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: Heavy Rain [PS3, 2010]

Heavy Rain [PS3, 2010]

Heavy Rain
System: Playstation 3
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Quantic Dream
Release Date: February 23, 2010

Heavy Rain is a story driven adventure title that feels like equal parts video game, film noir and crime novel. This effort from Quantic Dream is unique, an experiment that does not come often enough in the gaming world these days. The developers themselves call this an “interactive drama”, which is a pretty good way of describing the experience.

This is a game that relies heavily on its story, and thankfully it delivers in that aspect. The plot revolves around the Origami Killer, an unidentified male who has been murdering children by slowly allowing them to drown via extended periods of rainfall. There are four playable characters, each of whom is trying to determine the killer’s identity. One is a father who believes his missing son is the next potential victim. Another is a photojournalist who is trying to write the next big story. The other two are a private investigator and an FBI profiler, both of whom have the same agenda. As we play through the game, the characters are thoroughly developed, and it is easy to get caught into their worlds. The game starts off a little slow, but once the story picks up it can get very, very difficult to stop playing. I burned through the game in less than a week, simply because I had to find out what would happen next.

Much of the gameplay relies on exploring areas and talking to characters, and then participating in quick-time events (pressing a button or performing a function quickly when it appears on screen). What helps set Heavy Rain apart from other titles is that everything you do is permanent. If you slip up and let one of the main characters die, they are gone forever. This dynamic makes certain moments even more intense because you are literally fighting for your character’s life — there are no do-overs here. I love this style of gameplay, as it makes everything you do, no matter how trivial, feel important.

The game’s entire presentation is fantastic. The graphics are amazing, and they feature some of the best human character models ever found in a video game. The well-written story, strong character development and high quality voice acting are all part of what makes Heavy Rain so great.

There is one fault that I feel compelled to mention — the game’s occasionally clunky controls. I’m not sure who’s bright idea it was to make us hold down R2 and use the analog stick at the same time in order to move around on screen, but this method never feels natural. Even as I approached the game’s ending, I still found myself accidentally moving a character in the wrong direction. An annoying problem, yes, but one I am mostly willing to forgive considering how brilliant the rest of the game is.

To be short, Heavy Rain is a fresh and unique experience that cannot be found elsewhere on the Playstation 3 system. This is by far one of the most immersive video game experiences I have ever played through, and it is something that every serious gamer should play at some point. This is a dark and occasionally disturbing game, but it is one hell of an adventure.