My Top 5 Games of 2011: #2 Batman: Arkham City (360)

Developed: Rocksteady Studios
Published: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre: 3rd-person stealth-action, beat 'em up
Platform: 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

Like Portal, I thought that Batman: Arkham Asylum was a game that was impossible to improve upon. For the first time since Sunsoft's NES Batman game, I felt like I was really playing as Batman. Of course, Arkham Asylum was quite the upgrade from Sunsoft's game by including just about every element of what makes Batman so awesome. If featured well done stealth segments, a simple but challenging combat system where you could fight room fulls of enemies at once, and gadgets. Lots and lots of gadgets.

Then Arkham City came out and made Asylum look like an early beta. Arkham City takes all the elements of Arkham Asylum and increases the playable area to cover an entire section of Gotham City. There were more gadgets, more ablities, and best of all, more villains.

In Batman: Arkham City, a section of Gotham City is evacuated of civilians, walled off, and every criminal and super villain is rounded up and thrown in. Bruce Wayne is also somehow arrested and finds himself tied to a chair with Hugo Strange staring him in the face. Strange tells him that he knows he is Batman and leaves him in the dark room. This is where the gameplay starts.

More evidence of Silent Hill HD Collection's awfulness: Even the original games' art director thinks it looks bad!

Credit for this must got to Destructoid reviews editor Jim Sterling. Thanks for always sticking up for the fans, Jim!

Freeman34 on YouTube AKA @Levit0 on Twitter posted a great video and link dump detailing some of the problems in Silent Hill HD Collection:
Go to the video's page and like/favorite it so more people can know about this. Konami needs to know that gamers have higher standards than to accept crappy ports of two of the best games ever made.

The best part of this is that he asked Masahiro Ito, art director of the first 3 Silent Hill games, what he thought about a few comparison shots and here was his reaction (images also courtesy of @Levit0):
Here's the screens he linked Ito (click for full size):

I try to keep the nerd rage and fanboyism at a minimum on this blog but when it comes to my second favorite game of all time, or any game in my top 10 really, I just can't help but get outraged when a substandard port is released.

I promise that this is the last story I'll post bitching about Silent Hill HD Collection. Unless something really crazy comes up...

Big surprise: Silent Hill HD Collection is a buggy piece of shit

I'll say right now that I have yet to play this game for myself, but all that would really tell me that I don't know right now is whether or not the gameplay was changed at all. All I'm talking about here is sound and graphics.
I've been warning you guys about Silent Hill HD Collection for a while now and what do you know, it turns out I was right. Being delayed from the end of last year all the way to this week was already a bad sign, but I had hopes that they might be able to iron out any problems by now. Unfortunately, according to numerous reports, there is a boatload of audio and visual issues with both games with Silent Hill 3 being hit especially hard.

My Top 5 Games of 2011: #3 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360)

Developed: Bethesda Game Studios
Published: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC

I've been a pretty big fan of the Elder Scrolls series for a few years now. I remember seeing a review of Morrowind on Cartoon Network's Toonami block back in 2002 and I knew I had to play it for myself. I picked it up soon after that and I was hooked. Everything was just so in depth. Everything you did improved your character slightly which made it feel a bit more like I was playing in a living world where "practice makes perfect" really meant something. Its sequel, Oblivion, changed things up quite a bit; Combat was more action focused, skills were easier to raise, and the world was more traditional fantasy than the world of giant mushrooms and slit striders in Morrowind.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim streamlines things even further by removing traditional character classes from the game entirely and allowing you to play the way you want to. Rather than choosing which skills you plan on using for the rest of the game, Skyrim lets you use whatever skills you want and still be able to advance your character just as in previous games.

Normally, I would put a plot summary here, but the Elder Scrolls series is one where you do whatever you want and includes a number of plot lines that you can explore at your leisure. The overall story that drives Skyrim however, is that the long extinct dragons are somehow coming back and it's up to you as a dovahkiin, or dragonborn, to stop their rampage. Along the way, you'll find yourself in the middle of an armed uprising of the native Nords against their Imperial occupiers.

Game Music Showcase: Badass Castle Music

I feel like I should make a small change to one of my features, Top 5 Game Songs. Whenever I do one, I always struggle to narrow it down to 5 songs, and in many cases the songs aren't in any particular order, so I'm changing the name of this feature to Game Music Showcase. This will also clear up any confusion anyone might have between Top 5 Game Songs and my main Top 5 feature. The feature is still the same otherwise, I just didn't wanna have to worry about choosing exactly 5 songs every time.

In Game Music Showcase, I take a look at a few songs from a particular category, like battle themes or title screen songs. The songs are listed in no particular order, except for the last one which is my personal favorite of the bunch.  I love video game music more than any other genre and with this feature, along with game music appreciation, I hope to help you understand why. 

So why bother with having two music features? Game Music Appreciation is more in depth while Game Music Showcase is more of a microcosm of one category of video game songs.

For some reason, video game castles always seem to have really bitchin' background music. Ever since Super Mario Bros, it seems like composers have always tried to convey the hugeness, luxury, and, sometimes, creepiness of a palatial abode. I give you my favorite video game castle songs:

My Top 5 Games of 2011: #4 Portal 2 (PC)

Developed: Valve
Published: Valve
Genre: First-Person Puzzle Game
Platform: 360, PS3, PC (reviewed), Mac

Like I said in a previous article, Portal was a game that I thought was impossible to make a sequel to. Valve decided to accept that challenge and proceeded to blow my freakin' mind. Portal 2 surpasses its predecessor in just about every way, including in story, the one area I didn't think was possible to improve upon. That's not to say that the first Portal is a bad game by any measure. I just want to make it clear how impressed I was with its sequel.

Portal 2 follows the continuing misfortune of Chell, who managed to escape her confinement in Aperture Laboratories, as well as destroy the malevolent artificial intelligence controlling the facility, GLaDOS, but was unfortunately recaptured soon after the conclusion of the first game and put into suspended animation for an undetermined amount of time. Beware: SPOILERS for both Portal games ahead.

My Most Anticipated Games of the rest of 2012

I guess it's a bit late for this article with two months of 2012 already behind us but better late than never I suppose. As I've said about 20 times already, 2011 was an amazing year for gaming; one of the best in recent memory. The gaming industry will be hard pressed to make 2012 as good and I think it just might happen. Here are the games that I am most excited about in 2012.

NOTE: it probably goes without saying, but all of these games aren't guaranteed to come out this year but they are all scheduled to. The list is in chronological order for games that have relatively solid release dates, then alphabetical for games that are listed as TBA 2012.

HOLY CRAP!!! Diablo III beta!

 Now THIS is the last damn thing I expected. I actually got into the Diablo III beta! There isn't an NDA in place so I'll definately be doing posts about this in the near future. Diablo and Diablo II are two of my favorite games ever. Hell, I've enjoyed pretty much every game Blizzard has developed. If you read my honorable mentions of 2011 article, you'll know that I was a pretty big World of Warcraft fiend until about mid last year. Anyway, the D3 beta is downloading as I type this so hopefully I'll be able to do some actual garmes jarnulizm soon.

I owe a big thanks to GamesRadar who is currently running the contest I won the beta key from. They're giving away 50 keys every day so you still have a chance to enter too! And of course, thank you Blizzard for the opportunity to test out my most anticipated game of the year!