A Personal Best Of The Year List, 2011: Part 1

Honorable Mentions: Arkham City (haven’t started it yet), Tropico 4 (just started it), Ms. Splosion Man (haven’t finished it yet), Renegade Ops (close, but no cigar), and Bloodrayne Betrayal (close, but no cigar).

Here we go…

10 –  Two Worlds 2:
Equal parts Elder Scrolls rip-off and Eastern European jank-fest, Two Worlds… 2… is a surprisingly deep and rewarding RPG experience. Filled with quests that often make little to no sense or are just plain bat-shit crazy, an uncharacteristically rich crafting and enhancement system, and fun exploration and gameplay, this is a title that draws you in with its weirdness-factor and keeps you hooked through addictive mechanics.

Given how cheap it sells for at this point, if you’re coming down from a Skyrim high, and looking for something to get you by until Mass Effect 3, you’d be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck. Despite its horrible opening chapter’s best efforts, I couldn’t help but put this one on the list.

9 – Dead Space 2:
As Aliens was to Alien, so is Dead Space 2 to Dead Space. Expanding the fiction both literally and figuratively, DS2 wisely moves past the concept of the original with tight, cramped horror on a ship adrift in space. In addition, the combat feels tightened up and refined, producing one of the best controlling and responsive third-person titles I’ve played through in a few years now. While Issac’s story may be coming to an end with Dead Space 3, I’m sure the franchise will continue on through the years, and that makes me happy – as I’ve stated before, we need more good horror games.

8 – Bastion:
Everything Bastion does, it does to near-perfection. Supergiant Games, with their first major release, manage to tell one of the most engrossing tales of the year using one of the oldest and most basic genres in gaming- the isometric overhead action game. Bastion is both an epic and intimate fantasy tale about the end of a world, and given the price point and amount of content, everyone who loves the genre owes it to themselves to experience it. The icing on the cake is the Narrator, a device I’m sure will be co-opted by others over the next year or two.

7 – LA Noire:
At times, it may be hard to separate the art from the artist with LA Noire, given all the behind the scenes drama that went into its production. All things considered however, LA Noire still stands as one of the best crime stories told this year, poured into what may be the most-realized and accurate game world created this year, or in any years prior. The pitch-perfect tale of Cole Phelps tragic rise and fall through the ranks of LA’s finest grabbed me by the collar and took me on a journey I’ll not soon forget. Between the amazing facial animation tech, it’s big-budget adventure game nature, and the Rockstar spit-shine, this was one game that stuck in my head months after I completed it.

6 – Dead Island:
I wasn’t prepared for what Dead Island managed to accomplish. Namely, taking elements from almost everything I like in gaming, and combining it into one big sloppy stew of a game. Mix in equal parts Left 4 Dead, Fallout 3, Dead Rising, Eastern European jank, and Borderlands, and you’ve got Dead Island. The game is busted in a plethora of ways, but still manages to provide a driving experience regardless. Lazy menus, sloppy animation choices (no matter the character model, once you cut off a zombie’s head, it instantly changes to the same default head over and over – once you see it, you can’t un-see it), and a narrative that is constantly inconsistent with its own logic can’t stop this one from pulling me in for at least an hour every time I start it up.

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