2011 was the year that saw consoles approaching the end of their lifespans. The Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii all gained titles that wrapped up franchises and stories which had been running since their launch. This meant developers were throwing everything they had into games, squeezing as much as they possibly could from each console graphically and gameplay-wise.
On top of that we had the arrival of dual-core smartphones which, in turn, brought with it console quality gaming. Titles like Real Racing 2 and just about anything produced by Gameloft consistently impressed graphically, forcing us to rethink exactly what was possible with a smartphone.
The sheer number of triple-A titles released in 2011 means we are still stuck playing through a backlog of gaming brilliance. It also means that the 8th Pocket-lint Awards has a mammoth selection of games to choose from. Here are some ideas for your nominations.
2011 was most definitely the year of the shooter. Why exactly? Thanks mainly to four little words: Gears of War 3. The title that saw Marcus and chums blast their way through to one of the best finales in a series that catapulted the Xbox 360 and HD gaming to the fore.
Not to be ignored, the hype title has to be given to Battlefield 3. Graphically stunning, slightly underwhelming in single player but incredible online, it has become an instant classic at Pocket-lint towers with many hours already sunk into the multiplayer.
The ying to Battlefield 3's yang; Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, also is set to rear its super addictive chin. This means Michael Bay levels of explosions, a multiplayer that is as tightly put together as a German car and lost weekends attempting to level up our online profile.
There was also RAGE, the love-child of uber developers Id and Bethesda. Whilst marred by slightly buggy texture problems at launch, things have been put right and what has been left needs to be played. A combination of streamlined RPG and hardcore shooter all played out in Mad Max-style wastelands? Yes please.
How could we possibly forget the gaming beauty that was Crysis 2. A title that worked black magic with the Xbox 360 and PS3, it looked downright stunning on home consoles. It also played great and gained itself a four star rating in our review.
Last but by no means least, there was Uncharted 3. This was a game that defined polish, benefiting from stellar production values, incredible design and near perfect gameplay. It is a title that has been universally accepted amongst the games press as one of the best in this console generation. Something worth playing then.
We had plenty of hours wasted this year poured into Batman: Arkham City, a game put together with so much love that every ounce of it oozed enjoyment. Yet another graphical masterpiece with an explorable open world and more gadgets than James Bond, it proved that a superhero game could be good.
Keeping up the open world approach to things is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the most hotly anticipated titles this year. No one knows what treats are in store just yet, but no doubt Bethesda knows how to make an unbelievable RPG and Skyrim is looking quite unlike anything the company has produced before. Oh, and it has dragons. Really big ones.
RPG fans were confronted with a difficult choice in 2011: do they attempt to conquer Dark Souls or not? Legendary for its difficulty and almost painful levels of frustration, it is a game that punishes as much as it rewards. Hardcore gamers are seeing it as a return to what made playing video games so good, whilst others feel it to be unnecessarily challenging. For those yet to play it, give it the time and you will be rewarded with an experience that you will never forget, if you manage to finish it.
The Witcher 2, the RPG equivalent of Radiohead, landed on consoles and PCs in 2011. It rapidly became the alternative gamers choice, complete with all its sex, swords and spells. Oh, and it looked great as well. Those opposed to the Witcher 2 will have no doubt indulged in BioWare's Dragon Age 2, a sprawling epic with highly addictive upgrade systems.
Finally we have Mass Effect 3 to look forward to and an end to what has been one of the best gaming trilogies in recent history. Commander Shepherd's fate will finally be known and the story that has sprawled hundreds of hours of gameplay will be wrapped up. There is also now a multiplayer component added to the game which, from what we have played, looks to be a tasty addition to an already meaty package.
We had one major surprise in 2011 on the platform front and that was Sonic's return to the fore in Sonic Generations. Fans of the blue hedgehog rejoiced as Sega finally managed to turn round its first decent Sonic adventure after nearly a decade.
Not yet released, but a definite contender for platformer of the year, particularly given Super Mario Galaxy 2's credentials, is Super Mario 3D on the 3DS. Nintendo's new handheld is yet to have a killer app to really shift units. Expect this to be it.
Keeping up the story-ending trend is the last in the Ezio based series of the Assassin's Creed games: Assassin's Creed Revelations. It sees our hero leave Italy and explore the cities of the Middle East, including Constantinople and Masyaf, Syria. Expect it to build on the near perfect gameplay of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, hopefully with a few new twists for added excitement.
PlayStation 3 owners were treated to inFamous 2 in 2011, a twisted take on the superhero genre that played as well as it looked. It marked the start of a good run of games for the console which culminated in, as we have said already, Uncharted 3.
We love a good racing game over at Pocket-lint and 2011 most definitely had plenty. Forza 4, the Xbox 360 take on Gran Turismo, some say managed to surpass the PlayStation 3 game launched last year. It looked and played great and added some innovative Kinect-enabled gameplay to boot.
Dirt 3 also launched in 2011, marking the pinnacle in rally gaming prowess. Plenty of game to get stuck into and an almost unparalleled handling engine, it reminded us what made the Dirt games so great.
Formula One fans were treated to F1 2011, which like Dirt 3 managed to improve on an already decent game. That extra bit of design and gameplay however, transformed the Codemasters sim into a triple-A title unlike any other F1 game before it.
Driver San Francisco came as a nice surprise towards the end of 2011. It was the reboot of a series that had been in decline since the brilliance of the original. Like Sonic Generations, seeing a gaming classic like Driver return to form was a relief for the fans.
Family gaming had a great year in 2011, thanks mainly to the Xbox 360's Kinect and the range of titles rolled out.
Dance Central 2 stands out as easily the best Kinect title of the year. As stupid as you feel playing it, the fun is hard to ignore. Almost the perfect family fun, it incorporates everything that makes gaming on the Kinect so fun and easy.
Sitting on the PlayStation Move side of things is Killzone 3 which we decided to leave out from the shooter category due to the way it played with move support. Sure, having no controller is great, but something physical to hold which acts as a gun seems to be perfect for a title like Killzone 3. It's also a great shooter on its own as well.
Not to be forgotten, the Wii also had plenty of gaming excitement in 2011. Not yet released but given the series' history, we imagine the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to be the must have title on the Wii this year.
Smartphone and tablet gaming got serious in 2011 thanks to dual-core processors. There was also an unbelievable number of apps released making picking the best a mighty difficult task.
Without doubt one of the most impressive was Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. It innovated graphically, musically and in the way it played. Worth picking up if you haven't yet tried it.
Also keeping things exciting on the innovation stakes were titles like Contre Jour, which took the best of things like Angry Birds and then turned the weirdness up to 11. It meant we had yet another piece of addictive app-action to play on the bus.
Real Racing 2 also deserves special mention, particularly given how it looks on the iPhone 4S. All the usual accelerometer based fun, but with Gran Tursimo levels of customisation and graphical wizardry. All for less than £3.
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