2011 in Review: Video Games!

    The Games of 2011!

Yes, a year-end wrap-up column in lieu of an actual review of an actual game! Why, you ask? Because I can’t stop playing Star Wars ToR, of course! I haven’t played anything new that I can talk about, aside from a little daliance with Dynasty Warriors 7 – actually, more than a little daliance. It’s getting talked about in this very column!

Now, after I went through everything I played this year, I realized I didn’t have enough material to make a list of good games or bad games. I just didn’t play enough different games this year. That’s the tragedy of writing about a medium where I either have to wait a while for availability (still plodding along with Gamefly. I haven’t mastered the magic of RedBox yet) or spend $60 in order to play the game. The other problem is that it takes me ages to finish things off; even RedBox might not be able to save me.

So in lieu of some kind of ferentic rankings column where I attempt to explain which game I liked best, I’m instead going to count down 10 games I liked from this year in a numerically ranked order, then give some honourable mentions.

10. Bulletstorm
A game which received seemingly almost universally positive reviews, but only Arleigh and I seem to have ever played. Granted, it has its obsession with peurile humour – it stirred up some heated controversy with morons. However, the game has a rich environment (with refreshingly brilliant backgrounds, colour is everywhere!) and its storyline is full of dark humour which I very much appreciated. The gameplay is exactly like a Gears of War title that doesn’t take itself seriously. This was a solid title.

9. Madden NFL 12 / NCAA Football 12
Neither of these games merits full consideration. If you don’t like paying the Madden Tax, you probably buy these games only when your current copy begins to feel dated. It’s worth mentioning that the dynasty modes in NCAA Football 12 have expanded considerably in scope, and Madden NFL 12 has a (relatively) credible electronic opponent. The online franchise mode in Madden is worth owning one of the newer titles (I believe it was introduced in Madden 10) if you have other folks you want to break on the interwebs.

8. L.A. Noire
The motion-capture technology used to produce this game remains one of the most stunning achievements I’ve ever come across in video games. I also think it’s an inspired choice by Rockstar to make a game that breaks away from the style of both GTA and Red Dead. Although many of the controls are the same, L.A. Noire is a very distinct experience from Rockstar’s other offerings. Note that it does not have a number after its name. That’s kind of exciting! I will say, the game seems to demand to be played in small doses… there are only so many faces I can analyze for tiny lies in one feverish night before they start to blend together, and it’s not always ‘traditionally’ fun to play. My other main complaint? The game doesn’t do nearly enough to tell the player what level of accusation we should be leveling at the suspect.

7. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
I don’t have too much to add about this one. I think it’s an improvement on the previous installments of the game. I find it more accessible, I like the weapon selections, and I greatly prefer shotguns being a primary weapon. That having been said, the map selection in this title doesn’t offer enough variety of ranges. It’s missing a big, sniper-friendly map. That really encourages people to quickscope more, and nothing frustrates me more (well, when I’m not the one doing it) than a lot of quickscopers running around. Bah.

6. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
This game’s stock took a huge hit when they abandoned trying to support it and decided to put out a re-issue instead. At least the re-issue isn’t going to cost me $60 when I get around to picking it up. I did like the title enough to pay for a bunch of new characters…. I guess. But this was still mishandled. Disappointing!

5. Bastion
This game would have made my top ten list (not that I’m doing a rankings column) if there was a bit more meat to it. I actually thought the game experience was roughly of perfect length, but I have a thought process issue where I associate longer games giving me more pleasure for the same amount of money with… oh, wait, Bastion was just an Arcade title? That’s why I loved it! There’s so much to this little title. The narration is a standout – the game’s best feature, and the storytelling style makes it quite unique in feel, even if the gameplay itself is something we’ve seen before.

4. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Yeah, it’s pretty good. I had huge reservations about this one going in, but it’s so much better than I had ever expected. Congratulations BioWare, you might have managed to climb your way back to the top of my video game developer power rankings.

3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
This is a great game. I never did get around to reviewing it, because it took me ages to beat… but I loved the fact that the game encouraged and rewarded me for handling things stealthily. I haven’t played a game that truly, really, madly, deeply, embraced stealth from start to finish in… I don’t know, when did Thief II come out? Yikes!

2. Might and Magic Heroes VI
I’m a lifelong fan of this series, which is the same as Heroes of Might and Magic, despite the inexplicable re-arrangement of the words in the title. I was grievously disappointed with Heroes V (apparently in the minority on this, although I seem to remember hearing a lot of negative comments. Maybe people just hated that PC-crippling DRM it came with?) and found Heroes IV, while enjoyable, to be too much of a departure from the classical gameplay style. This franchise hit its pinnacle in Heroes of Might and Magic III, but this new installment… well, it took me back. I don’t necessarily approve of the degree to which it has simplified the resource management and strategy aspect of the original games, but it has plenty of improvements to make up for that, and the total control over your hero’s skill progression is a change I very much appreciate.
I should probably just review this game. Let’s move on.

1. Dragon Age 2
Well, I certainly played it the most. I was unbelievably impressed with the characters and conversations and interactions in this game. I fully understand the issues people had with it; I had some of the same issues, but every time someone asks me about this game I find that I just don’t care about its flaws. I love it so much that I totally overlook its imperfections. I can’t even be objective. I don’t know why I’m still talking.

    Other Titles

And, just as importantly, why are these other titles not on this list?

Gasp! Dragon Age 2 at number 1? Where, you ask, is Gears of War 3? You’re violently shaking me, wondering how I could have liked Bulletstorm better. The truth is? Gears of War 3 is still in its wrapping. I haven’t even played the damn game.

Well what about Arkham City? I haven’t played that one either. The market is saturated with games!

Assassin’s Creed? Looking at borrowing this one soon. What I heard about it kind of killed the series’ momentum for me, even though I’m certain this is still a fine title and enjoyable to play.

As I mentioned in the column intro, I’ve played a lot of Dynasty Warriors 7 lately. It’s exactly the same game as ever. I’m not sure what I can tell you about it that you don’t already know. I’d try anyway if I was going to do a full review; we’ll see about that.

I think I’ll do a full review on Forza Motorsport 4 when I have time to play it more thoroughly. I didn’t know I liked racing games until I got a free copy of Forza 3 with my 360 Arcade console (I had never cared much for racing games earlier in my life). Anyway, it’s an excellent title so far, but I wouldn’t feel good about slotting it anywhere at the moment. Maybe it’s like

    Final Thoughts

So, that’s it. That’s the list. Those are the games I played this year that I liked the most. I know I ranked them from 10 to 1 like some kind of rankings column (which is a kind of column I don’t do) but I’ll be honest; aside from Dragon Age at the top of the list, the rest of the order is probably arguable. And here’s the part where you argue with me! Use that handy-dandy leave a comment button below, and set your synapses firing. I want to hear why I’m wrong, and I want to hear impassioned pleas for games I either haven’t played or hated.

The 39th Annual Annie Nominations Have Been Announced

And the awards continue…

The 39th annual nominees for the Annie Awards (honoring the best in animated films, television, and video games) were announced earlier today.

The 10 nominees for best animated film of 2011:

A Cat in Paris

The Adventures of TinTin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss In Boots

The nominees for Best Animated Video Game:

  • Bumpy Road – Simogo
  • Catherine – Atlus
  • Gears of War 3 – Epic Games
  • Gesundheit – Konami Digital Entertainment
  • Ghost Trick: “Phantom Detective” – Capcom
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet – Shadow Planet Productions, Gagne/Fuelcell
  • Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One – Insomniac Games
  • Rayman Origins – Ubisoft Montpellier
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Naughty Dog

A full list of nominees can be found here.

E3 2011: Gears of War 3 Gameplay Demo

One title that also looks to finish off a trilogy that’s garnered one of the biggest gaming fanbase is Epic Games’ Gears of War 3. This franchise remains exclusive to the Xbox 360 console.

The gameplay demo shown during the Microsoft Press Conference showed some of the new enemies players will end up going against not to mention some of the new weapons deployed by the COG team led by it’s leader Marcus Fenix. Gears of War 3 continues to make great use of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3.5 as detail between what’s cutscene cinematic and gameplay continues to blur that it’s hard to notice when the transition occurs.

Gears of War 3 still set for a September 20, 2011 release.