Game of the year top 28 Games

By Muhammad Faisal 0 comments
When it's uncorked, 2011 will be looked back on as a vintage year for gaming. It will have heady aroma of Portal 2, the full body of The Witcher 2, the tang of FIFA 12 and the technicolor of Bastion. The year will be served from a bottle built into Adam Jensen's augmented arm, and will almost certainly be quoffed by one of Skyrim's dragons, while Renegade Ops and Battlefield 3's main players engage in a bar fight in the background.

What I'm trying to say here is that there were many really, really good games released in 2011; so many in fact, that 2012 is looking like a bit of a dud in terms of gaming. But, with each game often taking up more than 40 hours of your precious gaming time, it's hard to know where to begin. In fact, by my estimates, if you played each and every game back to back you'd be aged 70 by the time you finished them. But then, I don't know how old you are. You could be 69 and three-quarters.

It's also all too easy to miss last year's essential releases, games such as Frozen Synapse, LIMBO and The Ball that may have slipped under your radar. So we've made sure even indie games get their own shouts outs. This is on top of all the best games in each genre, from football's most beautiful games to exhilarating racers, and the obvious PC stalwarts of roleplaying games and first person shooters.

It's also a testament to PC gaming, which has gone from strength to strength. Despite infinitely cycling rumors of its death as a platform, it's currently toe-to-toe with current-generation consoles. Need for Speed and FIFA's comfort on the PC prove this, and we're beginning to accept that an Xbox 360 controller is a necessary PC peripheral.

So pull up a comfy chair, light the fire and polish your favorite glass as we give a tasting session of 2011's PC gaming finest.

First Person Shooter

Like Shooting Things? Here Are The Best Ways To Engage In Some Projectile-Based Fun

We've taken 'shooter' here to mean 'any game that involves something that's a bit like gun', and this is indicative of a year where the genre evolved into more esoteric forms.

Portab 2 features as its wormhole-creating Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Batman tackles enemies with Batarangs as well as his fists. Dead Space's Isaac Clarke uses a variety of low-tech tools to dismember enemies. And Saints Row: The Third beats people to death with... Well, let's just wait for that one, shall we?

Batman Arkham City Game of the year

game of the yearBats is back! Following 2009's monstrously good Arkham Asylum, Arkham City gives the Dark Knight a whole city to explore via Just Cause 2 style physics.

It's hugely impressive use of the Unreal Engine 3, which to date has only given us tight, if shiny, play areas. Developer Rocksteady has given its Batman a separate identity to his cinematic incarnations, somewhere between the much-loved animated TV show and Frank Miller's reimaginings. We're looking forward to wherever Rocksteady takes Batman next - presumably, it's going to be Arkham World.

Crysis 2 Game of the year

game of the yearCrytek's original Crysis was the best reason to stick an Nvidia GeForce 8800 in your machine and enjoy the wonderfully rendered topics, and its system-pushing engine made it a constant presence on the test.

The sequel relocates the action from a fictional archipelago to a dystopian vision of New York City, and it's Crytek's first title to be co-developed on the consoles. The result is a game that lacks the original's deft open-world play area and eye-popping vistas, but still offers lots of shooty fun and suit based powers. We're thankful, too, that the game has now been upgraded to DX II.

Deus Ex Human Revolution Game of the year

game of the yearDeus Ex parts one and two were a media theorist's dream come true, combining intelligent story telling with innovative, RPG-lite gameplay.

Human Revolution foreshadown the original with its tale of Adam Jensen, a security guard who gets hit with the wrong end of a cybernetic stick. While the free-roaming city hubs are amazing to explore, the combat becomes tiresome and the boss fights are the stuff of nightmares. Still, it's nice to know that games can be thoughtful and though-provoking, and we're looking forward to Square Enix's takes on the Tomb Raider and Thief franchises.

Renegade Ops Game of the year

game of the yearJust Cause 2 developer Avalanche Studios proves that mental chaos 'em-ups work just as well from a top-down viewpoint.

As a downloadable game it's - naturally - fairly slight, and Gordon Freeman's cameo makes about as much sense as him appearing in Masterchef cooking Headcrab soup. But it's also got pleasingly retro tang, like something 1995's teenagers would imagine 2011's games to be like. Avalanche's lush engine is put to good use, rendering the warm tropics and azure skies as well as many, many explodey things. Best of all, it's cheap, and you get a lot for your 10 bucks.

Dead Space 2 Game of the year

game of the yearAn Aliens to Dead Space's terse Alien, the sequel features unluckiest-man-in-the-universe, Isaac Clarke returning to fight those pesky Necromorphs in a spooky abandoned human colony.

As with the first, it's more icky than scary, and the necromorphs 'jump-out-and-say-boo attack patterns soon wear thin. But developer Visceral Games has tightened the experience, resulting in one hell of an intergalactic ghost train ride, complete with breathless excursions into the zero-gravity vacuum of space. Plus, that mini-game involving an eyeball and a hypodermic needle is without a doubt the most stomach-churningly gruesome thing you'll ever experience in any game.

Bulletstorm Game of the year

game of the yearEvery year need a dumb-as-bum action title, and 2011's Bulletstorm proved to be quite the treat. The scene is set when Grayson Hunt drunkenly crashes his spaceship into a tropical planet populated by mutants, plants and mutant plants.

The vaguely Mass Effect setting is more than made up for by seriously potty-mouthed dialogue, mum jokes and a combat system which encourages shooting people in the balls. A lot. Developer People Can Fly (they do, when dead) was previously responsible for the Painkiller series, and its partnership with Epic Games resulted in Bulletstorm's willfully immature spoof of first-person tropes.

Battlefield 3 Game of the year

game of the yearBattlefield 3's incredible multiplayer put it a gnat's willy above 2011's other blockbuster manshoot, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

As is expected from an combat-oriented FPS, the single player campaign is a tacked-addendum, and best ignored. Those multiplayer maps make the game what it is, complete with 64 players and a host of vehicles and aircraft. It's the best fun we've had online for a long time. The game was buggier than a pushchair showroom at launch, but fortunately developer DICE has got things up to speed. The Back to Karkand DLC is worth picking up, too.

Operation Flashpoint Red River Game of the year

game of the yearCodemaster's take on Operation Flashpoint lore may have divided audiences, but we got a kick out of its latest title, Red River.

Get past the nauseatingly jingoistic intro movie and you'll find a lot to set Red River apart from the current glut of FPS titles. The character development is exceptional, and the outdoors-y world is elastically rendered. There's a fairly steep learning curve - which could explain why some people find it frustrating compared to the likes of Modern Warfare - but once mastered you'll be ordering troops around and, importantly, caring when they get hit by enemy fire.

Saints Row The Third Game of the year

game of the yearWe can't imagine any other games where sending a three-foot purple dildo into the office is considered part of an acceptable PR campaignm but it's indicative of Saints Row: The Third's brash and over-the-top approach to the open-world shooter.

Developer Volition gleefully packs the game with virtual representations of said phalluses, as well as strippers, airstrikers and the ability to play the entire game - including dialogue sequences-as a grunting zombie. It's a big improvement on the previous two Saints Row episodes, and a high-point in lowbrow gaming. Just don't let your mum see you playing it.

Portal 2 Game of the year

game of the yearPortal was something of an experimental game on publisher and developer Valve's part, and came packaged as an added extra title in 2007's Orange Box.

It's success was enough to justify a whole game unto itself, and Portal 2 features the return of CHell, nemesis (or is she?) Glados and the introduction of West Country bumpkin in-bot Wheatley. The sheer amount, and complexity, of puzzles makes us wonder if Valve has a giant brain in a tank dedicated to designing them. Although the mid-section sags a little, it's worth sticking with it for one of the best game conclusions you'll ever play. Co-op is a hoot, too, and it's nice to play a game that doesn't involve shooting other players' heads off.

Football

The Beautiful Game Is A Looker These Days

This year's PC incarnation of the FIFA franchise looks exactly one million times better than it does on the consoles, and Football Manager's new interface works wonders on a nice fat 27-inch monitor.

The beautiful game, then, finally looks as beautiful as it deserves and these two presentations of the game look set to dominate the genre for at least the next couple of decades.

FIFA 12 Game of the year

game of the yearContrary to just about every game ever, the PC experience of FIFA has always been a crippled rendition of the console version - until now.

Finally, EA has got over its apparent phobia of multicore processors and given us the same package that's appearing on consoles.

And it's belter into the back of the net. The AI and physics both occupy cores, resulting in a game that's surprisingly tough but highly realistic. Add to that the PC's higher resolutions, and it makes you wonder why EA didn't go full-PC before. It's a bit of a shame that it's knocked out beloved Pro Evolution Soccer off the pitch, though.

Football Manager 2012 Game of the year

game of the yearThe annual update to the football management simulation adds proper support for giant widescreen monitors, as well as a much-improved engine for rendering the matches, which adds depth of field and real-time weather.

The result is a game that's even more compelling and realistic than its predecessors, even if at its core it hasn't changed too much since 1992. If in ain't broken, why fix it?

Admittedly, the game itself takes a little getting into, even for fans of the series who may be a little put off by the intricacies of the new user interface. But underneath all that it's still the Football Manager we know and love.

Racers

Hot In Pursuit Of The Perfect Racing Line

We're continuously surprised by how fresh the act of driving round in circles at breaknect speeds can be.

Need for Speed went a bit smarter, DiRT 3 went a bit dumber, and Test Drive Unlimited 2 went a bit more open-worldy

Need For Speed Shift 2 Unleashed Game of the year

game of the yearThe arcadey racing franchise has shifted up a gear into thoroughly sim-based territory, and is all the better for it. Shift 2 packs a plethora of telemetry into the cockpit, such as tyre temperatures, suspension readouts and g-force.

While that'll keep the gearheads happy, the rest of us can enjoy adernaline-pumping rides through the streets of London and Shanghai and courses such as Bathurst and Suzuka. Realistic braking and a first-person camera heighten the feeling of being in a car that's going really fast. Add to this the remarkably pretty engine, and Shift 2 is an essential for drivers - even those who don't have a licence.

DiRT 3 Game of the year

game of the yearDirt developer, Codemasters claimed 'rally is back' with the third incarnation of its muddy racer. We found that this wasn't quite true, with the focus on unrelated gymkhana-style events taking pride of place over proper off-roading.

Still, there's a lot to level here, and we were constantly reminded of Codies' mastery of the genre in big 3D letters. A force-feedback steering wheel is a must-have, but a decent graphics card makes everything look gurt lush. Retro rally racers, like Audi Quattros (ask your dad) and Mini Coopers round off what is a solid - if mildly uninspiring - racer.

Test Drive Unlimited 2 Game of the year

game of the yearHello party people! The second Test Drive Unlimited moves the action from the lush tropical island of Hawaii to the less tropical but equally lush island of lbiza, improving the graphics and experience along the way.

You're no longer dumped in the middle of paradise with only four wheels for company - now there's a perfunctory story involving your abilities as a driver and some woman. The Al is abysmal, but it doesn't really matter - Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a persistent world, so any only player is only a flash of the headlights away from across-island race.

Strategy

Get Those Little Grey Cells Working

Strategy is one of those genres that's always been most suited to the PC's mouse and keyboard input, and their generally laid-back approach makes for some thoughful gaming sessions.

Of course, threre's been a whole host of other strategic titles released, but the three we've highlighted here show the diversity of both the genre and the PC as a platform.

Total War Shogun 2 Game of the year

game of the yearCreative Assymbly's uber-RTS franchise leaves medieval and roman europe and travels back to the Land of the Rising Sun where it began.

It's and immaculately polished game, building on CA's microcosmically detailed knowledge of the period, and adding RPG elements, with decent AI always providing a suitable challenge. If that's not enough, there are fully integrated multiplayer co-op campaigns, and friends - or enemies - can drop into your single-player battles to up the ante even more. We described as "the finest Total War even made," and it is.

Anno 2070 Game of the year

game of the yearWhile we have to question the logic of a game which encourages heavy industry in a world where the polar icecaps have melted, Anno 2079 provided just enough fresh ideas to keep us interested in its take on resource management.

It's basically a join-the-dots wit buildings, but the option to go to war with neighbouring countries and headhunt your citizens makes things more engaging. Anno 2070 may not live up to all its promises, but sim fans will find a lot to enjoy, including a persistent online world and standalone missions.

Frozen Synapse Game of the year

game of the yearWe've followed the development of Mode 7's Frozen Synapse for a few years, even dropping into the Oxfordshire house where the game was being created by a handful of guys.

The end result is an innovative take on turn-based strategy, combining Tron-style neon visuals with intricate, compulsive top-down strategy. Mode 7 built the game from the ground up to run on a notebook, and its turn-based nature means that turns can be sent via an email-style system-which makes the game truly portable.

Indie

The Best Of A Little Something Different

Thanks to those iPhones, indie gaming is gaining more and more credence among gamers. Although fancy - if low-tech - graphics help, it's the distillation of an interesting idea that makes a good indie game.

Each of these has grabbled our attention for that reason, be it wielding a giant ball or going on an existential walk into a deep, dark forest.

Bastion Game of the year

game of the yearJust when we thought games had run out of new ideas, a game like Bastion comes along and provides a metric shedload of them.

At its core, it's an isometric RPG in the style of 2009's Torchlight, albeit with less emphasis on dungeon crawling. Where it stands apart is in its playful level and character design, in which the world is created before your very eyes, as if being assembled from fragmented memories. Add to this the narrator's gravelly Marlborough Red voice, and you've got a unique and compelling experience. You can even play it in Chrome's App Store.

Trine 2 Game of the year

game of the yearMore of an upgrade to Trine's wonderful menage-a-trois platform mechanic than a sequel, Trine 2 is still the perfect way to experience the game.

Choose the Wizard to conjure boxed and levitate objects, switch to the Thief for the ranged combat and Lara Croft-style leaping, and then jump into the Warrior's shoes for the inevitable brawls. It's perfectly planned, and the addition of accessible multiplayer only adds to the joy. Although the sequel shows a lack of innovation, the original provided enough to power at least three games.

LIMBO Game of the year

game of the yearLIMBO may rely on age-old platform mechanics, but the harsh, unforgiving nature of its world makes it feel far removed from colorful 16-bit titles.

Rendered in flickering monochrome, it follows a small boys as he makes his way through a disturbing land populated by tricksters, giant spiders and brain-sucking worms. The spectre of death haunts every screen, and the game itself continuous plays with your expectations and actions. But there's a heart-warming tale of survival and redemption behind its spine-chilling aesthetics, and it feels as if it would be as at home in a gallery as it in on our monitors.

The Ball Game of the year

game of the yearCreated as part of the Make Something Unreal contest, The Ball heralded in a new era of indie gaming where graphics needn't look like something a five-year-old had drawn.

Influenced by Half-Life 2's physics jun and Portal's titular device, The Ball gives you a huge sphere and a gun with which to manipulate it. Although it sounds slight, developer Teoti Studios has created a tight experience. You know a game's doing something right when you feel a paternal connection to virtual circular object.

RPG

Less Stereotypical Role Playing, M'Lord

It's been a great year for the RPG, with European titles taking centre stage.

It's actually rather nice that gamers are embracing games that don't necessarily present an Americaised view of medieval times, complete with dodgy accents. Sci-fi RPGs are sadly missed, too (Deus Ex is arguably more shooter that RPG) but Mass Effect 3 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 should fix that in 2012.

The Witcher 2 Assassins of Kings Game of the year

game of the yearFollowing the patchy (and subsequently patched) The Witcher, developer CD Project RED went all out on its sequel, in which the immaturity is toned down and the graphics is firmly turned up.

Combine this with a storyline with more branches than a chain of tree shops, and you've got an astonishingly rendered RPG that completely won us over. Combat has been vastly improved, too, and the difficulty levels make a difference to how you play the game.

Genre stalwarts BioWare and Bethesda certainly have a new challenger to their throne, which is ironic given that CD project started out localising western RPGs to its native Poland.

MMO

The World We Got Lost In Last Year

Ture fact: there are more people currently playing MMOs than there are people on the planet... or something like that, anyway.

After many MMO launch pratfalls, 2011 seemed to be the year the developers finally got it right, investing in interesting concepts in games such as RIFT, DC Universe Online, and less interesting concepts like doing another bloody Star Wars game.

Two Worlds 2 Game of the year

game of the yearLike The Witcher 2, Two Worlds 2 is a step in the right direction for a muc-loved, if shabbier, franchise.

The emphasis here though is on good ol' fashioned RPG mechanics like looting and crafting, with upgrades to the combat and graphics engine. While its Teutonic roots mean the numbers game and inventory management can be a little overbearing, there's much to love here, and it proved the perfect tie-over until Skyrim's inevitable thundering release. It's nice to see a well-rendered - if convolutedly full of canyons - world which didn't make our graphics card fall over, too.

RIFT Game of the year

game of the yearWhile other-MMOs-that-aren't-WoW(OMTAW) have come and gone, RIFT has all the makings of a keeper. Building on ten years of MMO experience, RIFT packs in everything that makes MMOs compelling, while creating its own distinct universe.

Unpredictability makes that universe all the more compelling: it's a dangerous place that seems crafted towards side-swiping WoW vets with surprise attacks. It's (finally) an MMO that looks rather spiffing, too, with enough scalability to ensure it runs on lower-end systems. Above all, it's got Dexter out of his WoW habit, and that has to be a good thing.

Star Wars The Old Republic Game of the year

game of the yearWhile other gushed about Star Wars: The Old Republic, we saw it for what it was: A WoW in Stormtoopers' clothing. Taking the 'if it ain't broke' mantra to the next level.

It doesn't try too hard or do anything particularly new - it's content to regurgitate the old MMO tropes and clinches with the George Lucas-approved universe. Not that this is a bad thing, and the majority of Star Wars and WoW geeks will lap it up. But it would be nice if SW:TOR developer BioWare had given us just a tad of something original.

DC Universe Online Game of the year

game of the yearA fanboy's wet dream come true. DC Universe frolics through comic book territory without you even realisint you're playing an MMO.

Thanks to a hugely contrived backstory, your average guy or gal is able to get their hands on superpowers and ifght alongside the men Super and Bat, as wll as formidable enemies, such as The Joker and Circle. Its PS3-centric nature (it was developed by Sony, after all) lets it down a tad, the wonky controls don't feel quite right on a mouse and keyboard. We're not sure about the longevity of it, too, but it's certainly fun while it lasts. Like a fanboy's wet dream.

Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Game of the year

game of the yearWe knew The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was going to be good, but we had no idea it would be this good. While predecessor Oblivion was a constent presence on machines, its graphical and technical shortcomings meant that we never quite felt at home in its Cyrodiil setting. Fortunately, developer and publisher Bethesda Softworks has takes something of a leaf out of its parallel Fallout series, and delivered one of the best games we've ever played in any year since history began.

Key to Skyrim's greatness are the dragons. Your character has mystical link with the sky lizards, and their looming presence combined with bass (and bum) quaking sound design makes teh quasi-Nordic setting of Skyrim a beleivably perilous place. Of course, there are other threats, too, like giants, witches and frost trolls, but the stateliness of the dragon's design and power will stay with us until we die.

It would all be for nothing without Bethesda's open-world game design expertise. In the weeks after Skyrim was released, we'd hear many players say exactly the same thing: I've played this for 40 hours, and i feel like I've only just started. 'It's testament to how much Bethesda has packed in, with even the smallest of sub quests packing more content than many standalone games.

It's the best-looking game Bethesda has produced, too, and from the word go it's been hugely tweakable for high-end rigs. It's worlds apart from even Fallout: New Vegas' muddy textures and, er, 'special' character animation and design. Skyrim's real people, and their interactions are a marked improvement over Oblivion's one-of-three-voice-actored peeps.

Given that it's such a huge game world, there are naturally a few bugs, such as non-player characters engaged in conversations with horses, and, er, backwards-flying dragons. But finding them is like looking for peeling paint on the Mona Lisa, with the added advantage that Bethesda has patched out most of them recently.

Skyrim sets the high watermark for really, really good triple-A games, and we can't imagine anything coming close to it for very long time. If 2012 is looking like a less exciting year for games than 2011, it's probably because Skyrim is just so bloody amazing and will continue to be with the release the official Creation Kit modding tool and Steam Workshop support.

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