The must have titles from the first half of the year...
The beautiful British summer and its wonderfully unpredictable showers has finally come around which means it's time for our mid-year review.
We might still be waiting for the most anticipated titles of 2011 to hit shelves but the batch that's currently on offer is hardly something to turn your nose up at.
But which are the ones that really stand out? We wouldn't be so bold as to force a decision upon our mighty readers (you can scribble your own list in the comments) but we do feel the need to set our favourites in stone.
We don't have any stone, but we do have a fat chunk of internet:
Too often the download library gets overlooked when handing out accolades, which makes us even happier to include Tim Schafer's Double Fine Productions in this list with its Russain Doll puzzler stacking.
But we're not just throwing a bone to the little game here, this isn't a case of ticking boxes and filling quotas, Stacking really does deserve all the praise it has gotten and will continue to get.
Stacking has tonnes of quirky character and manages to provide a level of humour that's rare in video games (although this is the second title in our list that has made us chuckle).
As far as puzzle games go, it's by no means a MENSA beating brain-teaser but it's charm and elegance makes up for that in spades.
One for the race fans out there and Codemasters' DiRT franchise really hit a sweet spot this year with the third roll about in the mud.
With incredibly high scores that blind-sided a lot of gamers, DiRT 3 suddenly seems to dwarf race giants like Gran Turismo 5 despite its rally focus.
By toning down the Americanism and the Xtreme sensibilities of previous DiRT titles, while at the same time tuning everything about the series fans loved, Codies created what's considered the definitive DiRT.
It's Fun and accessible as well as weighty and deep pleasing rally fans and casual racers alike. That's without even mentioning the Ken Block-inspired ballet that is DiRT's Gymkhana Mode.
Fans of dialogue heavy, story-based adventure games like Ace Attorney or the classic Monkey Island will tell you just how good Ghost Trick really is.
With players taking on a amnesia-suffering hero who's been granted supernatural powers thanks to his recently deceased state, Ghost Trick provides a colourful interpretation of the point and click genre as you haunt objects and interact with a bunch of quirky characters to find out exactly how you got into this ghostly mess.
Some might criticise the game for its super linear approach but it's story is sophisticated enough to drag you through with ease so that you barely mind the straight route from one point to the next.
Add to that it's incredibly detailed, wonderfully exaggerated animation and it's plain to see why Ghost Trick considered a stand out DS title.
MARVEL VS. CAPCOM 3
We'll admit that Marvel vs. Capcom 3 may not be considered such a game changer by those poor folk who aren't into superhero comics. And, obviously, if you're not a fan of the fighting genre, you'll probably struggle to see what all the fuss is about.
But fight fans will instantly feel the quality oozing out of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and comic book lovers will barely be able to contain their thunderous nerdgasms.
The Marvel heroes in particular can claim to be some of the best adaptations outside of the comic book frames with constant clever nods scattered throughout, winning over expert fanboys with ease.
When it comes to combat, it's the hardcore audience that's been favoured again, with incredibly deep gameplay begging to be mastered. Casuals have been thrown some simplified options but, really, this is one for the veteran.
THE WITCHER 2
Upon release, The Witcher 2 quickly started to hoover up a mass of review scores firmly in the top 90 - 100 bracket and with good reason.
CD Projekt's shining sequel soon established itself as one of the best RPG experiences around - for a fairly young franchise without what you could call a household name that's no mean feat.
It had everything the modern RPG community demands a beautiful, detailed expanse of a world, dizzying character customisation, tough decisions that actually have impact and a suitably mature tone.
It might be overshadowed by Skyrim in a few months time, but the fact that we think that's a massive shame speaks volumes.
SHOGUN 2: TOTAL WAR
Bringing one of hardcore gaming's favourite RTS franchises back to its roots was Creative Assembly's first good idea. Going all out and making a direct sequel to the title that kicked off the series in the first place was probably what sealed the deal for most Total War fans.
16th century Japan has been the time and place Total War players have yearned to return to since the year 2000, with Shogun: Total War holding a special place in the hearts of most mock-military tacticians.
Not only did Shogun 2: Total War manage the not so enviable challenge of matching expectations but it also planted itself firmly as the best Total War in the series so far.
With Shogun 2, Creative Assembly recreated the original Total War formula, pulling off immensely satisfying strategic gameplay and tactical fights with frankly stunning visuals.
A Massive multiplayer suite with incredibly customisable characters and deep clan gameplay simply added to the experience to make this an RTS must have.
DEAD SPACE 2
Dead Space 2 saw the sales figures that its predecessor deserved but never really achieved. The hugely successful sequel probably owes a lot to word of mouth and the slow burn of Dead Space, which had developed into a fairly sizable flame of anticipation by the time number 2 was set for release.
But we shouldn't discount the quality that Dead Space 2 brought to all by itself. It upped the spectacle, the cinematics and the scares to an awe-inspiring level, with scenes that are sure to go down in The Big Book of Classic Gaming Moments (we're still waiting for a publisher).
Whether scrambling through the subway or boot-blasting your way through space, Dead Space 2 is one of the most epic action games ever. Getting a glimpse at a more human Isaac Clarke doesn't go amiss either.
ZELDA OCARINA OF TIME 3D
Since Zelda Ocarina of Time is considered one of the best games in history, nevermind the best in one of Nintendo's most treasured franchises, it would have taken something pretty special to mess up a modern day recreation on the 3DS.
Thankfully Ocrania of Time 3D didn't disappoint bringing all the magic of the N64's greatest gift up to date on Nintendo's new handheld with all the mesmerising beauty of crisp 3D graphics.
While Nintendo also took the opportunity to iron out any blemishes on the 12-year-old classic it had the foresight to include nostalgic bugs that would force a smile on the face of any ageing fanboy.
All this made it "the best version of the best Zelda."
Trust a Rockstar branded game to dominate the hearts and minds of gamers yet again. While LA Noire may not have been as big a scorer as Red Dead Redemption or GTA IV but the Team Bondi game certainly dragged millions in and held them there.
If it wasn't about the amazing MotionScan faces it was the narrative qualities, the rich recreation of 1940s LA or the odd combination of a modern Rockstar title and classic point-and-click adventure mechanics.
Was it everyone's cup of joe? Not at all, but it was a title that got people talking and it will be a reference point in gaming for years to come.
Forget your countdown clocks, your ten second trailers and your mysterious solitary screenshots, the biggest tease in video game history was Portal.
Chucked onto The Orange Box by Valve in a very by the way sort of manner, the short, sharp puzzler became an overnight cult sensation which soon started to spread to the masses as well.
Witty, innovative and atmospheric are probably the three best adjectives for the Portal world, although there are many more. The point is when Valve came to making a full-fat Portalling experience with the sequel it didn't disappoint.
Portal 2 is every bit as imaginative, inventive, hilarious and heart-warming as its predecessor and then some. A true and rare gem in the world of gaming.