List items

  • A perfect piece of art has to excel in every area expected by coniseurrs of it's form. Many games this year have over-achieved in one area, Saint's Row's humour, or Skyrim's huge fantastic world for example, and this has masked faults with other aspects of their production. We are too accepting of this trend, especially if the game in question caters to a particually cherished trope. I, for example am prone to overlooking the myriad faults in Bethesda games, so fond am I of the style of gameplay they provide.

    This is why Portal 2 is so clearly the best game of 2011. Every aspect, from presentation, to gameplay and especially the first-rate writing and action are superb, and representative of the heights we should now be expecting from video games. You can feel the love and attention lavished on every aspect of this production, the taxing but wonderfully rewarding puzzling, the design of the crumbling facility and the Pixar quality comedy and performances. Portal 2 is faultless in conception and design and the clear winner in 2011

  • I really don't like fantasy. However I love the Bethesda style exploration gameplay where one can spend hundreds of hours ambling across a huge world and have sunk days of my life into the previous entries in the Fallout series. So it's not entirely unexpected that I would enjoy Skyrim but it is a credit to the fantastic, beautiful world they have created that after 170 hours I am still game for some more. It has even removed my aversion to fantasy to such an extent that Dragon Age and the Witcher 2 are next on my list. The only thing keeping Skyrim from number one is the bland writing. If Bethesda could have given Skyrim just one character of the quality of Veronica from Fallout New Vegas then it could have taken the top slot.

  • The designers at Eidos Montreal were not able to bestow the A.I. with the subtlety needed to truly convince, but the atmosphere they created was such that I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to authentically immerse myself in the dystopian future they created. In a year where true innovation was scarce it was great to see a developer really think creatively about both mood and gameplay. True, the plotting got a bit hysterical (why illuminati?) and the voice acting was not the greatest but the mood, multi-faceted gameplay, and breakdancing punks held me entranced.

  • I was worried that Visceral Games might be shedding the suspense of the first game in favour of a more explosive, Modern Warfare style and while they did up the pyrotechnics, the set-pieces were done with real style and there were plenty of more atmospheric and genuinely creepy moments to keep fans of the first game satisfied. It also iterated excellently on the gameplay and graphics of it's predecessor with some truly gorgeous visuals at times.

  • The depressing excess of sequels this year has been an odd phenomenon. For me it has been almost more disheartening that most of the 3's and 2's appearing this year have been very good games in their own right. Repeating the same experience, no matter how well made it is just not as fulfilling for someone like myself who is always on the hunt for new worlds to explore and it makes me wish the creative minds behind these games had focused on something new. Having said that, I really enjoyed gliding around the dindgy neon-soaked world of Arkham City and everything which made the first game so much fun was back in spades. It always amazes me how they manage to fit all the characters into a storyline without producing a confused mess.

  • One of those little downloadable gems which is just pure fun. I couldn't tell you anything about the story or why I have to get my little glowing stick man across the map but I do know I didn't rest until I'd uncovered every secret and smacked every techno-hippy monster back to whatever day-glow hole he'd come from.

  • Hmmmmm.Only about a third of the way into this one but I think it merits inclusion on this list if it can keep up the pace of absurdity it has established so far. A distinct lack of polish and more bugs than Skyrim (a whole room of vanishing NPC's, quests which won't start and people stuck in the pavement to name some) but it doesn't seem to matter when the game is such a crazed mess of ridiculous power fantasy and wish-fullfillment.

  • A game which suffers badly from sequel-itis. If this was a new I.P. we would all be raving about the amazing graphics and stunning set-pieces but familiarity and comparision with what has gone before hindered my enjoyment of this game. So much of the action was fantastic, from the stunning levels in the tanker graveyard and on the pirate ship, to the quiet and solitude of the desert, and the production and look of the game were equal if not better to anything else in the series. What really let Uncharted 3 down this time was the writing. The story felt as if it had been throttled and it's real intention, to tell a darker tale of Drake's madness had been diluted into the half-baked, slightly nonsensical (Talbot anyone?) version allowed into the game.

  • This game failed on so many levels and was followed by so many tales of office bullying and mismanagement that I am startled to be including it on this list. However here it is. Much as with Deus Ex, I am just pleased that someone is taking big creative risks with a AAA title. Sure it cost one man his reputation, lots of people their jobs and closed down a whole studio - but no pain no gain - right.... Right?

  • This game did a lot of things wrong but it got two elements so right that I spent over 40 hours hacking through all it had to offer. Firstly the analogue combat was a masterstroke and it puzzles me why they did not make it the default option. That swiping a stick from left to right could feel so meaty and visceral was revelatory and made the combat feel as fresh at the finish as it did at the first fumbling attempt. It's second triumph was nailing the panic a zombie attack should provoke. Too many zombie games have you just calmly hack your way through hordes of the things but Dead Island (especially in the city section) really provoked a gut-wrenching sense of being overwhelmed by monsters and constantly having to suppress the urge to run for your life. I thought that was excellent.