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Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

(Sony Computer Entertainment; US: 1 Nov 2011)

12



Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception



Uncharted 3 is an exciting game on many levels. Most obviously, its spectacular visuals and engaging action sequences set it apart from every other game out there. However, Uncharted 3‘s dedication to immaculate presentation goes beyond bombast; it’s the little details that make the game one of the most impressive experiences of the year. A multitude of architectural details, knickknacks, custom animations, and excellent acting performances imbue the game’s environments and characters with a unique vibrancy.


All this attention to visual detail and traditional storytelling is entertaining, but Uncharted 3 is also exciting from a design perspective. While the single-player campaign is more glitz than substance, the robust multiplayer mode offers a unique shooter experience. Stages make use of both horizontal and vertical space, and victory often requires as much climbing and jumping as it does taking cover and throwing grenades. Additionally, Uncharted 3‘s spin on the Call of Duty-style perk system takes the sting out of being a new player. Persistent medals for helping teammates, making use of terrain, and even surviving close calls allows everyone to partake in the combat bonuses.


Each Uncharted game has outdone the previous in terms of sheer spectacle, and it seems that Naughty Dog has perfected the highly scripted, yet exquisitely crafted action adventure formula. Uncharted 3 is a thrilling victory lap that hints at the excitement of a new journey. Naughty Dog has grown comfortable with the current Uncharted formula and seems poised to begin a new adventure. Scott Juster


 

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Batman: Arkham City

(Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; US: 18 Oct 2011)

Review [10.Nov.2011]

11



Batman: Arkham City



The claustrophobic halls of Arkham Asylum give way to the crime infested streets of Arkham City in Rocksteady’s newest Batman title. If Arkham Asylum offered a seemingly authentic sense of “being the Batman”, Arkham City broadens the experience of playing as the Dark Knight by trying to expand and enhance the spaces that he can operate in.


Featuring a host of new villains, a really amazing playable version of Catwoman, and more Riddler challenges than any player could want, the game takes its “more is more” approach to the limit. The plotline is a little less focused than last time out, but the game does pay off with one of the more powerful conclusions to a Triple A action title this year. G. Christopher Williams


 

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Fate of the World

(Red Redemption, Ltd.; US: 28 Feb 2011)

10



Fate of the World



Fate of the World is a hardcore strategy games that in no way looks like a hardcore strategy game on first or even second glance. Its simplicity belies the complexity of the world that it seeks to represent. The game presents a number of different scenarios, each with different goals and initial conditions that you have to meet in order not to save the world, but to allow it to survive into the next century – and even that feels like an impossible feat. You don’t fix problems or regions so much as get them under control long enough to not blow up in your face while you try to help somewhere else. It shows systematically, no matter what ideology you subscribe to, that the world will bend only so far and for so long.


Fate of the World is one of those works that is so incredibly difficult to talk about without having it sound like an absolute mess. When describing it, you will still always miss some element that is crucial to understanding the game and the explanation as a whole will suffer for it. Like the world, nothing is unimportant, and it all connects to something else. To quote the character Lester Freamon from The Wire, “All the pieces matter.” Eric Swain


 

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Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

(Ubisoft; US: 15 Nov 2011)

9



Assassin’s Creed: Revelations



Assassin’s Creed: Revelations continues Ubisoft’s trend of giving players improvements that we didn’t even know that we wanted: The Mediterranean Defense mini-game is far more involved this time, better narrative context gives your every choice a greater sense of consequence, and the addition of bombs to your arsenal will significantly change how you approach all combat scenarios. While the sci-fi frame story of Desmond and the end-of-the-world remains frustratingly static, the game does bring Ezio’s story to a surprisingly touching end, as promised.


The multiplayer also makes a triumphant return. Several new modes, like variations of “Capture the Flag” and “Tag”, emphasize the game’s unique cat-and-mouse nature. You play as a Templar recruit working your way up the corporate ladder, and these story elements reinvigorate the often stale
process of leveling up in a multiplayer game.


For fans that remember the crazy ending of Assassin’s Creed II, there aren’t many revelations in Revelations, but there are more than enough clues to keep you playing and obsessing about the long running series. Nick Dinicola


 

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

(Bethesda Softworks; US: 11 Nov 2011)

Review [19.Jan.2012]

8



The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim



I don’t remember playing any other game in which I’ve paused just to look at the scenery. Everything in Skyrim invites the player to look, to explore why it’s there. Don’t care for the Dragonborn storyline? That’s fine, because there are many caves and houses for you to get into to satisfy your time in Tamriel. Cheese wheels and political intrigue? Yes, please. Skyrim shows how the world is a character, the player’s main sidekick or antagonist. The introduction of the perks system and guardian stones add more choice and flavor to a game that promotes thinking on your toes, developing a character from the kinds of adventures that they are surviving through.


Bethesda continues to tap into the essence of play with The Elder Scrolls’s latest installment, peeling away the bulky aesthetics and unnecessary minutiae of the previous games. It’s no secret, Skyrim is a further improvement on a successful formula, enticing players with a new land to romp in rather than purely packing in flash and glamour. With Bethesda’s active encouragement for the development and sharing of mods of its game, an exciting aspect of gaming culture attains a potential that few have had before. Gamers will be talking about Skyrim for a long, long time. Mattie Brice


 

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Dragon Age II

(Electronic Arts; US: 8 Mar 2011)

7



Dragon Age II



There will probably be many blank stares and shaking heads upon seeing Dragon Age II on a Top anything list. However, something makes it the darling underdog game of 2011 for many critics, despite some of its wider disapproval. BioWare focused on writing in this sequel, a quality painfully undervalued in the gaming community that deserves applause and encouragement. Its narrative is socially relevant and romance options serve as a progressive push that games need to become more inclusive. The conflicts in the game are a source of seemingly endless conversation, building a looming sense of anticipation for the series’s ending that rivals its sci-fi sibling. Needless to say, Dragon Age II rocked a lot of convention for the better, all in that patent BioWare style.


The implementation of the conversation wheel is at its best in Dragon Age II, breaking away from the binary morality systems that many games adopt to simulate “player choice”. Instead of being good or evil, you explore the nuances of Hawke’s fellow party members and the circumstances of the tragic situations that they are involved in, all the while learning that there might be more to games than saving the world. The characters are some of the best written, especially Aveline, who is one of the best female characters ever written for a video game (developers, take note!). The game had its issues, like every other, but there was ingenuity and honesty here that you just don’t get very often. We want more! Mattie Brice


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