I know, I know, we’re a little late… some of us had a little bit too much eggnog. Still, here we are at last – Strategy Informer’s Official Game of the Year Editorial. Queue applause, fireworks, and breaking out the bubbly. 2011 has been an interesting year in gaming, giving us gems like L.A. Noire and Portal 2, blockbuster sequels in Uncharted 3, The Witcher 2 and Skyrim, and of course the great FPS war between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 came to its final conclusion.
Some genres had some real winners, others didn’t aswill be the first to tell you, and there were even one or two genuine surprises. Sadly, whilst there have been many high-calibre releases this year, there can be only one winner. Before we get there though, let’s have a run through some of other highlights of 2011:
NOTE: This list is meant to be a staff highlight reel of sorts – it’s in no way a definitive or entirely comprehensive list of games that were released in 2011. There will probably be titles, even entire genres, that don’t get mentioned because none of the staff thought of it as a ‘highlight’. We apologise if your sensibilities get offended by any omissions.
It’s been an odd year for our favourite genre, has to be said. With Total War: Shogun 2 and Anno 2070 being some of the few release from major publishers, once it again it was a year for the indie / specialist publishers to shine. There were a lot of releases this year, with everything from medieval strategy (Sengoku) to more World War 2 (Unity of Command, Men of War: Assault Squad), and anything in-between (Tropico 4) showing up at our doorsteps and engaging our brains.
But for every hit, there were titles that were either shockingly poor, or simply mediocre. Real Warfare 2 springs to mind, as do the great tragedies of Sword of the Stars II and Stronghold 3.
Best Strategy Game 2011: Total War: Shogun 2
The Role-Playing Genre on the other hand, whilst not getting a hell of a lot of releases, has been very solid and consistent this year. Despite a bit of a weak start in the form of Dragon Age II, this genre went from strength to strength with wonders like The Witcher 2, Dark Souls and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Other notable mentions from the indie front include Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword, and let’s not forget the long-awaited PC port of Fable III.
Best RPG: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
First Person Shooters
The FPS genre in 2011 rivalled that of the Strategy genre in terms of the amount of attention it got, and completely overtook in terms of mainstream releases. Like the strategy genre though, there was the good (Crysis 2), the not so good (Bodycount), and the “Why are you even here?” (Sniper: Ghost Warrior).
Highlights though definitely include Valve’s Portal 2, which really took the original formula to a whole new level, and Bulletstorm, which despite being a financial flop was a really fun and challenging game to play. Let's not forget the remake of Halo: Combat Evolved either.
Best FPS: Battlefield 3/Modern Warfare 3 – we’re totally coping out here and declaring a joint winner because, honestly, they’re both really good games. As someone pointed out to us last year, they both cater to slightly different crowds as well and there are certain things one does that the other does better. If you knuckled down, you could probably point to a clear winner but we don’t really want to – all you need to know is that these are two of the best FPS games of this year, possible of the past few years.
Third Person Shooter
The Third-person Shooter genre is becoming a separate genre of its own right thanks to the quality of the releases it is getting. You can probably thank Gears of War for that, which made people fall in love with the over-the-shoulder view all over again. Again, this is a genre that hasn’t gotten that many releases, but the quality of releases this year was solid and consistent.
Highlights include Dead Space 2, towards the beginning of the year, which took the original’s popular horror/action vibe and gave it the Hollywood treatment. Red Faction: Armageddon which, sadly, didn’t do that well but was still an alright game, and of course Gears of War 3, which brought the trilogy to an epic conclusion.
Best Third-person shooter: Gears of War 3
A lot of really good releases in this category this year, with L.A. Noire’s intellectual, detective-based gameplay being a major highlight. It even got a PC release this year too! Sony’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was released – mixed opinions as to whether it’s actually better than the second game, but it was still good none the less, and then of course there was Batman: Arkham City.
Best Action/Adventure: Batman: Arkham City
Racing & Sports
As predictable as these genres have become, that doesn’t stop them getting quality releases that deserve attention. The Need for Speed franchise got two releases in 2011, with Shift 2 early in the year, and The Run towards the tail end of ’11. There was obviously the yearly FIFA title, which was pretty good this year, and Codemasters released a third DiRT game.
Best Sport: FIFA 12
Best Racing: DiRT 3
Of course, there were some surprises to be had in the downloadable section this year as well – with the download market growing in prominence every year, we’re starting to see more and more high-quality releases in terms of downloadable-only titles, and even DLC.
Section 8: Prejudice proved that you could have a fun, engaging, content rich AAA experience in a downloadable form, and Ubisoft’s From Dust proved to be a very unique arcade title. Not to mention Bethesda releasing some top-quality DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, of which our writer Chris Capel believes Old World Blues is the best.
Best Downloadable Game: Section 8: Prejudice
And the rest...
Some games come in multiple categories, others come in a category all of their own, and some are just down-right hard to place. So, to round off our 2011 highlight reel, we’ll give a quick rundown of the ‘best of the rest’.
Rayman Origins surprised people with its release late in the year, and one of our staff even said it should have been game of the year, Saints Row: The Third really took the Saints Row series to new levels of silliness and firmly established it as a force to be reckoned with, GTA be damned. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations brought the Ezio storyline to a satisfying end, as well as further enhancing the game’s unique multiplayer mode. Deep Silver finally released Dead Island, which despite having a rough start was still a pretty good game, and one of our guys really liked Football Manager 2012, so that gets a mention to.
Now we come to the bit you’ve all been waiting for… unless you just skipped right to the end, in which case I guess you haven’t really been waiting at all. Anyway – without further ado, here’s Strategy Informer’s Game of the Year:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I bet you didn’t see that coming did you? If we’re being honest, there’s a few from our highlights section that easily could have been Game of Year – indeed, a poll of the writers came up with several different answers as to what should win the top prize, and I’m sure you have your own opinion as well.
Still, as we mentioned during our Skyrim is one damn good game. The open-world, the differing environments, the scale… there’s just so much to like about this game, and plenty to do as well. Not to mention it’s now spawned an entire new set of awesome memes like taking arrows to the knee, and FUS RO DAH videos. It’s possible that everyone’s a bit rose-tinted about this game, but honestly, it’s hard to go wrong here.edition,
That concludes our Game of the Year editorial – it was a tough call, but as we said at the beginning on one game can win. The real question now is whether 2012 can live up the precedent set by 2011? Only time will tell – happy gaming!