Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 5 Video Games of 2011

The following are my top five games that I played during 2011. These are not necessarily the five games I ascribed the highest rating to. Rather, these are games that I found noteworthy for any number of reasons. In some cases, it was the fun factor. In others, it was brilliant gameplay. For most it was a combination of these. The games on this top five list cover different genres, series, and consoles. (A few games that I reviewed this year were ineligible, simply because they were games I had previously played but decided to revisit prior to writing my review. Those ineligible games include: Resident Evil 5, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Sonic Adventure, Halo 2, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion).

#5 - Devil May Cry 4: Devil May Cry is ridiculous. Guns blazing, swords spinning, and characters dishing out one-liners, there are a lot of elements that would point to this being just another predictable hack-and-slash game. But the degree of involvement with chaining combos and the freedom to invest in different moves sets this apart from the crowd. Plus, it's hard not to like Dante, cocky as he can be.

#4 - Transformers: War for Cybertron: High Moon has done a fantastic job with their fresh take on Transformers. This is a game that does not lean too heavily toward either the cartoon origins nor the live-action explosion-fest films. There's a solid variety of weapons at your disposal, while the campaign tries to emphasize one or two as being ideal to each character class. Transforming on the fly is incredibly fluid, and makes the multiplayer side of things all the more interesting.

#3 - Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver: I have not played a core Pokémon game in nearly ten years, but this is possibly the best way I could have returned to the series. While the main Pokémon and progression of the story are kept intact, a few changes make these DS remakes superior to their Gameboy Color predecessors. The most prominent difference is the user-friendly control scheme, courtesy of the Generation IV engine. But it certainly doesn't hurt to flesh out some of the side characters a little bit. Updated graphics and soundtrack, plus the inclusion of online play makes this the complete Gold and Silver experience.

#2 - Portal 2: Building off the groundwork of the first Portal, this sequel presents even more clever puzzles via aerial faith plates, light bridges, speed and propulsion gels. The story takes on a much more important role this time around, and in turn, the comedy is a step up from the memorable cynicism of GLaDOS in the first game. JK Simmons and Stephen Merchant brought out some of the best moments, while the entire package is a reminder that just because something is a wildly-praised cult classic doesn't mean it can't be improved upon.

#1 - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: The best Zelda game in over a decade, Skyward Sword puts the competition to shame with phenomenal storytelling, level design, artistic direction, and the most fine-tuned controls of any motion-based game to date. Since the original Legend of Zelda released twenty-five years ago, the series has long been considered one of the best in the adventure genre. But few have come close to contesting Ocarina of Time's spot at the top, a game many consider to be one of the greatest video games of all time. Whether or not Skyward Sword manages to trump Ocarina of Time is a matter of taste, but one thing is for certain: this swan song for the Wii gives the N64 classic a run for its money.

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