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Opinion: The best and worst of 2011

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Another year, another opportunity to sum up our thoughts on the year in gaming. Rather than do a simple “Top 5” like I did last year, I instead decided to split my best and worse in to different categories – this year has been a good one for gaming and it’s difficult to only post 5 of my favourite games! Nevertheless, here’s what stood out for me this year:

Best Shooter

Game: Bulletstorm

Overlooked by many, Bulletstorm ditched a lot of the modern design choices a lot of modern shooters abide by, favouring that you kill your enemies as stylishly as possible by using aspects of the level to your advantage… like man eating plants. If you haven’t played this yet then you absolutely need to give it a go. Now get to it dicktits.

Honourable mentions: Gears of War 3, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Best Platformer

Game: Sonic Generations (Xbox 360, PS3, PC Version)

SEGA has been on a mission to bring the spiky blue Hedgehog back to his former glory as of late, and Sonic Generations was a mighty good effort. Though a touch on the short side, Sonic Generations does feature a lot of replay value with different missions to complete outside of the main game, and if you’re at all like me, then you’ll have fun trying to get the fastest possible time on the games levels. In all, I’ve put over 40 hours in to Sonic Generations just with this simple goal in mind (I get can quite competitive with myself over things like this). If you can forgive the extremely kid-friendly nature of the games main story, then you’ll have fun with Generations. You can read my full review of Sonic Generations here.

Honourable mentions: Super Mario 3D Land

Best Puzzle Game

Game: Portal 2

Quite often puzzle games will fail to grab me, but Portal is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. The core game is simple, but the puzzles that can be presented to you (especially in the games co-operative mode) can be tricky to get through for the first time. Combine this with a well written story and an intriguing cast of characters that keeps you wanting more, and you’ve got a recipe for a great puzzle game, and efforts made by Valve to try and merge console and PC gaming by letting gamers on PlayStation 3 and Steam play together should be praised too, though it’s a shame that Microsofts restrictive policies prevented such a feature from making its way to the Xbox  360 version of the game.

Best Indie Game

Game: Waves

It was a tough choice between this and Bastion, but I eventually decided to settle on Waves because of its simple pick up and play nature. You could just dismiss it as a clone of Geometry Wars – and to some extent you’d be correct, but Waves provides just enough new features that it can stand up on its own. Much like Sonic Generations the replay value comes in trying to beat the high score of yourself and your friends. The soundtrack could benefit from a few extra tracks, but overall Waves is a great little game.

Honourable mentions: Bastion, Solar 2

Best Graphics

Game: Bastion

And with that the Internet shouts out “What the eff bro? Why isn’t Crysis 2 here? Or The Witcher? Or Battlefield 3?” Well, I like to think that a games looks come from more than just how many polygons or how many individual grains of sand a game is rendering at a time – Bastion just looks so gorgeous that if you took away the user interface you could mistake the games locations as real works of art that someone drew as a hobby, or to sell at an art show, not for some “stupid” video game that you can pick up for a couple of quid . Bastion simply looks beautiful, and blurs the line between video games and art in ways that Crysis or Battlefield could only dream of (I also think that Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 look a little bland). In Bastion you forget that you’re looking at a bunch of pixels and polygons, in Battlefield you do not – and that’s why Bastion wins this for me.

Honourable mentions: The Witcher 2, Gears of War 3

Best Soundtrack

Game: Sonic CD (XBLA, PSN, Steam, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7)

Is this technically cheating? Sonic CD was originally released way back in 1993, though the recent port of the game was the first time I’ve ever played it. Every stage in Sonic CD is full of catchy tunes that, for me, are very reminiscent of the early 90’s and late 80’s – so to that extent the games soundtrack is somewhat nostalgic to me even though I’ve never heard it before. The game had a different soundtrack in the United States, though as far as I’m concerned the Japanese & European version of the games soundtrack (as you can hear in the video above) is far superior.

Honourable mentions: Bastion, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Best Action/Adventure Game

Game: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

I love Assassin’s Creed: Revelations because it gives us what so many games do not: closure. Games are all too happy to give you a cliffhanger at the end of the game in the hopes that you’ll buy the sequel. Of course Assassin’s Creed: Revelations does this – but as far as Ezio is concerned it’s nice to know that we’ve gotten the whole story. And as strange as it may sound, it’s also humbling to see a video game character age, and to see the changes in character that age brings along with it.

But Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is absolutely a fun game to play, bringing together all of the features that we’ve seen before and bringing them together with a bit more added to them. There’s now a little more to capturing and defending Assassin headquarters, recruiting and training Assassin’s has been expanded upon, and there’s a simple yet deep bomb crafting tool. I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed: Revelations so much that I’ve decided to go back and play through the previous two games that Ezio starred in – Assassin’s Creed 2 & Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I do wish, however, that Ubisoft would hurry up and add a co-operative mode to the Assassin’s Creed series.

Honourable mentions: Saints Row The Third

Biggest disappointment of 2011

Game: Battlefield 3

Yes that’s right Internet, I just went there. Battlefield 3 is a game I have given hundreds of chances and fails to entertain me every time. I originally tried the beta on my Xbox 360, and I wasn’t impressed. I eventually moved on to trying the beta on my PC, and wasn’t impressed again, and I was close to cancelling my pre-order. However I eventually decided to give Battlefield 3 the benefit of the doubt because hey, it’s Battlefield – I’ve liked them all since the first Bad Company, so why would this be any different? I simply put it down to Operation Metro being a crappy map.

Launch day comes and I install Battlefield 3 to my PC, open the campaign and I’m bored out of my mind at the second level. I don’t think I have ever played a campaign that’s so… boring before – with the possible exception of Homefront (which I knew would probably be pretty bad before I spent a whole £2 on it, so to that extent Homefront wasn’t really a disappointment because I had low expectations). I do the logical thing and jump in to the multiplayer modes – and, in fairness, I enjoyed it at first.

My problem is that I work 12 hour shifts in my job – and when I get home I just want to chill – I’m not really in the mood for video games, so because of this I start falling behind the crowd – and it’s gotten to the point now that everyone has the best weapons, the best perks, the best upgrades for their vehicles and I feel like I’m still at square one. I’ve been left behind and playing catch-up is proving to be too frustrating. I simply don’t have the patience for shooters where you have to play 24/7 just to remain relevant. For these reasons I’ve already abandoned Battlefield 3 in favour of Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3 and Team Fortress 2.

Dishonourable mentions: LittleBigPlanet 2

Most anticipated for 2012

Game: Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 absolutely, categorically, without question is what I’m most excited for next year. Mass Effect 2 was a masterpiece and I loved every second of it, and I have no doubts that Mass Effect 3 will be the same. My only problem is that I’ve played through Mass Effect 2 so many times that I’ve lost count of what I’ve done through each play run of the game, so I’m going to have issues when it comes to importing my character. Or I could just play through Mass Effect 2 again! I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

Honourable mentions: Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed 3 (we all know it’s going to happen)

That’s the year in a wrap for me, though my back log of games has increased dramatically this year so I’m kind of annoyed I haven’t had the chance to play all of them before writing this up. Nonetheless, this is how I feel about the games that I’ve played this year. Here’s hoping that 2012 will be a good one!

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