Alright first of all, I’m no critic and whatever I say you can take with a grain of salt. I just know what I like and I’m gonna tell you what I like. But I have to say that there were a lot of great games that came out this year and there are quite a few I still need to play (I’m looking at you Skyrim!!), but with that in mind I feel satisfied jumping into this list. Let’s get to it!
This is What Friends Are For: Portal 2
When it comes to sequels there is a bar that needs to be met, especially if the game that came before it was as highly praised as Portal. So expectations were high from the fans. Well I’ll say right now that I’m not one of those fans. Don’t get me wrong – I played the game and I did beat it, but that’s about it. It was kinda like a one night stand – you get together and have a really good time, but the following day you just move on and don’t think about it again. So when Portal 2 was announced I wasn’t excited. Heck, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to play it. In fact the only reason I actually did play it was because my friend wanted somebody to play co-op with and I had nothing better to do. Then as I started playing all the memories of that night oh-so-long-ago came rushing back to me as I came in for round 2. Honestly the experience was probably the most fun I had in a game all year. The puzzles were challenging and the game really needed both players to really work together to get it done. I did get around playing the solo campaign sometime later and I felt about the same as I did for the first game. If anything I’ll give it more credit with the inclusions of the characters of Wheatley and Cave Johnson which made the experience more enjoyable (Particularly J.K. Simmons’ performance had me laughing constantly). It was a fun solo campaign, but I think the co-op was more challenging (Then again, I may just be an idiot). While it was a game worth playing through I’ll probably never come back to it again. But that experience I had with the co-op is what really made an impact on me and wrapped with a pretty decent solo campaign, I think it deserves to be right on this list.
Proof Comic Book Games Can Mean Business: Batman: Arkham City
I’m a huge comic book fan and I’m a huge Batman fan. When Arkham Asylum came out a few years ago I went absolutely berserk and the played the living daylights out of it. Arkham City was my most looked forward to game of 2011. Did it meet my expectations? I have to say yes and no. Did I enjoy it? Heck yes I did! I think the game is a mixed bag, so I can understand why people wouldn’t be on the bandwagon for this game.
Lets look at the story. It’s very simple – they built Arkham City in the middle of Gotham after the destruction of the original Asylum but they left Hugo Strange, a known villain, in charge of it. Bruce Wayne publicly states he’s against the prison but is thrown in along with many other political prisoners. Bruce changes into Batman and now he has to figure out what Strange wants to do with Arkham City. The story in itself feels like a comic book story: it’s simple and at times seems like a lot of coincidences occur like “Lets go see the Joker, who makes me go see Mr. Freeze but Mr. Freeze is kidnapped by the Penguin who happens to be working for Strange, then Batman saves Freeze but needs to find Ra’s al Ghul” and so on and so forth. The game has you running in circles for the first half of the game, but once it starts – it starts to build and build, and the climax of the game really makes everything before it totally worth it. I really have to give my props to Rocksteady for going out of their way to make their own continuity and felt that they shouldn’t be held back by the many other Batman stories told before.
The flaws: While it’s cool to see all these characters, a lot of them don’t get as much time as they deserve, which I find more annoying than satisfying. In Arkham Asylum all the villains had their place in the spotlights and got an even amount of time. One of the benefits of this large cast though is we get treated to probably one of the most well-acted games of the year! Conroy and Hamill give it their all to these roles and it really reminds us why we loved them as these characters so long ago. I also thought it was a treat seeing voice actors such as Troy Baker (Two-Face), Nolan North (Penguin) and Dee Bradley Baker (Ra’s al Ghul) taking on these roles for the first time and doing such a great job.
Now the biggest change is the open world and the addition of side quests, both of which really played against the game rather than improving upon it. I often found myself annoyed when I traveled around the map and the side quests don’t pop up unless you stumbled upon the right spot at the right time. While some of the side quests were interesting, some got annoying pretty fast and really tedious. The game has its flaws but I can’t help but love this game because what it does well it REALLY does well, which makes me look past the faults. It’s just a fun ride, the actors are having fun and I was having fun.
My Biggest Surprise of the Year: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Let me tell you something right now: Before Human Revolution, I had never played a Deus Ex game in my entire life. I had no idea this game was coming out and had no idea what it was even about until my friend Pete talked about it. Even then I wasn’t all too interested, but my friend Craig ended up getting it for me as a gift, so I figured I would give it a shot since he spent a decent chunk of change to give it to me. Final thoughts? Blew me away. I had no expectations about this game, read no reviews and knew very little and that was probably the biggest benefit to the game – a clean slate.
First of all, I love the world it’s set in. It’s this futuristic, Blade Runner-like world (If you got me to think Blade Runner, you’re already getting some brownie points.) where the human race is at a constant argument about the advancement of humanity. This arguments involves the adding of cybernetic implants to humans – Does this take our humanity from us or is this just evolution? The argument alone sets the gears turning in my head and I’m lured in. The plot starts off simple. It’s basically like Robocop, but adding all the stuff in the world that’s constantly having people at odds just makes it all the more interesting. I also love that you can approach this game any way you want and you’ll be able to progress the story, whether I’m gonna sneak my way through the back of the facility, to going in guns-a-blazing, or somewhere in the middle. Sadly the game has it’s flaws. The boss battles are really weak and, if anything, makes the game a bit jarring. Why can’t I talk my way out of a boss battle? Or even take him out via stealth? With a game that emphasized on choice, you’d think that would be taken into consideration. The voice acting isn’t the best, mostly just serviceable but everything else in the game is so great that I’m willing to look past those flaws.
You Don’t Know What Fun is Until You Play: Saints Row: The Third
Hey… You should play Saints Row… What, you’re still here? What the hell man?! I’ve given you all the reason to play this game! Alright, well I can’t see how much I can add onto what Grant said about the game already but I’ll do my best.
Like Deus Ex, this was a big surprise but unlike Deus Ex I kinda knew what I was getting myself into before I put the disc into my console. I had heard it was goofy and wacky. Sure, I have nothing better to do and my Brother already owns the game so what do I have to lose? Well let me tell you something, brother! This was the best game I played all year. Yes, I said it! I’m in love with Saints Row! I never thought I would see the day I would say such words! The game has a fantastic sense of humor, really fun gameplay, and just a nonsensical world I just want to see more of! The game knows what it is and rolls with it. Nothing felt half-assed because they went all the way with this bad boy! Everything in the plot is quite possibly insane, but since it depicts what kind world it takes place in right from the get-go, it doesn’t feel forced or out of place. You’ll grow to love the characters and the crazy shenanigans you’ll be doing. I rarely like to 100% games nowadays but I did EVERYTHING you could do in this game and I enjoyed every second of it! (Refer to Grant’s review for a better explanation of this game. We basically share the same thoughts.)
My Favorite Game of the Year: Bastion
First of all, the art design will probably lure you in right away. If you look at the cover on the LIVE arcade you’ll be taken in by the cool design of the main character and the colors it uses. In fact if you should go look up some more art from the series, that alone will probably get you interested in the title. The art style shows how creative the game is going to be, and a lot of that does translate into the game. The interesting color palette is there so everything stands out and pops, the level design is neat and seeing it being created before your eyes is really cool. The game is just flowing with creativity from the level design to the story and even the music. Sidetrack – the music in this game is phenomenal! Each piece of the soundtrack really sets the mood of the game to the point where I would sit and just listen to the music sometimes. The gameplay is fun and addicting, with the many weapon choices and combinations along with the spirit upgrades, abilities, and Idols that effect the difficulties of the game, you can truly play the game anyway you want.
Now the most interesting part of the game is the way the story is told through the perspective of the Narrator, Rucks. This adds a charm for the game because it’s something I’ve never seen done. The story and even the world is interesting. We’ll learn the tales of The Kid and how the world ended up in this state of Calamity, the war that took place and how it affected the people and it’s all done through one character narrating the story. I felt the tragedy of the situation and what the characters were going through despite the fact that most of them don’t even speak a single bit of dialogue. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer, which in itself is probably the biggest compliment I can give a game. I’ll be sure to come back and play this game many times in years to come.
L.A. Noire: This game had everything I wanted: a time period I love, to living my unrealistic dream of being a Detective.
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: A lot of hours were put into this game. Just a fun fighting game that I absolutely loved.
Dead Space 2: While it’s been a really fun game thus far I have yet to finish it, thus why it couldn’t be in the list. But I felt it deserved an HM. Great action, sci-fi game.