It’s fairly evident that 2011 was a great year for gamers, and although the myriad of titles available during the holidays are sure to occupy much space on many a gamer’s best of the year list, it’s important to look back a little further and remember the earlier blockbusters of the year. Although heavy-hitters such as Battlefield 3 and Skyrim are certainly killer games, I often find the most recent titles adorning these lists simply because the memories of their experiences are freshest in gamers’ minds. That being said, there were some seriously kickass games that released this year, and I’ve managed to narrow my personal list down to
eight seven of the best titles 2011 had to offer. Take a walk with me.
- There goes a saying in the vast world of Internet forums that whenever somebody mentions the original Deus Ex, somebody reinstalls it. If the not-quite sequel, Human Revolution, is any indication of the first game’s technical and story-telling prowess, then I can certainly see why. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a title with an incredibly unique aesthetic that paints an elegant and realistic portrait of our society’s potential future, and delves into subjects that could easily become controversial topics in the years to come. It was also really, really fun. I was a tad concerned about the merits of Human Revolution’s creative blend of FPS and RPG elements prior to the game’s launch, but once the game shows you what it’s capable of, you’ll find an ambitious title that refuses to compromise the integrity of either of its core components for the sake of mainstream appeal. Deus Ex: Human Revolution proved to developers around the world that depth doesn’t have to come at the cost of accessibility, and that video games can address mature topics in an engaging and enjoyable fashion.
- The original Dead Space gave the survival horror genre a much-needed breath of fresh air, and eschewed much of the traditional wonkiness typically associated with its peers. The game controlled wonderfully, the scares were atmospheric and genuine, and combat was satisfying and unique. Dead Space 2 built on the rock-solid foundation of its predecessor, and kicked up the intensity about two billion notches without forgetting its fear-inducing roots. Although the action-packed title garnered some criticism for becoming too Michael Bay-ish in some regards, I found Dead Space 2 to be a logical evolution of the franchise while retaining its trademark gore-soaked terror. The pacing was damn near perfect, the combat was even better, and the game was absolutely beautiful to boot. Certainly one of EA’s finest titles to date.
- I had heard many great things about the first title in CD Projekt Red’s fantasy series, but never actually had a chance to play or see much of it. So when my killer new graphics card arrived and PC enthusiasts across the nation began using The Witcher 2 as a benchmark, I figured it was time to give the franchise a shot. I still can’t believe I let this game slip under my radar for so long, considering it was one of the most engaging and rewarding fantasy RPGs I had played since the original Fable (which I’m sure is a comparison that will elicit many confused and, perhaps, furious retorts). The narrative thread was truly mature in nature, and was immediately engrossing despite the steep learning curve and difficult to understand menu and combat systems. Perhaps the most impressive component of the title was its complete dedication to the concept of branching paths and ambiguous decision-making, which governed the majority of the game’s engaging storyline and made selecting a critical plot option require calculated thought and foresight. Despite its slight accessibility flaws, The Witcher 2 proved to be an immensely satisfying experience that was fascinating and enjoyable throughout the course of its well-written and even more skillfully-executed fantasy epic.
- As I’m sure most of you know by now (or, at least you do if you follow me on Twitter or listen to Dual Wielding) I’m a huge fan of Capcom fighting games. Having never really spent a significant amount of time with Marvel vs. Capcom 2 due to its unrelenting speed and brutal learning curve, I was hopeful for a fresh start with MvC3. It was love at first hyper combo. Not only is Marvel vs. Capcom 3 distilled morphine for my brain’s pleasure centers, it also opened me up to an entirely foreign world of comic book lore, which became a new guilty pleasure of mine. While my current relationship with its “sequel”, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, has become one of conflicted emotions, the franchise continues to occupy nearly all of my mind’s free thinking time, and there aren’t many moments that pass by where I envision potential team arrangements or combos. I’m definitely hooked.
3.) Batman: Arkham City
- Batman: Arkham Asylum was a title that shocked everyone when it released two years ago. Not only was it the first game that successfully captured the essence of the Batman mythos, but it was a damn fine action game as well. Regardless of your interest in comic books or Batman, Arkham City takes the already successful formula of Arkham Asylum and blows the doors right off anything you might have come to expect about superhero games. A fully-realized open world setting, gorgeous graphics, a dark and brooding storyline with phenomenal voice-acting, and one of the most well-constructed combat systems this side of Bayonetta. Batman: Arkham City not only redefines what it means to be a licensed title, it raises the bar significantly for action games in general, with one of the best characters of all time standing atop its astronomically high standards.
- You knew it was going to be on here somewhere, didn’t you? Much like Chad, I was a huge fan of Oblivion, and although I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to sink into the successor to one of my favorite RPGs of all-time, I can already tell that it lives up to the impossible amount of hype surrounding its launch. Skyrim builds on the strengths of Oblivion while eliminating (almost) all of its weaknesses. Improved menu navigation, denser worlds, more interesting dungeons and quests, the list truly goes on. While the lack of direction in the beginning stages of the game was a tad overwhelming initially (much like it was for me in Oblivion) it wasn’t long before the seductive embrace of the game’s open world structure began to welcome me into its “just one more quest” arms. Considering I haven’t even scratched the surface of what Skyrim has to offer, I’d say that’s a pretty damn good sign.
1.) Gears of War 3
- There isn’t a single game that released this year that offered the amount of value and entertainment as Gears of War 3 does. As a Gears fanboy, I was sorely disappointed by the second game in the franchise after falling madly in love with the first entry in the trilogy. Thankfully, Epic Games heard my (and, evidently, many others’) cries and delivered the most expertly crafted shooter I’ve played since Call of Duty 4. Everything that was missing or broken about Gears of War 2 was promptly addressed with logical and kickass additions that make the overall package Gears of War 3 has to offer undeniably amazing. The storyline was unwaveringly excellent, the multiplayer is simply unparalleled in intensity, and Horde/Beast mode are enjoyable enough on their own to justify the $60 you pay for Epic’s latest…epic. I’d honestly wager that Gears of War 3 is the best deal since The Orange Box, and the fact that the game is so universally outstanding makes it my easy pick for Game of the Year 2011.