Pay attention now.
2011 was such a big year for gaming that you’re to be forgiven if you didn’t play all of the games that came out this year. Just because you didn’t have time to check out every title 2011 had to offer doesn’t mean we didn’t. In fact, while you were taking it easy with Modern Warfare 3, or spending a month wandering the mountains of Skyrim, we were playing every damn thing that came down the pipe (on top of a ton of Skyrim and MW3, among others).
In our tireless quest to cover the vast majority of Xbox 360 releases this year we came across a few games that we think you may have overlooked, but should really take the time to play. Whether they were released at an unfortunate time, or you just didn’t think they were for you at the time, we think these gems of 2011 shouldn’t be missed.
Dirt 3 (Codemasters)
Sure, 2011 saw a new Forza game and two new need for speed games but way back in May Codemasters released a little piece of racing gold. Dirt 3 is a wild ride that will truly leave you white knuckled and out of breath. Jump behind the wheel of some of the best Rally cars in the world and visit some iconic locations as you scream down narrow tracks that are often covered in snow and alwyas covered in tears. This game nails the barely-in-control, pedal-to-the-floor, nature of Rally racing.
Not only are there a wide variety of Rally racing events, on a wide variety of tracks, but Dirt 3 has a whole other half in its Gymkhana events. Ken Block himself shows you how to master this particular style of trick driving in a series of modes that are almost as deep as the rest of the game. You’ll have a blast with Dirt 3 and it will be a long time before you run out of things to do in it.
Catherine was, absolutely, one of the strangest games that came out in 2011. It was also one of the most challenging. While you may have seen plenty of promos showing a weird story of forbidden love between a bunch of anime characters, what you may not have seen is that Catherine is a puzzle-platformer. One of the best puzzle-platformers you’ll ever play.
Catherine is definitely story heavy as it alternates between sequences where our protagonist Vincent talks to his friends about his relationships, and his nightmares where he must constantly climb upwards as the floor falls out from under him. By moving blocks, climbing, shimmying and using special items Vincent must climb to the next level of the tower each night, during his nightmare, or die in real life. I’ll admit, it’s a strange concept wrapped in a strange package but the gameplay is challenging and addictive. You’ll often find yourself planning your next seven moves while in the midst of executing them. All while the floor falls out from under you. Or while a giant monster tries to stab you with a fork.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (Relic Games, THQ)
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine suffered from a bad case of being in the right place at the wrong time. Trying to be a new shooter in the same season that saw a new Call of Duty, a new Battlefield, a new Gears of War and a new Halo is not an easy job. I truly think that if it had been released at a different time it would have been much more popular.
As it stands, Space Marine is a fast-paced, brutal and bloody fun third person shooter. Where most games want you to find some cover to regain your health, Space Marine wants you to wade further into the fray. Health is regained by performing brutal executions on hapless enemies and I couldn’t be happier about that. Offering a great single player campaign, super fun competitive multiplayer and co-op survival/firefight action (via free DLC) Space Marine is the full package. While you were saving your money for Call of Duty, I was dismembering thousands of Orks with a chainsword. Now is the time to fix that situation.
Dark Souls (From Software, Bandai-Namco)
While it did sell fairly well, I know there are a lot of you out there who haven’t tried Dark Souls yet. If you asked a fan what it was like they probably told you it was “hard”. It is hard, but for a while that seemed like all anyone wanted to say about it. Fans wore it like a badge of honor. I’m tired of that description as I’m guessing it turned a few of you off, not simply because you didn’t want a challenge but because nobody wanted to discuss the game in detail. What Dark Souls really is, is “hard to master”. Rather than being unfair and just stacking enemy stats against player’s, Dark Souls punishes you for letting your guard down, getting sloppy or not paying attention. When you master one of the many styles of combat in Dark Souls you will feel good about yourself. Each area cleared, each secret found and each boss defeated will leave you with a sense of accomplishment you just don’t get from most games these days.
Dark Souls is an open-world, fantasy, Action RPG that will remind you what it used to feel like to beat a game. It is with a sigh of relief, and a feeling like you should to sink to your knees in a mix of gratitude and exhaustion, that you will light each bonfire, the checkpoints in Dark Souls. There are so many different weapons, each with their own play style, and so many character customization options that you will want to play through this game over and over. I know I’ve sunk more time into Dark Souls than any other game in 2011.
Dungeon Defenders (Trendy Entertainment, Reverb Publishing)
While you may have missed Dungeon Defenders because it wasn’t from a big publisher, and was released on the XBLA, be assured it is a must have. Part Tower Defense, part Action and part RPG, Dungeon Defenders is one of the most addictive games you’ll ever play. The premise is simple, pick one of four heroes and defend your Eternia Crystal from wave after wave of bad guys.
After your first round you’ll realize that Dungeon Defenders is anything but simple. Each hero has unique abilities and defense to master and all of your gear is swappable and upgradable. You’ll have to set up defenses but will also have to jump into the action to thin the crowd the old fashioned way, from time to time. Add three of your friends in an online co-op session and you complete the recipe. No wonder it won our best downloadable game for 2011, AND was runner-up for game of the year. It also won the award for most time spent distracting The Controller Online staff from doing work.
So, will you be picking up any of these titles now? Or are you sitting back smugly, knowing you’ve played a few already? Any to add to the list? Let us know.