Top Ten Non-Shooters of 2011

With endless shooters dominating the market, the more discerning gamer might want more from his game of the year nominees. Yes, 2011 was a great year for shooters, but what about those other pesky genres? Surely four hour campaigns and glossy graphics can’t be all that there is to this cruel gaming life? Luckily there is! And so on with our best non-shooters of 2011.

Batman: Arkham City (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)
Batman: Arkham Asylum was unlucky to lose out on game of the year 2009. It had some stiff competition and Uncharted 2 (the winner) was simply amazing. For this year’s contender, Rocksteady decided to take everything that was good in Asylum and make it that much better; they removed all the annoyances and packed in extra features galore. The result is the most complete Batman game available, and also one of the best sandbox games around. It’s got style, substance and some of the best combat mechanics in third-person gaming. It’s also got a ton of downloadable content and loads of achievements and trophies – if that’s the way you choose to live your life.

Skyrim (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)
Oblivion was always going to be tough to top and Skyrim did just that. Although it wasn’t a perfect game on release and had its fair share of bugs and glitches, most of those have been fixed with subsequent patches. For moneys-worth though, you won’t get much better, with potentially 100s of hours of gameplay and endless entertainment, Skyrim is the big daddy of 2011. It’s not my game of the year but it will be many of yours, and rightfully so. It looks great, plays great and the world is packed with things to do.

Metal Gear HD Collection (PS3 only)
Remastered and fantastic – this is the ‘complete’ Metal Gear Solid collection, the director’s cut if you will. If you didn’t play the originals then this version is for you, with the same wonderful games from the PS2 versions including all VR missions. If you did play the originals then this package allows you to relive the experience, in glorious HD. It’s gruff; verbose, it’s oh so very Japanese and somehow still has that appeal. With Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker all on one disc, it’s difficult not to find this title appealing.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3 only)
With more style than substance compared to say Batman: AC, Drake’s Deception is the most polished game around and definitely the best looking one on consoles. Uncharted 3 strikes that delicate balance between great gunplay and fun platforming. With electrifying pacing and exhilarating action sequences it will entertain you for the whole campaign and then you’ll get some great extra hours from the compelling online play. Maybe not the best of the series (many will give that to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves), it stills offers the Uncharted series’ trademark high production value and remains the blockbuster action game on PS3.

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection (PS3 only)
My pick for artistic game(s) of the year. Although Ico shows its age, Shadow of the Colossus (SOTC) remains a unique experience that plays well, looks great and sounds even better. With unusual storylines, touching on more personal themes than your average game cares to tackle; Ico and SOTC probe the more emotional side of gamers. If feeling things isn’t your cup of tea, then move on, but if you care for something that might challenge you, then this collection deserves to be on your gaming shelf.

Dark Souls (PS3 and XBOX 360)
For the more challenge-seeking gamer, Dark Souls is long, difficult, and beautiful. It has a tone like no other and it’s a great sequel and an unbelievable title unto its own. Even without mainstream appeal it deserves to be a strong contender for game of the year. Many gamers will overlook this title and what a shame. It harks back to the days when health didn’t recharge by doing nothing and combat was meant to be exact and demanding. It also contains some of the toughest boss battles around.

Limbo (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)
Although technically a 2010 game (XBOX 360 exclusive until July 2011), Limbo is a great contender for indie game of the year for its PS3 and PC versions. It looks absolutely gorgeous, and at a very competitive price, will give you your money’s worth without a doubt. It plays for only 2-4 hours but those hours will take you on a journey so different to anything else on the market right now. It’s bold, beautifully executed, got a wonderful soundtrack and you might actually get stuck playing it. With games that pose little threat to gamers these days, a game that asks for you to use your brain is refreshing.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (XBOX 360, PC)
Assassins of Kings is a great alternative RPG to Skyrim. Elder Scrolls’ fanboys around the world scream in unison ‘How dare you say that mere reviewer?’ Well simply because it is so different to Skyrim. The game has a darker tone, an engrossing storyline and the combat mechanics are head shoulders above Skyrim’s. It’s a better looking game too, and it’s much, much harder. On par with Dark Souls for most difficult game on this list, it sits firmly on top as one of the best RPGs of the year.

Little Big Planet 2 (PS3 only)
Coming out in early 2011, I almost overlooked Little Big Planet 2 (LBP 2). How silly I would have been. Little Big Planet (2008) was quite simply amazing. Little Big Planet 2 is that and more. With its trademark 2.5D angle, and customization coming out of its little Sackboy ass, LBP 2 will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside while infuriating you with its difficulty. Its sizzling combination of creativity and really smart level design leave you with one of the best platformers in years and definitely the best one of 2011.

L.A. Noire (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)
With groundbreaking technology and a studio-producer battle that would make a great blockbuster film, L.A. Noire is my pick for game of the year. The tension surrounding the game shouldn’t matter because the game is fantastic. It’s got voice and motion capture acting that is unparalleled by today’s standards and the story is compelling, if a bit clichéd at times. The world of L.A. Noire pays tribute to adventure games of the 90s while having the gloss of GTA. It’s a stirring combination. Interrogations provide a unique gaming mechanic, while driving and shooting sequences will please the masses. The game has juggled the sandbox genre’s mainstays and added new and exciting modes – the result is L.A. Noire, a game that we won’t see anything like again for a long time.

Images from press sites, except:
Dark Souls:

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Ico and Shadow of the Colossus:



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