Staff Favorites 2011: Andrew's picks

ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection It was the year of the HD remake. Thanks to the current generation's limited backwards compatibility, publishers attempted to cash in with quick ports of last-gen games. However, Sony didn't take the lazy route. Whereas publishers like Capcom and Ubisoft barely touched up their PS2-era re-releases, Sony's HD remasters have all been thoughtfully constructed. Perhaps the best of the bunch was the Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection. Seeing these games reconstructed in HD with a steady framerate makes for an entirely new experience. It also helps that these are two of the finest games ever created. A slew of bonuses, including some terrific reversible box art, were nice touches that made a good collection of games great.

Gears of War 3 from Epic Games

Gears of War 3 The first half of Gears of War 3 made me think "oh wow, this is going to be my Game of the Year." The smaller-scale combat felt much more personal than the over-the-top battles that made GoW2 such a snore-fest. I loved how different the combat mechanics felt in Gears 3. Enemies would employ a number of tactics preventing you from staying in cover. Whereas Gears 1 was the definitive cover shooter, Gears 3 was all about the way you move around cover. Brilliant. And then, the zombies came. I refused to buy into the campy, artificially constructed "emotion" of <>'s death. Gears always falls short when it tries to be serious. In spite of how bro-larious Gears 3 ended up being, it still provided some of great fun.

Rayman Origins from Ubisoft Montpellier

Rayman Origins I have a feeling Rayman Origins will be the most overlooked game of 2011. This brilliant 2D platformer is what New Super Mario Bros. could have been if Nintendo had poured millions of dollars into tech. Origins is an interactive cartoon, one that had me and my little brother amazed. The platforming is also smart, providing the same combative co-op experience that Nintendo's Wii platformer did. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's undoubtedly awaiting your purchase in some bargain bin somewhere.

LA Noire from Team Bondi

LA Noire LA Noire didn't live up to the lofty expectations placed upon it. In spite of all the tech that went into making these digital characters feel human, interrogations felt disappointingly robotic--it was a choose-your-own-adventure with million dollar make-up applied. Investigating crime scenes wasn't as fun as we'd had hoped and apparently none of our choices in the game actually mattered at all. So while LA Noire couldn't have lived up to our wildest expectations, it did give us one thing: a small taste of what games could be capable of in the future.

Dance Central 2 from Harmonix

Dance Central 2 There's no way Harmonix could recapture the surprise and novelty of the first Dance Central. The Kinect-powered dancing game proved Microsoft's motion-capture system worked, and the game convinced us that maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't make fools of ourselves on the dance floor. The sequel doesn't change the game, offering additional features like a proper two-player mode. There's still a lot of room for improvement, but Dance Central 2 builds upon an already-impressive experience and makes it just a tad bit better.

Outland from Housemarque

Outland It's a shame that Outland was missed by so many. Too bad its release was marred by Ubisoft marketing and interrupted by the PSN outage. Housemarque, developer of the Super Stardust and Dead Nation games on PSN, crafted a beautiful blend of Ikaruga and Metroidvania, and were it to have released any other time of the year, it might have landed on a few Game of the Year lists.

Bulletstorm from People Can Fly

Bulletstorm What happens when you take the bro-larious attitude of Gears and actually make it funny? You get Bulletstorm, People Can Fly's brilliant parody of their parent company. The over-the-top script is matched by over-the-top action that you'd expect out of Platinum Games, not a Western studio. It may not be the super-serious shooter that Epic fans have become accustomed to, but that's precisely why it was one of my favorite games of the year.
"You forgot..." Let us stop you there! This week we're revealing the Shacknews 'Staff Favorites,' which are titles that didn't quite make our 'Best of 2011' list. This week we'll also be revealing our Honorable Mentions, games that almost made our 'Top Five of the Year' (those are coming next week). If you see a game on this list, it means no amount of arguing, hair-pulling, or crying was enough to get it to be featured on our overall 'Best of' list. Let's agree to disagree! Despite that, these were great games in another stellar year of gaming.