award. Not that it matters. This award won’t be handed out on-screen anyway.

VIEWERS’ CHOICE: MOST ANTICIPATED GAME
Bioshock Infinite
Grand Theft Auto V
South Park: The Stick of Truth
The Last of Us
Tomb Raider

Our Pick: South Park: The Stick of Truth
Prediction: Grand Theft Auto V

I’ll readily admit that I’m looking forward to the upcoming South Park RPG. It sure looks and sounds like it plays like an episode of South Park rather than a haphazard video game with the South Park slapped on the cover. This being a people’s choice vote, I think the people will go for the big AAA franchise and go for GTA5. I’m not saying that it’s a bad-looking game. I’m just saying that it’s going to sell far better than the other games on the list. Therefore, I would say that it’s technically the most anticipated game. Absent from this list that I’m also excited about are Dead Space 3 and Dragon Age 3 (I know it’s a 2014 release)… Just saying.

VIEWERS’ CHOICE: CHARACTER OF THE YEAR
Connor – Assassin’s Creed III
Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3
Clap Trap – Borderlands 2
Master Chief – Halo 4
Raul Menendez – Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Our Pick: Clap Trap – Borderlands 2
Prediction: Master Chief – Halo 4

Last year, the Joker was named the Character of the Year in the viewers’ vote. I figure that voting will fall along the same lines this year with a character from a big game getting the award. Granted, the problem I would have with voting for Master Chief is that he’s never been much of a character. More of an avatar for shooting aliens. Commander Shepard doesn’t have a character because he’s just a digital representation of your choices so he’s a great character if you do it right but not necessarily through BioWare’s work. I wasn’t much of a Connor fan. By process of elimination, it’s the hilarious Clap Trap. Even if he didn’t have weak competition, I think I’d still go with him.

VIEWERS’ CHOICE: GAME OF THE DECADE
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
BioShock (2007)
Half-Life 2 (2004)
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Portal (2007)
Red Dead Redemption (2010)
Shadow of the Colossus (2005)
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)
Wii Sports (2006)
World of Warcraft (2004)

Our Pick: Mass Effect 2
Prediction: Red Dead Redemption

Last week, Geoff Keighley tweeted that the VGAs partnered with Entertainment Weekly for a fan vote for game of the decade. While ideally this category wouldn’t exist and we could let these games stand on their own merits as all-time classics, making this into a fan vote turns this into an exercise in fanboy-ism. No good can come of this category and poll.

As none of these games are significantly less deserving than the rest (with the exception of Wii Sports because Super Mario Galaxy 2 should have been the Wii’s representative), I think this award could go to any game. Each was amazing or genre definining in its own way. I went with Mass Effect 2 because, well, if you read this blog regularly, you know how much I love these games. If I was to narrow down the nominees to likely fan choices, I would say WoW, RDR, ME2 and Half-Life 2 would be the frontrunners. I would be shocked if one of those games didn’t win. I’ll say that Rockstar’s great track record and fans carry the day for RDR.

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