DOUG BONE - UK General Manager, Square Enix
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision)
Just brilliant. That 60fps engine, alongside some incredible set-pieces made this one of the year’s greatest entertainment roller-coasters. I’m even encouraged to note that my kill/death ratio is starting to go in the right direction. Some of the internet massive might get a bit chopsy with their alleged hate for CoD, but you don’t sell this many units just because of a good telly ad, this brand’s popular for a reason. I may sound like a bit of a fanboy here, but... that’s fair enough, I’m a bit of a fanboy.
Gears of War 3 (Microsoft)
Boom, bang, wallop, chainsaw, squib, grenade, explosion, fist-pump. Then the same again. For eight hours. ‘Gears’ is one of this generation’s defining franchises and Marcus and Dom’s story over the three games has been brilliantly told, all the way to this year’s satisfying conclusion. As with CoD, both the single and multi-player modes are fantastic and I can’t wait to see where they take this franchise next.
Saints Row: The Third (THQ)
I won’t even attempt to summarise why this game works, but in short... It’s just totally absurd. Okay then, here’s eight reasons; 1) You fly big helicopters, 2) you drive hover-bikes, 3) there’s a chariot race / shoot-out, with you getting pulled along at about 2 miles an hour by a man in rubber undies, 4) you take a chainsaw into a wrestling ring, 5) a tiger punches you in the head, 6) The Penetrator (!), 7) ‘You’re The Best’ off The Karate Kid soundtrack and 8) Burt Reynolds ends up being your mate. BURT REYNOLDS.
Honourable mentions: Batman: Arkham City (worthy successor to Asylum), Forza 4 (led to some quality smack talk on the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car challenge from my friends list...), King of Fighters XIII (best one since 2002), Dead Space 2 (great mix of scares and action...), Dead Island (ignore some of the snarky reviews, the game is, intermittently, genius), Portal 2 (perfect blend of laugh out loud comedy, sinister threat and nose-bleed inducing challenges)
* Note Doug courageously opted not to nominate his own games, thus omitting Deus Ex. Good man!
TIM CLARK - Editor in Chief (Games), Future Publishing
Batman: Arkham City (Warner)
Rocksteady know exactly what the Dark Knight nerds want, and this was another helping of weapons grade Batnip. What initial worries I had about the transition to the open world format were dismissed as soon as I took to the skies. Using Bruce’s stiffened cape to swoop over the goon-infested streets (incidentally, best ambient thug dialogue since Manhunt) remained a joy from Arkham City’s first minute to it’s spectacular finale.
And want a joy that was, with the developer playing fast and loose with the Batman canon to off key characters (or did they?) left and right. More than anything, though, it’s that whip crack combo system, now studded with even more gadgets and finishers for the player to mix into their bone-cracking concerto, which makes the game so moreish. A day may come when I’m bored of cracking rent-a-thugs heads together like fairground coconuts, but it will be a sad one.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)
I’m not sure I’ve ever loved a videogame as much, or been as angry about one. While the other formats were not without their endearing idiosyncrasies, it was the PS3 version that was released in a state that was essentially unfit to play for a seemingly high number of users. For those that haven’t followed the #rimlag debacle, the longer you spent with the game the more bedevilled it became by a collapsing framerate that even patching failed to solve.
And yet I persisted. Because under the lag and the glitches was this beautiful, ludicrously sprawling, high fantasy world, which you didn’t so much play in as actually inhabit. For once, all those high falutin’ claims about emergent gameplay weren’t just bullshittery – as anyone who’s shouted a magically paralysed giant off a cliff (or spent hours deliberating what enchanted armour to wear to their own wedding) can attest.
Skyrim is a game of maddening, thrilling possibilities. I only wish, y’know, that it worked. Or, failing that, someone at Bethesda would have the good grace to explain why the PS3 version was released in such a parlous state. Nonetheless, there isn’t a game this year that’s had a bigger impact on me, good and bad, so I have to include it here.
Resistance 3 (Sony)
With Insomniac having already confirmed this would be its final entry in the franchise, and the previous two games having underwhelmed, the third Resitance limped out to seemingly little love from either players or its own creators. A pity, because it was a quantum leap beyond what had gone before, and certainly my shooter of the year (just edging out id’s underrated Rage).
From the deadly X-Ray bolts of the Augur Mark II to the still hilariously lethal spines of the Hedgehog grenade, there isn’t an FPS which can claim to have a weapon set that’s as much fun to dick around with. Eschewing the standard two-gun limit of most shooters was a great design decision, as was dumping the rechargeable shield in favour of collectible health points which, along with genuinely ferocious enemies, gave the game a welcome survival horror tinge.
It’s the set pieces that stand out though, all delivered with the kind of lush graphical panache the series has never been know for. Destined to be something of a lost classic, then – and yet proof positive of the kind of performance that developers who know what they’re doing can wring out of PS3.
Honourable mentions: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (too often I felt like it didn’t want me to actually play it. The sensation, instead, was of being pushed down a content pipe. However, in the moment when Elena strokes Drake’s weary head on her lap, Naughty Dog can lay claim to the sweetest non-interactive moment of the year), Rage (unfairly beaten up for it’s Jack in the Box texture loading, especially considering how startlingly good it looked most of the time and how chunky and just plain fun the gunplay felt. Wingsticking a mutant in his forehead is one of my standout 2011 moments, and – whisper it – even the driving was alright), Tiny Tower (an unashamedly pointless, despicable time sink of a game. I built 60 storeys before an intervention was deemed necessary), LA Noire (be honest, who hasn’t wanted to probe around in the remains of a grisly ‘50s sex murder victim. Clearly not just me).