Every year there are many standout moments in gaming that redefine my hobby and help me appreciate it in new ways. Last year it was riding into Mexico to the tune of “Far Away” in Red Dead Redemption, managing my own guild of assassins in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood or riding down a river in a patrol boat with the Rolling Stones in the background in Call of Duty: Black Ops.
2011, being the landmark year that it was, was not deficient in great gaming moments and I’ve pared my memories down to six selections of moments that have helped shape this year for me. Come along as I try to sift through all the great games this year had to offer and try to nail down which small selections changed my perception of gaming in 2011.
6. Fighting a Boss Wave in Horde 2.0 in Gears of War 3
While Gears of War 2 brought us Horde Mode, Gears of War 3 made a ton of improvements to the fairly bare-bones original version. Taking cues from the tricks players would pull to keep themselves alive longer as the waves of enemies got progressively bigger and tougher, Epic Games added fortifications and bases to Horde, but they also added something else: Boss Waves. Every tenth wave, players would have to fight one of the Gears’ series massive creatures, anything from a Brumak to Corpsers and even the Lambent Berserker. Even on easier difficulties, these monsters proved a challenge for the most stoic of Gear Heads and when there’s five of you blasting away as a Brumak advances inexorably on your position, the yelling will get loud, things will get tense, but at the end of it, you’ll feel like your teamwork accomplished something monumental.
5. Talking your way into the Detroit PD in Deus Ex: Human Revolution
After years of silence, Deus Ex returned to the gaming scene with Human Revolution, telling the tale of Adam Jensen, a former SWAT officer who found his life changed forever when his work is assaulted by militant cyborgs and he’s implanted with top of the line prosthetic just to stay alive. Despite the heavy shooter overtones, Human Revolution took a very nuanced approach to its various scenarios. If you didn’t feel like shooting your way in, you could sneak, and if that didn’t appeal to you, you could always just talk your way in. Early in the game, you’re asked to break into the Detroit Police Department and steal evidence, and blocking your way is an old partner who’s fallen on hard times. Rather than break into the station, you can assuage your old friends’ guilt, letting him move on with his life and accomplishing your goal at the same time. Human Revolution was a game with a brain, and this demonstrated that aptly.
4. Nailing an interrogation in L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire was a game that respected your intelligence and didn’t hold your hand. While there were some clues about how to properly interpret the cast’s facial animations, correctly sussing them out on the first try was an arduous task. The noise that game made when you bungled a line of questions was more than a little emasculating to your gaming prowess, but the sense of victory when you correctly questioned a suspect was hard to top. As the game went on, people became craftier and their answers more misleading so guiding Cole Phelps through the various minefields of intrigue and double-talk became harder and harder. Hearing that little chime when you guessed a person’s facial expression correctly was a great reward for your cleverness and getting all the questions right left you feeling like a real detective.
3. Being the Goddamn Batman in Batman: Arkham City
More than any other super-hero, Batman has a certain flair to him, something that makes him unique against the backdrop of mutants, beings from another planet and mistakes of science. Despite being a normal (albeit rich and highly trained) individual, Batman manages to be more intimidating and effective than fifty Supermen. Arkham City allowed us to take over this role and do all those Batman things we know and love, like gliding through the shadows and picking off guards or outwitting a trap laid by the Joker with gadgets and guile. Developers Rocksteady made small improvements to how Batman handles and amplified the Free-Flow combat so being the Caped Crusader became an almost undefinable experience this time around. Although we can’t put words to it, we all know how it feels to be Batman, thanks to this game.
2. Killing your first dragon in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
In my opinion, there’s no greater magic system in the history of gaming than stealing a dragon’s very Soul and using it to power your Thu’um, or Shout. When I got my first glimpse of a dragon in the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it awoke a a hidden urge in me to hunt these things down and take their power for myself. When the game finally lets you fight a dragon face to face, it kicks on the main theme “Sons of Skyrim” and allows you to go steel to scale against a massive lizard straight out of medieval fantasy. Doing enough damage to a dragon force it to crash land and then jumping on its head and embedding your axe in its skull is only topped by watching the monster disintegrate before your very eyes as its iridescent life-force flows into you, imbuing you with the immortal power of a dragon. Killing your first Dovah is only the tip of the iceberg and having these creatures appear at random in the wild gives you countless opportunities to test your mettle.
1. Hearing “The Singer’s Song” in Bastion
Seeing as I’m a person who loves music, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my favorite moment of 2011 bears a lot of similarity to my top choice of 2010. Bastion used audio to such great effect with the Narrator guiding you through your quest to rebuild the shattered world of Caelondia, but even his soothing voice is topped by “The Singer’s Song”. Coming out of nowhere during one the of the game’s levels, the haunting melody immediately sets the mood and even appears a couple times during a different level. Despite all the great music in Bastion, this piece is easily my favorite and has become one of my top video game tracks of all time. It’s got all the ingredients: it’s catchy, appears during an iconic moment, and is used just sparingly enough to make you love it when it shows up again.
Runners Up: Having a “Battlefield Moment” in Battlefield 3, assaulting The Daedalus in Saint’s Row the Third, four player co-op in Magicka and the Needle in Dead Space 2
Those were my Top Six Gaming Moments of 2011! There were so many great games this year that it was hard to pick just six, as you can seen by the four candidates in my “Runners Up” section.
So what about you guys? Do you agree with my list? Do you have some picks for your top moments of 2011? Go!