The Top 12 Video Games I Played In 2011

By all accounts, 2011 has been lauded as a great year for gaming. I am still playing catch-up myself, as I missed out on several of the big holiday season titles (Skyrim, Uncharted 3, Batman, etc.). Since I am not really in a position to provide a proper top 10 list of my favorite 2011 titles, I have opted to select the best games I played for the first time last year. There are a lot of 2011 titles, but there are a handful of older releases that really impressed me one way or another. I plan on doing a proper list in the future, but here are my top 12 video games that I played in 2011:

12) The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

Criminally overlooked sandbox adventure title that expertly uses a mixture of color and black & white environments.

Singularity [Xbox 360, 2010]
11) Singularity [Xbox 360, 2010]

Another underrated game, this one takes the best elements from Bioshock, F.E.A.R. and Half-Life to make a memorable FPS experience.

Crysis [Xbox 360, 2011]
10) Crysis [Xbox 360, 2011]

Yes, it can run on consoles, and yes, it is still a pretty damn good shooter today.

L.A. Noire
9) L.A. Noire [PS3, 2011]

A handful of flaws do not ruin one of this year’s more unique adventure titles; a must play for fans of Film Noir and detective stories.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [Playstation 3, 2009]
8) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves [PS3, 2009]

A sequel that ups the ante with even more insane action sequences; about as close to a movie as a video game can get.

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360]
7) Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360, 2010]

Bugs and glitches be damned; this is another great entry into the Fallout series.

Wipeout HD [Playstation 3, 2008]
6) Wipeout HD [PS3, 2008]

White-knuckled racer with a pulsing techno soundtrack and one of the most fun racing modes I have played (Zone).

Deus Ex: Human Revolution [Playstation 3, 2011]
5) Deus Ex: Human Revolution [PS3, 2011]

Cerebral adventure with breathtaking Blade Runner-esque environments.

Gears of War 3 [Xbox 360, 2011]
4) Gears of War 3 [Xbox 360, 2011]

The most refined Gears experience yet; an amalgamation of the best features from the first two games.

Bastion [Xbox 360, 2011]
3) Bastion [Xbox 360, 2011]

Undeniably stylish and full of charm, this indie gem holds its own against the AAA heavyweights.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]
2) Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

More action-oriented than its predecessor, yet it delivers an even more tense and creepy atmosphere.

Heavy Rain
1) Heavy Rain [PS3, 2010]

This “interactive drama” remains one of the most unforgettable gaming experiences I have ever had, and it is a must play for any serious gamer.

That’s my list. What’s yours? What were the best games you played in 2011?

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Video Game Review: Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]
Dead Space 2
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Survival Horror, Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: January 25, 2011

There is a popular comparison going around that Dead Space 2 is to Dead Space what the film Aliens is to Alien. This is surprisingly accurate.

The original Dead Space was a brutal survival horror adventure that placed gamers in the role of a silent protaganist named Isaac Clarke, who was investigating an abandoned ship with unknown enemies. With Dead Space 2, Clarke is back, but this time he is well-spoken and knows what he is up against. No longer an inexperienced combatant, Clarke is a grizzled veteran who kicks a whole lot of alien ass, not unlike Ellen Ripley from Aliens.

Dead Space 2 takes place three years after the original, with Isaac waking up in the Sprawl, a metropolis built on one of Saturn’s moons. He has no memory of the last few years, and he is still haunted by visions of his long-dead girlfriend. The man has lost his mind, and his disturbing hallucinations impede his progress to stop the latest Necromorph outbreak. In a way, it’s more of the same, but this time Isaac feels better suited to take care of the mess.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

The gameplay is more action-oriented, and there are now new weapons to help deal with the catastrophic alien mess. The old, trusty weapons from before are still available, such as the always reliable plasma cutter, but it’s fun to play with new toys such as the Detonator, a proximity mine launcher. Enemies are still defeated by slicing off their limbs, creating gruesome and gory bloodbaths.

The wonderful kinesis/stasis functions are back as well, and they are crucial to the gameplay since weapon ammo seems a little scarce to come by this time. The same weapon upgrade system is in place to help build up Clarke’s skills and abilities.

While the combat is very well-executed, Dead Space 2 really shines with its atmosphere. The game succeeds at creating undeniable tension, and there is always a sense of dread while wandering around the Sprawl. Even locations such as a nursery or a shopping mall are creepy to wander about since you never know what will be around the corner. This overall creepiness is aided by little things here and there to make you jump, such as lights flickering randomly or an alarm clock going off unprovoked, or even just hearing something crawling around in the walls. With the lights out and the volume turned up, this game can be pretty damn scary.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Dead Space 2’s campaign lasts about 8-10 hours, but its “New Game+” feature warrants multiple playthroughs. My first thought after finishing the game was to start a new one, this time using my powered-up weapons from before.

A multiplayer option is unnecessarily tacked-on as well. It offers similar gameplay to Left 4 Dead, as it pits humans versus monsters, alternately switching sides after every round. It is a decent enough feature, but it is pretty basic and the online community barely has a pulse anymore.

Dead Space 2 does everything a good sequel should: it builds upon all that made the original so great, then expands upon that in all facets. The atmosphere is even more tense despite the beefed up weapons, and the core gameplay is damn near perfect. It doesn’t hurt that the game is simply stunning to look at, and gore fans will really get a kick out of some of the new death animations. EA has a great franchise on their hands, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

9/10

Quick & Dirty #11: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Dead Space 2, Fatal Frame

It’s been a while. Time to catch up with another round of Quick & Dirty!

BOOKS
"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson
“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
Due to other commitments, my reading time has been kept to a minimum. As such, it took me a lot longer than usual to work my way through this Bryson travel narrative. Normally a light and easy read, A Walk in the Woods is about Bryson and his former college buddy, Katz, tackling the ultimate U.S. hiking trip: all 2,000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail. Both guys are horribly out of shape and have little to no hiking experience, so this is quite the lofty goal for them. Their trip goes about as well as you would expect for a couple of absolute novices, though their time on the trail sure did help them get fit. A lot of people like Bryson’s style of humor, but I found it to be hit-and-miss. I laughed occasionally, but nowhere near as much as others led me to believe I would. To me, the most interesting parts of the book were when he wrote about the history of the trail, including some of the National Park Service’s disappointingly bad decisions over the years. As this book was written in 199?, some of the information is dated, but this is still a decent read overall. 7/10

MOVIES
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil [2010]
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil [2010]
This horror comedy has been getting a lot of hype, and I am happy to say that it lives up to it. Tucker & Dale are two fun-loving rednecks who are mistakenly typecast as serial killers by a group of vacationing college students. When the students attempt to “save” one of their friends who was taken by Tucker & Dale to rest and recover from an injury, they start falling victim to their own tragic (and hilarious) accidents. In short, it’s funny as hell, and it’s a blast to see the “hicksploitation” genre turned on its head. Lots of gore, lots of laughs, and a great movie to watch with a group of friends. Just, whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER FIRST. Seriously, it gives away a lot of the funny and WTF moments from the movie. Don’t do it. 8/10

VIDEO GAMES
Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360]
Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360]
I finally have a working Xbox 360 again, so my first goal was to finally play Dead Space 2, the sequel to one of my favorite games from this generation. I am probably about halfway through the campaign right now, and it has not disappointed in the slightest. It feels a little more like an action game than before, but the atmosphere is still very tense with lots of startling moments. There are so many creepy little disturbances that have kept me on edge, such as alarm clocks randomly going off, lights flickering on and off, and corpses suddenly coming to life. This is a game best played in the dark with the volume LOUD. Loving it so far.

Fatal Frame [PS2]
Fatal Frame [PS2]
In my Xbox downtime, I spent more time than usual with the PS2. My goal was to finally go through and finish Fatal Frame, a game I had started years ago but never finished. I opted to start from the beginning, and I am now playing through the final chapter. I love the atmosphere, and the fact that the only “weapon” is a camera makes everything even scarier. I am not in very good shape in this last chapter, however, as my health packs and film are way too low for the current difficulty level. My goal is to finish the game over the weekend and have a new review ready next week.

Resident Evil: Director's Cut [PS1]
Resident Evil: Director’s Cut [PS1]
I hadn’t played any of the Resident Evil games in years, so I thought it would be fun to take a look back at where the series all began. I got a huge kick out of the first game’s terrible B-movie theatrics, including some live action cutscenes with acting that would rival Matt Hannon in Samurai Cop. I ended up playing about twenty minutes or so before calling it quits. The graphics have aged horribly, almost to the point of unplayability, and the gameplay is definitely showing its age. I might pick it back up at some point, but not before tackling some of the bigger and better games in my backlog.