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?

The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

The Saboteur
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Release Date: December 8, 2009

One of the most criminally overlooked games to come out in the last couple years.

The Saboteur is a Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox adventure game that is set during World War II in Nazi-occupied Paris, France. It also happens to be Pandemic’s last game before the studio was shut down for good. You play as Sean Devlin, an Irish racecar mechanic who gets cheated out of a race and subsequently becomes involved in a serious revenge plot against the Germans. The story revolves around a number of ethnic stereotypical characters, but this never becomes an issue since it is presented in an easygoing “adventure movie” narrative. Some liberties were taken with the realism factor, but it is all done in the name of making this a fun video game.

Other than the 1940’s France setting, which is really freakin’ cool, what sets this game apart from other sandbox titles is its style. The Saboteur utilizes both color and black & white to its full advantage. In areas of heavy Nazi occupance, the game’s world turns black and white. As Sean helps areas of the city fight back and resist the Germans, color slowly starts to seep back into the locales. This transformation is so simple, yet so utterly brilliant. I can’t think of any other games that do something like this, and it’s amazing that merely a different palette can evoke such power in a video game.
The Saboteur [Xbox 360, 2009]

Whether you want to play through the story missions or just blow up Nazi installations is entirely up to you. You have the freedom to do whatever you please, and you are given the entire city of Paris (as well as some of the countryside) to do it in. The game takes pride in the fact that you can play through guns-a-blazin’ or opt for a stealth route by sneaking around in Nazi gear. While this option is nice, it is much more fun to run around Rambo-style than it is to sneak past guards. The stealth mode is actually a lot more difficult than it should be, as the enemies are often way too quick to sniff you out and blow your cover. It’s possible to get through the game this way, but not really optimal.

In terms of pure gameplay, The Saboteur is a blast. The 1940s setting is perfectly encapsulated with music from the era, classic vehicles and old-style fashion. Devlin has free reign and can steal any car he wants, climb any building (with slick Uncharted-esque controls) and purchase weapon upgrades from a number of black market dealers. When you tack on the side missions and hundreds of “freeplay events” scattered around the game world, it could take a good 40 hours or so to 100% the game (it takes roughly 10 hours to complete just the story on its own). In a world like The Saboteur, it is easy to get sucked in and not want to leave.

It amazes me that this game flew under the radar when it was released in December 2009. I didn’t know anything about it until just recently myself. The Saboteur is an all-around fun game with a good amount of depth, and it excels partly because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While the stealth features could have been polished up a bit, this is still one of the best sandbox games I have played. Definitely a steal at the $20 or so it runs for these days.

8/10