The 50 Most Talked About Games of 2011: Part III
Yesterday I looked at some of the big spring and summer releases of 2011; today we near the holiday season. The early fall was filled with a number of quality games, including two of my favorite ten games of the year. Again, games are listed in order of date of release, the number following the title in parentheses is the Metacritic score at the time of this writing, and I’ve identified some of my personal favorites regardless of what the critics said.
7/26 Catherine (80)
Catherine wins my awards for Strangest Game of the Year, Sexiest Game of the Year, and Most Interesting Game of the Year. Unfortunately, it also wins Most Annoying Game Mechanic, which completely killed my desire to play the game past the demo. Catherine is difficult to describe, but the essential plot is that you’re caught in a love triangle between two girls, one named Catherine and the other named Katherine. You’re basically playing an interactive movie during the day; at night you’re forced to participate in these (weird, very weird) dream sequences that involve solving an extremely complex block puzzle that involves you dying. Often. I wanted to like this game because of how unique it was, but the puzzle sections completely ruined the experience. The game did sell very well , exceeding expectations.
8/23 Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Top Games of the Year: Number 4; Biggest Surprise) (90)
I didn’t really expect to like Deus Ex, at least not as much as I ended up liking it. I never played the extremely well received original (PC exclusive), and going into the game I hadn’t done enough research into my purchase. I was just anxious to play something new and didn’t want to wait until Gears came out. Essentially I was thinking it would be a stopgap. What I got was much more than that. Deus Ex is a great RPG/FPS hybrid. I enjoyed the ability to solve the puzzles in different ways depending on my play style, and while I generally tried to hack my way through the game, I can see that others may have tried to either sneak or generally blast their way through the enemies. I was also extremely impressed with the visual style of the game. The black and gold color scheme fit the game perfectly, and the combat was generally very rewarding. The different guns felt great, and hacking an enemy bot and using it against them was always a delight. The game was far from perfect, though: the boss fights were especially terrible, and the story’s conclusion left a lot to be desired, but I was having too much fun along the way to care.
9/1 Jetpack Joyride (Best iPhone game) (91)
I heard more about this game than any other iPhone game of 2011. It’s played in much the same way as Tiny Wings: your character is always running or hovering forward, and you tap the screen to use his jetpack to fly over obstacles. It’s all about getting as far as you can, and there is a neat achievement system (again like Tiny Wings) to propel you forward. Every 20 levels you can trade in a badge and start your achievements all over again while your level continues growing (think Call of Duty’s prestige system). I’m currently at level 63, and I don’t see an iPhone game on the horizon that will unseat this one. It’s perfect anytime you need something to distract you for 5-10 minutes a day. Don’t feel like you’re flushing away 99 cents on this game; it’s a great example of what iPhone games do best.
9/6 Resistance 3 (83)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to those reading this list that I haven’t played a minute of any of the Resistance games on PS3, for the same reasons I described when I talked about Killzone. I’m not a huge FPS fan, and the games I do play are on the Xbox because of the community features. I was surprised, however, at the lukewarm reception this game received. The Resistance franchise has generally been one of the stronger Playstation exclusives, but I read a number of reviews that beat this game up pretty hard. If you’ve played this game, let me know what you thought in the comments.
9/6 Dead Island (80)
When the Dead Island trailer was released early this year, it was the talk of the gaming community. Arguably the greatest video game trailer of all time, it is incredibly engaging, heart-wrenching, and emotionally affecting. It also worked from a marketing standpoint. No one was talking about Dead Island before the game trailer came out. After the trailer’s release, every gamer I knew wanted to play the game. When I first saw the trailer, I envisioned a game that played a lot like my favorite game from 2010, Heavy Rain. As footage of the game started to leak, I realized that wasn’t the case. Instead, we got a four-player online game that focuses on destroying zombies and includes a number of RPG elements. Since Left 4 Dead is one of my favorite games of all time, I still had extremely high hopes for this game. I readjusted my expectations to Left 4 Dead combined with Borderlands. However, the game falls short of both of my lofty expectations. Dead Island was clearly rushed ,and because of this a lot of the menus are extremely difficult to navigate. Also, the gameplay to me was exceptionally boring. The quests were almost always fetch quests and the leveling system didn’t seem to actually provide you with additional benefits. The zombies just level with you and you die at the same rate you did before. I’d describe the game as World of Warcraft with zombies, and if you know me, you know I hate the leveling grind that is WoW. The game can be fun with three other people, but like WoW, you need to make sure everyone is the same level. In addition to this, the story is terrible, the character models are awful, and the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve ever heard in a video game. Honestly, I really hated this game. My advice is to live your life and not waste your time and money on Dead Island. Play something else.
9/9 Star Fox 3D (81)
Here’s another 3D remake of a classic N64 game. I may be beating a dead horse at this point, but I still can’t believe it took Nintendo nine months to release a new great 3D experience on their new system. Star Fox is still fun, especially with multiple players. You can buy the game for $10 on the Virtual Console, so you’ll have to decide if 3D and portability is worth the additional $30.
9/13 The Gunstringer (76)
Double Fine’s first Kinect attempt, The Gunstringer is one of the best on the platform. Of course, this in and of itself isn’t saying much. The Kinect, while a commercial success, has been a complete failure in the eyes of hardcore gamers. Although I did enjoy The Gunstringer, and the use of the Kinect to simulate a Western was unique and fun, I might have enjoyed it just as much without waving my hands around. If you have a Kinect and are looking for something to play on it, check this out.
9/20 Gears of War 3 (Top Game of the Year: Number 7; Best 360 Exclusive) (91)
The last in the Gears of War trilogy is Epic’s best game yet. The single-player story is still ridiculous and over the top, but you can now play with up to four players cooperatively, and this game really showcases the graphical power of the Xbox. The multiplayer also is fun and has a number of different modes. My favorite is Horde mode, which can be played with up to five people. There is also Beast mode, which allows you to play as the Locust, which is fun. All the standard modes are also available, and Epic seems to have fixed their matchmaking issues. Personally, I never like deathmatch as much as co-op because I get killed by people way better at the game then I am. Also, I’m quite tired of watching people dive and shotgun me in the face.
9/27 Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (Best HD Remake) (91)
Shadow of the Colossus is one of the greatest games ever made. Unfortunately, lots of people never played it because it came out at the tail end of the Playstations’s life cycle (after the Xbox 360 was released). This remake is a great way to experience the game if you have not before. I never played Ico, but once the holiday season slows down, I hope to try the game many say is one of the most overlooked games of all time.
10/4 NBA 2K12 (90)
Because of a lengthy labor holdout, there will be a shortened NBA season this season. This didn’t stop 2K from making another version of their wildly successful basketball simulation. I bought NBA 2K11 even though I don’t buy many sports games. I thought it was good, but I didn’t have any desire to run out and buy the latest version. The reviews did say that the game was worth the money, but you’d need to be a pretty big sports gaming fan to buy this game every year.