The calendar may have already flipped over to 2012, but for gamers, the beginning of the new year is still a few weeks away. That's when Square unleashes "Final Fantasy XIII-2," the first major retail release of the year.
January is typically a slow month for releases, so the lack of new games shouldn't come as a surprise. In fact, the first month of the year is generally a time for gamers to catch their collective breath and enjoy a well-deserved respite following the hectic holiday release schedule that exacts a toll on both their free time and their wallet.
This calm before the inevitable storm -- February and March are loaded with quality releases -- also allows for a bit of reflection, a chance to take one final look back at the year that was (and hand out some awards in the process.)
So without further adieu, here are your 2011 Game of the Year Awards:
Sports Game of the Year
"WWE 12" (THQ, Xbox 360 and PS3) -- OK, so pro wrestling isn't exactly a sport, but that doesn't stop me from recognizing the major leap forward this rebranded franchise took in 2011. Sure, the online portion of the game has been plagued by server issues, but the core gameplay is light-years ahead of what was offered in previous "Smackdown" titles.
Racing Game of the Year
"Forza Motorsport 4" (Microsoft, Xbox 360) -- With jaw-dropping visuals, tight controls and some interesting Kinect integration, Microsoft's flagship racing sim left the competition in the dust.
Fighting Game of the Year
"Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3" (Capcom, Xbox 360 and PS3) -- While its unique art style and colorful cast of characters gave "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" a certain charm, it was its accessibility that made it rise above all others in the genre. The "Ultimate" version, released in the fall, made the package even more appealing with new characters and a new game mode.
Family Game of the Year
"Go Vacation" (Namco Bandai, Wii) -- In what was an otherwise lackluster year for Nintendo's console, Namco's "Go Vacation" was a pleasant surprise. Featuring a plethora of different mini-games and activities, "Go Vacation" offers something for everyone and plenty of fun for all.
Kinect Game of the Year
"The Gunstringer" (Microsoft, Kinect for Xbox 360) -- Microsoft's motion-tracking camera peripheral came into its own last year, and no Kinect-enabled game highlighted the unit's potential like this quirky title. The intro, alone, was worth the price of admission.