So, it’s not too late to do “Best of 2011” lists, is it? We haven’t even hit the Oscar nominations yet, so I’ll assume I’m still in the free here. I’ll start with video games. Even though there are several games I haven’t yet gotten to that I plan to play fairly soon (Rayman Origins, Skyrim), I still have a pretty good grasp on what you should’ve played this year.
First up, the runner-ups!
-Dead Space 2: There’s something about the Dead Space series that I can’t figure out, but it just really hits me with how good it is. Horror gameplay that still gives you enough of a feeling of power? Maybe that’s it.
-Ms. ‘Splosion Man: I can still hear her high-pitched screams of ALL THE SINGLE LADIES. But the excellently-done, hard-as-nails platforming is what really stands out in this game.
-Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Deus Ex was a dead franchise after Invisible War. Human Revolution gives us an interesting cyberpunk playground and plenty of choices, from the moral to how you play the game. A stealthy hacker or blasting away every guy in the room? Even I was surprised when I ended up choosing the former.
5. LittleBigPlanet 2. I think the main problem with this game and Dead Space 2 is that they came out in January, so I keep forgetting that they actually came out this year, but that doesn’t lose it a spot on this list. If the first LBP was a wonderful platforming game, LBP2 was a wonderful game. Adding in enough full customization tools to allow people to make any game they wanted really showed. Browsing the community levels you can find rhythm games, racing, shooters, any genre. While this does deafen the top-notch platforming of the original some, it doesn’t prevent it from being an excellent game.
4. Saints Row the Third. You know that one level in every game where you just go “Holy crap, I’m doing WHAT?!” That’s pretty much the effect of the entirety of SR3. This is a game that features you skydiving through debris before you kick through a plane’s windshield…and this is one of the game’s first missions. You take place in Professor’s Genki’s Super-Ethical Reality Climax, a mix of The Running Man and a Japanese gameshow. You head into cyberspace, including having to go through a text adventure. You fight zombies. You can get Burt Reynolds in your gang. Not a character played by Burt Reynolds, but BURT REYNOLDS. If there’s any flaw, it’s that it’s all so ridiculous at some point it becomes almost normal.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I feel odd putting this game on the list considering I’m pretty sure I’m not even halfway through it, and I’ve heard it falls apart in its final act. But this is a list of the games you should’ve played, not necessarily the best games. And if there is any game that has to be played, it’s the one that finally shows what we wanted the day the Wii came out: motion-controlled sword-fighting. You stab the controller, do a horizontal slice, lift the controller up into the air, and Link does the same thing. And it uses motion throughout the game, from flying to swimming. Just to show what motion-controlled gaming can do when it’s done right, this is worth playing.
2. Portal 2. Yes, this list is full of sequels. I’ve been ruminating for a while on why sequels are accepted so well in the gaming industry, yet are met with fear and derision in films. I think it’s because when films hit something really well, there’s really nothing to change, while even the best game can have something that needs to be tweaked. And while Portal became an instant classic, it needed those tweaks. Which is what you get with Portal 2, which pretty much hits the biggest mark on the video game sequel checklist: “More but better”. A longer campaign, funnier and more clever writing, more puzzle elements, a fully-done co-op campaign. Great games come around every year. It turns out that a game like Portal comes around twice in a lifetime.
1. Batman: Arkham City. I can’t begin to describe the feelings with Arkham City. That open-world that’s constantly giving you Riddler trophies to try and puzzle out. Bringing back all those cool gadgets, and then giving you new ones. Plenty of classic Batman villains for you to face. Just making you feel like Batman again. I may not be the best Batman ever, but damn, I had a fun time being him.