Archive for January, 2012

Top 10 Games of 2011: #1 Portal 2

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

So this is it.  The big one.  My game of the year.  If you know anything about me in real life it probably doesn’t surprise your that Portal 2 is my game of the year, but why is it my game of the year?  Well if you have to ask that you clearly haven’t played Portal 2 and there is something seriously wrong with you.

Portal 2 does what every game that’s made the top 3 has done; provide a challenge.  The difference between the challenge Portal 2 provides over say Dark Souls is that it is a far more accessible game.  Anyone can play Portal 2 and get through the game, but it requires a good amount of thinking to do so.  Portal 2 is the kind of game that makes you feel like a genius for each test chamber you complete, even if the solution is simple.  It provides the perfect amount of challenge, enough to keep you stuck for awhile but not enough to make you want to hurl the controller at the TV.

What really stands out about Portal 2 is the story, never has a game’s story been so finely crafted, with such a high degree of dialogue and wit.  Whether it’s being berated by GLaDOS or the idiot ramblings of Wheatley there’s rarely a moment where you aren’t laughing at what’s playing out on screen.  The dialogue is only made better by some amazing performances by the likes of Steven Merchant and J.K. Simmons.  The game also has one and quite possibly my favorite endings to a video game.

What really surprised me about Portal 2 is just how much I loved the co-op experience.  Generally I’m not a huge fan of co-op features in games, all they ever really do is put an extra person into the single player experience, with very little actual cooperation needed to progress through the game.  But with Portal 2’s co-op, teamwork and cooperation is essential to make it through the test chambers.  It’s impressive how simply adding two extra portals completely opens up and changes what you can do in the game.  And working together with a friend to solve a puzzle provides a completely different feeling of satisfaction than getting through something on your own.

Portal 2 is the reason I play video games, and it’s an example to what all other games should strive to be.  So I reward Portal 2 the title as my game of the year of 2011 and if you haven’t played it yet I strongly urge you to go and buy it.


Top 10 Games of 2011: #2 Dark Souls

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Dark Souls is hard.  It’s a game that will beat you down, break your spirit, and kill you more times than you’re most likely able to count.  Darks Souls is an unforgiving bitch of a game, but my god do I love it!

Dark Souls is very reminiscent of games from the NES days, in that it doesn’t hold your hand and it requires a lot of trail and error in order to progress.  The game teaches you as you play and every death is a learning experience that only makes you stronger.

There’s a pattern to every enemy in Dark Souls and in it’s learning these patterns that are the keys to victory.  If you run up to even the most basic of enemy with your sword swinging you won’t last long in Dark Souls, it’s having a good defense and finding that right moment to strike which is the key to victory.  And while you’ll be faced with many defeats it’s the times when your victorious that Dark Souls really shines.

There was a boss fight where you need to fight two bosses at the same time named Ornstien and Smough.  For me it was the most difficult fight in the game, I was stuck on them for a good 2 days of nothing but death and defeat.  I could have given up but I didn’t because I noticed every time I fought them I would last a bit longer or cut their health down a bit further than the time before.  Every time this happened it gave me hope to keep trying and not give up.

By the time I finally beat them the feeling of victory that came over me was pure elation, it was a feeling I’ve never experienced from a video game and I had that feeling constantly while playing Dark Souls, but for me this moment was that feeling was at its max.

Darks Souls isn’t for everybody, while the challenge it presents is the reason I love it so much is the same reason it might turn a lot of people away from it.  But that’s the thing about a challenge it isn’t suppose to be easy.  So for being the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve played in 2011 Dark Souls is number 2.

Top 10 Games of 2011: #3 Catherine

January 26, 2012 1 comment

Among all the games I’ve played in 2011 I can say with the upmost confidence that Catherine is the most original and most interesting game I’ve played this year.  In all my 20+ years of playing video games I can honestly say I’ve never played a game quite like Catherine before.

Catherine is a game about relationships and infidelity a theme that really hasn’t been tackled by a video game before.  The relationship theme is all wrapped up in a horror/supernatural twist that helps make the story one of the most interesting stories of the year.

The voice acting throughout the game is also really well done, and it’s accompanied by my favorite video game soundtrack of the year which is essentially a bunch of remixed classical music.  All of this creates a great atmosphere that really draws you into the game’s world and story.

Catherine’s gameplay is just as unique as the story, in what can be described as an action-puzzle-platformer.  The goal is the guide main character Vincent to the top of  a series of towers while the ground falls beneath you or your chased by the demons of Vincent’s subconscious.  Creating a path is simple in concept, as all you need to do is push and pull blocks to create a path but this gets more and more difficult as the game goes on.

Catherine isn’t a game people can get through by just blindly playing it, it takes a lot of quick thinking, skill and luck to make it to the end.  I died many times before I reached the end of the game, but when I finally got there it just made my moment of victory even more meaningful.

In a market that is drowning in an overabudence of first person shooters and sequels, Catherine stands like a beacon of hope for the game industry.  It’s a truly original experience in a market I thought there were none and it offers a good challenge that few games these days offer.  Because of this Catherine more than earns its spot on my top 3 and it’s a game everyone should experience.

Top 10 Games of 2011: #4 Batman Arkham City

January 24, 2012 2 comments

Batman Arkham City doesn’t just let you play as Batman it lets you BE Batman.

From using his many gadgets, to taking on a dozen of thugs single handed, and going toe-to-toe with anyone you could think of from Batman’s rogue gallery, no other game before has let you step into the shoes of the Dark Knight quite like Arkham City.

The game also sports a story that can rival some of the best Batman stories printed on paper, the story is only strengthened by the performances of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill who return to reprise their roles from Batman: The Animated Series as Batman and Joker respectively.

Batman Arkham City isn’t just a good example of how to make a good superhero game, but it’s also a great example of how to make a great game in general and it more than deserves its spot on this list.

Top 10 Games of 2011: #5 Infamous 2

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

The original Infamous was one of my favorite games from 2009, so I had high expectations going into Infamous 2 and didn’t leave disappointed.   What Infamous 2 does so well is that it does what any great sequel should do, improve upon the original in every aspect.

Everything about Infamous 2 is an improvement over the original and that says a lot because there wasn’t much wrong with the original to begin with.  The world is bigger and more varied, the story and the way it’s presented has an overall higher quality to it, the characters are more likable and more developed, the controls are spot on and best of all there are a bunch of new powers to play around with.

Infamous 2 also brings back the morality system which is more impactful to the gameplay this time than in the original.  Deciding to play as good or evil effects which new powers you can learn, and it also has results in different endings making a 2nd play through well worth it.

I’m trying to find some sort of fault to say about Infamous 2 but it’s really hard because the game is just so finely crafted.  It’s one of my favorite games of the year and if you haven’t played it yet I can’t recommend it enough.

Top 10 Games of 2011: #6 Saints Row the Third

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

In a market filled with games taking themselves way to seriously or trying to portray themselves as some form of “art”, it’s refreshing to have a game that doesn’t try to do any of this.

Saints Row is loud, rude, immature and most of all it’s a hell of a lot of fun.  When it comes to making a fun open world experience Volition really knows what they’re doing.  They put the player in a big sand box, filled with a bunch of shinny toys to play with and let the player have as much fun as they can.

The main story is one of the most entertaining times I’ve had playing a video game all year.  By the time the end credits roll you’ll have taken part in Lucha libre match, visited a Tron-like computer world, drove a supersonic jet through city streets and caused billions of dollars in property damage.  It really has anything and everything you could think of for a video game.  It even has zombies!

A game’s first objective above all else should be about providing the player with a fun and entertaining experience.  If it does anything Saints Row the Third does just that and because of that it more than earns its spot on this list.

Top 10 Games of 2011: #7 Mass Effect 2

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Now I know Mass Effect 2 originally came out in 2010, but the PS3 version came out this year and it was my first chance to actually play it.  So because of that Mass Effect 2 gets to sneak on to the list this year.

I can’t remember a time that I’ve been as emotionally invested in game than when I was playing Mass Effect 2.  It provides a story like few other games can making the story uniquely the players depending on how you choose play it and what choices you make. Because of this Commander Shepard becomes so much more than your avatar, but he/she literally becomes the representation of yourself in the game, making you more invested in the world and those who inhabit it.

I loved getting to know more about my crew members, to the point that I found myself truly caring for them by the end of the game.  When the end game scenario started I found myself genuinely worried for the safety of each member of my crew not knowing if I made the right decisions that would see my all crew survive to the end.

For as ambitious as Mass Effect 2’s story is I can’t really say the same about the gameplay, as it boils down to nothing more than a 3rd person squad based shooter with a few special abilities thrown in to mix it up.  While the gameplay is nowhere near bad it just isn’t as impressive as the game’s story.

So for emotionally investing me in a game like no other before, and one of the best stories I’ve experienced in a game Mass Effect 2 more than earns its spot on this list.

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