The most obvious place to start – one of the only obvious qualities it has, really – is that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is unquestionably the most visually spectacular game I have ever played. Even if there weren’t anything else to say, that might be enough. If your computer can run it (and it’s punishing, but not too punishing) you probably need to buy it just to see the incredible technology The Astronauts bring to bear on this indie mystery. It’s simply jaw-dropping. Your jaw will drop. Which is harder to do than you think. Have you ever tried to drop your jaw? I just released my jaw muscles and my jaw stayed more or less where it was. It moved a little. But I wouldn’t call it a “drop.” You have to actively drop your jaw. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter will make you do that.
What happened to Bulletstorm? It’s a fair question. Here’s a game that – while admittedly not for everyone – was a highly innovative and gorgeous shooter. Tightly designed, cleverly written, well put-together, from a collaboration between two of the most reliably competent genre leaders in the industry. It didn’t go seriously over budget, it wasn’t late, it wasn’t buggy, it didn’t promise one thing and deliver another, and it didn’t rehash World War II or Americans-killing-Arabs memes. The critical reception ranged from positive to gushing; it shipped on every major platform. It was, by all accounts, the definition of a new IP blockbuster.
For gaming, 2011 was a year like many that preceded it: from January to October not a lot happened, and in November a bunch of publishers thought it was a good idea to have their games compete with Modern Blopfare and Field of Battles. At least Epic and Microsoft had the sense to get Gears of Beefcake 3 shipped in September so people would care about it for two months.
Ah, but that’s not the whole story, is it…
When I think back over the last twelve months of my gaming year, the word that instantly springs to my mind is “change”. I began 2011 the same way I’ve started and ended the last fifteen years; as an exclusively console gamer. But mid way through this particular year something changed. I built my own PC. On a personal level this represented a huge undertaking, something I never thought I’d achieve and certainly not successfully, …
Ahh, 2011. The year in which we were supposed to have the Rapture (twice), the year of the Arab Spring, of Occupy, of the Whipping Judge and Pepper Spray Cop. The year of Steerpike’s Neglecting To Get His Carpets Shampooed, Even Though They Need It. The year of the release of Titus Awakes, which I haven’t finished but which probably doesn’t include my namesake since he died in Titus Groan. The year Brandon, Amanda, Bearwhale, and Ravious joined us as contributors. The year I gained weight, and the year I played games.
As it happens, all the games I rank below came out in 2011, though that’s not a rule. Our objective is to tell you about the games that we’ll remember most from 2011, whether they shipped that year or a decade before. And we’re each taking it in our stride – ranking, rambling, sorting. There are no rules. These are the ones that stick out in my mind. Some made me irresponsibly happy. Others made me inconceivably sad. I leave the rest to you, because I love you all, and I wish you a glorious 2012. If the world doesn’t end in December, be sure we’ll return with that year’s batch.
An exciting and wordy discussion has been wandering across several of Tap’s forum threads, notably here, and also in various comments on articles. Fully grokking a conversation being held by the Tap community requires a certain ability to master the art of tangential crossover.
ANYWAY, to quickly sum up: some of our debaters did not like Half Life 2, some did, but for variant reasons; everyone likes STALKER but some wanted different things from it; System Shock 2 is very scary but may not have aged well; and something to do with Neocron, plus some other stuff.
“Kill with skill,” advises Bulletstorm’s ad copy. That rhymes so it makes a nice tagline. “Kill as brutally and hideously as you possibly can within only the loosest confines of physics” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.
Bulletstorm is exactly what it wants to be: a zany, foulmouthed, crass, absurdly violent fiesta of carnage. And everything about it appears crafted to suit this. Polish developer People Can Fly, working with Epic, have brought their considerable talents for atmosphere, outlandishness, and gleefully gory over-the-topism to bear yet again in a game that really does kind of remind us that “mindless” is not only sometimes a good thing, it can actually be a personality trait.
Warning: Bulletstorm will make you rape people. So says Fox News, that bastion of fair-and-balanced reporting, its experts dourly citing completely unrelated and often debunked studies to that effect. To my knowledge no rapes have been connected to the recent demo release, but likely the law hasn’t been looking for said connection. Bulletstorm is going to make you rape stuff, not because there are any rapes in it or because it endorses rape or even uses the word rape (though it does use the word “dicktits”), but because… um.
Assuming what we can from the demo, Bulletstorm is juvenile toilet humor with liberal amounts of gore and NSFW, often sexually-charged achievement names for killing things by pumping shells up their rectums or what have you. Sometimes juvenile toilets can be kind of awesome.