5 – Resistance 3:
The first two games in this series didn’t click for me. By the time I got around to playing the first Resistance this year after finally getting a PS3, I was too far removed from the fact that it was a launch title- and looked it- for me to enjoy it. But the more coverage I saw on it’s third installment, the more interested I became. Resistance 3 manages to do what another title on my goty list last year (Singularity) did- place narrative first in a fps release. R3 is quiet, somber, and depressing, yet realized in an absolutely gorgeous manner. The end of mankind never looked better.
4 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution:
Being a child of the 80’s, cyber-punk is a genre I hold near and dear to my heart, despite the fact that it’s filled with tropes and archetypes that are hard to justify in today’s modern world. Human Revolution acknowledges these problems, and then promptly throws them out the window with a “who the hell cares” attitude. The game embraces cyber-punk, and extrapolates a fictional world that would be plausible had the genre not fallen out of fashion. Disposable daily digital newspapers, hackers, servers, and a million other Gibson-esque buzz words all build a convincing sense of place and urgency. You may realize that all of this borders on nonsense, but it’s played straight by the characters, and that’s enough to get you invested in this near-future retro tale.
3 – Saints Row The Third:
Since it’s original release, I’ve had an appreciation for the Saints Row series. While the original was about as cookie-cutter as you could get, part 2 showed those first signs of going off the rails in the best way possible. And now here we are with Saints Row The Third- what may just be the most video game of video games to come out in I don’t know how many years. Volition embrace the medium, and create a masterpiece of pure joy and stupidity. Put simply, Saints Row The Third embodies everything that is good in video games. Gangstas in Space.
2 – The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim:
I’m not usually one to join a chorus, but there’s no reason to go against the grain when it comes to Skyrim… if you’re not playing it, you should stop what you’re doing right now, and fix that. For what feels like the first time, Bethesda have created a title that you simply love, not love despite it’s flaws. Because even the flaws in this game (and they’re in there) are amazing. Horses fighting dragons, giants launching trolls into orbit, baskets on heads… I’ll remember these glitches and bugs almost as much as I’ll remember the first time I took on a dragon, or encountered a talking dog, or any other of the hundreds of amazing moments Skyrim has to offer. Bethesda have created a game so dense, it will literally carry you over until their next release. Which I can not wait for after seeing what they’ve accomplished.
1 – Portal 2:
As best as I see things in this industry, Valve have become the Pixar of video games. Their output is minimal, carefully selected, and even more carefully crafted. By the time it reaches you, the player, their releases run like a well-oiled machine. Without a doubt, Portal 2 is not only the most recent example of this, but the best example. Everything in Portal 2 is so well-implemented that playing it goes beyond immersion; they have built a world, and you’re in it. This also applies to the writing, as Portal 2 had what was easily the most compelling narrative I’ve experienced all year. The characters- all of them- have very fine-tuned arcs that play out in comical and heart-breaking fashion. Exploring the ruins of Aperture 1.0, Wheatly tagging along, GLADoS being GLADoS, the introduction of Cave Johnson… all of these elements worked together in harmony to create what was the game of 2011 for me.