Monday, January 9, 2012

The Top 10 From 2011: Best Reviews

In which I highlight some of my best articles from 2011. Shameless self-promotion with a chance to get some of my favorite pieces back on the front page. Huzzah.

Just to round out a solid trifecta, this time I'll be ranking ten of my best reviews. These won't be the ten best games I covered, because a lot of the games I covered sucked, quite frankly. These are the ten reviews that I had the most fun writing, and which I feel are some of the more descriptive and analytical ones. Exempt from this list are any reviews I wrote of free indie games, since I've got a separate list linking back to those articles. Click the full article for the full list.

"What is there to say about Dragon Age: Origins that hasn't already been said? There's a ton of content to experience, lots of dialogue, lots of loot, lots of blood, lots of quality polish, and not so many dragons. It's probably the most "old school" RPG we've seen in the last few years (or at least the most successful one), and that alone makes it a very compelling game. But despite its many great features and the overall high quality experience, DAO still suffers from typical BioWare shenanigans that leave me to say that it's merely "pretty good."" Read the full review here.

"Rebellion's 2010 version of Aliens vs Predator feels like a less innovative version of their 1999 Aliens Versus Predator, and like a lamer version of Monolith's Aliens Versus Predator 2. There's almost nothing new or interesting going on here, it's just a dumb modernized re-hash of everything we've already seen and done before. There are only five missions for each species, most of the combat breaks down to mindless click-fests, the missions themselves aren't varied, and it's just not that interesting. It's a shame, really." Read the full review here.

"Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes bills itself as a "satirical RPG" that "pokes fun at" the well-worn tropes and cliches of popular strategy-RPGs and action-RPGs. But it turns out that Grotesque Tactics isn't that much of a satire or a parody. Its jokes are worth a slight chuckle at first, but the amusement quickly wears off once you realize that its only way of satirizing the genre is to make you play obnoxiously exaggerated renditions of all of the wearisome aspects of the genre. It references a few games here and there, but only in oblique ways that don't relate to anything at all." Read the full review here.

"Amnesia: The Dark Descent may be the scariest game ever. It's an intelligent game that has a firm grasp of what makes horror scary. Making the player defenseless gives you reason to be anxious about your environment; the less you see of a monster, the more your imagination takes over; climactic moments work best with a slow and steady build-up. On top of the well-crafted horror, Amnesia boasts intelligent puzzles, interesting scenery, and a fairly intriguing story." Read the full review here.

"F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is pretty much a disgrace compared to the original F.E.A.R. Gone are the intelligent, tactical fights, gone is the creepy horror atmosphere, gone is my fun. Project Origin just feels like a lame, phoned-in sequel that didn't even try to innovate like the first game did. I've got a laundry list of problems with it, but the big issues are the combat and the horror atmosphere, the two things that are supposed to be the most important aspects of this series. Overall, it's still an enjoyable game, but as a fan of the original, and as a fan of good, intelligent games, I'm obliged to call it out for its failures." Read the full review here.

"Singularity would be great if only it were better. I know that's asking a lot, in a vague sort of way, but there's really not much else to say. There's plenty to say, actually, but the case with Singularity is that it has the framework to be excellent, but squanders its brilliance with blemishes. What could have been a fun, creative shooter turned out to be a rote, by-the-book FPS. It has a wonderful premise with promising gameplay elements, but it just doesn't capitalize on its ideas, and ultimately holds itself back with certain limitations. It's still an enjoyable game; it's just disappointing to realize that it could've been even better." Read the full review here

"Grab your running shoes, because we're jumping straight into Mirror's Edge, the 2008 running simulator from DICE. This first-person platformer was a fresh face in a market saturated with serialized franchises and dark, gritty shooters, but it wasn't without its problems. Disjointed flow, unpolished combat, an underdeveloped story, short length, and sometimes excessive trial-and-error hold it back from perfection, but the rest of the game is so good that it's still worth playing." Read the full review here.

"I did not like the first Assassin's Creed. It was flawed in nearly every way possible, but it had a rich, organic soul that still made it worth playing, at least in a strange, masochistic sort of way. Assassin's Creed 2 fixes nearly every single aspect that sucked from the first game, while introducing several new mechanics that make the gameplay far more compelling. But despite all of these improvements on the gameplay and the presentation, it eventually starts to feel even more artificial than the first game. And that makes it really hard for me to appreciate this game." Read the full review here.

"Bastion is the first game from Supergiant Games, and it is a remarkably enjoyable experience. An action-RPG, you go through levels fighting enemies, acquiring new weapons and items, leveling-up, and upgrading your character. It's not especially unique in this regard, but the gameplay is masterfully crafted to feel highly rewarding and compelling. Its most remarkable aspect is the atmosphere; the lush visuals, melodic soundtrack, narrative storytelling, and general premise are uniquely refreshing. Since Bastion only costs $15, you have no excuse not to play it. In fact, you should be playing Bastion right now instead of reading this review." Read the full review here.

"Portal 2 is a mighty fine game that, in some ways, lives up to its expectations, but it ultimately doesn't deliver the same concentrated experience as the first Portal. Overall, Portal 2 is a fine game, possibly the best of 2011. Valve put a lot of deliberate, precise effort into crafting this game and it shows. Most of the complaints I have really amount to nitpicking. In some regards, it was inevitable that Portal 2 wouldn't quite outshine its predecessor, but I'm pleased with the outcome." Read the full review here.

This monster of a review was technically posted in 2012, but I played the game in 2011 and the review would've been up in 2011 if I hadn't been traveling in the week before (and during) New Year's. This one's got a metric crap-ton of detail and analysis in it, and deserves a mention in the list, just because of how much fun it was to criticize and nitpick. Read the full review here.

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