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Why the top 5 games of the year so far are no good
by Tom Acres

Think that 2011 has been a good year for gamers, having given them a slew of new, unique, and enjoyable titles for their consumption? Think again. Tom Acres is here to tell you why five of the year's top games aren't worth the discs they're pressed on.

We're only just in August - still a good few months away from the time of year in which many of the years best games tend to be released - and already critics and gamers alike have been lauding many of 2011's titles as masterpieces and Game of the Year contenders.

Five of the top games of the year happen to include three sequels, a remake and a glorified adventure game - hardly the innovation or creativity that surely we should expect from the very best of the medium? Yet critics will tell you why the following five titles are worth their weight in gold. Well, I'm here to tell you exactly why they're not.

Editor's note: this article is intended as a humourous, tongue-in-cheek look at some of the year's top games, and should be taken with as big a pinch of salt as possible.

Portal 2

It says a lot about this generation of games when Portal 2 is lauded as a game for clever people. A challenging game, with puzzles that 'make you feel smart'.

Well, I suppose in comparison to the mindless shooting of Black Ops, or the incredibly stupid enemies you stab repeatedly in Assassin’s Creed, Portal 2 is for clever people. But that's like saying Wayne Rooney is supremely intelligent, just because he might be ever-so-slightly more intellectual than Katie Price. At the end of the day, there's a rather large difference between being clever, and being made to feel clever.

The only way Portal 2 makes you feel clever is the way you get through the game from a first-person viewpoint without killing anything. To gamers of this generation, a first-person viewpoint basically means 'aim, pull trigger, kill'. Just because Portal 2 is a first-person game that doesn't involve killing, doesn't mean it's suddenly ingenious. Portal 2 is a puzzle game, I'll give it that, but just because it's a puzzle game in a generation full of shooters doesn't suddenly make it brilliant. Critics have lauded it as being a thinking man’s experience - really? Portal 2's repetitive chambers basically work like this:

Step 1: You see a huge wall, just about the right shape for a portal, made of the right material for portals to be placed on.

Step 2: You find another wall of exactly the same attributes.

Step 3: Shoot a portal on each wall.

Step 4: Walk through a wall and pretend to feel like a genius because you've been told that this game is God’s gift to intellectuals.

So, yeah; Portal 2 is hardly the mind-bending experience that so many claim it to be. If that wasn't enough, Valve has also received a great deal of praise for its use of 'dark humour' and mature writing.

I'm sorry, what? Are you telling me that a game rated 12+ is considered to be at the forefront of dark humour? And the plot twist at the end? Oh my goodness me! You mean the good guy turns into a bad guy? What an incredibly unique storytelling device that is totally unpredictable in every way!

So what of these remarkable characters that everyone seems so keen on? Sure, it may be novel to have the other one from all of Ricky Gervais' stuff voicing a little robot, but that novelty soon wears off when the writers recycle the same gags again and again... and again. So then they make him evil, for seemingly no reason other than to try and 'surprise' the player.

Portal 2 is a game that is placed firmly up its own backside; it thinks it's oh-so-funny and oh-so-clever and oh-so-different, when in actual fact it's a simple puzzle game for fools who otherwise spend their time either playing Modern Combat Space Marine Reach Wars 2011 or watching porn.

It's a puzzle game for 2011. So it's essentially a puzzle game for idiots.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Why do people even pretend to have a sense of nostalgia when old games are re-released? Publishers don't re-release games with a new lick of paint because they love you, the consumer, or because they want to 'let a brand new audience experience a classic'. No; it's because they want your money.

Despite this rather obvious money-making scheme, for the most part, gamers seem to fall for it. Why do we even pretend to enjoy playing old games in 2011? When an old game is re-released, people seem almost inclined to buy it because they'd feel bad if they didn't. It's like when your mum asks if you'd like to come with her to visit your grandma; of course you don't - she's boring and smells funny - but you feel almost as though you have to, and once you're there, you have to pretend to be enjoying it. This is exactly what it's like to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

Sure, it was good in 1998, but you know what else was good in 1998? Arsenal. Now look at them. Don't pretend to admire their pretty football; they won't win anything, and all their best players want to leave. Look at Ocarina of Time 3D; sure, you could admire the pretty new visuals, but it's still an old game that wouldn't have received nearly as much attention if the Nintendo 3DS library wasn't so bad that one of the best titles to be released for it thus far is Spongebob Squarepants 3D.

The things that were good about Ocarina of Time in 1998 have since been done better in Twilight Princess, and probably again better in Skyward Sword. The bad stuff from 1998 is now considered not just bad, but monumentally shit. Still, people seem willing to excuse it because it's 2011. Just like when your grandma addresses you by your uncle's name - you laugh it off, but deep down you want to give her a good slap.

Why would anyone want to spend a Friday afternoon pretending to be pleased to see their grandma? Exactly. So why do so many pretend to enjoy The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D? It's an old game and the new headline feature gives you a headache. Good one, Nintendo.

L.A. Noire

Just like Portal 2, Rockstar's L.A. Noire has been lauded the world over for being a bit different. So different, in fact, that you're not even allowed to kill innocent people. I know, what a monumental step forward in game design that is.

In all seriousness, L.A. Noire is just a glorified point-and-click adventure game. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with adventure games, but the way in which L.A. Noire hides this core concept beneath an unnecessary sandbox world and clunky gunfights makes it seem as though Team Bondi are almost ashamed to declare it an adventure game. Perhaps having 'Rockstar' emblazoned all over the box and TV adverts made the Australian developer think, "Oh bollocks. People are going to buy this hoping for the next GTA. Let's connect all the missions together with a bit of a boring sandbox, chuck in some rubbish gunfights with movement so clunky it makes Heather Mills look like a gymnast, and end up with a weird hybrid of a game called Tales Of Monkey Theft Auto And Max."

The focus of L.A. Noire is solving cases, but, much like Portal 2, these scenarios aren't nearly as clever as the developers like to think. Sure, it might cause ten-year-old Timmy some frustration, and avid sixteen-year-old Modern Warfare player Steve with his 1 GCSE might find the pretence of 'solving things' all too much to bear, but for the average person, this game is about as clever as a ham sandwich.

L.A. Noire also so clearly wishes it was a HBO crime series; it's almost embarrassing. If you've watched Mad Men, or The Sopranos, or any of the countless other similar shows distributed by that channel, then you've seen each and every character and crime found in L.A. Noire. In fact, you could just watch an episode of Sherlock on the BBC, and pause the show every so often to try and use the clues found so far by the character to solve the cases before clever old Benedict Cumberpatch can. And, by doing so, you could get just as much enjoyment and satisfaction as you would from playing L.A. Noire, without all the rubbish gunfights, driving and exploring.

The next series of Sherlock will air next year; remember to record each episode, pay nothing, and experience everything good about L.A. Noire without having to pay a penny. Solve crimes for free, but with likeable characters instead!

And don't try and bring up the facial animation. So it might look quite cool. But the faces look far more realistic in Sherlock.

LittleBigPlanet 2

So here we have the sequel to the game that lets you play other people's shit versions of Super Mario World.

Come on, let's not beat around the bush here - the majority of the user created levels in LittleBigPlanet 2 are rip-offs of practically every somewhat-popular game in the history of the world. You want a rubbish, top-down version of Gran Turismo? You can have it. You want a boring and slow take on Space Invaders? Not a problem. You want to play through someone's effort at an Uncharted game, but in a side-scrolling environment in which you play as a little stuffed toy? Whatever floats your boat.

Also, the majority of people that buy LittleBigPlanet 2 can't actually be arsed to make their own levels. They just play through the Media Molecule-developed campaign and then muck about with some user-created levels before trading it in.

LittleBigPlanet 2 doesn't even work on a basic level. Every time you jump, you feel like you're going to float into space; grabbing things is an absolute nightmare, whilst the introduction of new gameplay types like racing and flying just make you wish you were playing other games.

Summing up LittleBigPlanet 2 is as easy as saying that it's a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of absolutely none. In fact, it isn't even moderately okay at any of the trades, either.

Dead Space 2

Oh look, it's Resident Evil 4 in space. But, as if that wasn't enough of a creative idea the first time round, Visceral Games - who also made the highly original God of War: Crusades Edition, something they tried to pass off as Dante's Inferno, or something along those lines - decided to make a sequel! Oh, how kind of them; they've made a sequel to cash-in on a franchise that was only created in the first place to cash-in on the success of another franchise.

"Who cares if it's not original? The gameplay is great and it looks fantastic, it's atmospheric and scary!" I hear you cry. Well, you're wrong. Massively wrong.

The game plays like Resident Evil 4. Which is to say that the shooting is clunky and there are some boring puzzle bits that make Portal 2 look like the work of Albert Einstein himself. The game isn't scary, either; the monsters are generic, and the creepy babies are only there to provide shock value. To me, it just made me question the mental health of the developers - shooting creepy babies isn't scary, or fun, or exhilirating. One thing it is, though, is sick.

And not sick in a good way, like, 'Innit, blud, that was sick!' It's sick like, 'what kind of vile individual came up with that idea?'

Most of the 'scares' come from cheap tricks, like monsters jumping out of doors and things - yet another highly creative decision from the developers, there. The game is also really short, but the developers manage to extend the lifespan by forcing cheap deaths upon you. You can almost hear them screaming, "You will learn to appreciate this game!" as you're rushed again and again by mutant babies and stupid fleshy things that look like someone put concept art from Alien in a bonfire. If you've made a bad game, the least you could do is let me finish it quickly, so stop making me die! You're making me hate it even more; now leave me alone, and go and finish developing Army of Duty: Contemporary Combat, or whatever your next highly original piece of work will be.

Did I mention that Dead Space 2 also has multiplayer? No, that's correct: I didn't. Because it's rather poor and completely unnecessary. Even people who like Dead Space seem to agree that multiplayer is a dumb idea. So do I really need to explain what I think of it?

Here's to Dead Space 3, which I imagine will come out in about two months' time with a brave new feature not often mentioned in the gaming community, called 'co-op'.

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- Tom Acres

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