Posted by: tenacious_tea | January 10, 2012

2011: A Year To Remember

Tis the season to be jolly, and with good reason to, as this holiday period has brought many of us a plethora of juicy AAA titles that will keep us festive for many a month to come. Where do we start when the months of September all through to December has brought many sumptuous titles such as; FIFA 12, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations just to name a few. It is not abnormal to have the festive period brimmed full of highly anticipated titles (although 2011 was crammed with extra goodness). What was different about 2011 however, was that we had so many big titles outside of these months.

In Q1 of 2011 we had several titles to wet our appetite so soon after the previous Christmas period. Of course we had the anticipated sequel to LittleBigPlanet, which to no surprise was named LittleBigPlanet 2 and another brilliant sequel in the shape of Visceral Games Dead Space 2, adding multiplayer to the space horror franchise. February brought us the PS3’s juggernaut exclusive Killzone 3 with epic games’ alternative shooter Bulletstorm also showing. March then handed us another juggernaut in the FPS genre in the form of EA’s Crysis 2, which in it’s first foray onto consoles sold impressively and scored well critically. The third month of 2011 did not stop there either as we received gaming goodness in the form of RPG Dragon Age 2 and THQ’s stab at an FPS with Homefront (both sold well but were not exactly critically acclaimed).

Dead Space 2

Q2 of 2011 started with April, which compared to the three previous months was quiet, saving our bank balance in the process. However it did sneak in a little game called Portal 2, a highly anticipated game to say the least. This game, as expected, received high appraisal with both reviewers and the community and once again Valve had produced a masterpiece. April did also produce SOCOM 4 and the latest Mortal Kombat, however neither were of the same magnitude as Valve’s game of the year contender. Leading into May the gaming world already had several games to sink their teeth into, not only from the previous months but also holdovers from the 2010 festive period. This however did not stop the fifth month producing a fair number of big titles, starting with Motorstorm: Apocalypse which had finally been released after indefinite delay following the tragedy of the Japanese tsunami. The following week we would be heralded with yet another FPS from Splash Damage named Brink, which despite much hype failed to capture the hearts of the masses or the reviewers and subsequently died not long after its release. Next to grace our PS3’s and Xbox 360’s was Team Bondi and Rockstar’s hyped blockbuster L.A. Noire, making use of fantastic new face animations pushing forward graphical technology. This game kept to a more linear mission path which was disappointing from a Rockstar fan’s point of view, but nonetheless still provided a really good story and enjoyable experience.

June was the final month of Q2 and started the summer period, which by all accords is a gold mine for Hollywood films, but usually starts off a lull for game releases. However, 2011’s June provided some top games and the release of a game that until now was the butt of video game jokes over the world. That game of course was Duke Nukem: Forever, a game that literally took forever to come out. It had clunky controls, PS2 graphics and more sexist jokes than South Park but yet sold pretty well for a game originally slated for the late 90’s! Of course Duke wasn’t the only returning male lead in June as we also had Red Faction: Guerrilla, F.E.A.R. 3 and PlayStation favorite InFamous 2 also providing us with yet more reasons (or not) to spend our cash.

L.A. Noire

July was the first month in 2011 (Q3) that provided us with, well, not a lot in terms of anything decent, keeping up with the irrelevant July trend in gaming. The savior was perhaps the XBLA and PSN games that came out providing us with some delicious variety in downloadable, but in no way less capable games. I am talking about Limbo that finally released on PSN and the introduction of Bastion and From Dust on XBLA, all of which gave solid reasons as to why downloadable titles are fast becoming better value for money than some retail games. The following month, August, did provide us with a few more notable retail titles that provided solid ground for the coming months big release schedule. These included a revamp of the Deus Ex franchise with the brilliant Deus Ex: Human Revolution, garnering both commercial and critical success for the developers. Q3 of course, as per usual, handed the gaming world (in particular the US) there next slice of annual NFL with EA’s behemoth sports franchise Madden NFL 12, inevitably scoring big sales and decent reviews.

The end of August, in the world of video games, ends the summer drought and takes us head first into September and the start of what is generally the biggest three-four months in gaming. The final month of Q3 in 2011 was no exception and rewarded us with returning franchises, sequels and an original IP; Dead Island. The game created huge buzz after its expertly crafted trailer at E3 2011 caused a sea of hype for the game, which when all was said and done, provided good sales and decent reviews despite being riddled with flaws and bugs. On the same day we also had to choose whether or not to purchase the return of the Driver franchise with Driver: San Francisco and/or the release of the PS3 exclusive Resistance 3. Thankfully for our wallets it was a couple of weeks before the next in flux of reasons to hand over our cash surfaced, but when it came, we once again had to explain (or grovel) to our other halves just why it was imperative we spent yet another £40/60$. Within a week we saw the release of both the final installment of Epic’s massive Gears trilogy with Gears of Wars 3 and then the release of EA’s other behemoth annual sports franchise, FIFA 12, both of which set records for their respective franchises and also were arguably the best yet for both series.

Bastion

Perhaps the biggest release schedule in the history of video games was upon us and October was the biggest of them all. We started off on the fourth with the niche and excruciatingly difficult Dark Souls which has sucked the very soul of those hardy enough to try this game. Also the fourth welcomed into the world of id Software’s new IP RAGE which drew inspiration from both Fallout and Borderlands with a touch of id’s masterful FPS style. Not forgetting NBA 2K12 which too many, myself included, is the best basketball game to date, a notion that resonates across a majority of reviewers. The following week, the 360 graced us with the fourth installment in its excellent exclusive driving franchise Forza Motorsport 4 which rivaled 2010’s and PS3’s exclusive Gran Turismo 5. Then the 18th of October hit and gave us spin-offs to existing franchises in the shape of co-op orientated Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One and the inevitable The Sims 3: Pets whilst also delivering us with new IP and downloadable PS3 exclusive Payday: The Heist. But none of these had the commercial success or the sheer brilliance of this next gem; step forward Batman: Arkham City, the sequel to 2009 smash hit Arkham Asylum, and for many hands down the game of year. Not to rest on it’s laurels, October then chucked at us one of the most anticipated shooters of the year in the form of DICE’s mega franchise Battlefield 3. Not only did this game have gorgeous visuals, it boasted a superb multiplayer experience typical of the Battlefield series and had record sales for an EA shooter.

Not to be out done by the previous month, November welcomed us with a bucket load of games on just its opening day. November the first brought us Sonic’s return to form in the nostalgic Sonic Generations, the much anticipated but ultimately disappointing The Lord of the Rings: War in the North and also the HD re-imagining of the classic James Bond game GoldenEye 007: Reloaded. But once again these games would be outdone by one of the best games in recent history, Naughty Dog’s fantastic Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception which deservedly received massive sales for an exclusive. The eight of November would bring a game that in recent times has become an annual affair, it has many haters, but equally as many supporters; it is of course Activision’s freak of nature Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 which simply cannot be disregarded when reviewing a year in gaming. It had the biggest opening day in the history of entertainment, remarkably a record for the series, and will likely go on to become the highest selling game of all time. Amazingly for gamers this week would also bring another equally huge release, Bethesda’s immensely popular Elder Scrolls series had its next iteration in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, released on Friday just three days after MW3’s release. To say this game was anticipated is an understatement, as the game spellbound us with its tales of dragons and arrows to the knee, which has culminated in near flawless reviews and sales to match. It was such a huge game that even our consoles struggle to tame its glitches and bugs, which are both hilarious and frustrating at the same time.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Despite the sheer amount of games we had already bought or put on our wish list for Christmas, 2011 was not done with us yet, as November carried on giving, as you should during the holidays. The 15th would give us five titles that wouldn’t look out of place on anyone’s Xmas list, as we tucked into the fantastic Rayman Origins, the insanely eccentric Saints Row: The Third and the latest in the NFS series had to offer, Need For Speed: The Run. Then we also had the final part of Ezio’s story in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and the first part of Master Chief’s in Halo: Combat Evolved, all in a single day! The final game of November would be the first game in the new re-branding of THQ’s WWE series of video games WWE 12, boasting some of the most in depth and cohesive controls in a wrestling game to date, with high review scores matching its gameplay. As per usual, December sees a steep decline in the amount of games being released after the bustling September-November period, with nothing but The Adventures of Tintin: The Game worth mentioning for the PS3 or Xbox 360 during the final month of the year.

So there you have it, 2011 is the year to remember for video games and what a year it has been. Never has a year been so deep filled with gaming goodness, so filled in fact that it is nearly impossible to choose a Game of the Year, with so many titles staking a valid claim to the crown. Looking ahead to 2012 it looks just as exciting for games and here’s to hoping that these deliver in the ways the class of 2011 did.

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