Six years into the current video game generation, its safe to say that both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 are in their primes. Last year was probably one of the best years for gamers in recent memory – which our wallets (and wives) can attest to. Here are my picks for the best and worst of the year.
*Please note that we here at GamerVets are not professional video game reviewers. All games mentioned have been bought, borrowed, or played by us. This is not a comprehensive list of all games released in 2011 – just those that we’ve played. So don’t get angry if I didn’t mention Skyrim!
The Worst Game of 2011
I’ll be honest – I had a hard time choosing the worst game of the year. Not because there’s so few out there – but because people never actually get to play those games anymore unless you’re a game reviewer or receive crappy games as gifts from people who don’t know anything about video games.
Gaming culture has changed since I was a kid. Gone are the days when you didn’t know whether a game was good or bad and had to rely on the pictures at the back of the box. If the game turned out to be crap, you were SOL. Nowadays we’ve got dozens, if not hundreds of reputable gaming magazines and sites telling us which games to spend our money on, and which to avoid like that creepy, schizophrenic hobo on the subway who smells of piss and sweat and keeps yelling obscenities at people. …
But I digress – Because of these reviews, we rarely are ever faced in situations where we’ve purchased a bad game. So without further ado, I’d like to present to you what I thought was this year’s steaming pile of dogshit:
F.3.A.R. (or F.E.A.R. 3 for those who aren’t L33T)
I’ve never actually played the first two games in the series. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them but I couldn’t justify spending for this game – so imagine my surprise when I visited the local library to find a copy of F.3.A.R strewn amongst Tiger Woods 2007 and LEGO Star Wars. Faster than you can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” 3 times backwards while intoxicated (hey, I’m not THAT fast alright?), I raced home and popped it in, hoping for a decent game. What I got instead was something out of 2007.
Once you begin the game, you’re thrust into the role of some jacked up supersoldier named Point Man (WTF?!?!), being interrogated by some guys in masks. You’re eventually rescued from captivity thanks to your psychic half-brother or something (don’t ask), and you spend the next level or two running around enclosed rooms and warehouses full of Killzone rejects, shooting them with a boring arsenal of underpowered guns. Oh, and did I mention that the game takes place mostly at night, with a colour palette that would make Gears of War 1 look bright and cheerful?
At about this point, during level 1 or 2, I decided to eject the disc. I’m sorry, but my free time is scarce enough as it is, and I just don’t have time to play a game that starts out sucking ass already.
I probably should’ve tried the online offerings, but I was so put off by the initial experience that I didn’t want to even bother. Apparently, there’s also a co-op mode where you each play one the two brothers, with the second player using telekinesis to kill enemies. It’s too bad nobody else I knew really cared enough about this game to bother playing co-op with me.
Body Count – I only played the demo for this piece of garbage, and it was enough to make me want to hurl my controller at someone. Horrible controls, generic graphics and gameplay – the whole thing felt rushed, and I wasted 15 minutes of my life and 1 gig of bandwidth that I’ll never get back.
Duke Nukem: Forever – After a development process that spanned almost a decade-and-a-half and several developers and publishers, Duke Nukem returned. Unfortunately, the world has changed dramatically since Duke Nukem 3D released in 1996, and he hasn’t changed with the times. It’s almost like watching a has-been actor try really hard to rekindle his glory days, only to realize that the his fans have moved on (I’m lookin’ at you, Steven Seagal). Duke’s childish persona and masochism might have been cool in the 90’s, but it’s just stale and embarassing in the 00’s and 10’s (or whatever you call these decades).
The Best Game of 2011
This year’s best game was also difficult to narrow down – lots of good games were released, many of which were sequels that had been shaped and honed to near-perfection throughout the years. However, one game stood out as having tight gameplay, great cooperative play modes, and addictive multiplayer. So without further ado, my pick for 2011’s best game:
Gears of War 3
Gears of War has always been a fun series to play, with cool action setpieces and a fun arsenal of unique weapons – I mean, who wouldn’t want a chainsaw bayonet? It also hasn’t changed much over the years. Each game in the series offers the same larger-than-life characters, the same third-person cover-based action, and the same amount of bloody, visceral, gore and over-the-top violence.
Despite the similarities between each title, each iteration has pushed the series forward to the point where playing a new Gears game seems both fresh and familiar at the same time. Gears of War 2 introduced the world to Horde mode, the addictive survival mode that is often imitated but never duplicated, in addition to the cooperative campaign and competitive multiplayer found in the first game. Gears of War 3 went even further in scope, by taking everything good about the first two games and making them better, while also improving on its predecessors’ shortcomings.
- Want to play the campaign with four players instead of two? No problem.
- Itching to compete with your friends for the highest score in the coop campaign? Got it.
- Looking to earn money in Horde mode to build fortifications to help aid in your survival? It’s in there.
- Want to play a survival-mode type game from the opposite side, with you playing as the Locust trying to wipe out humans? Welcome to the new Beast mode.
- Do you want to play as a girl after two games of ‘roided-out bros? Now’s your chance!
The guys at Epic Games truly outdid themselves, squeezing every inch of power out of the 360 as they could to deliver a good gaming experience, from improved netcode (Gears 2 was just BAD – let’s never speak about the slow-ass multiplayer lobby from Gears 2 ever again) to the awesome visuals that have been a hallmark of the series.
While it’s not perfect – the campaign was good, but not great; there’s quite a bit of ugly texture pop-in; the characters are all beefed up musclebound bullet sponges; etc. – Gears of War 3 is as close to perfection as you can get in a third person shooter. And while this is the last in this trilogy, Epic isn’t even done with it yet. They’re constantly improving, updating, and adding to the very addictive versus multiplayer mode. Gone are the rolling and shotgunning mechanics that plagued the second game, as weapons have been tweaked and added to ensure that even the most basic gun would have its uses, while the most dominant weapons would have their counterweapons. The maps, for the most part, are fair and provide a good variety of locales and unique layouts that don’t favour one side over the other.
Ok, I’ve waxed on about Gears of War 3, but the one true reason why I think it was the best game last year? It’s big, dumb, unadulterated fun that’s also challenging and complex. Playing a 3-hour long game of Horde with four other friends or playing one round of Team Deathmatch will either satisfy you just enough to make you want to play more, or break your spirits and force you to want to get better – and there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t spend hours and hours grinding and leveling up the skills of your character, or messing around with loadouts to optimize your soldier. To top it all off, not only are you contending with your opponents, but you’re also competing with teammates who will steal your kills at any opportunity they can get. And they will.
Gears of War 3 mercilessly throws you into the fray and forces you to fend for yourself until you realize that you’re actually getting better at the game as you level up. It’s this kind of gameplay that harkens back to the early 8-bit days of gaming when gamers were thoroughly challenged almost to the breaking point until they got better at the game.
Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Bulletstorm, Child of Eden, L.A. Noire, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat
Most Disappointing Game
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Let me start by saying that I absolutely loved Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. It’s the reason why it took me three years to finally get to the end of BioShock and Gears of War, and is probably the single most influential game this console generation whether you like it or not. It’s also one of the most profitable and best selling game series of all time, and Activision knows it. They’ve perfected the CoD formula to a T, with annual releases and a rabid fan base that will buy anything with the Call of Duty name on it.
Much has been made about the issues between Activision, and the heads at Infinity Ward, lead developers behind Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. After the smoke cleared, three studios ended up working on MW3: Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, and Raven Software. This could’ve been a chance for them to freshen things up a bit, and my hope was that this would be their opportunity to really knock it out of the park. Modern Warfare 3, however, is more of a bunt instead of a home run. The graphics are not much of an improvement over Modern Warfare 2, and the gameplay feels exactly the same, save for a few different perks and killstreaks. I could’ve overlooked this all if it weren’t for the awful maps. Small, crowded and uninteresting, the maps were also plagued with spawn issues that would frustrate even the most patient player.
The best aspect of the game, its single player campaign, wasn’t bad – you’ll find the same things that the first Modern Warfare game popularized, from crazy action setpieces to stealthy covert operations, but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the first game. You’ll find the same map-based loading screens, the same quasi-military jargon and tough mercenary mumbo-jumbo.
Overall, Modern Warfare 3 wasn’t an awful game, but it also isn’t anything ground breaking. Maybe that’s good enough for diehard fans of the franchise – like the yearly editions of major sports games, CoD gives just enough of a different look for fanatics to enjoy. However, it’s disheartening to see talented developers sitting on their laurels by not innovating, instead releasing what should have been DLC for the price of a new game. Maybe we’re being too hard on the franchise, and maybe we’re asking for too much, but this it could have been a much better game had they not played it so safe.