Thursday, 29 December 2011

Top Ten Games of 2011

Disclaimer: Before anyone gets pedantic, this is my list of the best games that I played during 2011 rather than were released during 2011 (although this is the same in many cases).

Really there were a whole bunch of excellent releases during 2011. 
Here's the ten best games that I came across during 2011. 
Starting with the worst-of-the-best at number 10 
and working up to my Game of the Year at number 1.

10: ANNO 1404 [PC]
Gorgeous and deep, this city management adventure balances story with gameplay perfectly.
Growing your city is not simply a matter of patience, but one of skill, practice and keen attentiveness. Pay attention to the world events, and turn a disastrous incident into a profitable venture. 

Spent many, many happy hours creating huge and advanced cities - learning when to expand and when to focus on moving supplies around. Surprisingly rewarding too - cities and armies look spectacular and offer a truly grand sense of achievement.

9: From Dust [PSN]
Made me giggle like a schoolchild when I saw the water effects in action. This wonderful puzzler puts you in the role of a deity who has the power to move sand, water and lava. Using this skill to change the landscape around you, you must guide your followers to safety.

Water cascades down hillsides and runs according to the lie of the land - add some sand to direct the flow and pile some lava on to create new rocks. It works beautifully and it's only the lack of much other to do than the 10 or so story missions that holds this back from a higher position in the chart.

8: Wipeout HD & Fury [PSN]
So fast I genuinely wonder if my brain works too slow to process this stuff. If there is a series that needed a high definition reboot, it's Wipeout. Works perfectly - visuals, sounds and controls are all crisp and well-implemented.

Loads of missions on 3 different difficulty settings to be getting on with before you even consider heading online or for some co-op racing action. A brilliant entertainment package that as an added bonus I got for free.

7: Golden Sun: Dark Dawn [DS]
A charming kids RPG which boasts clever use of special abilities, massive range of fighting styles and options and a fantastic visual presentation - this really has it all. One of the best games on the DS.

Kept me hooked for days and days - loads of hidden routes and secrets to find, loads of creatures to capture ready to summon in battle (it's not quite as Pokemon as it sounds), basically there's loads on offer here. Shame the story is so fixed - but at least it's interesting enough to keep you going.

6: Portal 2 [PS3]
Had a hard time from the start by trying to live up to its predecessor, but it doesn't do too bad a job. The single player campaign doesn't quite have the same charm, but the humour and creativity are still oozing out of the walls. 

The puzzle additions in both single and co-op modes are welcome, and opened up the game in ways I hadn't imagined. Both my old flame GlaDOS and newcomer Wheatley had me in stitches the whole way through - definitely the funniest game of 2011. 

5: L.A. Noire [PS3]
Now I will be the first to agree that L.A. Noire was a long way off perfect. The characters bodies didn't seem to move along with their heads, the action sequences were second-rate and the plot jumped as if playing on a scratched vinyl.

But in terms of the investigations, the interrogations and the technology on show - walking down the street and watching each passer-by comment and chatter with full facial movements to back it up - this was a landmark step in gaming. 

All it needed was to have more confidence to do what it did best a bit more and to leave out all the other crap that it was using to draw in a wider market.

4: Skyrim [PS3]
A sprawling and organic world that has a multitude of options for how you want to find your way through it. Magic FEELS powerful. Towns FEEL alive. Giants, dragons and trolls roam the landscape. 

Although prone to glitches and slightly deceptive restrictiveness, the negative points didn't ever stop me playing. Hopefully this will be at least partially resolved in an upcoming patch.

With a main quest that will last you upwards of 50 hours (and making your own adventures can last you for hundreds of hours longer), this is truly EPIC in every sense of the word, and you won't find another fantasy that looks and plays quite as good as it.

3: ICO and Shadow of the Colossus [Classics HD]
Two of the best (and sadly most overlooked) PS2 titles ever. This collection restores them to better than their former glory - offering an update that reminds you what made them stand out in the first place.

The unorthodox but tight control system, the beautiful aesthetic style, the sense of scale to the castle and collosi - all of these things mark these two out as videogaming gems.

Both are unique experiences, clearing influencing a lot of subsequent gaming but offering a perfectly-designed blueprint to follow. Play them for a rewarding, challenging and artistic gaming experience.

2: Saint's Row: The Third [PS3]
Brilliant fun - lots to play around with and smash to pieces. Expanding on the great parts of Saints Row 2 and adding in some crazy-stupid new ones - this game is 25 hours of explosions, dick jokes and gangsta action. 

Take it online to share the stupidity with the friends you know well enough for them to not run away screaming and this is an absolute riot. If only there was some better long-term features, this may well have been in the top spot.

1: Batman: Arkham City [PS3]
Every other game this year had 2 or 3 clear areas where it could have been improved. Arkham City was virtually problem-free. Minor combat gripes did nothing to detract from the joy of taking out crowds of baddies in comic-book fashion. Having too many villains in one space was both a good and a bad thing - and worked well in the comic-book setting.

The story plays out at a perfect pace, allowing you to build your skills while keeping challenges and extra side-quests available. A steady bunch of upgrades expands your options until you are finally  loose around the city, and it's oh so brilliantly fun. As close as we'll get to GTA: Gotham... for now.

Add to that a bunch of extra combat and stealth missions at the end and an extra, harder story mode to complete if you fancy it - this is the definitive Bat experience, and one of the best videogames in the past few years. 

Totally deserving of the title of my GAME OF THE YEAR.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree?
What are your top games of 2011? 
Feel free to comment below and let me know.

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