The 8 must-rent games of 2011

2. Rage

GR's Review

Imagine Mad Max set in painted canyons so beautiful, they’d bring a tear to John Wayne’s eye. That’s Rage, id software’s “mega-textured” vision of the apocalypse. Just take a look at that screenshot. Yes, it really looks that good, even on the Xbox 360, where it spans three DVDs.

Why it shouldn’t be missed: Incredible console graphics, beautifully animated NPCs, and Wingsticks, deadly little bladed boomerangs. Id fans from way back will appreciate Rage’s old-school approach; there’s no cover system, and you can quicksave and carry a ton of guns, just like the good old days.

Reason it’s a rental: Despite all those discs, Rage’s campaign is only average length, and has you revisiting multiple locations. Plus, the third act feels rushed, with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it finale, and despite the wide-open spaces, no open-world playground awaits you when it’s done. There’s also little in the way of multiplayer. No deathmatch, id? Really?

1. Shadows of the Damned

GR's Review

With games like Killer 7 and No More Heroes under his belt, designer Suda51 is known for being stylish and weird. Shadows of the Damned is no exception, casting you as Garcia Hotspur, a Mexican demon hunter who battles his way through hell to rescue his girlfriend. Packed full of stylish and bloody encounters with the undead and a rocking Spanish guitar soundtrack, it’s like the beautiful B-movie love child of Robert Rodriguez and Clive Barker.

Why it shouldn’t be missed: There’s a gun called the “Boner,” and you kick demons in the crotch and fight a horse who craps pure darkness. Despite being strange as all hell, gameplay-wise it’s the most reined-in a Suda51 game has ever been. Maybe that’s because Shinji Mikami, of Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry, was Suda’s collaborator. You can feel his presence in the rock-solid third-person shooting mechanics and splashy melee moves.

Reason it’s a rental: It’s too bad Mikami didn’t come up with something like Resident Evil’s Mercenaries mode, because SotD is low on replay value. Some might say it has none at all, but if you’re intrigued by the impressive pedigree, sense of style and lowbrow humor, let this game drag you to hell at least once.

Alex Roth