2011 was not only about films, people. Turns out, much to the surprise of everyone I know, I also played a lot of video games last year. It’s what I do. But, since games generally come in around $50 or $60 and movies can be watched for as low as a dollar, I did not play as many games, and I certainly know well enough to have avoided many of the bad games. Thankfully, that also means this will probably be nowhere near as long as my film review, but I will also be able to say why I didn’t play the games I didn’t. Let’s find out what 2011 did for video games.
UPDATE: Jesus! I am not being facetious at all when I say that I’m shocked that this review turned out longer than my film reviews. I know I’m uber-game-nerdy, but I watched so many damned movies this year I wouldn’t have seen it coming. You’ve been warned, and you may skip to the end if you like. I will not be offended.
I did not play this game. I played the first one and found it – and especially it’s tiny star, Sackboy – quite adorable. The platforming was very well executed, but I had little to no interest in building my own levels, and that’s the draw of this game. So, when they released the sequel, I chose not to purchase it. They improved the platforming, added a lot of new creation tools, but I felt like I got the gist of the game, and thusly decided it was not worth my time.
MASS EFFECT 2
BioWare has RPG’s down to a science by this point, and they learned from the few shortcomings of the first Mass Effect game and improved them in the sequel, making combat a lot more interesting and involving without losing any of the RPG aspects that drew me in. They added some new interesting characters, like the bald girl with a bad attitude, and gave you plenty of ways to interact with your team. They also let you sex up the greater majority of the people on the Normandy. My favorite part of Mass Effect 2 was that you could load your save file from Mass Effect and that would alter the environment in the sequel. People would mention to you in conversation the choices you had made in the first game, and their effect on your current game. The problem with this for me was that I had no idea whatsoever what choices I had made in the first game and what these people are talking about. The third game is close to release, and I already have no idea what I did in Mass Effect 2. But what I do know is that I will be playing Mass Effect 3.
DEAD SPACE 2
In my opinion, this is the hands-down, bar-none greatest survival horror game to date. That’s right, I hope the back seat is comfortable, Resident Evil series. The first game introduced us to their concept of space horror, but they amped it up completely for the sequel. Dead Space 2 has fantastic controls, great graphics, tons of really creepy scenes and startling moments, and a great story. I beat this game three times in the week it came out, partially for achievements but mainly just because it was great. I even went back and played the first game right afterwards and, though I still enjoyed it, I mainly paid attention to how much better Dead Space 2 was.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE GAME
I bought this game from the Playstation Network based entirely on the fact that I’ve always wanted to spend more time in the Back to the Future universe. The game itself was pretty mediocre, playing as a puzzle solving game with lots of somewhat boring walking around and talking to people, but what sold me on it was the fact that they got Christopher Lloyd and a pretty convincing Michael J. Fox imitator to do the voice acting for the characters. I could only really recommend this game if you are a really big fan of Back to the Future and, like me, just wanted more than three films and a forgettable TV series.
MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3: FATE OF TWO WORLDS
Marvel vs. Capcom has been my favorite fighting game forever, and this game only improved on that. From what I gather from my Asian friend, TimKim, the combat mechanics are great, but what brought me to the game was the characters. And more specifically, the Marvel ones. I’ve always loved using Iron Man for his Proton Cannon, and I’m also very fond of the new introduction to the game, Deadpool, for his goofiness. The thing that keeps me from truly loving this game is the same thing that holds me back from all fighting games: I suck at them. I can be passable amongst normal humans, but superhuman Asians like TimKim will destroy me from the other room and with his back turned. I lack the dedication to fighting games to play them enough to gain any degree of excellence at them, and you can’t really play online unless you’ve got some talent. Playing solo gets boring fairly quickly, and so I did not enjoy this game as much as a dedicated fighting game person may.
I pretty much only purchased this game because of the Gears of War 3 BETA, but then I forgot to play it. Though that was not because this game was so good that I never got around to it, I just prefer waiting for the full games and I’m very forgetful. Speaking of forgetful, Bulletstorm. This game is a pretty standard first person shooter game that tacks on an interesting point system that awards you for stylish kills, like kicking someone into a giant Venus Flytrap. The game looked good, played well, and had a vaguely interesting story, it just didn’t do anything superior enough to make it more memorable.
I purchased this game shortly after it’s release with the idea to make good use of Killzone 3’s use of the Playstation Move and their rifle adapter. I played for about 10 minutes, the Playstation Move kept needing to be recalibrated, and I stopped playing. Ten months later, I figured I should give it another shot because I was doing reviews at that point and it seemed like a good game to review. Then another game came out and I stopped playing it again. I did beat it though. It was thoroughly decent. The shooting mechanics were good, they perhaps went to the vehicles a little too much, and I found the jetpack part pretty annoying. The story was pretty by the books and not worth remembering. It’s a decent shooter on the PS3, but it just can’t hold my attention.
POKEMON BLACK AND WHITE
OMG I love these games. It’s so mindless and repetitive, but so addicting to me. As people that have seen my Xbox Gamerscore may attest to, I like to collect things. So when you give me a game that I can play anywhere (that I still played in my house almost exclusively, but a lot at work as well) and spend my time exclusively collecting things and trying to ignore some lame attempt at story, I will stop that game timer with the amount of it I played. After I got all of the creatures I could get from Pokemon White, I bought Pokemon Black and did it all over again. If you can tolerate this type of game, it will certainly become a game that will give you your bang for your buck. But people will probably (and justifiably) make fun of you.
DRAGON AGE II
BioWare takes Mass Effect and throws it into a swords and sorcery setting. This was definitely a solid RPG, and one that should appeal to me more because I prefer swords and sorcery to space and shooting, but I just didn’t get the feeling that they spent enough time on this game. It was somewhat immersive, but not nearly as deep as Mass Effect. Also, I had many glitches come up in this game. Textures wouldn’t load, characters’ bodies would disappear, the game would freeze, and achievements wouldn’t unlock in their first DLC. Though they have probably fixed these problems by now, it left a bad taste in my mouth. A solid game, but it falls short of greatness.
I have literally no interest in this game. From what I gather, it’s a mediocre shooter with a story of similar quality to the movie Red Dawn. That’s not a good thing. I’m still in the process of skipping it.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: BROTHERHOOD
I’ve loved the Assassin’s Creed series since back when it was known as Prince of Persia. Why would I unleash such a sick burn on a game I really like? Uncalled for, Robert. I loved the Assassin’s Creed games when we were mainly playing as Altair and, though I liked the character slightly less, I enjoyed the game more when we jumped into Assassin’s Creed II and became Ezio Auditore de Firenze, mainly because the story and settings were so much better. I liked that Nolan North (from the wonderful Uncharted series) was the voice of Desmond Miles, the present day character that jumps into the memories of his ancestors Altair and Ezio. Brotherhood keeps us in the same time as Assassin’s Creed II, and keeps us with Ezio, but adds a lot of interesting things like your ability to recruit assassins to your cause and send them out on missions that gained them experience and made them level up. And the surprise at the end of the game sticks with me still, though a lot of the story gets a little convoluted and confusing. The gameplay keeps this game well within good times.
Crysis made a name for itself by being so graphically advanced that the greater majority of computers could not handle it. They still managed to fit this game onto consoles in Crysis 2, while still making it a graphical powerhouse. It looked fantastic and had very decent shooting mechanics, but I never really enjoyed having to tell my suit to offer better defense or stealth. It’s a very solid game, but entirely forgettable and easily ignorable.
A lot of people were waiting with baited breath for the comeback of this franchise. I wasn’t one of them. I’ve already expressed that I can’t get into fighting games enough to enjoy them thoroughly. I remember the characters, but none of them are that involving. The game does have a really long story mode for a fighting game, but the story itself was never that interesting. Combat mechanics were good, but I got bored very easily. There are a lot of things to do in this game, but only fans of fighting games would actually get into it.
LEGO PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE VIDEO GAME
Such a shame that Loni will never make it through this many video game reviews to read me mentioning Johnny Depp. He takes no part in this game, but it’s based on his movies. That counts, right? The LEGO games take well known properties such as Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, turn them into LEGOs that never speak but still manage to convey the story, and make them entirely adorable. The gameplay is really basic platforming with a little bit of building thrown in just because it’s a LEGO game, but I find the games quite enjoyable. And LEGO Pirates was actually really good looking for the series. This one and LEGO Harry Potter both use a lot of really good looking settings for such basic, LEGO characters. Probably more entertaining for children, but I like ’em too.
These games should probably connect with me far more than they’ve been able to so far. They’re decent little action RPG games with enjoyable gameplay. It’s also got a good story with a good deal of humor in it. The graphics are really great in a stylized way as well. It just doesn’t suck me in as much as I want it to for some reason. I may also have a bad taste in my mouth from the fact that you need to use multiplayer to collect all the weapons and get the achievement, and I was never able to do it. It’s a really good game, but not quite a great game to me.
I have been burnt by Rockstar before. I have never loved the Grand Theft Auto games (that made them famous) as much as the rest of the world seems to. When Red Dead Redemption came out, I was completely on board, but when L.A. Noire came out, I refused to play it for a long time because it seemed like just another GTA. Finally convinced to purchase it by a deal given to employees at my store, I bought and played it, and I’m so glad I did. This was a pretty extraordinary game. The story is involving and mature, and the gameplay (though entirely similar to GTA) is a lot more interesting because of our ability to use their facial capture technology to read people’s emotions in interviews with suspects. The facial capture really worked well, and made parts of this game more like watching a movie than playing a game, but they could’ve spent a little more time on the rest of the characters bodies. Regardless, this game is a fantastic achievement.
I have also already reviewed this game. I very much enjoyed returning to the world of Cole McGrath in InFamous 2, so much so that I dressed as Evil Cole for Halloween this year, just in case anyone doubted my nerdiness. This game has a pretty involving story, and really good gameplay, but wall-climbing that cannot hold up to Assassin’s Creed. The most fun part about them is the choices you can make, and that will most likely inspire you to play the game at least twice to see both sides. But once you do so, there’s not a whole lot of replay value. It’s still a completely solid game, and I really liked the ending.
ALICE: MADNESS RETURNS
It took so long to get to a game I had reviewed, but now they’re all up in this business. A thoroughly mediocre game, Alice: Madness Returns takes the classic story of Alice in Wonderland and makes it cool and dark, but it quickly becomes a repetitive hack-and-slash game with a mediocre story. The look isn’t even interesting all the way through as many levels just look dark and icky. Not a horrible game, but not one that you need to play.
Yet another game I have already reviewed, F.E.A.R. 3 has a really good story and makes great use of the overused slowing of time, made famous by Max Payne and the Matrix. But it was still a very solid game and definitely worth playing. The other half of that game really doesn’t deserve a play. Playing as Point Man’s ghost brother doesn’t make sense, doesn’t change the story, and doesn’t need to be here. He can be shot in ghost form, which makes being a ghost pointless, and it’s the exact same game as Point Man’s, but this time with a red tint. Still, FEAR 3 is a solid game.
DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION
I reviewed this one too! I found this game very satisfying. I did play it 3 times, but mainly for the achievements. I was never really bored with it. I like that Deus Ex has taken the first person shooter and added a little depth to it by adding RPG aspects to it. But I did feel like they needed a little more work on actually allowing people to play it as an action shooter. He could never really take enough damage to run in and throw down, so I did almost everything in stealth. The stealth kills were pretty satisfying though, but they get old as they get repeated so often. The story was pretty interesting as well, but the main character’s voice grated on my nerves a little.
GEARS OF WAR 3
The first really huge release of the year, Gears of War 3 did not disappoint. I didn’t feel like the story was as emotional as it’s predecessor, and I also didn’t feel like the story lived up to my expectations, but it was still really good. The ads for this game made me think that “Brothers to the End” meant that there would be an epic, emotional climax to the game, leaving all of your favorite characters dead and broken, but still successful in their endeavors. Instead it kind of fizzled out at the end. But the story is not why people play Gears, it’s the gameplay, which did nothing but work. They made cover-based shooters, and then set the high bar with what it could do. Adding in a few new modes to multiplayer left me playing Horde and Beast mode over and over again, and four-player co-op story mode gives you reason to go back to that. Great game.
My full review has not yet arrived as I only finished this game about 3 days ago. I was very excited for this game as it was made by the people that made Doom, and I’ve loved those games. This game looked fantastic and was only vaguely open-world, allowing you to go around a somewhat open wasteland to complete your missions, giving you well done shooting mechanics and some vehicle combat. The story is where this game fails. It’s good, but never all that exciting. And when the game ended, I was completely caught off guard because the ending seemed like every other minor mission. I think this is a great game they forgot to finish.
JUST DANCE 3
I actually purchased this game, but I have no real desire to play it. What attracted me to the game was it’s great art style and use of Kinect. The song selections are pretty eclectic, coming from genres like disco, country, rock, pop, and techno. I like this game, but I just don’t want to stand up to play it.
It is only a matter of time before I purchase this game. The reason I want the game is because it takes a Rock Band style of music game, but allows you to plug your actual guitar into it and (as it claims) actually teach you how to play guitar. I can only vaguely play guitar now, and I know practice makes perfect, so I know that this game will (if nothing else) make me play my guitar more. As fair warning, I will most likely stop doing reviews when I become the next Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen. I’m sorry, fans.
I have been asked which way I was going to go so many times when it comes to Battlefield vs. Modern Warfare 3. My response? Stalemate. I’m buying both. And, though I waited for both to go on sale, I have purchased both. Problematically, I’ve scarcely played Battlefield 3, and I’ve still not opened my Modern Warfare 3. What I had played of Battlefield was definitely promising. I like the teamwork aspects of being one of four classes that can assist the team in various ways, I like the destructible environments, and I like the vehicular combat (although every flight in a jet has resulted in a accidental water landing). Unfortunately, I will only play online with friends, and I will practically never join my friends unless they ask me to. I still enjoy the multiplayer of the game, and only time will tell on the single player.
UNCHARTED 3: DRAKE’S DECEPTION
This is how you can be a fantastic game but still be disappointing. The story is still great, the acting is top notch, the settings are amazing, and they never take you out of the game with their cinematics as they flow with great fluidity between cinematics and parts that you control. But they decided to fuck with that which did not require a fucking and messed up the shooting mechanics. It made the game very frustrating to play, as I couldn’t land the crucial headshot unless it was accidental. They may well have fixed this in a patch, but (as predicted in my review) I have not played it again since I got the Platinum trophy for it. A fantastic game, but following Uncharted 2 with a step down makes me sad.
CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3
I still haven’t played this one, so I haven’t much to say. I found myself not as interested in buying this game, and instead went with Battlefield 3, because it was on sale and because I liked Bad Company 2 so much. I would say this game didn’t interest me as much because Activision saturates the market too much with them, trying to deliver one per year, regardless of quality. But I’ve heard lots of good things, so I still picked it up. I will have to post my review once I’ve played it. I view Modern Warfare as more of a one man army counterpart to Battlefield’s team dynamic. Both are quality games generally, but I cannot say yet.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: REVELATIONS
I didn’t even know the put out two Assassin’s Creed games in the same year until I started writing this. I am literally playing this game right now. The graphics are still phenomenal, and climbing buildings and assassinating people is as satisfying as ever, but I sadly have not gotten far enough in the game yet for me to give it a complete review yet. A certain game occupied far too much of the end of my year for me to play this game enough yet.
HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED ANNIVERSARY
Why do you exist?
SAINTS ROW: THE THIRD
I got this game for Christmas and, at first, was admittedly a little bummed out about it. But then I started reading reviews for it and it seems like it’s supposed to be a good game. The other Saints Row games were like a more humorous, but less awesome version of Grand Theft Auto, a game I’m not that fond of in the first place, but all signs point to this one being the same humorous games, but better executed. Time will tell, but Rage and Assassin’s Creed definitely take priority.
ULTIMATE MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3
Marvel vs. Capcom has been my favorite fighting game forever, and this game only improved on that. From what I gather … wait a second. Didn’t I write this review already? Oh yeah! Capcom is a money-hungry, rip-off machine. Add a couple characters, charge another $40. You know they’ll buy it! And they did. But I didn’t. Get cheaper and I may, otherwise, do this shit in DLC, Capcom.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD
Almost definitely the final, quality release for the Wii, I definitely want to get this game. Unfortunately, my Wii is currently being used as a dust receptacle because I have zero desire to turn it on. I literally have not turned it on since the release of Metroid: Other M (August of 2010). I have heard mostly good things, and will certainly find out for myself eventually, but I think I’m bored of you, Nintendo. Now release that new system and become the first console I have not purchased on release day since the 2000.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC
No, I haven’t played this game either. The problem with this game is that it threatens to trick me into playing an MMORPG again. I tried World of Warcraft for a while, but I cannot be interested in a game that I cannot beat for that long. But I’m really into Star Wars, and the game looks good and sounds good. I’m fighting it, but I may eventually turn to the dark side.
THE WORST GAMES OF 2011 (AKA THE SHITTIES)
DUKE NUKEM FOREVER
I, as most gamers were, was very excited to see the return of a beloved video game character from my high school days in Duke Nukem Forever. This game has been notoriously pushed back more than any game in history, but you would think that would mean they got it right. Negative. I really want to play the whole game for some self-destructive reason, but thusfar I have only played the demo and read the reviews. My assessment: it sucks. Duke Nukem is no longer entertaining as he was to my pubescent mind; now he’s just sad. As are his gameplay mechanics. You let me down, Duke. They turned you into a pile of Duke.
Just wanted to mention, that piece of shit Jesse is the reason this game is not the worst game of 2011. You could have earned a much deserved Shitties award, Duke, were it not for Jesse. I began to regret my decision to give a game worst game of the year when I had only played the demo because of him, but you I will eventually play you and prove that you were the worst.
I was disappointed, but not surprised. An incredibly uninspired game, X-Men: Destiny came out under my radar. I had heard about it only once before it hit the shelves, but I was still looking forward to it just because it was an X-Men game. I knew it wasn’t going to be what I wanted, and it wasn’t. It was a really repetitive hack-and-slash game with the faintest of RPG thrown in for picking their powers. I thought it would be great to get to be my own X-Man in a game, and it would be, but it just wasn’t here.
AND THE LOSER, BUT WINNER OF THE 2011 VIDEO GAME SHITTIES
It took all the way up until May before the first one of these games that I reviewed came out? And what a game it was! LAME! They got everybody interested with their trailer that seemed to promise great action, amazing multiplayer, and seamless use of free-running parkour in a first person shooter. They failed to deliver on any of these levels. The action was uninteresting throughout, I couldn’t even play the multiplayer because I tried it late and everyone was bored and finished by the time I got to it, and the “seamless” parkour caused me to walk strongly into walls on more than one occasion. Also, the AI in the game was not interested in you until you shot them a few dozen times. A great idea that was just not executed.
The message that should be taken away from Brink is that you should not spend more time on your trailer than you do on the game. When your trailer is so amazing and your game is so mediocre (Think DC Universe) your game will take a greater hit than it would if it just came out as a mediocre game. Don’t set our expectations that high if you’re not going to deliver.
THE BEST GAMES OF 2011 (AKA THE ROBBIES)
Portal 2 is one of the most clever games that you can play. They take the simplest concept of being able to fire two different colors of holes into a wall, and then being able to walk through them to solve puzzles, and then makes the puzzles very ingenious to solve, adds some goo that allows you to run faster or jump higher, and adds in a basic but hilarious story with hilarious characters trying to kill you, with the voices of Ellen McLain as GLaDOS and Stephen Merchant as Wheatley. Then, you throw in a great multiplayer storyline as well. Each one of the stories is so much longer than I expected them to be for what is essentially a puzzle game, but I never got bored, even in the slightest.
Just to mention it, there was a gigantic mental war going on over here over whether the three hole would go to Portal 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, or L.A. Noire. L.A. Noire deserves a mention for is innovative gameplay and awesome facial capture. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood deserves a mention because it’s an Assassin’s Creed game and I love them. Dead Space 2 could have easily been here as well, but it’s been so long since I played it and, though it’s amazing, I just couldn’t confidently put it in the lead. But Portal 2 gets the spot because it’s too clever and too funny to be a game, but it is and it’s great.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
There was a time when “Batman game” was a curse word in the gaming community. They took DC’s greatest hero and ruined him in shitty game after shitty game. Then came Arkham Asylum, a fantastic game that let you be Batman like no other game could, and making it reminiscent of Metroid by unlocking new abilities over time that then allowed you to access new areas. Arkham City could not POSSIBLY surpass this game, could it? Yes. This game was amazing! Take the same kind of game and throw you into a huge expanse of Gotham City, allowing you to live the life of the Bat in Chris Nolan-esque darkness. Take the sometimes gimmicky Batman characters and make them dark and real as the movies had done with such success. Couple that with super tight and super satisfying combat, and you have a win. Add in some nice fun collectables that actually inspire you to look for them, plenty of side missions that could be almost as interesting as the main story, and slightly lower that with the addition of the attractive, but not as fun Catwoman, and you have yourself one amazing experience.
Most years, it would be no question in my mind that a game as fun and awesome as this one would be my number one. But this was not just any year. Another game came out this year that you all may be noticing has not been mentioned yet.
AND THE WINNER OF THE 2011 VIDEO GAME ROBBIES
THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM
Does it REALLY shock anyone that knows me that this would be my game of the year? Not even the Pokemon games could give me so many hours of gameplay for only $60 dollars. For the $70 dollars I paid to get both Pokemon games, I still cannot imagine I put in 350 hours in so few days, and I definitely can say I didn’t enjoy it as much. The devastating effects of Skyrim update 1.2 notwithstanding, I loved this game. After 1.3 fixed everything 1.2 screwed up, I started a new character and invested at least another 100 hours getting the rest of my achievements. The environment is huge and every little thing seems to have a mission tied to it. You can start new characters all the time and play your game in a way that will make it feel completely different. My first character reached level 76 as a super powerful SpellSword, master of almost all skills. My second character was strictly a master assassin, and only reached level 35, but could kill almost anything in one hit if I could sneak up on it, and I could sneak up on almost anything. The first was a good guy, the second … not so much. I tended to kill a little more indiscriminately. The graphics are way better than you should be able to see in a game that runs so smoothly and is so gigantic. And what can top single-handedly taking out an enormous dragon? Not much.
There is no way I could not make this game my game of the year. I played the living shit right out of this game, and finally had to loan it to a friend just so I wouldn’t try to start another character, even though I have all of the achievements in the game. I even loaned him the strategy guide, but he has my phone number, and thusly access to a much better strategy guide. Bethesda tried to avoid being my game of the year with update 1.2, but changed their mind and released 1.3 so that I could not stop myself from making it my game of the year.