We didn’t see this coming. Stupid, I know. But when we got our hands on an early build of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I was certain it would be the game of 2011. Skyrim would be great, but it would just be Oblivion with a bit more snow. So now that it’s here, why does it feel like so much more than that?
Game of the Year 2011
The Elder Scrolls games have been brilliant for long time: huge open worlds that let you go wherever you fancy, get wrapped up in hundreds of different stories, and make a life for yourself. But until Skyrim, they weren’t particularly good at one of the most exciting things about other RPGs: levelling up.
Deus Ex: a game so good it gave us actual neuroses about its sequels. Invisible War, a shonky but interesting and sometimes hilarious shooter, became reviled as a crime against gaming for declaring itself to be Deus Ex 2. And when Human Revolution started looking seriously, seriously good, none of us could quite believe it.
Do you remember the tail end of 2010? We all wore rags and lived in dirt-floored shacks, dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and ‘free to play’ was still a dirty set of words. 2011 saw those words climb into the word shower and wash themselves clean, courtesy of League of Legends.
Launch bugs and connection problems can’t dent Battlefield 3’s sense of ambition. Call of Duty might have bagged the ‘modern warfare’ label, but Battlefield 3 shows us what a modern online shooter can really be. Developers DICE have tapped into the potential of modern PCs to create online battles on a massive scale, and with technology that makes its competitors look years out of date.
In most co-operative games, players don’t work together so much as work beside one another. The closest you’ll get to real teamwork is pulling the trigger at the same time. Portal 2 doesn’t work that way. Its co-op problems are impossible without a friend, and each reality-twisting solution forces you to share a brain.
To give you some idea of how indie Wolfire games are, the rabbit-based kung fu game they’re making is not the first rabbit-based kung fu game they’ve made. It’s called Overgrowth, and it looks great, but it probably won’t change the indie scene forever. Their other project has already done that.
They launched the first Humble Indie Bundle last year, to enormous success: it’s just a bunch of great indie games, you pay what you want for them, and a cut of the money goes to charity. At first it doesn’t exactly sound like commercial genius – people generally pay about $5 for games worth at least $20 – but the good cause, slick presentation and friendly attitude created a perfect storm of goodwill.
We elevate the Total War games beyond simply being good strategy games because we believe they’re story-engines: that not only do they offer deep and difficult decisions about how to paint the map your colour, but they also entertain you with your own genius.