2011 was a ripper year for gaming. Ken Levine, in an interview with Eurogamer, even went as far as to proclaim it the best year for gaming since 2007. While I would draw the bow slightly longer to compare it to 1998, there is no doubt that the last 12 months has been an incredible year. And for the record, 2007 was an average year, and Bioshock wasn’t that great. Sorry Ken. The point is, whatever your taste, 2011 was a fantastic for video games and hard to isolate a few highlights. But alas, it is a New Year public holiday, I’m back to work tomorrow and I’m short on time. So what better time for a list of sorts. So behold, the most agreeable video games for 2011. That I played at least.
Shadows of the Damned
Back in August I poured my heart out to Shadows of the Damned. I’m a big fan of both Suda 51 (Killer 7, Michigan, No More Heroes) and Shinji Mikami’s (Resident Evil, Vanquish) collective works, so the mere thought of the two artists coming together for one product was too much for me to contain. And the wait was worth it. Not only was the setting, characters and story line fantastic, but as a video game it totally held up. And the game was genuinely laugh out loud funny, so bonus points for a joke about demon pubes.
Portal 2 may have successfully overthrown the Half Life series as Valve’s most important property. Everything that was good about Portal is in its sequel – and for that reason alone Portal 2 is not only probably the best game of the year, but perhaps one of the greatest games ever made. While for most it probably would have been enough to just push on with the whole GLaDOS thing, Valve went above and beyond to create new characters and environments that not only make the game very different from its predecessor, but also flesh out a relatively sterile and purpose-built world. Even without the fear of death, I would gladly keep testing for Aperture.
Because I have to earn money to live, I have a job. Because I have a job, I haven’t played anywhere near as much Dark Souls as I would have liked. But in the barely 15 hours I have put into it, it has successfully made me look at University websites to look at what additional degrees I could do, rejig my budget to see if I could survive working only 10 hours a week, and has also made me wish more games are like this. The answer to all of those questions is no, but at least I still have Dark Souls. It is the game that other developers are afraid to make. And I love it.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
I think the fact that I don’t even like the Warhammer 40,000 table top game speaks volumes to the incredibly high quality of Relic’s Space Marine. Put simply, no other game this year has been so blissfully fun. The combination of very visceral gun play and heavy melee combat makes being a Space Marine incredibly rewarding, and using the wide range of weaponry at your disposal as an Ultra Marine to tear the enemy to shreds makes Space Marine the one game on this list that I would probably recommend to anyone with a pretty decent idea that they will get scores of enjoyment from it. And in an age where sequels are all too common, main character Titus is actually a Space Marine you should be wishing to see in a sequel.
Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together
I actually feel like I’ve cheated on handheld games this year by playing almost exclusively console games. But when I was reaching for a handheld, it was Sony’s system with Tactics Ogre cemented firmly in. The game itself never did see a release in European territories (and by virtue, Australia) despite being released in Japan for the Super Famicom back in 1995, re released in 1996 for the Saturn in Japan, and then released in Japan and North America for the Playstation in 1998/1998. Finally this year though, it saw a release on the PSP, and an enhanced release at that. Not that I was waiting – but the ‘wait’ was totally worth it, and Tactics Ogre represents the best of the genre on a system that includes Final Fantasy Tactics, Jeanne D’arc and Disgaea.
I actually played a hell of a lot of video games from last year, last year. Unfortunately though, despite my best efforts, there is no way in hell I could have gotten close to playing all of the games I wanted to – sorry El Shaddai. The list of games that I didn’t get to is incredibly embarrassing only rivaled by that of the dream where you somehow left home and went about your normal day with no pants or underwear on. You know the one, right?