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Games of the Year 2011

I have created a text file every year since 2010 that lists every game I played that year and the order in which I enjoyed them. Now that my blog is operational and I started the #GamesOfTheYear tag in 2017 I felt it was time to look back at those text files and record them here for posterity.

I am going to attempt to not write too much about each game because otherwise it will take me weeks if not months to transcribe all of these text files. My goal is to write a simple one or two line description of the game and what I think I felt about it back when it was first played.

1. Portal 2

Portal 2 is a perfect game. It is rare that a sequel can improve on its predecessor in every conceivable way but Portal 2 is one of those games. The story is out of this world (pun intended), the gameplay is tweaked to perfection, the co-operative mode truly forces you to work as a team, the puzzles are all dialed to 11, the character arcs are fulfilling and the voice acting is a gold standard for the industry.

Portal 2 will be one of those games that we will remember for the rest of time. It will be able to be introduced to any generation that has played video games and will immediately resonate with them.

2. Battlefield 3

Looking at all of my tweets about Battlefield 3 you would think that I hated the game. But when I swing between such extremes like that about a game it usually means that it has consumed me completely and Battlefield 3 is one of those games. I put over 100 hours into it and don't remember regretting it in the slightest.

The large scale, team based, vehicular combat is what I play the Battlefield franchise for and while Battlefield 3 may not have been as good as Battlefield 2 it is still a worthy successor and helped me get my competitive FPS fix for the year.

3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I will admit that I had never played a game in the Deus Ex franchise before Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, the reviews for it were so glowing that I decided to give it a shot and am supremely pleased that I did.

I was not prepared for how open the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution was. I assumed it would be a relatively linear story because there is no way you could you give that amount of freedom to the player in a game with such a rich story. But the number of ways you could explore the world and approach problems was truly mind boggling. You could use violence, you could use stealth, you could use hacking, you could use persuasion, you could use strength, etc. It just went on and on. I remember reloading saves just to try solving a problem in a different way because I wanted to see how it could possibly play out.

There are two negative things I remember about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. First, the boss fights were absolute garbage. They made no sense and did not fit with the rest of the game at all. Apparently they were done by a contractor because Edios didn't have the time to do it themselves. So just look up a tutorial online for how to cheese the boss fights and move on. Second, I can barely remember the story except for the fact that the ending was just choose option A, B, C or D. You literally walked up to a button and pressed it. That being said, I do not think the strength of the game is its overarching story but in the little side-stories you pick up as you walk through the world and interact with random NPCs. The overarching story was an excuse for why you travelled between different cities and districts. The true story, like most open world games, was what you constructed for yourself as you found your way through the levels.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game and if you are a fan of non-linear, open world, RPGs I would highly recommend you check it out.

4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

What really is there to say about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that hasn't already been said? It won basically every game of the year award in 2011. Just watch this trailer and tell me you don't want to immediately run off and slay some dragons.

Skyrim is my go-to example of how to make an open-world game. The amount of content in it really is hard to grasp. It is one of those games where the main story is usually an afterthought for most people because wandering around the world and creating your own story is more fun. It took me over 80 hours to beat the main story because I just kept getting distracted as I traversed the world.

I wouldn't be until 2015 when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released that I could say there was actual competition for Skyrim in the category of greatest open-world game. I cannot wait to see what Bethesda does with The Elder Scrolls VI.

5. Gears of War 3

Gears of War 3 is your quintessential finale to a trilogy of games. Story is more of the same, gameplay is more of the same, multiplayer is more of the same, graphics are marginally better, etc. That is not to say I didn't enjoy Gears of War 3 because I really did. I was enamored with the story of the franchise and wanted a conclusion which I got. The stop-and-pop shooting still felt amazing and I cannot believe someone has not stolen the active reload mechanic yet. The multiplayer remained fun and horde mode in games is always a blast.

But after three games stuff did start to feel a little stale and I got tired of Gears of War 3 faster than I would have thought. I would still recommend people play the entire Gears of War series even a decade later because it is still the best example of gunplay in a third-person shooter.

6. Bastion

Undoubtedly my sleeper hit for 2011 was Bastion. It is an amazing indie game that took one gameplay mechanic and polished it to absolute perfection. You are "The Kid" and you traverse through fairly linear, yet gorgeous, levels where you must defeat enemies that get in your path. You have access to two weapons which you can switch between at any time. It sounds fairly mundane but the amount of depth in the weapons and how they change as you upgrade them is where this game shines. Everything about the presentation is top notch as well ranging from the passive storytelling by an amazing narrator to the beautiful soundtrack.

Some people may not like Bastion because it is relatively short but that is what I like most about it. An indie developer who knew their limitations made a game that focused on quality not quantity. I would much rather have a small, short game that is executed perfectly than a game which is longer but unpolished.

7. Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row: The Third is the true sequel to Grand Theft Auto 3 in my mind. Whereas the Grand Theft Auto sequels tried to become more realistic and gritty, the Saints Row series picked up the torch and ran in the opposite direction towards comedy and absolute insanity.

If you are a fan of open world games where you just cause wanton destruction you owe it to yourself to play Saints Row: The Third.

8. Star Wars: The Old Republic

A massively multiplayer online role playing game with a story? I didn't think it was possible but Bioware managed to prove me wrong with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I actually treated this game like it was a single player RPG. I tried to only play the story missions for my Jedi character and got over 40 hours in before I finally started to get bored. It definitely wasn't as engaging as Bioware's other games but for an MMO I was thoroughly impressed.

9. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is another finale to a trilogy, like Gears of War 3, but was too much of the same. Where Gears of War 3 felt like a sequel, Modern Warfare 3 felt like just more of Modern Warfare 2. It easily could have been an expansion or DLC. I'm not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. The set pieces were jaw dropping and the action was relentless. It was super fun to play through for about 6-7 hours but as soon as the game ended it almost immediately left my mind.

10. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a very strange Zelda title. It contains some of the greatest gameplay in the Zelda franchise as well as the absolute worst. I remember bouncing back and forth between loving and hating this game. Some dungeons were breathtaking, others were incredibly frustrating. Sometimes the Wii MotionPlus accessory worked amazingly and you truly felt like you were a master swordsman. Other times you would find yourself just flailing around because you could not understand what the Wii MotionPlus was tracking. Flying through the sky on your Loftwing feels empowering and then you end up fighting the Imprisoned for the umpteenth time and you feel trapped.

Skyward Sword is far from the worst games in the series but I personally feel that games like Ocarina of Time, A Link to the Past and Wind Waker are all superior to Skyward Sword.

11. Batman: Arkham City

I don't have a list of my favorite games from 2009 but if I did Batman: Arkham Asylum would undoubtably be on it. The story was amazing, the Metroidvania level design was top notch, the tempo based combat was revolutionary and the voice acting was out of this world. Watching Batman and Joker verbally spare was spine tingling.

All that said you would think that I would have absolutely loved the sequel, Batman: Arkham City, but unfortunately it was worse in every way. The story degraded into fan service and seemed like its only goal was to see how many random Batman villains could be squeezed into a single game. The motivations of some characters were completely unbelievable and the constant twists were boring rather than exciting. The Metroidvania level design was thrown away in favour of an open world which was quite barren. The tempo based combat was made much more complicated with the addition of so many gadgets and modifiers that it became more frustrating than fun. The only thing that was just as good as the first game was Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and the other outstanding voice actors.

12. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is a remaster of the original Ocarina of Time which is easily in my top five video games. There really is nothing to say other than this is an amazing remaster of one of the greatest games that has ever been made.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is so low on this list only because it is just a remaster of the original game. While I thoroughly enjoyed playing it for 25 hours it is something that I have played before and I didn't feel it warranted being rated higher than other games which are trying to push the medium forward.

13. Pokémon White

I honestly don't remember playing Pokémon Black and White. Even after reading the summary on Wikipedia I have absolutely no memory of playing Pokémon White. I cannot believe there was a Pokémon game that was that invisible to me.

14. Bulletstorm

Truthfully, I have no idea why Bulletstorm is so far down this list. It seems that I absolutely loved playing it. It was an amazing FPS that mixed score attack elements directly into the main gameplay so you were always looking for the most unique and gruesome ways to dispatch your enemies. Combine that with the ability to kick and slide as well as an "energy leash" that allowed you to interact with the environment and you were essentially inside a murder fairground trying to get the highest score.

The story was incredibly campy but didn't take itself too serious and leaned heavily into dark comedy which I personally found hysterical.

15. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a remaster of the original Xbox classic, Halo: Combat Evolved. While it is undoubtedly one of the most influential games of all time, 10 years after its original release the gameplay and level design do not hold up well. Halo: Combat Evolved may have brought the first-person shooter genre to consoles but many other games have iterated on it to become to the modern shooters we know today.

All that being said the nostalgia of playing Halo is not something to be discounted. The first time you step out of the escape pod and onto the Halo ring is something I will never forget. Not to mention using that ridiculously overpowered pistol to take down Covenant Elites in just a few shots.

16. Dead Island

Dead Island is the perfect example of a game that is only fun when played with friends. Killing zombies by yourself becomes monotonous within 30 minutes. But having three of your friends with you, tearing across the world in a jeep, trying to murder as many zombies as possible, while creating overpowered weaponry and suddenly the game becomes an absolute blast.

Unfortunately that fun can't last forever and after about 10 hours or so we all got bored of Dead Island and gave it up for good.

17. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

And so we come to another finale in a trilogy of games. In my opinion, the worst way a trilogy can fall apart is when every game must be more grandiose the last. The stakes are constantly being raised such that the story and gameplay appear completely asinine when compared to the earlier content.

Uncharted 1 started with an adventurer looking for a treasure and became embroiled in a larger conspiracy. You couldn't get more Indiana Jones than that. Uncharted 2 pushed the envelope with a magical tree whose sap made you invulnerable and the train derailment scene which lead you to free-climbing through Tibetan caves. Pretty insane but hey the sequel had to go somewhere it's just too bad they decided to go all the way to the land of Oz.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception said fuck those previous games, we're cranking this up to infinity and channeled Michael Bay as hard as it could. What if pirates capture you and take you to their cruise ship which you sink when trying to escape from them? Then let's fight inside of a plane whose hanger door opens and you literally have to climb across falling cargo to survive! No wait, let's not stop there. After the plane crashes in the desert you must wander aimlessly until you stumble upon another ancient city that has all sort of weird supernatural shit happening to it. Screw it, let's blow up the entire city and go home to our on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Now I'm sure some people are thinking "that sounds awesome!" and I'm not going to try to take that away from them. But for me, after three games, it started to get too tiring and predicable.

The worst thing underneath all of this asinine storytelling was that Naughty Dog somehow made the controls in Uncharted 3 even worse than its predecessors. Just search Google for "Uncharted 3 aiming" and check out the plethora of articles where people where not just complaining but where Naughty Dog actually came out and said they did fuck up the aiming and were trying to fix it.

You add all of this up and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception was 10 hours of frustrating gameplay and unbelievable storytelling which ate up all of the remaining good will I had towards the Uncharted series.