This year… has been interesting… at least from a personal perspective. But I digress, let’s talk about the games that I have played.
Catching Up on Classics: Partem Deum <—(I likely butchered that)
Last year, I picked up a Playstation 3 and set to work playing and reviewing a multitude of modern classics. I’ve continued that trend, albeit on a much larger scale, extending it to the current generation of games. In this year alone, I have played both Mass Effects, Red Dead Redemption, Oblivion, Minecraft, LIMBO, Splinter Cell, half of the Call of Duties, Dragon Age: Origins, Super Meat Boy, Jamestown, Portal 2, Resistance 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Vanquish, Terraria, Torchlight, inFamous, fl0wer, Bioshock 2 and Heavenly Sword. That barely scratches the surface.
I borrowed Red Dead Redemption from my friend Devan, and I had limited time to spend with the game and barely scratched the surface. I completed the campaign up to the <SPOILER> death of John Marston, but never played the postgame missions with Jack </SPOILER>. Nonetheless, the 20 hours that I did enjoy with the game were memorable and satisfying. Going into the game doubting that a New Mexican desert could make for an interesting environment, I was shocked to discover that Red Dead Redemption had one of the richest and liveliest game worlds to be seen in a game. Its a game that I regret not owning myself and an easy recommendation to anyone.
I bought Super Meat Boy at a Steam Sale approximately one year ago, and I have not yet beat the second world. Nonetheless, the intense difficulty and low punishment-factor not only makes SMB one of the most challenging games of the year, but one of the most consistently playable. Your reflexes will be challenged, but not your patience. This is a fine casual game that anyone should have on their hard-drive for the time between classes.
I liked inFamous. While I felt that Empire City was a bland and uninteresting place, the game redeemed itself with excellent action, buttery-smooth controls and fun powers. I wasn’t that pleased with the jarring storytelling, but was entertained through the entire duration of this flawed classic.
I hated Modern Warfare 2, the scattershot plot, rage-inducing multiplayer, cliffhanger-story and agency-robbing set-pieces failed to carry over what made the first Modern Warfare one of the best shooters ever made. That said, I did have fun with Black Ops. The conspiracy-laden story was entertaining, clear and understandable. While still linear and filled with hand-holding,the game was not as egregiously unreplayable as the previous game. For all the bashing I put on this series for spawning an unsustainable trend of copycat shooters, Zombies makes this game a guilty pleasure of mine.
My Personal Game of the Year
I have not yet played Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Arkham City or Skyward Sword, so I cannot include them in this part of the post. But for the sake of thought, here are my three top games of 2011.
Minecraft was the second 5/5 I awarded on this blog, and for good reason. It holds shocking emotional impact and touches the player’s soul in an unexpected way. The lonely freedom the player experiences is liberating in its childlike gleefulness. It is a brilliant game filled with brilliant ideas played by brilliant people. Don’t let the allegations of an unintuitive tutorial dissuade you, running the game in windowed mode with the Wiki available in the background completely alleviates this problem. The possibilities, like in life, are endless.
I love the Mass Effect games, while a mixed bag from a moral perspective, the endearing characters, epic narrative and lovable world work together to make a remarkable impact on the player. Mass Effect 2’s release on the PS3 early this year brought this brilliant series and its varied denizens to a new audience. I grew attached to a certain Scientist Salarian named Mordin, his caffeinated manner of speaking, affable dialect and homicidal humor ingrained his character into my heart. The same can’t be said about a certain Miranda Lawson, I didn’t shed a tear when that pretentious and unsympathetic douchebag was left for dead in the center of the galaxy.
Portal 2 is the best puzzle-game ever made. The apotheosis of a movement initiated by the first Portal and expanded in Braid and LIMBO, the game exemplifies the positive trial-and-error aesthetic. The game is unspeakably difficult, but the intelligent construction of the puzzles promote rigorous experimentation and never fails to be fresh. The game is reinforced by genius writing, hilarious characters and a unique cooperative mode requiring the use of two brains. Portal 2 is great, and that does not even touch on the deep and involving feminist subtext that got even my Ethics teacher interested.
And the Winner is…
And this is what makes any Game of the Year decision so difficult. Portal 2, Minecraft and Mass Effect 2 are all great fun, intellectually and emotionally gratifying and vastly different. One is a the apotheosis of intelligent play, another is a immaculately detailed fantasy world and another is, like life, what you make of it. All I enthusiastically recommend to all and consider to be immaculate examples of brilliant game design and if I could, I would give trophies to all the studios responsible for the games and knit sweaters for their respective producers, but I can’t. So, with a smidge of regret, I declare that:
Portal 2 is my personal game of the year. The choice was difficult, and while Minecraft kept me awake through the wee hours of the morning and I will never stop loving Garrus, only Portal 2 transcended its ludic constraints to become something indescribably moving and impactful. Portal 2 was, unlike the other games, perfectly paced and never repetitive. This was an important year in gaming, and while the medium does suffer from the repetitious annual releases of gratuitously and self-indulgently violent multiplayer shooters, Portal 2 shines among these games as a beacon of hope for the medium. Play it, and look to the wide-open future with optimism.
Thank you and Merry Christmas to all!