The 8 must-rent games of 2011

5. Red Faction: Armageddon

GR's Review

Don’t worry if you’ve never played a Red Faction game before; Armageddon may actually appeal most to players new to the series. The last installment, Red Faction: Guerrilla, was an open-world game, and fans were shocked that developer Voltion would return to a more linear structure. If you’re not packing such expectations, though, Armageddon’s creative weapons and over-powered vehicles sequences will likely be a pleasant surprise.

Why it shouldn’t be missed: The Red Faction games aren’t known so much for their continuity, as their stories tend to be spaced years or even decades apart; instead, the series has more of a unifying design concept: make the environments as destructible as possible. With Napalm Lasers and Singularity Cannons, Armageddon gives you the means to level the place, and introduces the Nanoforge, a tool for rebuilding whatever you bust up. Watching structures leap back to life feels like controlling time in a Prince of Persia game. It adds a new layer to the series’ trademark destructiveness, and gives Armageddon’s combat an interesting twist.

Reason it’s a rental: With its repetitive enemy design and traditional structure, you may not want to make Armageddon a permanent member of your videogame library. However, if you’re a fan of the series, you should check it out eventually, since THQ has said it will be the last Red Faction game. Sad, but with a name like Armageddon, one should expect the end of all things.

4. Rango

GR's Review

A good game based on a kid’s movie is a rare thing, but a quality adventure-platformer that captures the quirk of its source material? That’s unheard of! Rango is a rare beast indeed. The game may not have the movie’s voice cast (no Johnny Depp as the titular lizard), but it still captures the film’s bizarre visual flair.

Why it shouldn’t be missed: Did you see the movie? Do you like the Ratchet and Clank games? If you answered yes to either question, put Rango directly on your must-play list. Rango’s action and platforming borrows heavily from the R&C series, but its humor and aesthetic make it too unique to be called a knockoff. It’s visually varied to the extreme, and just like the movie, too out-there to be considered purely for children.

Reason it’s a rental: Clocking in at around four hours, you could call it quality over quantity, but there’s no getting around the fact that Rango is short. Younger players may get their money’s worth, but Rango’s length makes it a perfect rental.

3. Dead Island

GR's Review

We’re not sure what got more coverage, the trailer or the bugs, but Dead Island is an ambitious piece of survival horror with a brilliant concept: it’s an open-world zombie RPG. Combat with the undead is based around throwing or melee weapons, all from a first-person perspective. There’s a system for crafting improvised tools of destruction, RPG-style leveling, and perks that let you flesh out your own style of zombie ass-kicking. Best of all, there’s online co-op and an effective matchmaking system to help you band together with your fellow survivors.

Why it shouldn’t be missed: It’s no Skyrim, but Dead Island’s four-player co-op makes an excellent complement to the open world and first-person melee combat. If the Elder Scrolls’ high fantasy setting doesn’t do it for you, Dead Island’s grit and gore may be more your speed. For a truly unique experience, try the analog control mode, which lets you control the swing of your weapons with the analog stick.

Reason it’s a rental: Like so many vacation destinations, Dead Island is great to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Even after several patches, it still has a reputation as buggy and unreliable. Saved games go missing, as do hard-earned custom weapons, and the combat is skewed in favor of the melee-based characters. Plus, there’s no online pass, meaning renters are free to try the online co-op, Dead Island’s standout feature.


  • jackthemenace - December 22, 2011 1:49 p.m.

    Only the top 3 I even considered: -Dead Island I passed up on because I didn't have the money, and instantly breathed a sigh of relief; -RAGE I bought and had fun with for a couple of weeks, before finishing it a second time and trading it in; and -Shadows of the Damned I rented on release day, played through it once, realised there was no replay value, and cursed the Gods of Metal for making something so amazing with such a huge drawback. Still, I do not regret any of it, and will almost definitely rent both Dead Island AND SotD (again) before 2012's out.
  • talleyXIV - December 21, 2011 12:23 p.m.

    Dead Island should be number one. Bought during the third week when all my friends were getting it. After seeing the ending, I will never forgive myself for buying it. You could put Portal 2 on the list, but that game is just too badass to only rent it.
  • The_Tingler - December 21, 2011 8:04 a.m.

    I disagree with Dead Island being on this list, that's a huge game. It's more a "wait until it's patched even further" game. I'd rather go with LA Noire, just for the "try before you buy" point.
  • rob619 - December 21, 2011 6:50 a.m.

    Just ordered shadows of the damned for rent :) I would say that why doesn't everyone just rent games?! I have been purchasing games for years, then they just sit around after completion! Rent games, play them to your content, send back new game arrives
  • bass88 - December 21, 2011 3:17 a.m.

    I think Alice: Madness Returns should be on this list. It's one of those games that you could become one of your favourites (it's my favourite game of the year, despite having issues with it). The combat is great but the platforming, while fun (think late 90s), is repetitive. But the writing is rich in subtext and themes and the excellent artwork and score lingers with you long after you finished it. I don't really care for this new trend of re-imagining children's stories. It's really just a case of desaturating the visual aesthetic (i.e. Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood) and nothing else. But American McGee's take is far more intelligent and is a brilliant exploration of a traumatised mind. Fans of Silent Hill 2 will probably like it.
  • azureguy - December 21, 2011 3:16 a.m.

    Good list overall, especially Red Faction Armageddon. The game actually offers a decent amount of replayability with all the weapons and New Game +, but ultimately really is a bit short. Since it's not 60 bucks anymore, though, I would recommend to buy it. But if you're really low on budget, then yes, it can be finished in 2 to 3 days (I rented it myself on PS3 and bought it on PC afterwards).
  • shawksta - December 20, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    Great List! I feel ya man on Rage, we all expected more, and i enjoyed the game but come on, that ending was just "......whut........its over!?!?"
  • codystovall - December 20, 2011 5:36 p.m.

    I rent games I would otherwise buy because im poor so I wont be renting any of these. Though I did already rent shadows of the damned and returned it out of boredom. Sorry Steve Blum.
  • FrozenImplosion - December 20, 2011 4:56 p.m.

    Woah woah woah, I'm glad you guys are giving Rage and Shadows of the Damned the recognition they deserve, but I have to say that Rage is really NOT short, and neither is DMD. Rage can easily eat up 30 hrs if you actually take the time to explore and think of fun combat strategies (which is kind of the point of the game). And Shadows of the Damned has been called short by so many people but I don't understand it, the campaign takes a good 10-12 hours the first time through. And personally when it was over I went and played it again. Really, I don't understand the utter fixation these days with critical reception being proportional to game length -_- And I'm not talking about you guys in particular, especially since I've heard complaints about length on these two from nearly every site. It's just sad to see good games be written off sometimes just because of length. I mean for real, look at Portal 2. That game was PHENOMENAL, and superbly put together- BUT it was only about 15 hours. I think every reviewer mentioned the length at one time or another. I think we might all want to just try and understand that quality takes TIME to make, and therefore quality games may end up being shorter Just look at Skyrim, which is amazing. AMAZING. But it's littered with bugs because Bethesda was being so ambitious and trying to create, essentially, an entire world. tl;dr Length =/= quality, quality =/= length.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - December 20, 2011 5 p.m.

    The main reason we mention length in this particular feature is that a short game means a manageable rental. The shorter a game is, the more tempting it is to do as a rental, even if the quality is high (like Rage). Rage felt a bit short to me, and I did most of the side missions. The feel of shortness wasn't due purely to the hours played, but how hyped the game was for being "huge" and "open-world" and then it wasn't nearly as much of those two things as I expected. Also, due to the game's story ending just as the larger quest seemed to be getting started, it felt unfinished, and therefore short.
  • camilo-hache - December 20, 2011 4:24 p.m.

    Isn't Jurassic Park a download only game?
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - December 20, 2011 5:19 p.m.

    Nope, it's retail, and $40 brand-new.
  • RebornKusabi - December 20, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    No, it has physical copies which I've seen in stores.
  • The_Tingler - December 21, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    In the US it has a boxed version on PC/PS3/360, everywhere else it's PC and download only.
  • Moondoggie1157 - December 20, 2011 4:03 p.m.

    I have to agree with all of these, as much as I loved Shadows of the Damned (and dont regret paying full price for it) I don't see much replay value. Word of advice, play it on hard, it makes the game much more fun (plus more trophies, word)
  • playswithsquirrels - December 20, 2011 3:57 p.m.

    Before I rent these, I'll rent Ace Combat, but these are on my rent list...
  • Moondoggie1157 - December 20, 2011 4:04 p.m.

    Still looking for copy of Ace Combat, the demo made me hard. Hard like rock.
  • playswithsquirrels - December 20, 2011 5:57 p.m.

    Amazon has had it for 25 bucks the last few days... I plan to rent to test if I want to buy. Demos are always so short...
  • Baron164 - December 20, 2011 3:45 p.m.

    I loved Red Faction Guerrilla and was upset about the return to a linear structure but I did finally pick up Armageddon and even though I had really low expectations I really enjoyed it.

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