This is the month we've been waiting for all year long! November 2011 will go down in the gaming history books as one of the busiest months ever when it comes to new releases - and potential Game of the Year nominees. Sequels lead the charge with new entries in many established franchises, including the high-stakes battle between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 I covered last month. There are plenty of great games to put in your GameQ this month, but here are my picks for the best new releases across all the major platforms.
It came out in October, but I can't resist listing the incredible Batman: Arkham City here. A few years ago, London-based Rocksteady Studios came out of nowhere to produce Batman: Arkham Asylum, a richly-textured superhero tale with addictive hand-to-hand combat. The sequel takes everything great about the first game and amps up the action with a complete open-world Gotham, not to mention almost every villain in the Batman canon. The result is an expansive adventure that feels like Assassin's Creed or GTA meets Batman, with incredible detail and depth to the action. Easily a candidate for Game of the Year, Batman: Arkham City shows that games based on superheroes have enormous potential when backed by the right creative team. Don't miss this game.
Batman: Arkham City is one of the year's best games.
The story and characters really stand out in Uncharted 3.
All year, I've written about my love for the Uncharted franchise, Sony's flagship exclusive series for the PS3. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception is now available to put in your GameQ, and you shouldn't miss it. Uncharted 2 was given a lot of attention because of its ability to seamlessly include cinematic action moments as part of the gameplay. The third Uncharted uses the power of the PS3 to do the same, with massive action sequences in locations like a flying cargo plane and onboard a sinking cruise ship, and even in subtle touches like how Nathan's walking and running animations constantly change to immerse you in the world. But, what I love even more than the action are the storytelling and the characters. Writer Amy Hennig has penned a compelling narrative that reaches the level of writing you'd expect from a Rockstar game. In Uncharted 3, you care about the characters and don't want to skip through cutscenes, which is an achievement for a video game. Uncharted is an action game, but the adventure elements and the storytelling show that Naughty Dog is maturing as a developer and staying ahead of the competition.
Role-playing game fans have been counting down the days to the 11.11.11 release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the latest adventure from Bethesda. The follow-up to Oblivion, this epic, multi-platform RPG promises to be as deep a game as you want it to be. As a Dragonborn, you enter the land of Skyrim and try to prevent dragons from overtaking the land. Of course that's just the start of the story, which eventually leads to teaming up with friendly dragons and learning a series of Dragon Shouts that let you cast spells in the midst of gameplay. Today's best RPGs play like detailed action games, and Skyrim delivers the big-budget dragon battles you'd expect. But it also maintains all those little RPG moments fans love, from customizing your character to hunting and cooking your own food. Everyone will have a different adventure, but if you're an RPG fan, Skyrim is a game that you'll enjoy taking weeks to complete.
Yes, I'm finally writing about a new game for the Wii! You'll probably laugh when you turn on your Wii, eject the disc that's inside, and find out it's a game from a while ago. Besides the new Kirby, there haven't been many frontline Wii releases in 2011. Skyward Sword, however, is as big a game as there is, promising between 50 and 100 hours of gameplay. Shigeru Miyamoto and the team have been working on this title for years, which will reveal new details about the events leading up to Ocarina of Time and the creation of the Master Sword. It's also a game that requires the Wii MotionPlus. Combat is now a puzzle where you must figure out the correct way to slash and hack enemies with motion controls. The lack of HD graphics is a bit odd for a 2011 game, but Nintendo's adventures have never been about visual fidelity or massive scripts. If you're a Zelda fan, Skyward Sword will soar above every other game on this list.
Call of Duty has done it successfully, but can Assassin's Creed do it too? This is now the third year in a row for an Ezio-themed Assassin's Creed game from Ubisoft. The formula has been changed up a bit for Assassin's Creed: Revelations with the inclusion of short memory sequences starring Altair, the star of the first Assassin's Creed, which was set during the Third Crusade. The modern-day gameplay with Desmond, who is DNA-linked to these ancient Assassins, is also very different than previous entries in the series (I don't want to spoil it, so I'll leave it at that). There are new features like bomb crafting and a tower-defense-like game to defend city strongholds in Istanbul circa 1511. This is expected to be the last Assassin's Creed game set during the Renaissance era, paving the way for the third Assassins game, which (surprise!) should be out next November.
There are a lot of big-ticket console releases due out this November, but the handheld space has a dearth of big releases. Sony fans will have to wait until early 2012 for the release of the PS Vita, and it's fair to say there haven't been many frontline releases for the Nintendo 3DS, either. That said, there are a couple big Nintendo games due for the 3DS before the end of the year. Mario Kart 7 is coming in December, but the one I'm most excited to play is Super Mario 3D Land. The tanooki raccoon tail suit returns, as does Mario's ability to throw boomerangs. What I like about this game is how it blends 2D and 3D Mario gameplay. The 3D effect is used for some mid-twisting coin rooms. With no new Mario game for Wii this year - and no clear Mario game in development for the Wii-U - Super Mario 3D Land is the perfect way to get your Mario fix this holiday season.
That's all for this month, but I hope you enjoy this great month to be a gamer. Next month, I'll be back with my early picks for Game of the Year. In the meantime, follow me inside the GameFly App (free on iPhone and Android) to find out what I'm playing.