Cole MacGrath's sophomore outing deserved better than to get lost in the flood of E3 coverage. It was a fine action game and I loved the comic book-style narrative, which involved making many gut-wrenching "good vs. evil" choices that would ultimately shaped Cole's destiny. Of course, there's also something to be said for simply going the evil route and shocking every poor sucker in New Marais that dared to cross my path. If you spent E3 week constantly refreshing your browser and forgot to pick this gem up, do yourself a favor and go back for it.
Mortal Kombat updates the series' classic fighting mechanics and Fatalities, while also throwing in cool new features, like bone-shattering X-Ray Moves. But to only mention the game's refinements and updates is to sell this package short. This game boasts a comprehensive cinematic-based Story Mode, a Challenge Tower filled with hundreds of trials, and a kopious amount of extras. Netherrealm has even managed to successfully help pioneer the Season Pass DLC model, offering several cult favorite fighters and a great novelty character in Freddy Krueger.
As much as I enjoyed recent series diversions like Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Mortal Kombat is an improvement in every single way. It's easy enough for anyone to jump into, while also representing fan service at its finest. It's not only one of the best games I played in 2011, but also one of the best fighting games I've ever played, period.
Mortal Kombat from developer NetherRealm Studios
L.A. Noire is an innovative gem. A lot has been made about the technology used to capture facial expressions, but I can't empahsize enough how much more immersive this feature makes the gameplay experience. I felt like I was in a noir-era movie. I felt like I was an old-school private eye, like Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, searching for evidence and solving mysteries. The interrogation mechanic is one of the coolest features I've seen, encouraging me to use different questioning tactics in order to make a suspect sing like a canary.
Even if it doesn't follow the traditional Rockstar open-world formula, games like L.A. Noire are why I like video games. They allow me to play out a fantasy that I otherwise would not be able to in most other mediums. Innovation, complete immersion, and great attention to detail are among the many reasons why L.A. Noire is one of the best games I played in 2011.
L.A. Noire from developer Team Bondi
Driver: San Francisco
I don't think a game took me by surprise more than Driver: San Francisco. Ok, so none of the story made a lick of sense. The logic is completely non-existent. I mean, there was a mission where a tanker filled with highly-flammable chemicals was being hijacked and the only way to stop it was to repeatedly hit the tanker head-on with other cars.
Yet Driver: San Francisco was loads of fun. The driving controls were smooth, I loved the variety of missions, and the game went at a brisk pace. Think of this like a summer popcorn flick. Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride.
Driver: San Francisco from developer Ubisoft Reflections
Serious Sam: Double D
I'm a big fan of old-school 2D shooters, so I had high hopes for Serious Sam: Double D. Mommy's Best Games didn't disappoint. Sam Stone came out with guns blazing and many of them were stacked on top of each other, thanks to the new Gun Stacker tool. Nothing says "old-school" like taking a stack of six flamethrowers to a giant gorilla armed with a buzzsaw and bazooka. Anyone who wants a different kind of Serious Sam experience should track down Double D ASAP.
Other favorites in 2011: Hard Reset (Read my review), Rayman Origins (Read my review), Orcs Must Die (Read my review), Rock of Ages (Read my review)
Serious Sam: Double D from developer Mommy's Best Games
"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.