It almost seems like every year gets even better for gaming, and 2011 is no exception, just before the fall landslide of blockbuster games take a look at the best of the best so far. The year has seen a number of fantastic remakes and sequels as well as brand new IPs. With so many great games in such a short span of time it’s hard to narrow the list down to merely ten. But below I’ve come up with what (in my opinion) are the best games of 2011 so far. I will try to keep the description in each free of spoilers, but I want to provide a video with each one of a memorable moment from the game and I can’t guarantee that they will be free of spoilers. So if you want to wholly avoid the possibility of getting something spoiled just read the description. With only a little more than half of the year over, we still have tons of games to go through, including most of the big releases for the year, so undoubtedly this list will change by December. If you think I missed a great game from this year, go ahead and tell me in the comments! One quick addition I want to add, I know Gears of War 3 just came out and if I had a sufficient amount of time to play it I am sure it would also be on this list.
10. Shadows of the Damned
Suda51 is a developer well known for his incredibly strange and utterly unique games like No More Heroes and Killer 7. Shadows of the Damned shows that Suda still has his same old charm. Combine Suda51’s talents with those of the legendary Shinji Mikami and Akira Yamaoka and you have a no brainer for a great game. Shadows of the Damned was a fun expedition into the underworld, showing that there is room in the industry for Tarantino like games. The action was quick and reminiscent of Resident Evil, the soundtrack was moody and fitting, and the characters and their interactions were great, especially Johnson and Garcia. If you need any more proof that this game was awesome just watch this secret scene after the credits roll, I will warn you though, that it is not for sensitive ears or children, or probably a work related setting. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
9. Dead Space 2
In 2008 the first Dead Space showed us that the survival-horror genre is still alive and kicking. It was a dark and terrifying game that introduced us to a brand new sci-fi universe. Comparisons can be made to Resident Evil but is that really a bad thing? Dead Space’s shooting was tight, the graphics and sound were great, it had an absolutely brilliant dismemberment combat system, and best of all, the atmosphere was spot on. Dead Space 2 manages to up the ante for every facet of the game. It continues the story of the markers and Necromorphs, which are absolutely terrifying enemies. Game play is even better than before with added weapons and enemy types, and the addition of fairly strong multiplayer gives the game even more replay value. The atmosphere is nailed even better than in the first game, you know a game is scary when an alarm clock going off in the game can make you fall out of your chair. In addition Dead Space 2 has one of the most brutally cringe-worthy moments in gaming history. Check it out below, but like I said it is brutal so you might want to be careful if you have a weak stomach or just ate.
Catherine is a game that is completely unique to itself. There is literally nothing like it that has ever been made. Combining elements of adventure games, dating simulations, and puzzle platformers, Catherine builds a memorable albeit frustrating experience. The story centers around a man named Vincent. Vincent has been dating his girlfriend Catherine for years, and she finally wants a commitment out of him when things go terribly wrong. Vincent ends up cheating with a blonde bombshell also named Katherine (that’s with a k, Mortal Kombat style). Catherine’s story and its multiple endings, turns out to be a surprisingly deep story into adult themes of marriage, faithfulness, and more while it adds in elements of the supernatural. While the story and characters is the main focus of Catherine, the game play is no slouch either. Catherine’s climbing block puzzles are additively fun while being infuriatingly hard. You will die countless times while still being determined to power onward through each nightmare. Add all of this up and you get great package with Catherine that shows us the hidden gems that can come out of the Japanese gaming industry.
Bulletstorm advertised itself as “Putting the skill back in the kill”. For the most part, this is exactly what the game did. Bulletstorm turns out to be one of the most deliriously fun games I have ever played, with its mindless violence and harsh language Bulletstorm is a trip through vulgarity and that’s what makes it so great. The skill shots in the game are really what give the game legs, there are literally hundreds of different ways to kill enemies in the game and this leads to you experimenting with what you can do in each combat situation. Great weapons and the special leash lead to a combat system that is far too much fun for its own good. The story in Bulletstorm was nothing outstanding, but the dialogue was where the game shown. Just set your mind aside and enjoy the stream of curses and vulgarity that come from the characters mouths, it’s the best way to enjoy Bulletstorm. Sadly, a lack of competitive multiplayer is a strong mark against the game but the competitive survival mode makes up for some of that hole.
6. L.A. Noire
Rockstar is best known for its huge open world games, and dramatic stories. Team Bondi manages to pull off another one of these great games with Rockstar’s help, while giving the plot a slightly more focused approach and restricting the player’s freedom a bit. L.A. Noire’s world doesn’t have nearly as man side quests and isn’t as explorable either, but it doesn’t suffer for it in the least. L.A. Noire has a more focused story and focuses more strongly on its unique game play systems. Successfully capturing the feeling of the film noire genre, L.A. Noire puts you into the shoes of Cole Phelps, a rising detective with the LAPD trying to unravel the seeds of corruption in the city of Los Angeles. Cole’s career causes him to meet memorable characters and apprehend more than one psychopath. While the story is generally pretty involving, there are moments where it can drag on for a bit, but the game play of L.A. Noire shines the brightest in the game. Cole has to conduct investigations, look for clues at crime scenes, take part in the occasional shootout, and conduct interviews with witnesses and suspects. With revolutionary new facial capture technology, L.A. Noire has you interrogating characters that look and feel completely human. You have to read each person separately and decide for yourself whether they are telling the truth or not. There are moments where L.A. Noire makes you feel like a real detective from the 50’s and that’s the exact reason it is here on this list.
Downloadable games have seen a tremendous uprising in the last few years; they have gone to small hour long distractions to complete, well thought out games. Bastion not only showed us everything that a downloadable game can be, but how uniquely a game can tell a story. Bastion is an absolutely stunning game, with a fantastic engrossing story, and good game play to boot. The interactive storytelling in Bastion is a great way for the story to be told, the narrator (who has one of the best voice actors in recent memory) gives the story a unique and personal flair. He narrates your every action, gives you insight on the characters and world, and sometimes shows his own opinion on how things are playing out. This is Bastions greatest strengths and helped make the game one of the most memorable and fun stories I’ve played in years. Bastion’s combat worked fairly well, with a Diablo-like kind of system and the watercolor graphics gave the game a beautiful aesthetic. Not only is Bastion my favorite downloadable game of all time, it easily worked its way into being one of my favorite video games period.
4. inFAMOUS 2
The first inFAMOUS was one of the best super hero games if the not the best one ever made. I was a little skeptical before the second game came out on if it could possibly be as good as the first one. Well wasn’t I surprised when inFAMOUS 2 came out and it improved on the first in nearly every way. The combat was faster and tighter, graphics received a huge upgrade, the soundtrack was fantastic, the story and characters were great, and it was even longer than the first one was. Cole gets a fair amount of additions to his already varied array of powers, and he also receives a close range weapon called “The Amp”. The first inFAMOUS was long but inFAMOUS 2 was jam packed full of content. The main story would take you around 15 to 20 hours plus side-quests, then you have collectables and the brand new UGC feature. UGC (User Generated Content) was a brilliant addition by Sucker Punch. By allowing users to create their own missions and scenarios, inFAMOUS 2’s replayability shot through the roof. Both inFAMOUS and inFAMOUS 2 will go down among the greatest superhero games of all time, but inFAMOUS 2 feels like the definitive way that Sucker Punch wanted the game to be. Oh and also, it has one of the best opening sequences I’ve ever played. Just check it out for yourself.
3. Portal 2
The entire gaming industry was taken by surprise when the first Portal released. A short game included in The Orange Box, and made by a group of virtually unknown college students, Portal took the gaming industry by storm. Its brilliant puzzle system with the portal gun, unforgettable villain, and mysterious setting made Portal an instant classic. Expectations were high for the second game and it didn’t disappoint in the least. Portal 2 expands on the popular formula of the first game, and gives players a lengthy single player story as well as incredibly fun co-op. Both game play and story turned out to be just as incredible as the first, making Portal 2 into a truly unforgettable experience. Portal also adds two brand new characters to the world, which do an equal if not better job than even the homicidal Glados. With its intriguing concept, addictively fun game play, great characters and story. Portal 2 turned the original concept into a full experience, with some truly memorable moments (my favorite one is below,) and it’s a game that will surely be talked about for a good while.
2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The original Deus Ex made such an incredible legacy, that it seemed impossible for Human Revolution to live up to the expectations. Fortunately, it did just that with flying colors. There are few experiences as immersive as Deus Ex, and even fewer that truly give the player real choice in how they play through the game. The complete freedom in how you tackle the challenges that face you, is the game’s greatest strength. If you want to sneak by without ever being seen you can do that, or you can kill every enemy in sight or attack the problem from a different angle. Player choice isn’t just present in the game play, but also in the story. Dues Ex’s cyberpunk future sets the backdrop for a story full of conspiracy and revenge. Adam Jensen’s tale is a memorable one, and he himself ends up being a character that you truly care about. The world that Human Revolution builds is unbelievably immersive and incredibly detailed. It’s not every day that you come across a game that you love exploring and sinking yourself into wholly. Human Revolution can also lay claim to one of the best soundtracks in recent memory, and the trailers leading up to the game were also some of the best. You can see one of them below. Between the great story, fantastic game play, and equally fantastic graphics and voice acting Human Revolution is one of the standout games of the year and even one of the standout experiences of this generation. Hopefully, the forthcoming DLC turns out to be just as impeccably built.
1. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
CD Projekt Red put themselves on the map when they released the original Witcher. The game met overall good reviews, and was a fresh new role-playing experience for PC gamers. With The Witcher 2 though, the fledgling developer showed that they have the skill to stand toe-to-toe with the best in the industry. The Witcher 2 can not only claim the spot for top game of 2011 to this point, a strong argument can be made for The Witcher 2 being one of the absolute best role playing games in the last decade. Everything about the sequel screams polish, and the improvement from the original is absolutely mind boggling. The Witcher 2 builds on an already detailed and interesting world and characters, adds a brand new and much improved combat system, and builds a convincing and immersive experience. Besides the story (which is just as good as any other RPG you might find on the market,) The Witcher 2 does two things that almost no RPG does. Firstly, it provides real impactful choices on the story. A lot of games provide you with an illusion of player choice or provide you with minimal impact on the world and characters. The Witcher 2 almost does a better job than even the Mass Effect series in this respect. You choose what kind of a person Geralt is, and decide his basic ideas; in addition the choices you make have real effect on the story and world, greatly altering how the story plays out depending on what you do. Another thing The Witcher 2 does better than any game I have ever played is provide interesting and important side-quests. Every side-quest you complete amazingly feels directly linked to the main story, and you can even see their effects some of the time. All in all, The Witcher 2 combines into one absolutely stunning package that will give you more than your money’s worth, it’s the very best of the this year so far and one experience that should not be passed up. Oh, and did I forgot to mention that it is also the most beautiful game ever made? Don’t believe me, just watch this.