The “S**t Square Enix” Award – Yoko Taro
Tim: Look, if you publish a promotional video in which your game director attacks one of his co-workers, steals their t-shirt, and then rolls around on the floor while screaming obscenities at the publisher, you’re getting an award. (Image credit to some brilliant person on the internet, but alas, I don’t know who.)
Peter: Josef Fares made a late bid for this, but Yoko Taro is the original and best.
Definitely The Most Accurate Rendition of Football Award – Behold the Kickmen
Tim: As PC Invasion’s resident expert of the noble sport of kicking a ball up and down a field in the hopes of “doing a goal”, I feel like I can safely say that Behold the Kickmen is definitely the most accurate football game I’ve played all year. That’s “soccer” to you Americans, by the way. You know, the game in which you actually use your foot to move a ball. Complicated terminology, I know.
Behold the Kickmen has everything you’d expect from a football game: a pitch, and some men who run around on it kicking a ball, and you can do goals. When you do a goal you get a kiss from the football umpire, and if you do a goal from far enough out, it counts as multiple goals. It’s definitely got a perfectly accurate offside rule, too. Now, I know what you’re thinking: that’s not too hard. But! Not many games take it a step further and also include all of the off-the-pitch drama, where you romance your ball-kicking rival and try to discover the murky secrets of your dad’s past and his mangled corpse. Just like real life.
Now quick, publish this article before Peter notices this and starts talking about FIFA or Football Manager or PES or something. None of which I have played, so I am entirely correct in saying this is the most accurate football game I’ve played all year.
Peter: This all sounds fine. Not many football games bother to include the kissing umpire rule, so that’s a huge point in Kickmen’s favour.
Best Jewish Wizard – Set Roth (Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus)
Tim: Wolfenstein 2 has been rightly lauded for its characters and storytelling, and of these many characters, Set Roth is one of my favourites. As digital proof of Clarke’s third law (“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”), Roth is a member of an ancient Jewish society of super-scientists who invent things that are centuries – or even millennia – ahead of contemporary technology as a way of getting closer to God. While he popped up in The New Order, his reintroduction in Wolfenstein 2 has him frying Nazis with electrical laser murder traps. This is honestly the least of his numerous accomplishments throughout the game, most of which border on… well, magic.
Wolfenstein 2 does quite a lot of interesting things in terms of characters, usually by taking stereotypes and then building them into distinct and likeable characters. To me, Roth is the epitome of this, and as an 80-year old resistance member who contributes to Nazi murder with brains and super-science that borders on actual fucking wizardry rather than dual-wielding shotguns, I reckon his place in this award list is well-deserved.
Best Game Inspired By Dark Souls – Nioh
Tim: Years ago, we hit the point where basically anything can be described as “the Dark Souls of X” but we’re still woefully short on games that are actually SoulsBorne style. I mean, there’s Lords of the Fallen and The Surge and maybe a few other things, but for one thing they’re not really brilliant and for another they’re very much the outliers. Praise be to Nioh for being from a different company and for being a bit bloody good.
In fairness, Nioh‘s roots as a tough-as-nails, fast-paced, third-person hack-and-slasher quite possibly lie just as much in Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden (proving that Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls are actually just the Ninja Gaiden of slightly ponderous and precise third-person whatevers) but it definitely takes inspiration from FromSoft’s masterworks. You murder things to get experience and the like. You die. You have to make it back to your point of death to regain your experience. You unlock a shortcut. You find a marker indicating how someone else died. You die. You find a secret path full of goodies. You meet a boss and die repeatedly until you learn their pattern. Etc.
Still, it also does its own things, many of which are really great. There’s the stance system, giving each weapon type three individual movesets depending on whether you want to focus on quick attacks and evasion, or blocking, or powerful strikes. Its plot – tying together the Sengoku period of Japan with demons and mythology, with a number of real-life figures like protagonist William Adams (the inspiration for the protagonist of James Clavell’s Shogun) and English occultist Edward Kelley as well as a number of Japanese clan leaders like Tokugawa Ieyasu – is a pretty novel take on actual historical events. There are means of regaining stamina through careful timing in the midst of combat, which will takes any Souls player some time to master. And, frankly, its combat is also significantly faster-paced than even Bloodborne.
Basically, it is very, very good, even if it does suddenly decide to include giant spiders at one point. Rather than attempting to just “do” Dark Souls, Nioh has enough unique quirks that it stands on its own as a fine game, and is well worth a look.
Best Game Unfortunately Inspired By the PC Port of Dark Souls – Nioh
Tim: The problem, mind you, is that when it came to porting Nioh to PC, the developers apparently took their inspiration from the PC port of Dark Souls. The original one. Which was shit.
Many of these problems have apparently been fixed by now, which means I can rest a little easier when I recommend you give it a shot, but still. Nioh did some weird and interesting stuff to make it work just fine on console (60fps and it looks a bit naff, or 30fps and it looks lovely!) so it’s a shame that the initial PC release was hamstrung by problems like “massive stuttering if you don’t have a controller plugged in” and “whoops, we didn’t save your settings.”
Best Clock – Nioh
Tim: I didn’t really want to give Nioh a third award, but it does possibly have the best clock in any game I can think of thus far, let alone this year. Early on, you bump into famed ninja Hattori Hanzo, who has a… unique way of telling the time. Basically, he keeps a cat in his clothing. He then pulls the cat out and looks at its pupil dilation to calculate the time.
I mean, 10/10 for use of cat, but I can’t imagine carrying a cat around is the best idea when on a super-secretive stealth mission. Or particularly comfortable. Or particularly easy. Also, I’m not sure this would work on a biological level. I mean, can you actually tell the time based on the dilation of a cat’s pupils? Wouldn’t things like “clouds” or “whether there is a visible moon” impact this? Does he take all of this into account in his calculations? Oh good grief, I’m putting way too much thought into this. Just take your award, Nioh, and leave me alone for an hour. I need to have a lie down.
Most Horrifying Boss Designs – Cuphead
Tim: Tough category, this one, and one of the few that could actually have more than one winner. Still, Cuphead‘s nightmarish cartoon monstrosities manage to edge out even the giant spider lady from Nioh, because at least she doesn’t turn into a crescent moon that laughs at you. I might be arachnophobic, but Cuphead‘s boss design taps into some even more primal fears than that. So, uh, well done, Cuphead. You scared the hell out of me in a really weird way.
Peter: I’m pretty sure my first ever story about Cuphead (when it was announced at E3 2014) had the headline “Cuphead trailer is basically terrifying”. Good to see they followed through on that.
Best Game About Teleporting Guards Into The Cold Dark Void Or Reversing Their Shields So They Shoot Themselves In Their Dumb Faces – Heat Signature
Tim: I don’t think we covered Heat Signature at all barring maybe a mention on the podcast, which is a shame, because it’s up there with Prey in terms of being a bit EMERGENT and having you find creative solutions to problems. Basically, you’re a Space Person, and you go and secretly land on other ships to do randomly generated missions (or just for the hell of it, if you fancy). You might have specific requirements for bonus cash – don’t get spotted, or don’t kill anybody – but you’re usually free to do what you want, how you want.
Which is good, because you’re both outnumbered and horribly outgunned. Enemies might have sensors that detect people in a radius around them so their vision isn’t the only thing to worry about. Or maybe they’re wearing armour, so most of your weapons are ineffective; or they’ve got shields that reflect bullets back at you. Which is where you obviously make use of your arsenal of weird and wonderful toys to succeed.
I mean, yes, you can use a stealth shield and just slide past them, but wouldn’t you rather temporarily teleport into an adjacent room and fire a gun to attract attention in there before you’re yanked back? Or place a teleportation trap that can dump them into space? Or reverse their shield so that it reflects bullets that fire out of it rather than in, meaning that you can wave at them and they’ll shoot themselves in the face? Or blow up the room adjacent to them so they’re sucked into the endless void? Or combine all of these things to create ludicrous and incredibly narrow windows to accomplish your objectives, teleporting and slowing down time to slip past guards you can’t possibly defeat, which make you feel like some sort of amazing space genius when you succeed? I would. And I have. And it’s great.
Best Inadvertent Stranger Things Homage – Stories Untold
Tim: Stranger Things was a very good piece of television, although I’ve yet to watch the second season. Perhaps you have, though, and you’re now looking for a way to scratch a stylish, eerie, 80s-themed horror itch that has been niggling away at your brain. If so, you should probably go look at Stories Untold, which is one of the scariest text adventures/interactive fiction games since The Lurking Horror or Anchorhead (the latter of which I would also very, very heavily recommend).
Don’t worry: while it’s primarily text parser, this little anthology of games plonks you in fully visualised rooms and has you interact with a text parser on computers in there. Which also means that it can visually screw with you, messing with the room that you’re “in”, and it also dicks with you in a number of very meta ways. Saying too much more about it would ruin it, so I’ll just note that it’s well worth the asking price and is far, far creepier than you might expect – while doing the whole 80s atmosphere thing that Stranger Things managed so adeptly. While Stories Untold is more straight horror than the Netflix series, I suspect there’s a sizeable cross-section of people who’ll enjoy both bits of retro-inspired horror.
Best Abbreviation Of A Crossover Game That’s Not Even Announced Yet – Dogs Ass/Watch Ass
Tim: Let’s move on from the horror onto something a bit more light-hearted: namely, making up fun abbreviations for games, like how we call Assassin’s Creed: Origins “AssCreegypt”. This award isn’t actually entirely out of left-field, as Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs have vaguely nodded at each other before, but a virtual computer file in the aforementioned AssCreegypt notes that an Abstergo employee was murdered by Aiden Pearce, unlikeable and basically awful protagonist of Watch Dogs. On the one hand, it’s probably a casual nod to one of Ubisoft’s other series. On the other hand, it could be taken as confirmation that Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs take place in a shared universe. Although that might make the Ubisoft heist in Watch Dogs 2 really weird and confusing in a timeline sense.
So, eventual crossover game? Maybe. But what’s certain is that, if it does happen, it’s going to have the best crossover name ever, because when you combine “Watch Dogs” and “Assassin’s Creed” you’re going to get either “Watch Ass” or “Dogs Ass” – at least if you’re as juvenile as we are. (And yes, we know that “Watch Dogs Ass” is also possible, but a bit too long to be an abbreviation.)
Peter: Let’s dream even bigger. Coming 2019: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Dog’s Ass (in association with Jim Jarmusch).
Weirdest Guns – Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Tim: Guns are omnipresent in games, and good guns that make all the right KA-CHUNK and BOOM sounds are rightly celebrated. Especially shotguns. Good shotguns are essential. I’ve never really seen a shotgun bow before, though, and that’s what Assassin’s Creed: Origins has pulled off.
Technically, Assassin’s Creed: Origins has bows rather than guns, but for all intents and purposes they function like videogame guns. There’s the standard bow. There’s the bow that fire a spread of arrows. There’s the rapid-fire bow. There’s the bow with a really long range and high damage, which – hilariously – can be upgraded so that you can redirect your arrows mid-flight. Or, to put it another way, you’ve got a pistol and a shotgun and a machine gun and a magical sniper rifle, in ancient Egypt.
Bows aren’t particularly new to games – a few years ago they wound up being synonymous with “quick and quiet ranged weapon that’s a bit fancier than something with a silencer” but truly, ancient Egypt’s bow technology was impressive. I can only hope that as I progress further into the game I’ll eventually unlock the rocket launcher bow, because I’m really looking forward to seeing how the hell they pull that off.
Peter: There’s definitely a bow-which-is-permanently-on-fire, so you get part way there.
Dark Souls Award For Probably The Final Piece Of Dark Souls Content – Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City
Tim: We always give Dark Souls an award. It’s tradition. And it’s a tradition that may end this year because Dark Souls 3‘s final piece of DLC – The Ringed City – is apparently the final piece of Dark Souls we’re ever going to get.
FromSoft may change their minds, of course, and we may see remasters of Demon’s Souls or the first Dark Souls or whatever, so maybe this is a bit premature. Still, in the event that this is the end of an era, it feels appropriate to salute one the finest series of recent years, even if we never did get proper closure on… well, pretty much anything. Although if we did, we wouldn’t get weekly YouTube videos examining tiny and seemingly insignificant item descriptions over the course of 40 minutes and explaining how they tie into the grand scheme of things, so maybe that’s for the best. For our final Alternative Award of the year, then, our (possibly) final award to Dark Souls.
Peter: Goodbye Dark Souls! May you be suitably replaced by FromSoft’s forthcoming game about wind-up bone mechanisms.