Lane’s 2011 Video Game Gift Buying Guide

November 18, 2011 at 11:12 am | Posted in Video Games | 2 Comments

It's Christmas! In Mid-November!

It’s November 18th. I want to shoot myself for writing a holiday gift buying guide before Thanksgiving, but let’s face it. The radio stations are playing Christmas music, the TV stations are running holiday ads, and I’m pretty sure the neighbors have their tree up. This is one battle I’ve lost. Of course, it’s always good to get a head-start on what people might be looking for this year*. Or maybe you’re looking for some gift recommendations for yourself.

*Fruitcake is never the answer.

Here be Lane’s Official 2011 Video Game Gift Buying Guide, in which I’ll be recommending my favorite first-person shooters, action/adventure titles, and role-playing games. We’ll split each genre up into three categories: my recommendation for AAA title of the year, some budget picks, and some nostalgic gaming choices.

To the jump for the completely subjective, non scientific recommendations!


AAA Title of 2011: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3, PC, 360)

Remind me not to upset Human Revolution's Adam Jensen

Yes, 2011 was the year that saw another Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Gears of War. None of those titles come close to touching what my favorite shooter of the year was, Edios Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Human Revolution is a prequel of sorts to Deus Ex, one of the most critically acclaimed games from the late 90s/early 2000s. It’s very much a cyberpunk game, delving into some gorgeous futuristic scenery. The gameplay mechanics are a delight, presenting the option to the player to attack problems from a Rambo Guns-A-Blazin’ fashion or a more quiet, stealth approach. There’s even a clever cover mode that briefly transforms the game from a first-person shooter into a third-person shooter for brief moments, making that one of my favorite gameplay mechanic features of the year.

What sets Human Revolution apart isn’t the weapon arsenal or combat types, however. This iteration of Deus Ex is one of the smartest, deepest games of the year on a purely intellectual level. You’re going to be faced with some tough, moral dilemmas as you play through.

Budget: Half-Life 2, Fallout 3, Bioshock

Half Life 2 owns one of the highest Metacritic scores of any game ever released. If you haven’t played it, you need to. Featuring white-knuckle combat, brilliant storytelling, and a physics engine that remains jaw-dropping

Post-Apocalyptia, Baby!

seven years after its release, there’s a reason HL2 is considered by some to be the greatest PC game ever.

Fallout 3 is part shooter, part RPG. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that appears to be perpetually stuck in the 50s, this game provides a startling window into life in Washington DC after nuclear winter hits. An engrossing primary plot as well as plenty of secondary quests gives Fallout 3 a ton of play-time.

Gamers looking to have the living daylights scared out of them should pick up Bioshock, the spiritual predecessor to System Shock, otherwise known as the most pants-wettingly terrifying game I’ve ever played. Bioshock lives up to that legacy in this frightening steampunk shooter.

Nostalgia: The Steam Doom Pack

It’s the reason first-person shooters are popular. Head on over to Steam and pick up ID Software’s greatest achievement in all its sprite glory.


AAA Title of 2011: Uncharted 3 (PS3)

Now, I loved Uncharted 3. I loved the entire line of Uncharted games. I could make the pitch to you to buy this for yourself or another gamer, but instead I’m going to let the person who convinced me to play Uncharted speak glowingly of it. The following is from my friend (and fellow video game afficianado) Melissa:

Naughty Dog’s unique approach to game design, developing and recording a full-length film and converting it into a completely immersive console game, gives Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception a clear advantage in the holiday market.

Like its predecessors, Drake’s Deception delivers a unique twist on a classic story. This tale follows treasure-hunter Nathan Drake as he searches for the Atlantis of the Sands, a hidden oasis in the Arabian desert which is rumored to contain King Solomon’s riches. In the midst of gun-slinging and explosive scenery, the game sneaks in a touching narrative on Nate’s rocky childhood and delicate personal relationships.

The campaign runs a bit short, at an average of eight to nine hours of gameplay, but tracking down all 100 collectible treasures guarantees you’ll play it twice. The multiplayer is nothing to ignore, either: a world-wide server provides continuous access to social activities, ranging from goal-oriented team missions to good old-fashioned death matches, which give Gears of War a run for its money.

Now, who would I recommend this game to? Fans of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford digs Uncharted, people!

Honorable Mention: Portal 2 (PS3, 360, PC)

Budget: Beyond Good and Evil (PC), The Longest Journey (PC)

Beyond Good and Evil is an unfortunate tale. It’s regarded by some as being the greatest adventure game that no one played. It was bright, colorful, featured wonderful puzzles and well-written characters. Despite that, no one actually played it when it released in 2004. Even though it racked up all sorts of critical acclaim, it was considered to be a financial bust. The good news is that you can go back and fix that problem by picking up BGaE on Steam.

The Longest Journey, on the other hand, did sell some copies to back the acclaim it when when it released in 1999. A classic point-and-click adventure game, The Longest Journey boasted one of the most complex and engrossing plots I’ve ever had the pleasure of finding in a videogame. Providing a A mix of science fiction and fantasy, TLJ was a genre mashup that treated the player to some incredible settings. Whenever I’m asked to make the argument that video games are art, I point them to this game.

Nostalgia: King’s Quest 1-3 (PC), Space Quest 1-3, Police Quest 1-4

Before Bungie, Valve, and Bioware, there was one game developer that ruled over the land. Sierra made the greatest, most engrossing games on the market. Sure, the games look primitive by today’s standards (A keyboard? You have to TYPE your commands in!?), but even today the trio of King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest stand as unique and oddly captivating games. If you or anyone you’re gifting to is a gamer, you owe it to them to let them partake in a bit of gaming history.’

Available at GOG


AAA Title of 2011: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim


You might have a loved one who has been Skyrim Widowed. Everything seems to be fine and dandy before tragedy strikes, your loved one’s spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/sibbling mysteriously disappears off the face of the planet. They cease returning phone calls and responding to e-mails. You can’t even get them to offer a meager 140 character status update on Twitter. They are simply missing. Eventually, you may be lucky enough to make brief contact with them, only to discover that they have willingly committed themselves to a hermitic life. Why? Why would someone do such a thing?

It’s not your fault. It’s Bethesda’s fault for releasing Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to the public.

Like its predecessors Oblivion and Morrowind, is an open-ended sandbox RPG of sorts that combines a strong primary plot with innumerable side quests and stories. This isn’t a game that a player will sit down and play through in eight to ten hours. There’s at least forty hours of gameplay here, and that’s if you only scratch the surface of exploring the world and its characters. Skyrim stands as one of the most engrossing games of the last several years and is a must have for fans of role playing games and fantasy fiction.

Budget: Knights of the Old Republic (PC), Mass Effect (PC, 360)

Bioware might be my favorite game studio these days.

I never got around to playing Baulder’s Gate, the game that put the Canadian developer on the map. My first experience with them was Neverwinter Nights, the good but somewhat generic computer-based DnD clone. Bioware didn’t register on my radar until 2003, the year they released what I believe to be the finest Star Wars video game of all time: Knights of the Old Republic. Despite the fact that this was a dreaded media tie-in game, KotOR boasted one of the best stories and cast of characters I’ve ever seen in a game. Just spend five minutes with HK-47 and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve talked about my love of Mass Effect before, so consider this part of my continuing campaign to get everyone who reads this blog to play it. It’s a space opera. It’s a role-playing game. It’s a third-person shooter. It’s incredible. Mass Effect is the greatest game franchise I’ve had the privilege to play in the last decade. Forget Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, God of War, and every other popular series. Mass Effect is the game that everyone from hardcore gamers to people with only a passing interest in video games should play.

Nostalgia: Chrono Trigger (PSN, Wii), Final Fantasy 6 (PSN)

Now, before Bioware was my favorite game studio, there was Squaresoft.

In their heyday, they were the kings of role-playing games. The mix of stellar writing, music, and combat made just about everything they released a critical hit. Even in the sea of beloved games, two managed to stand out above the rest. The first of the pair was perhaps the highest point in the studio’s flagship series, Final Fantasy VI. Here’s all you need to know about this game: excellent music, one of the best female leads in gaming history, gripping gameplay. This is a game that’s talked about in revered tones amongst gaming circles.

The second is Chrono Trigger, a time-traveling adventure that still ranks highly on those wonderful greatest game ever lists. I’ve talked about this one before in a previous column heaping praises on its musical score, so let me just say that the game itself is just as magnificent as its soundtrack.

Written by Lane for Roqoo Depot


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