Critical Gamer’s Game of the Year 2011

It’s nearly Christmas. Again. The bad news is that this means you’re even poorer than usual by now, and you’ll soon have to pretend to be much more interested in what distant relatives have to say than you actually are. The good news, however, is that it’s once again time to find out what Critical Gamer’s favourite games of the year are! Also: presents.

It’s been another great year for games, though this time around almost all of the best ones have been sequels; something reflected by our choices (whether we like it or not). It was extremely close when it came to deciding which game we thought trumped all the others. Eventually however, we decided to declare that Critical Gamer’s Game of the Year 2011 (despite the notorious bugs) is:

Skyrim

Stephen K says: I knew Bethesda would have something incredible in store with Skyrim, but I was unprepared for its tidal wave of sheer excitement that swept across communities the world over. It captured the imagination of nearly everyone who glanced its way, and I could go on and on about Skyrim’s visuals, scope, and expansive wealth of content. But what really amazes me is how Bethesda finally made the promise of the Elder Scrolls series a reality. When I was back in Morrowind’s icy island of Solstheim, staring into that foggy draw distance, my imagination took over. Sparse evergreens appeared as towering forests, glitchy swipes of my sword became dramatic strokes of battle, mindless NPCs were rugged inhabitants with lives to live. And in Skyrim, all of that was true. It was adventure that welcomes everyone, retaining depth and subtlety while fixing the broken parts. Experienced travellers could rediscover Tamriel’s vast beauty once again, and newcomers had the chance to experience for themselves what it is we’ve been pretending to see all this time.

There were so many top quality games released this year however, that we’d feel ever so guilty if we didn’t talk about some more of them. Therefore we now present to you, in no particular order, nine ‘honourable mentions’ plucked from the 2011 release schedule; some personal favourites of the cheeky chappies at CG, each of which we award with a virtual medal thus:

 

Uncharted 3

Matt says: Uncharted 3 is another compelling entry in a series that remains the best reason to own a PlayStation 3. The outstanding competitive multiplayer returns with an array of customisable options and bonuses, and there is also a standalone co-op campaign for those who yearn for narrative drive in their multiplayer.

As good as the competitive and co-operative multiplayer is, it’s the singleplayer that steals the show with its stunning visuals, impeccable pacing and memorable set pieces. A tightly scripted adventure that boasts witty dialogue and likeable characters, it is packed full of small, human touches that bring characters and situations to life. Such moments allow Uncharted 3 to be more than just another action game, as it thrives during the quiet moments between huge firefights and narrow escapes from sinking ships. When it comes to standing out from the crowd, it’s all in the details, and developer Naughty Dog have proven once again that they understand this as well as anyone else in the business.

Arkham City

Ian says: Following on from such a huge critical success was always going to be hard going and yet with Batman: Arkham City Rocksteady achieved this. The second outing for the Dark Knight in recent years had the same high level of visual polish and quality voice work its predecessor Arkham Asylum had, but added so much more. It didn’t fall into some of the common sequel trappings and those they did mattered little when compared to the larger explorable world, excellently tweaked gameplay, and engaging plot; which culminated in one of the most memorable endings to a game in recent years.

Portal 2

Anthony says: Following on from Valve’s masterpiece, Portal 2 took the concept demo-like experience of the original and stretched it into a proper length game. It took everything that made the original Portal great, and did it better and bigger. Larger environments, sharp humour, more diverse puzzles and a Bristolian robot; it had everything. The space-hole spewing gameplay remained largely unchanged, but the introduction of environment morphing gels opened up huge possibilities in and out of test chambers. Even the marketing that preceded the game was excellent, with funny Aperture Science investment videos and a scarily complex alternate reality game that sucked us deeper into to the crazy Portal universe. Portal 2 also introduced a brilliant co-op mode featuring two mute robots that still managed to buzz with as much personality as Nathan Drake or Commander Shepard. The chaotic and often hilarious results of four active portals really made the specially designed test chambers a joy to prance around. It’s also incredibly funny to drop your mate through a portal into spiky doom, only for him to reappear and do it to you, with death carrying no consequence other than a minor restart and a round of giggles.

LittleBigPlanet 2

Luke says: Like Portal 2, LittleBigPlanet 2 achieved what had previously seemed impossible; it made the prequel look unambitious. Again, there is a brief story mode which can be enjoyed online or offline by 1-4 players simultaneously, and this time round it’s even easier. The heart of this game is the level creation tool however, which is now more powerful than ever. The LittleBigPlanet community has created and shared platform levels, puzzle games, homages to classic titles, machinima, racing games, and much more… all for free. It’s like an almost limitless number of games in one, making it an essential purchase.

Battlefield 3

Kevin says: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was our favourite multiplayer shooter from last year, and DICE have followed it up with a tour de force experience in Battlefield 3. With the addition of fighter jets to the vehicle roster, and large open maps that are packed with destructible scenery, they have tweaked the multiplayer to perfection. This is not your usual run and gun shooter, with teamwork rather than killstreaks being crucial to winning games. In fact even modest players can reach the top of the leaderboard, thanks to the balanced points system which rewards players with extra points for capturing flags, repairing vehicles, or even laying down suppressing fire. It’s this fair system of play that encourages players to work as a team, rather than sit in a hole racking up kills. There is a campaign mode that uses the Call of Duty template, and an enjoyable two-player Co-op mode, with six different missions to take on with a friend; but these are more of a snack, and the main meal is in the multiplayer – which is a Christmas dinner that will leave you feeling full long into the new year.

Super Mario 3D Land

Steven G says: This is a masterclass in traditional platform design with graphics as good as Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, but with the gameplay of a traditional 2D Mario title. The difficulty level is perhaps just a little too low for seasoned gamers, but there is still much to be gained even for hardened players. There is beauty in the way these levels are designed and just playing through them brings a smile to one’s face. The 3D adds to the enjoyment of the game and actually assists you in some puzzles along the way. Despite being a little too easy to finish, collecting all the gold coins and stars will take some time.

Whilst you can swap levels and powerups with other users locally and online, there is no multiplayer option such as the two player mode in New Super Mario Brothers for the original DS. The game even lacks an online leaderboard for fastest level times and other ‘achievement’ based challenges. Nonetheless, if you have a 3DS this is a superb game you need to get; and if you don’t have a 3DS, you now have a reason to get one.

Bastion

Stephen K says: Bastion is like a beautiful melody or perhaps a really good story, the kind with meaning: you just can’t forget it and you certainly don’t want to. The brusque narrator was a game-changing method for telling stories, the music resounded with an offbeat magic, and its art was a surreal mix of muted tones and whimsical swirls. But in perfect harmony with this poetic vision was a hearty framework of gameplay, just like the old days. Whacking things with weapons and then upgrading said weapons for further whackage was a skill that took cunning to perfect, requiring quick wits and swift thumbs. The plot didn’t hinder the gameplay and vice versa; Bastion was created with both aspects in mind, and the result was something special. It’s flat out impressive to see such a small downloadable title (and an equally small team) stand shoulder-to-shoulder with this year’s colossal competition. Yes, I have a feeling Bastion will be remembered for a very long time.

de blob 2

Luke says: Almost certainly an unexpected entry here, and one that many would disagree with (including some Critical Gamer staff); but I’m the boss round here, so I stick my tongue out in mature defiance and declare de blob 2 to be one of the best games of 2011. Not only does it do something different, it does it very well indeed.

Ostensibly a platformer, this game puts colour and music at the heart of the experience. At the beginning of each level, you’re stuck in a monochrome world with what really is best described as a minimalist glumtrack for music. After filling your blobby avatar with various colours and painting in anything and everything you find however, the environment is transformed into a world of rich and vibrant colours, supported by a truly wonderful soundtrack of funky jazz. Fighting your way past the conformity loving ‘Inkies’ through to the end of the game isn’t too difficult, but finding every last secret presents a challenge you’ll gleefully accept. The wonderfully crafted cutscenes are the icing on the cake and, considering the rock bottom prices this criminally ignored title is now selling for, there’s no excuse not to buy it.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Anthony says: We’ve all dreamed of what it would be like to have robot arms and how awesome x-ray vision would be, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution managed to put a bleak spin on the whole thing. After an unfortunate work related incident, Adam Jensen is rebuilt with a variety of cyber bits that augment his body. The result: a multi-purpose man-tool players can mould to fit their desires. Want to play the game like a ninja? Improve your skin so you turn invisible. Want to be a walking death factory? Upgrade your robo-arms so they can throw vending machines and steady your aim.

The RPG-like ability upgrade system means you can go through the game and have a completely different experience each time. Chase down secrets and sub-missions in the open hub areas, and you can easily stretch one playthrough to 25 hours. I was sucked into this game and the dystopian future it was pushing. This could definitely be played as the most entertaining stealth game of the year, whilst at the same time being an action driven cover shooter. The plethora of choices, coupled with serious consequences for your actions, makes this several brilliant games in one.

So, how do you feel about our choices? Happy? Angry, sad, confused? Hungry? Thirsty? Exhausted? Feel free to let us know (not that you’ll ever change our minds about anything). You’re welcome also to congratulate Kevin on doing a wonderful job on this year’s Game of the Year award graphics. Steal them, and he will hunt you down.

Hunt you down we say!

 

P.S. You’ll soon be able to find a condensed version of our choices at ‘Most Wanted’, the vouchercodes.co.uk blog. In fact, if you head to the main Voucher Codes website, you’ll be able to find offers and discount codes for literally squillions of online retailers, many of which stock some or all of the above games. The codes are all free, and you don’t even need to register with the site! Lovely. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

Leave a Reply