Posted by John on January 7, 2012

Power Play: Best video games of 2011

Despite being wowed by several games in 2011, looking back it’s almost been a disappointing year in the world of video games.

While nearly every “third� franchise delivered for me, (Gears, Resistance, Uncharted, Killzone), the lack of innovation and momentum from 2010 left me feeling like the industry made little progress.

In 2010 we saw the advent of more motion gaming from the PlayStation 3’s Move and the Xbox 360s Kinect. I didn’t see a single killer application of motion gaming in 2010. On top of that, the Wii stayed fairly stagnant with the announcement of a new console, Wii U in 2012.

Even on the originality front, ground breaking games like Heavy Rain didn’t have a worthy successor in 2011, and it’s hard to say there was a breakout “new� franchise.

In fact, what we’ve seen over the last two gaming seasons has been the near completion of the console cycle.

From the launch of the new PlayStation 3 and 360, in the last two years we’ve been satisfied with Halo 3, God of War 3 and the aforementioned third chapters of so many games.

It’s a pretty strong indicator that there’s something special coming for the consoles down the road, a new PS4 or Xbox 720? They’re rumoured to be announced at some point in the next year, but nothing official.

One of the biggest disappointments for me in the past 12 months may be the complete lack of innovation in the motion category particularly when it comes to sports gaming.

It’s a natural that with the traditional sports gaming theme nearly fully tapped out in terms of realism and simulation, that the motion quotient is amped up.

So far we’ve seen gimmicks and mini games, but no significant way to work the most natural motion ingredients into the most compatible format.

Hopefully if we don’t see, ahem, movement on that front in 2012, we will when new consoles that have built-in motion capabilities are announced.

All that aside, there were some brilliant games in 2011. If you got a new console for Christmas, here are some quality titles you should check out:

Killzone 3 (PS3): Sort of the ending to the original trilogy which was known for its gritty, realistic and tough gameplay. Well worth checking out, a great first-person shooter, but on the whole felt a lot more cliched. KZ2 is still one of the best games I’ve ever played, this one just didn’t meet that challenge.

Portal 2 (PS3, Xbox 360) may well be the game of the year. A bizarre puzzle platformer that seems simple, but is elegant, clever and very funny.

Battlefield 3 (PS3, Xbox 360): Another realistic FPS that uses modern technology in a real-life war setting. Great campaign, albeit too short, great online play and great weapons.

Modern Warfare 3 (PS3, Xbox 360): Latest in the Call of Duty series, ties up loose ends in the modern war thriller, seeing terrorism and Russian warlords wreak havoc on streets of London, Paris, New York. Short campaign but again, great online play.

Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360): End of a trilogy that takes place in a third-person shooter setting, battling mutant hordes of aliens trying to wipe out humanity. Strong online play, great campaign and excellent story.

Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360, PS3): Brilliant action game that focuses more on the darker true crime-style Batman than the Hollywood version. Not tied to a movie, this is a pure action punch-em, puzzler.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo Wii): The latest version of Link with some great co-operative motion-based play and brain-teasing tasks. Not a lot of blockbuster Wii titles as Nintendo sets sights on 2012 and the Wii U, but this one was definitely worth getting.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360, PS3): For many people this is the game of the year, epic, gorgeous, fantastical. I like it, but it’s a bit too RPGish to be my favourite game of the year, but it’s great value and won’t disappoint.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Xbox 360, PS3): Darker, action-style game that blends many styles together. Challenging and more of an “indie� feel to it, this game didn’t get a lot of hype but is well worth checking out.

Resistance 3 (PS3): The final chapter, we think, in the story about an alien race that invades earth during the World War II period. This game pays homage to a host of games, including Half Life, Tomb Raider and even some of the more popular First Person Shooter franchises it competes against. It’s pure arcade fun, not a lot of strategy or puzzles, but pure shooting fun. Great campaign and BIG online battles.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations (Xbox 360, PS3): The medieval, renaissance action game that has fighting, suspicion and solving puzzles at its heart — a beautiful game that eschews the big guns and relies more on wit.

Mario Kart 3DS (Nintendo DS): A 3D re-styling of the classic kart racer. It looks great on the portable system and adds new characters, tracks and twists, like hang gliders to get the most out of jumps. If you’re a past fan, a must-own.

Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360): A solid racing game that is mostly sim, but adds enough arcade touches to avoid being a bore. Best with a steering wheel peripheral, but enough options and tuning up on real dream cars to make it appealing to gearheads.

Uncharted 3 Drake’s Deception (PS3): Love this series — it’s cinematic, challenging, though a bit flawed with your enemies intelligence. Still the best looking game of the year, a great story and lots of value in this action third-person shooter/puzzler. Great online experience too, though you do have to pay for it.

Mortal Kombat (Xbox 360, PS3): The most surprising game of the year as the old game was remade with a great story mode, lots of old and new twists on characters, and mixed nostalgia with innovation. Great moves, easier fatalities and a wonderful collection of extras to unlock, including shock “extra� character Freddy Kruger. Had to play through as every character to see their ending movie. If you’re not squeamish, a wonderful game.

FIFA 12 (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii): Any of the standard Wii games will serve their audience — NFL, NHL etc. — but FIFA added the option to “joinâ€? with supporters of your team and earn points, which made an already addictive game all that more of a “must-playâ€? experience. Love the mood that runs through the veins of this game.

Mario World 3D (Nintendo 3DS): All the wonderment, quirks and challenges of the classic Mario platform game put into 3D worlds with the 3DS graphics. Very hard to put down and a great dose of nostalgia put into some new context.

Things to look forward to in 2012: Wii U, the rebirth of Tomb Raider, Twisted Metal, a new Halo project Halo 4, announcements on other new consoles, the PlayStation Vita, SSX, Streetfighter X Tekken, Mario Party 9, Mass Effect 3, BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto 5 and hopefully a host of new sports titles that use motion control extensively.

Twitter: @paulc14

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