2011 may be fondly remembered as the greatest year in video game history. Gamers were treated to AAA title after AAA–especially this fall. Frankly, it was bit overwhelming; Batman: Arkham City, L.A. Noire, Skyrim, Uncharted 3, and heaps of other physical and digital releases all tempted our wallets in 2011. If you’ve survived the gaming onslaught without losing your life savings–congrats to you and your remarkable restraint.
So as 2011 begins its transformation into 2012, Team 2D-X takes a look back at the greatest games of the year both in the boxed retail and digital download spaces. And with our diverse gaming staff, you’re sure to find a quite a few surprises. Let’s get started.
Alejandro K. Brown, Contributor
Boxed Release: My vote for boxed Game of the Year is Batman: Arkham City. This was no easy choice in a year with so many great games. While other developers polished already great games (Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Resistance 3) RockSteady Studios took an already excellent game and expanded on it while raising the bar. It’s one thing to make a great linear game better, or make a great multiplayer game better. But to take a great, linear game and elevate it into a much bigger, sandbox game that captures the essence of the DC Comics? That’s how you up your game. And that is why Batman: Arkham City gets my vote this year.
Digital Release: My vote for DLC 2011 Game of the Year goes to Burnout Crash. True story: While hanging out with some friends around 11PM on a Saturday night, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the Burnout Crash demo that was recently released. Our host decided to download the free demo to see what the fuss was about and 30 minutes later–after each person tried the addictive demo stage twice–he purchased the full game. Five hours later (yup, 4:30 AM) we were not only still playing it, but were passing the controller between each other to try to beat our host’s online friend’s scores. Yes, high fives were celebrated each time we took over the top spot from our online rival. And that, my friends, is a mark of a great game.
Eric Guzman, News Editor
Boxed Release: Skyrim is my choice for Game of the Year and for good reason. Featuring a living game world, where the possibilities are endless (not to mention excellent gameplay and beautifully detailed graphics), Bethseda’s masterpiece breathed new life into the action-RPG genre. If you call yourself a gamer, you need this in your collection.
Digital Release: There’s a ton of digital games out there and buried below the trash there are a few gems. Bastion is one such gem. The action-RPG sports a beautiful anime art design, interesting levels, and an intriguing plot. Add an engaging narrator that changes his comments depending on the player’s actions, and you have a really unique RPG for a low price.
Tim Torres, Lead Reviewer
Boxed Release: Portal 2 is one of the best examples of minimalist storytelling in games, conveying almost all of its plot through verbal cues and visual interpretation. It complements and extends its predecessor as a paragon of efficient, stable game design. While other developers are still busy playing in the “sandbox,” Valve proves a focused, guided, story-based experience is still engrossing — especially when it’s a story so emotionally satisfying, well-written and good-humored (and dark-humored) as this one. And releasing the PS3 version with a free code for the PC version was a masterstroke of good will on Valve’s part.
Digital Release: Hard Corps Uprising By updating the classic Contra series into a high-resolution controller-killer, Arc System Works, the guys who made Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, shows us old game design still has life in it. Its comforting and familiar, like meeting up with an old friend after a long absence, only now he has sleek hand-drawn 2D animation and a bunch of new skills and weapon upgrades he didn’t have before. It’s the spirit of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, alive on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Hard Corps Uprising may not reinvent the old-school run-and-gun genre, but it reminds us how good it can still be in the right hands.
Tatjana Vejnovic, Managing Editor
Boxed Release: Unquestionably, my Game of the Year is Uncharted 3. The action title brought a lot to the table: enhanced multiplayer, teary-eyed moments, a lot of truths to the mystery, and that warm fuzzy feeling at the end of it all. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Uncharted 3, it takes place in the Middle East, where Nathan Drake returns with his partner-in-crime Victor “Goddamn” Sullivan to find the Atlantis of the Sands. Meeting up with Chloe and Elena again, and even making new friends on this adventure, this title is hard to put down. With mind-blowing graphics and a soundtrack composed well enough to make you feel seven different emotions in thirty seconds, Uncharted 3 should be in every gamer’s hands this holiday season.
Digital Release: Mortal Kombat Arcade stole my heart from day one. The entire original trilogy on your Xbox 360 for 800 points? Sold. Not only did the characters and music give me the nostalgic factor of playing at the arcade when I was a kid, but you could even tweak the settings to have a “curved screen” effect that really made it nostalgic. And if you were lucky enough to get the Mortal Kombat classic fightstick, this amazing trilogy came bundled with it for free. But don’t worry, this awesome Kollection is also available on PSN for $9.99. And did I mention achievements? Now you can up that gamerscore with skills you’ve been holding onto since 1992.
Avion Foster-Jarvis, News Editor
Boxed Release: This is a really difficult choice to pick only one game out of all the good games that came out this year, but if I must, it’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. From the lengthy story to the numerous side missions to the insanely tactical and heart-pounding multiplayer Assassin’s Creed is a must have for any gamer. Italy was great; but Constantinople will you have going nuts over all you can do.
Digital Release: If you’re a gamer who isn’t really into the “mainstream” choices, or you’re a gamer looking for something new, why not try a game that almost slipped under the radar? Zombie Apocalypse 2: Never Die Alone is an amazing zombie slaying game that allows for 4 player co-op both online and offline. With the impending zombie apocalypse coming in 2012, now is definitely the time to brush up on those skills, for only $9.99 or 800 MSP.
Jeffrey L. Wilson, Founder/Editor-in-Chief
Boxed Release: I’m a diehard fighting game fan and a die-hard SNK fan, so The King of Fighters XIII scores insanely high on my “best of the year” list. SNK Playmore fully redeemed itself from the disappointment that was The King of Fighters XII by adding more characters, tracks, and stages, as well as tightening the three-on-three fighting engine. The base combo system is accessible to casual fighting game fans, but the deep canceling system rewards players with big combos (with big damage) should they choose to dig into it.
Digital Release: Mika Mobile struck virtual gold with Battleheart, a cartoony downloadable action-RPG for the Android and iOS platforms. Gamers lead their parties of four (comprised of RPG and fantasy staples such as rangers, witches, knights, and more) against skeletal warriors, slime, giant spiders, and a host of other cutesy baddies that you encounter as you dungeon crawl. Battleheart is one of the rare games that you can tackle as a light diversion during your morning commute, or deep dive into during all-day marathon sessions as you loot and level.