The Top 7... Best games of 2011 (so far)

5. Bulletstorm

GamesRadar’s review

It’s probably fair to say that nobody saw Bulletstorm coming. Of course, Epic’s involvement got us interested, but People Can Fly? The guys best known for that big pile of old-school madness Pain Killer? Truly Bulletstorm was an unknown quantity, and many were dubious of its wise-cracking balls-out excesses from the start. They said it looked too unsophisticated for modern tastes. They said the humor was unintelligent. They said the whole thing was one big stupid joke too far. But they were wrong. Oh so delightfully wrong.

Bulletstorm, you see, is a deeply clever, intricate design masquerading as a big dumb action game. Far beyond simply emulating the “Kill ‘em all!” maelstroms of Doom and its ilk, Bulletstorm re-taught us a more important lesson from the pre-Call-of-Duty days of FPS. Namely meaningful player input in the cause of mastering one’s environment. Bulletstorm’s insanely imaginative weapon-set and its multi-layered combo potential re-empowered players to kill their own way, giving us back the ability to creatively express ourselves on a mammoth scale, using a million different shades of gore. Fun, laugh-out-loud funny, and with immense replay value thanks to its score-attack Echoes mode, Bulletstorm has as immediate an appeal as any shooter around, but the finesse and depth to keep the most technically calculating, second-shaving point-chaser or speed-runner happy for months.

Bulletstorm, you see, is a deeply clever, intricate design masquerading as a big dumb action game. Far beyond simply emulating the “Kill ‘em all!” maelstroms of Doom and its ilk, Bulletstorm re-taught us a more important lesson from the pre-Call-of-Duty days of FPS. Namely meaningful player input in the cause of mastering one’s environment. Bulletstorm’s insanely imaginative weapon-set and its multi-layered combo potential re-empowered players to kill their own way, giving us back the ability to creatively express ourselves on a mammoth scale, using a million different shades of gore. Fun, laugh-out-loud funny, and with immense replay value thanks to its score-attack Echoes mode, Bulletstorm has as immediate an appeal as any shooter around, but the finesse and depth to keep the most technically calculating, second-shaving point-chaser or speed-runner happy for months.

4. Pok%26eacute;mon Black and White

GamesRadar’s review

Even if you don't particularly like RPGs, Pokemon Black/White would still be a smart choice if you had to pick only one game to play for the rest of your life just for the sheer amount of content it contains. With over 600 Pokemon to choose from, each with so many ways to train and customize that two Pokemon are almost never exactly alike, you would have a difficult time exploring all the possibilities within your lifetime.

Beyond the incredibly deep battle and training mechanics we've come to expect from Pokemon, Black/White has raised the bar for online functionality in a Nintendo game – not only do you get the standard trading and battling (which includes a friends list for people you know, plus match-making for finding strangers to play with), but you also get battle rankings, online leaderboards and video chat. And even if you never take it online, the staggering amount of post-game quests and exploration means you still won't run out of things to do. B&W looks and sounds amazing too – it's a showcase for how gorgeous sprite graphics can be, and the soundtrack is lovely and meticulously detailed.

3. Dead Space 2

GamesRadar’s review

The original Dead Space was a grippingly tense sci-fi spin on the survival horror genre, yet it was only a modest hit, which is why many were worried about the prospect of a sequel. Logic and history dictates that any changes would only hurt the franchise, turning off longtime fans while failing to gain any new players. Instead the transformation between the first and second games was exploding with improvements for the series and made the original title seem lacking in retrospect.

The most important update was the added depth to protagonist Isaac Clarke. He went from silent cypher to a character with thoughts, feelings, motivations, and (of course) fears. His journey through the ruined city of The Sprawl is all about him coming to terms with happened to him in the first game, and you watch him grow and change as you simultaneously hack the limbs off hundreds of necromorphs. This welcome bit of character exploration was supported by brilliantly eerie levels like the day care, breathtaking set-pieces like the tram crash, and some of the grossest things that have ever happened to eyes in a game. Dead Space 2 not only proved the original wasn’t a fluke, but that it was just getting warmed up.