Gamma Squad’s Game of the Year (and Some Runner-Ups)

Senior Contributor
12.29.11 15 Comments

It’s that time of year again, where we weigh in on the best of the year and come up with a winner. And, in fact, our winner’s a little different this time around from everybody else’s, apparently.

But, before we get the GOTY, here are the some of the rest of the best.

A welcome twist on the multitude of detective games on the DS, “Ghost Trick” had a lot of clever design and some good mysteries. It ultimately doesn’t make the cut solely because it’s a little too gimmicky, but we’re looking forward to the sequel as they refine the design and story.

At its best, this game was “Jackass” meets a third-person shooter, rocketing over-the-top without relying on the insanity to cover up crappy gameplay. But ultimately, it was a bit of a step backward from the second game in some respects, with some of the more interesting and strategic aspects of “Saint’s Row 2” left out in favor of more common mechanics and bribing your way to victory.

This, quite possibly Shigeru Miyamoto’s Mario swan song, is a heck of a way to go out. It’s a mix of classic Mario 2D action with 3D elements that makes full use of the 3DS’s capabilities. That said…it’s a clever mix of a lot of things we’ve seen before, and the 3D element isn’t quite enough to push the franchise to a new place.

Immaculately designed and paced old-school action, and frankly a lot better than other would-be throwbacks (we’re looking right at you, “Resistance 3”). The only reason this doesn’t get GOTY is also why you should buy it: its relative lack of complexity. This isn’t quite the brain teaser of some of our list. But it doesn’t have to be.

Finally, the Wii gets a Zelda game specifically designed for it, and it’s glorious. Pretty much the same as every other Zelda game in most respects, but still: glorious.

Everybody was worried about this game failing to live up to the potential of the original “Deus Ex”, and it turns out those fears were largely unfounded: this was a game that challenged your puzzle solving and shooting skills. If it just weren’t for those terrible boss fights that belong in another game entirely (in fact, in our next game), and can be beaten by triggering a cutscene a couple of times, this would be a perfect game.

This is everything you want out of a Batman game. The only problem with it really is the level design; it’s an open world game until you get to the story line, which takes place almost entirely in levels with a linear design and few options for going your own way or making your own decisions. But at least that open world is filled with side quests and all those wonderful toys.

Skyrim: It’s got a great design to it, once you get used to the glitches, and we like how the game designs itself around your play style. But we can’t get past the bland story: we’ve already forgotten what happened in the main plotline.

Modern Warfare 3: Great multiplayer. Terrible single-player. That simple.

Uncharted 3: Despite the gameplay tweaks, which make the game a lot more challenging and engaging, the game is still angled more at looking like a movie than playing like a game, and Nathan Drake is still an intolerable jackass.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations: This isn’t a bad game by any means, but did we really need “Tower Defense” in an Assassin’s Creed game? We wish Ubisoft would stop treating this like it’s Madden or something.

The original Portal was a surprise hit, an instant classic, and an incredibly fun game with a unique mechanic.

The sequel takes everything to the next level.

“Portal 2” stands out not just because Valve incorporates a new paint mechanic into the game, but because it steps up the story in both humor and pathos. In this game, Chell becomes a lot more than just a silent blank, and you genuinely feel for GLADoS as you discover what she once was. But that sells short how funny this game is. Both the comedy and the darker aspects drive you forward: you want to learn more.

Similarly, the level design is ideal, and it’s telling how the game lets you play and tells you a story without resorting to cutscenes. It’s a lesson a lot of designers could learn from, to put it mildly.

For all this, “Portal 2” is Gamma Squad’s Game of the Year.

How about you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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