With 2011 over, we are going to take some time out to have little look back at the last 12 months as we ask the GGUK writers about their favourite memories of the past year and ask just what are their top five games of the year. It’s been a bumper year for gamers with some real standout titles, so here are the GGUK 2011 staff picks.
5.Shadow of the Damned
Starting off my top 5 of 2011 is a real hidden gem of a game that passed a lot of people by this year. Shadow of the Damned was not smart, it wasn’t clever and it was most definitely not for your mum. What it really was though, was fun, funny and enjoyable from start to finish. You filled the boots of Garcia F****** Hotspur in this outrageous Suda51 tale of demons, lust and slightly bad one-liners.
The games sense of humour is exactly the sort of thing you would expect from Suda51 (though some of the double entendres occasionally border on the crass rather than funny) but you’ll be laughing away at the game more often than not.
Shadow of the Damned is a truly enjoyable tale from start to finish and will have you playing through it time and time again with its dark humour and core gameplay from some of the legends in gaming. A must buy for Suda51 fans and for people looking for something totally different from the norm.
Overlooked by the masses or cut short by most reviewers, Brink never really got to spread its wings and fly. But for me it was one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games of the year. Okay, it’s not perfect, but once you’re online with your friends and in a game these problems don’t matter because you’re having a hell of a good time.
Brink is set in 2035 and the planet’s sea levels have risen to the point that all land is lost. The only city left is a floating megalopolis called The Ark, in the middle of this vast ocean world. The game asks you at the very start if you want to save the Ark? Or escape the Ark? and this choice will put you in the shoes of either the security forces of the Ark, where you must fight to keep the peace, or the resistance who want to break the stronghold the government have over the people in The Ark.
Brink tried to take a fresh look at the way we play FPSs and on the whole it does an outstanding job, but because of a few issues it never really hit the highs it aimed for. But for me it’s well worth the play.
To be honest, the legend in the FPS world that is Crysis was a pipe dream for all non PC gamers and was one of the last few shooters never to have been seen on the console. But all this changed when Crytek announced that Cryisis 2 was heading to home consoles in 2011.
The first thing that hits you about the game is the sheer visual beauty of the world. The CryEngine 3 can handle incredible scales and lighting which makes the city of New York spring to life, right down to seeing sunlight streaming through the windows or kicking up dust when you are running through a collapsing building. Every inch of the game is a true joy to look at.
Crysis 2 is a spectacular debut for the series on the consoles, a true achievement in the visual department and also an outstanding narrative in the sand box world which is Manhattan, making it one of my must plays of the year.
2. Halo Anniversary
10 years ago I was just 15 and I’ll never forget the first time I played Halo at my friends and just how much fun the split screen deathmatch mode was as we played on it for too many hours, always trying to get one over each other. Fast forward 10 years and 343 industries has given the legend a face lift and brought it back out on the 360.
At its core, Anniversary has not changed its gameplay, the new flashy HD face lift is just visual and under the surface beats the heart of the classic game. Though that’s not to say the game doesn’t have some new tricks up its sleeve, like giving you a real reason to use your Kinect and on top of that the new online co-op mode showing that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Halo Anniversary is a must for fans and for anyone who missed it back in the day. It truly is a lesson on how to do an HD remake and is a great game to boot. With its new Kinect feature and the new maps for Reach, there’s something here for everyone to try – a true highlight of this year’s gaming calendar.
So what game would make my number one spot of 2011? It could only be Battlefield 3, a true tour de force of a game. The campaign isn’t that much of a standout, though it is an enjoyable ride especially the Russian levels, where you play as an undercover Russian fighting on the streets of Paris and these levels have no English audio as the team speak only Russian so subtitles are a must unless you speak Russian, but this adds a great layer to detail to these levels. Clocking in at around 7 hours on hard, it is a nice little starter before the main course that is the Multiplayer side of the game.
As for Multiplayer, Battlefield 3 pulls out all the stops seeing you fighting from forest backdrops to hot sandy deserts. Add to that the standard Battlefield fare of tanks, jeeps and choppers and you have a toy box any virtual solider would love. On top of that DICE have added fighter jets into the mix and a host on new guns to unlock. It really is something truly special. How special you ask? Well the game cost me £39 and I’ve put just over 85hrs in already and that’s still counting.
When a game is built entirely for multiplayer there is always going to be a make or break point because it is based on players and not AIs. But the thrills of Battlefield 3 outweigh the frustrations. A must buy for all FPS fans and battlefield fans alike and for me will see CoD sitting on the shelf for many months to come.
5. Uncharted 3
What can I say? Naughty Dog have done it again and proved themselves to be Top Dogs when it comes to making an exhilarating, action-packed game, with an engaging storyline and twists and turns at every corner. If you thought that one and two were good, wait to see this! Drake’s Deception is, in my eyes, close to perfection. Stunning 3D graphics combined with intriguing characters and a fascinating plot make this a truly cinematic experience. Uncharted 3 is my undoubted game of 2011!
4. La Noire
Rarely does a game come along which changes the way we think about gaming and more importantly, the way we play them. La Noire, however, did just that. Set in 1940’s Los Angeles, this crime fighting story was a refreshing twist on the usual chaotic, criminal lifestyle portrayed in other games. By incorporating brand new motion capture technology called MotionScan, developers Rockstar brought us a game which let gamers totally immerse themselves in the environment. Characters facial features and mannerisms were perfectly recreated by mimicking the real motion capture actors. During cut-scenes it was imperative that you concentrated fully on characters facial expressions, rather than skipping through to the next gameplay section. While many gamers criticised the game for being a bit slow paced and dialogue heavy, I saw this as a breath of fresh air and I think it showed that games don’t have to be overloaded with action and blood and guts, to appeal to a wide range. I can’t wait to see this new technology incorporated into upcoming games and look forward to experiencing even more realism!
3. Batman Arkham City
Having declared Arkham Asylum as my top game of 2009, I was eager to get my hands on the sequel. The dark and atmospheric game world was a real joy to play. Arkham City, however, is a step up in quality though. The sprawling open world environment lets the player explore and feel more freedom. Whereas in the first game the gamer was almost hand led through each section, this game allows you to be a bit more picky on what tasks to do at what stage. And even once you’ve completed the storymode there is a huge amount of stuff still to be completed. Having flown through the story, completed all but one side mission and collected endless riddler trophies, I am still only at 60% completion! This game really does have a long life!
During the first quarter of 2011 there was a real absence in quality releases. That was until Bulletstorm came on the scene. Usually I prefer the more realistic looking FPS’s, like Call of Duty or Battlefield, but I decided to give this one a go on the recommendation of GGUK’s very own FURYAC3! Boy am I glad I did. This is an absolute hoot of a game. During the game your screen is bombarded with a rainbow colour palette which feels like an assault to the eyes. Players are encouraged to rack up massive combo scores by killing their foes in the most violent and blood curdling ways imaginable. Bulletstorm really isn’t a game to be taken seriously, but rather with a pinch of salt and huge smile on your face!
1. Crysis 2
Many thought it couldn’t be done. And those who did were hopeful at the most. However, sceptics were proved wrong last year when Crysis 2 hit consoles and blew the notion out the water that this was a game only for PC’S! For the first time since 2007 non-PC gamers could equip themselves with the infamous Nanosuit and patrol the ravaged streets of New York in this futuristic FPS. As well as the single player mode, gamers could hone their skills on the multiplayer stage and battle it out across a wide variety of maps. The sheer look and feel of this game is enough to place it in any top 5 games list, but the fact that the gameplay is so addictive and slick makes this a top contender for 2011.
It’s been a good year for gamers … a very good year.
We’ve seen sequels to all the top big name series, and what sequels they were too. Not one failing to disappoint – Arkham City, Skyrim, Modern Warefare 3, Portal 2 to name just a few. Along with the release of the 3DS, which is now finding it’s feet quite nicely with the release of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, and the introduction of the OnLive gaming service which to quite a few people’s surprise worked a lot better than anticipated (even on my rather rubbish connection) – it has been a cracker.
But my real standout success of the year … Mobile gaming.
With the massive user base of Android and iOS devices, this has undoubtedly been the year of gaming on your phone. From the might of Angry Birds to the smaller indie titles that you only hear about by accident, these pocket money priced slices of instant gaming gratification are getting better and better with each release. Covering all genres these are proving more attractive to big name publishers and developers alike, and with prices to suit every wallet in these cash strapped times this has definitely been the year of the App.
So … a top 5 for the year, that’s a hard choice there’s been a lot of quality titles released this year, but here’s my personal selection, presented in no particular order …
5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
4. Batman: Arkham City
3. Portal 2
2. Super Mario 3D Land
The first 3 are sequels that proved an exception to the usual rule of not living up to the brilliance of the original. In Deus Ex we were finally given the sequel that the original so richly deserved and in Arkham City and Portal 2 there were sequels that took the original gameplay and added extra goodness to make us foam at the mouth.
Super Mario 3D Land gets included for being a 3D perspective game that works, very well. This is the Mario game that fans have been clamouring for since the first time the plumber inflated himself out of the 2D side scrolling format.
And finally HardLines … what the heck is that? I hear you cry. Well head over to the App Store or Android Marketplace and you’ll find out. Yes it’s a mobile game, but this is a game that I’ve found myself playing pretty much every day since I bought it back in June, for 69p … how’s that for value for money!! Big budgets aren’t essential when you’ve got the right combination of gameplay and style on your side.
So that’s my top 5 of the year, feel free to disagree but only do that if you’ve played all of these for at least an hour
5. Driver San Francisco
Me being me, I of course needed to include a driving game in my top five. The difficulty in that arose when there were not many released this year that I was actually overly excited to play other than Driver. I can’t lie and say I did not have my doubts on the run up to its release as to whether I would enjoy it or not. However those worries were soon put to rest when I got my hands on the game and found an exciting single player story with some great arcade style driving. On top of that there was the multiplayer side of things which offered gameplay differing from other driving games, with game modes which focused more on the fun factor than all out racing. A game which is still amazing fun every time you start it up.
4. L.A. Noire
An open world game from Rockstar, not a huge surprise there. However L.A. Noire was something a little different from the likes of GTA or Red Dead Redemption. The fact that you don’t or even can’t run around the large open world game causing havoc and breaking the law, primarily because you are the law. L.A. Noire plays completely differently to any other open world game but is just as much fun to play as you search crime and murder scenes for evidence before tracking down suspects and using some amazing in game facial motion capture you can look for and spot tell tale signs of both lying and honesty before charging the suspect you believe was guilty. That does not of course mean that there is no action, the car driving and shootouts are present, they are just spread throughout the game more liberally. This fact Does not detract from how enjoyable the game is to play.
3. Batman Arkham City
Arkham Asylum quickly became one of my favourite games upon its release. It was a Batman game which actually gave the gamer the feeling of playing as the Dark Knight and so when a sequel was announced not long after it, all we had to do was wait. The wait was more than worth it as the follow up game, while retaining the base game play of the original, also surpassed it on every other level. Although not a huge improvement technically, the game was just so much more fun and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that Arkham City was a more open world game than Asylum, meaning the game was not as linear and more open giving the player the choice of what they wanted to do and when, be it continuing on the main story, taking on one of the games many side quests, taking on one of the games many challenges or just taking on huge groups of evil minions with the easy to use yet complex button bashing combat style of the game.
2. Portal 2
At the time when Portal 2 was released on consoles, I had never played the original (I have now played Portal and enjoyed it just as much as the follow up game) so I actually played the second game before the first. The very moment I started playing I was pretty much hooked. I knew going in that the game was based around solving complex puzzles but I was unaware of the extreme lack of combat in the game. I went in thinking, it’s in first person so there will be at least a little shooting. How wrong I was. But truth be told it turned out I enjoyed the game more so than the majority of FPS games I have played. The sense of accomplishment you get from the title when you spend hours, in some cases, trying to solve one of the games devious puzzles, only to realise how obvious it was, is amazing. And then when you throw in a whole other half of the game as an online co-op challenge where you must work as a two robot team to solve some equally challenging brain teasers, it becomes an even more enjoyable experience. Sure it can have you swearing, thinking or just staring at the screen hoping the solution comes to you for hours on end, but nothing beats the feeling of figuring stuff out in the end.
1. Uncharted 3
There can really only be once choice for me in the end, despite it being yet another great year for games and gamers. There have been so many to choose from including a great number I wanted to put in this list, but had to limit it to five. No matter what else made it though, Naughty Dog’s third title in the Uncharted series was always going to be here somewhere. Even before it had been released I knew that if it was only half the game Uncharted 2 was, it would still be the game I wanted to play this year. Upon its release, I was happy to say that I was not disappointed. The single player campaign, although slightly shorter than I hoped as it left me wanting for more, was a both a brilliant game playing experience and an amazingly well told story full of action packed moments, beautiful scenery and heated gunfights. Then you throw in a multiplayer experience which, after a couple of initial update patches, rivals that of the second game, giving hours of fun which to me at least even offers more fun than a certain First Person Shooter multiplayer experience.
What a year it has been! There have been highs (The viral trailer for Dead Island) and there have been lows (Realisation that the game was nothing like the trailer – although it was still a very good game), good times (The launch of the 3DS) and bad times (The relatively slow roll out of 3DS games), tears of joy and tears of sorrow (A solid release date for Duke Nukem Forever, and actually playing the game).
Before I reveal my personal top 5 games of the year, I would like to offer an honourable mention to two games that have occupied hours and hours of my time, Tiny Tower and The Settlers Online.
Both of these games run continuously even when the player is not actively playing them, so the time spent “playing” these games can actually be measured in days for settlers online, and months for tiny tower.
I started my tower way back in June and, although the novelty has worn off slightly, I still check the tower daily and order new stock. Currently on 102 floors, I am determined not to quit until I have successfully built one of each floor type.
The settlers online is still in beta and I have only been playing for a few weeks, but the game is constantly loaded in my browser, from morning to night. Currently just about to hit level 26, I can see me playing this well into the new year and would be very surprised if this didn’t appear in my top 5 list for 2012.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 games for 2011:
1. Batman Arkham City
2. Saints Row The Third
4. Uncharted 3
5. Pokémon Black/White
There is no doubt in my mind that Arkham City is the best game of the year, but that is not to say that there haven’t been many great games in 2011. My reasons for the other choices in my top 5? Saints Row for the sheer fun and stupidity, Skyrim for scope, Uncharted 3 for the story and cinematic experience, and Pokémon simply for nostalgia.
What will the new year bring? Well, a new handheld for starters in the form of the Vita. Then we have more news on the Wii-u to come. Game-wise, a year is a long time and I am hopeful that it will be as good as 2011, but let’s hope the developers and publishers spread them out a bit this time.
So there you have it – a look back at some of the best games of 2011 with some of our reasons why they are still in our disc drives months after hitting shop shelves.
But here’s to 2012 being another year of excellent gaming and events, a year which is already shaping up to be just as great if not better with the likes of Max Payne 3, Mass Effect 3 and Grand Theft Auto 5. But that’s all still to come.