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The Best of 2011

I'd have to say that the quality of games released in 2011 rivals that of the ones released in 2007. There were some simply stunning titles released this year, but as always there are a select few that bludgeon their way to the top and in my opinion these are them:

Top Releases of 2011

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2. Star Wars: The Old Republic
3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
4. Portal 2
5. Gears of War 3
6. Crysis 2
7. Batman: Arkham City
8. Dark Souls
9. L.A. Noire
10. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

A Busy Fall

Well it's that time of year again. There's a slight chill to the air, the leaves are turning brown, and the NHL pre-season is in full swing. It's fall, and like every year i'm inundated with games. Every fall I take a long hard look at my Gamespot™ tracked list and I am blown away by how many games are being released before the end of the year. This year is no exception, I clearly have my work cut out for me. Thankfully I was able to put down several games in rapid succession; Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dead Island, 40K Space Marine, and Tropico 4. With those games completed and thoroughly enjoyed I should be able to focus on the up and coming releases. One small hiccup is the fact that I've never actually completed The Witcher....and own The Witcher 2. So right now I'm slugging my way through the final few Chapters of the first one, hoping to be able to actually progress to the 2nd.

With that said though, there's a significant amount of content being released in the near future and I seem to want to play 90% of it. To start I've been too lazy to actually go to EB Games and pick up Gears of War 3 and FIFA 12, so they're on my "to do" list. In early October Dark Souls and Rage are being released, and I'm keeping my eye on Payday: The Hei$t to see how the dust settles around that one. Mid October sees the release of Battlefield 3, while the end will tack on more content for Deus Ex: HR. In to November a wack of titles are to be released; Batman: Arkham City, LA: Noire (for PC), MW3, SKYRIM!, AC: Revelations, and finally in December Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Looking at that laundry list of games above, I can't help be feel overwhelmed with how much content there is to explore and enjoy. To compound matters I'll be going out of town for work in October for two weeks. Then in late November the girlfriend and I will be heading to South Korea and Indonesia for two weeks. Oh well, I suppose it's better to have TOO many games to play than not enough. :)

Mobile Gaming

So I've been away from home for about a month now, and that means away from my Xbox 360 and more importantly my bad ass gaming rig. Luckily I bought an ASUS G73SW-A1 gaming laptop so I could take my vast collection of games with me. While this isn't a plug for this mean machine of portable gaming, I have to admit that I am blown away by how well this system performs. Lately I've been running all the newest games on it and nothing seems to slow it down. I'm running Medal of Honor on full settings, and the same goes for The Witcher. I even gave Oblivion a try and jacked all the settings on it and it didn't even stutter. Amazing. So here I am, away from home, and I'm still gaming like a pro. I will admit that I was rather slow to jump on the Dead Space band wagon, but lately I've been really in to that game. It's amazing how sometimes popular games just fall by the wayside for me, but thankfully I've become engrossed in Dead Space and I've got Dead Space 2 waiting in the wings. I will admit that Dead Spaces control for the PC are a tad clunky, but the game is a really well thought out and put together piece of creative work. Unfortunately I'm under the gun for gaming what with my comittments to work right now, and it's about to get worse as Dragon Age II as well as Shogun II: Total War come out in rapid succession in the next little bit. I guess that's my lot in gaming life, to constantly be way behind on playing and beating the games I enjoy. Oh well, at least I'll never be wanting for a good gaming experience. All I can say is that it's awesome to be 3000km away from home and, thanks to ASUS, be able to rock the games I love with the quality my home system delivers. Game on!

Lazy Christmas Vacation

So Christmas Vacation is here again (has been since the 11th) and I'm enjoying no work and no social commitments. I've been playing a lot of Dragon Age: Origins these days, trying to find every nook and cranny of that stunning game. I recently acquired the DLC "Warden's Keep" and "The Stone Prisoner", both are really great side quests with some good rewards, I hope to have the game complete within a day or two, here's hoping. Also I've been playing a lot of FIFA 10; the game is highly addictive and I'm really trying to pad my Virtual Pro with as many accomplishment as possible. So that's it, vacation is in full swing, my Christmas shopping is complete, and all there is left to do is game and drink alcohol. I love this time of year!

Fireball? Real original!

Ok I can admit when I'm wrong. I saw all the previews for Dragon Age: Origins a while back and honestly didn't think anything of it, not in the least. Sure Bioware was putting it out, and they DO make classy stuff, but the whole genre just seemed tired to me. I have been ass deep in RPGs for years; Morrowind, Dungeon Siege, Dungeon Siege II, Never Winter Nights, Oblivion, The Witcher, World of Warcraft. Not that I'm complaining mind you, I just didn't see the need to add another to my already bursting collection. Also, to be fair, I didn't think Bioware was going to put out a good medieval themed RPG, I just didn't. So the release date came and went and I thought nothing of it, hell it wasn't even on my tracked list. Then a funny thing happened. I was at work and a co-worker was talking to someone about this "wicked game" he'd just picked up, yup you guess it, DA:O. I listened as he went in to detail about how great it was and how he just couldn't put it down. Usually I blow off claims made by other people, as tastes vary and some people really wouldn't know a great, let alone wicked, game if it bit them on the ass. I let a few days pass, but I kept coming back to one thought; "what if it was good"? So I decided to talk to my co-worker and get the details. He painted a great picture of the game and what it had to offer, so well in fact that I bought it on my way home from work that same day. Well, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong hard. Man was I wrong. Dragon Age: Origins is one of the best RPGs I have EVER played, ever. I got home from work at 2:30pm and was playing by 3:00pm. I took a brief break to have dinner with the girlfriend at 6:00pm and have been playing ever since. It's highly addictive and the story is extremely engaging; a mix of political intrigue and the classic good versus evil. I had expected some weak story about the devil and a band of heros needing to stop him; basically fireballs and healing potions. What I was greeted with was an RPG that sucks you in and won't let you go. The battles are amazing, especially as you watch your character lop the head off a demon. The detail is stunning, there's nothing like seeing your party become misted with blood as they hack their way through waves of enemy. The voice acting is spot on, and the sound effects are well placed. Lastly, the graphics are great, top drawer. It's like Bioware took everything that worked with Knights of the Old Republic and spiced it up with some new graphics and better programming. Dragon Age: Origins is one of the best games of the year. Buy it!

The sewage that is the online gaming community

I have never been what you'd call an "avid multi-player gamer". I like to sit in the comfort of my own home, and play games with myself. It may sound lame to some, but frankly what better company do you have when gaming, than yourself? Sure I've done the multiplayer thing. I've done it, a lot hell remember Dark Force II: Jedi Knight? Ridiculous. Man I played that game for YEARS online and it was great , and the community for it by far greater. I played Counter-strike almost to the same extent that I played DF2, and Call of Duty took up a lot of my time in the evenings. Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Vietnam, Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, the whole shabangabang, I played those with friends and random internet-dwellers alike. EVE: Online, (which Gamespot didn't rate too well), was, and still is, the BEST MMORPG I have ever played. The community for that was stellar, most likely because you needed some modicum of intelligence to be successful in it. There was simply no room for obnoxious teenagers and middle-aged nerds living in their parents basement. Of course, last, but certainly not least, World of Warcraft. I grew up with Warcraft, so WoW let me step in to that World and really enjoy it. Soloing, Questing, Instances, and Raiding were a great time (sadly I've drifted from Wow now), but something always irked me about Wow's community; the wads. You know, those people that take a game way too seriously, or devote their entire life to it? Yeah those people, which shall hence forth be refered to as wads, seemed to multiply as WoW became increasingly mainstream. I was on the Beta for WoW, I bought and installed it right away, I picked up Burning Crusade the day it came out, and had a friend snag me Wrath of the Lich King on its release date. I have been (or at least until I got bored with WOTLK) at every crucial juncture of WoW's growth. Along that lengthy journey I ran in to an increasing amount of wads; people who simply have no concept of fun and seriousness, or better yet, reality and fiction. I'm not talking about those who roleplay (or RP) their characters. Those people are a tad strange, but frankly aren't hurting anyone. I'm more so talking about those biscuits that become vocally abusive when things don't exactly pan out in a GAME. I have been on raids and/or instances where things go awry; people get killed, someone aggros a mob, and more than once the whole raid gets wiped. Frankly I always have laughed at it, but more often than not, people come unglued (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtvIYRrgZ04). To me it's disgusting and takes away from the game. Lets be honest here folks, what is a game? Last I checked they were suppose to be fun. When you start flipping out on some random dude you've never met because he over aggros a mob and gets some fictional characters killed, you need to take a reality check brosef. If you stress out whilst playing a game, regardless of its genre, that's more like work than pleasure isn't it? Unless of course your idea of pleasure is jacking your blood pressure through the roof. Which brings me to my main point. Recently I picked up Modern Warfare 2 (ridiculous), and I've done the solo campaign, so I figured I'd get out the online content. I was leery at first, given my reservations about playing with wads, but I figured it could turn out fun. I was wrong. I played a few matches with some guys from work and of course that was excellent, the multiplayer in MW2 is sick, and makes for a really good time. However I took a chance and decided to give some random folks a whirl, big mistake. My first match with complete strangers turned out to be my one and only. Let me put it short; this guy, KrazyKanuck, didn't like the fact I kept shooting him in the face, which lead him to live up to his handle. This dude came unglued, he started talking about killing me for real, finding my family and murdering them, and burning my house down. I had to admit, I laughed pretty hard, and that seemed to make him madder. I finally had enough and just left, the whole environment ruined for me. How messed up do you have to be to threaten (real or simply bluster) someones family and life for them killing your FICTIONAL CHARACTER in a GAME? I'd say pretty *&%ing twisted no? I am done with MW2's online community, I'll stick to solo and playing with my friends and coworkers. Solo gaming is so much more rewarding for me. On a lot of levels, but the most important is not having to deal with wads like "KrazyKanuck". I'll take my solo games thank you, especially the greats like Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3, and The Witcher.

Terrorist!

So recently my gaming life was hijacked by a very unlikely foe; The Xbox 360. See, I bought a 360 just over 1 year ago, finally caving to pop culture and my lust for Guitar Hero. I had, for many years, sworn off consoles completely, vowing to never buy one, not even under the threat of death. Sure I grew up with consoles; Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega, and Nintendo 64, but that's where it stopped. I was always a computer guy, in fact those seeds were sown in the early 80's when my father brought home a Commodore 64. Granted I was young (very), but I used to spend hours with my Dad playing games, which at the time were considered cutting edge. That love of computer gaming grew over the years and really sprouted with Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans, a game which utterly enthralled me at the time. My brother remained dedicated to consoles, owning all forms and matter of Play Stations (what are we up to now? PS48?) and Xboxs. I always laughed at the money he spent compared to my computer, which granted at the time is costly, but if maintained properly can outlast any console for a nominal fee. Regardless of what it was; breast feeding vice bottle, or one having a bigger room than the other, my brother was aligned to consoles, I to the PC. Sure I played console games enough; at parties, with my brother, etc, but I never really felt that desire that comes from PC games. So imagine my surprise when I was standing at the cashier of a Best Buy in the Fall of 2008 ringing up an Xbox 360. I remember getting home and saying to myself; "I can't believe I just bought a console". In retrospect it isn't that shocking as I'd been playing Guitar Hero 2 and 3 religiously with friends since I had the controller forced in to my hands at a party. In time I also delved in to NHL 2K8 and became hopelessly addicted to it. My PC gaming still drew the lions share of my free time (unless the girlfriend wanted to play Lego Star Wars or The Simpson's Game together), but lingering in the living room, hooked up to my plasma TV, was the underdog, the 360. Things changed in early November with the release of Fifa 10. I am, without a doubt, hopelessly addicted to The Barclay's Premier League (British Football, or Soccer if you want to be a dick about it). I have been since the mid 1990's when I watched Manchester United battle to a 1-1 draw with Liverpool. Since then Manchester United have been my team. So imagine my joy when I read about the release of Fifa 10 (thank you Gamespot). For years I maintained the stigma that sports and racing games were for the console. I remember saying to myself; "self, you have a console and Fifa 10 is coming, happy day". So I picked up Fifa 10 (along with NHL 10) and began a sports orgy bridging many days. Corner kicks, slide tackles, last minute headers to seal the win, Fifa 10 was, and still is, great. My PC life suffered. I would come home from work and play Fifa 10 (or NHL 10) until the girlfriend was off work. On nights we'd do our own thing post-dinner, I'd play until bed. The PC remained off, unless I had to pay bills, or check up on Bookface (sic). But things were about to change. I was heading to Mexico with the misses for a week in Cancun and my father asked to borrow my 360 and Fifa 10. Of course I had no problem with that and handed over my beloved console/game. When I returned from Cancun I called my Dad to find him in the same boat as me; addicted. My Mom said he'd been playing Fifa 10 for days on end, something quite rare for the man who usually only plays Flight Sim X, and then only with time permitting. To compound matters I had utterly forgotten that Modern Warfare 2 was coming out, and I only remembered after friends at work wouldn't shut up about it. I was so excited to play that sequel that I called the girlfriend (who had the day off) in order to get her to secure a copy for me ASAP. When I got home that night I spent 7 hours straight (I may or may not have urinated in that time, in or around a toilet) playing through the single player campaign. What a game, simply amazing. I love it, it is totally engaging. The story is somewhat muddled at times, and a few missions are simply a run and gun shooting experience as opposed to the tactical shooter it is suppose to be. But with those gripes said, the game is legendary. I especially am impressed with the use of a rover feed to call in AGMs from a predator, well done. The best however are the levels with Pfc Ramirez defending the US from invasion. It was like mashing World in Conflict together with Call of Duty, a stunning part of the story with some intense moments. In all the time I spent playing MW2, I never missed my 360. Even when I beat the game and started playing through it again, I did not miss Mr. Xbox. I think my PC life may be making a comeback (I knew it was never gone for good), and I think I'll let my Dad keep my 360 for a few more days to cement that comeback. Up next? Dragon Age: Origins for sure, and I think I need revisit some Morrowind or Fallout 3. We'll see I guess.
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