Coming right out of the gate with Bayonetta and Darksiders, then immediately followed by Mass Effect 2, 2010 hit the ground running, to say the very least. Then Heavy Rain, God of War III, Red Dead Redemption, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 were released in the following months, causing 2010 to hop into a rocket car on the Bonneville salt flats to attempt a land speed record. The year wrapped up with the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Fallout: New Vegas, Halo: Reach, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, bankrupting me of both speed metaphors and colons. Oh, and there was a little game called Gran Turismo 5 that finally released after some time in development.
Not a bad year, methinks.
Crazy as it sounds, 2011 has the potential to be even better. Of course, there’s no telling how things will ultimately pan out — what will be delayed, what will underwhelm, what will be the sleeper hits, etc.
This being the internet, though, we’re just going to go ahead and throw uncertainty out the window. Why the hell not, right? So before we share our 2010 Game of the Year thoughts later this week, we’ll declare the following five games to be the frontrunners in next year’s GOTY race. We’ll even rank them, just to feel more important.
5 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
When The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion released in early 2006 it was a tremendous display of the potential that this console generation held. The game was equal parts vast and gorgeous, keeping many a gamer hooked for well over 100 hours. Of course, it had its hiccups, but we were willing to forgive it because of the promise it showed us.
In October of 2008 Bethesda followed up with the outstanding Fallout 3. Once again, the game was massive yet riddled with several annoyances that people looked past for the sake of the overall game experience. Earlier this year, Fallout 3′s successor in Fallout: New Vegas was released, and while fun overall the game’s engine was definitely struggling to keep up with gamer expectations.
So when Skyrim was announced earlier this month, fans felt both excited and apprehensive, hoping that the Gamebryo engine that had been in use for so long would finally be replaced — it seems that those fans have gotten their wish.
Even with a technical overhaul, there are some snags to be expected with a game of this scope. Let’s just hope that they’re not as frequent as what we saw in previous Bethesda games. Also, this massive wish list written by forum user TRF wouldn’t hurt, either. If it all comes together within the next eleven months, then Bethesda has another Game of the Year-worthy piece of software on their hands.
4 – Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham Asylum had no business being as good as it was. For starters, Batman games ranged from passable at best to abysmal at worst. Then there was the fact that Rocksteady Studios had only worked on the forgettable PS2 FPS Urban Chaos: Riot Response before being handed the reins to the Batman license. But instead of a typically crap game about the Caped Crusader, we were treated to a game that would have run away with Game of the Year honors left and right had it not been for Uncharted 2′s release.
Needless to say, Arkham City has some mighty big shoes to fill. Rocksteady are vastly increasing the scope of the game to include an entire, walled-off portion of Gotham City while attempting not to fall into the open-world trappings of giving players too much to do. They will be doing this while improving the brilliant combat system and expanding the detective mode by making it feel that you’re actually doing investigative work rather than simply following a blue-hued trail.
Add in what appears to be a story inspired by the 1999 No Man’s Land story arc, showcasing villanous favorites such as Hugo Strange and Two-Face while also playing on the on-again, off-again relationship between Bats and Catwoman … suddenly you’ve got a perfect storm that will hopefully satisfy even the hardest-core Batman fan.
3 – L.A. Noire
Because I’m not usually into Westerns in any medium, I didn’t care one iota about Red Dead Redemption during its development, and even up to a week after its release. Soon after I finally bought it because of all the hubbub surrounding it I realized what a fool I had been — never again will I make that mistake again with a Rockstar-published game.
Why is this relevant? Because, for the most part, I had the same feeling whenever I thought about L.A. Noire. The game showed very little progress since it was announced early in 2004, before finally revealing a few details in a Game Informer cover story earlier this year. There we learned that the game would have a heavy emphasis on story rather than the over-the-top action featured in Rockstar’s flagship GTA titles.
Nowhere was this more evident than when we finally got our first look at a gameplay trailer, featuring cutscenes that feature facial animations that put just about every game ever to shame. Really driving the point home was seeing behind-the-scenes footage of just how the technology worked:
With its ridiculous productionn values, L.A. Noire won’t be sneaking up on anyone when it releases sometime in the first half of next year. It’ll be tough to top this year’s Red Dead Redemption, but hopefully Team Bondi can the equally under-represented noir genre its just due.
2 – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
There’s not much we can say about Uncharted 3 that hasn’t already been said. After all, it hasn’t even been three weeks since the game’s announcement at the Spike VGAs. That is, until some fantastic new gameplay footage was released that didn’t feature Jimmy Fallon blathering incessantly throughout.
With Uncharted 2’s release last year, Naughty Dog propelled themselves into the game industry’s elite; this new footage shows that ND have zero intention of coasting on their good name. The ridiculous attention to detail is present throughout, and we even get a small taste of Nate’s trademark humor.
It’s almost a given that Uncharted 3 will easily surpass anything that’s released in 2011. Well, almost anything.
1 – Mass Effect 3
It’s not going to be easy to wrestle Game of the Year honors from a game as promising as Uncharted 3, but Mass Effect 3 has the best chance of doing so.
Don’t get me wrong: ND have done an amazing job of showcasing the PS3’s power in games that feature writing and direction better than most of what Hollywood puts out. However, BioWare have created a rich and vast universe that rivals some of the best sci-fi out there; it says a lot when I’d rather play Mass Effect than watch any Star Wars or Star Trek.
This being a PlayStation-driven website, it’s likely that many reading this haven’t played through either Mass Effect game, so I won’t dive into any of the events that transpire there – it’s much better to experience it yourself than have me clumsily recap it for you here. However, seeing Earth under attack in the Mass Effect 3 reveal trailer is a huge deal as there’s little mention of our home planet over the course of the two games as humanity has branched out to explore the galaxy.
So if you’re a PS3-only player that doesn’t understand how the hell I could choose anything over Sony’s greatest franchise of this generation (possibly ever), pick up Mass Effect 2 next month. I’ll save you a spot on the Mass Effect 3 Love Boat.