Best and worst games of 2011

By Matt Greenop, Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

'LA Noire' featured groundbreaking animation and was the game of the year. Photo / Supplied
'LA Noire' featured groundbreaking animation and was the game of the year. Photo / Supplied

TimeOut reviewers Matt Greenop and Troy Rawhiti-Forbes take a look back at the year's winners and losers.

Gamers could be forgiven for thinking 2011 was the year of the sequel. Next instalments of blockbuster titles were plentiful - Call of Duty, Resistance, Forza Motorsport, Uncharted, Dead Space - one after the other they rolled in, some offering solid gaming fun, others adding little more than a spit and a polish to what we've all seen before.

And then there were the heroic failures - like the long-awaited Duke Nukem for next-gen consoles - that would have been less insulting if it hadn't been published at all.

We take a run back through the good and bad titles - and have a look at what's in store for 2012.

GAME OF THE YEAR
LA Noire
Rockstar Games won last year with its Wild West funfest Red Dead Redemption.

The controversial company that gave the world Grand Theft Auto is back at the top of TimeOut's list again, this time with the awesome detective blockbuster LA Noire. It used ground-breaking facial animation that allowed a player to read emotional responses of interview subjects to judge whether they were telling the whole truth or just feeding them pork pies. A huge amount of 1947 Los Angeles was faithfully recreated, and though gameplay got a bit repetitive after a dozen cases, there's downloadable content being drip-fed to keep the LAPD dicks going.

RUNNERS-UP
Forza Motorsport 4

This Xbox 360 exclusive took its motorsport sim quality to a whole new level this year with a massive number of cars and tracks (all rendered beautifully), used Kinect for player head-tracking, voice control for menu navigation and the very cool AutoVista feature that let players wander round cars showroom-style. Cars could even be driven Kinect-style with no controller at all.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
It may offend wowsers every time a new game is released, but the third Modern Warfare instalment from Infinity Ward was a slick, fast and frantic shooter with a predictable but engaging storyline and impressive levels and set pieces. Multiplayer and online was further enhanced, which made it the place to kill things online - at least until the next CoD release.

Uncharted 3
The ongoing saga of Nathan Drake has been one of Sony's success stories. Developer Naughty Dog tied up the epic action adventure this year with some of the most ambitious set pieces ever seen. The clever pacing, fun fight levels and riveting storyline turned the final instalment into an adrenalin-fuelled must-have for PS3 owners.

BEST HANDHELD:
Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo 3DS)
A shiny new 3D take on one of Nintendo's bread-and-butter franchises. We'd seen a lot of it before, but some new tricks and true 3D levels made it well worth the entry fee.

BEST RPG:
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Dragon-slaying action at its finest, Skyrim has already seen its makers Bethesda scoop best game at the Spike Awards. Unheard of success for a medieval RPG, and well-deserved.

BEST RACING:
Dirt 3 (Xbox 360, PS3)

Forza is the best racing game really, but Dirt 3 warrants a mention for its impressive physics, fast and fine graphics and tasteful mix of motorsport offroad disciplines. Pimped by Ken Block, it also included the growing (and hard) gymkhana scene - donuts, anyone?

BEST FIGHTING:
Mortal Kombat (Xbox 360, PS3)

The absolute depth of this franchise reboot is a credit to NetherRealm Studios and their desire to create a truly attractive fighting game. The story mode was deep and engaging, the Challenge Tower was a real test of skill, and the breadth of online multiplayer options added to a package that offered seriously good value for money. Mortal Kombat was dirty, bloody, utterly immoral fun.

BEST FAMILY:
Kinectimals - Now With Bears! (Xbox 360)

To our disappointment, this game wasn't some kind of hand-to-claw struggle between Bear Grylls and a Growling Bear, but it was the perfect rainy day game for young children and their tech-happy parents. It was a fuzzy, fluffy, sometimes frantic kind of adventure that your little one could really get into before their afternoon nap. It was better than a Pixar film.

BEST SPORTS:
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (Xbox, PS3, Wii)

nzherald.co.nz sport editor Cameron McMillan writes:
The Tiger Woods franchise stepped it up once again this year with the world's most famous golfer overshadowed by the most prestigious course on Earth. After years of exile, golf fans were finally given the chance to play at Augusta, the home of the Masters, and it was worth the wait. Using the PlayStation Move to get around Amen Corner under the card was a tense gaming experience.

BEST COMMUNITY:
Little Big Planet 2 (PS3)

You could either play the platform game or make your own levels including video cutscenes and more - LBP offered more creative opportunity than any game ever, and this sequel just added more tools and more opportunity to make cool stuff.

BEST WII:
Goldeneye

The N64 classic got a sweet remake that made it just as riveting as the first.

BEST GAME IN 3D:
Killzone 3 (PS3)

Like all 3D games, the frame rate suffered from simply turning on the 3D, but there was a lot of action and some complicated levels to tackle. With the extra pressure of more realistic battlescapes, it's worthy.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME:
Brink (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

Billed as a parkour-style first-person shooter, Brink came thundering on to the market with a promise of grand riches. What it brought were grand glitches and the messy amalgamation of some truly great ideas. If it had been executed with more finesse, it might have been a Game of the Year contender.

WORST GAME:
Duke Nukem Forever

It seems like forever since it was first announced - and it wasn't worth the wait. Crap graphics, boring gameplay, lame jokes and then the producer threatened to withhold review material from anyone who slated it. Yuck.

COMING SOON
Nintendo Wii U:

Finally, the low-def Wii gets a high-def makeover - it may be super-popular, but it looks terrible on big tellies. The WiiU will offer better graphics, more grunt, and super-funky controllers with built-in screens. It'll be interesting to see how the Nintendevelopment world uses its new-found power - or if we face yet another round of Nintendo's golden franchises.

PSVita:
Sony's aging PSP has been kicked out like the jams, only to be replaced by a device that appears to be very similar. But under the hood there's some impressive tech, plus 3D powers and 3G connectivity - and augmented reality is capturing the imagination of developers. Watch for the highly entertaining Reality Fighters.

Halo 4 (Xbox 360):
The Master Chief is coming home. Halo 4 will be one of next year's most anticipated releases, not just because it marks the return of the prodigal son after a five-year absence, but because it will finally throw back the curtain on 343 Industries and reveal just what it is they've done with the Halo franchise. So much is riding on this one.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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