5: Mortal Kombat
Netherrealm Studios / Fighting Game / PS3/360
Such a great return to form for Mortal Kombat ! As I previously wrote in "Comeback of the year" MKs return to the scene this year was massive. E-Sports popularity, great reviews and standing ovations from the gaming crowds. All of this, of course, has a reason. Netherrealm returned to the gory, bloody, violent roots of the series but also managed to create a superb fighting engine by continuing to improve on their lincensed Unreal Engine 3 tech. The results felt great. This is how a fighting engine should feel in 2011. Smooth move executions that feels just right and crazy, spectacular combo opportunities while maintaining balance. As if that wasn't enough the package here is huge and the value put into this box is nothing short of fantastic. What seems like an unlimited amount of unlockables and goodies, plenty of different modes to both play around in, hone your skills in and fight people in, in the craziest quirkiest ways you can imagine. When you think you've seen it all there's still more to dig around with in here. The roster is great and the DLC characters are probably the best DLC of the year both in terms of polish and value added. A great leap forward for the franchise and another good injection of vitamins into the genre to keep fighting strong and healthy going forward !
This is how a fighting engine should feel in 2011. Smooth move executions that feels just right and crazy, spectacular combo opportunities while maintaining balance.
4: The Witcher 2 - Assassins of Kings
CD Projekt RED / RPG / PC
One of the best stories I've experienced in a videogame in recent memory. It knows what story it wants to tell and with what tone it wants to do it. So you are sitting there thinking you are getting tired of everything fantasy related because it's all just the same stories told with the same type of characters in the same type of world everytime right? Well I would go as far as to say that if you grew up playing any kind of RPG for any amount of time you should do yourself a huge favor and play The Witcher 2. Here you will play one of the most well realized fantasy worlds in gaming to date with none of the clichés. Its dark, very mature and it will all feel very grounded and interesting. The Witcher 2 kind of feels like the RPG that grew up alongside of me instead of trying to bring me back to the nostalgic feeling of the old ones. It's fun to see this coming from a Polish developer when we live in a world where none of the American and Japanese ones can muster up anything resembling this kind of depth and tone anymore. With all this being said Witcher 2 is probably also THE best looking RPG ever created, it has fantastic looking environmental design and the core game fundamentals such as U.I, technical polish and gameplay variety are all top of the line. But that is almost all beside the point. You need to experience this world and this story if you call yourself a fan of the genre. It's a shame that awful inventory management and a combat system that wants to do more than you can actually do with it keeps this game from the absolute top of my list, so do what I did and play the game on Easy. You won't have a chance to regret if before its over !
The Witcher 2 kind of feels like the RPG that grew up alongside of me instead of trying to bring me back to the nostalgic feeling of the old ones.
3: Portal 2
Its no big news anymore that Valve is one of the greatest development houses in the world by now right? It's almost as if we don't even give them enough praise for it anymore because we know to expect the best of the best from them everytime. Portal 2 is their magnum opus. It's the game where everything Valve knows how to do better than just about anyone comes together better than ever before. They flex their muscles when it comes to sharpness in level design, writing, voiceacting, mystery and atmosphere. They also show better than ever before how they master the art of letting the game, its enviroments and minimalistic designchoices speak for them rather than throwing what they want to say in the players face. Combine this with the fact that this game includes some of the best enviromental puzzledesign in gaming and you have not only the best puzzler you'll play in a long time but also a puzzler that will stimulate enough other parts of your brain to keep you engaged to more than just the puzzle you are trying to solve. Portal 2 has nothing short of masterful storytelling and it weaves sound and graphical design into it to create a very unique and immersive first person experience. Play Portal 2 to experience a turning and twisting digital world where you will have to solve fanstastic puzzles to see what will happen next, because trust me, you will not want to stop.
Play Portal 2 to experience a turning and twisting digital world where you will have to solve fanstastic puzzles to see what will happen next, because trust me, you will not want to stop.
2: The Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim
Bethesda Softworks / Open World RPG / PC/360/PS3
Skyrim is really, when it comes down to it, the ultimate version of the oldest kind of western RPG playstyle in the books. When you strip everything but the core mechanics away from this game its interesting to think about what you are actually doing. In a sense It's very nostalic. This is the purest form of dungeon crawling and questing and you can almost see the textbased rpg shining through. Bethesda are not afraid of this fact. In fact, its the very thing that they thrive on with the Elder Scrolls series. They then take these pure, old, dusty RPG conventions and put a layer of excellence onto them to create pure roleplaying magic. The feeling of a new Elder Scrolls game is almost orgasmic for those of us who can appriciate turning off reality and embracing a world that you will never see in real life, all the while knowing that it's your world. MMO's are coming strong and heavy and there is really something genious with sharing a persistant world with fellow gamers. But to embrace your inner nerd and run out into the woods in a single player experience just to see whats there, or just to hunt a rabbit, or pick flowers, or find a lost dog, is something else entirely. And the thing is that Bethesda creates this inviting world and offers up an RPG experience like nobody else. Its atmospherical qualities and enviroments are crafted with such love for the concept that you can excuse kind of bland combat, truckloads of bugs and a lack of personality in the worlds inhabitants. When you are offered a digital world like this in a box you have to appriciate and acknowledge it, because this really shows what gaming can offer compared to movies, books or music when it comes to fleeing reality into a crafted experience.
When you are offered a digital world like this in a box you have to appriciate and acknowledge it, because this really shows what gaming can offer compared to movies, books or music when it comes to fleeing reality into a crafted experience.
1: Gears of War 3
Epic Games / Third Person Shooter / 360
Epic Games and Cliff Bleszinski shows us once again why they are the masters of third person shooters. They brought this kind of game into the new generation and with Gears 3 they cement their place as the rightful owners of it. When they sat down and created Gears of War 1 they created the best possible mechanics for shooting stuff in 3rd person possible and since then nobody has beat them but themselves. Active reloads, 3rd person cover mechanics, roadie run, the way the camera works when shooting in 3rd person, level design when working with coverbased gameplay, the "grenade throw arc", moving slowly forward and remaining in control while hearing dialogue, wehicle sequences and setpieces, "horde" mode. The list goes on.. When it comes to this genre of 3rd person action Epic was there and brought in (and refined) old mechanics for a new generation of gaming that is now copied by everyone everywhere. And with Gears 3 they outdid themselves again by improving all of these mechanics while also adding more stuff that will surely keep being copied. With this new game Epic adds 4 player co-op through a campaign that is better than it has ever been before, beast mode multiplayer, and an Arcade mode, all while maintaining and improving on the magical shooterexperience that has always been Gears of War. Unreal Engine 3 is looking better than ever before and is now one of the absolute best looking engines on the market, again. I have always been in awe of the design choices that were made while creating this series. Epic really shows us how important the small stuff is for a game of this style to feel right. It feels like unparalelled designvisions and playtesting is the meat of this company.
Not only do I wish to thank Epic for how they formed this generation of games, but I also want to show my respect for how they still manage to stay ahead of the competition. The multiplayer managed to hook me completely even though I was set on not playing it and the campaign was more of a rollercoaster ride and a pleasure all the way through than ever before. When it comes to the "feel" of a shooter when having a controller in your hand, Gears of War is once again, without competition and looking at the endless amounts of games deploying the same mechanics these days the contrast only grows larger with Gears 3. And this is why Gears 3 is the best game of the year. The industry can keep trying, but I'll doubt they have enough genious in one place to beat this mammoth of a videogame.
When it comes to the "feel" of a shooter when having a controller in your hand, Gears of War is once again, without competition and looking at the endless amounts of games deploying the same mechanics these days the contrast only grows larger with Gears 3.
My GOTY list will probably continue with some honorable mentions, stuff I wish I had played more of for this list and probably some other fun stuff I can throw together. So if you read all they way here I wish to thank you and hope you will stay for some more!
As always please tell me in the comments what you don't agree with and why !