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?

Video Game Review: Gears of War 3 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Gears of War 3 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Gears of War 3
System: Xbox 360
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Epic Games
Release Date: September 20, 2011

Everyone’s favorite testosterone-fueled action series is back. Closing the books on the trilogy (although I feel we haven’t really seen the last of it), Gears of War 3 features everything gamers have come to expect from the series: juiced-up alpha males, disgusting monsters, lots of big guns, and non-stop gore and violence. It’s more of the same, but a hell of a lot more refined. This is the definitive Gears of War experience.

Gears 3’s campaign places you in the role of Marcus Fenix, again, as he battles the Lambent and Locust who are trying to take over the planet. During the early moments of the game, Marcus finds out a startling revelation: his father may still be alive. Together with his group of fellow COGs, including series compatriots Dom, Cole and Baird (among others), Marcus embarks on the journey to find and save his father, while also attempting to put an end to the overrun of monsters at the same time. It’s well-written, as far as Gears plots go, but there are a few groan-worthy moments when the developers attempt to tug the heartstrings. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s hard to get emotional about characters who do nothing but shoot bad guys and spout off cheesy one-liners. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very entertaining adventure, but some of the plot mechanisms felt a little too forced.

Still, most people don’t play Gears of War for their stories; they play for the action gameplay. I am happy to say that the third-person shooter is at its best here, as it’s clear that Epic learned a lot from the first two games and opted to make the finale the best experience possible. There are new guns, new enemies and new locations, all of which are utilized with a flawless combat system. Moments of intense action are broken up methodically with well-timed (yet brief) quiet spells, leaving a superbly-paced adventure.

Gears of War 3 [Xbox 360, 2011]

While the campaign is a strong ten hour affair, Gears of War 3’s shining beacon is its sheer amount of game modes and options. The campaign itself can now be played with up to four players in co-op, and there’s even a new arcade mode where gamers can earn points based on their play. Other new inclusions are a revamped horde mode and a new beast mode, both of which require teamwork to succeed.

Horde 2.0, as the improved mode is now labeled, has the same core gameplay in the form of fighting off waves of increasingly tougher enemies over and over again. However, there are new elements in place that give it a light tower defense feel as well. Now players can build defense mechanisms to slow down and injure bad guys, and cash is used to purchase ammo and new weapons. The new depth is a welcome addition to an already great mode, and it is a blast to play with a group of friends.

Beast mode is a spinoff of Horde, but this time players take on the roles of the Locust and try to kill the COGs. This is another great idea, and I am a little surprised that this is the first appearance of the mode.

Of course, I would be mistaken not to mention the Versus mode, another staple of the Gears series. This is where standard multiplayer gameplay occurs, everything from team deathmatch to Execution to King of the Hill. Matchmaking has been majorly improved, and it takes a matter of seconds to join a new game — no more of the endless waiting and laggy gameplay that plagued Gears 2.

Players can now earn XP by completing various in-game tasks, and it’s not just about killing as many opponents as possible anymore. There are a variety of ways to play the game and earn XP, and this amount of depth is a major plus. For those looking for a deep online experience that isn’t Call of Duty or another first person shooter, Gears of War 3 offers an excellent alternative.

Gears of War 3 [Xbox 360, 2011]

As expected based on the first two games, this is a dark and gritty visual experience, although there are a few areas where there are signs of vegetation — a pleasant surprise, indeed. It’s still a fantastic looking game, one of the best on the system, and it has a powerful musical score to boot. Epic really went all out to ensure this was a deep experience.

In short, Gears of War 3 is a more than worthy send off to the series (if that is the case). While the campaign may be the weakest of the three, it is still a lot of fun and deserves to be played through multiple times, especially as there are now different ways to do so. Multiplayer is the best yet, and should have a thriving community for quite some time. Fans of the series should consider this a must buy, no doubt. Well done, Epic. Well done.