Australian Gamer Presents – The Best Games Of 2011

Feature from Luke – Friday, 06 January 2012 @ 5:01pm

Australian Gamer Presents – The Best Games Of 2011

Now that a brand new year has just started the team at Australian Gamer looks back at the best video games of 2011. Each writer has selected 3 of their top games by using a very scientific process here of choosing either their favourite games they enjoyed playing, the games technically advancing the industry forward, or by throwing darts at a section board.

3. Rayman Origins

Look, I’m as surprised as you are, OK? This year the games I was really anticipating (Deus Ex: Human Revolutions and Uncharted 3, especially) disappointed me a little, and the games that really thrilled me were ones that weren’t even on my radar, and were largely bought on whim.

Rayman Origins is an incredibly polished platformer, with perfect platforming precision and a penchant for punishing passages of play. Sorry. I just got caught up in that. It’s a hard game. Really hard. But it’s stunningly pretty, and a great deal of fun to play, and most of all it’s four player simultaneous platforming fun ala Little Big Planet. Which is never a bad thing. Except, somehow, in Super Mario Bros Wii, where it somehow shat me.

Do yourself a favour and at least give this a rent. You’ll probably buy it as a result.

2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Read the AustralianGamer Review

Ok, I just said it disappointed me a little, and that’s true. There was at least one design decision, which I criticised in my review, that could have really improved the game immensely. But aside from that this is an exceptionally polished, fascinating and fun game. It has a story that focuses on actually having a story, rather than just having excuses to shoot faces, and it’s intelligent and thoughtful without being too didactic.

Deus Ex: Human Revolutions is not a perfect game, but in a year dominated heavily by some of the most mindless of shooters it’s nice to have something that stands apart, and goes in a new direction. Graphically it’s gorgeous (glad I got the PC version) and in every respect it’s a well polished and presented adventure, a worthy prequel to the uber-awesome Deus Ex, filled with foreshadowing and references.

1. Whichever you like more of Batman: Arkham City or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Read the AustralianGamer Review for Skyrim
Read the AustralianGamer Review for Batman: Arkham City

How unprofessional is this? The fact is that both Batman: Arkham City and Skyrim are probably valid contenders for Game of the Year, and it would be hugely foolish of me not to include the right one! I’d look like an ass! But unfortunately I haven’t played either of them. I work full time and most of my “review time” is spent playing amazing games purely for the purpose of writing a review, rather than because I want to…. See Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and RAGE. So Skyrim and BAC have sat in my pile of shame. I’m really hoping to play a bit of both over the Christmas break, but for now why don’t you just cut me some slack and mentally put in whatever makes me look like I have more credibility.

Thanks! Appreciate it.

3. Portal 2

Read the AustralianGamer Review

Sequels are exceptionally difficult. The expectations of those that enjoyed the original tend to fall into two distinct categories – those that want more of the same, and those that want innovation. Stray too far to either side of these and you risk pissing away all the goodwill towards the brand, especially with a game such as Portal that was pretty much unanimously praised. It’s obvious that Valve are a developer that really care about their titles, as evidenced in almost every aspect of Portal 2. Meticulous level and puzzle design, engaging story and characters, brilliant voice acting, and a single player campaign that kept me engaged through to the revealing end. That’s not why it makes my Top 3 list however. It was during the co-op multiplayer – which I played through with Yahtzee – where I experienced the most entertaining gaming experience this year.

2. LA Noire

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

It’s not a perfect game, I know, but frankly I don’t care. Anyone that knows me understands my preference towards a single player narrative, and L.A.Noire offered an environment and pace that felt like it was custom designed for my aesthetic tastes. The surprising highlight though was finding out how engaging the single player experience is with a group of people. I spent many days in the unopened Melbourne Mana Bar sitting around on bean bags drinking wine and playing L.A.Noire, everyone chipping in ideas and suggestions while one person played – “Check the corner for the gun”, “Call HQ to see if they have that address”, “No no, go back, you missed something”. Having a group of people arguing about whether a character is lying or telling the truth during an interrogation sequences made L.A.Noire so memorable to me in a way that even the developers probably didn’t anticipate.

1. Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception

I was late to board the Uncharted train, and not wanting to board until I’d already taken the first two trips I spent the better part of a few weeks playing through all 3 titles, culminating in the recently released Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception. This probably puts a bit of bias towards my love for the game since it was the franchise and not the individual title I fell in love with, though I stand by my decision to list the third instalment as my favourite game of the year. The series manages to out Indiana Jones the Indiana Jones movies, hitting all the same beats but spreading the experience out over a good 8 hours per game, while providing challenging gameplay and perhaps the most impressive in-game action sequences I’ve ever seen. It’s been sometime since a game has forced me to utter ‘wow’ aloud when playing it, and Uncharted gave me moments that constantly had me impressed at just how far games have come.

3. Terraria

A little indie game that could, Terraria developed a following fast, and it’s easy to see why. Like a 2D-Minecraft, it’s a beautiful little game that is best played with friends and imagination. Exploring the world feels fulfilling, and the building possibilities are endless, with the multitude of crafting options serving to enhance the experience. I played with friends and it was fun to work together during the day, and protect each other at night. The vibrant colours mixed with the simplistic sprites gave the game a unique style and aesthetic that is reminiscent of games gone by. If you haven’t picked up Terraria yet, grab a copy as it’s been recently patched with a heap of new features. Just watch out for those Blood Moons.

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Read the AustralianGamer Review

I have not sunk nearly enough hours into this game as I would like to, but the beauty of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is that I never feel like I’m being rushed to finish it. As a long time fan of the role-playing game, and especially those of the fantasy genre, Skyrim feels like a wonderful, encompassing, dragon-strewn dream when I play it. And that’s just how I like it. Despite not playing any other Elder Scrolls games, I’m not a stranger to the Bethesda open world which they have a very good grasp on. I have and will continue to spend hours just milling about the detailed landscapes, looking at caves and towns and old shacks alike. I love the replay value in this game, and the sheer longevity that’s possible even with only one character. When I play Skyrim, the world is mine to make of it. In fact, I think I might go questing now.

1. Portal 2

Read the AustralianGamer Review

Valve definitely had some big shoes to fill with Portal 2. With Portal being a breakout success for the company, the innovative gameplay and delightful humour of the first game needed not only to be replicated but improved upon for the sequel. Valve delivered, and despite being one of my fastest completed games this year, it’s my clear favourite. I loved the continuation of the story, I loved the puzzles and I love the warm fuzzy feeling I get from most Valve games (yes, even Left for Dead 2). The addition of multiplayer was a welcome touch, and something that has been done very well, with the complexity of the puzzles challenging, but not computer-throwingly (or console-throwingly if you’re that way inclined) frustrating. Plus, it’s just a damn fun game. So, if you haven’t played this yet then besides giving you a quizzical stare I’d recommend it to you (after playing the original first, of course).

3. Section 8: Prejudice

Section 8: Prejudice is what you get when you combine a futuristic FPS with player deployed base defences, an array of vehicles, some dynamic combat missions and by far the coolest spawn mechanic any any game to date. With all these features you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that you will need to drop $90 to get it on the action – but it will only put you out of pocket by $15 – making this one of the best bang for buck games of the year. Its also really really fun, the visuals are tops, you get jetpacks & when you spawn you are able to crush an enemy player. What more could you want?

2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Read the AustralianGamer Review

Skyrim is a game big enough that it could very well win GOTY next year as well as this year. Continuing in the footsteps of previous The Eldar Scrolls (TES) games you start as a prisoner but quickly end up needing to save the world. Outstanding visuals, animations & NPC interactions coupled with a stupidly robust combat system will have you playing Skyrim for far longer than you ever intended to. Sure there are a few bugs here and there, but with a game this large its hard to catch them all. Just remember to quick save – often. Nothing worse than needing to redo a quest because a random dragon just ate your face off.

1. Battlefield 3

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

There is no greater feeling than gunning down a squad of enemy troops with your heavy machine gun while you defend the current objective / flag – this is what Battlefield 3 is about, awesome feelings, weather it is with your machine gun, a helicopter, or even shooting down a jet with a stray shell from your Abraham’s tank. The ability to spawn on any squad member always keeps you in the thick of battle, but don’t be in such a rush that you don’t take in the outstanding graphics. Powered by the Frostbyte 2 engine, Battlefield 3 looks, explodes and runs better than any other shooter in recent years – if you are a fan of the FPS genre this is a MUST BUY.

3. Super Mario Land 3D

The poor 3DS has been lacking titles since its release. Super Mario 3D Land was a welcoming hit and it uses the 3D perspective like no other game does on that platform. Nintendo are always renowned for showing off the features of its hardware and hardware accessories. Nostalgia is there in the form of the Tanooki suit and flag pole finishes and there is enough in this title to warrant a 3DS purchase. I got my Mario fix this year and it was enjoyable.

2. Dead Space 2

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

Everyone seems to forget the games that come out early in the year. Dead Space 2 isn’t just a sequel, its a continuation of a series done right. The new weapons were a welcome and the story was entertaining. Dead Space is one of the only series that really sticks to being a true survivor horror title. Any time I hear a little girl scream I think of this game and it gives me the heebie jeebies. A special mention goes to a local developer, Iron Monkey, that created the Dead Space iPad game which in its own right was a fun romp through the same universe.

1. Portal 2

Read the AustralianGamer Review

I loved Portal just like everybody else and even though Portal 2 doesn’t have the wow factor it still has a fair amount that makes it fun. It sounds a little morbid but the fun parts are sitting there with a partner in co-op and getting frustrated with your handicapped player, to the point where you want to stab them with the sharp end of your controller. Or the blunt end depending on how much skin you’d like to pierce through. The humour is great, the level designs are brilliant and you have fun all the way to the end. The DLC support was also a welcoming trait of Valve to continue on.

3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Read the AustralianGamer Review

You know what’s awesome? Dragons. Dragons are pretty awesome. Consummate Vs, marijuana metaphors and World Eaters all. I’ve heard of people referring to this game as Fallout: New Dragon, which just feels like we’ve come full circle from hearing Fallout called Oblivion with guns. These games have always sucked me in to the point that as long as my health meter is full I probably don’t have to get up and eat. This title has brought the whole thing forward an engine, while learning all the right things from both Fallout games in-between Scrolls. Pick it up, you’ll never put it down.

2. Dragon Age II

Read the AustralianGamer Review

You know what’s better than a dragon? Two dragons. Ok so that’s not really how sequels work, plus I only remember one serious dragon fight in this game, in one of the few landscapes that wasn’t copy pasted. Whatever, this game carried itself with such depth and complexity, dark humour and just plain old damn good storytelling. Earlier in the year I was able to reference it to an Oscar winning film, a classic fantasy novel, a poem written on a war memorial and a ton more. All of that with a high dose of Bioware’s social life and sleep pattern destroying replay value straight to the goddamn brains. This game was really something special that I think deserved better than to live behind it’s aesthetic shortcomings.

1. Batman: Arkham City

Read the AustralianGamer Review

You know who could beat up two dragons? Batman. Somewhere in his eighty year history I’ll bet that’s already happened. However, given the new universe that Arkham City finds itself in, old hand Paul Dini was really able to explore new territory with the Caped Crusader. It looks into the Moriarty/Holmes relationship between Bats and the Joker in a sense that other titles have been doomed to fall short of. I think my favourite element of this take on the character is that Bats is a goddamn jerk. He beats up a midget, damn near tortures Fries, and is generally just unpleasant to pretty much everyone he encounters. It all aids the idea that there is only one line he won’t cross in the line of duty. Which is gorgeously expressed as we feel his frustration of the thousands of lives he can’t save while climbing Wondertower during protocol 10, not to mention an absolutely jaw dropping finale. All this within a gorgeously designed open environment that’s a pleasure to grapple and glide throughout. This is a great play for any gamer, but a rare treat for fans with a storyline that’s possibly in my top 10 Batman stories.

3. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

Naughty Dog’s follow up to 2009’s Game of The Year just goes to show that this development studio is one of the top in the business. No one else out there has come close to being able to deliver such an action packed story telling experience while keeping control in the players hands. Even though Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception isn’t as ground breaking as it’s predecessor, its still manages to push the industry forward with the best acting, best story telling and the best set pieces you’ll find in a video game.

2. Batman: Arkham City

Read the AustralianGamer Review

In this sequel, Batman: Arkham City expands on the originals mechanics in every way possible. Now in a much more open environment, the world’s greatest detective takes on a range of villains from the rouges gallery using the most elegant combat system to land in a video game yet. Rocksteady have proven in the past that you can make a super hero game amazing… now they are just showing off.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Read the AustralianGamer Review

“You see that mountain over there? You can climb it.” Todd Howard explains this to a small room at E3 packed full of media from all around the world. I think to myself, “Why would anyone want to do something like that? That place is all the way off in the far distance, plus it’s a freaking huge mountain”. Fast forward 6 months and I’m climbing that mountain – killing ice trolls and chilling out with the Greybeards. Skyrim is a game that makes you want to explore every little corner this place has to offer. The detail that has gone into building this fictional world is astounding and unlike anything I’ve ever played. It wasn’t until I got my hands Skyrim that I realised this would be one of those games, the ones that we look back on knowing they made a big impact on gaming.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

It seems like an eternity since Twilight Princess (No, not that gaunt looking chick from the shitty ‘Fag’-pire franchise) graced my Wii…. Actually I think it’s been a long time since I’ve played a Wii game full stop. This game somehow felt both old and new at the same time. This is another Nintendo Classic.

2. Batman: Arkham City

Read the AustralianGamer Review

It was really good to wear the cape and cowl again, just as good as it was to hear Mark Hammil’s evil voice coming through my home theatre speakers. Even though it did feel a little ‘samey’ to me the story was great, the action was better and the amount of DLC was nearly second to none. If you managed to somehow get a hold of it all.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Read the AustralianGamer Review

How can you go past a game that stops you and your friends from playing this years big FPS like Modern Warfare3 and Battlefield 3? These games were dropped like a bad habit and Claymore were exchanged for Broadswords. I knew the build up to this game was big (not as big as the previously mentioned warfighters) but I never realised the impact that it would have until it arrived.

3. Frozen Synapse

Another game I didn’t see coming, this is an absolute blast for multiplayer. It’s turn-based nature and top down perspective make it unique in the sea of shooters and other ‘twitch’ games. The singleplayer isn’t bad either, and shows you the ropes. Having multiple games on the go can get confusing, but it also adds to the mayhem. The potential for emergent experiences is huge in this one.

On reflection, all these games are basic on some level. They all share a need for choice, and consequences for those choices. They don’t need the latest physics, just sublime art direction. And they all have amazing music.

2. Bastion

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

This was a winner from nowhere. I had actually not researched the game at all before buying it (typical me), but when I started playing it I couldn’t stop. The water colour style, unique narration, frenetic gameplay and absorbing music all add up to make a game that truly rivals the design of some big name developers. Look out for Supergiant Games in the future (this is their first title).

1. Minecraft

A lot of publications and websites gave the 2010 GOTY award to Minecraft, but it wasn’t actually released. A minor oversight. Now, having just been released at Minecon, we can finally say that Minecraft is the game of the year. Honestly, this game does everything it should. It appeals to all types of gamers, from the young to the obsessed. It’s fantastic in singleplayer, but absolutely genius in multiplayer. It’s a beacon for how indie development and release can be done. As a game, it does not dictate, but rather forgives misinterpretation. And that’s precisely what a game should do.

3. Portal 2

Read the AustralianGamer Review

I tried not to include this, because I didn’t want to have 3 really predictable games, but goddamn this game was so good I just want to give it a giant hug. What started as an accidental success with the first Portal game, the sequel handled it with the love and care it deserves. Some of the puzzles may not have been nearly as hard in this as the first, but it truly made up for it with the amazing way it fleshed out the characters, and introduced some new favourites. And then there’s the multiplayer! Genius! There’s truly nothing I don’t love about this game.

2. Battlefield 3

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

How can I NOT put this in? So many glorious moments in one of the prettiest games I’ve played in a long time – even if part of the single-player campaign is a thinly veiled tech-demo to show off their new engines – LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY LIGHTING EFFECTS! But the multiplayer has some epic moments that makes this one of THE games to play all year. It’s taken everything that’s been awesome about the last few Battlefield titles and just improved on them time and time again. Whether you just like playing the odd FPS every now and again, or you’re the type that obsessively plays FPS games only, this is going to blow you away.

1. Saints Row: The Third

Easily my game of the year. So many times playing other games, I think “it’d be so much easier if I could just fire a rocketlauncher at all these motherfuckers”. Well in Saints Row The Third, you can. In fact, there’s not a whole lot you can’t do in this game. It’s so stupidily over the top, that none of it makes any sense, yet still you don’t care. I love everything about this game – including other things that I normally hate about other games. In a world that cries out for games to be as realistic as possible, Saints Row The Third is pure, unadulterated escapism gaming. It’s essentially one long Michael Bay wet dream. Seriously, I guarantee you he plays this game with no pants on … or maybe that’s just me.

3. LA Noire

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

Whilst LA Noire is a definite technical marvel, it’s hard to understate how much fun and intrigue was fitted around the facial technology. A deep, engrossing storyline and incredible cast of characters helped to make this game feel like something truly special that I couldn’t put down until the final credits rolled. It was a bold step in a new direction and will stay with me as one of the most important games I’ve ever played.

2. Battlefield 3

Watch the AustralianGamer Review

I feel it is important to announce right at the beginning of this piece that I have not played a single second of the Single Player. As of this writing, the second disc has not entered my 360 and I doubt it ever will, as all I need from the Battlefield experience is on Disc 1 – massive, balls-to-the-wall, mental as anything multiplayer, and boy do they deliver. Powered by an incredible graphics engine, the Battlefield 3 multiplayer experience encapsulates everything a multiplayer shooter should be, with large, varied maps and a wide variety of weaponry and vehicles to conquer your opposing team any way you feel fit. Want to play it as a twitch shooter? Go ahead. Want to be a team player, getting objectives and backing up your squad? Go for your life. Want to race jets across the desert sky? Hell, why not do that too. Battlefield is exactly what I want from an online shooter – an incredibly random experience where I don’t know what to expect next taking place in a well-built, gorgeous looking sandbox of adrenaline and destruction.

1. You Don’t Know Jack

More so than any game I’ve pleasure of playing this year does You Don’t Know Jack continue to exceed my expectations in incredible ways. Whilst is might be a simple trivia game at its core, it consistently surprises and amazes me with its punchy humour and brilliant host, Cookie. LA Noire may have had a fantastic storyline to play through and Battlefield 3 might be the best online multiplayer game ever, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that You Don’t Know Jack consistently gave me some of the greatest experiences and best fun I’ve ever derived from gaming, and delivered more consistently than anything else I played all year. My friends and I would play episode after episode together and whenever new people would swing by we would make sure they were subjected to a game or two. It is an incredibly fun experience and I truly wish more people had the opportunity to play it. It is easily my favourite game of the entire year.

Australian Gamer Team Top 5

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