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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Quick & Dirty #9: Limitless, No Strings Attached and Plants vs. Zombies

Time for another batch of quick writeups/reviews. Next week will be plentiful with lots of full reviews, and some more movie project posts.

MOVIES
No Strings Attached [2011]
No Strings Attached [2011]
I thought since Natalie Portman was in this that it might be better than your typical romantic comedy. Sadly, no, that is not the case here. This is standard romcom garbage that follows the usual formula right down to a T. Ashton Kutcher and others involved managed to drag Portman right down to their level, and the end result is an utter debacle. Why, Natalie, why?? 4/10

Limitless [2011]
Limitless [2011]
This was a fun movie with a great concept and some really interesting camerawork. I’m not a huge Bradley Cooper fan, but he did a good job in the lead role here. The story had a lot of plot holes, some more glaring than others, which dragged it down a bit, but it was still an entertaining ride. It seems like a lot of people didn’t like the ending, but I thought it was pretty clever myself. Not a great movie, but still enjoyable. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES
Altered Beast [PS3]
Altered Beast [PS3]
Gary’s review at the Vortex Effect inspired me to check out this Genesis “classic”, although I don’t think that was his intent. This side-scrolling beat ’em up is just as poor as I remember with sluggish gameplay and cheap enemy hits. It still has that cheesy charm, though, with such classic lines as “WISE FROM YOUR GWAVE!”. Still, it’s a bizarre choice to include in Sega’s Vintage Collection, at least in terms of quality.

Astro Tripper [PS3]
Astro Tripper [PS3]
This shoot ’em up was released for free this week via Playstation Plus, and I had never heard of it before. It’s pretty simple: you control a spaceship on a small playing field, with the goal being to shoot everything in sight before time runs out. There are buttons to change direction and change weapons, but that’s about the extent of it. I liked what I played of it, but I got stuck at the third level’s boss battle. I have never been good at shmups, so that’s on me, but the good news is that I am intrigued enough to continue playing in an effort to get better.

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360]
Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360]
I just beat this game for the first time this week. I am going to reload my “master save” and finish the other endings, and I will have a full review after that. In a nutshell, I greatly enjoyed my time in the Mojave Wasteland, although I still ran into some glitches and other problems that were supposedly fixed in some of the (many) patches.

Plants vs. Zombies [PS3]
Plants vs. Zombies [PS3]
I bought the iOS version of this to keep me occupied on the airplane when I traveled to Europe last year. I enjoyed it then, though I found the gameplay to be tedious after a while. The PS3 version is identical as far as I can tell, and I am getting back into it. It’s more addictive than I remembered — perhaps my gaming tastes have evolved a little since then — and I can’t wait to unlock all of its features. Good stuff, and I’m glad it was released as a freebie on PS+.

Scribblenauts [DS, 2009]
Scribblenauts [DS]
I have been playing this on and off again, and unfortunately it is starting to lose its initial appeal. I have found that I can complete most of the puzzles with the same select words, and I still have problems with the main character’s sloppy controls. I am about halfway through the game so far, and will be writing a full review upon completion.

Quick & Dirty #3

MOVIES

Dog Day Afternoon [1975, Lumet]
After hearing of Lumet’s death, I wanted to visit some of his well-regarded movies that I have missed. This is about a couple of guys (Al Pacino and John Cazale) who attempt to rob a Brooklyn bank but prove to be incredibly inept at doing so. Soon they are locked into the bank with a group of hostages, and a full-blown media circus erupts. Things get even crazier when the police/media find out Pacino’s character is robbing the bank to pay for his gay lover’s sex change operation. Very, very entertaining film, although a little could have been trimmed off the running time. 8/10

It’s Kind of a Funny Story [2010, Boden, Fleck]
A suicidal teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental hospital. He befriends another patient (Zach Galifianakis) and falls for a teenage girl (Emma Roberts). A bit slow paced, but the acting is strong and the movie balances both comedy and drama with good results. Plus it has one of the better Queen & David Bowie lip sync performances you will ever see. 7/10

Restrepo [2010, Hetherington, Junger]
Powerful documentary that follows a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan. The movie gets its title from an outpost named OP Restrepo, named after PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo who was killed during the campaign. Part of the film follows the platoon on the extremely dangerous Operation Rock Avalanche mission in which a number of people, both soldiers and civilians, are injured and/or killed. A very emotional movie, although it is a little slow in the early stages. 8/10

The Lady Vanishes [1938, Hitchcock]
The first British Hitchcock film I have seen. I liked it, but not as much as others. The movie starts off a little slow as Hitchcock introduces us to a variety of characters, but it picks up once everyone is aboard the train. This was funnier than I expected, with a lot of witty dialogue and interactions between characters. 7.5/10

The Parking Lot Movie [2010, Eckman]
A documentary focused on a Virginia parking lot and its employees. Basically it is a bunch of guys bitching about people and their cars. Some entertaining banter, but this felt utterly pointless overall. It makes me wish I made a documentary about my pizza delivery days — I had far more interesting encounters doing that. 6/10

VIDEO GAMES

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360, 2010]
I’m not sure what took me so long to pick this up, especially since Fallout 3 remains one of my favorite games on the 360. New Vegas is basically FO3 with a new story and new areas to explore. It’s basically more of the same, but I couldn’t be happier about it. It seems the game-breaking glitches reported upon the game’s launch have been fixed, so that is a relief. I am still working my way through it, but a full review will be coming at some point.

MLB 11: The Show [PS3, 2011]
I am very happy that it is once again baseball season, and I had to pick up the latest edition of MLB The Show. This year introduces new analog pitching/hitting controls, which is quite an interesting change. I love the analog pitching since it makes you feel like you are actually throwing a baseball (well, as close as you can get with a controller in your hand). The hitting has a steep learning curve and I am still getting used to it, but it feels fluid as well. I am loving the game so far, although I am getting frustrated with my “Road to the Show” closer who is dominating AAA but still hasn’t been called up to the majors. Full review will be coming soon.

Out of the Park Baseball 11 [PC, 2010]
On the simulator side of the baseball gaming spectrum, I started playing my old save file from last year’s Out of the Park game. I picked up right where I left off, trying to defend my championship. For whatever reason, my starting lineup got hit with a nasty injury bug near the end of this season. At one point, I only had two of my starting batters healthy! I was still able to hang onto first place thanks to some strong performances from my role players. The new version of OOTP is coming out very soon, and I can’t wait to try it!

BOOKS

The Book of Basketball [Simmons]
Holy hell, this book is huge! Bill Simmons is a basketball nut; I’m not sure many other people could write a 700 page book about the sport (and have it be entertaining, no less!). There have been some pretty fun chapters so far, including a detailed discussion on Chamberlain vs. Russell and a number of interesting “what if?” scenarios. Simmons’ Boston homerisms are a little much at spots, but this has still been a great read.

Watchmen [Moore, Gibbons]
This is my very first graphic novel, a present I received for my birthday last week. I am nearly halfway through and I am loving every page so far. I can’t wait to read what happens, and I could see myself picking up more graphic novels in the future. Does anyone have any recommendations as to what to read next?