GAME OF THE YEAR 2011 (FOR REAL): Portal 2
This was hard. In the six years we’ve been handing out Platinum Chalices, no choice has divided and tested the GamesRadar team more. Usually, we have two obvious contenders and must simply decide between them – 2011, however, presented us with so many objectively outstanding games that even finalizing the list of five nominees was an emotionally charged challenge.
Then again, this wasn’t as hard as you'd think.
Once we focused on what the winner of this award should represent – the absolute best, no caveats, Game of the Year – Portal 2 was and is the clear winner. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is amazing, but only if you still love that familiar formula. The Witcher 2 is phenomenal, but requires an understanding of traditional PC RPG design to fully appreciate. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is life-consuming, but with the unfortunate multitude of bugs that plague it to this day, it’s also potentially soul-crushing. Batman: Arkham City is (cliché alert!) the greatest superhero game ever made, and came closest to taking the top spot, but would we recommend it to those who don’t like Batman or don’t like the styles of play it so impressively blends? Honestly, no.
Portal 2, though, is an experience we feel could and should be enjoyed by everyone – literally everyone. Portal 2 defies genre. To label it as a “puzzler” diminishes the genius with which those puzzles have been blended into the fabric of the world, so seamlessly that you don’t even realize you’re solving them, or how genius you’re becoming yourself through doing so. Portal 2 transcends the tropes, conventions and limitations of what we’ve come to expect and accept from interactive storytelling. You meet hugely memorable characters voiced by hugely talented celebrities, you uncover a deeply developed mythology, and you learn mind-shattering secrets about your own protagonist, yet all of this is accomplished without cutscenes, without excessive menus or prompts, and often without dialogue – the immersion is whole, complete, never broken. Portal 2 is exactly the right length. Every moment serves a purpose and no part is unnecessary padding, yet if you feel it’s too short, you can always lose hours finding the meticulously conceived Easter eggs or joining a friend for the equally one-of-a-kind multiplayer.
Portal 2, in other words, is as close to perfect and pure as a game can possibly get. At least this year. Your move, 2012.
READER’S CHOICE AWARD: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
While we’re confident and implacable in our Game of the Year decision, we also wanted to get YOUR opinion on the matter. To accomplish this, we started a Twitter poll and asked you, our highly intelligent and opinionated readers, to tell us what you thought.
At first, Skyrim seemed like an obvious choice to us, too – but as much as we love it, we can’t in good conscience award Game of the Year to a title plagued by so many bugs. Our readers don’t appear to be nearly as bothered by them, though, and Skyrim quickly emerged as the clear favorite.
@Bux007 called Skyrim “one of the most complete games I’ve played in 5 years,” and many who responded echoed similar sentiments. Clearly, the Dovahkiin’s gargantuan quest to save the Nords is resonating with a lot of you right now – and likely will for some time.
Runner-up: Batman: Arkham City
Interestingly, Arkham City only narrowly beat out stiff competition from Dark Souls and Gears of War 3, the latter of which – in spite of being a great entry in the franchise – didn’t take home any awards from us this year. Portal 2 also made a significant showing in the votes, so at least some of you won’t be enraged by our winner.