2. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
We gushed about the Witcher 2 not only because it’s just fundamentally an amazing game, but it occupies a unique niche in gaming: it’s a hardcore PC-only RPG set in a bleak, morally corrupt (and ambiguous) world. It doesn’t feel like any other game - even if it does have faults, its strengths shine through so greatly that it blows us away. In no other game will you encounter truly difficult moral decisions that have far-reaching consequences so huge you may just react emotionally when you realize what you’ve done – good or bad, although it’s never black and white.
Let’s also not forget that (if you have a beefy PC) the Witcher 2 is utterly stunning to look at. It may just be one of the best-looking games we’ve ever seen, but it’s more than just crisp textures – it’s the game’s world that is filled with imaginative details that bring it to life and make it feel like a real place occupied by real people with real problems, and this in turn makes it a world you really, really want to take the time to explore and appreciate. It’s a place filled with interesting and complex characters as well as bizarre and gruesome monsters, and the danger around every corner ensures it’s frequently exciting even if it can be frustrating in its total refusal to hold your hand. Besides, what are you, a baby? Figure out how the combat system works yourself! It’s more rewarding to work through it anyway.
1. Portal 2
You can’t possibly be surprised, can you? Portal 2 is not only the sequel to our choice for the very best game of all time – all time! – it’s a sequel that irrefutably improves on that choice in every imaginable way. Some upgrades are obvious, like the longer campaign, the fancier gadgets and the addition of cooperative play. What back-of-the-box bullet points like those can’t tell you, of course, are that the longer campaign still feels as perfectly paced as the original, that the fancier gadgets work as effortlessly and ingeniously as the portal gun or that the co-op is somehow both totally separate from the main game and yet equally compelling and satisfying.
To describe the elements that truly make Portal 2 an unforgettable experience, however, would require spoilers that might ruin that experience. What do we risk saying about GLaDOS, other than that you will fear – but also pity and understand – the infamous villain more than ever by the end? Or about Wheatley, besides the fact that he is surely gaming’s greatest-voiced sidekick? Or about the haunting history of Aperture, the tie-ins with an epic Valve universe and the crazy clever Easter eggs? These are all the things that make Portal 2 so special, and also the things every player should discover on his or her own.
In other words, if you haven’t played Portal 2 yet, stop reading this and go do so immediately. We won’t stoke controversy by declaring it the new best game of all time or anything, but we feel pretty damn comfortable declaring it the best game of 2011 so far, and likely of 2011 period.
Jun 27, 2011
Clear your calendar. Prepare your wallet
In an age of sequels and remakes, these bold new ideas rose above the rest
Timeless. Essential. These are the videogames we cherish, and would still recommend, above all others