Games of the year revealed
The games have been played. The notes jotted down in dog-eared notebooks and the scores logged. Now's it's time to decide the best video games of 2011 - and what a year it has been.
The year was consistent for good games, kicking off with big name titles such as Killzone 3 and Final Fantasy X, continued with games such as Dead Space 2, L.A. Noire and The Witcher 2 and rounded the year off with such games as Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Assassin's Creed Revelations, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, new single player DLC for Gears of War 3 and giant role playing juggernaut Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
It was a year that battered the wallets and tested the fingers.
After weeks of contemplation, hours of hair-pulling and minutes of procrastination, here are my top games of 2011.
Remember, as I remind people every year, I haven't played every game that was released this year so this is my opinion based on the dozens of games that I did play.
GAME OF THE YEAR: Batman Arkham City
For me it was the standout game of the year and an easy decision. I didn't think developer Rocksteady could better Batman Arkham Asylum - but they have. The voice acting is top-notch (notably Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill), the story is more cohesive and the side missions set the scene for a third game nicely (and I believe there will be a third game). The addition of a playable catwoman to the mix, while not essential, is a nice change of pace from the brooding bat.
BLOG READERS' GAME OF THE YEAR: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim
While several games were mentioned in the 149 comments on my Game Junkie blog entry, there was one clear winner: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, Bethesda's action role playing game. It was the clear favourite by a country mile.
Other favourites were Arkham City, Portal 2, Battlefield 3 and Uncharted 3. One reader even suggested Duke Nukem Forever - because it actually got released.
BEST GAME EVERYONE TALKED ABOUT A LOT BUT I GAVE TO ANOTHER REVIEWER: Elder Scrolls V Skyrim
Here's what fellow reviewer Keith Lynch had to say about the game, describing it as the best sandbox game ever made. "Before writing this review, I ploughed close to 30 hours into Skyrim. Not only because I had to review the thing, but because I just couldn't stop."
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Rage (id Software)
There's no doubt that Rage is visually beautiful, but it's over reliance on fetch quests meant what could have been a great game became merely an OK one.
BEST PC GAME: Portal 2 (Valve)
I loved the original Portal and thankfully, Portal 2 builds on what made that physics-bending puzzle game so good. Throw in great voice work by comedian Stephen Merchant and Ellen McLean as slightly psychotic AI Wheatley and Glados, respectively, and more mind-bending puzzles and you've got a fun time for all.
BEST XBOX 360 EXCLUSIVE: Gears of War 3
I'll make the call: this is the best Gears game yet. It's also one of the best looking on the Xbox 360. The new single player content, Raam's Shadow, which should be available today, is also worth a look
BEST PLAYSTATION 3 EXCLUSIVE: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (Naughty Dog)
Drake's Deception is easily one of the best games out on PlayStation 3. While it might not be as great as Uncharted 2, it's the closest thing to a Hollywood movie that you will get on the PS3 at the moment.
BEST NINTENDO WII EXCLUSIVE: Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)
Another epic Legend of Zelda game which starts off slow but soon enough picks up the pace, Skyward Sword is a most enjoyable adventure. The Wii remote and nunchuk are used wonderfully and while visually looking nice, the Wii is starting to show its age.
BEST NINTENDO 3DS EXCLUSIVE AND BEST HANDHELD GAME: Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo)
The biggest selling handheld Mario game in history, this game has all the hallmarks of a good Mario game and looks like reviving flagging sales of the 3DS
BEST ACTION GAME: Batman Arkham City (Warner Brothers)
The combat feels visceral and satisfying, each skirmish ending in a slow-motion view of the last villain being knocked senseless. It's wonderful.
BEST RACING GAME: Forza Motorsports 4
Forza 4 is the best in the series. And you know what? It could also be the best console racing game of this generation.
BEST RPG GAME THAT I PLAYED: Deus Ex Human Revolution (Eidos)
A game where cybernetic enhancements rule and you can play it all guns blazing or stealthily. The boss battles left a lot to be desired, though.
BEST VOICE ACTING/CHARACTER: Mark Hamill (Joker in Batman Arkham City)
While Nolan North did a great job (again) as Uncharted 3's Nathan Drake (and did voice work in just about every game you can think of) and British comedian Stephen Merchant did a stirling job as Wheatley the Mad AI in Portal 2, Hamill's gravely performance of Batman's arch nemesis the Joker was just superb.
DOWNLOADABLE GAME I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO: Journey (PlayStation 3)
From the makers of Flow and Flower, Journey is a mesmerising adventure where a robed figure has to reach a mountain in the distance. My time with the online beta makes me want the full game even more.
Occasional game reviewer Phil McKenzie prefers different games. Here are his top picks for the year.
Formula One is not everyone's cup of tea, whether it be watching it or playing it in a game. F1 2011 isn't the type of game you can just pick up and play. It's more like a game of chess as every car pretty much handles the same and it comes down to the driver's skill. The visuals and audio are near perfect and it does favour the simulation style of game play but the spirit of F1 is there in oodles, and for any F1 fan this year's game is a must-buy.
If you're a fan of the television series, The Walking Dead, or other similar zombie flicks then Dead Island is definitely the title for you. All the action takes place on an island in the South Pacific. The look of the game is wonderful: the environments are rendered with flowering vegetation that flow in the breeze and the beaches and water effects are picturesque. Dead Island has a few rough spots but it does do a good job at keeping the presentation and gaming experience fresh for the survival-horror genre.
RED FACTION: ARMAGEDDON
Boom, there goes the catwalks. Kapow, all the enemies are blown to smithereens along with sections of the surrounding environment. The real attraction of Armageddon is not in the visuals or story, it is solely down to the fact that you can recklessly destroy everything in sight and then fix it again to carry on to the next stage to do it all over again.
TOMB RAIDER: TRILOGY
Tomb Raider Trilogy gives the fans just about everything they'd expect with Legend, Anniversary and Underworld. Although the fundamentals of each game haven't changed, Tomb Raider Trilogy is still a solid investment and one the die-hard fans will add to their collection. For new gamers to the series, they will be treated to a nice broad overview and history lesson.
URBAN TERROR (PC)
Built on the Quake engine, Urban Terror is an online/offline multiplayer FPS. The maps are highly detailed and feature climbable and destructible environments. The action can vary depending on the map you're playing from slow-paced snipering to close-range handguns or knife action. Urban Terror isn't a new game nor is it the best multiplayer FPS on the shelves, but it is free to download, there are hundreds of different maps available and it's a blast to play with your mates.
- The Press