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A Year of Gaming: 2011 Edition (Updated March 28)

My original plan for my little gaming hobby in 2011 was to start a focus on quality of games rather than quantity of games. Buy fewer games, play fewer games, but really try to enjoy the time I spend with my 360 and PS3. Now that the 2011 is underway, my plans have changed. I'm sure this does not a surprise for any of you who've followed my ramblings over the years. The only thing more fun than making plans and setting goals is making new plans and setting new goals.

2011 will be a busy year. I hadn't realized how many titles were coming out that I would want to play. Although I've come up with my most anticipated games for 2011, there are going to be many more titles that I'll buy and play. I've also decided to make a push and play as many superhero-themed games as possible.

Current and Completed Games
  1. Portal: Still Alive
    When I first picked up Valve's Orange Box back in 2007, I was only planning on playing Half-Life 2. I knew nothing about Portal. It was only after a friend's insistence that I gave Portal a shot; I'm glad I did. Portal is an incredible puzzle game that really forces you to change the way you think about time and space. There is no better feeling that coming up with an elegant solution to a seemingly impossible puzzle using nothing besides your wit...and the portal gun!

    Still Alive was a great return to Portal for me. Although the main story took me very little time to complete, I still enjoyed matching wits with GlaDOS again. The 14 new advanced chambers were quite enjoyable to play. Not quite as difficult as Portal's original 6 advanced maps - which is not a bad thing. Trust me. I still had to take a quick peek online to remind myself of how to beat some of the advanced maps.

    I'm now really looking forward to playing Portal 2 when it arrives sometime this Spring!
    [Status: Completed]

  2. Darksiders
    I never played any of Sony's God of War series due to some of the more "adult" themes in that game (i.e. breasts, sex, breasts and sex, and so forth). Darksiders seemed like a good alternative and I'm happy with the game thus far. Voice acting and graphics are very good. The story gripped me from the very beginning: I'm a sucker for the whole Heaven vs. Hell thing. And I am loving the amount of gore and over-the-top violence in this game. It's guilt-free violence too because I've only been asked to kill zombies, demons, and some pretty vicious angels. Darksiders seems like it will be a fun, gore-soaked ride and I'm on board with that!

    UPDATE: It took me a solid 17 hours to finish off Darksiders. Boy oh boy, what a great game! I don't remember much about my time spent with Zelda but I'll certainly remember Darksiders. Everything about this game exhibited a high level of polish and care by the developers. The game gave me the sense of being War, all-powerful Horseman of the Apolcalypse, while also giving me suitable challenge from start to finish. Amazing action-adventure game! I can't recommend Darksiders more highly! Buy it right here, right now!
    [Status: Completed]

  3. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
    I never got the chance to play Heavenly Sword for the PS3. I guess I could go back at any time to play the game but I don't see any point now that I've got Enslaved. I'm a sucker for great graphics, story, and voice-acting and these are the areas where Enslaved excels. I can't wait to join Monkey, Trip, and Pigsy on their odyssey. I'm hoping to start Enslaved on or before my birthday later this month!

    UPDATE: Enslaved was a fun little adventure game with some great highs and some unfortunate lows. Read my mini-review here.
    [Status: Completed]

  4. CSI: Fatal Conspiracy: It's hard to describe to another gamer why I'd spend my time playing Ubisoft's CSI games. Although the easy 1000 gamerpoints is a big plus, I'll admit that I like pretending I'm a CSI and solving cases. Graphics and voice acting are not the greatest. But the stories and characters are all fleshed out enough to keep me coming back for more.

    UPDATE: Solved five cases, put a drug lord, and had lots of fun playing detective. Graphics sucked but the writing and voice acting easily made up for that one glaring sore point in an otherwise well-done budget title.
    [Status: Completed]

  5. Iron Man: I'm a sucker for a good super-hero game. I'm also a sucker for terrible super-hero games. Either way, I'm looking forward to playing Iron Man. I just finished re-watching Iron Man movies and I really like what Jon Favreau did with the license. Here's hoping that I'll get some enjoyment out of this latest Marvel movie tie-in game.

    UPDATE: Finished Iron Man in record time and the ending could not have come fast enough. A mindless slog through hordes of mindless enemies trying to pound Iron Man into submission with random gunfire, energy beams, and missiles. This a true movie tie-in game, nothing more, nothing less.
    [Status: Completed]

  6. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare: I loved playing Red Dead Redemption last year. Rather than focus on controversy, Rockstar put their efforts into making a gorgeous and beautifully crafted world filled with interesting characters, intriguing plots, and incredible action! I can't wait to jump back into Red Dead again. Of course, the zombies should change things up nicely. I'm really looking forward to running into a zombie bear or two. Those things look horrifying...

    UPDATE: I finished Undead Nightmare. Overall, I'm happy that I played it. It's definitely one of the more substantial DLC offerings I've ever played in terms of quality and length. I am getting a little sick of zombies but was happy to spend a little more time with John Marsten.
    [Status: Completed]

  7. Call of Duty: Black Ops: The more recent Call of Duty games have really changed my mind about military shooters. I think Infinity Ward and Treyarch are both pretty good at delivering intense action and incredible set pieces. I'm looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about with Black Ops. I'll likely focus on the single-player campaign and leave the multiplayer to younger and more competitive gamers. I just want to shoot some bad guys in the head and save the world.

    UPDATE: Saved the world, shot a bunch of bad guys, and had fun doing it. Not the greatest Call of Duty title out there but still pretty good. Much, much better than Treyarch's last outing: World at War is ridiculously difficult, unforgiving, and unfair.
    [Status: Completed]

  8. X-Men: The Official Game: I'm only playing this game because of it's subject matter. I like the X-Men. Hopefully I'll feel the same way after finishing this game. From the trailer and the reviews, it looks like I'm in for a unrewarding grind through a borind game. If this game is any good, I'd be astonished.

    UPDATE: Yuck - this game wasn't very good. While I enjoyed the comic book look and feel of the cut-scenes, I hated the gameplay. X-Men was long, tedious, unsatisfying, and the achievements were boring and hard to get. I'm glad I won't have to play this game ever again.
    [Status: Completed]

  9. Call of Duty: World at War: I decided to play the prequel to Black Ops right away rather than wait. I figured my time spent playing Black Ops would prepare me for the rigors of WWII combat Well - that hasn't worked out for me all that well. As I said above, World at War is ridiculously difficult, unforgiving, and unfair. Enemies won't stop spawning. The German and Japanese soldiers love throwing endless streams of grenades. And the guns I have to use are crappy WWII guns and not the cool modern guns that I've grown accustomed to in the latest and greatest FPS games. World at War is definitely a major step backwards: it is more reminiscient of Call of Duty 3 than it is of the Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare games. At least Jack Bauer is around to bark out orders.

    UPDATE: I made it as far as the mission "Eviction" on Hardened mode before I lost my sh*t and finished the game on Casual difficulty. I just didn't have the patience to slowly work my way through Berlin's subway system after attempting just such an incredible feat for a couple of hours. I kept getting to the same spot and then quickly dying. Nothing worse than playing the same 5-10 minutes of a game only to make a small mistake, die, and start again at your last checkpoint (à la Demon's Souls). I enjoyed World at War but I am glad it's over. Time to play something a little less intense...
    [Status: Completed]

  10. Mini Ninjas: Although I may play a little more You Don't Know Jack and Borderlands after finishing up World at War, I'd like to play something a little less serious and kid-friendly in the near future. Mini Ninjas seems to fit the bill! According to what I've read about the game, it's an easy little romp through a world filled with ninjas, animals, and some little guy carrying a big hammer. Sounds delightful!

    UPDATE: Mini Ninjas was a cute game. Gameplay was surprisingly solid - more so than you'd expect from this type of title (action-platformer designed for kids). The graphics and charm of the game went a long way to selling the title. Some easy achievements, quality voice acting, and funny cinematics really made this game stand out from the crowd in a delightfully unexpected way.
    [Status: Completed]

  11. Dark Void: Did you know that it's been two months since I last played a game starring the voice of Nolan North? Well, that situation's been remedied by playing Dark Void. I haven't played very much of the game so far. From the first couple of chapters, it appears that the game is about robots who live in the Bermuda Triangle. And there are rocketpacks! I'm interested to see if Dark Void can deliver a solid gaming experience. So far, so good.

    UPDATE: Dark Void was short but sweet. There were very few moments, if any, where I felt that the game was dragging. There was excitement and intense combat around every corner in this game. I really enjoyed the mix of ground and air combat: what else would you expect from the developers who worked on Crimson Skies? All in all, Dark Void was fun little diversion that offered just enough thrills, spills, and achievement points to put a smile on my face.
    [Status: Completed]

  12. 3-on-3 NHL Arcade: I bought EA's 3-on-3 hockey for $5 and got just enough enjoyment out of the game to warrant the purchase. Online competition was pretty fierce. I don't think I scored more than 3 goals combined across the few online games that I tried. At least I picked up a rare 100% completion in fun and fast-paced XBLA title!
    [Status: Completed]

  13. Harm's Way: Like many of you out there, I got this game for free as part of a Microsoft/Doritos game development promotion thing. Hey - I'm on a diet so you'll have to excuse me for glossing over the specifics of a contest run by company that makes the best tortilla chips in the world. Man, I could really go for a bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos. I remember when Cool Ranch used to be my favourite but not anymore. I also like that Cheeseburger hungry...Anyway, I picked up all of the achievements in Harm's Way and will never play it again. Not a bad game but there are better games out there. Given the price I paid for the game, I'm happy that I got a chance to play this driving/shooting game and pick up an easy 200 achievement points.
    [Status: Completed]

  14. Doritos Crash Course: For a free XBLA game (sponsored by Doritos), Crash Course was a pretty good game. The game made me think of shows like Takeshi's Castle or Wipeout: get your little guy from one end of an obstacle course to another. The game was well-presented, making good use of Xbox's Avatars. Watching my little guy jump, dance, practice karate, and moonwalk were all very entertaining to watch. Unlike the other free Doritos XBLA game, Harm's way, Crash Course's achievements are not that easy to pick up. I'm not sure how much practice it would take to earn Gold medals on each of the 15 courses: more time than I was willing to put in. All in all, Crash Course was good game made great by its amazing price!
    [Status: Completed]

  15. Undertow: I don't know why I do this to myself. I get a free game and feel compelled to finish it regardless of the game's quality or "fun" factor. In Undertow, each level (save for a few exceptions) plays out in the same way: take over enemy spawn points, protect your own spawn points, and kill the enemy. The entire game takes place under the sea. For the record, the addition of Sebastian the crab from The Little Mermaid would have made Undertow much better. As it stands, Undertow was a budget XLBA title that took itself too seriously. Gameplay was generic and boring. To make matters worse, most of the achievements are too hard or too time-consuming to unlock. Much like the fish sandwich I'd get from a chip wagon downtown, this game left a bad taste in my mouth.
    [Status: Completed]

  16. Infinite Undiscovery: I have a habit of starting RPGs and quickly casting them aside in favour of shorter games that offer a quicker payoff. That ends today. Time to pay the piper and put in whole ton of hours playing through a nonsensical game filled with interesting characters and bizarre enemies. I'm looking forward to this...I think.

    UPDATE: I finally finished Infinite Undiscovery. In the end, the game wasn't bad...but it wasn't all that great either. I can't believe the number of instances where you can easily go for an hour without hitting a single save point. You invariably end up running into a tough boss fight (or a series of insanely tough boss fights), dying, and being forced to reload from your last save. I hate losing hours of work. To put it into perspective, my final save in Infinite Undiscovery showed me having played a total of 26 hours. I actually put 41 hours into the game in real life. That's 15 hours of retracing my steps!! And that's why Infinite Undiscovery is a mediocre game at best. I am incredibly happy to be moving on, able to finally put this game to rest.
    [Status: Completed]

  17. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11: It's that time of year again! Spring is just around the corner and that means that The Masters will soon be here! There's nothing I love more than playing video game golf in the Spring. I was considering shelling out the full $60 for PGA Tour 12 (featuring The Masters) but I chickened out. I'm going to first play Tiger Woods 11. If things go well, I may splurge and get PGA Tour 12 as well in a month or two. Regardless, it's time to hit the links!

    UPDATE: It took me a whopping 32 hours to finish off Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. I've got all but one achievement. I should be able to pick up the last 15 point achievement (Couch Potato) as soon as EA decides to upload a video to the "Latest News" section. I won't hold my breath. Looking over the forums, I can only see a couple instances of EA actually putting a video up and allowing people to unlock this achievement. I think my best bet is to check back with the game on March 29th when Tiger Woods 12 hits stores. I'm hoping that EA will take this opportunity to advertise the new release with a trailer.
    [Status: Completed]

  18. Torchlight: Torchlight is basically Diablo. And it's available on my Xbox 360 console. And it's awesome! Love the music; great atmosphere; fun combat; interesting loot; solid feel and controls. Yep - I really, really like this game! I'm looking forward to spending a bunch of time with Torchlight over the next week.

    UPDATE:It only took me 16 hours to finish off Torchlight and pick up all 12 achievements. I'm pretty sure that I could have kept playing indefinitely, thanks to a post-game dungeon filled with all sorts of nasty creatures. Fun fact: I only died once during my playthrough on Normal (a.k.a. Easy) difficulty. I died one hit away from picking up my last achievement. I died, restarted from the beginning of the level (so as to not lose any Fame), and made my way back to the creature that felled me. One hit pushed my Fame ranking to the "max" level (33) required for the Superstar achievement.
    [Status: Completed]

  19. Blue Dragon: I've had Blue Dragon sitting on my shelf for a long, long time. I recall putting about 10 hours or so into the game about 3-4 years ago and always meant to get back to it. Well, the time to play Blue Dragon is now. I've played a lot of action games and need a change of pace. Blue Dragon, if I recall correctly, is as slow-paced as games come. I wonder how long this game will take to finish? I've heard 40-75 hours is pretty standard. Wish me luck...
    [Status: Now Playing]

  20. Video Games | Blue Dragon | X06 Trailer
    Xbox 360 | PlayStation 3 | Nintendo Wii | PC Games

  21. Beyond Good & Evil HD: I'm a little ashamed to admit it but I never finished Beyond Good & Evil when I had it for my PS2. I don't know what happened but for one reason or another, I gave up on the game. I guess I just wasn't as big a completionist in the days before achievements and trophies. I will be finishing BG&E HD this time around and I can't wait. I've had to push back my fifteenth playthrough of Borderlands but I'm sure it'll be worth it.
    [Status: Next Up]

Secondary Games
Rather than list multiple titles under the "Now Playing" category, I figured I might as well create a separate category for "secondary games". These titles are primarily skill-based games that I'll play off and on throughout the year. What distinguishes these games from the games listed above? These are games that I'll likely not finish or sell because they are too good to give up or too hard (yet rewarding) to complete on any sort of timeline. These are also games that I highly recommend to most gamers looking for some highly replayable and rewarding fun!
  • Pinball FX 2
    Pinball FX 2 is the best pinball game that I've played in a long while. I love the table themes! I love the ball physics! I love the online leaderboards and friendly competition with fellow pinball junkies. And most of all, I love the low price of 200 MS points per table. I'll be happy to keep buying tables from Zen Studios whenever they see fit to release more. All in all, Pinball FX 2 is a tremendous game that I think anyone should enjoy!

  • You Don't Know Jack
    Much like video game pinball, I spent a good portion of my twenties playing a lot of You Don't Know Jack on my PC. At the time, no other trivia game came close to delivering humour or style like the YDKJ series of games. I picked up the latest copy of You Don't Know Jack for my Xbox 360 and I'm happy to say that the YDKJ series still holds the title for best quiz game ever!! I'm amazed that the guys and gals at Jellyvision have always been able to meet and exceed all of my expectations of a video game. You Don't Know Jack is funny, challenging (well, the first time you see a set of questions), and unbelievably entertaining whether playing alone or with friends. This is a great game that I'll be playing for a long, long while! I find the game is a perfect nightcap for me: it gets me laughing, relaxed, and helps me forget about any troubles that might keep me up at night.

    For the record, this game is the only game to ever get me laughing so hard that I was unable to continue playing. Candlenut?! Hilarious!

  • Trials HD
    An addictive yet frustrating puzzle game featuring an unnamed rider, a customizable motocross bike, and absolutely insane tracks. I tend to play this game in short spurts because it gets damned near impossible at times once you hit the hard and extreme tracks. I look forward to challenging my reflexes and sanity with Trials HD over the next twelve months.

Coming Soon
I love to think about the games I've finished, the games I'm currently playing, and the games I'm hoping to spend some time with in the near future. I've put together a little list of titles that I'd like to play before 2011 comes to a close. I've tried to order these games according when I'll play them. There are factors that may affect a game's order or inclusion on this list (e.g. retail pricing, review scores, gamer reception, etc.). Look for this list to grow in the coming months as my resolve to conserve money gives way to my desire to bathe in my unbridled greed.
  • Borderlands
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Fallout: New Vegas
  • Dead Rising 2: Case Zero
  • Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light
  • 'Splosion Man
  • Stacking
  • Costume Quest
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Mass Effect 3

This post first appeared on The Greedy Gamer, please read the originial post: here

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A Year of Gaming: 2011 Edition (Updated March 28)


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