Last night was the third annual Game Awards, Geoff Keighley’s brain child ever since his run with the Spike Video Game Awards/VGAs/VGX ended in 2013. It went smoothly as ever, combining the usual and baffling amount of actual award dispersal, world premiere trailers, tired trailers, and non video-based marketing. For some reason, this year’s Game Awards really highlighted how odd it is to have sponsorship breaks of month-old trailers in between exclusive trailer premieres.
Perhaps it was the Schick Hydro Hydrobot, a terrifying vision of grand marketing ambition and flawed execution. (Seriously, that thing looked like he was going to go rogue and kill half the audience with errant, blade-infused smooches.) But you can’t really fault the show or Keighley. This was a huge, professional award show in a major venue that was live streamed across the world on a bevy of platforms. That ain’t cheap, guys.
But enough of that. Let’s get to the trailers! (Also, you can try to watch the official archive of the show, but as of this morning, YouTube has flagged it for copyrighted audio, so maybe try somewhere else like IGN.)
Hideo Kojima Industry Icon Award
If Keighley’s huge bro crush on Kojima doesn’t make you smile, then you don’t know what love is. For one, it’s a powerful statement on the biggest bit of drama from last year’s Game Awards where Konami stonewalled Kojima from accepting the award for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. And to open with it makes it a bold statement.
Granted, this is mostly Keighley espousing the virtues of Kojima simply, I dunno, existing, which is a fair point. Kojima doesn’t even get to the microphone until four minutes in. But despite the language struggles, he speaks potently and openly and without bitterness about his departure from his longtime industry home. That alone truly does make him an industry icon.
Death Stranding — World Premiere
Oh Kojima. You really Steve Jobs’d us with that One More Thing. And then you continue to overwhelm us with inscrutable Death Stranding footage, now featuring both Guillermo del Toro and Mads Mikkelsen, the latter of which is still exceptionally hot about the Konami/Kojima/PT/Silent Hills thing. Honestly, based on this trailer alone, Death Stranding might just be a Toobin’ reboot.
The immense overanalysis has already begun, though. Check out this one about that one fake baby and Venom Snake, which is both totally bonkers but also wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it turned out to be true. Kojima is a crafty fellow. And my gosh does Mikkelsen look good in digital form. No release date but it will be out on the PlayStation 4.
Inside — Best Art Direction
While the presentation and acceptance aren’t all that spectacular, I really just wanted to use this space to mention that it took a full 30 minutes (which included a Run the Jewels performance) before we even got to this, the first voted award to go out for the evening. That’s kind of crazy the grand scheme of things, though perhaps the truncated run of the show was a mercy given some of the awards went out to the same games. But at what point does this start going by Trailer Roundup Presented By Geoff Keighley (Also With Some Trophies From Time To Time)?
But this category is also worth talking about on its own. I definitely agree that Inside is the winner, but what a strong year for art direction. Abzû‘s looks is a large part of what makes the game work. Firewatch is a game steeped in its setting and themes, dripping with colors and sensations. And Uncharted 4 is, well, let’s just say so fucking beautiful. But Inside is a stupendous and singular vision of whatever makes Copenhagen so delightfully grim.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series — Official Teaser
Okay, there’s pretty much nothing here. In fact, we’ve pretty much known that this was a thing since early November (even earlier if you knew who to listen to and talk to). Really, the only information we’ve got is that it’ll be an episodic adventure series as Telltale is want to do and this quote from the press release: “players will take on multiple roles within the ragtag band of heroes, and take the pilot’s seat in directing their escapades around the universe.”
Fair enough, but we could have assumed that much. And while I believe this partnership makes sense (Tales from the Borderlands was pretty much Guardians of the Galaxy but from Gearbox), I might be done with Telltale’s adventure games for a bit. Not that they’re not good, but I’m just a little burned out, a feeling the Batman season really hammered home for me. Anyways, it comes out next year.
Doom — Best Action Game
While I like Conan O’Brien, I’m pretty much over the combination of him and video games. And while I like that Doom won Best Action Game, what the hell does this category even mean? Every game has some amount of action in it. Does it mean most action? Perhaps it’s specifically about one particular kind of action (i.e, the shooting kind)? Otherwise the single best action of any game would likely belong to That Dragon, Cancer for making the world cry.
But I am glad Doom won. It’s one hell of a game, and I don’t really know how else to convince people to play it other than tell them that it now won Best Action Game. It’s not the Doom of old where it’s all blood and guts for the sake of blood and guts. It’s smart and bold and really just a ton of fun. It’s a damn shame it didn’t take Game of the Year.
That Dragon, Cancer — Games For Impact Winner
Speaking of That Dragon, Cancer, here’s the Games for Impact award, which is a welcome addition to the deluge of triple-A titles running the screens. Block’hood is an incredible study of ecological impact from city planning and living. Sea Hero Quest generates data for dementia research. And 1979 Revolution takes a daring stance on documenting the developer’s native country’s history, a history not many are aware of here in the West.
But That Dragon, Cancer is, well, a personally transformative experience. It’s not fun. It’s not a good time. I hated almost every second I was latched into it. But it is so very important. Hearing that soundtrack play as designer Ryan Green took the stage was enough to make people cry. And hearing Green accept the award, affecting the same tone and vulnerability that made his voiceover in the game so heartbreaking, was just as tearjerking. So maybe next time don’t have two people who made their careers shouting into microphones present this category.
Dauntless — World Premiere
This is kind of cool. A bunch of ex-Riot Games and ex-BioWare folk teamed up to create Dauntless, a free-to-play riff on Monster Hunter. I think. I don’t really know. All I know is that dude blasted off on his rocket hammer and that woman has a straight-up Cloud Strife sword.
According to this GamesBeat piece, that’s exactly what it sounds like. You play as Slayers, warriors that defend humanity by huge and ferocious Behemoths. “No two encounters will be alike” sounds like a promising setup, but does that mean just different missions or randomly generated elements or what? I guess we’ll find out when it comes out for PC next year.
Doom Soundtrack Performance
That Mick Gordon fella (the composer) is so into performing on that stage that you can’t help but get into it with him. Also the other two dudes with him. And the audience. Dammit, that’s super cool.
Nolan North — Best Performance Award
Wow, talk about throwing shade. I’m glad he recognized Amy Hennig for creating the stellar franchise, but he also threw striking voice actors under the bus. Admittedly, it’s a very complicated situation. North is right to give credit to the folk back at the dev studios, but the voice actors also deserve better and safer work conditions. And for an actor of his renown, it might be easier to overlook such problems, though folks like Jennifer Hale and David Hayter are also part of the strike.
And honestly, I’m feeling like Emily Rose should have won for Elena in Uncharted 4. She was damn good. Potent as fuck. As good Troy Baker was as Sam and as iconic North is as Nathan, she anchored every single scene she was in. She was the entire canvas upon which other characters painted their interactions. So good.
Prey — Gameplay Trailer
Hot damn does Prey look good. Like, so good. Perhaps not objectively, though, because every single bit of what this game promises to be is every single thing I love about video games and stories and space and science fiction. GamesRadar executive editor Susan Arendt, in fact, has the only acceptable response to seeing Prey gameplay.
Better yet, Bethesda also published an 8-minute gameplay video this morning. You’re definitely going to want to watch that if you didn’t get to see it at QuakeCon this year. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the exact same clip, but the general arc is familiar, including mimicking a coffee cup. It comes out for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC early next year. (Also, shoutout to Arkane Studios for the Best Action Adventure award for Dishonored 2.)
Mass Effect: Andromeda — Gameplay Reveal
Superficially, this looks like Mass Effect, and that’s a good thing. The worlds are still vibrant and the voice acting is evocative and there’s some storming gameplay. But now the interrupts (you can see it just before the player disarms that guard) are more specific? And there’s a vehicle in a giant explorable space and an Arkham-style detective thing.
But none of that is all that intriguing to me because what made the franchise so good isn’t all that demoable. It requires soaking in the universe and the characters and immersing yourself in the story after living with the consequences of the choices you’ve made. How do you show that off in four minutes of gameplay? Really, you just don’t. It comes out for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC early next year.
Overwatch — Game of the Year
Based on the nominees, Doom was robbed. Wholly inclusively, Dishonored 2 was robbed. I think. I dunno. I’m still deliberating my own Game(s) of the Year list.
I mean, Overwatch was damn good. Terrific, fantastic, incredible, whatever. I like it a lot. But in my opinion, what those two games accomplished are superior to Overwatch. And that comes from someone who pumped something like 20 hours into Overwatch last week.