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.