Geographically close to one of the gaming industry's iconic public stages – E3's LA Convention Center – the Spike TV VGA Awards has been building quite the name for itself over the past few years. Once just another 'me-too' award show (albeit one with more T & A and ill-conceived humour than your average affair), the annual show, shown live on Spike TV, is now one of the most hyped events in the industry's calendar. What with a host of exclusive worldwide reveals (Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City), Spike TV has built the VGA's into quite the spectacle – a show that celebrates games, gamers and gaming with a menagerie of celebrity guests, worldwide reveals, exclusive debut trailers and, of course, the awards themselves. This year might have struggled to break free from its immature roots, for many, including Jason Schreier, still a worrying trend, but that didn't mean we weren't treated to some truly spectacular glimpses at upcoming titles. So, without further adieu, here are our picks of the very best moments of the Spike TV VGA Awards 2011...
The Last Of Us
Hinted at for quite some time, The Last Of Us is the latest project from Naughty Dog, exclusive to the PS3. Debuting last night, this exclusive trailer opens with a picturesque view of lush green foliage and the untouched beauty of nature, before making use of a pull-back shot to reveal a derelict hotel apartment, replete with broken fittings, blood-stained walls and a lifeless body on the bed. It's quite the haunting image, and immediately recalls the striking visuals at the heart of Will Smith's I Am Legend, of an urban landscape being slowly reclaimed by nature's might.
The remainder of the trailer follows a duo of survivors, a scraggy-bearded man (who we've come to know as Joel) and a brave teenage girl (Ellie) fighting for their lives against a group of scavengers. The Uncharted dev describes the game as “as genre-defining experience that blends survival and action elements to tell a character driven story about a population decimated by a modern plague... where remaining survivors [kill] each other for food, weapons and whatever they get their hands on”. Naughty Dog has already displayed a tremendous talent in blending deft action set-pieces with heart-rending human drama. This might be a match made in heaven.
Command & Conquer: Generals 2
Bioware's latest game was revealed to be a gritty, realistic return for the Command & Conquer series. The feeling of being slightly underwhelmed that Bioware – best known for their exceptional knack of developing robust and enthralling RPG's – is to be spending its oh-so-precious resources on the past-it RTS series (is that unfair?) is ever-so-slightly offset by the understanding that this will be built atop the Frostbite 2 engine, promising larger-than-life fire fights and destruction aplenty.
Rainbow Six: Patriots
Rainbow Six's long-awaited return was revealed in more detail with a quite disturbing debut look - especially for such a mainstream awards show. “This is the day we've been waiting for”, the narrator begins, “this is for the jobs you street-lined, the debts you collected, [for the] homes you foreclosed on, the bail-outs you took. We are the true patriots and it's time for a new balance of power.” What appears to be eerily close to current worldwide concerns (namely, Occupy Wall Street), Patriots' trailer showcased a group of Rainbow Six operatives storm a New York bank/government building and strap a bomb to a high-flying executive, before throwing his body through the window towards the streets of NYC and consequentially detonating the explosive as he hits the ground. As the steely voice concludes, “You may not answer to the government, but you will answer to us.”
Blizzard Entertainment's latest and the long-awaited return of the Diablo series can't come soon enough. First announced over three years ago, there's still no concrete release date, though fans can feel content with what turned out to be the most revealing look at the dungeon-crawling RPG so far.
In what will turn out to be the game's opening cinematic, the trailer is brought to life with a stunning opening animation revealing some of the Sanctuary's most monstrous deities. Reverting to the game's more traditional, candle-lit look, the cinematic portrays Deckard Cain and niece Leah. According to Deckard, “the powers of Hell could already be on the move.” A keen observation, indeed, as fireballs rain down from the sky towards the Church, swallowing the wise elder into the ground. If this doesn't whet your appetite, we don't know what will. Enthralling.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare
First leaked last month and revealed to be an XBLA-exclusive, the sequel to Alan Wake received its debut trailer at the VGA's. Continuing with the same emphasis on the light and darkness, American Nightmare appears to follow the same narrative story structure as its predecessor, in which Alan is being threatened by the 'forces of his own mind', including antagonist Mr. Scratch. It's difficult to get a true feel of the game from the trailer, though it definitely feels a lot more action-orientated.
Set to a lovely rendition of 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken', Bioshock Infinite's appearance revealed very little else about Irrational Games' latest other than being apt in showing off the game's remarkable art style circa 1912, more of 'city in the sky' Columbia, and main protagonist, Elizabeth. Simply stunning stuff, and a gentle reminder that this is shaping up to be one of 2012's biggest games.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
Strangely absent for some time on gaming shores, Metal Gear Rising: Revengence (yea...that's the new name...pretty lame subtitle there) is the latest from newly appointed Platinum Games (Mad World, Vanquish) and Kojima Productions, and a huge departure for the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
Putting series cyborg ninja Raiden front and center, the 3-minute trailer showcased exhilarating set-pieces and plenty of katana-wielding action. Metal Gear purists will baulk at the games' hack-and-slash roots, while it's difficult not to feel slightly put off by the games' gimmicky 'cutting' gameplay mechanic. Still, it'd be foolish to write off Rising after so little has been seen. Nevertheless, for a series so enveloped in huge narrative beats and hour-long cut-scenes, it appears Rising is a Metal Gear Solid in name only.
The strangest unveil of the night went to Cliff Blezinski and Epic Games. Titled 'Fortnite', the trailer finds a group of youths gathering resources and scrap pieces of metals to build a ramshackle 'fort' to defend themselves against zombies (*yawn*, again!?) and other creatures.
While it looks to be similar to Horde 2.0 mode in Gears Of War 3 (in which encampments could be built and levelled up to aid progression against the Locust), the cartoonish art style and relative simplicity of the premise suggests it will most likely become an XBLA title. Whether Epic is developing is unconfirmed – it might be similar to Shadow Complex (Chair Entertainment) and Bulletstorm (People Can Fly) in which Epic Games acts as associate producer only.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.