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This year has been a fantastic year so far for games. No matter what you’re into there has been something released that is for you. Our PS3 department of Thomas Markey, Aaron Betts, Josh Margolis, Joe Button and Matt Jacobs bring their personal top three games of the year so far.
Our Number Three Picks:
L.A. Noire - I expected this to be my game of the year, hands down. The setting and methodical pace of the gameplay seemed right up my street and the jaw-dropping detail of the game's faces presented it as something groundbreaking. However as my playtime went on I became less and less immersed in the world as the novelty of the faces wore off and L.A. Noire’s core gameplay failed to evolve into anything more than what is experienced in the opening missions. It became a bore. At times, searching through the crime scenes become more of a hassle than fun and the interrogations were littered with irregularities regarding choosing the correct questions. Despite this, it’s still a quality title that remains fun for the most part. It makes my top three at this point in the year but it most certainly won’t remain come December.
Mortal Kombat - I’m not the biggest fighting game fan but there are two series of games I always look forward to in the genre: the first being Soul Calibur and the second being Mortal Kombat. The reboot that is technically MK9 is the best yet with the coolest fighting-game story mode ever and one of the most refined and accessible fighting systems I've experienced to date. I bought my friend and I a copy and we've been having fun beating the crap out of each other online ever since. The violence is as over the top and hilarious as ever and the sheer amount of content between all the modes, unlockables, challenges and the incredibly lengthy story gives it a level of value I've rarely felt with most fighters. The addition of Kratos on PS3 was also freaking awesome.
Mortal Kombat - Now, I should say that I own a PS3 and a 360 so the pressure is always on both Sony and Microsoft to give me the best deal. In Mortal Kombat's case it was Kratos. Yes, because if there's one character you could add to your game that will catch my eye right away, it's Kratos. Besides that it's a great fighting game.
Killzone 3 - I had played a ton of Killzone 2 back in 2009, and the controls were met with very mixed opinions but it gave the PS3 what it needed – a must-have shooter. Upon playing it recently the gameplay has not aged well; shooters have become far more focused and tight, with responsive controls that emphasize speed. Killzone 3 does not ignore this. The gunplay speed is anything but slow, but the weight and power of the weapons has also been retained. This gave me some of the most satisfying shooting in any shooter I have ever played and gives the game an intensity that you will not find in many games.
L.A. Noire - Much like Heavy Rain last year, L.A. Noire has a few significant problems but is able to overcome them with the way it pushes technology and storytelling in games. The driving and shooting are fine, but you can have fun skipping them at every opportunity, and just enjoying the well realized world of 1940's LA and investigating some pretty intriguing crimes. A hard experience to forget.
Our Number Two Picks:
Portal 2 - I wasn't such a huge fan of the first Portal. Sure, it was a fun and interesting little puzzle game but I never really understood the hype surrounding it. So naturally I was skeptical going into Portal 2 as it had received similar hype. How wrong I was though. Valve really managed to create a proper game with Portal 2. It has an interesting story, more involved puzzles in more varied areas and better dialogue, which is really the only thing I thought was great about the first Portal. It's without a doubt one of the year’s best and will remain in high praise even after the flurry of holiday releases. Everyone should play this game. It's that simple.
L.A . Noire - While I've still yet to finish it, I have been loving L.A. Noire as much as everyone else. Even after reading about the drama that happened during its development I was glad it finally came out because it is certainly one of the most unique games of this generation. With some truly awe-inspiring facial technology and a tone and maturity that is a nice indicator of the sort of games we'll be seeing much more of on the next consoles, it is a trend I really look forward to. I love my immature mainstream games as much as any other gamer but there seriously needs to be more titles like "L.A." getting made if this hobby is to ever get the universal appeal and acceptance so many want it to have.
LittleBigPlanet 2 - The first LittleBigPlanet was an amazing game. It brought a new level of creativity to gaming that had never been seen on a home console. However, with the release of the second game we saw such an improvement that it dwarfed its predecessor. Plus the fact that all the old levels still worked made it almost impossible to not toss away your copy of the original.
Infamous 2 - I cannot fully describe how much love I have for the original Infamous, but that created exceptionally high expectations for Infamous 2 and all but one were exceeded. The story was disappointing compared to the original, but the sheer overhaul the gameplay got was a worthy trade. It’s hard to ignore the little problems Infamous 2 has simply because everything else about the game is damn near perfect. Sucker Punch, I am expecting even more now if you do another Infamous, just saying....
Mass Effect 2 - It's a bit late, but Mass Effect 2 is a no less thrilling game than it was a year ago. The combination of deep RPG conversation systems and solid, fast-paced action brings the setting to life in a fun way, and the cast of mostly new characters is just enjoyable to be around. Even if you haven't played the first game, the second is worth experiencing on the PS3.
Our Number One Picks:
Dead Space 2 - In a similar vein to Portal 2, I wasn't convinced Dead Space 2 was going to be any better than the first game. I never managed to finish the first game – I just couldn't stand to see another desolate metallic corridor curiously similar to the ones I had been in since the start of the game. Dead Space 2 avoids this problem entirely and combines it with a better story, more interesting characters and faster gameplay. Everything about Dead Space 2 just oozes polish and class. It's a joy to play and certainly deserving as my current game of the year. It will take some knocking off, too. Skyrim, I'm looking at you.
Motorstorm: Apocalypse - I am an unabashed fan of arcade racers and this generation the Motorstorm series has been my favorite by far, perhaps even ever. The games have the perfect balance between graphics, spectacle and just plain absurd levels of crazy and I've spent ridiculous amounts of hours with all three. I really hope Evolution Studios takes their particular brand of vehicular insanity into the next generation; just thinking about what they could do with a much more powerful game console is one of the reasons I look forward to them. I'm still waiting for a big resurgence in arcade racers and am praying people get sick of all the simulation nonsense so I can spend more time driving monster trucks off crumbling sky scrapers.
Portal 2 - Enough said... oh, I actually have to talk about it? Well, Portal 2 is not only one of the best games on the PS3, but on all the platforms right now. It will easily stay this way too until Uncharted 3 and Skyrim come out, but until then this game will enjoy its time in the sun. With a great and memorable single player, and a great multiplayer it is hard to pass up. If you haven't played it yet, do it now! You owe it to yourself as a gamer.
Dead Space 2 - Some could easily take issue with the heavily scripted structure of Dead Space 2 but when the content of that structure has the level of quality that Dead Space 2 has, you simply don’t care. As soon as I started playing it, I got the feeling that it would be my game of the year and so far nothing is threatening that at the moment. Dead Space 2 is to me what Resident Evil 4 was last generation: it embraces everything that makes games great and showing why it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the genre it belongs to.
Portal 2 - Portal 2 is not just one of my favorite games this year, it's possibly my favorite of this generation. The new tools and mechanics build on the original in fascinating ways, the story is surprising and clever, and the voice acting is laugh-out-loud hilarious from start to finish. It doesn't have the longest story mode ever, but it's an incredibly well-conceived and executed one, and the co-op extends the experience.
Be sure to check out the reviews for Dead Space 2, L.A. Noire, Portal 2, Infamous 2, Motorstorm: Apocalypse, Mortal Kombat, and LittleBigPlanet 2 and let us know what your top picks are for the year so far and what your thoughts are on what's left for 2011.