Best of 2011 – Games

I summed up video gaming in 2010 in one word, disappointment. For 2011 I’ll bump it up to two words, excellent and disappointing. There were a large number of releases I was looking forward to and thankfully the majority of them delivered, though not always as well as I was hoping. As always this list is a composite of things I’ve played in the year in question, not just what was released in the year, it probably doesn’t matter in the long run. As well as the Top 10 list itself I’ve also included an appendix of sorts where I give a line or two (and the first implementation of my new rating system, ooh the excitement) to all the game’s I’ve completed this year (and perhaps the ones I’ve played enough off to be comfortable making a judgement on). Also returning to education, in tandem with commuting, has eaten up a lot of prime game playing time, as such I’m a bit behind with the games I’ve played. I may get some of the backlog finished by the end of the month (currently December 6th).

While it was a little hard this year to come up with ten titles it was certainly nowhere near the struggle it was last year, I was running into trouble around nine or ten this year as opposed to three or four last year. Looking at the list itself I think this is the first year that there’s been no fighting game on the list. The only two major fighting game releases this year were Marvel vs Capcom 3 (and its expanded “sequel” Marvel vs Capcom 3 Ultimate) and Arcana Heart 3. I was really looking forward to the former but found it to be very disappointing, it’s just simply not the kind of fighting game I want to play. Arcana Heart 3 is sitting under the christmas tree so I’m looking forward to that. Oh, I forgot there was also King of Fighters XIII, but I dislike KOF games in general so I didn’t bother with it. Thankfully 2012 looks like it will more than make up for 2011’s slim pickings – Soulcalibur V, Street Fighter X Tekken, Persona 4 The Ultimate (holy fuck do I want this game), Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Tekken X Street Fighter, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Skullgirls, Phantom Breaker, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, Chaos Code etc.

Disgaea 4

(PS3)

I am a big fan of tactics games, most of the time an honest fan. Though sometimes I suspect that I like them simply because I feel that I must because I self-identify as a tactics fan. But my existential fangst aside, I really like the Disgaea series. To be honest I like nearly every one of Nippon Ichi’s strategy rpg’s (SRPG’s). My first exposure to them was Makai Kingdom, which is still probably my favourite (and almost certainly the funniest). After completing the main storyline (but obviously not the trademark Nippon Ichi obscene amount of post game content) I moved on to Disgaea. Which was, and still is, a great game (I’d recommend the PSP iteration as the best version). That was six years and three sequels (and numerous ports) ago. While every Disgaea sequel has improved on the mechanics of the original the one thing that the sequels have failed to do is to create a storyline as engaging or characters as memorable as the original. Well, until Disgaea 4 anyhow.

While the story isnt quite as good as Disgaea it is pretty enjoyable, apart from an unfortunate dip towards the end. The characters however are excellent and are on par with the original cast (who of course appear as post-game extras). Mechanically the game is excellent, certainly the highpoint of the series and probably Nippon Ichi’s best effort to date. It takes the basic mechanics of the series and expands them in numerous interesting ways. It also takes the strategic elements introduced in Disgaea 3 and improves on them massively (they felt a bit tacked on in Disgaea 3).

Graphically the game is also a highpoint as we move into HD sprites. While I didn’t mind the low res graphics in Disgaea 3, they aren’t a major issue for games like this, it is really nice to see the sprites in HD. As always the longevity and sheer amount of content is amazing. My playtime was well over one hundred hours when I abandoned the game for college work and I still hadn’t managed to clear all of the included end game content (fuck you Zetta!). In addition to the sheer size of the basic game Nippon Ichi have been releasing a continuous string of high quality DLC ranging from new classes and bonus characters to new maps, game modes and scenarios. Looking at the release schedule of the Japanese DLC it looks like the new content will be continuing for several months. I bought the DLC for Disgaea 3 as it came out and I played…none of it. So I’m going to wait till all the DLC comes out for 4 or I finish my exams, whichever comes first, buy what’s available and dive back in. I have to say, I’m really looking forward to it.

Tactics Ogre

(PSP)

Considering it comes from a genre renowned more for mechanics than narrative its strange that Tactics Ogre is on this list only because of its story. That’s not to say that the mechanics are bad. They aren’t, but to be honest they feel old in a rather boring way. As the progenitor of Final Fantasy Tactics, which itself strongly influenced Japanese tactical rpg’s, I’ve played with these mechanics (or more correctly their offspring) for far too long (and I really miss some of the newer innovations and streamlining). Actually thinking back, the mechanics are sort of bum, if they were going to do a remake couldn’t they include a few of the basic streamlining features newer games include? (Why the fuck cant you save properly mid-battle) The depth of the mechanical content is impressive though. The number of jobs, abilities, etc. is impressive.

But as I mentioned above the key draw here is the story. The story is excellent; the plot is intricate without being convoluted and really draws the player in. The story is strongly supported by a wide and well-designed cast of characters. Characters so compelling that it makes collecting them all very, very compelling. Which leads you to one of the other excellent things about the story, how massively interactive the story is. The number of branches and endings is awesome and provides a staggering amount of replay value. Value which I’ve admittedly taken little advantage off. Partly because the mechanics can be a little grating in big chunks but more because I find it hard to play the old PSP for long periods of time.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

(PC)

The Witcher 2 is one of the best computer role-playing games I have ever played, it’s also probably the nicest looking game I’ve ever played. The Witcher 2 presents one of the most believable fantasy gaming experiences I’ve come across. The game veritably oozes verisimilitude. The key appeal of the Witcher 2, as with most crpg’s, is the storyline and that’s because it’s excellent. Not just by video game standards, it’s a solid dark fantasy story. The story draws the user in and keeps them engaged throughout the game. The game’s narrative is also extremely interactive, offering the user the chance to make real and lasting changes to the story. As well as providing a strong level of agency the branching nature of the narrative provides a lot of replayability (basically depending on which options you choose around 60-70% of the game will go entirely differently).

While the story is good it was the characters that really made the game for me. The characters are all well rounded and well realised with believable inspirations. This includes the protagonist, Gearalt, himself. While I’m not sure if I actually liked any of the characters presented they were all certainly extremely entertaining. The world described by the story and populated by the characters is presented beautifully. When you crank the graphics settings up to ultra I honestly don’t think you can find another game that looks this good. This presentation is carried through to the interface which generally keeps itself well out of your way and rarely slapping you in the face with chunks of game. The actual mechanics of the game are solid though not particularly innovative. They serve their purpose well. There were a number of complaints about the difficulty of the games early stages at release but personally I found them to be fine. I do think it could have done with a bit more of a tutorial section as I didn’t start using some of the cooler magic until later on the game because I wasn’t sure how it works. Though the updates have added a tutorial area so that’s likely taken care of now.

The pacing of the game and the dispersion of the content was great. There were no bits that dragged on too much, no pointless grinding (which I think I may have shockingly lost interest in, well in traditional computer rpg’s anyhow), no tedious fetch quests (there may have been fetch quests but if there were the distances involved were short).

Catherine

(PS3)

Catherine contains the most convincing and mature depiction of sex and relationships I’ve seen in a computer game. It also contains some of the most fucking annoying puzzles ever. Luckily the former more than makes up for the latter (also the puzzles give rise to one of the greatest lines of game dialogue ever – “Shitty bricks, I’m going to climb the fuck out of you!”). I was never not going to buy this, the first PS3 release from the guys behind Shin Megami Tensei:Persona? Yes please, I’ll have a dozen. It’s also a spin-off in a certain sense as Vincent features as a minor character in one of the games. But that aside it has no real links to the Persona series, no social links, no Blue Room, etc. However, in terms of style, story and visual design it’s ancestry is clear.

As I mentioned above Catherine’s treatment of adult relationships is extremely convincing. The characters and the situations they are in are multi-layered and realistic (well in terms of emotion, not sure if the whole nightmare goat man thing is SOP in a relationship, though it’s been a while, maybe things have changed). The story parts, delivered via animation (both traditional 2d and in game sequences) and interactive 3D environments are all well done. The choices presented to you are clearly important but never feel forced, or clearly “good” or “bad”. In some games that ambiguity would be irritating but it perfectly suits Catherine’s mood, this is a game that is putting you in a situation and letting you explore it as you wish, it has no real agenda that it’s pushing. The game has six distinct endings, and to be honest I really want to see them all. I unfortunately only had time to play through it once over christmas but I certainly intend to re-visit it in the future. I have the feeling though that I’ll be decreasing the difficulty somewhat, the puzzles are often hard as fuck and the difficulty scaling can be fairly all over the place e.g. I think the fifth level of puzzles was the most difficult in the game.

Dark Souls

(PS3)

I imported the Asian version of Demon Souls based on the Eurogamer review. I was not disappointed. It was a truly amazing game and a rather unique experience. Needless to say when news of a sequel was released I was ecstatic. Those expectations unfortunately led to a rather un-fun initial experience with Dark Souls which soured me on the game for quite some while. Well perhaps it wasn’t the expectations but rather the unexpected differences between this and Demon Souls. When I got my hands on Dark Souls I tried to play it like Demon Souls and it simply wasn’t conducive to doing that. Once I realised my mistake and accepted Dark Souls on its own terms I enjoyed it so much more. Actually, enjoyed might not be the best term. Dark Souls wallows in its difficulty and this difficulty makes it a compelling (60+ hours across multiple characters) but perhaps not an enjoyable experience. Dark Souls is not a game you put on to relax with it’s a game you put on to fight against.

It’s also here that Dark Souls one glaring flaw lies, Demon Souls was hard as balls, but the difficulty was presented excellently. You never felt frustrated you always got a little further which drove you to keep playing. Dark Souls difficulty on the other hand can be rather choppy, while its open world in theory in practice you can often get smushed again and again with no recourse other than retreat. This can make for an occasionally frustrating experience (and was a major contribution to my initial disappointment with the game). Again, once you internalise this the game becomes a lot more enjoyable.

Mechanically the game is great; it’s one of the most rewarding combat systems I’ve played. The level of tension the difficulty introduces certainly adds the enjoyment. But its more than that, the controls are responsive, there are numerous distinct yet equally viable combat approaches, a wide range of equipment (which adds the always enjoyable tactical optimisation elements), multiple types of spell, armour, accessories, etc. I haven’t really engaged in the multiplayer and I think it’s something of a step backwards from Demon Souls. It’s largely an irritation in Dark Souls where it was a terrible source of tension in Demon Souls.

While I was initially slightly irritated by the world of Dark Souls, both the “physical” space in the game and the sparse “lore”, I grew to love it over time. It felt “real” in a way the best fantasy worlds do. It also felt coldly uncaring about your position in the world. Unlike games which clearly place you as a protagonist and warp the world around you in Dark Souls the world is there and you are free to explore it, but don’t expect it to give a fuck about you. Oddly enough I find this makes the world all the more compelling.

There is a lot to Dark Souls, each approach to combat almost demands its own playthrough with a new character (so far I’ve gone scimitar wielding pyromancer, sword and board fighter, long sword using sorcerer, heavy weapon wielding heavy armour tank, dual hand crossbow wielding rogue) and each time you play through it feels really distinct (though knowing where most stuff is makes it handier, unless you’re rocking New Game+). The game gets (or at least has got) semi regular patching, this is one of the irritations of the PVP element as balancing doesn’t matter a huge deal in PVE (though it is nice that optimisation has become more nuanced and cheese cheats have been removed). No DLC has been announced and I doubt we’ll see any, but in terms of longevity at least you really don’t need it.

Corpse Party

(PSP)

Corpse Party comes from very humble beginnings. It was made in RPG Maker and released back in the fucking glory days of 1996. It’s had a few remakes and re-releases since then and finally arrived on ye olde PSP and from there got translated into the greatest language on earth, the one I read and speak. I initially picked this up based on curiosity over its origin (and it’s fucked up trailer). I was quite happy that I did. While it still resembles a “classic” CRPG Corpse Party makes masterful use of sound and script to deliver a horror narrative that is often genuinely disturbing. The writing really is excellent and there are some interesting branching decisions to be made.

The best thing about the game is that using a fairly simple array of tools it really gets you into the head of the character you are playing and it makes for a very compelling play experience. Numerous hours of potential sleep were sacrificed to see what horrible things would happen to the doomed cast. The actual gameplay itself is relatively simple and mechanically this bears a lot more in common with visual novels than traditional adventure games. What action is involved is well handled and while death is a state you will often find yourself in (BAD END abounds) it never feels unfair and the checkpoints/reload points are all well placed.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

(PC)

I initially had absolutely no interest in this game, while Daggerfall and Morrowind absorbed huge chunks of my life Oblivion left me entirely cold. While I did play it for a while it was almost unbelievably tedious, the fact that it received so many game of the year awards still baffles me years later. As such I had next to no interest in its sequel. However as the year went on more and more details emerged about Skyrim and it started to sound really interesting. So I picked up the game and was pleasantly surprised. This was just like the good old days, only it looked like a nice modern game. I really enjoyed playing Skyrim, I’d unconsciously missed this kind of open world crpg.

To be honest the world, not the games story (which is ok I suppose), is the main selling point here. The mechanics are decent and serve you well, the shouts are particularly fun and make up for the fact they removed the ability to make your own spells. The crafting systems and such are fine, they work but they aren’t breaking any new ground. The world however is excellent, it’s quite simply massive, and you are free to roam around it wherever you want and get into whatever trouble may await. As with all such games your character is a cipher and so his personality emerges from what you do. Do you go and butcher children with the assassins guild or do you become the archmage of the wizards college? While you have the freedom to do more or less everything on the one playthrough it always “feels” wrong to attempt that. While never explicitly defined the idea of what “your guy” i.e. your character is certainly a real force on how you interact with the game.

My first character was (as is nearly always the case in games which allow it) a magic user, after engaging with the beginnings of the games storyline I abandoned it to roam the countryside on a horse I stole from some farmer (fucking horse, every time I got off it started trotting back towards that farm). After getting killed by a tag team of a woolly mammoth and giant shepherd I realised I needed some firepower and headed of towards the mages college to hone my mystical arts. This lead me through a long string of mage related adventures at the end of which I dipped back into the games storyline before deciding to ride around doing some freelance dragon slaying. That kind of total freedom makes for an amazingly compelling experience.

The game is lovely looking (and be made even nicer with some of the community tweaks, though the latest patch is supposed to include them by default). The models can be a bit ropey at times but the landscapes are sometimes breath-taking. It’s well worth changing the viewpoint to third person if you are travelling a lot. I often paused upon my stolen steed (who had just helped me escape from some shitty wolves) and watched the snow blow across the lonely mountains. Then I went and killed some bandits and a dragon. Who killed my fucking horse, so I stole the bandit’s horse. Ha, ha lonely horseless farmer, ha, ha.

Frozen Synapse

(PC)

Ah Frozen Synapse, the game that taught me to fear online multiplayer. I have yet to experience anything in gaming that creates quite the same level of tension that a multiplayer match of Frozen Synapse does. You spend minute after agonising minute coming up with your plan, trying to figure out what’s the best field of fire, what way your opponent is going to move, what he’s armed with, you add in ghost enemies and run simulations of your plan, you convince yourself that you’ve got the optimum turn order down. Then you click the End Turn button and the fear sets in. Your confidence crumbles and after your opponent puts in his turn and the game computes what’s happening all you can hear in your head is a continuous stream of “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck”. The gameplay is deceptively simply but it’s really an extremely strategic game that tests both your brains and your nerves to the upmost. To be honest I need more people playing it. It’s bad enough playing against people you know, but that amount of tension being channelled across to internet between strangers is just too much for me (as an aside I have a free legit copy of the game that activates on Steam if anyone wants it).

Not a lot more to say really, Frozen Synapse is an excellent turn based tactics game (a genre that is tragically under-represented) with some of the most enjoyable multi-player I’ve taken part in. The single player is solid and a decent length. It’s probably worth playing through to prepare you for the maelstrom that is the multiplayer. The games also pretty cheap as you get two copies of the game for the price of one, grab a mate and make them buy it. As multiplayer is a big focus the longevity of the game is arguably unlimited (if your nerves can take it) and there’s also DLC announced for the future.

Yakuza 4

(PS3)

The Yakuza series is one I’ve always wanted to like. I find the basic premise interesting and the storyline always seemed sort of cool (in an over the top way). I played the first game when it came out but at the time it had a lot of technical issues and I wasn’t the biggest fan of GTA -esque games which I, likely wrongly, concluded it was. The second game never got a localised release, though it did taunt me with its saucy opening CGI. The third game did get a release, but I refused to pick it up because I got all OCD (or maybe OMD) about the content that got cut from the rushed localisation. As an aside I had the misfortune to watch Adam play that game, watching Adam play a story based game is like watching a diabetic in a cake shop, it’s never going to end pretty or well. However the stars aligned correctly and I snapped up Yakuza 4 on release day no less.

It’s hard to categorise exactly what type of game Yakuza 4 is, I suppose in a broad sense it’s an “action game” but it is so much more than that and contains elements of so many other genres. Whatever it is, it’s extremely enjoyable. In almost all aspects to be honest. The characters are great, the story is excellent (as a piece of action film-esque fiction), the gameplay is varied and enjoyable, there is a metric fuckton of content, etc. To be honest if you have any interest in this kind of game you are doing yourself a dis-service by not checking it out. That being said I would strongly recommend you borrow or rent it as the demo is so bad as to be almost an un-advertisement for the game.

Personally my favourite about the game was the storyline, particularly the extended pre-generated scenes which are uniformly excellent and contain some really badass shit. Actually thinking about it it’s probably more the characters rather the storyline per se that I really liked. You could of course argue that the story is simply what the characters got up to and as such they’re the same thing. But why would you do that? WHY? Oh wait, maybe my favourite thing about the game was running that hostess club. No wait, it might have been the sheer nastiness of the way you knocked the shit out of people. Actually, the animated sequences you saw when you discovered secret masters around the city were funny as fuck. Wait…you see where I’m going with this.

Bastion

(PC)

In a way Bastion only makes the top ten because I accidentally listed Skyrim twice. While I really enjoyed my time with the game I probably wouldn’t have included it in my top ten. It was very enjoyable while I was playing it but none of it really stuck with me. So why is it here? Well because while it wasn’t memorable per se once I started thinking about I realised what a really polished game Bastion was and how enjoyable the play experience was. Action role-playing games aren’t really my thing but Bastion is very well done. The story is primarily delivered via an excellent voice over framing mechanic (the voice acting I should not is really top notch) and is quite enjoyable in an alt fantasy type way. The gameplay itself is solid and enjoyable. The weapons are varied and responsive and the level design is extremely well balanced. The games feel tough but never unfair. It’s also weirdly addictive and serves to push the player’s momentum through the game.

My favourite thing about the game is certainly the graphics. I love 2D animation and traditional sprites and love the hand drawn/animated visual style of the game. It really is beautiful. Hmm, that’s more or less it I suppose. This is a good solid game, the one small niggle is that it is a bit short perhaps? I seem to recall I completed it in one long evening. It does have some branching in the storyline thought which does provide some replayability (as do the games challenge levels, which I actually enjoyed playing, which is odd as usually such things just get on my tits).

The Rest

Dead Space 2 (PS3)- Hit

It improves in nearly every way on the first game (which was a previous “Game of the Year” nomination from myself). It’s certainly my favourite third person shooter, and to be honest, is more enjoyable than most FPS’s I’ve played recently (though I’m largely done with FPS’s so that’s a bit biased). You don’t have to take my word for it though, there are demo’s up on both XBL and PSN so try it.

Bulletstorm (PS3) – Critical Miss

Disappointing. Too short, too easy and too gimmicky. While amusing at first the game quickly became stale and nothing ever made it exciting again. Hell, it didn’t even make me a better rapist.

Knights Contract (PS3) – Critical Miss

I played a few hours of this before putting it aside. It had some nice ideas (I liked the characters, setting and visual design) but was let down by poor production values and some frankly shoddy gameplay.

Uncharted 2 (PS3) – Hit

This game was better than the first game in almost every way, apart from the one that matters the most to me, story. The gameplay, the graphics, the music, the level design, everything was noticeably improved from the (already impressive) first game in the series. But to be honest the story just didn’t draw me in at all, it felt tedious and lacklustre compared to the first games engaging tale. For fuck sake, it didn’t even have any Nazis! (And those yetis were a pain in the balls). I also though the final conflict was robbed off a lot of its impact by a needlessly fiddly boss fight. I suppose it was also fairly short, but I’m used to that at this point, borrow it or rent it, probably not worth forking out for.

God of War III (PS3) – Hit

I fucking hate Kratos, he is a whiny, self-absorbed, selfish arsehole. He’s not an edgy antihero, he’s a petulant child with the power of a god. Added to that is the fact that the story has gone continuously downhill since the first game and you’re left with nothing but the gameplay. However, the gameplay is very, very good. While it isn’t quite as demanding on the reflexes as more complex brawlers such as the DMC series God of War knows what it wants to achieve and does so admirably. The gameplay is enjoyable and engaging, the set-pieces are well done and varied and you generally do feel pretty badass. Shame I spent the majority of the game wishing my character was dead. It was also short, even for an action game.

Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll (PS3) – Miss

This was a relatively enjoyable but ultimately forgettable brawler in the style of Dynasty Warriors. It had some interesting ideas but the execution was just so terribly bland and generic that I couldn’t stick with it.

Rift (PS3) – Hit

I didn’t get high enough level during my free trial of this to comment on it properly. I was also playing it at an unfortunate time, I’d left WoW because I was just tired of it and as Rift basically seems to be a better version of WoW it failed to gain any real traction with me. If I were starting MMO’s afresh I’d go with this over WoW, but I’m not, so I didn’t.

Total War: Shogun 2 (PC) – Hit

This seems like an awesome game. But unfortunately it requires a very large amount of time invested in it. Which I simply didn’t have around its release date. As such I only really finished the (rather long) tutorial and played a campaign for a few hours. However I picked it and all the DLC up in the Steam Christmas Sale so hopefully I’ll get some play out of it this year.

Portal (PC) – Miss

I dont see what the fuss is about. I’ve played longer demo’s, it’s almost so easy that it’s insulting. The song at the end was funny and that was about it.

Portal 2 (PC) – Miss

More of the same, and as I didn’t like “the same” then more of it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The majority of the new stuff added felt more like filler to bulk out the game (which was till disappointingly short). The level design ranged from boring to poorly made. The dialogue was generally well done but there wasn’t a lot of it and what there was of it was crammed into small sections.

Europa Universalis 3 (PC) – Hit

Ah EU3, it’s complex as fuck and has no actual goal or winning condition. It’s also bizarrely addictive. Even though I’m shit at it and still don’t fully understand how it works (despite extensive online reading and absorbing most of the games manual/tome) it still absorbs hours of my life as I try and take Tyrone in 1399 and be the first to settle the new world (fucking Portugal keeps robbing the Azores) or take the Papal States and try to conquer Europe (fuck you Naples!).

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron (PS3) – Critical Miss

Tedious gameplay wrapped up in a religion laden, visually unappealing and narratively poor package. Avoid.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PC) – ?

I played the demo of this and I was blown away. It was really everything you want in a Space Marine game (even if you were an Ultramarine). Then the full game came out and I almost fell asleep before making it through the first level. Now possibly this is a great game, the demo certainly seemed to be. But the first level of the game itself drove me away and I haven’t managed to get back to this since.

Dragon Age 2 (PC) – Critical Miss

This game may not be objectively bad enough to be a critical miss. But objectivity has little to do with anything on this site. I was really looking forward to this, I loved the first game. Then they changed the mechanics. But I didn’t rage on forums, I held my peace. They released the demo, which I enjoyed, so I picked up the game. Disappointment is too small a concept. The game simply falls apart half way through. The player has no real effect on the story, the branching options are poorly and unequally presented, (literally) the same three dungeons are re-used again and again and again and again. I finished it just so I wouldn’t have to think about it again.

Terraria (PC) – Miss

I just don’t get the attraction. I tried it out for a few hours and it completely failed to hold my interest, or to be honest, be fun in any real way. It feels like a shitty version of Minecraft. I accept that quite possibly there’s a lot more to the game but the game failed to convince me of this.

Dungeon Siege III (PC) – Miss

Made it through a level or two before I got bored. This isn’t necessarily a bad game but it completely failed to hold my interest. It just feels like there’s absolutely nothing new here.

Mortal Kombat (9) (PS3) – Hit

A solid reboot of the series that makes it into an enjoyable fighting game. But which suffers from the same problems as all iterations of the MK game (apart from 2), once you get past the spectacle you realise that there are a lot of better fighting games out there you could be spending your time on (or if you’re me, buying and then ending up with no one to play with, sob, sob, etc.).

The Witcher Enhanced Edition (PC) – Miss

This is a decent twelve hour game wrapped in thirty hours of tedium. Anything good about this game is subsumed by the amount of pointless filler and running around. Avoid and play its amazing sequel. You miss nothing in terms of story or characterisation (maybe watch the cinematics from it on YouTube if you are really worried).

Armored Core 4 (PS3) – Hit

Got to last mission, got new tv, game doesn’t work with new TV. Sometime later, got new TV, had lost saved game. Cursed god and all his angels. Forgot about game. Sometime later still, remembered game, sat down and completed in one sitting to cheat the very fates themselves. Completed game. Enjoyed armoured core action. If you are a fan of the series its another solid entry. If you arent a fan then try out 4Answer or wait for the upcoming AC V.

Arcana Heart 3 (PS3) – ?

I played a little of this at the beginning of the year and it was enjoyable. I received it for christmas but I havent had chance to get stuck into it yet, so I cant really form an opinion.

Darkspore (PC) – Critical Miss

The concept behind this was excellent. The execution was shite. I was in the beta and even then the problems were evident. Why is it that anything related to Spore, which should be awesome, ends up being shite?

Mount & Blade: Warband (PC) – Hit

Fuck me this game ate a lot of my time. My mercenary captain from the wild highlands of Not Scotland never really made it big, though he did almost achieve his dream of recruiting troops from every nation to form his international brigade. He possibly would have been more successful if had spent less time raiding villages for cabbages and getting fucked by bandits and roaming patrols. Mount & Blade is an excellent medieval mercenary sim with a very steep difficulty curve and a less than helpful interface.

Infamous 2 (PS3) – Critial Miss

Tried the demo for the first game and it was dull as fuck. I’d also just finished playing Prototype (aka the greatest super hero computer game) so it made it seem all the worse. The second game was mechanically superior and was actually a fun experience in terms of mechanics (apart from the tediously uniform range of attacks). Sadly the decent mechanics werent enough to salvage the rest of the game.

Batman: Arkham City (PC) – Hit

I played Arkham Asylum for a while and thought “Hey this is cool” but never got back to it. I played Arkham City for a considerably longer amount of time, thought “Hey this is cool” and never got back to it. AC was pretty cool, though I’m not entirely enamoured with its interpretation of Batman (nor his costume). But they are minor niggles. Weirdly enough what largely kills this game is too much content. They simply put too much into the game and it ruins the flow of the decent-ish main story line. You cant move a fucking muscle without one of about twenty super loonies distracting you, whether its Zazz asking for phone sex or Bane collecting his special bears its far too distracting. It also feels remarkably artificial. So yeah, I might get around to finishing this off, but probably not. As an aside, for anyone playing on the PC do yourself a favour and beg, borrow or steal a controller.

Saints Row: The Third (PC) – Hit

Never played any of the other Saints Row games. Supposedly they are, or at least were, GTA clones. But thats clearly not through as I enjoyed this while GTA is a big pile of tedious balls. There’s a lot to do in this game and all of it is enjoyable. This really is the epitome of games you through on to relax and have a laugh. Sadly college assignments interrupted my play of the game.

Deus Ex Human Revolution (PC) – Hit

Was really looking forward to that. Initially pissed off by the retailer I bought it from dicking me around. Got over it and got to playing. Then made an amazingly stupid mistake, decided to go for a pacifist stealth play through (which I ultimately failed as I killed two guys in the fucking tutorial mission). This is the most rewarding (in terms xp) way to play the game, but in terms of user experience I cant imagine a more frustrating way to play. Especially on your fist encounter with the game. It totally destroyed the game as you were quick saving or quick loading every other minute which made the entire experience frustrating. At the time I convinced myself I was enjoying it and the story was good. Looking back I clearly did not enjoy it and have no urge to get back to the game, the story was ok (by video game standards). Maybe I ruined the game, maybe the game isnt that good. We’ll never know. Oh and the boss fights were actually enjoyable.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (PS3) – Critical Miss

I was looking forward to this. Then it came out, I played it and realised I do not like anything about it. And yes that was indeed a cool story…bro

Dragon Age Origins & Witch Hunt (PC) – Hit

I fucking loved the original Dragon Age game. Which would be why it made it into my games of the year list after its release. But weirdly enough I never finished the very last quest in the game. In preparation for the release of Dragon Age 2 I went back and did so as well as playing through the DLC that had accumulated. It was just as enjoyable as the first time I played it.

Listening to: Weissberg & Mandell - Duelling Banjo's

Vent your spleen