Best Games of 2011 - Staff Picks

Ben Parfitt
Best Games of 2011 - Staff Picks

We all know which games you liked the most this year – we only have to look at the charts to figure that out. But what about us hard working types at MCVuk.com and Developmag.com?

MCV asks a number of recognisable games from publishing and journalism what their top picks were over the last 12 months?

BEN PARFITT - Editor, MCVuk.com

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)
Anyone who follows me on Twitter may well rightly laugh at Skyrim’s inclusion in this list. I resisted it, in all honesty. The first draft of this had Killzone 3 as one of my top picks instead.
Why did I resist? Because I hate swords and goblins and dragons and orcs and shit. And I hate the blind adulation these poxy RPGs get in spite of their myriad of obvious and annoying flaws.
And the truth is, many people have written many words on why Skyrim is so outstanding, all of which do a better job than I could.
Yes, I’ve fallen for the game. 30 hours in and counting. My character (the Troll King, pictured) is now the Arch Mage of Winterhold College (which is a bit like a snowy Hogwarts). I kick ass. As, I begrudgingly admit, does the game.
It’s chief triumph is the richness of the world. The staggering number of things available is matched only by the freedom of progression it offers the player. It’s a monumental achievement.

Portal 2 – EA/Valve
Despite being what I would call a fantastic year for gaming, Portal 2 is an obvious and deserved choice for this list.
You don’t need me to list all the reason why Valve’s title was exceptional. The combination of puzzles and narrative is unparalleled, as is the successful sense of humour – something that’s all too rare in gaming.

Deus Ex – Square Enix
I brought this thinking that I’d put a couple of hours in and then give up once I got to a tough stealth section. But not only did I complete the game, I then went out and got it on PC so I could play it again with the augments unlocked.
For me the success of Deus Ex was all down to the fantastic world it created. Take out the future setting, augments and ethical politics and replace those with a medieval location, magic and clan rivalry and I would have had zero interest.
What Square also got right was levelling – I’ve never dabbled with a more satisfying skill tree, and one that had such obvious and delightful implications on your play style.

Honourable mentions: As stated above, I absolutely adored Killzone 3. Aye, the plot was trash, but I don’t play an FPS for the plot any more than I play Alan Wake for its literature. Not sure if I’ve ever played such a solid shooter, and the graphics were extraordinary. I must also mention the really quite magical FIFA 12. The best sports game ever made? I’d say so, yes. Those of who opposed the defensive changes are oddballs – they totally reinvented that portion of the game.
I really loved Crysis 2 as well as the console re-make of the original Crysis. LA Noire was superb, though I couldn’t bring myself to see it all the way through to the end. Child of Eden, too, was a stunning title.
And finally I should mention Motorstorm: Apocalypse, Shift 2: Unleashed, Flick Home Run, Tiny Wings, Where’s My Water and of course DoDonPachi: Resurrection. Oh, and Shift 2.


CHRISTOPHER DRING - Deputy Editor, MCV

Portal 2 (EA/Valve)
The original Portal was a masterpiece as a side game. A short, but fully-formed puzzler that mixed humour, with inventive gameplay and cake. For some reason, I doubted that Valve could really make it work as a full, longer, adventure. I was wrong. It's hard to follow a cult favourite with another, and yet the developer/publisher/retailer managed it. The puzzles never felt staid, and the new gel additions were brilliant. But, gameplay elements aside, I love Portal 2 because of its charm. Its humour. Stephen Merchant's Wheatley is probably my favourite video game character of all time.

Street Pass (Nintendo)
I've never been a big portable gamer and I can't see in 3D. And for those reasons, the Nintendo 3DS should never have been the console for me. Yet the handheld has been my most played console this year, partly because of the classic Nintendo games, partly because of those features Nintendo haven't been going about. And Street Pass has been an obsession of mine. I spent much of E3 wondering the corridors to collect Miis and send them on quests. To take their puzzle pieces. And then lock them in my virtual prison. And I've not even mentioned swapping data or items. It's a great little concept and I am delighted that Nintendo is continuing to update it with new puzzles and challenges.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)
25 years of Zelda was crowned in glorious style with Skyward Sword. A game that feels very old and entirely new all at once. Visually, probably the best looking Wii game ever created. Rammed with the classic Zelda charm and moments that has defined the series for quarter of a century. The control scheme is the biggest evolution. To start with, it doesn't feel right. It doesn't seem to work. Yet, a few dungeons later, you'll realise you simply can't play this game like all the other swashbucklers on Wii (or indeed Twilight Princess). It's about measured strokes and thrusts. And the result is one of the most satisfying combat systems ever devised. Couple this with a story that actually makes you care for the Princess Zelda, and you've got yet another classic Zelda on your hands. 

Honourable Mentions: Uncharted 3, Super Mario 3D Land, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3


JAMES BATCHELOR - Staff Writer, MCV
 

Portal 2 (EA/Valve)
I was never as enamoured with the original Portal as the rest of the world seemed to be. I recognised that it was a well crafted, well written, innovative and highly original game but it was one I felt more obliged to play than compelled. Portal 2 could not have been more different. The ‘just a little further’ mentality meant I found it in incredibly difficult to put the game down, determined to play through the campaign in one go. A friend and I actually did sit and play through the entire co-op mode in a single sitting – starting at 8pm and refusing to set the controllers down until we reached the finale at a blurry-eyed 3am. And it goes without saying that the game’s humour was a big selling point for me. While GladOs made me chuckle in the first Portal, Wheatley and Cave Johnson had me burst out laughing regularly – an experience that is far too rare in video gaming.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Squre Enix)
Resurrecting an old video game brand and updating it for today’s audience was always going to be risky but Eidos Montreal did a sterling job with Deus Ex. Having never played the often criticised Deus Ex: Invisible War, I only had the 2000 original for comparison – and Human Revolution held up brilliantly. The same great sense of a dystopian future, and the same freedom to sneak through each encounter or barge in all guns blazing. It was great to have a game with the same scale of choice and consequence as the likes of BioWare’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age series but one that was shorter and more action-packed. And thanks to the sophistication of current gen hardware, the futuristic worlds looked incredible, particularly the hubs of Hengsha and Detroit. Plus, on a more personal note, it was extremely encouraging to play such a high quality game from the team that will now be working on Thief IV, a title I’m already looking forward to.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)
I’ve been lucky enough to be free of any of Skyrim’s headline-grabbing, game-breaking bugs. For me, this is another absolute masterpiece from Bethesda. The game’s mammoth world is much more detailed and consistent than the comparatively ‘game-y’ landscape of Oblivion. The graphics are incredible, making the rugged landscape seem more realistic than any previous Bethesda title. But the greatest facet of this game is the sense of freedom and the wealth of things to do. Every location you find holds new secrets, whether its battles with vampires and dragons or rare treasures and weapons. And every player’s experience will be radically different, their heroes completely unique thanks to the vast array of customisable skills and perks. It’s the epitome of a desert island disc, a game you can never truly finish, but I’ll be giving it a bloody good go to do so over the Christmas break.

Honourable Mentions: Batman: Arkham City, Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Driver: San Francisco, Zelda: Skyward Sword, Crysis 2


DOMINIC SACCO - Staff Writer, MCV

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)A colossal adventure well worthy of game of the year status, Skyrim is arguably the greatest, grandest and most engaging open-world RPG out there bar World of Warcraft.
Not since the Lord of the Rings movies have fantasy fans had such a grand banquet to sink their teeth into.
But the most exciting aspect worth noting isn't the game’s lush landscapes, epic dragon fights, revolutionary levelling system or freedom to become almost whatever you want in-game, it's what other RPG developers will attempt to produce post-Skyrim, with the RPG bar now well and truly hoisted as high as it ever has been.

FIFA 12 (EA)
The football game of the moment has proven that even the best games IP can continue to be bettered.
Thanks to a brave new tackling system, which risked losing casual players in favour of making the video game as realistic as the beautiful game itself, as well as improved animations and dribbling, FIFA 12 has excelled in the art of both video game design and commercial aplomb.
And EA still knows what it’s doing when it comes to generating additional revenue from DLC. It might not be new, but selling virtual Ultimate Team football stickers online – and making them a thing of real value to players – is still a stroke of genius.

Dragon Age 2 (EA)
For me this action RPG was one of the year’s biggest casualties of divided opinion. Take one look at its critic and user Metacritic ratings to see for yourself.
On the one hand die-hard followers have harshly slated BioWare for changing the original Dragon Age in favour of faster-paced action, but on the flipside the developer has created another reasonably successful game in quite a short timeframe.
Yes it's technically identical to Dragon Age Origins, but amidst all the whinging from the hardcore, it had a fantastic story, compelling gameplay, strong critic reviews, and performed well at retail early on to boot. That's an achievement well worth noting. The tough task for BioWare now lies with where they take Dragon Age 3. Do they attempt to draw back the hardcore userbase or risk alienating them further by taking the series in a direction even more accessible to the average gamer?


CRAIG CHAPPLE - Satff Writer, Develop

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)
As a huge fan of large open-world games, Skyrim Is right up my street. It expands on the genre and the previous entry Oblivion in every way, offering complete freedom, diverse landscapes and great immersion, even if there are backwards flying dragons…

Football manager 2012 (Sega)
I’m not sure anyone in the world has wasted more time than me in the Football Manager/ Championship Manager series, but the latest entry is possibly the best yet (even better than CM01/02). Creating tactics has been simplified, the interface streamlined, and its never been easier to fall out with players over skipping training.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision)
After being hugely disappointed by MW2, the latest instalment in the blockbuster franchise is back to its best. Despite not really caring for the plot, some of the cinematic moments amazed me, especially the inception style gunfight in the president’s private jet (in which I missed with every shot).

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Tags: staff , mcv , develop , picks , Best Games of 2011

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