2011 was a great year in gaming there’s no doubt about any of that. Many big projects were finally revealed, and some even released. Many great games that have had development lines tracking back to the 90′s (I’m looking at you Duke Nukem) finally were given their own special place on store shelves. Me being a gigantic nerd, I relished this year as some games have surprised, disappointed, and completely changed the business all together. This list is very personal and I’m sure I’ll be hanged within the hour for not including Battlefield 3, so I give to my summary of 2011 in video gaming.
The Top 10 Games
There’s an anime nerd inside me that’s very happy that I played this game. Outside of having some wonderfully borderline-hentai erotic scenes, it actually has a very clever and interesting storyline. With memorable characters and some maddeningly tough puzzles. Catherine is an original game that’s brings a nice wave of fresh air that begs to be experienced.
9. Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned is a lovechild between that of Suda 51 (No More Heroes, Killer7), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Dino Crisis), and Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill). Each of their signature styles blend wonderfully in this 3rd person shooter that combines great gameplay, good laughs, and a ton of fun.
8. Crysis 2
Yes my first person shooter of the year isn’t Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, or even Rage. In fact whenever I tell people I’m not the biggest fan of Call of Duty, they simply suggest I don’t like modern FPS, which isn’t true in the slightest. I feel like the Crysis series has nailed everything I love about modern first person shooters to a perfect key. Plus it’s multiplayer was actually so good I kept playing it after the campaign, a rare feat (at least for me).
7. Pokemon: Black/White
Pokemon owns. Yes this game is largely unchanged for past iterations, but why fix what isn’t broken? Black and White introduces some new interesting features that adds a little bit more strategy, and not only not throwing away what made the other games so great, but adding to it. Besides I’m going to be honest, Sandile is possibly one of the coolest pokemon ever.
6. Rayman: Origins
Rayman’s latest title may not only be the best platformer of the year, but in fact one of the best platformers in recent years period. Rayman is back with great gameplay, beautiful design, catchy music, and some of the best that 2D gaming has to offer. This is sure to give a red plumber a run for his money.
5. Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham Asylum was a surprising treat for Batman fans being one of the few licensed games that managed to make full use of it’s franchise. Arkham City ups everything I loved from Asylum and pushes it to the max, it’s sad to see Mark Hamill retire as the voice of The Joker, but I must say he went out with one of hell of a bang.
4. Dark Souls
The “spiritual successor” to that of Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls takes everything that modern games has handed you and smashes it in your face. A few rather basic tutorials, and you’re fully expected to take on every enemy. You have to be 100% alert in Dark Souls or else your progress for the last few hours will be completely lost. Couple that with an immersive world, genius online integration, and one of the best intro cutscenes I’ve ever seen and you have one of the best titles of 2011.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
A combination of Windwaker and Twilight Princess in more ways then one, giving the sense of freedom of Windwaker but also giving the gameplay of Twilight Princess. Skyward Sword is also the only game where all of this “Wii” business actually made sense for a while. The controls were perfectly in sync and it really added to the flow of combat. While I still personally favor Twilight Princess as the best Legend of Zelda, this is easily in the top 3.
2. Portal 2
Portal 2 is what we in the business call, the best kind of sequel. It’s so good, it makes the first look inferior and weak in the process. Almost every aspect that we loved in the original is back and 10 times better. The humor is more quote for a week and meme worthy then ever. While there are only 3 characters each one deserves an award for their spectacular voice acting. The puzzles are intricate yet simple, you’ll spend hours trying to discover the answer only to realize the answer was right in front of you. Not to mention this had one of the best video game endings I’ve seen in a long, long time.
1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim
Skyrim is the only game that has claimed 50 hours from me and I can’t wait to run through it all over again. One of the most immersive, rewarding, and fun experiencing in video gaming. Everything from the games before are improved to a fine key, and not to mention it’s still rewarding to run around a town breathing fire in everyone’s face. Skyrim is a deep engrossing experience and if you even consider yourself any kind of gamer, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not playing this excellent title.
Here are the titles that were just shy of greatness, still great games in their own right they were just outshined by this year’s stampede of fantastic titles.
King of Fighters XIII
King of Fighters has always been my favorite 2D fighter, the combat system has always been simple enough for me to use and yet still have enough depth for me to master it. While this title is definitely a step up from XII (which didn’t even have Mai, c’mon SNK!) I felt it could’ve used a few more months of fine tuning before release.
Dues Ex: Human Revolution
The long coming next entry in Human Revolution has finally landed, through a number of delays (most of which were caused by Final Fantasy XIV) this stealth/FPS is here at last, and while it certainly has a lot of interesting and memorable scenarios, the downfall of this game was in it’s poorly designed boss fights. While we know now that they were outsourced during development it still doesn’t help ease the fact that I created a stealth character only for it to be proven useless by boss fights only won through brute force.
To be honest, Minecraft would be on the list if I didn’t feel it was released last year. While yes I realize this title was “officially” completed this year, it was in beta since last and constantly patched through until just a few months ago. Minecraft is an awesome experience none the less, and closest that any game as gotten to nail the truest “survival” experience.
Saints Row: The Third
Is Saints Row: The Third the Saints Row we’ve all been dreaming of? Yes, yes it is, but at the same time, it let it self fall flat in many, many areas. While I’ve been waiting for the series to go all out crazy from the beginning, it really seems like they’ve sacrificed the longevity of the title and even use it as an excuse to not really explain hardly anything. In Saints Row 2 someone actually sat down and tried making spraying a town in poop half-logical in The Third, there’s no such thing. I remain hopeful that they can truly nail it in the inevitable Saints Row 4
Bulletstorm was one of the biggest surprises of 2011 for me. It didn’t take itself seriously, embraced a unique arcade style to killing, and added a good amount of replayability in just how many ways you can kill a handful of grunts in the most stylish way. However outside of that this game was lacking content, the story was extremely short, the online mode was shallow, and there was almost nothing to the story. It’s sad to hear Epic Games didn’t turn a profit from Bulletstorm I would’ve loved to have seen this perfected in a sequel.
Top 5 Worst Games
While there were some fantastic releases this year, there were also some pretty horrendous ones. For every great game there were probably 3 equally terrible ones waiting around the corner wanting to trick everyone who hasn’t the slightest idea what a video game even is. At least that’s what I hope that’s the case, I can’t see anyone with sense playing these. Except for me of course
5. The Black Eyed Peas: The Experience
There’s one thing to make a casual oriented dance game, it sells quite a bit and in all honesty is harmless. Last year we saw the release of Micheal Jackson: The Experience, which made sense MJ recently passed and his songs and dances were iconic to pop culture. However when The Black Eyed Peas announced their own video game under “The Experience” mark it seems to just be a waste of time, none of their songs are really iconic and do they even have memorable dances? Oh well, it does actually feature 2 songs pre-sellout/Fergie-Peas so at least there’s that.
4. Farming Simulator 2011
Farming Simulator is bad in the most common sense, I mean it does it’s job very well, a little too well. Most games like Harvest Moon try to make farming seem actually kinda fun, but not Farming Simulator 2011. This is the kind of game that’s so boring that I can’t believe there is actually an audience that would actually buy this.
3.Beastly: The Video Game
Making a Twilight-esque remake of Beauty and the Beast is a pretty stupid idea, but making a video game about it? That’s something that even Twilight managed to avoid (for the most part). Yes, this Wii-exclusive title, is dull, forgettable, and can be beaten in less then an hour.
2.Hulk Hogan’s Main Event
When Hulk Hogan isn’t marrying women that look suspiciously like his daughter, he’s doing voice acting for the Adult Swim show China, IL and Saint’s Row: The Third. He’s also apparently making barely half-done games like Hulk Hogan’s Main Event, which actually made me wish that motion controls were never invented. Stay away from this one brother!
I really have to hand it off to the team at Feelplus, I haven’t quite seen a somewhat interesting concept ruined this horribly. The game promises that you can hack into other players bodies and play as them, while that sounds like a lot of fun at first, this game makes it truly unbearable. The music volume is inconsistent, one minute too quiet, the next screeching into your ear. The online/story mode is flawed as there is no option to balance until much later in the game (?) and even when you’re alone, you cannot pause. The story is just straight up ridiculous that they could’ve gone more over the top, but they play it too serious and straight faced. Oh, and by the way there are cyborg gorillas with shotguns.
Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2012
2012 is shaping up to be a good year in gaming aswell, I’m glad that the industry isn’t losing any momentum from the hectic awesome year that was 2011. Here are some titles I’m looking forward too coming up next year.
10. Silent Hill: Downpour
I’m a HUGE Silent Hill fan, but as any fan will tell you the series hasn’t had justice since Silent Hill 4: The Room (SH 3 if you want to get really picky). Ever since Konami started handing off the series to American developers it’s been more and more losing it’s focus of what made it so great in the first place. Downpour promises to change that, but there are a few things that make me cautious. Akira not contributing the soundtrack to the strange choice of having Korn on the game’s theme. We’ll see however when the game launches in March.
9. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
I love Platinum Games, and I love Metal Gear Solid but the two together? It’s sketchy as far as I’ve seen, especially with the series focus on stealth gone on this title. The plot has also taken away the intrigue of being a prequel to 4 (and seeing what caused Raiden’s bad-assness) to being after. That being said, Kojima is still on story and Platinum knows how to craft an excellent hack and slash game.
8. Dragon’s Dogma
Capcom is not doing too well these days, most of their prime talent has left and Capcom hasn’t made it easy with some harsh business practices that’s leaving even the most hardcore fan questionable. However despite this, Dragon’s Dogma is looking to be a surprisingly deep RPG featuring an intriguing AI system and online mode to boot. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.
7. Risen 2: Dark Waters
I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again. Video games need more pirates. The last decent pirate game I played was Sid Meier’s Pirates, and that wasn’t even as good as the SNES classic Uncharted Waters. Admitted Risen was your average western-RPG no more, no less. However Risen 2 promises to fix all of that AND throw in a lovely pirate theme. I can’t wait to run around for weeks talking in pirate tongue while most lay confused all over again.
6.Final Fantasy XIII-2
I’m probably one of the 3 people that didn’t despise Final Fantasy XIII, yes it was overly linear and the plot was more confusing then necessary, but it had presentation and style to spare. FFXIII-2 looks to correct all those problems and even add in a Monster Capturing system, which is always a plus for me. Hopefully they make the story a little easier to understand this time around though.
5. Borderlands 2
Borderlands is one of those rare experiences that despite it being a co-op centered game, that didn’t deter it from being a great experience alone (which my preferred style). It had style to spare, and guns to boot. Borderlands 2 is kicking everything up a notch, which means even MORE then a “bazillion” guns. Color me excited.
4. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Now as you’ve probably noticed I’m a huge RPG fan, and admitted the fantasy RPGs are my favorite. Nothing is quite more immersive then running around in a fantasy world gaining the trust and scorn of several factions as my decisions shape the very world around me. Kingdoms of Amalur seeks to accomplish just that and with an equally deep combat and character creation system. Tie in game development headed by that of lead developer of both Morrowind and Oblivion and the art style of Tod Macfarlene and you just might have the RPG of 2012.
3. Metro: Last Light
Metro 2033 was a pleasant surprise for me, it had a deep subtle story tied with atmosphere few can match. Metro: Last Light is the sequel that plans to follow up on it and bring in some tighter gameplay and correct the few issues I’ve found. The only bad thing I can say about it is that of it’s multiplayer inclusion, which most would see that as a positive inclusion, they promise that it won’t slow down or disrupt the single player experience which is all I need to hear. I can’t wait to head back to Russia.
2. Grand Theft Auto V
A little bit of a confession, GTAIV was the first Grand Theft Auto game I ever truly enjoyed, but believe me when I say I enjoyed the utter hell out of it. While boasting one of the most sincere and likable protagonists I’ve seen in a long time, it also had one of the most detailed and all around fun cities to explore in. I feel that if Rockstar were to fix the repetition and maybe add in checkpoints (like they did in IV’s DLC) then it would truly go down in history.
1. Mass Effect 3
Despite it’s worrisome inclusion of co-op, Bioware is promising like Last Light it will not be necessary and it’s just a “fun diversion” but we shall see. Otherwise words can not express how excited I am to finally see the conclusion of my Shepard and finally witness the full circle of my decisions. Not only that but we’re finally seeing a return of many features axed from Mass Effect 1 and seeing the newer features beefed up, it’s pretty hard to complain. After the disappointment of Dragon Age 2, Bioware is out to redeem themselves.