Game of the Year 2011: Industry Picks

by on December 16, 2011

Game of the Year 2011: Industry PicksWe hope you’ve been enjoying our game of the year content throughout this week and later today we’ll be bringing you our overall game of the year picks as well as a podcast to match. Now though, it’s time for something a little bit different.

All week the team have been explaining why they’ve picked games they love for each category, but here it is the turn of people who work in other facets of the gaming industry to pick their game of the year, giving (we hope) an interesting insight into what people from different parts of the industry are playing and enjoying.

The only rule is that they cannot pick a game that the company they represent worked on, because that way each person can be impartial.

Hugo Bustillos (PR Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment UK)

3: Whale Trail (ustwo – iOS)

This is my current iOS obsession. After Angry Birds, Flick Kick and Tiny Wings I needed to find something new to fill the void. It’s great fun for short train journeys. The only down side is it drains my battery and occasionally makes me miss my stop.

2: Portal 2 (Valve)

I had never played Portal and wondered what all the fuss was about. I was hooked pretty much straight away. I’m so glad Valve made it for PS3 otherwise I would never have played it and missed one of the best games of the year.

1: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Infinity Ward/Sledgehammer)

I love the Modern Warfare franchise. I wasn’t a fan of World at War or Black Ops but knew I’d like MW3. I haven’t been able to play much of it online so far but the Spec Ops mode is great again. You can’t go wrong with over the top single player missions and an online mode with all the features they’ve thrown in.

Dan Tausney (PR Manager EMEA, Chillingo)

3: Minecraft (Mojang)

As a child, my favourite toy was Lego (it still is, really) so Minecraft appealed to me instantly. I’ve been playing since pretty much the first release so it’s been amazing to watch it grow and improve in such a short time. It’s totally my kind of game, one where I can sink hours in without noticing just messing around; building a house, digging a hole, planting crops, or absolutely nothing. An uninitiated friend asked me what you did in Minecraft, I think the answer is ‘whatever the hell you want’, and that is pretty sweet.

2: Portal 2 (Valve)

A sequel done right, and probably the funniest game I’ve ever played. I adored the original and would have been quite happy with more of the same. What I got instead was bigger, smarter, funnier and just plain better. The co-op led to some of the most fun I’ve had playing games with a friend and the single player was about as clever and exciting as it gets. I think I’m still upset that the game ended.

1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)

While the debate on games being overpriced rages on, there are a few that nobody could argue are not worth every penny paid. Skyrim is one of them. I put 50 hours into it before I even touched the main quest, I think that’s longer than I played all other games this year put together. I’ve still not finished it and even after something like 80 hours now there are still moments that completely blow me away. It’s an absolute triumph. There is a small negative though in that after I’ve spent 2 hours organising my chests and containers into item categories, a depressing reminder of why I am single is triggered.

Will Curley (General Manager, Tecmo Koei Europe)

3: SUPERBROTHERS: Sword & Sworcery (Superbrothers)

I am choosing this game because it gave me my defining gaming moment of the year.

Early on the in the game the player learns the ability to trip-out in a farmer’s hut and explore an alternate reality. In one of the screens during this phase the player is invited to join a jam session with an acoustic guitarist in a woody grove. The guitarist strums the tune and the player contributes by tapping the trees and bushes to play along with the different sounds. It’s so well done that pretty much whatever the player taps fits perfectly in with the melody and as the sun and moon cycle through the sky it’s easy to get sucked in for hours.

When I first experienced this part of the game I was in bed, high up in a Yokohama hotel – it was 1am during the period where evening power-outages where common to save energy after the earthquakes. It was pitch black, the only light was from my ipad, the only sound from my headphones, I was completely sucked into the game experience. I had a career defining meeting the next morning and a pretty bad case of jet lag. I should have slept but at that point the transcendental experience of joining up for an lo-fi acoustic jam session in this beautiful gameworld was much more profound and important to me than what the next day would bring. Those are the moments as gamers we should live for – I think only this medium can deliver a moment so soul-defining.

2: LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (Traveller’s Tales)

As a huge Star Wars fan, each of the LEGO Games is an event in my life – the format works perfectly for gamers without a lot of time. You already know the characters and the story, so you can play in short chunks without forgetting where you were in the story and there is always something new to unlock, or something worth seeing just around the corner. Sixty hours of Star Wars geek-out on the way to the platinum trophy felt like time well-spent. It’s fair to say that for LEGO Star Wars III, Traveller’s Tales have stripped out any satisfaction that could be gleaned from the actual gameplay itself – the PlayStation 2 era games at least had a little depth to their ‘Jedi’ collection challenges and lightsaber parries. Lego Star Wars III is not motivated by pure collection and unlocks – but collecting the studs in HD and unlocking the wonderfully animated mini-figs and starships is more than enough for this Star Wars fan.

Special mention must be given to the two huge hub sections of the game; the interiors of the Republic and Seperatist cruisers are accurate to the various bridges, hangers and prison sections we have seen in the Clone Wars TV series. Exploring these areas makes the ‘between levels’ sections of the game a highlight.

1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda)

There is not much more that can be said about this game – I feel it’s a great testament to the selfish pleasures of single-player gaming. An open world in the style of a Dungeons and Dragon universe that you just expect to see other online players running around in. But Skyrim is all your own, nobody else there to take you out of the fantasy, nobody there to be more powerful than you or shine their game-breaking, real-world money bought loot brazenly in your face. Skyrim is something to covet because it’s all yours to live a second life, with no one else to get in the way – a great antidote to these stressful and bleak times we live in.

Adam Merrett (PR Manager, Capcom UK)

3: Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo)

I have a secret, a dark secret – I LOVE MARIO. I’m proud of it. Although most won’t admit it (and pretend they don’t), if you’ve played Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World etc, you can’t help but have a soft spot for the fat plumber. It’s not the hardest game in the world admittedly, but still, it took around 25 hours to get to 100%. Sometimes linear games are a winner for me, I don’t always want to be immersed in infinite options and story direction, I like my hand to be held every now and again and with Super Mario Land 3DS, it seems the logical title to hold my hand. If it wasn’t for the levels that come after world eight, I probably wouldn’t be including it in the top 3. Or even the top 30. However, I was more than overwhelmed with the addition of new challenging levels – the integration of the likes of cosmic Mario is a great idea. I played this on the tube into work and for that week, rather than smack the fat commuter next to me with my copy of The Metro, I wanted to hug him. Maybe it was the music from the Ghost World, maybe it was the discovery of the additional levels? I don’t know, but somehow Nintendo has done it again for me.

2: Forza Motorsport 4 (Turn 10, Microsoft Studios)

This was certainly the most addictive game of 2011 for me. My housemate often became miffed that I’d pie him off for the evening to go and play Forza 4 in my room. See the thing is, all I meant to do was have a couple of races in my new SLR I had just won, but hey, I’ve almost gotten to Driver Level 34, so maybe I could do just one more race. Or maybe two more. Before I know it, it’s midnight and I’m on Driver Level 38. Damn.
For me personally, this triumphed over GT5 because yes, you can go into crazy intricate tuning and details with your new favourite car, but if you can’t be bothered, it doesn’t make you. GT5 to me was more of a racing MMO. You couldn’t just have a quick 30 minute spin, you’d have to go through a thousand and one options and menus first. Forza 4 kept the sophistication AND all the fun of racing a 1,000BHP Ferrari for me. It also seemed to understand that different people have different crushes, mine being a Lamborghini, but for other maybe it was that 10,000,000 CR old school Ferrari. Either way, it captures a driving simulator perfectly and deserves its spot at number two.

1: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Square-Enix)

I’m neglecting many games this year. Every year it seems that review scores are becoming nearer perfect on consistent level, this year’s Q4 landing itself a prime spot on the games podium. So I think it’s important to have acknowledgements for titles such as: Unchartered 3: Drakes Deception, Zelda: Skyward Sword, LA Noire, Deus Ex, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Dead Space 2 to name just a few.

I’ll be honest, at first when read about Deus Ex I thought I’d hate it. Shoot me if you will, but I didn’t enjoy the original that much, I thought it was too ambitious – it didn’t grab me enough to keep me playing (blame it on my youth, maybe). However, the depth and breadth of this game kept me hooked start to finish. In the first playthrough I did every side mission I could. Admittedly I didn’t always fully carry them out – curiosity sometimes got the better of me, whether it was reading someone’s e-mails or sadistically wondering how I could execute people. Prime example, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could kill Ning with the fridge in her apartment (in the Rotten Business quest). The answer is yes, yes you can.

Throughout playing, it’s a joy to not be subjected to a linear approach; and one that works well. Sometimes when I play, I want to approach the mission with the agility and stealth of a Ninja, but then sometimes I wanted to run in and shoot people in the face with a shotgun. The best thing is that providing you do it well, you’re rewarded for either approach. I think this is what enticed me to play it in as much depth for a second time round. On the second playthrough I admittedly wised up as to which augmentations to buy, as often I felt the need to get the fun ones rather than the necessary upgrades. I almost cried several times trying to perform top security level hacks with my mega-powerful torso and arms but rubbish hack level. For the pure enjoyment and entertainment this gave me from start to finish – on both run-throughs – it deserves game of the year.

Stay tuned later today for our overall game of the year article.