We aren’t quite done with our ‘Our Games of the Year’ piece as three riders in the night have appeared ready to supply their thoughts on the best games of the past year. Hit the jump to see what Steph, Nick and Andrew had to say.
Game of the Year – Deus Ex: Human Revolution
At times, Human Revolution’s understanding of what made Deus Ex so great seems a little too cautious, perhaps even slightly checklist-like. It reinvents wheels that it was criminal for gaming to lose the use of in the first place – but what it adds and refines elevates it, I think, well above the original. It’s an intensely immersive game, and one that reminds you that a decade ago, games didn’t really trouble themselves with ‘art direction’. The sound, visuals, superior combat and parred down role playing are far from the best of it though.
The story is the deal-clincher: Deus Ex’s world of conspiracies and fantasy nanotechnology have been exposed as the B-movie material we should have been able to see them for, by a story of frankly frightening resonance. Sure, all the original’s silly factions are somewhere in the background, but the augmentation debate takes centre stage, and if there will be a more appropriate year to talk about the importance of tech and an increasingly socially stratified world… I’m not sure it’s going to be all that fun to see it. In that sense, Human Revolution is truely a game of the year – not simply the best game I played this year, but truely a game ‘about’ the year in which it was released.
2. Portal 2
Pity the comedy fan who has never picked up a controller: 2011 was something of a low-key year for guffaws, and Portal 2 contained the best of them. Perhaps it was the underlying sense of global unrest and the relentless assault of weighty news events. Perhaps conventional comedy writers were simply so depressed that Bad Teacher was in cinemas that they could do nothing more than stare into the middle distance with eyes that beg for the sweet release of death. But without Portal 2, 2011 would have been a humourless year indeed.
With that kind of background, it’s kind of apt that Portal 2 is set away from civilization, insulated from the madness of the outside world and packed with fantastic skits and one liners. Impressive too was the way that the short-form original was successfully translated into a ‘feature-length’ product. Consider how many great comedy television shows made merely passable films, and you’ve got to admire Portal’s transformation. And that the real beauty of it: it invites comparrisons with other entertainment mediums in a way that most games don’t. Perhaps they diluted the actual ‘game’ itself a little too far, but the result was far too charming to be offensive.
3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
The third Uncharted game, sequel to two games that are quite good is also quite good. Somewhere between Portal 2 and Assassin’s Creed Revelations good, in fact. Expect a comprehensive review of how good that is when the turkey sandwich supplies run dry. Or run out. Turkey is usually dry.
4. Assassin’s Creed Revelations
I played and completed all four Assassin’s Creed games this year, which is probably something to be proud of only when at my most irrational. On a technicality, Brotherhood was a 2011 release (PC releases are still releases, even despite Ubisoft’s best efforts), so I could have slotted that in here… but no, Revelations is this year’s Assassin’s Creed release, as ridiculous as that notion is. Perhaps Revelations will start to look clever when the real sequel comes out next year and cuts all of the ridiculous fluff that weighed this otherwise solid new entry down. Perhaps.
5. Sonic Generations
As ever, my year has been a mix of the nostalgic and perhaps too few up to the minute games. I don’t think anyone had the good fortune to see any more than half of the great new titles the last two months alone have given us, but having missed out on several good titles, I can’t help but feel like I could have been playing something more significant than Sonic Generations. That something was probably Skyrim, if for no better reason than seeing my housemates playing it was quite literally like being locked indoors whilst everyone got to play outside in the snow.
But Sonic Generations deserves its dues. It sounded like such a peculiar mix of nostalgia and ugly modernity and it ended up being something remarkably enjoyable. There were almost certainly more than four games better than it in this year’s release slate, but on a personal level it struck a chord I thought I’d never hear played again.
Game of the Year – L.A. Noire
I know, I know. I didn’t expect it either. But after giving this list some serious thought, I’m confident in my decision. L.A. Noire is definitely my Game of the Year 2011. Sure, it’s got a list of flaws as long as my arm. It’s repetitive, particularly by the time you reach disc three, and it’s difficult too. But it’s also bloody good fun, rather unusual in how it works, and thoroughly refreshing throughout. And as the GTA series is, without doubt, my favourite gaming series to date, the option to play this style of game, from the right side of the law for once, is quite simply unparalleled.
2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Arriving at Human Revolution as a Deus Ex virgin, I was quickly taken in by the hybrid of stealth action with run-and-gun first person shooter-y goodness. The storyline was good, the boss battles were bad. But overall, the customisation on offer on here, and the ability to truly play this game in the way that YOU want, makes Human Revolution a worthwhile entry in my top five.
3. Quarrel Deluxe
Recently, when looking for a quick gaming fix, I’ve turned to my iPod Touch on an increasing number of occasions. And although my progress in Skyrim has halted somewhat as a result, I’m glad that I’ve done so, as it has allowed me to discover a true gem – Quarrel Deluxe. A combination of Risk and Scrabble, Quarrel is incredibly fun to play, and has certainly revitalised my love for the pair of age-old board games it’s lucky enough to call mum and dad.
4. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Despite boasting a deep storyline, an expansive and detailed world, and more dragons that you can shake a stick at, Skyrim isn’t my personal Game of the Year for one very valid reason – it feels too much like Oblivion. I know that I’m probably alone in this view, particularly as Skyrim is such a widely praised RPG, but, to me, there’s not enough in the way of significant progression here to render it my Game of the Year. It’s definitely a game of red mist calibre, but that’s not enough. At least not in my books, anyway.
In my teenage years, I sunk a lot of time into flash games; Dig Dug stole many hours of my life, MotherLoad cruelly robbed days from me, and after that a deep-set addiction to games that allowed me to dig an expansive underground network of tunnels set in. I’m not very artistic either, and so designing houses in Terraria was far easier than in Minecraft. Terraria is almost Minecraft for the less visually creative; which suits me fine.
Game of the Year – Skyrim
So much has been written about Skyrim in the past month, but it’s unquestionably one of the finest RPGs I have ever played. Building on the firm foundations established by Oblivion and Morrowind before it, Bethesda have taken the concept of sandbox gaming to its up-most by setting you loose in one of the largest and most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. Not only that, but they’ve achieved the impossible and actually managed to fill it from end to end with unusual encounters, astounding sights and thrilling combat.
With the Creation Kit only just around the corner, and thousands of modders eager to get to grips with it. I know Skyrim is a world I’ll be living in for a long time to come.
2. Amnesia – The Dark Descent
A first person adventure that plunges you into a horrifically sinister and foreboding environment, where eyes watch you from every corner and death shadows your every move. Frictional Games are true masters of the macabre, proving it’s not so easy facing down the forces of darkness when you’ve got no chainsaw to hand. An absolutely unforgettable experience.
3. Frozen Synapse
It’s chess. Chess with guns. And the idea of chess with guns is awesome. Frozen Synapse is a tough, but infinitely rewarding battle of wits whether you’re playing against a human or AI opponent. Plan your attack to your hearts content, then place your fate in the lap of the gods as your best laid plans fall to pieces around you.
4. Deux Ex – Human Revolution
Nothing says incompetence like entering a hostage crisis situation and forgetting to rescue the hostages. Whilst most games would force me to reload at this point, Deus Ex takes it all in its stride and lets me carry on regardless. Also, I can sneak into position unseen, then punch down a wall and throw an automated turret at someone’s head. And how many games let you do that?
The rise of Minecraft throughout 2011 has been an inspiration to thousands of amateur developers, showing the world that games don’t need fancy graphics or need to be dark and gritty to succeed. Once you’ve seen a cow tilt its head at you in a quizzical manner, you can’t help but fall in love with its charms.