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The Platinum Chalice Awards 2011, Part 3 – Game of the Year

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

We didn’t actually declare a runner-up this year, instead opting for the field of five nominees you saw on the first page, but that doesn’t mean our readers can’t get one. In this case, Batman: Arkham City emerged as the second favorite. @PBC13 said it “achieved pretty much everything I ever wanted in a Batman game… or any game really,” and clearly a lot of you agreed.

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.

That’s the end of our Platinum Chalice Awards for 2011. Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already, and let us know what your winners are in the comments below!

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151 comments

  • Elard621 - March 13, 2012 1:41 p.m.

    Meh, I wanted to see Skyward Sword win. I would dare that a lot of people here did not played that game. They are losing a great experience. Still, I´m happy that Portal 2 won. I think that Skyward Sword was the best game of the year, but I have to recognize that it is the best game being part of the Zelda franchise. That means that it reaches excellence, but not in a new way. Portal 2 on the other hand, reaches excellence being really innovative and new. I don´t like Skyrim, so I won´t comment about it. Arkham City was really great, but we were all expecting it to be what it is(a superb game) when it was announced. That took part of the surprise. Can´t comment about the Witcher 2 because I don´t know enough. Good choice Gamesradar.
  • Thequestion 121 - January 7, 2012 10:51 p.m.

    I'm still thinking about Portal 2 and it's already 2012! I loved how utterly complete and polished the game was. I may just go and play it again to make myself feel like a genius :3
  • cgriff63 - December 22, 2011 11:53 p.m.

    I think alot of people who have commented haven't actually played portal 1 or 2. Mainly because before I played the portal series, I agreed with them, I thought it looked boring and not worth my time. I'd never been one for "puzzle games." then I actually played Portal. and now I agree with everything GR has said about Portal 1 and 2. Truly incredible games (although I would have picked Arkham City for game of the year)
  • i3atRice - December 31, 2011 9:39 p.m.

    Thing is, I own Portal 1, and while it is an AMAZING puzzle game, and does very well in more than 1 aspect, I just can't see it as game of the year potential. And seeing as Portal 2 is more of the same with more features, it just makes me feel like Gamesradar awarded an expansion the game of the year award, which is sad considering how much Skyrim and Batman have improved and added, though I still prefer Batman over Skyrim.
  • timeaisis - December 21, 2011 7:36 p.m.

    Lot of Skyrim vs Portal 2 debate going on here. I think GR choose correctly, though. Let me say this, I absolutely love both games. They're both great. But you can't simply award one game over the other simply because its longer and has more to do. Sure, Skyrim is easy to get lost in, it has thousands of quests, hundreds of dungeons, monsters, characters, etc. It sure is my most played game this year. Thing is, there are obvious flaws. The bugs, obviously, but disregarding that, the pacing is weak, the story lackluster, the writing spotty, and the some of the quests flat-out boring. That doesn't mean the game isn't great, there are GREAT moments in Skyrim, for sure, but there are also piss-poor ones. Like when I kill Lydia accidently for the 5th time. Or the lack of a clear path up a mountain forcing me to platform in a first person game. Skyrim is excellent, but it really has its frustrating moments. Its far from perfect. Portal 2, on the other hand, is probably one of the closest games to perfection I can think of. I was never not having fun playing Portal 2. It was so entertaining. I feel like I got so much more out of that game than any other this year. And that's why I agree with GR. For me, runner up is probably Arkham City, though. ;)
  • joerevs300 - December 21, 2011 1:01 p.m.

    I guess I got lucky up to this point...I'm at a 13MB file in Skyrim (PS3) and outside of a few framerate hiccups I hadn't had a game-breaking bug until this morning. I was trying to get all the Words of Power found, and all of a sudden I got to one of the walls, killed the dragon (the first time I tried) and it wouldn't give me the word of power (You heard the music, you saw the wind whipping, but the word was mostly covered and I tried reloading my save. This time, the dragon just flew off to Timbuktu and I tried to get the word again, no luck. So now I can't continue that side quest and yeah, I suppose I could just use the map but it's really the first major bug I've hit. Well that...and the other one I found on my own today had the dragon's head buried in the ground like an ostrich. I smacked him on the head with my Soul Trapped Ebony Greatsword (been a 3 weapon player, crappy sword at the beginning, Dwarven Battleaxe (Draining Magicka) for the middle and now my Ebony Greatsword, with some archery mixed in) and of course the dragon woke up and flew up, hit him with the Dragonrend and took him out. Still, despite that bug, this is the most incredible game I've ever played, hands down. How you top this...I have no earthly idea but I'm excited to see Bethesda try in my lifetime.
  • realskillz - December 21, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    Seriously portal 2 did gamesradar fully went out of their way to be different and get more traffic to their site didn't even mention great games like uncharted 3 and dead space 2. portal 2 is way too overrated no way that game even come close to triple A titles as skyrim, batman or uncharted 3 when I think of the gems of this year that I would buy day 1 and actually replay them because of how great they were, portal 2 is a weekend rental at best.
  • tichtat - December 21, 2011 7:42 p.m.

    It's a good thing you have 'skillz' in your name; people might have listened to you otherwise.
  • tyler_14_420 - December 20, 2011 6:52 p.m.

    To be fair, Skyrim is not significantly buggy on the PC and the PS3 is infamous for having lots of bugs in Skyrim. I'm curious what platform you were using as the benchmark for judging because my experience with bugs in Skyrim has been miniscule enough that I might just push it over Portal 2. Portal 2 was a phenomenal game but it wasn't revolutionary like Portal 1. It's a very polished game and icnredibly rewarding with great co-op but the depth, content, and overall awe-inspiring impact Skyrim had on me just kinda makes me come to appreciate Skyrim over Portal 2. I've always been a huge fan of Valve but I have to chalk it up to Bethesda here, even if the menu for the PC version is kinda console-ish.
  • robinkurosaki - December 20, 2011 6:21 p.m.

    this is the only thing i hate about gamesradar, there is a ridiculous amount of bumlove for the portal series, i believe they listed portal as the best game of all time(something similar if not that, an there is far better games out there then portal)now saying its goty, it shouldnt even be competing, its massively over rated. there has been masses of better games this year.
  • tyler_14_420 - December 20, 2011 6:59 p.m.

    @robinkurosaki: While I see your point, to be perfectly fair, Portal gets a lot of love from the team because it's unique, original, witty, and incredibly polished. The Puzzle Genre is typically one avoided by the likes of AAA games, with puzzles being a minor part of the game. Games like Puzzle Agent are fun but are a side-show whereas games like Halo and Half-Life take the front. Portal showed that puzzles can be fun and that not everything has to be a OH LOOK AT ALL THESE GUNS AND BLOOD HUR DUR fest to be fun. It showed that characters can be witty, be dynamic, and develop as the plot continues. Portal 1/2 had great character progression and story, casually revealing the relationship between Chell and GLaDoS, the history of Aperture Science, and the true personalities of Wheatley and GLaDoS. The many easter eggs enhanced the story and the story also tied in with the fantastically renowned Half-Life series. So, while my opinion differs slightly, Portal does deserve the love it's getting for it's a fantastic game that broke the mold and showed us how something unique and original can really succeed. The most successful games, as of late, have been all very similar. They are all Action/Adventure and usually the FPS-genre. Portal pushed the envelope to show that combat and generic action (See: Violence) doesn't have to be the major emphasis of a game for it to succeed. My only qualm with Valve is that they are taking their sweet time with the Half-Life series but have already come out with Portal 1 AND 2. Since Portal ties in with the Half-Life series, I'm curious to see if the ending of Portal 2 is a pre-cursor to the next Half-Life game. Ooh.
  • ReasonableFanboy - December 20, 2011 5:25 p.m.

    Although it's not my first choice (it would have narrowly lost to Arkham), I'm very pleased to see Portal take the chalice. I think what I'm more pleased of, though, is to see one site that isn't all over Skyrim's phallus. I'm also glad to see that neither Uncharted 3 nor Gears 3 were even in the running, like they would be for other sources. They're not great enough to stand by the ranks of the rest of these games.
  • rongunz - December 20, 2011 3:51 p.m.

    I confess, I NEVER cared for Portal 2 to begin with, I would've given game of the year hands down to either Arkham City OR Gears of War 3.
  • coltsfanca - December 20, 2011 1:25 p.m.

    As much as I love Skyrim, Portal 2 is one of the funniest games I've ever played, it requires a brain to play it, the ending was great, and it was just an all around solid game that makes you feel smart, while being a fun ride. It's like if these games were movies: Skyrim would be that Oscar movie that shoots straight for the awards, whereas Portal 2 is just that solid, fun, puzzling movie, that might get the nominations but not the Best Picture.
  • Misterscaryface - December 20, 2011 1:10 p.m.

    I really am afraid to say this, but I agree wholeheartedly with choosing Portal 2 as the Game of the Year. However, my personal favorite this year seems to be getting overlooked. Deus Ex: The Human Revolution. By far that game exceeded every expectation I had. The gameplay was tight and well executed. The varying possibilities of how to play the game were awesome too. Feel like storming into the room guns blazing?...Go ahead. Feel like sneaking past this guard and silently taking out another?...Go ahead. Feel like reading all the computers, tablets, newspapers and immersing yourself in the world?...Go ahead. To top it all off, probably the best soundtrack written for a game this year. So, Portal 2 was the obvious choice and deserves everything it gets, it really was a fun and amazing game to play. Deus Ex, however, is my #1.
  • DoctorGordonFreeman - December 27, 2011 3:23 p.m.

    I'm glad that someone agrees with me! Human revolution was a flat out amazing game. Deus ex is my 2nd favorite though. I agree with GR that Portal 2 is truly the game of the year, there's simply nothing not to like. All of these games are amazing though. I was actually shocked at the lack of Littlebigplanet 2 love. Not GOTY material, but one of the year's best in my opinion.
  • quincytheodore - December 19, 2011 11:17 p.m.

    It has to be Skyrim for me, Portal 2 is good and all. But it's been such a long time since I played game like Skyrim. Time truly flies, what initially supposed to be a couple of hours playtime per day, just becomes addiction. More than 100hours and the end is still nowhere in sight, it sucks you in and won't let go. The runner-ups would be; Deus Ex, Batman, Portal 2, Dead Space 2. In that order.
  • gmcb2011 - December 19, 2011 10:13 a.m.

    Gotta agree. I have all of these games right now (except The Witcher 2), and I gotta say, I'm just enjoying playing Portal 2 with the girlfriend at the moment. She's not a huge gamer, but she's been in love with Portal for years, and I love being able to play a game with her that she's so interested in. Skyrim's great, but the bugs have started to get on my nerves a bit with impossible quests; this game has really made my year.
  • A9entOfChaos - December 19, 2011 8:33 a.m.

    Portal 2 was an awesome game, but i beat it and traded it in a week later. Now Skyrim, oh my god Skyrim. I love you. 200 hours in a no sign of stopping. I just got to the main quest "Alduin's Wall" and i'm 200 hours in! Skyrim is the definition of what gaming will be like in the future. Not some puzzle game with funny writing in the dialogue. If anything it goes Skyrim, then Batman, then Deus Ex, and then Dead Space 2. Portal was awesome don't get me wrong, but once you beat it once then there is nothing left to see. Just my opinion though.
  • n00b - December 19, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    kof 13!!! ok I'll go back to play kof 13 and leave you real games playing people alone

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