Hello and welcome to the second of three parts of the Impact Gaming Awards, where we hand out awards to games as voted by you, the students of Nottingham. This week, we’ll be giving out the awards for Most Visually Impressive, Best Art Style, Best Environment/Setting and Best Soundtrack. Let’s see if the games you voted for have won any awards, starting with…
Most Visually Impressive
The Last of Us
Lost Planet 3
Metal Gear Rising
Metro: Last Light
Winner: Battlefield 4
The latest Battlefield game continues to surprise gamers with its impressive visuals crafted for both current and next generation platforms. The new Frostbite 3 graphics engine provides never-before-seen levels of detail and immersion, with even the smallest details being beautifully rendered. The lighting and shadows are particularly impressive, as is expected of Frostbite engines. The graphics engine really strives to push the boundaries of what we think the pinnacle of graphical quality can be and gives all it can by immersing you in various locations in East Asia and putting you through some of the most realistic-looking environments seen in gaming. Borrowing from their previous games, DICE has added dynamic environment to both single player and multiplayer, where the battlefield can be drastically shaped depending on players’ actions. Truly a worthy winner if ever there was one.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Grand Theft Auto V
Lego City: Undercover
Metro: Last Light
Winner: Grand Theft Auto V
GTA V marks the culmination of Rockstar’s experience in creating vast open worlds. Bigger than all their other game worlds combined, the beautiful Los Santos and Blaine County are choc-full of fun activities and brilliant little details. There are opportunities for base-jumping, street-racing, assassinations and much more when not completing missions. Modelled on modern day Los Angeles, players will recognise key locations like the Griffith Observatory and Venice Beach, though of course twisted with Rockstar’s trademark satire. But it’s the little things that make it: stumbling across drug deals gone wrong, hearing humorous conversations and watching the bumbling police force fight crime really makes the world feel alive. Merely driving/flying around the world is great fun, and the player will experience very different aspects of Western living. Michael’s hedonistic neighbourhood highlights all the effects of simply having money, whist Franklin’s humble beginnings shows both the dangerous and earnest sides of ghetto living. Trevor’s redneck lifestyle is hilarious, shocking, bewildering but always good fun. It is a pleasure to visit Los Santos and I highly recommend you book a flight as soon as possible.
Runner-Up: Bioshock Infinite
Cast your mind back to 2010: the gaming community is buzzing with rumours that a new Bioshock game is on the way and sure enough, at the end of the year, a teaser trailer is released. The video begins in an underwater setting, in an environment looking very much like Rapture, the failed underwater paradise of the first two games. Then just like that, the camera is ripped from what turns out to be a fish tank and thrown through a window. The view is breath-taking; buildings as far as the eye can see are suspended in the air by propellers and balloons. This is a city far removed from Rapture. The buildings are all in pristine condition, draped in sunshine and American flags. This is Columbia.
Much like any city, Columbia is split into various districts; there’s an industrial district, a commercial area, docks and more. The city even has its own unique transport system, the sky-line, which can be used to travel from one sky island (skyland?) to another. The true beauty of this setting is how dynamic it is. Columbia is constantly changing throughout the game, both due to Elizabeth’s ability to manipulate tears and the damage to the city caused by the war between the Vox Populi and the Founders. But what about all those virtual lives lost in that flaming island falling from the sky? Doesn’t matter, it looks awesome.
Best Art Style
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Saints Row IV
The Wolf Among Us
Winner: Bioshock Infinite
You awake in Columbia in a lush garden full of flowers and bushes. There are monuments and hummingbirds and men who slowly walk around in white robes. You see the clear blue sky and the reflections in the water around you. Soon, you reach an elegant doorway, symmetric with angel statues either side. You push the door open and sun rays burst through. You’re now looking across Columbia. Its beauty hits you immediately. We see buildings floating by, along with clouds and zeppelins. We see birds flutter off, flags waving and fireworks exploding in the distance. It’s clear, even now, that this game is going to be a stunner, and this is just the first glimpse.
From here we walk through the city and what an aesthetic masterpiece it is. Everything is bright, clear and soft with the occasional steampunk-esque object drawing your attention. Along with the conversations that we unintentionally eavesdrop, and the small talks with those we pass, the art style of Bioshock Infinite creates a strong sense of culture and does great in communicating with us the ideas surrounding this new fictional city. As gamers, however, we are aware that not all can be as it seems, there must be a disruption, and the thoughts we have about where the game may lead us creates a deeper sense of mystery and a slight apprehensive feeling when witnessing such beauty. Darker and troublesome themes are obviously soon involved and it’s amazing how the art style remains consistent and successful throughout the entire game.
You may get away with associating Bioshock Infinite with the seemingly strict genre of First-Person-Shooters, but in such a genre which seems to favour ultra-realism in it’s visuals and a lack of anything remotely aesthetically pleasing, Bioshock Infinite visually stands out, and above, from the rest.
Runner-Up: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
A key element of this fantastic DLC’s appeal is the aesthetic; a throwback to 1980s action movies which gives the map of Far Cry 3 a complete face-lift. Instead of lush jungles and mountain villages, the player fights through space-age military bases whilst lasers dance around the sky. Laser bolts replace traditional bullets, enemies now wear Kevlar and tinted helmets and blood now exists in all the colours of the rainbow! Even the weapon selection wheel is given a space-age face-lift, nicely accompanying the new weapons. Perhaps most impressive of all, it isn’t limited to gameplay; menu screens and cut scenes are formatted in 80s grainy cartoons which only complement the in-game action. It feels like the perfect accompaniment to all the cheesy dialogue and film references. Bold colours within stylised montages break up the insane action, holding this very specific tone and keeping up Blood Dragon’s natural overstatement. This kind of overhaul is utterly unique, usually limited to extremely dedicated PC modders, which is a massive kudos to Ubisoft Montreal.
DmC: Devil May Cry
Winner: Pokemon X/Y
Ever since Pokemon was first released in its Red and Blue variants all the way back in 1999 (at least in Europe), one of the biggest aspects apart from the morally dubious act of going out into the world and imprisoning animals in impossibly-small balls and forcing them to battle in mortal combat was easily the soundtrack. Who can forget the haunting strains of Lavender Town’s theme or the thrill of Route 1’s cheery music signalling the beginning of your grand journey? Clearly Game Freak haven’t forgotten how important a good soundtrack is in serenading the gamer and massaging the ears with nice noises. Pokemon, being a game targeted at kids although we all know that most people who play it are likely to be the same people who grew up with it, has to find a way to get both audiences’ attention with the audio and they succeed with aplomb. Our personal favourite out of the new soundtrack is easily the Elite Four Champion battle, which seems a lot more playful and in tune with the tone of this particular generation of Pokemon than the epic feel of previous Pokemon League champions. Whatever piece of music you found most appealing, one thing’s certain: Pokemon X/Y is a worthy winner of Best Soundtrack.
So there you have it. In our second week, we’re seeing a definite slant towards two of the biggest releases this year in Grand Theft Auto V and Bioshock Infinite. They were both a hit with critics and now they’re both a hit with UoN students. Will they continue to feature heavily in the last week of the Gaming Awards? You will just have to wait to see…
Robert Priest, Richard Lakucs, Tim Mallard, Adam Batchelor and Thomas Welshman
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