MMORPG Info Logo Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Saints Row the Third, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

We’ve had a bumper crop of great games this year. Here you’ll find the final selection of year giving us a grand total of thirty-nine games reviewed!

In previous posts this year, Wukung reviewed the following: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Dead Space 2, Kill Zone 3, Little Big Planet 2, Deathsmiles, Bulletstorm, Dragon Age 2, Duodecim, Crysis 2, Portal 2, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection, Razer Onza, Alice: Madness Returns, Yakuza 4, LA Noire, No More Heroes, Duke Nukem Forever and Infamous 2, Renegade Ops, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Blood Rayne: Betrayal, Catherine, Arcana Hearts 3 and Gears of War 3, X-Men: Destiny, Ico HD, Shadow of the Colossus HD, Rage, Dead Rising 2: OtR and Batman: Arkham City.

That’s in addition to the games reviewed in 2010: Darksiders, Bayonetta, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, Mass Effect 2, Dante’s Inferno, BioShock 2, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Heavy Rain, Yakuza 3, Bad Company 2, Half Minute Hero, BlazBlue, Red Steel 2, Disgaea 2, FFXIII, Just Cause 2, Splinter Cell Conviction, Nier, Super Street Fighter IV and Iron Man 2, Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, No More Heroes 2, God of War 3, Transformers, Demon’s Souls, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Crackdown 2, Monkey Island 2, Limbo, Castlevania, Alpha Protocol, Metroid: Other M, Halo: Reach, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Dead Rising 2, Case 0, Vanquish, Fallout: New Vegas, Fable 3, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 and Last Window and Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Gran Turismo 5 and Epic Mickey.


Wukung will share his picks for the best of 2011 in the New Year but first, take a look at this last batch of contenders.

Battlefield 3 (Xbox 360 (played), PS3, PC)

Military shooter which offers the now-common package of both a single-player campaign and multiplayer gaming. As you would expect, the shooting is responsive and satisfying. Featuring DICE’s much hyped, all new Frostbite 2 engine, Battlefield 3 has some impressive environments and visuals. The performance is solid but there is a lot of very noticable screen tear in the single-player campaign. In practice, Battlefield 3 produces beautifully rendered scenes which are so dark and so full of dust clouds and visual effects that you can’t see who is shooting at you. This isn’t a problem in multiplayer, which dials back the effects and overall graphics fidelity, producing much clearer, though still impressive, visuals.

The single-player campaign plot is a Frankenstein’s monster of genre elements. The previous Battlefield game, Bad Company 2, took a more light-hearted, optimistic approach. Unfortunately, Battlefield 3 is generic to a fault. The busy and excessively dark visuals are a frequent problem. The checkpoint system is poor, placement is at times too sparse. Saves fire off with enemies still up, leading to additional deaths when you are sent back to a checkpoint. Checkpoints may also save when you are in a bad position, making it very difficult to recover. The campaign often demands you run through enemy fire: while there is usually seemingly a safe path or time to make your run there is no way to know beyond trial and error, particularly frustrating when a check point sets you back or makes you watch an event. While the core shooting mechanics are strong enough to make the single player frequently fun, there are a lot of serious issues.

Multiplayer, in contrast, is thrilling. The scale of the maps is amazing. The integration of land and air vehicles is extremely impressive and shockingly well balanced with infantry combat. Team games actually reward team work and tactical thinking.

The advancement system is clearly there to keep you hooked but at times acts as a major barrier to entry with some very core abilities with held back for too long. This is particularly frustrating in aircraft where chaff flares aren’t available at the start. This leaves you so vulnerable it requires a fair bit of luck to get even the little experience required to unlock them. There are some interface issues. Worst of all is the complete lack of lobbies. There is a score board between matches which doesn’t allow you to quit, to use the time for customisation or for people to join the session. This means quick-join frustratingly puts you into sessions in progress without any option of joining games which are starting.

Those interested in Battlefield 3 primarily for the single-player component will probably come away disappointed. The campaign doesn’t just fail to live up to the high standards established, at times it is painfully bad. Despite this it does have its moments. The multiplayer aspect is by far the stronger part of this package. Despite inevitable comparisons with Call of Duty, Battlefield 3‘s multiplayer is quite distinct. It is much more focused on larger scale team games and integrating vehicles. Even completely setting aside the single-player campaign, Battlefield 3’s multiplayer stands on its own. It is unfortunate that the otherwise excellent multiplayer is let down by some awful interface choices.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Xbox 360 (played), PS3, PC, Wii, DS)

Military shooter which offers a package of a single-player campaign and multiplayer gaming… deja vu? The story-telling hits a few flat notes with several events that should carry a lot more weight having little impact and some at the other extreme of being heavy handed. The action, however, is pitch perfect. There are no disruptive difficulty spikes and the action manages to be varied enough to not get stale. The real star of the show is the razor-sharp responsiveness of the shooting mechanics, helped along by the steady 60hz frame rate.

Multiplayer is probably the most important part of the package and on this front Modern Warfare 3 has made some steady improvements. Kill Streak rewards in general have been toned down and the support strike package, where your kill streak isn’t reset on death at the cost of less directly offensively orientated rewards, makes a big difference. Killstreaks and the advantages accumulated from constant play perhaps tilts the action in a way that detracts from the shooting experience at times but still gives a compelling experience that will keep fans hooked.

Modern Warfare 3 is a game about iterative rather revolutionary improvement, and that is fine. It does what the last few Call of Duty games did except a bit better. If you are a fan of the series, then you know what to expect. If you have never tried it, then this the best place to start. The same could be said for every game in the series when it was released and likely its successors for years to come. While to some that might be off-putting, Modern Warfare 3 is a lot of fun.


Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3)

Indiana Jones style adventure combining shooting, climbing and two-fisted brawling. As a follow up to one of the most critically acclaimed games of recent years, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3 has a lot to live up to. This is quite possibly the best looking game on any console. The set pieces are bigger than ever and make good use of the moving environments. The story, seemingly treading very familiar ground for the series with a search for a legendary lost city, distinguishes itself in its treatment of the characters and showing them in a new light. Uncharted 3 doesn’t skimp on delivering a spectacle but balances that with human drama. Once the story gets going, it’s hard to put the controller down.

The gunplay is solid as ever but perhaps not as satisfying as some pure shooters. Melee has been greatly expanded on, though as a result it is less useful for quick take-downs in a shoot out. Brawling can be a lot of fun and often adds to the cinematic quality. Shooting while climbing is also new and while rarely used, it adds some fun moments.

By far the weakest element of gameplay is the stealth. Flaky stealth take downs, no option for dealing with multiple close together guards and enemy layouts that seem to make stealth impossible even when it is indicated as an option are some of the more serious issues among numerous problems with sneaking. Alerting a guard means a larger number of more heavily armed enemies will appear aware of your position negating any progress you might have made in sometimes fairly lengthy stealth sections. It is surprising stealth is played up so much since it has seen very sparse improvement from the previous games. The controls leave some buttons a little overloaded meaning depending on some fairly arbitrary quirks of context they can do things you really don’t want. Overall though, the gameplay is excellent, particularly when the game lets you combine agility and climbing with shooting, giving you a lot of versatility.

A very generous checkpoint system sometimes actually breaks the flow of the action. For example, in a chase sequence failure can be quite frequent due to needing to follow a specific but unclear route and uncooperative controls; however, checkpoints are also very frequent. The result is very stop-start. Checkpoints also occasionally can shift you further forward than you were.

While I definitely wasn’t disappointed, I could not help but feel it wasn’t quite as good as Uncharted 2. The awful stealth mechanics left a bitter taste but the main reason was that few of the game’s major locations felt as enthralling as the second game’s. Regardless, Uncharted 3 is technically exceptional, brilliantly presented, thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride. Certainly one of this year’s gaming highlights.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360 )played, PS3, PC)

Open-world RPG from the series that defined open-world RPG. The gameplay has some fairly major weaknesses, such as poor stealth mechanics, occasionally unresponsive controls, overly simple combat and quite a few UI issues. Despite this, it’s still a joy to play. The world is the real star and the gameplay is strong enough to showcase it.

Skyrim feels in near every way a step forward, not just for the series but open world games in general. You can spend days in one corner of the world and still not have exhausted what it has to offer. Skyrim‘s world isn’t just packed with content, it’s full of beautiful fine details that makes you want to explore. There is a thrill in every little discovery and there is a lot to discover, making this one of the most engrossing experiences gaming has to offer. Even though there are some flaws in gameplay, they don’t get in the way too much. Skyrim is both accessible and deep, vast but engaging enough for that not to be intimidating. Skyrim is quite simply a phenomenal game.


Saints Row The Third (Xbox 360 (played), PS3, PC)

Saints Row The Third is a sandbox action game which gives you the chance to engage in criminal activities ranging from assassination to committing insurance fraud by diving in front of cars. It’s hard not to draw comparisons with Grand Theft Auto, which clearly inspired the Saints Row series. Saints Row The Third has much more in the way of spectacle and customisation. Fine tuning your character’s look can be as satisfying a pursuit as the game’s missions and activities. The combat is a lot of fun with surprisingly sharp and pacey shooting mechanics. Setpieces pack the game right from the introductory mission. While not carried out with close to the artistic or technical flare you would expect from the Uncharted series, for example, the setpieces still produce memorable moments of gameplay. The game gives you a lot of latitude to create your own over the top action. For example, one utterly periphery aside gives you a list of targets to assassinate many of which you could kill by bombarding while hovering overhead in a futuristic vertical take-off jet. Vehicle handling is easy but satisfying although driving rarely features heavily in a mission. Co-op is ridiculously fun, allowing two players to roam around the city completely independent of each other if they want but brings them together for missions. Much of the joy of co-op stems from being able to share your creations with friends and strangers.

It is hard to be offended by much of Saints Row The Third‘s violence when it is so ridiculous although the shockingly callous attitude to prostitution and human trafficking is quite jarring. Over-the-top action, a wonderfully ridiculous story and great customisation options all fit together perfectly. Saints Row The Third is a surreal, joyous playground that is slightly mired by not being able to let go of some of the grubbier clichés of the genre.


Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (Xbox 360(played), PS3, PC)

The latest addition to the now annual franchise Revelations featuring the now familiar format of climbing, swordplay, stealth and hopping through history.

Revelations‘ main innovation is the entirely disjointed Den Defence, a fairly awful implementation of tower defence, which is triggered if you gain too much awareness. Ironically, it functions as an effective punishment, encouraging you to manage your awareness level very carefully. The Assassin management from the previous game has been expanded. A series of missions help tie training recruits more into the game.

Unfortunately, complications made to the management mini-game turn it into a micromanagement grind which demands constant attention or to be ignored completely. Bomb crafting gives some fun options to quickly dispatch a few enemies but for the most part can but is rarely needed or particularly useful. There are several first person levels which fill in details of Desmond’s past which are set in mostly abstract environments which feature creating blocks. These segments are occasional frustratingly fiddly, applying gameplay with little similarity with rest of the game. While there are some remarkable flares of presentation in them, they are an odd addition.

There are extra moves available which utilise the new hook blade for both climbing and combat. Tweaks to controls make using ranged weapons alongside melee more seamless. Constantinople, the game’s main setting, has a distinct feel from previous locations. Despite this, it doesn’t feel as large as Brotherhood’s Rome and certainly lacks the variety that the previous game’s environment offered. There are fewer of the setpiece hidden location levels than previous games but those there are the best yet. Some of the full synchronisation optional objectives are intensely frustrating, particularly some of the latter missions which are seemingly more down to luck than skill.

The plot rounds out and closes off both Ezio’s and Altair’s story. Altair’s arc gets something of a short shrift with not a great deal of time dedicated to it but it is well presented and wrapped up. In the present day portion, there is very little advancement of the overarching story of the series. Revelations is very much the third and final act of a story that began with Assassin’s Creed 2 but rather than a triumphant finale, it is much more a bitter sweet epilogue. As part of a long running story the plot is quite introspective but as a result, it ties up enough loose ends to allow the series to break dramatically new ground with its next instalment.

Multiplayer returns and still feels like a very much tag-on focusing on a skill set completely distinct from the story. The changes are utterly iterative and it plays very much the same as before. Even some maps from Brotherhood return. Despite this it is still enjoyable and offers something different as multiplayer experiences go.

Many of Revelations‘ innovations are a disparate patchwork which detracts from the action. What the game does well is carried over from previous titles. Revelations has a handful of welcome tweaks and refinements to the core gameplay but doesn’t fix some lingering frustrating issues with the controls. However, Assassin’s Creed is a remarkable series, and Revelations is a great game. Unlike Brotherhood though, with Revelations it feels like the annual release schedule has taken its toll.



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