Best of 2011 Runner-Up: Deus Ex Human Revolution

You can't resurrect a widely-adored classic franchise a decade later, common wisdom goes. The game lives in nostalgia now; you can never come close to matching recollections and expectations. Besides, games have moved on. If you change nothing it will feel dated, but any changes will ruin what fans loved. And if it's being made by different people, well, that really won't work. Somehow, developers Eidos Montreal and Nixxes Software didn't succumb to its doomed fate: Deus Ex: Human Revolution recaptures much of the essence of the original, while updating it for modern audiences.

We're thrown into well-realized slices of a world, filled with people to chat with and boxes to smash and things we don't know and shops to buy things and alleyways to wander down and environmental vignettes and things we'll miss and things we'll feel clever for finding. We are given objectives, then largely left to complete them as we please. Leaping across rooftops, sneaking through vents, talking our way in, or barging through the front door with a large gun, we have a freedom we'd largely forgotten in this era of corridor shooters. Yes, the cyberpunk is jolly nice too, but roaming around and doing things my own way is the core of Deus Ex to me.

We can bicker and quibble about the problems, of course. Yes, the boss fights are a terrible and a baffling inclusion. Certainly, the plot feels impersonal and less engaging towards the end (though let's not forget Deus Ex made this mistake too). And it is unfortunate that the endings are largely decided by button presses (ditto). It is a shame that Adam cannot see plot points that were clearly revealed hours before. But on the whole, these don't ruin the experience, merely mar it. It's a flipping lovely game all right.

Aside from Troika's tragically flawed Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, the complex, roaming, story-driven FPS-RPG had all but died out over the past decade. After the raving success of Human Revolution, I'm quietly hopeful that more developers will now seize upon a hole in the market that so clearly is there--and viable. If they're set in a deliciously dirty Shanghai, that's even better.

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The Shacknews 2011 Game of the Year awards are based on a weighted scoring system between all staff writers and editors [here's how it works!]. Last week we revealed our "Honorable Mentions," which include the titles that did not quite make our overall 'Top Five Games of the Year.' This week we reveal that Top Five list, with our Overall Game of the Year award being announced on January 20.