BEST FACELIFT: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
know a remake has done its job properly when it renders the original completely
obsolete, and that's exactly the case with Ocarina of Time 3D. If you haven't
played Ocarina recently, it looks and plays the way you remember. But if you
actually compare the two side by side, the improvements are apparent in nearly
every facet of the game. Not only does it obviously look much prettier, but the
3DS version completely updates the controls (and even makes some much needed
tweaks to the Water Temple!), to the point where, when we tried to go back and
play it on N64 (or the GameCube re-release), the older versions felt nearly
unplayable by comparison.
soldiered through the original on N64 for the sake of a striking screenshot comparison, which immediately
revealed the level of effort and care that has gone into the details of every
character and environment, many of which have been completely redone rather
than merely touched up. Despite the graphical overhaul, though, it still feels
completely faithful to the original, so even diehard purists won't find anything
to fault. If you have a 3DS, there's absolutely no reason to ever go back to a
previous release of Ocarina of Time – this
is the definitive version.
Runner-up: Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
Halo to all the “HD” versions of games that released this year isn’t even fair
– the visuals weren’t merely sharpened or cleaned, they were replaced.
Completely, gorgeously, and yet always faithfully to the source. This is how
Halo would look if it were released for the first time in 2011. And in
multiplayer, even the actual combat has evolved, with a loving merge of classic
maps and modern, Reach-style gameplay.
MOST "OH SHIT" MOMENTS PER SECOND: Killzone 3
shooters might toss more bullets at you. Other action games might send more
goons hurtling face-first into your meaty fists. Other racers might have faster
(and, perhaps, furiouser) chases. But few games have such a ridiculous ratio of
non-stop, adrenal-gland-squeezing, oversized set-pieces as Killzone 3. From our
very first eye-gouging Brutal Melee attack to the final, world-destroying fleet
battle, Killzone 3 never lets up.
a gaspingly fast game: We were constantly sprinting from cover to cover,
grabbing ammo on the fly, blasting away while back-pedaling through snowy
mountains, lush jungles, and burnt-out urban landscapes. It’s a varied game:
When not on foot, we sped about on souped-up sci-fi snowmobiles, rode shotgun
on military hotrods, and soared around on jetpacks. But what really kept us
shouting at the TV while clutching the controller were the game’s onslaught of
against-all-odds sequences: leading a hopeless evacuation while ensconced in an
EXO mech; raiding rigs in the icy seas while soaring around in the Intruder;
battling the massive MAWLR, blasting away at the spider-like behemoth while
desperately dashing from cover to cover. In Killzone 3, allies are always
shouting, death is always looming, and something even more spectacular awaits
around every bend. “Oh Shit,” indeed.
Runner-up: Saints Row: The Third
Row: The Third seemed to have been made with one commandment in mind: “throw in
whatever you want, so long as it’s fun.” By the time we were done, we had a
crazy list of “Oh Shit!” moments. Here’s a SPOILER-ific
sampling: driving around with a tiger, punching cars till they explode,
stunning people with farts in a jar, driving a Tron bike and fighting on
F***ING MARS!!! Considering that that’s only a taste of the over-the-top-osity
of Saints, you can see why this was close to our hearts.
MOST POTENT VIDEOGAME CRACK: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
of games have tried to be all things to everyone, cramming in as much cool
stuff as they can in an effort to appeal to as wide a crowd as possible. A few
have even succeeded, but none of them come to mind quite so readily as Skyrim.
In just a few short weeks, it’s completely dominated our collective free time.
Chatter about dragon encounters and dungeons is a daily, if not constant
occurrence in our office. And a quick glance around the internet proves that
we’re far from alone.
makes Skyrim so impossible to put down? Well, it’s pretty, for starters, and
it’s pretty in a way that makes us want to explore as much of it as possible.
It’s also crammed to the gills with things to do; wander in any direction for
five minutes or so, and you’ll find an excuse to go poking around in some
monster-filled dungeon for magical words of power and/or “useful” items to
clutter up your house. But perhaps more than anything else, it’s incredibly
fun; the combat is addictive, the world is beautifully realized and we’re
constantly uncovering cool new things. We can quit any time we want, but why
would we ever want to?
Runner-up: Battlefield 3’s multiplayer
Battlefield 3 is so
mercilessly compulsive because it’s constantly, endlessly gratifying in a
million different ways. While other shooters might have you wandering for a
minute at time simply to find someone to kill, or fill your play time with an
endless repetition of spawn/kill/die, BF3 is a goddamn war theme park. Whether storming an objective, providing mechanical
or medical support, counter-sniping, spotting, creating diversions, or engaging
enemy vehicles via air, water or land, the whole game is so densely layered, so
utterly organic an ecosystem, that every action, however big, small, explosive
or subtle, has immense importance. You always have purpose, so you’ll always come back.
BEST NEW CHARACTER OF 2011: Wheatley (Portal 2)
say that great artists can evoke strong emotions with the simplest
brushstrokes. So what does it say about Valve, then, that the most memorable,
show-stealing, emotive new character of 2011 is basically just a mechanical
eyeball on a rail? With little more to work with than a few moving panels and a
twitchy blue light, Portal 2 gave us a wildly expressive companion who was at
turns sweet-natured, awkward, sinister and dangerously idiotic. When we try to
think of the best thing about the game’s single-player campaign, Wheatley’s
often the first thing that comes to mind.
course, a huge chunk of the credit belongs to Stephen Merchant (longtime
collaborator of Ricky Gervais and co-creator of The Office), a master at
delivering purposely uncomfortable, vaguely insulting banter. As Wheatley, he
handed in a performance that ripped fan-favorite GlaDOS from her comfortable
moorings and became the driving force behind the story, personality and sense of
humor of one of the year’s most critically acclaimed games. No small
Runner-up: Missile (Ghost Trick)
It's difficult to
talk specifically about what makes Missile special without massively spoiling
Ghost Trick's heartwarming story, but suffice it to say that if we updated the Top 7… Canine
Missile would take the highest honor. This top Pomeranian embodies everything
good about dogs, bursting with love, warmth and total devotion. He's willing to
lay down his own life to save the person he loves, but he's not a doormat,
either – he's confident and cherishes his own life deeply, which makes his
sacrifices all the more meaningful. If there's one character this year whose
story arc will make you cry, it's Missile.
CUTSCENES WE ACTUALLY WANT TO WATCH: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
No! That’s just a speck of sand in our eyes. Yeah, that’s right. A bit of
ground-down silica, blown about by the desert winds. We swear we’re not the
type of gamers who get all choked up about a pair of dudes wandering the world
in search of treasure. We’re waaaay
too manly for that. But see, this is Uncharted 3. This is the story of a
lovable, believable, everyman hero who – behind that smirk and beneath that
snark – just wants to do right.
on paper this ripping yarn can sound a bit cliché: one part coming-of-age, a
dash of derring-do, a heaping helping of smoldering rivalries, a smattering of
romance, all wrapped up in a heartwarming conclusion that caps this trilogy in
a sublimely satisfying way. But the story unfolds with such believability – in
the voice-acting, in the scripting, in the animation – that we couldn’t tear
ourselves away for an instant. And it’s also so seamlessly integrated that –
true story – there were moments we sat staring at the screen as control was
returned to us, so engrossed were we in the cutscene and so convincing was the
transition back to Uncharted 3’s virtual world. Now, where’s that hanky? We’ve
got some…sand in our eyes.
The only reason we played Catherine was for
the cutscenes, and we were more than willing to push blocks and be chased by
demon babies to get there. We tagged along with Vincent, whose moral dilemma
presented itself in the form of a weird nightly block-pushing ritual. Do we go
with the sexy and always-in-skimpy-clothing Catherine? Or stick with our
somewhat bossy, eager-to-get hitched girlfriend Katherine? With eight endings
to experience, it was impossible to beat this game that many times for the
cutscenes, so we did what everyone else most likely did – we went to Youtube.
BFF AWARD FOR BEST SIDEKICK: Sully (Uncharted 3)
are friends, there are mentors, there are father figures…and then there’s
Victor “Sully” Sullivan. While Uncharted 3 delivers a dose of romantic tension
via the on-again, off-again relationship between rapscallion Nathan Drake and
plucky Elena Fisher, the real heart of this story is, undoubtedly, Sully. From
the opening scene where Nate and Sully are once again scrapping against
dastardly villains out to separate them from their precious goods, to the
touching flashbacks to a 14-year-old Nate in his first troubled encounter with
Sully, Uncharted 3 is a celebration of the unbreakable bond between these two
have a lot to learn from each other, these two, but their relationship is never
preachy. Quite the opposite, in fact: theirs is a bond forged with blood,
tested with bullets, strengthened by danger. Indeed, the most gut-wrenching
moments in Uncharted 3 come when Sully is in peril and Drake must come to his
aid. Of course, Sully returns the favor, teaching Drake everything he knows,
giving Drake the life of adventure he craves, and standing by his surrogate son
no matter what the cost. By the end of Uncharted 3, Sully isn’t just Drake’s
trusted partner in action, but the bestest friend a gamer could have.
Runner-up: Lydia (Skyrim)
never forget your first. While some followers have
proven to be more powerful or better fitting to our class, you,
Lydia, will always remain close to our hearts as the homegirl begrudgingly
sworn to carry our burdens, tank the enemies we were too weak to defeat on our
own and be left behind when we eventually found a horse to gallop off into the
distance. We accidentally killed you during a dragon battle outside of
Winterhold one snowy day, but your memory will always live on in our