Written by Ryan Johnson (RyanDJ) Saturday, 31 December 2011 12:00
2011 has been a great year for the Xbox Live Marketplace, and this is coming from a staunch opponent of downloadable titles. This year has proven to me, however, that the downloadable market offers a variety that the disc-based community cannot achieve.
Printing, distributing and advertising are all things that the big disc-based games have built into their price structure that actually have nothing to do with the game. When a game is digital only, it can be cheaper, eliminating those steps. They can also afford to be smaller: I know that I think twice about a game when it begins its retail life at $20. Even though it is possible for a developer to make a quality title and release it cheaply, it just seems to devalue the inner content when it doesn't have the expected price tag. Online, a shorter game can come out for $15, $5, even $1 and it seems worth a shot. While not comprehensive, I searched through my personal purchases in 2011, looking for the best of the best. I know there are a few I haven't bought that you would put on a "best of" list, but this is MY list. :) Add in the comments what you feel are any glaring omissions.
While I haven't been able to get as deep into this game as I want to, I have been enamored with every moment I have played. A neat story as told by the most dynamic narrator ever to grace a video game.
This game makes me reminisce on some classic PS1 era games, namely the Twisted Metal "spin-off" Critical Depth. Done in the air rather than under the sea, there is a main goal (racing) supplemented by extreme death match weaponry. The controls are simple, the graphics are slick, and it is one game I found myself coming back to many times after I'd be done with most downloadable titles.
Rock of Ages
A very unique strategy game that not only gives you a giant rock to smash everything in your path, but adds the flair of going through the centuries in art. It swaps back and forth from deep strategy in placing your encampments to all out action slaughter as you hurtle your stone toward your enemy's base.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
I know, this came out late last year, but I just found it on a recent Live sale. I played this recently solo, and enjoyed it as an average game. But when I had a friend co-op it with me, I was at first confused, then amazed! In a way very similar to Portal 2, the cooperative missions require two individuals to completely work together, forming a single machine. It's not just two players in one field killng everything, each character has their own special maneuvers that are integral to game completion.
Unfortunately, this game has fallen into the same territory as the board game. I LOVE playing Risk, but it is hard for me to find an opponent. Whether it is my enemy or myself not having the time, or just the lack of fellow Risk players, it is hard to find a crew to play with. True Risk players know that the more, the merrier, but in real life, that leaves a few people with nothing to do for a few hours while the others finish. Online, a crew can get together and pump out a game quickly. I personally consider this a must-buy.
Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime
While critically panned, I found this game to be very fun. I love the general lore of the Ghostbusters, and hope they are able to resurrect the franchise, with or without the original team. If all you read when you heard about this game was the original reviews, make sure to look for reviews regarding the expansion, allowing you to go solo. When your teammates are taking falls left and right, it gets a bit frustrating, but clearing the screen and going on your own gives it its own special flair. Best played as a full team of four humans, though.
I don't quite understand the hype this game gets, but it is kinda fun. Every time I take my 360 to a party and it is found on my hard drive, it's hard to get people off of it. A great purchase, but you would be a fool to not pick it up bundled with The Gunstringer, perhaps the best game Kinect has to offer.
Expansions - 2011 proved to be a year for add ons and expansions for me, namely Rockstar games. An expansion to an already created game allows developers to put more game out without going whole hog in a sequel. Rockstar did it well twice. In Red Dead Redemption, they took the engine and layout of Red Dead and turned it on its head gameplay wise with Undead Nightmare. A calm, cool game able to be played from a distance suddenly became a frenzied dash to ration weaponry and survive the oncoming horde. Meanwhile, LA Noire added further storyline, meshing it within the rest of the game seamlessly as to where I didn't even know what was disc and what was download, as I purchased the Rockstar Pass right when I got the game (which, as we speak, the Rockstar Pass is on sale on XBL). Many games have added content that people feel is tacked on or simply to get a few more bucks out of the players, but Rockstar has proven to me this year that the future of DLC, especially single player, can be exceptionally bright.
So there you have it: My "Best of 2011" for Xbox Live. What are yours? Add them in the comments. Next up for me, the Overall Best: Games before 2011 that no hard drive should be without.