Monday, 02 January 2012 12:23

Rapid's Favourite Games of 2011

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With 2012 here already, Rapid took one final look back at the games he has been playing this past year and sums up his top five favourite games of 2011.

First the Honourable Mentions

Uncharted 3


Oh Uncharted 3, you were a great cinematic roller coaster ride with your great action movie like sequences, amazing locations, and incredible gameplay moments. You are one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen both technically and stylistically. Environments are lush, saturated, finely detailed and look as if the game was shot with a high definition lens. There were just some nit picky problems, like the climbing was not as fluid as I expect compared to that of an Assassin’s Creed game also, until the patch that allowed me to go back to what resemble the shooting in Uncharted 2, your shooting felt kind of awkward and very floaty to me. I love your characters but I felt that there were less significant development to them in this game as compared to previous Uncharted games. The competitive multiplayer and survival modes is fun however, I felt fatigued by its repetitiveness after several hours and while I will still probably go back and play more of the Co-Op adventure, I did not feel the immediate need to go back to the the Co-Op adventures after completing them once. But despite all the criticism I just said about  the game there’s still no denying Uncharted 3 is still a great game that I still enjoyed this year.

Elder’s Scrolls V : Skyrim


The only reason Skyrim is not only my list is because to be honest, I did not actually play Skyrim, instead I watched various people play a ton of Bethesda’s latest Elder’s Scroll game. I have already watched dozens of hours worth of gameplay from people playing this game to know almost know what the major quests are, and what happens and the dragon shout you get at the end of the game. No doubt in my mind, if I were to actual commit and play Skyrim that I would be heavily immersed in its story, the setting and my character to the point where investing dozens of hours in the game would be an understatement. Which is why, at  least for now I am choosing to abstain from playing the game.

5. Dungeon Defenders


 

Dungeon Defenders is the game that took me by surprise the most when it came to how much unexpected fun I had with a game in 2011. It’s probably a greater surprise that it managed to knock Uncharted 3 from this top 5 favourite list this year, because I did play Uncharted 3 and it was great. I think the thing that grabbed me about this game was not only how much fun I had playing it,  even with random people on the Internet. Its a game where playing Co-op with friends or people online is not only makes the game experience truly great, but its down right almost required. Do not let the saturated colors and cute graphics fool you, Dungeon Defenders sends waves of savage amounts of Orcs and Goblins at you, even starting on medium you definitely at least one other person with you or else you will find yourself in a bad situation quickly towards the middle waves. Different environments, and various layouts to the levels and the game’s expectation to defend multiple Crystals while the game difficulty ramps up quickly not only when you go from Hard to Insane difficulty but from level to level kept me interested in the game. Even after beating the levels in the main game, there’s a bunch of DLC for instance additional characters, and levels and some levels yet to be release that I have not dove into / probably not going to buy, there’s enough of the game at its core to be enjoyed. There’s a whole other side of the game in that it also has special challenges that I begun to explore. Plus, when I bought the game through steam I receive stuff like how about you get Team Fortress 2 characters as pets that you fight with and can level up beside you in battle, or a freaking Portal Gun as a weapon for the Huntress in the game. The UI is clean and simple, I love the fact that to figure out if your loot is good or not, just look at if it has a

thumbs up or thumbs down. It’s a great game if you just want to play in twenty to an hour chunks or I know people that play it for several hours straight.

4. Assassin’s Creed Revelations


 

While I don’t deny anyone who criticizes Assassin’s Creed for how iterative its core game design has gotten ever since Ubisoft decided to annualize this franchise, it still make make my list as the number 4 most enjoyable game of 2011. If were to ask anyone who has played and is still invested in a game after even the “third” release game of any franchise - and that person is not crazy... the the likely answer would because they are invested in its possible overarching narrative, or the universe that the franchise is set in. At this is the case for me when it comes to Assassin’s Creed Revelations. Now to be clear, I only played some of Assassin’s Creed, after I received it with the PS3 version of Revelations. I completed Assassin’s Creed II, and beat through at least the story of Brotherhood but lost interest in the side activities. When it came to Revelations I was skeptical of how much I would enjoy it, but turns out I’m still a sucker for stabbing dudes in the face, and climbing up high places only to click a button (now replaced with a click-in the R3 / Right Anolog Stick) to view a short cut scene of the landscape and then to leap off from that said building into a conveniently placed  haystack / (now also flower bush). Yes, clearly, while much has not changed in the latest Assassin’s Creed game, and while the additions and new setting Constantinople felt underwhelming compared to its predecessor, the core gameplay with its minor refinements, even to the multiplayer and Ezio’s (hopefully) final story keep the game still fun and engaging. So Ubisoft...next Assassin’s Creed please new character, and new setting / era, I’m hoping for sengoku period of Japan or even China? The short film, Embers sure hints at its possibility. Give Assassin’s Creed the fresh paint of coat it deserves.
 

3. Bastion


 

I’m a big fan of Greg Kasavin ever since his days at GameSpot, but even I was surprised by how good Bastion actually was when I first saw it on Giant Bomb. The visuals and  2D art style looked interesting. I don’t think I need to even go in depth to how good the soundtrack is for this game, Bastion’s soundtrack especially the song “Zia’s Theme” has already won several notable awards this past year. Personally, my favourite song is the one used at the end of the game “Setting Sail, Coming Home”. I don’t want to get into the the whole Video Game as Art debate right now, but you know...this could probably make a good case in favour of it.
Both Rucks the narrator, and the music effectively set the mood and atmosphere of the game but, what kept me playing Bastion was the unraveling of the story and the much demanding gameplay. Watching and timing when to counter enemies kept me fixated on my surroundings the enemy movement on screen. I quickly discovered there’s actually a lot of strategy and depth to when and how you upgrade the several weapons in the game. I love the level of customizability I have in the game. There is not another game on this list and probably not in years that worked so hard in a game in order to get all (except the recently added DLC) the achievements. I cannot begin to describe the number of hours I put in to studying walkthroughs online in order to get the “Ashes in the Sky” and “Turret Opera” achievement.
 

2. Deus Ex : Human Revolution


 

If we were deciding on which game of 2011 immersed you into its world and setting the most Deus Ex would up there along with Skyrim. I enjoyed the game’s cyberpunk future setting and open-ended gameplay so much that I spent more time exploring, hacking into all the computers, reading every email I found than actually playing the game’s well put together story. It was refreshing to play a game that while not an open-world game, still has environments that feel like a open-world to facilitate its sandbox gameplay but still have the direction and focus of narrative driven game. Customization in the way you augment your own Adam Jensen to suit your play style was awesome and I thought was more streamlined than in the previous games. Whether you are like me, who played stealthily and suited up his Jensen with an assortment of augmentations, or even some people whom I’ve seen play the game guns blazin’ with no augmentations turned on for Jensen, the core game supported many of these different play styles. At no point does the game say here’s the build for Jensen if you want to complete this mission, instead you are given the tools and a green light. While people may have complained about the boss battles, I did not find them as terrible. It’s true that the boss battles sometimes required players to use a totally different approach or play style to beat them than how you were playing the rest of the game, the way I thought of the boss battles were as if the game was challenging the player’s skill at improvising in a situation. Human Revolution does what it sets out to do, modernize Deus Ex, while still keeping up with the expectations of long time fans.

 

1. Saints Row the Third


 

I’ll be honest if it were not for the guys at Giant Bomb speaking so highly of this game, I would have never checked it out. I was skeptical from the outside it look like here’s a modern GTA, hey remember those kind of games from back from 4 years ago? Meh... at all the dumb advertisement like “Strap It On” and was absolutely disgusted by THQ’s notion, pay us money for cheat codes (that oh by the way disable achievements).


With that said,

You should play Saints Row the Third.

I can’t even begin to explain why the game is so great, only by playing the game can one truly begin to comprehend why Saints Row the Third is my #1 favourite game of 2011. Its a game that does not take itself seriously in a world where every video game seems to being trying to prove itself as “Art”, Saints Row the Third embraces its video “gamey-ness” putting you in absolutely absurd situations that only could be possible within a video game. From the very beginning of the game Saints Row sets its tone to CRAZY. For instance, the game starts off by having you rob a bank dressed as Johnny Gatt, a member of your own crew then only moments later have you end up shooting your way out of a crashing plane, popping head-shots while in midair, then dive back into said crashing plane through the the pilot window, shoot some more guys then end up on the other side of the side plane.  And all this happens in not even under the first half an hour of the game. 

The craziness only begins from there, all that I just described is tame compared to what happens throughout the course of the game.What other game will let you doing all the following: call in air-strikes at anytime, get into cars by jumping through the windshield, fly transforming jets, has you explore a tron-like cyberspace world, has you playing a text- adventure game, has a whole wrestling sequence, and lets you keep and also gives you sports cars, a tron like speeder bike, as well as several military tanks and vehicles in your garage. And that is just some of the stuff you can do in Saints Row that I can say without too much spoilers.

But for all the absurd and insane stuff you do in the game, it actually has a well written story that is able to justify and thread all of these insane elements together with coherency. The game has memorable characters and personalities each with their strange characteristics and quirks. One member of your crew speaks in all auto-tune and you can bring your them along to missions or just when your fooling around in the open world. Despite all the weirdness, perhaps the reason I enjoy the game far more than any game like it before, is because its well written, for a game that lets you do stupid stuff, it smartly executes on the stupid stuff.

2011-12-04_00002The game has one of the best character editors I’ve seen in a very long time, and many great upgrade options. I love rolling around Steelport as my character and cannot believe some of the upgrades you can buy for your character. You can literally upgrade your character to the point where he or she for instance, takes no bullet damage, there’s also the option the ammo capacity of your guns to have infinite ammo. It’s like the developers knew that everyone loved cheats in games like GTA and decided, lets just make it part of the game.The driving controls in the game feels like an actual racing game, making driving missions and traversal actually fun. Just like a racing game, vehicles like cars, and motorcycles are modifiable.


If you have been following my gameplay videos you probably know that at the time I’m writing this, I’m not even finished all of Saints Row the Third yet, despite that fact, I am absolutely certain that this is my favourite game of 2011. For a guy who was pretty dismissive about Saints Row when it was first announced, I am incredibly happy that I got to experience this game.

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