I am a passionate man. When Dead Space 2 was overlooked by several of my fellow editors, preventing it from attaining a rightful place in our top ten, I briefly contemplated a multi-city tour. The plan was simple: ring their doorbell, smack them across the face, cross their name off a list and move on to the next deserving victim. My main reason Dead Space 2 deserved a spot in our top ten:
At times, I forgot to breathe.
Dead Space 2 was a game of tension and release. I found myself gasping for air after several scenes, so focused on whatever new necromorph horror was trying to splay me that the part of my brain regulating natural respiration was overridden by the section screaming, "SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT WITH SO MUCH QUICKNESS AND RUN!"
For the sake of levity, if I had it my way, there would have been several moments where protagonist Isaac Clarke pulled out Handi-Snacks, lifted his visor and pouted about whatever danger he'd face beyond the next airlock.
I love a good "well, that was an unexpectedly well-crafted experience" and Trendy Entertainment's Dungeon Defenders filled that slot. An unknown developer creating a game made up of several genres has a high potential of not doing anything well -- not to mention, launching the same week as Batman: Arkham City lost it some potential for success -- but Dungeon Defenders pulled through.
The tower defense game, with action and RPG elements, is easily one of the best co-op experiences of the year and provides a fantastic amount of content. There's also a ton of detail work that went into the game, to the point where it can be a bit overwhelming to follow along at first. A lot of heart went into Dungeon Defenders, and Trendy has been constantly updating the PC version (which goes on sale for under $5 every other week). Looking for co-op? Get Dungeon Defenders.
I never really played the single-player, but for several weeks I enjoyed Driver's multiplayer and its amazing "shift" mechanic. The ability to rapidly leave cars and shift into a new vehicle was an innovation for the racing genre I didn't know was missing until its brilliance struck me at E3. I dragged my feet to do a Driver preview at the mega convention and walked away a herald of its goodness. I wish Driver's multiplayer had been a standalone digitally distributed product to reach a wider audience.
The only thing that stood in the way of Battlefield 3's public reception and perception at launch was Battlefield 3. Broken online, insufficient support and the deja vu of having done this all before several times. Putting the launch issues aside, BF3 is one of the strongest entries yet in the Battlefield franchise. It improved several aspects like class roles and squad selection. The squad mechanic and sense of teamwork are still the things that make Battlefield the first-person shooter for me, and I have yet to obtain that same feeling of camaraderie from any other game. BF3 is better now, having worked out its deluge of launch issues, but it's a mystery why EA can't launch a Battlefield game without a storm of problems.
Space Marine? SPACE MARINE! Yes, nearly the entire script of Warhammer 40K: Space Marine is the words "Space Marine" repeated ad nauseam. It almost gets to the comical point where "Space Marine" could be used as a noun, verb and adjective like "Smurf" depending on inflection. But, I digress. There's a lot of empty space in Space Marine that developer Relic could have filled in with collectibles or secret areas, but Space Marine is a solid first step in taking the Warhammer 40K license out of its comfy spot as the setting for the Dawn of War real-time strategy series. Space Marine is a classic example of a title that has a good foundation to go big with a sequel. The same can also be said about Kill Team, the downloadable game that used the Warhammer 40K license for a twin-stick shooter. There's plenty of potential for great sequels in both these games.
A combination of RPG, puzzle and turn-based strategy genres, this is lazy afternoon gaming at its finest. Clash of Heroes is a fine game to enjoy while snuggled up in a cozy blanket and drinking cocoa. Developed by Capybara Games, who also helped make Sword and Sworcery -- the combat puzzler is a showcase of solid mechanics and vibrant art.
It may not have replaced the hole in my heart left by the demise of 1 vs. 100, but You Don't Know Jack still brought me together with friends for a solid game show experience. It's good to have Jack back.
Joystiq is revealing its 10 favorite games of 2011 throughout the week. Keep reading for more top selections and every writer's personal, impassioned picks in Best of the Rest roundups.