Over the last week or so, we've been frantically trying our best to post episodes from both our 4PlayerPodcast and Cocktail Time podcasts listing our top 10 games for 2011 and closing the book on what was truly a fantastic year. If you haven't already, check them out (really, they're good!) Unfortunately, I wasn't available to make the podcasts, and I've been asked a few times by our community what my personal GOTY was, so I thought I'd share my own top 10 games for 2011. I fully realize this list may be missing many great titles, and this list may have been drastically different if I had more time, the last time I checked, there were only 12 months in a year which simply was not enough. Fucking Mayans. Anyway, based upon what I played and my level of enjoyment from them, my list is as follows...
10.) L.A Noire
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: 17th May 2011
Developer: Team Bondi
Publisher: Rockstar Games
I'm going to kick off this list with a game that I feel too many people are wrongfully hating on and is often being forgotten when it comes to 2011 video games. Yes, the game has practically no reason to replay after the first playthrough, the driving served no real purpose other than getting to the next mission and yes, the *stunning* recreation of Los Angeles wasn't as open as you may have hoped for, but guess what - neither Team Bondi or Rockstar ever claimed this to be Grand Theft Auto in the 1940's. The game did keep you on a close leash but that was fine by me. I wanted to experience a story that took me on an adventure and made me, as the player, feel like a detective, and for that it succeeded. Interesting characters, great writing and acting performances all came together to make L.A Noire an experience that although may have fell a bit short in some areas, felt completely original. Searching for clues and putting the pieces together and making my final conviction were all highlights to me. L.A Noire's biggest selling point was clearly the use of advanced facial capture with the idea that you would be able to talk to a potential suspect and tell if they were telling porkies based purely on their facial animations. A bold gameplay mechanic that has never been featured in a video game before that thanks to high expenses and cost, will probably never appear again - at least not for a long time. Perhaps it was still a little too soon, but I give full credit to Team Bondi for achieving something new. The game was not perfect by any means, but it certainly delivered one of my more memorable experiences of 2011.
Release Date: July 21st, 2011 (Japan)
Developer: Nintendo SPD Group 1
To say this game took me by surprise would be an understatement. I am not one to dabble into Japanese culture, it's music or anything like that. My experience with the music game genre consists entirely of Rock Band and Guitar Hero games. So for a Japanese music game to be featured on my top 10 games for 2011 says one of two things. Either 2011 had no good games and was chosen purely from default, or that it gave me a big jolly bouncing boner. Well, 2011 had a disturbing amount of good games, so yeah. I don't need to spend time explaining the games mechanics. You press a button, or a combination of buttons in time with the music being played. What makes this game so damn fun, are the situations you'll find yourself hitting rhythms to. After perfecting so many rhythms, you'll then be propelled into a full remix using these beats you just learned. It's hard to put into words, just think WarioWare...kinda. Hopefully this video does it some justice. Let's just say it's very Japanese. At time of writing, this game is only available in Japan. However, it will be seeing a North American release in February under the name Rhythm Heaven Fever. I advise everyone dust off their Wii's, throw away that shitty Zelda game and play one of the strangest music rhythm games you'll ever play. This surprised you, didn't it?
Platforms: XBLA, PC
Release Date: July 20th, 2011
Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
There's a reason this little indie game has sold over 500,000 copies since it's launch in July. While I do thoroughly enjoy this game, I'm not going to give the much talked about narration gimmick the attention most other critics do as I feel there are other areas in this game that are worth mentioning. That being said, I am a huge fan of Bastion's writer and former GameSpot editor Greg Kassavin, and was truly impressed by the story and world he put forth in this game. I can't help but feel the way it's told through narration kinda outstayed it's welcome after a few hours, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the game. I just wish I could separate core story narration from the bullshit remarks he spits out after I perform the most basic of things more easily. By now you may be wondering why this game is on my list if I'm practically shitting on what many assume to be the games strongest feature. I was personally more drawn to the presentation and art style. In an industry surrounded by brown and various other muddy tones comes a game bright and vibrant in colour, it's a miracle! It wasn't just the bright and pretty colours that aroused me, oh no. The rather simplistic yet tight gameplay had me hooked as well. Nothing overly complex, but at the same time had enough depth to keep things interesting. Personally, the biggest praise I could give Bastion would be it's soundtrack. The art style and presentation, along with the story are complimented with a soothing, yet often menacing arrangement of acoustic guitars in the background. Without a doubt one of the best indie games ever to have been shat out of the Xbox marketplace and Steam catalog last year. Chances are you've already played it and are still sucking Logan Cunningham's dick. I still think Max Payne handled narration better...
|7.) Rock of Ages
Platform: XBLA, PC
Release Date: August 31st, 2011
Developer: ACE Team
I went into Rock of Ages without seeing any trailers, gameplay or really knowing what it is. The best way I can describe this game is think turn based strategy meets tower defense with a Marble Madness-esque ball rolling mechanic thrown in for good measure. The premise of Rock of Ages is to take down your enemy using a large boulder. Simple enough, right? Well while you wait for your rock to be built, you're given an overhead view of the map where you can spend money to build obstacles such as bombs, towers, catapults and even elephants to obstruct the enemies rock from hitting your gate. This money is acquired by rolling over soldiers or destroying enemy placements. When your rock is ready, you take control and guide it around the battlefield, working your way toward the enemy gate while attempting to avoid anything they may have put in your way. Once a gate is destroyed, all that's left to do is squash the opponent. The games 'story' spans over various time periods, including Ancient Greece, Medievil, Renaissance and more, each with their own historical figures and unique style. What really sets this game apart for me, as if the concept wasn't already unique enough, is the art style. Everything is portrayed in this simplistic cardboard cutout like display that is completely original and unique to it's own. The game sports this sense of humor that I find can be best compared to the likes of Monty Python. Definitely worth a look for those who want to try something new and have a good laugh while doing so.
6.) Portal 2
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: April 19th, 2011
I'll be frank - when I first heard Portal 2 was being developed I raged. "A FULL BLOWN SEQUEL TO A FUCKING 2 HOUR MOD?" I calmly said to myself. I then realized it had already been 7 years since Half Life 2 was released and that I should give up waiting for Mr. Newell to conclude the game, take his balls out of my mouth and be happy with whatever I get. After all, it's VALVe, and say what you will about them, you're always guaranteed quality. Portal 2 is no exception. We've all seen it by now, the game is practically superior in every conceivable way to the original. Better puzzles, more varied environments, fully developed characters, longer single player campaign, fully fledged co op campaign, free DLC, the list goes on. I must state that I preferred the darker humor of the original Portal - but this game still had me laughing out loud thanks to an excellent script and voice work. It would be criminal of me to mention this game without talking about Wheatley, voiced by the wonderful Steven Merchant. I was also pleased with how VALVe managed to integrate cross platform cooperative multiplayer with PC and Playstation 3. I hope this is a trend that continues to blossom among games this year and adopted by more developers. Now seriously....Half Life 3?
5.) Battlefield 3
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: October 25th, 2011
Developer: EA Digital Illusions
My history with the Battlefield series is not exactly good. I've been playing the series since 1942 (the game, not the year. Derp) and have always had the same complaints through each game. I often get crucified for this, but I thought Battlefield 2 was atrocious. A horrendous pile of shit that was bugged to the dick from day one and a game I quite clearly did not like. The weapons were inconsistent, falling damaged sucked, game patches broke more than they fixed, you get the point. Well when Bad Company 2 was released, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief as it truly felt like the first Battlefield game that got it right. Granted, it didn't have the scale or vehicular options of past games, but it was still very enjoyable. Battlefield 3 is essentially Bad Company 3. It feels like Bad Company 2, with larger maps and aircrafts. I don't often play multiplayer games, but when I do, I play Battlefield 3. It's addicting, it's fun, it looks good, it sounds good, it just works. They seem to have finally fixed all the issues I had with the past games and added a layer of polish that was missing until now. I'm not great at the game by any means, but I still come back for more, and that's something that I cannot say for most multiplayer games nowadays. Definitely my multiplayer game of the year followed closely by Portal 2.
4.) Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: November 1st, 2011
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
There's not a whole lot to say about Uncharted 3 that hasn't been said already. It looks great, sounds great, plays great - it just delivers the complete package. What really stole the show for me in this game was focus on character development. Specifically the relationship between Drake and Sully. We learn more about their history, how they met and even get introduced with a new character that thanks to excellent writing, feels as though he's been part of the gang since the very beginning. The set pieces, environments and overall presentation have all seen a steady improvement with each new sequel, and Uncharted 3 is no exception. It's just incredible to see how they've managed to take real history, and proceed to twist and craft it into a memorable adventure that will surely leave you wondering what's in store next. We've all been on record to say the shooting mechanics may not be as tight or as responsive as Uncharted 2, but all things aside, it's a game experience like no other that along with the previous games in the series, you absolutely must own.
|3.) Serious Sam 3: BFE
Release Date: November 22nd, 2011
Publisher: Developer Digital
To be honest, the fact that I even have to put this on my list kinda saddens me. Why? well, because this game is practically over 10 years old yet it happens to be one of the most fun experiences I've had from a game in a long time. The Serious Sam franchise remains to be one of the only series left in existence to put up the finger and give a huge 'fuck you' to game mechanics that have plagued this genre for some time now. Quick time events, cover systems and even regenerative health have all been thrown away. Instead, Sam 3 offers lots of enemies, lots of weapons, secret areas, end of level boss fights and even the unholy ability to carry more than two weapons at a time. Heaven forbid! It doesn't fuck around. This is for all intents and purposes, a 1990's shooter with a good looking coat of paint cunningly slapped on the top. And you know what, sometimes that's just perfect. There will no doubt be people out there who simply cannot handle having to physically look for items to increase their health, but Croteam definitely know it's audience and for those who want a good looking history lesson on the first person shooter genre, you can't get much better than this. In short, Serious Sam 3 is the most fun I've had with a first person shooter in years.
|2.) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: November 11th, 2011
This game needs no introduction, you've all played it. This epic fantasy role playing game is quite simply, the dogs bollocks. 75+ hours into the game and I've barely scratched the surface.
AND THE WINNER IS...
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Platform: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: August 23rd, 2011
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
No big surprises here. Eidos Montreal managed to successfully create and craft a heavily stylized game world that truly stood out above the rest. Yes, I'll be the first to admit the piss-yellow tint may have outstayed its welcome but I was too wrapped up in the conspiracies that lead and told a very well written story, populated with some interesting characters. As with the two Deus Ex games before it, Human Revolution explored the themes of transhumanism, morality and their effects on a conflicting society. All of which are all explored in great detail, intertwined and then delicately stitched together to convey a thought provoking message that stuck with me long after the credits rolled. I particularly liked the contrast in design between the two opposing forces of society. Those who supported the evolution of science and augmentation were portrayed in a turn-of-the-century Victorian like style, while the 'rebels' were represented as low class scum, torn clothes and poor. Include an absolutely brilliant soundtrack and it all comes together to create an incredibly rich and menacing atmosphere like no other. I've always enjoyed experiencing plot twists and uncovering the mysteries of government conspiracies within these games and Human Revolution was able to capture my imagination and deliver on all fronts. Gameplay felt tight and solid, brilliant level design allowed the player to plan their routes and feel encouraged to explore and look for secrets. I applaud Eidos Montreal for having the balls to take such a beloved series and develop a game that I believe many veterans of the series enjoyed, as well as introducing the franchise to a new audience. Considering the original Deus Ex is among my favorite PC games of all times, this game had big boots to fill and while it may not have been as ambitious from a gameplay perspective as one may have hoped, Human Revolution still brings a level of intellectual story telling, craftsmanship and soul that I felt was leaps and bounds beyond anything else last year, and even in recent memory. Great job, Eidos Montreal!
Once again, there were many other games that were released last year that I either didn't have time to play, or played so little I could barely make an opinion on. Besides, we all know that 'Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls' would have been destined to become my GOTY if I played it. Be sure to check out our 4PP 2011 GOTY award shows as well as our Cocktail Time podcasts to hear our other members picks for game of the year, as well as various other categories and awards!