“This is gonna be one heck of a good time, mother f**kers!” This was the message that host Samuel L. Jackson spread to the audience during the opening minutes of the show. Well, Sam, you may be one badass mother f**ker, but unfortunately you were way off with that declaration. Yes, the VGAs started strong this year, but they fizzled out quickly long before their two hours were up.
This year marked the tenth anniversary of Spike’s night of celebrating video games and while it did have some hot spots, it was relatively weak overall. The show opened with a hilarious parody of THE HOBBIT starring “Bilbo” and Cartman of SOUTH PARK fame. I was hoping that this kind of excitement was going to be a sign of things to come, but no such luck.
Directly after the opening video, the audience was introduced to their host for the evening, Mr. Jackson himself. Jackson goes all-out during the show, playing Sam Jackson as best as Sam Jackson does. Vulgar obscurity and mad giggles accompany the show throughout the night courtesy of Jackson and there was definitely no shortage of entertainment when it came to the four-time VGA host.
After the fireballs and Jackson rants wrapped up, the audience returned to South Park for a World Premiere peek at SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH. An RPG completely produced by SOUTH PARK creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone themselves, this new title looks like it’ll be a hell of a lot of fun for SOUTH PARK fans worldwide, whether they’re generally gamers or not.
Once that trailer wrapped, the crowd was introduced to some of the stars of THE WALKING DEAD television series; Norman Reedus, Steven Yuen and Danai Gurira. Some jokes ensued (including one particularly funny one regarding a crossbow) before the cast introduced the nominees for Best Shooter. The award for this category went to BORDERLANDS 2 as it beat out the stiff shooter competition of CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS II, HALO 4 and MAX PAYNE 3. I was truthfully quite shocked that BORDERLANDS 2 won against all those long-running franchises, but I guess that just shows that gamers prefer something fresh every now and then. It does make me wonder, though, how Gearbox Software can be so successful with this franchise, yet screw up so hard with DUKE NUKEM FOREVER (maybe the development time of 10+ years had something to do with it)?
Next up, actor Adam Scott introduced a World Premiere of (what I think was) the only surprise of the show, THE PHANTOM PAIN. Apparently developed by unknown studio Moby Dick Studios, THE PHANTOM PAIN looks stunningly gorgeous and intriguing beyond belief. My jaw was nearly on the floor while watching the three-minute long trailer and it was probably my highlight of the entire show. Since its reveal, there have been plenty of conspiracy theories going around in regard to THE PHANTOM PAIN, a topic that I’ll dig further into at a later date.
After some humorous snippets, the audience was introduced to a rare treat; a live orchestra lead by ASSASSIN’S CREED III composer Lorne Balfe performing a seamless melody of all five Game of the Year nominees’ themes. Other than the trailer for THE PHANTOM PAIN, this was definitely the best thing to happen during the entire night. Balfe and his orchestra performed an absolutely beautiful piece of music by composing the scores from ASSASSIN’S CREED III, MASS EFFECT 3, THE WALKING DEAD: THE GAME, DISHONORED and Grammy-nominated JOURNEY. Easily the classiest thing the VGAs gave the audience during their show.
Once that wonderful performance concluded, there were three back-to-back World Premieres that were only separated by some gibberish nonsense. First up was THE LAST OF US. This new PS3-exclusive looks mind-blowing and the new trailer shown revealed to the audience just how vast the environment will be in the game. It also announced a May 7th, 2013 release date, so it’s going to arrive sooner rather than later. Following that premiere, Konami and MercurySteam showed off their CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2. It looks quite impressive, yet the scale (at least in this trailer) seems to be a tad smaller than the first game. I couldn’t help but wish that I had completed the first game before seeing this trailer as it was littered by spoilers. Nevertheless, it looks great and I’ll definitely have to get my butt in gear to complete its predecessor now. Lastly, a surprise trailer for DARK SOULS II was shown, a sequel to what many call one of the hardest games in existence. As a gamer who tends to play games for the story experience and not so much the challenge (or frustration), DARK SOULS was a game that I had skipped, however I can easily say that its sequel looks staggering.
From here, the show pretty much fell off the deep end. From boring presenters such as Jessica Alba to overly-excited ones like Zoe Saldana… to Marlon Wayans introducing Snoop (Dogg) Lion just so he could introduce some ASSASSIN’S CREED III DLC… to an overly-mellow performance by Linkin Park… to a new TOMB RAIDER trailer that you couldn’t concentrate on because the cameras kept cutting away to show the TV viewers the orchestra instead… to a BIOSHOCK INFINITE World Premiere that was the weakest video of the game shown yet… it was a frustrating experience. Honestly, I should’ve just shut it off after the CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW 2 trailer because other than a quick congrats to Hideo Kojima (creator of METAL GEAR SOLID and the reason that I’m still a gamer to this day) and a (sadly) mediocre performance by Tenacious D, one of my favourite bands today, it was really a waste of time.
Sure, it was nice to see JOURNEY win for Best Indie Game and THE WALKING DEAD: THE GAME win Game of the Year (though it was plagued by technical issues), but other than that… meh. Claptrap from BORDERLANDS 2 won Character of the Year and considering his competition, I wasn’t surprised. DISHONORED won Action/Adventure Game of the Year and, again, I wasn’t surprised. Game of the Decade… don’t even get me started on that nonsense. Did HALF-LIFE 2 deserve to be nominated in that category? Absolutely. Did it deserve to win? I really, really don’t think so. Then again, considering the ridiculousness that was its fellow nominees, I am once again not surprised.
Overall, the night showed me that 2012 was really lacking when it came to awesome, triple-A games. The lack of Nintendo announcements during the show was incredibly disheartening, too. I think the award categories would’ve been far more interesting had so many games not been pushed back into 2013. The World Premieres that were shown exhibit that there’s a lot to be excited about in 2013, so that gives me hope that the next VGAs may be a little more thrilling. Until then, though, gamers will only have the memory of this immature, flawed installment in their minds.