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Games of the Year, 2011

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  • #10

    Although I didn’t actually play the single-player campaign, Modern Warfare 3 featured the Face Off multiplayer mode, a 2 vs. 2 game mode that I was quite fond of. Most Call of Duty multiplayer that I’d experienced up to this point was a 6 vs. 6 affair. It could get rather chaotic at times, and it was possible to lose if you didn’t have a full team of six, based on the weakness of your random pick-up players. In Face Off, I was able to coordinate tactics with a single teammate and I felt that my performance mattered. Modern Warfare 3 also included the Spec Ops game mode, 4-player cooperative missions to be tackled with friends. While I didn’t enjoy these as much as Modern Warfare 2’s 2-player offerings, they certainly weren’t a bad time.

  • #9

    Gears of War 3 wrapped up the initial trilogy in a way that Epic can be proud of. Its incremental improvements to game mechanics maintained Gears’ status as the best feeling (and most weighty) third-person shooter around.

  • #8

    An absolutely fantastic 2D co-op puzzler with light combat elements. Trine 2 features three playable characters, each with their own personalities, strengths, and unique abilities. Developer Frozenbyte designed the game in such a way that any combination of the three can make it through the game’s challenges. The game also features gorgeous, colorful level design.

  • #7

    What a fantastic world Eidos Montreal created. Interconnected spaces that supported multiple means of traversal, based on the specific upgrades a player pursued. The character design and tech on display, held together wonderfully through the sleek blacks and golden diamonds of the game’s aesthetic. I liked the game’s take on stealth, the abilities on offer, and even the hacking minigame. Unfortunately, the boss encounters and the silliness of constantly chomping candy bars to perform melee takedowns bring down the experience a smidge.

  • #6

    While I can’t say that I agree with Visceral’s decision to more fully flesh out protagonist Isaac Clarke, Dead Space 2 further refines the brilliant third-person shooting from the first title in the series. I always enjoy playing Dead Space games on higher than normal difficulties, as both the player and the enemies seem to go down quickly. The fear induced both by the dark, mangled metallic environments and the abominable necromorph enemies is amplified. The sound design of these games is exceptional, with clanks, bangs, and skittering noises echoing across the game’s world.

  • #5

    Although at this point it’s been released on so many platforms it’s become a meme, as an open-world western RPG, Skyrim is quite good. I spent many, many hours questing and scavenging the wintry landscape, using the dragon shouts to further enhance my ability to fight and navigate the world. The constellation-based skill system was expansive and allowed a good deal of choice when putting together a character. Bethesda excels at creating immersive worlds – whenever I’m playing an alchemy character in game, I begin noticing the colors of certain flowers in real life and considering potion effects!

  • #4

    I think that Fear 3 got a bad rap. While overall, it didn’t review as well as the previous two games in the series, I liked the asynchronous co-op multiplayer that it brought to the table. I always welcome the existence of two playable characters with different abilities, as it adds not only more dynamic gameplay but replayability. I liked the game’s environments, and the chance to get up close and personal with Paxton Fettel (one of the more compelling villains in gaming, in my opinion). The main complaint against the game (that I recall) was that having a co-op partner made the game less scary, but I feel that the fun this feature added to the game made it a worthwhile addition.

  • #3

    Saints Row III, in my opinion, was the high mark of the series so far. I had a lot of fun playing Saints Row II, but it was just a little too…janky. However, it was successful, and this allowed Volition to add an extra coat of polish to the next iteration. Saints Row III showed me just how fun a co-op open world game could be. In Grand Theft Auto III, I remember jumping on top of cars and just seeing how long I could stay there as the car drove around the city. In Saints Row, you do the same thing and it starts a minigame called “vehicle surfing.” Volition just knows what makes games like this fun. A fist you can equip that can punch enemies across the screen, a “mollusk launcher” that shoots an organism that mind-controls the enemies it grabs, a flying jetski called the Specter. Not to mention activities like Mayhem. It’s fun to destroy things in open-world games, right – but how much property damage can you cause? You even develop strategies to maximize! And the Insurance Fraud activity is just about the most fun I’ve ever had in an open world game, trying to ragdoll yourself into vehicles without hitting the ground. What…a…blast.

  • #2

    A co-op third-person shooter/tower defense hybrid, Iron Brigade is a VERY fun. Made with the humor that Double Fine is known for, your “trenches” (mechs) fight against the “Monovision menace,” television-themed enemies that appear to be composed of cords and screens. The highlight of the game is absolutely the trench customization. You can choose your chassis, legs, the weapons you carry, and the emplacements you have access to. You’ll want to revisit the ship (your mobile base) often to switch things around, as different missions will require different loadouts in order for you to be most effective.

  • #1

    As a single-player first-person puzzle game, Portal 2 is exceptional. It features interesting environments, hilarious characters (Cave Johnson, GLADOS, and Wheatley spring to mind most readily), and ingenious physics puzzles. As multiple game critics have noted in videos on game design, Valve is excellent at subtly guiding players towards solutions without being heavy-handed about it. This means that often, the player feels a great sense of accomplishment after stumbling onto a puzzle’s solution. If this were all the game were, it would be one of the best games of the year. However, Portal 2 features an astonishingly good, extensive co-op mode. These puzzles require cooperation, coordination, and timing. If this weren’t enough, Valve released a free DLC chapter with nine additional rooms six months after the game’s release.