Several gaming experiences went unnoticed last year
Bethesda's Skyrim gave its players the opportunity to live a second life in a massive world filled with dragons, magic, adventure and endless possibilities. Hundreds of hours of gameplay meant that most of us simply ignored all other games released after November 2011 or worse, ignored games that were on our “to play” lists. Skyrim remains one of the great interactive experiences of our time, but let's not forget it managed to do something completely evil: cast a dark shadow over other games that were released during the year. What follows is a list of games that won't win ‘Game of the Year' awards (some might not even receive nominations for that matter), but offer experiences that are worth exploring.
Ubisoft's Driver: San Francisco was a game that probably piqued your interest last year, but you didn't get around to buying or playing it for obvious reasons. Once an established franchise, Driver lost its way in the previous console generation. The latest iteration is, however, the best the series has ever had to offer — the absurdity of its premise, jumping in and out of cars while possessing its drivers, crazy narrative, great driving mechanics and the uniqueness of its experience make Driver: SF worth checking out. Another Ubisoft release that slipped under everyone's radar was Rayman: Origins. Absurdly released at the start of the holiday season around the same time as Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim, Ubisoft's platformer suffered a horrible fate, garnering critical acclaim but completely bombing at retail. It has been described as the best platforming game this side of Mario, winning several awards in the category (including Gamespot's ‘Platformer of the year' award). Its superb visuals and near-perfect 2D platforming mechanics make it worth experiencing — after all, what's a gaming console without a game that requires you to jump around all the time?
Then there's Space Marine, a game that puts you in the shoes of the Warhammer 40K universe's favourite anti-heroes and in multiplayer, their nemeses the Chaos Marines. Sporting a perfect blend of ranged and melee combat, Relic's gore-heavy title is pure, dumb fun and its multiplayer reasonably addictive. In short, it's the perfect game to put on your backlog list. On the other hand, if you're a survival-horror junkie, Dead Space 2 is an absolute must-play. It combines the best elements of action and horror genres, while not relying on gimmicks and poor controls for its scares. Chances are you most likely ignored it at the time of release, and you're sure to get some good deals on it now. Several RPGs were either forgotten or completely overshadowed by Skyrim, and were all worth playing. This list includes Bioware's Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 2 (on PS3), CDProjeckt RED's The Witcher II and From Software's Dark Souls. Dark Souls in particular, despite its absurd, unforgiving gameplay, managed to offer a rewarding experience to those hell-bent on dying a thousand virtual deaths.
From a single player standpoint, Crysis 2's campaign was probably one of the best of the year, offering tremendous replay value with its multiple approaches to each mission. It managed to improve on the original both in terms of visual fidelity and gameplay, and despite its derivative multiplayer content (that was inferior to the original in more ways than one), was one of the few standout FPS experiences of the year. You also probably missed games like Bastion, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Saints Row The Third, Portal 2 (presumably for its lack of violence) and Yakuza 4. January, with its lack of high profile releases, would be the month to catch up on all the games you missed playing in 2011.
Keywords: video games