Year In Review: 2011

2011 was so three weeks ago. With a sober attitude (and constitution), we wax poetic on the year that was supposed to be the year of PlayStation.
Author: TPS Staff
Published: January 18, 2012
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In the year Two-Thousand-Eleven, scientists declared that there would be a bunch of things that happened. They were pretty vague about it, and we're none the happier about their declaration. Through it all, our crack team of journalist-men were there to see it through. From the inglorious PlayStation Network hack to the shocking revelation that Uncharted 3 had broken controls, we were there. Oh, and there were good times, too! In fact, this is 90% a fluff piece and a love letter, so lets try to keep this neutral with some obvious hate, shall we?

To commemorate the passing of our dear friend 2011, the TPS crew sat down and discussed what they felt was important in the year that is no more.

Sam's Thoughts:

This seemingly happens to me every year, and every year I swear I won't let it happen again. This year I won't fall into the trap of thinking that, for whatever reason, I'm not sitting in the middle of the best time to be playing games in the history of the medium. The launch of a particular system had a terrible raft of early titles? Big deal; that always happens, and that's when we see the best games from the previous generation. One system finally dies and that well of polished, hardware-pumping games fades? Awesome, because look at how much better these games on this new system are looking!

The rest of the staff here, as well as friends, have often commented that I just can't seem to get away from loving video games. While they'll rightly pick apart something by pointing out obvious faults, if I'm not reviewing that game, I'll happily gloss right over them in favor of looking on the bright side. "Yeah, but look at how it does this!" Inevitably, it leads to me championing the year as being among the best ever, even in the most bleak of times. But last year really was one of the best ever. Downloadable titles came into their own, the first-party stuff Sony was doing on the PS3 was mind-blowing, and third parties had hit parity between the HD systems, meaning in some cases it was about the stuff that Sony had secured as exclusive content that made it most interesting.

But it happened. Again. 2011 was simply too damn good to deny, and even the most jaded of us in the office understood that we were in the midst of something truly amazing. Throughout the year, I was forced to redefine what was the best game I'd played since January, and it finally happened so many times that I just mandated that we do away with any semblance of a "Game of the Year" in favor of just listing what we loved. So here it is.

I spent literally hundreds of hours with LittleBigPlanet 2 writing the official strategy guide, so by the time it had come out, I was well and truly done with the game, but I suppose it speaks volumes that it's still the only game that I have reserved as something I'll go back to and play eventually after writing an official strategy guide -- if only to see what the community has done with all those wonderful new toys. Though it arrived late, finally being able to absorb Mass Effect 2 in all its glory (something like 80 hours my first time through) was a heavenly way to rebound back into actually reviewing games instead of writing guides for them. Oh, and then there was Dead Space 2 to care the pee out of me, and that was just in January alone.

February kept rolling on with Marvel vs. Capcom 3 extending Capcom's revival of the traditional fighter (only to be usurped by its Ultimate variant in the same goddamn year; c'mon, Capcom!), Killzone 3 offering some gorgeous visuals (and 3D, though that was fairly lackluster because of the whole resolution drop) at the same time as Bulletstorm, which tried to do the whole first-person shooter thing a little differently. Y'know, with dicktits.

You're probably getting the idea by now. Things just... kept... going with Portal 2, a game that utterly outdid itself in terms of being not just a proper sequel to the original, but really expanded the universe in that sort of subtle half-storytelling way that Valve is so damned good at. Sure, it was a little more heavy-handed than normal, but the portal puzzles were still the focus here, opting to relay the history of Aperture Science via audio logs rather than cutscenes or reams of digital text. And it worked. Even now, the game still stands out as one of the best on any platform. It's just a shame that I was never able to hook up with my Steam buddies and put that free copy to good use. I'll get you some day, Platinum Trophy! Oh, and the same day, Mortal Kombat gloriously rebooted the franchise, proving that the fighting game revival was nowhere near dead yet.

L.A. Noire finally hit in what was supposed to be the "slow" part of the year, joined by MotorStorm Apocalypse, both games that I poured way too much time into, the former being something that utterly consumed me until I could figure out how it was all going to end. It's a shame that Team Bondi was such a wreck, because the tech they created is something that probably won't be realized in other games for a while, and I will never, ever get tired of the sound of a slow bassline and a muted trumpet playing punctuating cutscenes. Never, ever, ever. Man that game had awesome atmosphere... The rest of the summer gave us inFAMOUS 2 (one of the few games I actually Platinumed while reviewing it instead of long after) in June and the surprisingly thought-provoking Catherine in July.

And then it happened: the sequel (okay, technically prequel) to my favorite game of all time, Deus Ex was reborn under the tutelage of Eidos' newly-created Montreal studio. Human Revolution wasn't just good, it was a transhumanistic masterpiece in my eyes, tackling a seemingly impossible challenge of at least living up to the original. Though things felt like they lost their tackle-this-any-way-you-want feeling toward the end, the whole experience was so impossibly immersive and so wonderfully realized that I didn't care. It was a shot of much-needed cyberpunk anything straight into my eyeballs and it would be months before I finally finished the game. Sure, part of that was because of work (yes, more of those blasted strategy guides), but mostly it was because I had to explore every nook and cranny. And I'm going to do it all again when things die down. If they ever die down.

Sadly those guides (for Resistance 3, Ratchet: All 4 One and Battlefield 3 literally back to back to back) meant Deus Ex as about all I could play until October, but what a month to jump back in. Dark Souls, one of the best games I've ever played, is still being worked through and absolutely needs to be experienced by every single PS3 owner (age-appropriate ones, anyway), was mashed up with the old-school simplicity of RAGE's awesome gunplay, which was mixed with the sheer majesty that was Batman: Arkham City -- all in the same friggin' month! Are you seeing now why it's so foolish to try to say that a year with so many amazing games needs one definite "winner"? We all win.

Still not convinced? Okay, November was even more insane. Uncharted 3 proved the PS3 wasn't done being pushed to its limits, Skyrim consumed poor Scott's life (though I was spared thanks to my roommate stealing my copy, which allowed me to just sit back and watch for way too long), Assassin's Creed: Revelations sucked me in for ages, Rayman Origins proved that the general gaming public has no soul and bombed despite being one of the most beautiful games you'll ever see (and a tight, brilliant multiplayer platformer to boot), and Saints Row: The Third redefined "over the top" in open world games.

Seriously, that's how insane this year was. There's plenty I didn't get to (and my bank account no doubt thanks me), and yet it was still the best year ever. No, really, it was. And there's no way next year will top it. No way. Well, except for the Vita launch and all those other games that ahhhhh, it's happening again!
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