TA Top Five: Games of 2011

By Andrew Ogley, 2 years ago
This was simply another fantastic year for gamers, a year in which even the honorable mentions would make it on to any top list. Despite the aging hardware, developers still managed to squeeze every ounce out of the console to produce stunning looking and highly immersive games. The year managed to show the best that the industry had to offer, and ironically in one instance, perhaps the worst too. In a well-rounded year, no single genre dominated, with the top five games containing something for all gamers.

Dishonorable Mentions
Duke Nukem Forever - Gearbox - June
Community Rating 3.0 | Metacritic Score 49
Duke Nukem Screenshot

After around 15 years in development, Duke Nukem finally hit the shelves again. I was always told that if you can't say something nice, it's better to say nothing at all. So, moving on ...

Honorable Mentions
Crysis 2 - Crytek - March
Community Rating 3.9 | Metacritic Score 84
Crysis 2 - Screenshot

The original Crysis set the standard for graphics and visuals in the FPS genre, and the sequel, Crysis 2, raised it even higher. The title still remains one of the best looking shooters ever to grace the Xbox 360. Players took on the role of a new character, Alcatraz, who became the new wearer of the iconic Nanosuit 2.0, taking on the forces of CELL and the alien Ceph on and around the streets of New York. Combat made the most of the powers within the Nanosuit allowing the player to select tactical options, use stealth, or go in guns blazing. Firefights could either be intense due to amount of flying lead in the air, or equally tense affairs as enemies actively sought out and hunted down the player. Brilliantly balanced gameplay, stunning visuals, a great soundtrack, a good sized campaign, and an interesting multiplayer mode all contributed to one of best FPS experiences on the console.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - Infinity Ward - November
Community Rating 3.9 | Metacritic Score 88
Screenshot 1

This particular installment of the franchise brought the story from the previous two games to a conclusion through a short campaign. Despite the shortness, the single-player story still managed to pack in its usual Hollywood style blockbuster moments and scenarios, including the fantastic underwater assault on a submarine, and a dramatic, action-packed sequence on the underground. The game closed out a chapter, answered a few questions, and left a few more open. The focus shifted to multiplayer and was given a large scale overhaul with new co-op, survival mode, and changes to the competitive online play including new bonuses and rewards. As of November this year, the game is reckoned to have sold 26.5 million copies.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Eidos Montreal - August
Community Rating 4.3 | Metacritic Score 89
Voted Runner-up as the Best RPG of 2011 by the community

To carry the name of one of the most revered titles in gaming was a bold move, but Eidos brought the franchise to the current gen in style. With a storyline set as a prequel to its esteemed predecessor, the game focused on the implantation of augmentations and the revolution and turmoil surrounding their increased usage in a fractured and dystopian society. In keeping with the original, politics, industrial espionage, and conspiracies were all interwoven, leaving the player with moral and ethical choices throughout and ultimately leading to a decision between three different endings. A decision not made any easier with the realisation that the player's character was kept alive, and was able to survive the events of the game thanks to his own augmentations. A great storyline, a wonderful soundtrack, and a hybrid mix of action-stealth-rpg, all set in a vibrant yet grim futuristic setting. A memorable title deserving of its accolade from the community.

L.A. Noire - Team Bondi - May
Community Rating 4.3| Metacritic Score 89
Phelps and Bekowsky leaving the precinct on their way to a crime scene.

Partly a point-and-click adventure and partly third-person action, all set in 1940's semi-open world of Los Angeles, LA Noire had the player take on the role of Cole Phelps, a young detective rising through the ranks of the LAPD, tasked with solving crimes in the region. Although the crime scenes were generally point-and-click affairs, it was the interviews and interrogations that made the game shine. Much was made of the technology used in recreating the facial expressions of suspects, enabling the player to deduce when a character was lying or hiding some vital piece of evidence. The game was wrapped up with the usual Rockstar production values including stunning visuals, a great soundtrack from the period, and impressive voice acting.

Dark Souls - From Software - October
Community Rating 4.4 | Metacritic Score 89
prepare to die edition screenshot

It's not often that a game can come along and boast in advance that it is going to brutalize and savage players, and still be so highly anticipated. After the success of the its predecessor on the PS3, Xbox 360 owners were eager to take on the challenge posed by the game, and the sequel, Dark Souls gave them that chance. "Prepare to Die" was the slogan, and die they did, but the game was so good that fans kept coming back for more. Dripping with atmosphere provided by gorgeous visuals and sounds, the dark and grim fantasy world was brought stunningly to life. A world in which the player's knight, armed with little more than sword and shield, had to face innumerable enemies and the games oversized bosses. Despite the difficulty and the brutality of the combat, where dying became a regular occurrence, the game gained a cult status and following, and the sequel planned for next year, already has fans clamoring for more.

The Fine Five

Gears of War 3 - Epic - September
Community Rating 4.5 | Metacritic Score 91
Voted Best Shooter of 2011 by the community

Another big franchise that bowed out this year with the conclusion of a trilogy, GoW 3 took players through the last climactic battles against the Locusts and the Lambent. Running short on supplies and ammunition, the war against the Locusts and struggle for survival against the Lambent, the situation was becoming desperate, and the feeling that the player was being ushered towards a final last stand permeated through the game. Sacrifices were called for and made before the grand finale. The title was produced with all of the polish of the previous titles with stunning graphics and sound and the usual cover-based gameplay. Multiplayer introduced some new twists but was still based on the solid foundation set down by the previous installments. In the end, Gears of War 3 delivered a furiously savage and intense shooter experience.

Forza Motorsport 4 - Turn 10 Studios - October
Community Rating 4.5 | Metacritic Score 91
Voted Best Racing Game of 2011 by the community

Despite the number of driving games available on the platform, the Forza franchise was always considered the standard by which others would be judged. When Forza Motorsport 4 arrived in October, the team at Turn 10 Studios raised the bar even higher. New cars, tracks, game modes, and partnerships were all crammed into the new title. Fans of the BBC's Top Gear TV show were in for a treat with voiceovers from Jeremy Clarkson during the new Autovista mode, and the inclusion of the Top Gear racetrack where players could be the star their own reasonably priced cars. Stunning graphics, sound, and overall presentation made FM4 "the" definitive racing title on the Xbox 360 platform.

Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360) - Rocksteady Studio - October
Community Rating 4.6 | Metacritic Score 94
Voted Best Action-Adventure Game of 2011 by the community

In October of this year, the team at Rocksteady Studio released Batman from the confines from Arkham Asylum and unleashed the Dark Knight onto the streets of Arkham City. The gameplay (including the superb Freeflow Combat System) essentially continued from the success of the original installment, but also gave players a fundamental change with Batman's new ability to grapple and glide around the city rooftops. This was essential given the size and scale of the city, but it also enriched the experience and left players feeling as empowered as the Caped Crusader himself. The dark, grim, seedy streets of Arkham City were brought brilliantly to life and the voice acting and presentation of the title were superb. Numerous ambient activities and side-quests kept the player busy, along with the audacious and bold storyline for the campaign, which ended so unexpectedly that it left some Bat-fans stunned. The title remains, arguably, the best super-hero title on the platform.

Portal 2 - Valve - April
Community Rating 4.7| Metacritic Score 95
Voted Best Platformer of 2011 by the community

Portal 2 returned the player back to the testing labs of the Aperture Science Laboratories and some were concerned that it could never match the initial delight in discovering portals, nor surpass the dark wit and humor of GlaDOS, and yet Valve managed to pull off another masterstroke. The game introduced Wheatley (brilliantly voiced by Stephen Merchant) to the world and the script was as hilarious as ever. In the first part of the game, Wheatley acts as sidekick and companion to the player before turning into the game's main antagonist, and in an equally surprising plot twist, GLaDOS comes to the players aid. The additional of co-op and increasingly devious challenges, the title became the puzzle game of the year.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Bethesda Softworks - November
Community Rating 4.7 | Metacritic Score 96
Voted Best RPG of 2011 and Game of The Year by the community

There's probably not much more that can be said about this title that has not already been said. The title carried on the legacy of the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series; a truly massive open-world RPG that gave the player almost total freedom and unlimited choice in the province of Skyrim. Starting from the bottom of the social ladder as an unknown prisoner, the player is able to build and develop their character through the events of the main story or the innumerable multitude of ambient events and side quests in the game. Epic does not even begin to describe what was available in this world that was made even more immersive and believable than ever before. With superb graphics, wonderful audio, and an incredible soundtrack, the game was truly memorable and fully deserved the multitude of awards that were lavished upon it. The game even managed to make a mark on the internet community with a comical throwaway line from the NPC guards, which I was going to write but was distracted by a shooting pain in the middle of my leg.

The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five for each year of the 360 era until we hit this year. Did we miss a game you loved? If so, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.