Games of the Year 2012
Game of the Year 2012, as in every year, is so highly subjective we can’t brin ourselves to choose a single title to rule the site. Instead what we’ve put together is our quick list of games that made an impact with the staff over 2012 and ones that stand out as Games of the Year 2012. At the bottom of the article a few staff members have chimed in a personal favourite or two if you’re interested:
Far Cry 3
With Far Cry 3, players step into the shoes of Jason Brody, a man alone at the edge of the world, stranded on a mysterious tropical island. In this savage paradise, where lawlessness and violence are the only sure thing, players dictate how the story unfolds, from the battles they choose to fight to the allies or enemies they make along the way. As Jason Brody, players will slash, sneak and shoot their way across the island in a world that has lost all sense of morality
The Walking Dead
Telltale have taken a whole new direction with this release of the comic book sensation. Borrowing heavily from Heavy Rain and wrapping it up with their own unique story telling and design style they’ve created more of a next level interactive storybook than a game. The whole thing hangs together superbly. From the stomach-clenchingly fraught moral choices against the clock to the deep attachment you form to Clemetine. The game is like no other and deserves to be played by anyone who even remotely likes games.
Dishonored is an immersive first-person action game that casts you as a supernatural assassin driven by revenge. Creatively eliminate your targets with the flexible combat system as you combine the numerous supernatural abilities, weapons and unusual gadgets at your disposal. Pursue your enemies under the cover of darkness or ruthlessly attack them head on with weapons drawn. The outcome of each mission plays out based on the choices you make.
Managing to actually appeal to fans and detractors of the genre, Dishonoured was a massive step forward in making these titles more inclusive for the less stealth inclined.
An 80’s styled retro top-show beat-em-up stealth title with loud music and neon infused visuals. Should all be dreadful but the game is just superb. Great fun for a quick blast of just kicking back to this PC title is great fun and an essential indie purchase.
Trials Evolution. Man I’d like to kick it’s arse! The game is truly fantastic. A real fine tweaking of the already well honed Trials 2/Trials HD formula that add masses of ludicrous antics and scenarios in to the mix. It’s also responsible for several bouts of uncontrolled rage and many hours of lost time. The game has a massive “one more go” hook that will eat away at your soul it’s that impressive! Yet another essential downloadable purchase this year.
Black Ops 2
In this sequel to one of the best selling and most critically acclaimed games of all time, Alex Mason is back and the stakes have never been higher. International figure Raul Menendez claims to be a messiah for the 99% but underneath the surface there’s Cordis Die and a villain plotting to bring the world’s superpowers to war.
Missing some of the genuine intrigue of the last Black Ops this title could have floundered a bit had it not been for some skilful handling by Treyarch. The new choices in single player are a nice touch and the slightly longer campaign a nice change. The multiplayer is just as fun as it ever was and the new streak systems appear to be evening the playfield out a little too.
Max Payne 3
For Max Payne, the tragedies that took his loved ones years ago are wounds that refuse to heal. No longer a cop, close to washed up and addicted to pain killers, Max takes a job in São Paulo, Brazil, protecting the family of wealthy real estate mogul Rodrigo Branco, in an effort to finally escape his troubled past. But as events spiral out of his control, Max Payne finds himself alone on the streets of an unfamiliar city, desperately searching for the truth and fighting for a way out. This might not be the Max Payne I grew up playing, but it’s great fun none the less!
More interactive story book than a true game, Dear Esther offered us up a creepy and compelling short tale. Fawned over by “games are art” crazies, clucked over by critics, the experience needs to be one taken first hand to appreciate it’s impact.
Mass Effect 3
Not everyone will survive. An ancient alien race, known only as “Reapers”, has launched an all-out invasion leaving nothing but a trail of destruction in their wake. Earth has been taken, the galaxy is on the verge of total annihilation, and you are the only one who can stop them. The price of failure is extinction.
Now any concluding episode is going to find things tough. Mass Effect 3 was no exception to this rule. Many people rallied against an ending they felt cheated over. Many felt the game was too combat heavy and not the experience they had hoped for. Now the dust has settled it’s still clear to see that Mass Effect 3 is still one of the best titles on any platform this year and an essential for anyone.
The lively IOS title took the world by a frenzied storm when OMGPop released it. Everyone was sending poorly scratched out pictures of stuff to people with the items name written as neatly as possible under it. It doesn’t appear to of had the longevity that some titles have but there’s no denying it was one of the most played games of the year!
Many years in the making but Phil Fish’s Fez title finally came to light during the XBLA Summer of Arcade. Setting some pretty mind-melting puzzles in a seemingly retro and simple world left the game feeling fresh, challenging and little bit special.
Oh Journey. A game that’s just beautiful in so many respects. A game where the actual deeper meaning behind the playing of it is your own personal “journey” through it. Almost everyone you will talk to will tell you the same thing at the end of journey – “That is changed them a little bit and made them really feel something”. That Game Company really managed to produced something of significance with their final Sony exclusive title.
The Unfinished Swan
Giant Sparrow managed to take a blank screen and make it feel like discovering the world for the first time. The paint-ball mechanic might have seemed a little gimmicky but as the game progresses and new methods of exploring the world appear you can’t help but feel a real sense of genuine discovery and wonder. Like Sony exclusive stable mate Journey, The Unfinished Swan manages to do something truly unique in the gaming space.
The Witcher 2: Assaassin of Kings
A superb port to the console secured the enhanced version of The Witcher 2 a spot in our best of 2012 collection. The player is Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster slayer, a witcher. Entangled in the political turmoil that engulfed Temeria, Geralt helped quell the rebellion of the Order of the Flaming Rose. Soon after, he saved King Foltest’s life when the monarch was attacked by a witcher-like assassin. He continues to protect the king, serving as his bodyguard as Foltest strives to bring peace to his kingdom. The Order’s last bastions have yielded to the royal army, yet one more task remains – the Baroness La Valette announced her secession from the realm, and her fortress must be taken. A month after the attempted assassination, Foltest’s armies stand at the gates of La Valette Castle, preparing for a final assault. Still at Foltest’s side, Geralt is among them, unable to begin his personal quest to discover the mysterious assassin’s origin and identity…
Diablo finally returned as Blizzard had promised and fans lapped it all up. Several small issues with launch and some troubles with the online marketplace all took the shine of the initial buzz but the game still lives on. Offering pretty much the same experience it ever has done it’ll satisfy your mad loot cravings for many a month to come!
Rock Band Blitz
A bright and brash reworking of Harmonix’s older Frequency title brought us the superbly addictive and accessible Rock Band Blitz. Using the controller you can finally make use of the masses of Rock Band songs you downloaded but can’t be bothered to get a platic guitar out for.
Mark of the Ninja
Redefinition of stealth seems to have featured prominently in recent titles, no more so than in Dishonoured and downloadable nugget Mark of the Ninja. Taking a side scrolling look and feel and rolling in a superbly intuitive and responsive stealth mechanic the game just drips atmosphere and class. Many will be put off by it’s “stealth” label but, as a non-stealth fan, I can say I’ve enjoyed it greatly.
X-Com: Enemy Unknown
The original X-COM is widely regarded as one of the best games ever made and has now been re-imagined by the strategy experts at Firaxis Games. XCOM: Enemy Unknown expands on that legacy with an entirely new invasion story, enemies and technologies to fight aliens and defend Earth. You will control the fate of the human race through researching alien technologies, creating and managing a fully operational base, planning combat missions and controlling soldier movement in battle.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes causes a stir! For over ten years, millions of players have donned the hat and magnifying glass of the world’s greatest detectives, in a dozen games for PC and handheld systems. This year, Sherlock Holmes makes a triumphant return.
1898, London. All the evidence of police investigation points at Sherlock Holmes as the main suspect in a case involving theft, fraud and double-crossings. Unable to prove his own innocence, Holmes is rapidly losing London’s trust as doubt spreads through the city like wildfire. Even Doctor Watson’s faith in his friend begins to waver, as the famous detective flees Scotland Yard and raises further suspicion; prowling around at night, destruction of evidence… would Holmes go so far as to commit murder?
An odd little title from Sony Japan, Crispy’s and Playstation CAMP. This survival action game puts you in charge of varying animals in a deserted Tokyo where you slowly unravelled what has happened to the humans. Quirky and not at all one you’d expect to enjoy but the game just sucks you in with its meta-game and before you know it you’re hooked.
Retro City Rampage
Part homage and part parody this game serves as a great open-world action adventure title. Fusing pop culture and retro gaming it offers up a unique and truly fun take on the various genres it lampoons.
Sleeping Dogs catapults players into the role of undercover cop Wei Shen, tasked with taking down one of the world’s most fearsome criminal organisations from the inside… the Hong Kong Triads.
As players explore the bustling and crowded Hong Kong island, through its neon-lit side streets and sprawling street markets, an incredible story unfolds of loyalty and betrayal, where Wei begins to question his own motives as he is sucked in deeper than he could ever imagine.
Another shot straight out of left-field. United Front Games have previously been known for their solid little kart racer, Modnation Racers on the PS3/PSP. Then along comes this massive open-world title that assumes nothing but takes you on a truly epic ride.
Combining the legendary Forza Motorsport authenticity with a festival atmosphere and the freedom of the open road, Forza Horizon is a high-intensity, action-racing game set against the backdrop of the world’s most unique motorsport party. Featuring an expansive landscape, daring driving maneuvers to master, a rousing soundtrack and visceral moment-to-moment gameplay, Forza Horizon offers an immersive pick-up-and-play experience while retaining the unrivaled realism, diversity and innovation that are hallmarks of the Forza Motorsport franchise.
Coming from a new studio this could have been a stain on the good name that Turn 10 have built up with the Forza brand. Luckily this turns out to be just as good as the more “serious” Forza titles. It even managed to beat Criterion at their own game.
The latest instalment in the definitive Xbox sci-fi saga, Halo 4 takes place almost 5 years after the events of Halo 3, following Master Chief and his trusty AI companion Cortana as they boldly venture into a mysterious new world and discover an overpowering ancient evil that threatens to destroy humanity. With the fate of the entire universe hanging by a thread, Master Chief must confront his destiny as mankind’s greatest hero by embarking on his most epic adventure yet.
Nothing greatly different to what we’ve seen many times before but it at least proved that 343 could make a Halo game without any outside Bungie influences.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sonic and the All-Stars cast line up on the starting grid once again to battle for supremacy in the ultimate race. Compete across land, water and air in incredible transforming vehicles that change from cars to boats to planes mid-race. Master your driving skills as you drift, barrel role and boost to overtake your rivals, or use your weapons tactically and unleash your All-Star move to gain the winning advantage.
Dear lord where did this game come from?!? I was expecting a competent at best cash-in on the Sega characters. What I got was one of the best kart racers I’ve ever played in my life! What’s more the price on this seems to have plummeted to sub £20 already. You’d be foolish to not grab it immediately.
Assassain’s Creed 3
Building on the rich storyline established in previous games in the series, this new entry into the Assassin’s Creed saga is the most expansive and ambitious offering yet, bringing tantalising new revelations on the ongoing war between the Assassins Brotherhood and the Knights Templar.
Set in 18th century Colonial America during the time of the Revolutionary War, Assassin’s Creed 3 introduces gamers to a new protagonist in the form of Connor Kenway, a half-English, half-Native American man, who becomes unwittingly drawn into the conflict after his home is attacked by colonists.
Even though this seems to be a letdown to many an Assassin’s Creed 3 fan, there is no denying the game still has great scope, rich stories to tell and high production values – it just missed a slight step this year.
The first Borderlands was a massive success. A superbly timed and executed action RPG. Along comes the much asked for sequel and the worst anyone can say about it is that it’s more of the same. More of the same superbly crafted missions. More of the great looking cell-like art style. More of the incredibly crazy weaponry. If you even remotely like the first Borderlands you owe it to yourself to pick this sequel up.
Torchlight managed to fill a gap in the market left by Blizzard not getting Diablo ready in time. Who cold of expected that Torchlight 2 would actually be BETTER than Diablo 3 when the two of the launched earlier in 2012. With a tweaked engine, neater graphics and more loot-based refinements than you could wave a halberd at this game is an essential addition to any serious gamers library.
The first Trine was just a delight to look at and play. Trine 2 improves on it in every way offering some superbly rich and glaringly beautiful environments and scenes. Gameplay is just as tight and rewarding as last time out and the game has been tweaked to address a few of the issues from the first title. An absolute must for platform or Trine 1 fans.
Darksiders was a shot from the dark. A massive Zelda game only for gown-ups. Darksiders 2 hoped to cash in on the success of the first title and secure a third in the franchise. Playing as Death, War’s brother and all-round horseman badass! The game took some of the popular elements of the first and stretched to a new degree. The only real issue was that the game was more of the same and the combat difficulty was a little uneven in places. That said it still represented one of the cream of this past years titles.
Staff personal top picks of 2012:
Primordia - While I haven’t played it, it’s my #1 most anticipated game, because it’s by the same folks who made Gemini Rue. And we all know how much I loved that game.
Borderlands 2 – Honestly, it has so much personality that it’s the only shooter I ever really enjoy. How can you say no to a game that boasts tons of guns, rpg elements (done well, I might add), and guns that sass you? It also has a really awesome story and beautiful art. It’s the best expression of modern shooter sequel.
Guild Wars 2 – I’m a huge MMO fan, and around the office it’s common knowledge that I’m all but an addict for this game. It’s honestly one of the best MMOs. It’s only been out since late August, and it’s already added new content, two fantastic holiday events, and fixed so many bugs and cracked down on botting. It also broke records for MMO launch numbers, which is a good indication of the level of interest in the game.
Pastry Panic/Punch Quest – While the big focus is on console and PC titles, we can’t forget the mobile games. For me, it’s a tie between Pastry Panic and Punch Quest. Both offer such compelling and addictive arcade-style gameplay. They’re probably the two games I’ve consistently played on my phone that came out this year.
The Walking Dead - My absolute pick of the bunch. More high-tech storybook than game I’ll grant you but a superb series and perfectly created episodes.
The Unfinished Swan
Sonc & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Birds of Steel
Assassin’s Creed III
The Walking Dead
Black Mesa: The mod that delivered a spectacular re-imagining of Half Life, with the Source Engine operating at its finest. Not only were the levels suitably enhanced, but the atmosphere and tone of the game was also refined (such as the early post-accident levels taking a more survival horror tone). This mod delivered a faithful Half Life gaming experience in 2012 whilst Half Life 3 continues to sit in vapourware land.
Max Payne 3: Max Payne 3, it absolutely *owns* the simplicity that it delivers to the overcrowded 3rd person cover shooter. Despite this Rockstar handle the franchise with the maturity and respect that they showed in their own titles like Red Dead Redemption. One particular exchange beautifully illustrates this as the antagonist of the game mocks Max of pretending to be the big American hero trying to save the day. A resigned Max shouts back “well at least I fucking tried.” Quite simply a heartbreaking moment of defiance from a man who by all rights would have hung himself years ago… and one of my standout gaming moments in 2012.
Hotline Miami: The top down old school f*** ‘em up delivers a fantastic juxtaposition of raw and gritty graphics with bone crunching and tissue splattering sounds that lend real weight to the violence. The soundtrack itself further pumps up the messed up altered state of the main character and oozes scuzzy 80s vibes through your speakers. A dirty unwholesome delight.
The Walking Dead: Because I had to spend 10 minutes wiping the tears from my eyes at the end of episode 5 before I went downstairs to help the wife with the cooking.
Hitman Absolution: IO Interactive take a more story driven approach to the long awaited Hitman title. It still delivers a faithful experience to the fans of the franchise whilst giving more weight to the enigmatic 47. It’s a testament to how great this series is that if you asked me to stack my Hitman games in order of preference, I would struggle to do so.
Dear Esther: Up there with The Walking Dead in terms of “lacks gameplay, makes up for in atmosphere and narrative”. This title delivers a fantastic story in ever changing fragments that keeps driving you forward to try and piece together the entire plot. Also chalks up my vote as the most beautiful game of 2012.
Deponia and Chaos On Deponia: These two should be an essential purchase for Monkey Island fans. A definite purchase for point and click adventure fans, and a recommended purchase for anyone else. The beautifully drawn world serves up curious but loveable characters. An entertaining story is glossed with many amusing moments. The gameplay is infused with brain wracking puzzles that challenge but don’t frustrate. The Deponia series may not resuscitate the point and click genre into mainstream popularity unlike The Walking Dead, but it serves as a strong reminder as to how good they were in the 90s heyday and how great they can be again.