Sunday Thoughts: Surprises

2011 has been an immense year for gaming. I feel extremely privileged to have reviewed the games I have here at TSA, although there have been times over the last couple of months where I felt my brain might just give up and implode (I think my record was four reviews in a week).

This intense concentration on the world of gaming can, unfortunately, lead to feeling a bit burnt out and jaded with things. There are only so many hype trains one can board in a year, especially as a good deal of them seems to end in a massive derailment somewhere between bugsville and online pass boulevard. As someone responsible for bringing you the news each day I feel it’s necessary to try and build a sense of enthusiasm, rather than needless hype.

In fact, hype concerns me. A good example is the upcoming announcement of The Last of Us. It’s been hyped to the absolute maximum, to the point where no game could possibly live up to expectations. Saying that, by the time this is published I’m guessing the VGA trailer will have gone live, so you can see for yourself if I’m right (You’re WRONG – Ed). Thankfully, 2011 has also played host to a number of wonderful surprises, coming out of nowhere to provide some of the year’s most enjoyable gaming.

[drop2] I think my most memorable surprise award goes to Warhammer 40K: Space Marine. When Peter offered up the review code for the game I was slightly hesitant. I’ve never been into Warhammer stuff, and there had been a few murmurings from other games journos over Twitter that perhaps the game was a bit stale. Never-the-less I took the plunge.  From the second the opening cutscene had finished I was absolutely hooked. It’s not the best looking game ever, there’s pretty much zero innovation, and the bad guys sound like Phil Mitchell from EastEnders, but it was such an amazing blast to play through.

It was fun, which is exactly why we play games, right? In fact I remember posting on Twitter about my utter surprise at just how enjoyable the game was.  I’m all up for narrative driven epics, but give me a giant hammer that spits lightening and point me in the direction of twenty or so Orks and I’m a happy bunny.

Another game that stunned me was Bastion. Now, I was actually clued up on this game, so I was expecting to be impressed. What I wasn’t expecting was to be totally blown away. The art, the sound, the narration, the narrative; for me it’s absolute perfection and even now, months later, I still get a funny feeling in my stomach if I listen to one of the game’s music tracks (I have them all on my phone). That’s why I’m so happy that I can get OnLive on my phone, because when my wife hogs the TV watching Home and Away and other such horse manure, I can just sit back, put on a set of headphones and play Bastion.

It pleases me beyond belief that, despite being involved in an industry that demands you pick apart and analyse every game/trailer/press release, there are still moments that can genuinely surprise. As long as this still happens then I’ll follow gaming down whatever path it takes, be it console, cloud or (shudder) Facebook.

I wonder what 2012 will bring. I do like surprises.



  1. Biggest surprise for me is Dead Island. I was expecting a completely different game to the one I got. Instead of an emotional story I got a mindless zombie-fest. It wasn’t a good surprise at all.

  2. The two surprises for me were games from last year but I played this year-Singularity+Vanquish. Utterly breathtaking.

    • Yes Singularity is damn good & Vanquish is awesome I pity the ‘gamers’ who missed on them in favour of last year’s sequels

  3. LA Noire.
    Rockstar have never hooked me like that, and probably never will again. Epic.

    My real biggest surprise was playing Borderlands GOTY after I got it on sale from the PSN.
    I never normally get on with open-world games (probably why Rockstar games normally lose me), but this is just fantastic fun.
    But, as Borderlands didn’t come out this year, my biggest surprise is LA Noire.

    • LA Noire, awful. Borderlands, awesome. Both open world, both trying new things….only one working.

  4. Warhammer was far from a surprise for me, I’m one of the biggest 40K fans out there :D
    Chime: Super Deluxe was a massive surprise for me, and my GoTY.

    • Chime is amazing, after playing it on a 360 I was so happy to discover it was coming to PS3.

  5. Biggest suprise for me. Infamous 2. 100% the best game ive played this year which i wasnt expecting after not being a huge fan of the first.

  6. Having never played the first game, my biggest surprise was Portal 2. Superb gameplay, brilliant voice acting and a witty script made for gaming perfection.

    • Agreed, I’d never played the first Portal either, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It’s a truly brilliant game :)

      • It is, but you should really play the first, It’s just as good,and now fantastically priced.

  7. Biggest surprise for me is how good fitness games are on consoles , i picked up EA Sports Active 2 and The Fight about a month ago and im turning into a lean machine.
    Nothing new this year has grabbed me other than the PSN game Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes .Never been into all that orcs and goblins stuff before but this grabbed me a bit like Advance Wars did. Loved all the usual big hitters too but they where sequels , i guess not that good a year in terms of new original games .
    It must be getting harder and harder for companies other than the big hitters like EA , Sony and Activision etc to bring out a new game because they just havent the funds or backing needed to create a game on todays hardware unlike in the eighties where originality flourished and a huge layout wasnt needed to create a game .

  8. My biggest surprise was Mass Effect 2. After never playing the first and being really hesitant over plunging into Xbox world of exclusive RPGs I was told it would be right up my street.

    Probably one of the greatest games I have ever played….ever. So emerging, so beaatiful, so addictive. Didnt want it to end.

  9. It was Outland for me on PSN. Beautiful graphics, tight controls and a simple idea (switching colours) done perfectly. That was a game I was very happy to get 100% trophies in.

  10. In an unprecedented feeling, LA Noire actually surpassed my sky-high expectations. It’s incredibly rare I play games twice, so it should give you an idea of how much I liked it to know I platinumed it twice, once for me and once for my wife.

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