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The Platinum Chalice Awards 2011, Part 2 – The Best Games of 2011

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BEST FACELIFT: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

You 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.

We 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

Comparing 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

Other 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.

It’s 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

Saints 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

Plenty 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.

What 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)

They 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.

Of 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 achievement, that.


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 companions, 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

What? 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.

Sure, 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.


Runner-up: Catherine

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)

There 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 men.

They 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)

You 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 hearts.  

We Recommend

26 comments

  • Thequestion 121 - January 7, 2012 9:32 p.m.

    What a fantastic article!! All really great games that got the awards! :)
  • Jedipimp0712 - December 22, 2011 4:28 a.m.

    i have listened to the "Exile, Vilify" song probably 100 times, if not more. I would say it is on par with Trentemoller's "Miss You" and goddamn do i wish i will be able to work at Valve one day... Here's to hoping my bachelors in animation and minor in computer science will get me there! ha ha
  • rongunz - December 20, 2011 3:43 p.m.

    no song describes Joker and Batman best the way Deranged by Coheed and Cambria did.
  • kamikaziechameleon - December 20, 2011 2:16 p.m.

    Witcher 2 is a gorgeous game and perhaps my fav of the year but they are lieing if they say it looks better than BF3, firstly the animations in BF3 are peerless and witcher 2 has apparent blending problems. Witcher 2 doesn't even have as good of animations as the like of HL2. there are a number of other absences in the witcher 2 category that carry the case that it is not as good as BF3. I do love the character models for sure, just look the the clothes in the above pic.
  • M_Stachio - December 20, 2011 9:44 a.m.

    So I want to know what ever happened to LA Noire. I thought that was a great game, it had great sidekicks, and memorable characters. it had good gameplay and a well done story. It was also the first of its kind, so why has everyone forgotten it?
  • newgames128 - December 18, 2011 7:43 p.m.

    This is one of the best group of GOTY award choices yet for 2011. Fitting to have best looking PC game followed by best looking console game. I think Gamesradar is the first to get this right.
  • mockturtle - December 18, 2011 2 p.m.

    "[...] It’s hard to think of any Marvel or Capcom fan that wasn’t serviced by [UMvC3] (just so long as you don’t bring up Mega Man, anyway)." Except diehard Ace Attorney Fans were serviced in all the wrong ways (dear god that sounds dirty). Capcom has the nerve to put Phoenix Wright in, while simultaneously denying Ace Attorney Investigations 2 an English release? Ask any AA fan which they'd rather have, and I guarantee you 100% would say AAI2 over Phoenix in UMvC3. Hypocritical bastards, I'll tell you one thing, they're not getting any more of my money till they make this right, that's for sure.
  • LordZarlon - December 18, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    Ironically I don't remember you guys thinking that El Shaddai was all that great when you talked about it on TalkRadar.
  • lemur - December 18, 2011 4:37 a.m.

    OoT got better graphics than halo: CEA?! seriously?!?!?
  • mattwang - December 18, 2011 7:03 a.m.

    It's not better graphics. They are comparing the amount of improvement made between the two iterations of the same game. OoT won because it improved more on the original than Halo: CEA did.
  • FVDub - December 17, 2011 11:08 p.m.

    I want to thank you GR for: 1. Having innovative and entertaining end of the year awards instead of the generic junk thrown around everywhere else. 2. Posting these awards in a timely manner and not dragging it out over a matter of weeks. 3. Giving love to Rayman Origins and Bastion, two of my favorites from this year!
  • closer2192 - December 17, 2011 5:28 p.m.

    I know most people will disagree, but I found Human Revolution to be better than the original Deus Ex.
  • talleyXIV - December 17, 2011 12:55 p.m.

    Ahh by the way, these games that die beautiful deaths also shoot themselves in the foot with their names. Okami has a cool name but it is a different language, it might have sold better if it was called Wolf. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, that game's name is just way too ridiculously long. The only series that pull this off are Metal Gear Solid and Call of Duty, but they both have developed their name and everyone knows them. Instead of calling it "Different language bla bla bla bla bla." Just call it The Ascension. These are just my ideas though.
  • talleyXIV - December 17, 2011 12:47 p.m.

    Wow, I love you guys for saying Dead Island was the best worst game. I couldn't agree more. One of the only games I have ever bought for full price, only because a lot of my friends were getting it. We did one playthrough and bam! The box is now collecting dust! The story was quite laughable.
  • gonzalo29 - December 17, 2011 9:26 a.m.

    Best Game You've Already Forgotten: BULLETSTORM Seriously, you've completely forgot about this game, and it was a pretty good one, maybe it wasn't a heavy hitter like Portal Skyrim or Arkham City, but it was incredibly fun and full of non-stop action.
  • FVDub - December 17, 2011 11:10 p.m.

    Bulletstorm got a 10/10 and was an editor's personal Game of the Year, that's more attention than a lot of other high profile games.
  • HankVenture - December 17, 2011 6:33 a.m.

    Great, it's time to take over the VGAs!! I have to say I agree with you on most of the awards. I do think Jaws shouldn't have gotten best worst game at least from the way way Mikel talks about it, maybe it should of been the game we wanted to be good but didn't turn out that way. but, I never played it that was just the way the review and talk about it on Tdar seemed to lean towards. Best soundtrack we didn't expect...why wouldn't you have expected that? Saints Row 2 had an amazing soundtrack with various artist that were very popular at the time. The Winner for Best of a Bad Situation wouldn't have been the winner without the recent batch of games, I literally just sat in bed for an hour playing yoshi's Island last night (I have never played it before) I really feel like Batman should have won the fat Lady sings. I mean I love both of the endings but with Batman, there was more emotion to it. You had the image of Joker sitting in his office slowly going crazy due to the illness, starting to come to terms with the fact that he might die and then deciding to call batman up and sing him a song basically saying hey without you there is no me. Just hits you hard after you watch the ending and are already shocked.. But from just a musical stand point I understand why Portal 2, it was more impressive as a musical composition. so there you are, I only feel like one of them should have been switched :)
  • mikeylawson - December 17, 2011 3:23 a.m.

    I didn't like Lydia. She was unpleasant. Which is why I sacrificed her to a Daedra.
  • CitizenWolfie - December 17, 2011 3:08 a.m.

    I'm so glad I stuck around for the credits in Arkham City instead of getting up to make a cup of tea or something. I had chills when I heard it and had chills when I just read the last bit of this article. Hamill's performance aside, even the lyrics fit perfectly and it was an inspired song choice. But yeah, "Want You Gone" is pretty much perfect.
  • tiben36 - December 16, 2011 9:49 p.m.

    i cant agree with the soundtrack award, saints row's soundtrack could have been a lot better if they had "better" station (like real reggea instead of that product placement called "the swim")

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