The obligatory ‘Game of the Year’ article, 2011

December 31, 2011, Author: The TIMJ Team

Yes, it’s already that time of the year. The time where anyone remotely related to a gaming website ever, starts bleating on to anyone who’ll listen about their favourite game of the year. Not ones to miss out on social trends, we’re back once again with our own personal picks.

What have we gone for? Rest assured they’re not all ‘Skyrim’, and there are some genuinely surprising choices to find when you read on below!

Rikki Wortman (Staff Writer) – Portal 2
Maybe not as great as its predecessor, the game took what was an accidental miracle and crafted it into a finely tuned game, with a fantastic storyline, mind-boggling puzzles and co-op content that I still play today. With the possibility of more DLC for this game, it only gets better. Not to mention Valve managed to make Robots show more emotion than any human NPC to date. That’s a definite plus.

Top all that off with some amazing scenery, beautiful art work, unexpected twists, an eery atmosphere, time runs and an active community making its own challenging puzzles, and there isn’t much room for error.

Runners up: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mario Kart 7

Paddy X (Community Manager) – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I know there may be many of you who read this and not believe what I’m about to say, as this actually wasn’t my first choice and I agonised over whether people would think my choice was based on simply “following the pack” with regards to how many ‘Game of the Year’ awards this is already garnering.

Here’s the thing, though. For me, what I look for in games is immersion. Above all else, that is the one crucial and deciding factor in whether a game gets my thumbs up. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to have the latest graphical sheen; does it take me there? We are all more than aware that Skyrim has not been without its problems since launch, but they’ve yet to sully my experience of the game.

Knowing that after a hard day at work, I can come home and relax by taking my time to climb a mountain top just for the view, plunder a dungeon for loot, or assail a dragon or three, well… that gets my thumbs up.

There are few games that take you there. This is one of those few.

Runners up: Portal 2, Saints Row: The Third

Trent Pyro (Staff Writer) – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
After waiting over two years for it, Skyrim surpassed my high expectations to become my GOTY 2011. It improves upon everything from Oblivion and goes steps further, presenting a highly immersive and massively enjoyable fantasy world to explore. The plot is exciting and engrossing and there’s so much to see and do I’ll probably still be treading the tundra of Skyrim this time next year!

The unprecedented level of detail and difference in every building, town, weapon and location offer a world so rich and involving that it’s impossible not to marvel at its majesty. The soundtrack is Hollywood-quality fantasy gold, effortlessly haloing each battle, trek and epic set-piece and the new engine allows stunning vistas and incredibly lifelike creatures and enemies.

Bethesda have achieved the impossible. They have created a huge world full of endless enjoyment and tied it together with compelling quests and a beautiful levelling and combat system. More so than any title this year it’s proven that our beloved games can still take us far, far away and allow us to shed the shackles of reality for the comfort and excitement of the virtual world.

Runners up: Gears of War 3, L.A. Noire

James Ireland (Staff Writer and Video Producer) – Rayman Origins
Forget about the big guns this year. My game of the year was Rayman Origins. A game that has seemingly put the 2D platformer back on the map. The game was charming, challenging and contained possibly the most beautiful musical score this year.

It was though the drop in four player co-op, effortless controls and the totally astounding Ubi Art engine that made this game from Ubisoft Montpellier so impressive. It is not one to be missed and should be in everyone’s collection.

Runners up: FIFA 12, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Matt James (Staff Writer) – Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is game of the year for me because, simply, it was a beautiful conclusion to one of the best and most important gaming narratives of the past few years. Ever since I first played as Marcus Fenix, my gaming life led up to this.

The gameplay offered the same tried and tested run, duck, shoot, duck, shoot, run method that we all know and love so, there was nothing, admittedly, ground-breaking there. However, it was the narrative that did it for me. The soundtrack accompanying Dom’s sacrifice brought many of us back to the heady days of Gears of War but it also reminded us all of the great narrative that was pulsing through this game.

This beautifully constructed narrative finished in a way unlike other Gears games. You knew that this symbolised the end. You knew that your days as Fenix were over. However, you were so happy with the conclusion, you just didn’t care.

Parting, as they say, is such sweet sorrow.

Runners up: FIFA 12, Batman: Arkham City

Phil Ubee (Staff Writer) – RAGE
It’s taken some deliberation but ultimately decided on my time spent playing, I am just edging for Rage. Since picking up a copy for just £20 I have barely been able to tear myself away. The story may not be up to much by comparison to some of the other big titles released this year, but for pure enjoyment and diversity there simply cannot be a better game on the market.

It looks incredible, it sounds awesome and the weapons are both inventive and fun throughout. I love watching bandits explode in a pool of blood and tissue and I have not laughed out loud playing any other game ever as I have playing this.

On top of the good humour and fulfilling shooting sections, the driving is smooth and enjoyable and at no point do even the most menial of tasks feel tired or boring.

You simply have to own this game.

Runners up: Deus Ex: Human Evolution, Outland

Michael Charge (Staff Writer) – Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3 is the return of the ever conquering FPS. Long absent from the main series while it delved in Bad Companies, looked to the future and tried to make us all wear pirate hats, Battlefield 3 is a return to good old Battlefield; jets, focus on Conquest and large-scale mayhem.

The single-player is an average excuse for people to shoot enemies in foreign locales and for the player to be treated to some terrible quick time events. There are one or two stand out levels towards the end of the game but the rest of it is really just an average first person shooter.

However, multiplayer is where the game is really at and I haven’t had this much fun shooting fellow humans since Battlefield 2 was the hot, online game. The classes are well-balanced and fun to play, the unlocks keep you interested, the graphics are amazing and the sound is terrifying.

Anyway, I’m back off to Karkand.

Runners up: Portal 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Ray Willmott (Site Manager) – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Truly immersing yourself in a game world is rare. On few occasions can your mundane, routine-filled existence disappear, enabling you to completely lose yourself in a fictional, fantasy world filled with Skeletons, Vampires, Werewolves, Dragons and Khajits. Skyrim sucked me in the moment I first put it into my Xbox. Unwittingly, I committed over thirty hours of gameplay within a week, and in that time, hardly touched the main story.

In fact, I’d hardly attempted any quests at all. The whole time I was discovering this luscious new World, exploring ruined castles, delving into dungeons, wandering into small towns, and interacting with travellers like myself who I’d found walking off the beaten path. I stood on top of mountain peaks, taking in glorious views, and at the base of waterfalls, watching nature unfold in its elegance.

Skyrim isn’t just a game, it’s an experience. It’s a whole other world full of wondrous landscapes and incredible detail. It’s unlike anything else I’ve played this year, and, indeed, this generation. There really is no other choice for my Game of the Year.

Runners up: Portal 2, Batman: Arkham City

Andy Corrigan (Editor in Chief/Owner) – Shadows of the Damned
Oh man, that time already? This was a tough year for me personally, as there are many games I’ve yet to play (Deus Ex, Dark Souls, Gears of War 3 etc), and I’ve also not yet put anywhere near enough time into Skyrim to declare that as my game of the year, despite its class already painfully evident.

Shadows of the Damned, then. It might seem a left-field choice for some, what with Portal 2 and Arkham City also being massive highlights for me. Hell, I’ve listed at least four games that are better on a technical level and are at least twice as polished, but none entertained me as much as the twisted journey I undertook with Garcia Hotspur and his gun, Johnson.

Dark, sickly, but charming and B-movie by design, Shadows of the Damned appealed to the same part of me that instantly fell in love with cheesy, b-horrors like Evil Dead, among others. Not many other studios can successfully blend and perfectly balance elements of horror, comedy and random silliness with this degree of confidence, let alone have the balls to just revel in it too. Grasshopper Manufacture did just that. A criminally underrated game.

Runners up: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Portal 2

Stephen King (Staff Writer) – Gears of War 3
My game of the year is an easy pick. Gears of War 3 was hyped up to bursting point and yet still managed to deliver on all promises. Not only is it a big jump for the graphical look of the game, it also has an amazingly written story to make it stand out proud with the best. With more than just a great campaign, it also provides near endless fun in terms of multiplayer, and if anyone should know it is me, since I played Horde mode for 48 hours straight! As an aside, the special edition package was pretty cool too.

I have been limited to the games I have managed to find time to play this year, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Gears 3 would still have managed to be my favourite. On top of the disc based content, there are regular updates for DLC content making the experience last even longer. You do have to pay for the extra content, but it is worth every penny.

In conclusion: great single player, potentially limitless multiplayer, great musical score and incredible graphics. What more could you really ask from a game?

Runners up: L.A. Noire, Aliens Infestation

Jesper Hauerslev (Staff Writer) – Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex might not have been the loudest shooter or the most silent sneaker to hit the shelves this year but it was certainly the one that left the biggest impact. It was both a powerful reboot of a much-loved franchise and a great start-off point for new players as it laid bare a dark and twisted future, bathed in gold and black, where the value of a human life is measured by the quality of cybernetic augmentations.

Rather then shoehorning the player into specific play-styles, the game presented plenty of different options on how to approach any situation. This gave you, the player, a great sense of control that could be further augmented (or indeed hindered) by the cyber-implants you chose thereby adding a great deal of replay-value.

Yet, for all the freedom the game still managed to guide you through a gloomy and engaging plot that foreshadows an ethical debate that will undoubtedly start to grab headlines in the years to come. Add great shooting and stealth-mechanics to the mix, ignore some questionable boss battles and you have the years strongest game in terms of gameplay, story and overall message.

Runners up: Batman: Arkham City, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

James Sheppard (Reviews Editor) – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I imagine I’m not alone with my selection of GOTY. I honestly couldn’t give a mudcrab though, because I’ll happily follow the crowd and lavish praise upon Skyrim. I’ve adored the Elder Scrolls series since Morrowind, and as such its fifth instalment was my most anticipated release over the last few years. It’s all too easy to get over-hyped over anything and ultimately set yourself up for disappointment, but Skyrim has truly lived up to my excitement.

From the literally daunting scope of available quests and locations, to the beauty and wonder that awaits around every corner, to the best damn inclusion of dragons I’ve seen in any game ever; the adjective that most frequently reiterates itself in my mind whilst playing Skyrim is ‘astonishing’. I am genuinely in awe of the accomplishments of Bethesda; they’ve proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that single-player is not dead and multiplayer is utterly non-essential, and that several years of quality development can make something truly special. I used to play other games like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee.

Runners up: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Portal 2

Neil Hughes (Site Manager) – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
For the last eight years the masses have enjoyed Call of Duty and FIFA over the Christmas festivities, so it’s of no surprise that people are ready for a change and the realm of fantasy has once again hit the cultural zeitgeist. Non believers only have to google the phrase “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee” to see just how much this game has captured everyone’s imagination.

Immersion is a word that we hear far too often these days, but the breathtaking environments of Skyrim are a perfect example of how you can immerse yourself in another world. Where your game experience feels unique and has prompted countless online communities to share their experience too.

In a world where single player campaign lengths of 4-6 hours are the norm, it is somewhat refreshing to announce that I’ve not scratched the surface of my game of the year and will be spending my Christmas exploring the tundra plains, forests, highlands and mountainous regions dressed in a onesie to protect me from the cold Skyrim wind this Christmas, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Runners up: Gears of War 3, L.A. Noire