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Top 10 must have games for Xmas 2011

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Ten great reasons to virtually ignore family and friends this Christmas...

Top 10 must have games for Xmas 2011

With Christmas fast approaching, some of you out there may well be looking for guidance as to what games to pick up for your family and friends. At the age of 25, I have long abandoned hope of my family ever working out what I would want them to buy me for Christmas; I simply hand over a list of requests and hope for the best. But, there are times when I wish my family were as clued up about games as I am, and had at least some inkling of what games I’d like to spend my entire Xmas day playing.

Let’s just be honest: regardless of your age, Christmas makes just everybody feel giddy as a kid, and if it doesn’t, we feel sorry for you. For those of you out there with a partner, family member or friend (or even just for yourself) who plays games - but would like some degree of surprise when it comes to the all important 'opening of the presents' - here are the ten most wanted games this Xmas, in ascending order.

10. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PS3, XBOX 360, PC, Wii)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

If ever there was a franchise that had become something of a cash cow, it’s almost certainly Call of Duty, and in particular, the Modern Warfare brand. Cash cow it may be, but it continues to be highly engrossing, chaotic first-person shooting action and is consistently the game of choice for the majority of shooter fans, among casual and hardcore gamers alike. While the single-player campaign is short as ever, it’s widely regarded as easier to follow than predecessor MW2’s massive leaps of logic and head-scratching plot twists. Realistically though, few play Modern Warfare for the campaign, so it’s good news that multiplayer has been improved upon yet again, and is once again guaranteed to sink hours upon hours of your life if you let it. New modes also include Survival as well as the return of the seriously addictive Spec Ops mode.

9. Battlefield 3 (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)

Battlefield 3

While Modern Warfare might be the choice of the masses, Battlefield 3 is the province of the self-proclaimed hardcore. As with MW3, so it is with Battlefield 3; the campaign is chock full of clichés, scripted quicktime events and uninspired narrative, while the true thrust of the game shines through in a sprawling multiplayer where the focus is on variety as opposed to MW3’s ridiculously detailed level of customization. Another key advantage BF3 has over MW3 is the inclusion of vehicles as a core part of gameplay – you’ll engage in tank battles, fly harrier jets and mount Humvee turrets as well as taking the fight to the ground as a foot soldier. If you have a PC strong enough to handle Battlefield 3, you should absolutely get it on Windows, as this allows you to take part in huge 64 player battles, unlike the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, which have been scaled back to the customary 24.

8. Super Mario Land 3DS (3DS)

Super Mario Land 3DS

Nintendo are an amazing company. Last year they celebrated 25 years of Mario, and each one of them has been a great success. For a franchise that hasn’t really evolved a great deal over those two and a half decades, Nintendo somehow still manage to keep things fresh and fun with each and every outing, and while they never reinvent the wheel, they always find ways to flip it on its head.  With Super Mario Land 3DS hitting the shelves this Christmas, now more than ever is the time to invest in a 3DS.

7. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time 3DS (3DS)

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time 3DS

While Mario celebrated his 25th birthday last year, Link and Zelda are celebrating theirs now, and by remaking what is widely considered to be the best Zelda game in the franchise, Nintendo have given fans exactly what they want. Ocarina of Time was officially dubbed “The Best Game Ever” when it was released 13 years ago, and it is a testament to its craft that it’s just as relevant now as it was then. Ocarina defined a generation of platforming and adventure games, but few come close to capturing the magic that Nintendo pull off with effortless, fairy-tale aplomb. Whether you’re a newcomer or a returning old friend, Ocarina of Time 3DS fully deserves your time.

6. Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Hyped by many as the World of Warcraft-killer, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set to be the biggest new MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game, for those not familiar with game lingo) for years, and with a universe as rich as Star Wars, it’s not difficult to see why many think it will be a very big deal when it arrives on December 20th. Set a millennia before the events of the Star Wars movies, The Old Republic puts you in a vast universe of different species, classes, characters, and quests, but the real selling point of The Old Republic is its heavy focus on story, something heretofore considered an afterthought in the MMORPG genre. If you’re looking for a game that you could lose hours and hours and hours to, look no further than The Old Republic.

Of course, there are naysayers, doubters and haters, but the proof will be in the pudding. Regardless of the end product, there’s an undeniable buzz about The Old Republic, and if you have a Star Wars geek in the family it’s an absolute must.

5. Batman: Arkham City (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)

Batman: Arkham City

When Batman Arkham Asylum rocked the gaming world in 2009, few would have predicted it would spawn a massively successful franchise. Before Arkham Asylum, video games based on comic book franchises were almost universally accepted as failures before they were even launched, with the possible exception of Spiderman 2. Arkham Asylum changed that, and with Arkham City, developer Rocksteady have made good on the huge potential promised in the first game.
Arkham City’s setting is more than double that of its predecessor and features a slew of new game mechanics, items, unlockables,  and Riddler Challenges not to mention it’s ever expanding rogue’s gallery. In the first game, the Joker took center stage but Arkham City belongs to no one baddie and is instead a vast canvas of villainy with debuts from icons like Two Face, The Penguin, Mr Freeze and even segments where you play as Catwoman. Many are already citing Arkham City as Game of The Year, and amongst such strong competition this is no small feat but nor is it any kind of overestimation – even if you don’t have an interest in the Caped Crusader, if you like videogames, you need to play Arkham City.

4. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)

Assassin's Creed: Revelations

The third game in what is now dubbed the Ezio Trilogy, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is set to answer the ever-growing list of questions the fans have about the series’ storyline progression. Ubisoft have announced that this is to be the last AC game featuring Ezio d’Auditore, our much loved protagonist who effortlessly stole the spotlight from the supposed hero of the franchise, Desmond Miles. In this entry Ezio is getting old gracefully, and still moves like a master assassin. Set in Constantinople, Ezio is out looking for answers to questions left long unanswered as he nears the end of his life. There are also flashback segments featuring Altair, the mostly unlikable “hero” of the first Assassin’s Creed game, which are said to explain the rising complexity of the franchise’s storyline.

The inclusion of a new “hookblade” weapon affects Ezio’s combat style, as well as allowing him to travel across the vast cityscapes at much faster rates than before. The multiplayer introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood also makes a return in Revelations, allowing you to test your stealth and slaying abilities against other players across the world.

3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

If online play isn’t for you but you’re looking for a world that’s truly immersive, deep and layered, look no further than Skyrim. Skyrim defines epic in every sense of the word. With over one hundred gameplay hours to invest in, numerous subplots and sidequests to explore, not to mention countless areas to explore, Skyrim has it all. Told in a high fantasy setting with heavy influences from Nordic culture, Skyrim is a world in which your decisions and actions throughout the game play a crucial part in the unravelling of the narrative. It’s unlikely that any two people’s experiences of playing Skyrim will be exactly the same – there’s simply too much choice. Your character can specialize in melee, magic or stealth, and each class has advanced levels of customisation to toy with. It would be easy to lose yourself in Skyrim’s world without ever actually interacting with other characters or the story elements – its ultra-detailed, hyper-realistic art design makes it one of the most visually arresting games to come out in years, and as such don’t be surprised if you see a mountain in the distance and suddenly feel the urge to climb it – and don’t worry, in Skyrim, you can.

2. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3)

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

What Nintendo began as a basic platformer about an Italian plumber residing in the mushroom kingdom, Naughty Dog have evolved into a very special kind of blockbuster game. Uncharted has become a huge success because it balances platforming, shooting,  and climbing with the perfect balance of Hollywood-style set-pieces, snappy dialogue and rich, involving characters.  More than any other game, Uncharted is leading the pack into what many gamers consider to be the future: immersive story-telling as deep as a movie.

In many ways Uncharted is the Indiana Jones of videogames – it has all the flair, charm and boy’s own adventure that so few works of art capture. Playing Uncharted, you’ll believe in the supernatural, mythical objects, ancient lost civilizations and have a hell of a time playing all of it. Uncharted picks you up and refuses to let you go, even after the credits have rolled. Fortunately when they do, you have a highly addictive multiplayer mode to fall back on where you can climb, leap, jump and gun down other players to your heart's content.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

25 years old, and Nintendo are still breathing new life into old characters in a way that no one else can. The last Zelda entry on the Wii was Twilight Princess, in many ways a culmination and celebration of the style of gameplay that Ocarina of Time established in 1998. For many it was a brilliant tribute to a game that defined a generation, but for a few it was bordering on repetition. Those few can celebrate now, as Skyward Sword has brilliantly reinvented what the Zelda franchise stands for while still remaining true to so many of the things that make it what it is. With the inclusion of Motion Plus, gameplay has been given detailed precision when using Link’s sword in a way that has never occurred before. I hadn’t planned on spending my Christmas morning playing Zelda, as I’ve done many Christmases past, but as soon as I saw the universally glowing reviews for this game, I knew Zelda would be stealing Christmas once again.

See also:

Top 10 hottest videogames for 2011

9 potential new epochs for the Assassin's Creed franchise

Batman: Arkham City review

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review

Star Wars: The Old Republic coming this year


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