Game BAFTAS: the media headhunters’ predictions (with a bit of help…)

Tiny pixellated characters the world over will be spending today rehearsing their acceptance speeches and perfecting their gracious defeat faces, as tonight sees the great and the good of the games industry pitted up against one another at the Game BAFTAs.
So here are the media headhunters’ predictions (with more than a little bit of help from tech journalist and blogger Daniel Nye Griffiths – actually, we asked him for his verdict on the frontrunners, and who he’s tipping to take home the big awards – this is all his work…):

Best Game

Nominations:

Batman: Arkham City

FIFA 2012

L.A. Noire

Portal 2

The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

 

Skyrim has just been named Game of the Year at GDC (Games Developers Conference) in San Francisco. Although recognisably a “Bethesda game”, Skyrim did a lot of really interesting things – not just in terms of gameplay, but also how it sold. It’s sold hugely well on digital download, which is very much the future, particularly for PC gaming. It’s a beautiful game, especially for PC gamers willing to hack and tweak a little, and hugely immersive. And great value – you can get 100 hours of gameplay out of a game that is now on sale for about £30. Having said which, Portal 2 is quite a “BAFTA-y” game, it’s cerebral and has a very strong narrative. But also came out a fair while ago and may not be immediately front of mind, so that might be my each-way bet. Arkham Asylum won best game in 2009, and although Arkham City really builds on the Asylum’s gameplay, I think that keeps it off the favorite’s list.

VERDICT – The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Online Multiplayer

Nominations:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Battlefield 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Dark Souls

Gears of War 3

LittleBigPlanet 2

 

This is a really interesting one. Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty basically compete for the same multiplayer dollar. Both of those big franchises have spent so much time perfecting that model of multiplayer that Modern Warfare 3 reached about $1bn of sales within its first week, and you can’t argue with that kind of market power. Either of those would be orthodox choices. Little Big Planet 2′s multiplayer had options to combine the PlayStation’s gamepad with the Move motion controller… but I’m weirdly and illogically tempted by Dark Souls, which is fiercely difficult and requires a lot of trial and error. Its implementation of multiplayer is unusual and fresh. It’s unconventional and not a huge seller, but it’s doing something interesting and different. I’m going to go for it, even though I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

VERDICT – Dark Souls  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Innovation

Nominations:

Bastion

Child of Eden

From Dust

L.A. Noire

LittleBigPlanet 2

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword 

 

LittleBigPlanet 2 is definitely in with a shout on this, particularly for the creative tools, and the AI in the “sackbots”. When you’re building user-generated content you can put in these characters that have programmable AI, so you can teach people about designing a game inside the game: there’s something in there. But it is still a sequel… L.A. Noire has been nominated heavily and this is one of the ones that they might actually get. It’s very cinematic and has a lot of well-known actors in it – mainly from Mad Men – with some groundbreaking work on facial capture. There are very realistic recreations of their faces and even the fabric of their clothes. It’s a very L.A. Confidential style narrative, it’s got a very atmospheric vibe to it, and an emphasis on direction.

VERDICT – L.A. Noire  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Mobile & Handheld

Nominations:

Dead Space iOS

Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint

Peggle HD

Quarrel

Super Mario 3D Land

The Nightjar

 

Peggle is an incredibly well-known brand, and Quarrel is a word puzzle game – so I think the judges might look further afield. Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint has great visual design, but I think it’ll be between Dead Space iOS, Super Mario 3D Land and The Nightjar. Dead Space iOS is somewhere between a phone game and a full-on console game. It has the kind of gameplay arc you’d expect on a console, and it’s a huge technical achievement to cram that into a mobile format. The Nightjar has very simple graphics – you basically play it by listening through headphones – and the narrator is Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s so hot right now. It’s different and left-field that it might be an interesting dark horse. Super Mario 3D Land is the most successful game for the 3DS, it was very critically acclaimed and was the first 3DS game to shift 5 million copies. I’m going to go with that, although it would great to see the offbeat-ness of The Nightjar rewarded.

VERDICT: Super Mario 3D Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Debut Game

Nominations:

Bastion

Euforia

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

L.A. Noire

Monstermind

RIFT

 

Bastion won the Best Debut award at GDC and it has a really good shout here, it’s a lovely game, in some ways very traditional, but the way it’s implemented, the way it tells the story, and the soundtrack in particular are great. It’s so atmospheric and nicely done – it’s a real nostalgic pleasure to play while having a very modern feel. Bastion is an example of a small studio producing something that really stands up in terms of how enjoyable it is. It’s also interesting that you can now buy and play it through the Google Chrome browser – maybe the shape of things to come, there. And representing big-budget, AAA games we have L.A. Noire, which was in development in some way for years. It’s in many ways a flawed diamond but its recreation of 1940s Los Angeles is very impressive. BAFTA might want to recognise it because it’s so cinematic. But there’s a lot of goodwill towards Bastion.

VERDICT – Bastion  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GAME Award of 2011

Nominations:

Batman: Arkham City

Battlefield 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

FIFA 2012

L.A Noire

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Minecraft

Portal 2

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception 

This is voted for by the public, and sponsored by GAME of course. There’s something a  bit melancholy about that given its recent problems, although there is now talk of a buyer for the business. Boxed games feel like a business model that’s probably on the way out, although I think there’s life in it yet. You can question the value of having a dedicated high street shop selling games, but it does keep it front-of-mind as a cultural thing in a way that just having them sold in Tesco might not. In terms of the winner, I’d love it to be Minecraft, which has been an incredible story of an indie game conquering the world, but I think it’s going to be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It sells so well and so heavily into the GAME demographic that I would be really surprised if it didn’t win – just as Call of Duty: Black Ops did last year, and Call of Duty; Modern Warfare 2 the year before, and indeed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare the year before that. There’s no such thing as a sure thing, but…
VERDICT: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3