Miracle of Sound - Encore

Miracle of Sound - Encore
“Redemption Blues,” “Zombie Holiday” + Gavin's Favorite Games of 2011

MiracleOfSound | 21 Dec 2011 12:00
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Well, that was the best year ever for gamers, don't you agree? 2011 is going to go down as one of those great years for me where I got overwhelmed by all the great new games to the point that picking the obligatory-to-every-geek-at-this-time-of-year top 5 was actually a near impossible task.

By the time you all read this, you will have heard the Skyrim song, which for the last 3 weeks has occupied pretty much my every waking minute trying to get it right. I'm sure lots of you would like me to talk about it and I certainly will but I'm going to do it next month as I want to sit back and observe the (hopefully positive) reaction to it first. I've been so close to it for the last few weeks that being objective about it is impossible right now and I'd like to have some degree of distance and a better, hindsight assisted view when I decide to dissect it for you guys.

To kick things off this month I'm not going to answer questions for a change. I'm going to tell you what my favorite games of 2011 were and why. Hope you don't mind!

5. Portal 2

This is kind of a dirty little secret for me - I wasn't a huge fan of the first Portal. Sure, I enjoyed it, but I never understood just what it was that got people salivating about it like hungry headcrabs. Short, visually bland and almost insultingly easy in parts, it felt like a fun little novelty game with a great storyline more than anything world-shattering.

So I was pleasantly surprised when Portal 2 came along and knocked my socks off. Valve have a way of making really good sequels with all the right changes and evolutions (although this rule is debatable with L4D2). Longer, deeper, more varied and with the best, funniest, most compelling characters of the whole year.

4. Dead Space 2

DS2 was, for me, our medium at the very top of its game. A near flawless shooter that was smooth, classy and polished to a bloody shine in almost every aspect. Visually the best game on 360 in this gamer's opinion, what Isaac's nightmarish adventure lacked in true terror it more than made up for in smooth mechanics, stunning set pieces, flawless and innovative shooting and the least intrusive, most ingenious HUD and loading system I have ever seen in a game.

3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Despite not being the emotional rollercoaster the trailers implied it might be, Deus Ex: HR had me glued to my Xbox for a glorious, golden week. It feels unfair to spend time bitching about the godawful bossfights (or character animations that would make Gamebryo sneer) when right around every corner was a wonderfully, geniusly designed area with multiple, all equally rewarding methods of beating it.

The atmosphere and narrative were amazing in this game too, of course. They inspired my most well received song yet, so thanks, Deus Ex!

2. Batman: Arkham City

There is one story moment (which I won't spoil) near the end of Arkham City that left me sitting slack jawed and misty eyed for ten minutes after playing it. One of those moments so perfect, so beautiful, so in touch with the subject matter and the characters that for a moment it transcended the genre and showed the true potential of what this medium is going to become over the next few years. My new favorite Batman moment.

The fact that this came after 30+ hours of ingenious puzzles, thick, filthy, grimy atmosphere, the most brutal, satisfying hand-to-hand combat on the market, almost ridiculously generous amounts of gameplay variety and literally hundreds of fan-pleasing Easter eggs just made it all the more potent when it came around. And yes, there is a song coming.

I'm still fuming over that damn augmented reality training, though.

1. Duke Nukem Forever, of course!

Who would have guessed that after such a long development cycle that old Duke would swagger back into our lives with such style, grace and panache? Every aspect and feature of the game was innovative in its design and perfect in its execution. From the utterly hilarious and edgy humor ("Looks like you're ... fucked," hahahah!), to the more tactical, cover-based 2-gun modern combat, to the new linear, focused level design, to the aggressive but subtle enemy AI, to the removal of the silly, unrealistic looking kick mechanic, to the stunning, futuristic visual design ... the game never ceased to amaze us from the mesmerizing (not to mention hilarious) opening right up to the explosive finale.

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