Urgh. I’m by no means surprised anymore by the accusation that I’m automatically biased against certain genres, properties and developers, but being accused of being automatically biased against shooters after naming MW3 and BF3 as my worst games of 2011 is certainly a new one. Especially since shooters seem to be the only thing I play these days. You know why I hate the two specified realistic war games? Because they’re horribly written and the gameplay is so dull and repetitive that it puts me in a fucking trance. And I’m pretty sure that’s not a sensation that pitched do-or-die war battles are supposed to evoke, so there you go.
Anyway, time to round out 2011 in Extra Punctuation as well as its foulmouthed audio visual sister, so time for the honorable mentions. I have to admit, deciding on my tops and bottoms and where they all ranked was surprisingly difficult, because a lot of the games were just plain mediocre. And I know I say that every year, but apparently even more so. Looking over my videos of the year I found myself going through a lot of the games and coming up with valid reasons for putting them in either the top or bottom list, which would’ve been weird.
Still, we have to start somewhere and it might as well be with Minecraft, which I very nearly put in my top list but decided against doing so after much consideration. Not because I didn’t want to put two indie titles in my top list or because it’s slightly debatable whether or not Minecraft actually “came out” in 2011, but because it feels unfair on the other kids. I mean, games. Something like Resistance 3 might put thousands of man hours into making a directed, entertaining experience and Minecraft only had to procedurally generate a planet out of cubes and leave the rest to us. I’m still dubious about whether or not Minecraft should even be classified as a “game” by today’s definitions, or to award it for being fun when it’s fun in the same way Lego or a piece of paper and some crayons is fun. So don’t think I precluded it for being worse than any given game in my top 5 but because it should probably live in some other list for creativity toys and golden penis simulators.
Since I just now gave it lip service I suppose we’d better move onto Resistance 3, one of the few standouts of Shooter Season 2011, although it is highly possible that I only like it so much because I played it alongside Gears of War 3, which was a sweaty execrable pile of used gym shorts. But it did have a nice variety of environments, weapons and set pieces that called to a better time for shooters without feeling like an actual physical step backwards, if you see what I mean. It was another possible candidate for the top 5, but got nudged out a bit by a worrying incongruity of character and basically ripping off Half-Life 2 a whole bunch. On reflection perhaps I should have kept it in so people wouldn’t start saying I’m biased against shooters (seriously what the hell).
While we’re somewhat on the subject let’s also remember Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which was also a game. This specifically was the title I couldn’t decide if I would place in a top list or a bottom list for the year, if I was ranking every single game in order of quality it’d probably sit right in the middle. On the one hand, it was nice to see because it had a level of complexity, decent stealth, and a plot that felt it could tackle some deep themes, but then again, the RPG elements were a little sloppy, Adam Jensen was just a little bit too hard to take seriously with his Neo voice and integrated sunglasses, and it’s impossible to get past those horrible boss fights and terrible ending. It’s like opening the door to greet an old friend and engaging him in stimulating conversation for a few minutes before smelling alcohol on his breath and looking down to see his old chap dangling forlornly from his open fly.
I suppose I should also mention Batman: Arkham City at this point, which was another title that saw a lot of appearances in other people’s 2011 top lists, and which was indeed fun to play, but there’s no escaping from the fact that its predecessor, Arkham Asylum, was on the whole a better game (it was even my Game of the Year 2009 if you’ll recall). And I’m just a little bit dubious about showering accolade on a game that’s not as good as its daddy just for old time’s sake. Because the moment you do that, you enable it. You send the message that whatever they did to differentiate game 1 from game 2 for the worse, it’s what we want, so they’ll do it some more. Arkham City may have been in itself still fun to play, but I’ve been at this game long enough to recognize a step in the wrong direction when I see it, and if the franchise isn’t careful it may end up fading out with a whimper rather than a bat-bang.
Then there’s L.A. Noire, which wouldn’t have touched my top 5 with a ten-foot noir pole, but still deserves a mention as a representative of something encouraging in the mainstream industry today. The game itself has more than enough issues to go around but it’s a sign of the mainstream game publishers indulging in something a bit different to the usual bland crap. Between it and the success of iOS and handheld games with a myriad of different genres, I’m seeing an industry slowly but surely ever-clawing its way out of the problem of not enough A, B or C, not enough X, Y or Z and too much M, N and O if you see what I mean. Basically I’d just like to see the spirit of L.A. Noire‘s emphasis on adventure game-style investigative puzzles done in a better game with better design and which doesn’t just kinda lose faith in itself.
And finally, on the cold, dark, stinky end of the spectrum, a surprisingly large number of people asked why I didn’t put Call of Juarez: The Cartel in my bottom list when, some argued, it was substantially worse then Duke Nukem Forever or Dead Island. And I can see their point. But the thing was, as I went over my list of reviews from 2011 and assembled my ten candidates, I remember considering The Cartel, and realizing I couldn’t summon much energy about it. Bad enough for the bottom list is more than just bad, it has to spark some fiery passion in me, a real active hatred, the polar opposite of the passionate support I would give a game I really liked. But I just don’t feel anything like that for Call of Juarez. It doesn’t make me angry, it just makes me kinda depressed. Perhaps, in a way, that makes it the worst game of all.
Whatever the case, enough of the grim, watery grey past. Let’s finally move on and look to the future. The sucking, black, quivering void of the future.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.