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As we enter the final week
of 2011, it’s time for Player Affinity’s PC Department to look back at all of
the great games that came out for PC this year and name our favorite ones. Here are Ari Runanin Telle’s thoughts:
10. Magicka - Magicka is one of the best indie games released this year. While there’s a nostalgic value to going back to a dungeon crawler on the PC in 2011, it’s the unique gameplay that makes Magicka so great. By combining different elements, it’s possible to create dozens, if not hundreds of different spells, all of which are useful against different enemies. This combat model encourages experimentation, and can lead to hilarious results should you accidentally summon a meteor shower to rain on the map. Though the spellcasting is enough to sell Magicka, the co-op is also very fun. Any game is improved by co-op, but it shines in Magicka. The game turns into barely-controlled chaos once you have more than 2 players at once, and that experience alone is worth the price of admission.
9. Bulletstorm - Bulletstorm’s crass attitude and dirty one-liners may bring to mind Duke Nukem Forever, a colossal failure of an old-school first person shooter. Despite these similarities, Bulletstorm is a completely different, and far better game. Brought to you by People Can Fly (the minds behind Painkiller), Bulletstorm has satisfying shooting, coupled with the “Kill with Skill” system. This rewards you for more creative and/or sadistic kills, and turns what would be a pretty, but linear shooter into something wholly unique in the genre. Perhaps most surprising about Bulletstorm is the story and tone, which, while ridiculous and foul, has a sincerity to it that somehow makes the whole package work.
8. Red Orchestra 2 - I hear the term “realism” thrown about. Advertising wants you to think the latest military FPS is the most realistic yet, fanboys insult other games for being “unrealistic”, and so on. Well, after playing Red Orchestra 2, I can ignore all of that nonsense: Red Orchestra 2 is the most realistic FPS on the market right now. Everything from the maps, to the weapons, to the sound effects are authentic to World War II. The hyper-realistic combat makes even running to the battlefield tense, knowing you could die any second should a sniper get the drop on you. While there were a lot of technical problems at launch, and the community has dwindled down to the hundreds, this is a multiplayer shooter I’m glad I played.
7. Bastion - Magicka may have been one of the best indie games of 2011, but Bastion was, by far, the best. Coming out of nowhere from
Supergiant Games (formed from former 2K employees), Bastion got by, not on its gargantuan ad campaign, but on
it’s quality. The art style, story, gameplay, and unique dynamic narration
landed Bastion several accolades and a publishing deal with Warner Bros.
Interactive. Despite being an independent game, Bastion is slickly polished,
adding several small touches and details that make the moment to moment
gameplay a pleasure to experience. The story is also quite unique, taking the
post-apocalypse scenario and treading whole new ground with it.
6. Dead Space 2 -Talking about polish, Dead Space 2 is the most polished, well executed action horror shooter today. While the story continues the saga of Isaac Clarke in a way I did not much enjoy, everything else, from the setting, to the pacing, to the combat has been polished to a glossy sheen. The combat is what stands out the most, being remarkably faster than Dead Space 1 (which was already a fast game), and vile necromorphs constantly keeping you on your toes. I didn’t even touch the multiplayer, and I felt I got my money’s worth and then some out of Visceral’s latest.
5. Portal 2 - While Dead Space 2 may have been an iterative sequel to the original, and a great one at that, Portal 2 takes the core concepts of it’s predecessor and creates a whole new game. Almost everything besides the core concepts of portals is different in this sequel, with different pacing, different puzzle types, and a surprisingly interactive, non-isolated story. This is a different game than the original, and playing through it made me excited to see what was next, not knowing what to expect. The puzzles themselves are still excellent, if a bit easier now that most of us know how portals work. The co-op is incredibly challenging and rewarding, though, if you are looking for that sort of puzzle game.
4. LA Noire - LA Noire is not a “different” game, it has been done before, and in some cases, better. A better term, I believe, is a “refreshing” game. Adventure games are nothing new, but quite rare these days. That one has been made, and with such a large budget, is extraordinary. The slow, methodical pace is refreshingly different from the mile-a-minute Call of Duty singleplayer roller coasters. The interrogations, implementing Team Bondi’s incredible facial motion capture software, are satisfying, making you feel like a sleuth when correctly reading the subject. The investigations are engrossing, making me think like a real detective, or, in some cases, walking around hoping for a chime to sound. It’s not perfect in it’s execution, but I could not stop playing learning more about Cole Phelps’ checkered past and those who were involved. Perfect? No. It is, however, one of the most unique and satisfying games of the year.
3. Trackmania 2: Canyon I never played the original Trackmania games, so Trackmania 2 was something of a revelation for me. In my opinion, Trackmania 2: Canyon is the best multiplayer game that was released this year. It’s the one I’m still playing, and the one that I still find as engrossing as when I first jumped into a server. The time-trial, user tools, mod-based madness that is a 6 minute game of Trackmania 2 is quite divisive, and I can understand anyone who despises this game. The UI is clunky, there is little to no guidance as to how to play or create content, and the community has come up with some, well, “special” music choices. But that’s part of the reason I love Trackmania 2. The driving may be loose, accessible, and fun, and the tracks may be incredibly creative, but the best part of Trackmania 2 is how every part of it is ridiculous. It is the Internet embodied into a game, with great user created tracks, weird communities, and sometimes horrendous music. It’s not for everyone, but I love it.
2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Deus Ex: Human Revolution is, in many ways, exactly the game I expected it to be. Nothing more, nothing less. It takes the multi-path gameplay from the original and successfully brings it onto the next generation of hardware. The voice acting is better, if only by a bit. The combat is better, but still somewhat behind contemporary shooters. The graphics convey the fantastic cyberpunk art well enough, but their quirks are many. With all of these little problems, it’s a testament to how great the core idea is that Human Revolution is still amazing. I can’t wait for the next Eidos Montreal project, and hope they take all the quirks that have been present for the entire series, and remove them.
1. Saints Row: The Third Remember when Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto seemed to be competing head to head? Two open world crime games with realistic settings, but absurd possibilities? If the comparison between Saints Row 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV wasn’t enough to end that entire debate, Saints Row: The Third should. This is a game that takes everything to the extreme and laughs about it. The story is absurd, fantastical, and silly, something games struggle with. The story also allows for fairly unique and entertaining missions. The combat is easy, but fun, implementing ridiculous looking weapons that have even more ridiculous results once you use them. The abilities your character can gain, are, you guessed it, ridiculous, near the end unlocking infinite ammo and no damage taken from bullets. This was the most fun I had playing a game this year, and I’m still remembering the campaign and time spent fondly. Saints Row has gone over-the-top insane, and it should never look back.