Top 7 Games of 2011 (Chad’s Picks)
If you listen to the podcast you’ll know that my taste in games can beÂ considered unusual at best (and if you don’t listen to the podcastÂ then fuck you. Can I say fuck you? I said fuck you). I put a highÂ priority on weirdness, cleverness, and I tend to value new or riskyÂ ideas more favorably than what could perhaps be considered more solidÂ execution. This list is, therefore, not my list of the best, or mostÂ technically sound, or most important games of the year. Instead it isÂ a collection of the ones I enjoyed the most, which thus will make themÂ by default the best overall, since my opinion is the only one thatÂ matters*. Also this list is in reverse order, because I like to remindÂ you that, in life, things can (and almost incontrovertibly will) getÂ worse. Also, Dark Souls should be on this list but I haven’t gottenÂ around to playing enough of it yet sooo…yeah.
*This may in fact be a blatant lie. Further investigation required.
1)Â Catherine – Surprise, surprise, my Game of the Year for 2011 isÂ Catherine, the block-pushing soap opera from Atlus. One part puzzleÂ game, one part visual novel, this has been my most anticipated gameÂ since it was announced. No superpowers, no good vs evil, world atÂ stake storyline. Instead, you play as a dude. He makes games. He hangsÂ out with his friends in a bar. I could go on forever about the meritsÂ of this game, but I’ll keep it brief here. Suffice it to say theÂ writing is great, quite possibly one of the most mature storylinesÂ I’ve seen in a video game, dealing with real issues that the mainÂ character, Vincent, experiences in his day to day life. It’s rare thatÂ a game comes along which causes you to question your own values andÂ think about just how you’d react to a situation. Gameplay wise, yes,Â it’s pretty damn difficult. I don’t know about you, though, but I playÂ puzzle games to be challenged, and it was nice to play a game for onceÂ that forced me to think so hard. In all, this is very close to being aÂ perfect game to me. It has the style, it has the engaging gameplay,Â and it has the sense of player agency that I really appreciate in games.
2)Â Portal 2 – I love clever things. It’s part of the reason I love beingÂ in my own head so much. Its cleverness was most of the reason I lovedÂ Portal so much, and its successor capitalizes on that to an evenÂ greater degree. While I love both of my top 2 games this year due toÂ their writing, Portal 2’s praise comes for its dialogue specifically.Â The story is relative simple, but where the game truly shines is theÂ dialogue, which is interesting considering there is rarely more than aÂ single speaker in any given situation. Of course, great writing canÂ still only work if it has the appropriate delivery, and luckily theÂ acting is spot on. The game also manages to balance old and newÂ mechanics wonderfully, so that every second felt both new and yetÂ comfortably nostalgic at the same time. The puzzles weren’t asÂ difficult as I would have liked, but still very solid.
3) Skyrim – As a huge fan of Oblivion, it’s only natural that I wouldÂ place Skyrim somewhere on this list. As far as game time is concerned,Â Skyrim represents the most time I’ve spent on any game not calledÂ Starcraft 2 in the last year and a half. It shows a marked improvementÂ on the things that Oblivion did well, with additions such as dualÂ wielding and shouts adding to the gameplay in meaningful ways. LikeÂ any Bethesda game, it has shown its fair share of bugs. I haveÂ personally managed to avoid every single one, for which I considerÂ myself quite lucky. Additionally, the various mods available and theÂ upcoming release of a more comprehensive set of mod tools ensure thatÂ I will be playing Skyrim for theÂ foreseeableÂ future.
4) Shadows of the Damned – This was a game that I held absolutely noÂ anticipation for. Knowing that Suda 51 was involved had piqued myÂ interest, but my dislike for survival horror games made my apathyÂ palpable where this game was concerned. The Giant Bomb Quick Look,Â however, forced me to reconsider that position, and it’s a good thingÂ it did. This game is not by any means innovative, or even particularlyÂ good, but it is damn FUN. It’s got all of the Suda craziness thatÂ we’ve come to know and love, and is by far the most playable of hisÂ titles. That said, there’s nothing special about the shooting and,Â though the weapons get more and more ridiculous, the combat can oftenÂ descend into monotony. Despite that, it’s an entertaining road movieÂ which is worth seeing even with the mediocre shooting.
5) Uncharted 3 – Had you asked me at this time last year, I’d have beenÂ pretty confident that Uncharted 3 would be in my top 3, yet here it isÂ barely making the top 5. it’s got everything you’d expect out of anÂ Uncharted game, with very little new. Unlike Portal 2, which kept theÂ core of the first intact while expanding on what made it great,Â Uncharted 3 hits all the same notes as the second. Both the gameplayÂ and story hit so many of the same beats that it’s hard to place thisÂ game any higher. Don’t get me wrong, it does what it does extremelyÂ well and is still a fantastic game, but it’s disappointing that theyÂ didn’t go out of their way to expand on the formula that we were shownÂ in Uncharted 2.
6) Marvel vs Capcom 3 – Despite the blatant exploitation of consumersÂ that is Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, it’s wrong to let that mar theÂ reputation of the original MvC3. It takes the formula of StreetÂ Fighter and turns up the speed, as well as the crazy. Like Portal 2,Â this game represented a risk in that its predecessor was extremelyÂ beloved, and like Portal it both lived up to and surpassed theÂ expectations of fans. It perfectly toes the line between theÂ competitive and the casual, providing depth for those who seek itÂ while still allowing casuals to simply hit buttons and watch coolÂ stuff happen.
7) Sonic Generations – Since the Genesis days I’ve been a proud SegaÂ Soldier and lover of all things Sonic. Hell, I even bought Shadow theÂ Hedgehog and actually liked it.That said, no one can deny thatÂ virtually every 3D offering in the Sonic series has been trash atÂ best. Generations picks up on the good ideas we saw in Sonic ColorsÂ and knocks them out of the park. This is the Sonic game you’ve beenÂ waiting for…if you’ve even been waiting for a Sonic game. Which IÂ presume most of you haven’t been doing. It features 2D gameplay thatÂ actually works (you’d better be taking notes, Sonic 4), and 3DÂ gameplay that finally captures the sense of speed that’s been missingÂ in previous iterations.