Best PC games for 2011: 31 must-play titles

Sims Medievel
Release date: Quarter 2 2011

We had a look at The Sims Medieval earlier this year, and the latest build is looking fairly impressive. We were basically shown a king being tortured by various means, such as a wizard casting painful-looking spells on him, and a complete, confusing refit of his throne room to make it look like somewhere Def Leppard would live.

We were also introduced to combat, and for the first time ever you'll be able to fight a fellow sim to the death. Great stuff!

Dark Spore
Release date: Quarter 1 2011

PC Format had a quick bash on Darkspore's make-your-own-monster bash 'em up, and we were pitted against former PC Zone staff. Needless to say, PC Format bashed Zone, but it was perhaps a mite unfair as our characters were rather unbalanced, the game's critical flaw became apparent: you can invest in creatures more powerful than others, and win pretty much any match.

We like the central premise, though with more balance required before launch.

Portal 2
Release date: Quarter 1 2011

Valve has kept fairly shtum about the sequel to 2007's first-person-puzzler, but we do know that it's got the voice talents of Stephen Merchant, two-player co-op and an overgrown version of the Aperture laboratories. Just as Portal got its main gameplay from indie project Narbacular Drop, Portal 2 sprays the innovative Tag: The Power of Paint all over the shop - it's worth a download.

Half-Life 2 2 Ep. 3
Release date: Quarter 2 2011

We know nothing about Episode 3, so this is mere speculation. What we reckon will happen is that Gordon Freeman turns out to be the G-Man in another dimension, Alyx Vance turns out to be a man, and it was all just a dream.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Release date: Quarter 1 2011

Our omnipotent controller, Dexter, saw Deus Ex: Human Revolution in action at an AMD event in LA earlier this month, and it's looking very, very good.

Developer Eidos Montreal has been really concentrating on making the PC version utterly jaw-dropping, with lovely DirectX 11 effects all over the shop and hand-in-hand support for AMD's latest graphics cards. It plays just like the original, too, so it's got to be a contender for game of the year. If not the decade.

Dungeon Siege 3
Release date: Quarter ? 2011

Chris Taylor requires no introduction, but I'm going to introduce him anyway. He made a name for himself on Total Annihilation and, recently, Supreme Commander, but he's still best known for Dungeon Siege. He's back on the franchise with Dungeon Siege 3, albeit as an advisor. Also working on the game is Obsidian, it of Fallout New Vegas and buggy games fame.

Details are fairly scant at the moment, aside from the story being set in the Kingdom of Ehb and the promise of multiplayer features. Expect a lot more information in our preview next month.

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Bioshock Infinite
Release date: 2012

We do have slight concerns about Infinite's setting. Bioshock's underwater world was just about believable: IT WAS HEATED BY THERMAL VENTS. But given the low oxygen levels and extreme chilliness of the Columbia, Elizabeth's low cut top would probably result in slightly more than a case of smuggling peanuts. I'm sure developer 2K has some kind of explanation; THEY'RE ALL MUTANTS.

That said, the setting does look intriguing, and daylight horror is something that very few games have done properly, if ever. The sense of scale and vertigo are well done. It's using the Unreal Engine 3 again, too, so expect nice shiny surfaces and slightly wonky textures.

Release date: 2011

Rebooting a franchise is never easy, but 2K is taking an unusual step by changing the much loved sci-fiturn-based-strategy into an FPS. It's all looking a bit like the virtual 1950s environment from Fallout 3, albeit with lots of big spaceships.

Spec Ops: The Line
Release date: Quarter R 2 2011

In an age dominated by military FPS games, Spec Ops' third-person tactical perspective could set it apart. Continuing the fine Spec Ops series, it sees you attempting to save a colonel in Dubai, and it promises random, STALKER-style sand storms.

Total War: Shogun 2
Release date: March 2011

Sega's spot-on real-time-strategy series goes back to its feudal roots with Total War: Shogun 2. We're promised a complete overhaul of the engine, which can now support up to 56,000 soldiers in a single battle, as well as some truly stunning environmental and water effects.

Creative Assembly has gone to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy, too. Sieges were fairly unique in 16th century Japan: entire mountain tops were dynamited, and elaborate castles were then built on top. These castles became huge death traps, where the enemy would find an apparently easy way in only to be slaughtered.

Shogun 2 aims to emulate this, and it's another layer of gameplay on an already awesome gaming cake. There's also the addition of sea battles.

Release date: Quarter 2 2011

F1 had a slightly off reception thanks to the sheer number of bugs in it, but at its core it remained one of the best racers the PC's ever seen. It filled the gap where GRID 2 should have been, and Codies is going back to its beloved rally franchise.

DiRT 2 remains a PCF benchmark stalwart thanks to its impressive DirectX 11-fueled engine, but at the same time it's going to be difficult for DiRT 3 to raise the bar. How can those lovely rippling puddles and windswept flags be bettered? The addition of a gymkhana-style event (cars vs horses) can only be a good thing. And hopefully the lack of the F1's official meddling hands will ensure a bug-free launch.