The Brizzy Awards

The Brizzy Awards

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2017 was a year of great games, and although I couldn't play them all, I still wanted to take a look back at what I felt were the best games of the year. So this is the first annual Brizzy Awards; where I give sweet virtual Brizzies to games based on categories I make up to highlight things I liked. There's absolutely no voting, or Twitch participation. It's all about me, Briz, hence the name. If that sounds alright with you, read on!

The Brizzy for Best Failure goes to...

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The whole Battlefront 2 drama was like a train wreck you couldn't help but watch. Initially, I was mildly interested in the game. I mean, I'm a big Star Wars fan, and the game is undeniably gorgeous. However, when the loot box hit the fan, things just got uglier and uglier for Dice and EA. First, there were Star Cards that gave people an edge in multiplayer that you could only get randomly from loot boxes. Then there was the fact that people who bought the pricier versions of the game got more of these Star Cards, putting everyone else at a disadvantage. Then there was the fact that nearly all of the major hero characters were locked behind hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay (unless you want to send your credit card number, that is). Then there was "pride and accomplishment". And the fact that after they reduced hero prices, they also reduced how much money you earn. The amazing thing about all this is that the gaming community stopped talking about "voting with your wallet", and actually did it this time. People canceled preorders; there were campaigns to warn parents not to buy the game for their kids; people wrote their politicians about loot box gambling; some politician from Hawaii had a press conference about it... The biggest publisher wielding the most beautiful game based on the most beloved franchise had to submit under all the pressure. You know, I'm sure the game ain't half bad, but boy was this whole mess really fun to watch.

The Brizzy for Best Couch Coop game goes to...

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Way back '96, my friend Tim invited me over to his house, and said he had a game I just had to play. He turned the lights off, the Playstation splash screen chimed it's soothing chimes, and BOOM - "RESIDENT... EVIL!" I've been a life long fan of the series ever since, but admittedly #5 was a bit of a departure, and #6 was like Resident Evil directed by Michael Bay. When Resident Evil VII was first announced, it looked nothing like a RE game, and this had me excited for the possibilities, but also curious how it would stay true to the series. Well it turns out that it was the perfect mix of new ideas, and distinct RE tropes. Although it was in first person, and you were playing as a completely unrelated character, the game felt very much like a Resident Evil game. Walking around the Baker family estate harkens back to a smaller, more intimate setting like the first game. You've got your doors that need specific keys, light puzzles, herb, safe rooms, etc. It's also back to being wonderfully creepy. Playing this couch coop style is a blast, because you get to share the frights, but also hand off the controller when things get a little too tense, and you need a breather. Watching your buddy walk into scary situations is half the fun. I remember one part where Travis was sure there would be a jump scare when he activated a certain object, and we braced ourselves, but nothing happened. We let our guard down, then he turned around to leave the room, and BAM - monster in your face! Such a good time.

The Brizzy for Best Narrative goes to...

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Fighting robot "dinosaurs" was great fun, and those graphics were something to behold, but what I really loved about Horizon was the story. As Aloy tries to discover who she is, and what happened to the humans who came before, I was as emotionally invested in learning these things as she was. I absolutely loved that mystery, and each time I uncovered a layer of what Zero Dawn was, my mind was blown a little bit more. I was so impressed with how well that back story was developed, and parts of it hit me hard, just like the ending of Telltale's Walking Dead. The only reason I picked this game over Life is Strange is because the story of Zero Dawn is so incredibly imaginative, deeply detailed, and ultimately grounded in enough truth that it feels like it could really happen. A bit of a warning, though: to really appreciate the story of Horizon, you need to be the kind of player that reads all the notes, and listens to all the audio files.

The Brizzy for Best Use of Music goes to...

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Life is Strange BTS is one of those games where the music is such a powerful communicator for the emotions of the characters, that they become inseparable. The game wouldn't feel as powerful without the music, and I can't hear the music without being taken back to Chloe and Rachel's world. Life is Strange is the first game series I played that ever invited me to just chill, and listen to music. There are moments in both games where the camera will pan around to different shots of a character as music plays, and you can sit there as long as you like. You know that song that says "if I lay here, will you lie with me, and just forget the world"? Well that song is not in this game, but it kind of describes how some of those moments feel. Like I'm just chillin with Chloe, listening to music, and just trying to forget all the crazy drama she's going through. On top of how the game uses music so effectively, the music is also just really good. Most of the music from the game is by a band called Daughter, and I've been jamming out their "Songs from Before the Storm" album on Spotify. Each and every song takes me back to those emotionally powerful moments of the game, and I love it. I can't wait for the final episode to drop in a few days.

The Brizzy for Best Cut Scene goes to...

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Okay, I know "Best Cut Scene" is kind of a weird award, but there was one scene in Wolfenstein 2 that was so awesome, I just had to make a category for it. The game is actually full of great cut scenes because Machine Games does a wonderful job making all of these characters unique and believable. But there is one in particular were BJ meets a new group of characters, and is trying to convince them to join the revolution. BJ and the leader of this group start arguing, this jazz music starts playing, the other members of the group start shooting at Nazis, bullets are flying everywhere, BJ and the leader are shouting at each other over all this commotion, and it's just incredibly fun to watch. If you don't mind being spoiled, or if you've already played the game and just want to watch again, check it out below. So awesome.

The Brizzy for Best VR game goes to...

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A triple-A VR game from a major studio has been the unicorn of VR fans since the first consumer headsets hit the market. We've been inundated with "experiences", or "games" that last 2 hours or less. Games that do one thing really well, but have no depth. Games that are great for showing off VR to your friends, but don't have any staying power. That's not to say there aren't good VR games out there, but Fallout 4 VR is in a league of its' own. This is the full Fallout 4 game in VR; not a Fallout-themed VR game. We're talking hundreds of hours of content. And from my experience with the game so far, it works incredibly well. The team behind this game have done a great job translating the myriad of controls and menus to work on Vive controllers. They've done a wonderful job with various movement options so you can play just how you like. Some VR purists might bemoan the fact that you don't have hands, or that you can't physically pick up objects in the world, and while I can understand that, this isn't some tiny indie game that was developed for VR from the ground up. This is a massive RPG that had to completely overhaul numerous systems to make them work in VR. I'll take those trade-offs for what the game offers. I mean, physically opening things, and grabbing objects is awesome for an escape room game that lasts an hour, but do you really want to have to physically handle every container or object you come across in Fallout? I doubt it.

The game really clicked for me the other night when I got into a big firefight with some raiders. I was approaching a large building, with some raiders on the roof. When they started firing at me, I could hear the bullets whizzing past my head, and striking things around me. I was ducking for cover behind objects, and waiting for an opportunity to advance. I was aiming down the iron sights of my gun, and blasting fools. I felt like I was the hero of an action movie. I can't wait to get back in and play some more. You can check out a video of me playing the game below. Unfortunately, that awesome raider shootout is not in this video, but it does show you how things work in the VR version.

The Brizzy for Most Metal game goes to...

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Imagine there was an epic heavy metal song about a woman who goes to Hell carrying her lover's decapitated head in order to save his spirit, and along the way she has to battle the spirits of Vikings, and mythological creatures. Oh, and on top of that, she is schizophrenic. That would be one fucking epic song, and Hellblade is what it would look like. Now, to be clear, there is no heavy metal music in this game, but the themes and imagery make it feel totally metal. Senua doesn't go on this journey and wreck faces. She struggles, and struggles, and at times nearly gives up. But she pushes through her torment and pain for the sake of her love. Like a heavy metal song that recognizes the world is stacked against you, but at the same time fills you with a righteous fury, ready to take on anything. In the words of Teen Titans Go.."SO METAL!"

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