Game of the Year | Skyrim
I knew when it came to finally writing this article, I'd have to decide - almost on the spot - between two titles; Gears of War 3, or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? I've devoted considerable time to both, and would happily champion both games as the best 2011 had to offer. However, I can only choose one, and the choice is whether I prefer skewering Locust on the end of the Retro Lancer's bayonet, or firing arrows at Bethesda-themed walrus and luring them towards bears for good old-fashioned PETA baiting.
It has to be Skyrim. As much as I love Gears of War 3, I'll always plump for a fantastic, sprawling adventure over 80s themed machismo and pitch-perfect multiplayer. Skyrim is, simply put, a staggering achievement in game design, quest writing, open-world tech and sheer immersion. Whether it's the always epic clashes with dragons or simply wandering the wilderness, practicing your archery on Skyrim's fauna, it bests just about every RPG in the last decade. It's really that good.
Favourite Gaming Moment of 2011 | Mastering FIFA 12's Defence
Not exactly exciting, is it? But when, after months of being battered by the AI and friends, I'd finally mastered the ins and outs of FIFA 12's all new defensive controls, I was, much to my other half's confusion, very, very happy. I've heard a lot of criticism directed towards the new controls, that it's just too hard or confusion. A lot of my mates simply revert to the old ways.
However, once you've learned how to jockey a winger properly to stem their flood of crosses, or contained a playmaker looking to thread a through-ball, you start to understand just why EA was so proud of their achievements. Whereas before, defending constituted simply holding A/X, now you've a host of options that put defense on a par with attacking.
Surprise of the Year | Wii U
I'm not much of a Nintendo fan; not anymore, anyway. I grew up on their consoles, and the N64 still holds a place in my heart, but their turn towards the casual market - largely abandoning their diehard fans who'd stuck by them for years - was enough to remove all sentiment and bias from me. However, that said, I was pretty struck by the Wii U. Between its increase in horsepower and bold new controller, I might just be returning to Nintendo in the near future.
Of course, Nintendo's marketing strategy is still a little cowardly, aimed square at the well-off suburban family market. But having secured key partnerships with almost all third party publishers, we could see a great surge in quality software on the Wii U, far better than what its predecessor endured. The controller itself - a cross between a touch-sensitive tablet and the Wiimote - is enough to get your synapses firing with delight.
Disappointment of the Year | Modern Warfare 3
I'm often disappointed by Call of Duty, year on year, but regardless, I keep playing, for hours and hours and hours. Seriously, I've got a problem. That said, I just couldn't get into Modern Warfare 3. The loss of Infinity Ward's key staff is obvious, as while its packing the same tech and ideals, it just doesn't feel like a true CoD title.
I don't expect much from CoD anymore, but I did expect to at least be satiated for a few months at least. But, after less than a week, I'd boxed it up and shipped myself off to game, grudgingly settling for a minimal return which was duly spent on Skyrim. My concerns will obviously go unheard, as MW3 once again shattered records and generated Activision massive profits. Why would they change it? More to the point, however, is how long Activision can hope their millions-strong fanbase will ignore such shortcomings?
Most Anticipated Game of 2012 | Halo 4
I've no clue if Microsoft will indeed release Halo 4 next year. After all, it was only just announced, and we've yet to even lay eyes on a Game Informer preview! However, I believe 343 have been working on the fourth canonical entry in the Halo universe for longer than we all think, and I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft start to crank the hype engine into gear next month ahead of a full reveal at E3 2012.
I've lost a lot of love for Halo in the past few years. To be honest, I think a lot of Halo fans would agree our interest in the series has waned with each game following the first. Reach was the last nail in the coffin for me. However, with a new team at the helm, a new conflict to explore and new ideas on show, Halo 4 could be a return to form. Or I might just be fooling myself, all over again.