Games I Have Played In 2011

In the continuing spirit of past lists detailing the games I played in 2009 and 2010, I've also decided to keep a record of every game I finish in 2011. By 'finish', I generally mean that I've seen the credits roll on the single-player portion of a game. In open-ended games with no discernible end, I'll simply include them if I've spent a lot of time with them. As always, I'll be including some brief thoughts on every game in the list. Last year I hit a total of thirty games finished. Will I equal that in 2011? Only time will tell.

List items

  • Completion Dates - Finished Dead Money DLC on January 10th, finished main game on January 11th, finished Honest Hearts DLC on May 29th.

    In Brief - I absolutely loved New Vegas from beginning to end. I was effortlessly swept up in the struggles between the game's many factions, and choosing my allegiances and watching them play out was just as rewarding as the excellent quest design and top-notch gameplay. The game suffers from some stability issues and lacklustre animation, as do all Gamebryo games, but they didn't detract one iota from the incredible experience.

  • Completion Date - Finished on February 14th.

    In Brief - As a long-time owner of Oblivion who'd never seen the end of the main quest, I vowed that this would be the year I finished it. Some sixty-five hours after starting out, here I am. My stealthy character build managed to complete the Dark Brotherhood quest line, and nearly finish the Thieves' Guild quests (until I managed to glitch the penultimate quest and wreck my chances of ever uncowling the Gray Fox). I started to feel fatigued towards the end of my experience, especially when I was expected to close several Oblivion gates in quick succession, but on the whole I loved my most recent trip to Cyrodiil. Hopefully later in the year, I'll return to it and build a new character to take to The Shivering Isles. One thing's for sure - I'm more pumped than ever for the impending release of Skyrim.

  • Completion Date - Finished on February 19th.

    In Brief - Manhunt is a game that's left me feeling very divided. There are things it does that I really like - the scant shreds of story that manage to hold together a satisfying narrative, the grainy home-film aesthetics that match the game's stark tone perfectly, and the nauseatingly brilliant sound effects are all winning ingredients. On the other hand, it's not a very good game. The stealth mechanics are clunky, the difficulty spikes towards the end of the experience, and a lot of the violence feels like it's there just for violence's sake. It's a memorable game that's worth playing, but not more than once.

  • Completion Date - Finished on March 11th.

    In Brief - After no less than three attempts in the last five years, I finally finished this GameBoy Advance instalment of the Zelda series in 2011. It's a game with a lot of charm and a great sense of humour, from its cutesy Wind Waker-inspired presentation to the great writing. From a gameplay perspective, it upholds all the traditional 2D Zelda formulae, while also throwing in some great new distractions on the side. The end product is one of the series' finest (and most underappreciated) hours.

  • Completion Date - Finished on March 15th.

    In Brief - As a big fan of the first Dead Space, picking up the second was a no-brainer. The gameplay definitely delivered, providing more strategic dismemberment, slightly slicker combat, and a few welcome new tricks to mix things up a bit. It also lived up to expectations in the presentation department, with gorgeous visuals, peerless audio design, and heart-in-mouth scares aplenty. It's a shame that with so much going for it, Dead Space 2's narrative fell flat. Fragmented, meandering and lacking any real sense of urgency, the story dragged down what was otherwise a brilliant action-horror game.

  • (White Version)

    <br><br><b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on March 27th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Pokemon White is more Pokemon. That's probably the easiest way to describe it. Collecting, battling, gym badges, Elite Four, evil Team - it definitely treads familiar ground, but that's not a problem. The new 'mons are mostly well-designed, and the Unova region is a joy to explore. I don't think it quite reached the same level that Diamond did for me, though. My complaints are largely minor - poor implementation of touch controls, underplaying staple aspects of the franchise like Berries, fishing and even HMs, and of course over-familiarity, but these don't detract from the fact it's another great Pokemon game.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on May 3rd.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Dragon Quest IV is very much a member of the JRPG old guard. It's simple, and that's probably its greatest merit. No convoluted plot points, no melodramatic characters, just a bunch of rag-tag warriors out to save the world. The combat system is similarly no-frills, offering a straightforward turn-based experience that manages to be strategic without overcomplicating anything. It's been refreshing to play such a basic, grounded JRPG.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on May 5th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Four years on, Portal is still a landmark piece of game design. I played it again in preparation for picking up the sequel, and it's just as brilliant and wickedly funny as I remember it being the first time around. This was also my first time playing through with the developers' commentary switched on, and it was really interesting to hear about the decisions that the dev team made in putting together the game.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished single player on May 8th.<br>

    Finished co-op on May 16th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Portal 2 represents what I hope games continue to aspire to in the future. Every bit as funny and mind-bending as the original, Portal 2 expands on its predecessor with some genius new gameplay elements and a much more prominent narrative. If I had one complaint, it would probably be that the game was a little easier than I expected it to be. Then again, coming in straight off the back of the original might have had something to do with that.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on May 9th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Who would have thought it would take me nearly two months to play through an eight-hour adventure? I began Enslaved with my girlfriend along for the ride, but her lack of interest meant that we rarely played it. After admitting she wasn't interested in seeing it through to the end, I played through the game's second half alone. I reveled in the simplicity of both its gameplay and its story, both of which I enjoyed immensely. In retrospect, this is definitely one of last year's sleeper hits.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on May 16th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Red Dead Redemption is probably my favourite game ever. Playing this single-player DLC pack was enough to remind me why - the world and the characters are some of the most memorable and interesting in the history of the medium. The apocalyptic bent of Undead Nightmare's narrative allowed for a lot of interesting variety in the Survivor missions and Challenges - I particularly loved the incorporation of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, Undead Nightmare also highlights some of the game's functional shortcomings, especially melee combat mechanics. All told, though, it was a pleasure to return to the Old West and adventure with John Marston once again.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on May 23rd.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Darksiders is derivative. There's no two ways about that. Thankfully, it incorporates all of its borrowed mechanics so well that it's impossible to hold its mish-mash nature against it. The Legend of Zelda-style adventuring really felt fresh in this post-apocalyptic environment, and was bolstered by further borrowings from other games. Even the Voidwalker, an almost carbon-copy of the ASHPD from Portal, felt like it deserved its place thanks to some great dungeon design. Darksiders may be derivative, but it isn't shamefully so, because it shows a great deal of respect for its inspiration.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on June 7th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Having fond childhood memories of this title, I was seized by a sudden strange urge to play it again after finishing my exams at the start of June. After returning to it and finally completing it after all these years, MediEvil strikes me as a good game with the wasted potential to be a great game. Its unique story and Python-esque humour are waylaid by some awkward mechanics and a general inferiority to its contemporaries, most notably Ocarina of Time. Still, it was an enjoyable enough experience, and I'm planning to jump straight into its sequel.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on June 17th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    MediEvil 2 is a step up from its predecessor in almost every conceivable way. It plays better, it looks better, it's structured better, the bosses are better, and the humour is funnier. The expanded mechanics also make for a much more varied experience than the original game was. Unfortunately the gameplay is still held back by some minor issues, most notably a lack of lock-on targeting, and the very short story falls flat on almost every level. Even so, the improvements over the first game make MediEvil 2 worth checking out.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on June 28th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    As somebody who's never experienced the PS3 versions of LittleBigPlanet, I found the PSP incarnation to be a very enjoyable platformer. The graphics are sharp and colourful, and the floaty physics make for a platforming experience that's both distinct and yet comfortingly familiar. My only niggling complaint is that the level creation tools, while fine in a console environment, don't translate too well to the pick-up-and-play nature of handheld gaming. That aside, it's well worth anyone's time.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on July 12th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    I enjoyed L.A. Noire as an experience, and really appreciate what it tried to do in terms of advancement of both the classic point-and-click adventure formula and the standards of video game storytelling. Some of the gameplay mechanics did feel a little shallow, and the supposedly dynamic case-solving wasn't quite as impressive as I'd hyped it up to be. Nonetheless, it stands out as something unique in today's gaming ecosystem, and hopefully is a hint at future industry diversification.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on July 21st.<br>

    S-ranked on July 24th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Assassin's Creed II is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played. It takes everything that was great and unique about the first game - the parkour mechanics, the aesthetics and the rich backstory stretching across centuries of history - and transposes them into a game that's a lot more fun to actually play. The result is an epic journey through 15th century Italy that I won't soon forget. More than anything, it's confirmed that I need to get hold of the supposedly superior Brotherhood ASAP.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on July 27th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Having spent a lot of time with Fable II last year, I've been pretty eager to get to grips with its predecessor to see where the series took root. After playing through the Lost Chapters edition of Fable for Xbox, I'm left wondering which of the two I liked the most. Fable is every bit as good as its sequel, and I'd argue even trumps it in some aspects, most notably its main quest-line.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on September 14th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Phantom Hourglass is a great addition to the Zelda franchise. The possibilities granted by the DS hardware result in some of the best inventory items and boss battles the series has ever seen. Unfortunately, the game is held back from brilliance by easiness and a lot of required backtracking (if I ever have to set foot in the Temple of the Ocean King again I'll...). Nonetheless, it's got me interested in Spirit Tracks, which I may or may not decide to pick up in the near future.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on October 18th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Returning to a firm childhood favourite is always a risk. Thankfully in this case, it's one that paid off. The Last Revelation is still an enjoyable adventure - retaining the charm of the first three Tomb Raiders and combining it with a thematically cohesive narrative, it's easily Lara's finest hour on the original PlayStation. That being said, the reunion did sour my memories a little - especially after I came across an instance of game-breaking design that almost brought my romp through Egypt to a premature end. By modern standards it's nothing special, but The Last Revelation will always be special to me.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on October 21st.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Gameplay-wise, I didn't find Max Payne to be anything special - I felt like it was just a simple (but enjoyable) third-person shooter. Maybe the game's design was well ahead of its time, but I don't have a point of reference to know if that's the case. What really kept me going through the game was less its John Woo-inspired gunplay and more its story - an interesting noir-style narrative delivered in a brilliantly-written emulation of a graphic novel. I've been told that Max Payne 2 is a marked improvement over the original, so I'll definitely be checking that out soon too.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on October 22nd.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    After finishing all the events in Forza 2 a couple of years ago, I was left wanting in a few areas - specifically a more robust career mode, more intuitive tuning options, and visuals that didn't just look like an up-res'd version of Forza 1. Forza 3 addressed all these issues, and has had me playing on and off all year. Now that I've finally finished the Season mode, I might be tempted to jump back in next year and tackle some of the events I didn't see.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on November 3rd.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    In honour of GTAIII's tenth birthday, I decided to reboot this old favourite and take it for another spin around the streets of Liberty City. The experience was by and large a great one, full of great missions, great dialogue, and almost infinite opportunities to cause unparalleled amounts of chaos. The humour also still hits the mark for the most part, with some of it feeling even more relevant now than it was ten years ago given global developments. Next year I plan to revisit Vice City in honour of its tenth anniversary, to find out if it holds up just as well as Rockstar's original crime-sim masterpiece.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on November 7th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    I really enjoyed returning to this second instalment in the original Sands of Time trilogy. The platforming was snappy and responsive, the combat was slick and acrobatic, and the environments were gorgeous. The game's plot does some cool things with time-travel, and while others have been bothered by the game's baditude, I wasn't. My main issue was with some of the game's questionable design choices that had me waiting for long periods whenever I died or wanted to save my game.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on November 26th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Tower defence games have never been my thing, but Plants vs. Zombies may have just changed that. I loved the seemingly simple rules that govern plant and zombie behaviour, and how they stockpile on top of each other to create scenarios that are incredibly tough to deal with. Even now, days after finishing the Adventure mode, I'm still returning to it to take on the various mini-games and survival modes. Plants vs. Zombies could keep me busy for weeks to come.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on December 13th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    I decided to revisit GTA IV for my third playthrough this year. Even now, almost four years after its release, it still stands up for me as one of the best examples of a truly next-gen game experience. Niko's story is every bit as riveting the third time round as it was the first time, and the nature of the gunplay makes for some really dynamic chases and showdowns over the course of the ninety-odd story missions. I'm not sure I'll be returning to GTA IV again before GTA V lands, but seeing as it's so fresh in my memory now, I don't feel like I need to.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on December 17th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    I bought this in a Steam daily sale on December 16th. Not wanting to let it clog up my Pile of Shame, I decided to play it straight away and completed it in three sittings over the next 24 hours. The most striking thing about Limbo is its sparse, minimalist aesthetic - the silhouetted art direction and barely-present sound design create an atmosphere that's as haunting as it is mesmerising. Gameplay-wise, it offers some interesting takes on the puzzle platformer, although I never found any of the puzzles overly taxing. But Limbo is more about the journey, and it was definitely a journey well worth the £1.75 I spent on it.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on December 26th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    In preparation for removing Halo 2 from my Pile of Shame, I thought it might be a good idea to get re-acquainted with the franchise by replaying the first game. Five years after my first time through Halo, I honestly think it's better than I ever originally gave it credit for. The campaign is perfectly based, and the game's open environments really encourage the player to approach scenarios in different ways. The narrative is solid and well-told, too, which made the game doubly engaging for me. After spending the last few days with Halo, I'm inclined to rank it beside the original Half-Life on my list of most-loved FPS games. Coming from me, that's high praise.

  • <b><u>Completion Date</u></b><br>

    Finished on December 30th.<br><br>

    <b><u>In Brief</u></b><br>

    Immediately after finishing the first Halo, I leapt straight into the sequel. While something about the shooting didn't feel quite as brilliant as the original, it's still a great FPS. I also really dug the story a lot more in this game, which seemed a little less generic and a little deeper, too. I think at some point in the New Year I'm going to have to pick up a copy of Halo 3, so I can finish the fight.