Video Games of 2011 We Can't Wait to Play: Jeff

2011 is shaping up to be a great year for video games. Here at Shacknews we've pored over the treasure trove of titles coming this year and each picked out a select few games to highlight. Today, it's Jeff's turn to share the games he's especially anticipating.

BOOM widget 141447Batman: Arkham City: Back when Rocksteady released Batman: Arkham Asylum, it didn't take long for perception to shift from "Oh great, another superhero game," to "Best superhero game, ever!!!" And rightfully so, largely due to the game's excellent presentation and core fighting and sleuthing mechanics that managed to make you feel like the Batman himself.

Batman: Arkham City promises a bigger, badder, more Batman-y experience. This time out, Batman faces off against the twisted scientist and philosopher, Professor Hugo Strange. Being that Strange knows Batman's true identity, it could make things interesting for the caped crusader. I'm personally excited to see what improvements have been made to the excellent rhythm-based brawling, but am also hoping the "detective mode" has been tweaked a bit to make the experience more challenging.

BOOM widget 138910Portal 2: If Valve's excellent first-person puzzler Portal taught us anything, it was that the promise of cake is not to be trusted. While a relatively short experience, the original Portal introduced players to a brand-new type of puzzling and platforming, while wrapping the experience in a deftly-written narrative rooted in the beloved Half-Life universe.

Portal 2 isn't just another bite-sized installment of puzzling, but is being billed as a full-length experience that greatly expands on the suite of puzzles introduced by its predecessor. Among Portal 2's most notable and exciting improvements are the ability to play cooperatively (including cross-platform chat and co-op between PS3 and PC players), and user-created levels across all platforms. The icing on Portal 2's cake is another new song from "Still Alive" composer, Jonathan Coulton. Oh, and GLaDOS!

BOOM widget 140082The Last Guardian: All that most gamers need to know to get excited about The Last Guardian is that it's Fumito Ueda's next project. Ueda's got an established track record of creating fantasy-themed experiences that resonate with many players on an emotional level (ICO, Shadow of the Colossus), so there are some understandably high expectations for his team's first new game on the PlayStation 3.

The first trailer for The Last Guardian debuted at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, showing a small boy and a giant creature that he befriends. Details are scant, but based on what little we've seen, the game seems to take thematic queues from Ueda's previous games -- ICO's companion-based gameplay, and Shadow of the Colossus' impressive sense of scale -- and in the one of the game's trailers, Ueda goes so far as to call The Last Guardian his "next installment." Ueda's games are magical experiences for a lot of players, and I'm personally looking forward to it despite (or maybe because of) the strong Neverending Story vibe it seems to have. We'll be keeping an eye on the game as it approaches a "holiday 2011" release.

BOOM widget 133583Rage: I'll be honest. For the most part, it's been a while since I've been really impressed with the games id Software has been releasing when it comes time to showcase a new game engine. id's always good at delivering impressive tech -- under John Carmack's watchful eyes -- but Rage is looking like it could be more than just another pretty face.

Rage's lead designer, Matt Hooper spoke with us about the game at QuakeCon back in August of last year, and talked at length about making sure the game delivers a great experience across the planned release platforms. Rage is also notable for being the first Bethesda-published id title, it's also id's first game to be released on consoles as well as PC. Even though certain unknowns, like servers, multiplayer, and DRM have yet to be discussed in detail, things like improved AI, vehicular combat, and insane-sounding level-editing tools provide more than enough reasons to get excited.

Keep your eyes open throughout the week for the rest of our staff's selections--in case you don't see something you're looking forward to. And don't forget to catch up on any picks you missed.