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The best of 2011 so far…

With the first half of the year behind us, it’s time to look back at the games from 2011 we’ve scored the highest so far. Below are the titles we’ve awarded a prestigious nine or ten out of ten, with links to the original reviews. You’d do well to check them out.

Atom Zombie Smasher
Reviewed by Sean Kelley

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Noting its inspirations, Atom Zombie Smasher emerges as a wholly original experience, all its own. The short, breakneck campaigns create a compelling game you’ll likely revisit time and time again. It’s the perfect blend of planning and reflexes, requiring you to thoroughly plan every move but remain highly reactive and adaptable. The zombies might be unpredictable, but with your help, we just might stand a fighting chance.

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Crysis 2
Reviewed by Richard Wakeling

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The Modern Warfare multiplayer system has become a conventional template in recent years but Crysis 2 makes enough meaningful changes to give it its own identity and hopefully garner a long-term audience. However, it’s the Nanosuit that proves to be the star of the show, offering myriad ways to tackle Crysis 2’s comprehensive combat. It’s constantly enjoyable to enter any number of its large scale environments and just experiment with the suit’s abilities to see what will happen next. The first Crysis introduced the premise and Crysis 2 takes it a step further, producing a much more focused rollercoaster ride. Considering the current climate of first person shooters this is a refreshing conversion in a stuttering genre.

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Dead Space 2
Reviewed by Sean Kelley

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Dead Space 2 is a superior sequel in pretty much every way. Just like Dead Space before it, the game isn’t subtle and grabs your attention from the start. The difference is this time it never lets go, and you’re left hurtling through one of the most consistently engaging horror games of the generation. It sadly does falter, thanks to a few balancing issues, but it remains an adrenaline-fueled nightmare no action gamer should pass up.

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Dirt 3
Reviewed by Matt Wadleigh

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Dirt 3 is the best entry in this highly-regarded franchise and an easy recommendation to any racing fans. The game is accessible while still retaining great depth and with dozens of excellent tracks and a huge fleet of cars spanning five decades of racing, there’s a ton of content to keep players interested. The new Gymkhana inclusions break up the standard racing with something a little more visceral and the game is all the stronger for it. To top it all off, there’s also split-screen multiplayer for any of the modes, which is a rarity in today’s racing market. Codemasters’ aimed to make the game that Dirt fans have longed for and they’ve certainly hit their mark.

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Fight Night Champion
Reviewed by Richard Wakeling

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And its Andre Bishop’s journey that makes Fight Night Champion stand out in the crowded sports genre. It has the lifeless career mode that’s good for fighting from round to round but little else, but it’s the innovation found in Champion mode that elevates the Fight Night series to new heights. It might not entice non-fans of the series or the sport to jump on board, but those that do will find a refined fighting system that streamlines the technicality of the sport whilst retaining a vast amount of depth. Allowing the player to concentrate solely on the brutal combat itself, employing multiple tactics and fighting styles to come out on top. Boxing may not be the powerhouse it once was but movies like The Fighter reveal it still has a cultural relevance today. Champion mode pulls inspiration from the likes of Rocky and Raging Bull to craft a narrative around the sport that people still find engrossing. It’s the perfect path for the series to take and we can only hope the next Fight Night builds on this promise, telling more tales from the world of boxing.

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Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Reviewed by Stew Chyou

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Though the online modes leave a lot to be desired, it’s forgivable as nothing can replace the old fashioned approach of playing with people in person. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 still stands as a welcomed addition to today’s fighting scene. For those having a hard time comprehending today’s fighters, MvC3 is there for you. Meanwhile, veterans can definitely say that this title hits the spot. Welcome to the show!

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Mass Effect 2
Reviewed by Richard Murphy

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Mass Effect 2 is an absolute pleasure. It’s indulgent and sickly and so very, very moreish! It holds its plot and its characters in the highest of regards and envelops you in a universe of intrigue and delight. It has managed to meld together the Western RPG and cover shooter genres, circumnavigating the pitfalls present in both. It is not a perfect game; some missions can fall foul of the generic tropes present in all science fiction games, such as fetch quests and generic alien related hokum. These are minor blemishes on the face of a supermodel, and the overall quality of the title shines though at every occasion. Entrenching yourself in the mysticism and fiction is an invigorating experience that blots out any cracks in this monumental title. A polished, precise and truly astounding title awaits anyone willing to dive in, and drink deep and become inebriated by the brilliance on offer. Astounding!

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Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes
Reviewed by Matt Wadleigh

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Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is a superb title that offers players a deep campaign, addictive turn-based gameplay and a multiplayer suite that only makes one misstep. RPG, strategy and even puzzle fans will feel right at home here with one of the most satisfying and rewarding games of the year. Hours into the experience, players will continue to discover new strategies and nuances to employ as they take to battles against AI opponents and their friends. So, what are you waiting for? Press Start Button!

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MLB 11: The Show
Reviewed by Matt Wadleigh

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MLB 11 does an excellent job once again at delivering what this franchise is all about. The pitching/hitting interface is excellent and teaches players how to throw and hit in an intuitive and natural manner. MLB 11’s presentation is unrivaled, and everything down to the stadium-specific Jumbotrons are presented with beautiful accuracy. There are enough changes with this year’s edition to justify a purchase, and the new mechanics make it a strong suggestion it to fans who were put off by last year’s unforgiving learning curve. Major work was done in making this game not only more authentic but more accessible, and on both fronts the developers succeeded. MLB 11 stands as one of Sony’s strongest exclusives.

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Mortal Kombat
Reviewed by Shane Ryan

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Mortal Kombat is the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game in many, many years. There is an unrivalled amount of single player content and a busy online system, all of which is a joy to play. NetherRealm have done a fine job.

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Plants vs. Zombies
Reviewed by Tony Capri

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Already played Plants vs. Zombies? Yeah, so have I. Playing the DS version, though, has gotten me hooked all over again. In terms of gameplay and features, PvZ on DS edges out ahead of pretty much any other version out there. The question is, of course, do you need yet another copy of the game? For me, the answer’s easy. I loved PvZ before, but it was a drag being tethered to my PC. Now, I can take the game with me anywhere I go, and it just feels more at home on Nintendo’s handheld. If you already own a portable version of the game, this probably isn’t worth another dip. For everyone else, this is the version to pick up.

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Portal 2
Reviewed by Edward Love

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What you have then is a package brimming with quality. The singleplayer campaign expands on the original and turns it into a fully-fledged game. The co-operative mode is an entirely separate beast, with different chambers and puzzles, and can be accessed via split-screen or online. And then, as a final treat, you can revisit Portal 2 and listen to the developers comment on this game’s creation. Were life to imitate art, we might all be shooting portals and stepping out through the other end. Indeed, this is both mathematical and storytelling art-work; it teams a gripping narrative with an inventive gameplay mechanic that makes for an excellent and unforgettable ride.

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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Reviewed by Shane Ryan

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From that very first musical note Sword and Sworcery led me on an incredible journey, never letting go. When a game makes you laugh, sad, ecstatic at the finale and then sorry to see it end, you know that what you just went through was something special. Like the rainbows that the Scythian’s hate, Capy’s world casts rays of absolute bliss from beginning to end. This is one of the best games of 2011. Never thought I’d be saying that about an iPhone title.

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Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition
Reviewed by Justin Boot

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Capcom actually pulled it off. They made a handheld fighting game that not only stands up to its console version, but builds upon it as well. It’s the entire roster of playable fighters, all of whom have retained their moves, abilities, and playing styles. The deeper combat mechanics haven’t been watered-down in the slightest. The controls, though occasionally awkward under their default settings, can be remapped to suit your needs. It even uses the touch screen as a makeshift controller, which is perfect for newcomers who aren’t familiar with the fighting genre. While the game makes interesting use out of the 3DS’s StreetPass connectivity, you’ll get plenty more out of the superb online multiplayer. It might take a bit to get used to everything, but it’s worth the effort. One of the best console fighting games in recent memory just went portable.

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Reviewed by Richard Wakeling

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And that persistent quality exerts itself throughout The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Its story isn’t afraid to delve into an often bewildering world of complex politics, but at its core it’s a character tale. Backed by superb fantasy writing and a fantastic sense of moral ambiguity seeped into the choices you make and the ramifications they have on the world and the narrative. It’s a smart, refreshingly dark take on RPGs, complemented by action-oriented and tactical combat with a surprising amount of depth. It has its flaws but they’re only minor in what is a landmark title and a series we can only hope will long continue.

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The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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