Enjoy my friends, this has been an expensive year jam packed with incredible games. This is what happens when developers learn how to use the hardware at their disposal. I dare 2012 to be a better year than 2011!
Number 5 – Saints Row The Third
Much like my top 5 for 2010, I had one title that slipped right into my favorites of the year during my holiday break before Christmas. This title of course is Saints Row 3, this game is insane and literally plays out like a bollywood action movie. I was a new comer to the Saint Row franchise this time around, although I have enjoyed many open word crime/gang games in the past.In the past I had just pegged Saints Row as being “cheesy” or just an immature version of GTA, but after 15hrs of incredible coop play, I am convinced.
The opening sequence of this game grabbed my attention, and never let go. Over the top action, hilarious missions, and stunts everywhere you go. Sometimes my best experiences would be the chases I would start on my way to a new story based mission. Before I knew it, my brother and I had created our characters to look like J and K from Men in Black, and the madness had officially begun. Jets, RPGS, skydiving, hookers, drugs, gangs, running around naked, dildo bats, stun guns, flying motor cycles, transforming jets, this game does not know what “limits” are and it doesn’t care. This game is as interesting as the time that you put into it. I am convinced that Saint Row The Third is here to stay, and it more than deserves a slot in my top 5 this year. Thanks to the hard work form THQ and Volition!
Number 4 – Halo: Anniversary
I am a long time Halo enthusiast, so much so that my last trip was to Seattle to attend the first and only Halo fest. Halo runs through my blood and I am proud of every bullet I have ever fired, and every match I have ever played. The past 2 years as a Halo fan have been rocky. Reach received a luke warm response by the Halo community, and its player base has been declining ever since. Long are the days of Halo dominating the Xbox live charts, that place is now held for COD MW3. MLG has actually considered dropping the Halo franchise from the competitive scene for the first time in the leagues existence.
Now don’t get me wrong, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is not on my top 5 for pity, this truly was a fan service to the Halo community, and deserves some recognition. Without Halo: CE popping into my life 10 year ago, I probably wouldn’t be spending my time contributing to a video game community like IGX. I loved this game 10 years ago, and no kidding, I love it again in 2011. Revisiting the places and enemy encounters that made me fall in love with this series 10 years ago was a dream come true on my HD console. The game still plays just the way you remember it, even the parts you don’t want to remember like “The Library” on Legendary. It still kicks my ass after 10 years of practice, I still can’t decide if that is a good or bad thing.
By now we all know and love the classic Halo: CE campaign, so I must make a note on what was contributed to the multiplayer side of things. This is perhaps what the Halo community needed most. Classic maps, weapons, and setting were all reintroduced to clean up the cluttered and frustrating Reach online experience. Say goodbye to armor lock, and hello to the 3 shot pistol. Playing classic’s like Beaver Creek with a 3 shot pistol instantly reminded me of why and how I fell in love with Halo. These multiplayer changes may have been a little to late in the competitive world of FPS’s, but it did revive a much beloved game in my life, and this is why it finds its place in my top 5. Thanks 343i, you guys were incredible to meet last summer and I already have goosbumps thinking about Halo 4. Halo is king of console multiplayer and it will return to its thrown in 2012!
Portal 2 arrived early in 2011 and I was convinced it was GOTY before I had a chance to finish it. This game is exactly what the industry needs to break down stereotypes and generalities. This game is living, breathing, and beautiful art. Each moment of Portal 2 has the potential to captivate and inspire you to keep playing. I have never felt so challenged and rewarded at the same time as a gamer, I don’t know what they are drinking over at Valve Software, but I wouldn’t mind some.
I turned 24 this year, and this game gives me hope that games are growing up just like I am. Portal 2 should be used in the future to teach people how to make and design video game. It was an absolute pleasure to play this game, and still find myself recommending Portal 2 to all walks of life, gamer or non-gamer; this game has something to offer to your hungry brain.
I remember saying to myself before Portal 2 came out, that “I may not be smart enough to beat it”. Turns out I was wrong, I was smart enough, but I owe it all to Valve holding my hand through the whole thing. Just remember when playing Portal 2, if a test chamber or a puzzle is too difficult…your doing it wrong. Everything in Portal 2 is perfectly placed and crafted for a specific use and purpose. Portal 2 changed the industry forever, and I just feel grateful I got to experience it when it was fresh. If you have not played this game…stop what you are doing and find it now! Thanks Valve, you make my brain hurt!
When Epic announced that Gears of War 3 was delayed until September 2011, I was skeptical. Damn was I wrong, next time Epic, take all the time you need. Ladies and Gentleman let me introduce you to the best Xbox 360 exclusive we have had this generation. Let me clear the air first, I know I love my Halo and everything, but Epic did everything right with Gears of War 3. They crossed their T’s and dotted their I’s, and even put a mountain of cherries on top. Forget any pre conceived notions you have about the Gears of War franchise, this game is Gears of War. If you have ever wondered what a developer means by “polish”, play this game, it’s the living definition. The amount of content packed onto one disc is astounding, and every inch of it is interesting, purposeful, and jam packed with blood and guts. This is the true meaning of a hardware seller. The experience offered in Gears of War 3 cannot be had anywhere else other than your lovely Xbox 360. If you don’t already have a 360, here is your reason to have one. I love this game, play it regularly, and have never been so impressed with a complete package. Every single little detail was considered for the purpose of the gamer, and its obvious that Epic appreciated everything we have done for them. This is proof that a beta is a resourceful use of time, and should be echoed in other franchises.
5 player Horde mode, 4 player campaign, multiplayer with or without bots, Beast mode, mutators, DLC, and one of the most robust multiplayer ranking systems in the bizz. If you love shooting monsters, or just enjoy playing high quality video games, play this game! I am not one to spoil a story, but certain events during this campaign actually made me shed a few man tears. I love these characters and the stories they tell. Like I said, forget what you thought you knew about Gears of War, it has finally arrived!
Number 1 – Batman Arkham City
Are you surprised? I’m not. It’s Batman, in a city, with all of his gadgets, what more can I say. When Rocksteady unleashed Arkham Asylum on the world a few years ago, they were clearly on to something. Arkham City is what they were on to; this is the most realized vision of Batman (or any superhero) to ever grace the video game industry. Games like Arkham City come around only once in a while, and when they do, they set trends for future games.
In the case of Arkham City, the industry has plenty to learn and adapt from what was presented by Rocksteady Studios. As a long time Batman fan, this game seemed to provide all of the right components, but at the same time still leaving more room to grow for future expansion. The variety of characters, gadgets, and environments to explore are vast and extremely detailed. From the moment you begin Arkham City, you are Batman, and there is nothing cooler than that. Even though I have completed the main storyline weeks ago, I still find myself re visiting Arkham City on a regular occasion to find those Riddler trophies, and secrets. With hundreds of collectibles and some of the best side missions ever in gaming, this game is bursting with new things to do every time you play.
With exploration, collectibles, and characters aside though, Arkham City does one of the most essential functions of action adventure game perfectly…the combat. Freeflow combat is the best fighting system I have ever played with in gaming, the variety of moves and techniques that can be used are incredible. The combat feels natural and no less than what the real Batman is capable of. The seamless use of gadgets during combat provides some interesting opportunities to dispatch enemies with guns, and alternate weapons. Even when the story and side missions are complete, you can still apply your freeflow skills to a slue of combat challenge maps, and stealth maps.
There is no shortage of content in Arkham City, and that is why this was my favorite game of the year. It may have been a sequel, but so many changes were made, and the scale of the game grew so large that it feels like a new stand-alone experience separate from Arkham Asylum. All I want now in the rumored “Arkham World” would be Gotham City, Robin, the Bat Mobile, and Co Op play. Just a small wish list!
Play this game if you love video games; this is an instant classic that more than deserves my #1 game of 2011!