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by adam mathes
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Games Worth Playing 2011

I mean worth playing of the major releases. Of the ones that I played.

In 2011 every console game with a metacritic score of 90 or above was a sequel. That’s what it’s like near the end of the console lifecycle - less originality. But there was still some great stuff, even if it was derivative.

And yes, I should be playing and reviewing more indie stuff, I know. I know. But it’s hard to follow.

So, in rough order of my recommendations, most recommended first.

Elder Scrolls V Skyrim

Portal 2

Portal 2 is the best written and most clever game of the year and everyone should play it. And the first one, if they haven’t already.

The original Portal was a masterpiece, one of the best games of all time. Portal 2 is bigger, better writing, voice acting, level design, and looks shockingly better. It’s also significantly more accessible in terms of being less difficult and a better learning curve. In almost every way it’s better than its predecessor, yet I’d hesitate to call it a masterpiece as it lacks the same impact the original had. It’s a sequel that is worthy, but does not surpass its predecessor.

Catherine

As I wrote while I was playing it:

So conventional wisdom says that puzzle games shouldn’t have insanely difficult levels early and easier levels later, or a minigame of sending text messages to the protagonist’s girlfriend and mistress, or 20 minute long HD anime cutscenes, or ask the player if they are a pervert, or include trivia about alcohol as your character gets drunker in a bar… but Catherine does, and that’s kind of why it’s awesome.

It’s sort of hard to imagine a game like Catherine getting made at all with a decent budget, let alone published in the US, which is why you should all go buy it now that it’s only $39.99

Dance Central 2

Suprasses the original, fixes all its issues, and adds simultaneous two player dancing. By far the best game on Kinect.

Deus Ex Human Revolution

I love this game.

The first-person sci-fi action RPG “genre” isn’t a genre with many offerings these days, but I hope this brings it back. (Bioshock isn’t doing it for me.) The original Deus Ex was a cult classic that I didn’t play until years later. It’s tough to enjoy, despite its charms and uniqueness. The sequel a few years ago was pretty lame, but this reboot is in many ways superior.

In most action games that add role-playing character improvement aspects, the actual impact on the game is minimal. The difference between the first 10 minutes and last 10 minutes of the game may not be discernible.

DXHR actually feels different as you progress and enhance your character. You can play the game differently as you progress, choose your skills, and gather new equipment. The decisions feel weighty in terms of how you approach the game.

And the level design and atmosphere and score – all so beautiful. An outstanding game - though I played it on the PC, I’m not necessarily sure its complexity works as well on a console.

Child of Eden

Spiritual sequel to the cult classic Dreamcast gem Rez, Child of Eden is one of the most beautiful experiences you can have with any form of media this year.

The Kinect gameplay - while challenging and imprecise - was a totally new experience for that device.

~$30 new

Bulletstorm

I’m probably in the minority in thinking that Epic Games’ best product this year was not Gears of War 3, but the somewhat less well recieved Bulletstorm. Marketed as a big, dumb, loud, crass action game, but perhaps that was just a facade. It’s a much smarter game - both in story, character, and gameplay than people give it credit for.

Yes, it has gore and over-the-top violence, but it’s fun and clever and different than just about every other shooter this year, and unlike every stupid epic sequel shooter full of cliches, this one doesn’t have the same gloom.

And the gaemplay is way more fun than the current en-vogue cover based shooters, in my opinion.

You can get it new for $20-30 or used for even less.

~$20 on Amazon

You Don’t Know Jack

This reboot of the wise-ass party quiz show game is actually just as fun as I remember it. Budget priced at its release for $40, now down to $19.99. Totally worth it.

$19.99 on Amazon

Crysis 2

Of the far-too-many “epic” shooter sequels this year with over the top action and constant explosions, Crysis 2 is my favorite. Not groundbreaking, not amazing, not a must play, but worth it on high-end PC’s to remind yourself why you have a super expensive graphics card.

Down to $35 new.

Duke Nukem Forever

It’s not a good game. I’m not saying it’s a good game. It’s not.

It’s a fascinating part of video game history come alive - a sort of evolutionary dead end to shooters that we thought we’d never see! What would have happened if Duke Nukem 3D was the future of gaming in 2000?

Let’s be glad Half-Life 2 came out instead.

At $5 or $10 think of it as a history lesson.

Games that I wanted to play but didn’t

Yakuza 4, Shadows of the Damned, Dark Souls, Batman Arkham City, Deepak Chopra’s Leela

But the first few months of 2012 not much interesting is coming out, so I may get to them.

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