Join M1GO as he takes a look at the best and worst that 2012 had to offer.
I was on the Tsilon forums recently, and was surprised that one of the community members considered 2012 a pretty bad year for gaming. Maybe he’s an RPG fan or something, but I personally thought that this year was chock full of quality games, especially towards the tail end of the year. In fact, there were so many good games vying for my attention that any of the games mentioned in my “Best of 2012” section can be considered the Game of the Year depending on how you lean and where our preferences lie.
In writing this article, I’ve separated it into the year’s best games, the year’s “meh”, and the year’s absolute worst. Some of my fellow GamerVets Hockey Glory and Evilenger also gave their best and worst for the year, so make sure to check those out as well.
Without further ado, here are my best and worst of 2012:
Best of 2012
Game of the Year: Halo 4
It might not have the best story, the largest online community or the wealth of extra content that other games have, but at its core Halo 4 delivers exactly what fans of the series have been clamoring for, and then goes a step further and improves upon it. That’s quite a feat for a 343 Industries, which was handed the reins on the series after Bungie’s partnership with Microsoft ended a couple years ago.
So why do I consider this game this year’s best game? Many might look at it and say that it’s pretty much the same Halo that we’ve seen before. Others will say that they removed key features like the Firefight mode, and introduced controversial ones like ordnance drops. Still others will point out that the game is stuck in the past, with archaic controls where there’s no way to even effectively ADS like many modern shooters. Despite all these complaints, one thing stood out in my 8-hour campaign playthrough, 3 hours of Spartan Ops play, and countless hours of online play: This game is damn fun.
The Walking Dead had a great story, and plays like an interactive TV show; Far Cry 3 allowed me to do all sorts of crazy, open-world stuff, but there was no sense of urgency in the meyhem; Borderlands 2, while awesome, started getting repetitive; XCom kept killing off my guys and making me re-load my saves; Black Ops 2‘s single player campaign was simply boring – don’t even get me started on the first 3 hours of Assassin’s Creed 3.
Halo 4 on the other hand hit all the right notes. The pacing was great, the campaign was just the right length, the story was more accessible and personal than any of the previous games aside from Reach or ODST, co-op was a blast to play, and multiplayer was awesome. I can’t say that any of the other games did as much and as well as Halo 4 did this year.
Honourable Mention: The Walking Dead, Far Cry 3
What, you thought Halo or CoD would win this? This downloadable point-and-click adventure deserves all the praise it can get for its amazing single-player experience. Branching dialogue and a storyline with multiple paths simply add to the awesomeness of this game. Add to this some likable, memorable characters who you’ll grow to truly care about make this game truly tough to beat. It’s a must-own for any gamer, and is a no-brainer (get it?!) for Walking Dead fans.
Honourable Mention: Sleeping Dogs
Best Multiplayer: Halo 4
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Halo. While I loved Halo 3’s multiplayer, I simply couldn’t get into Halo: Reach online. However, Halo 4 had me hooked from the get-go, and the addition of Spartan Ops, as well as the ever-reliable campaign co-op seals the deal. With just enough changes to its game mechanics courtesy of ordnance drops, while still delivering the satisfying Halo gameplay and a good variety of old and new maps and game types, Halo 4 feels like an old friend that grew up with you. Except this old friend will kick your ass and teabag you if you’re not paying attention.
Honourable Mention: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Borderlands 2
Best Blast from the Past: XCom: Enemy Unknown
If you were a gamer in the 90’s, you’re probably very familiar with turn-based strategy games like X-Com and Jagged Alliance. Before the likes of WarCraft and Command & Conquer became popular, most strategy games were turn-based affairs where each character in your squad would have an allocated number of action points to spend per turn. Fast forward about 20 years and they’ve done away with the action points and made the game more console-friendly, but it’s just as fun as it was before.
Honourable Mention: The Walking Dead (for making point-and-click adventures cool again)
Holy shit, it’s not even close… Want a gun that shoots explosive bullets, and then turns into a grenade when it’s out of ammo? Want a sniper rifle that shoots bullets that electrocute enemies? Want a shotgun that talks to you whenever it fires? It’s all here and more in Borderlands 2, which boasts a bazillion guns. Oh, and the gameplay is pretty damn fun too.
Surprise Hit of 2012: Far Cry 3
For me, the Far Cry series was always just one of those “open-world jungle shooters” – similar to Just Cause, it was a game that really didn’t appeal to me on paper. Probably because growing up, shooters were always all about corridors and space stations, and anytime a developer tried to do an open level, it would always look like shit.
Well, I have found the error of my ways thanks to the awesomeness that is Far Cry 3. Bright beaches and lush jungles complete with various flora and fauna for you to collect and hunt serve as a backdrop to a great open world campaign with tons of stuff to see, do, shoot and stab.
Honourable Mention: Sleeping Dogs, The Walking Dead
Most Immersive Game: Far Cry 3
Once again, I have to give it to Far Cry 3, which does a great job of giving you full reign over an entire island full of enemies, allies and creatures to interact with and lots of terrain to explore.
Fancy a bit of hunting? Pick up your weapon of choice and go after some boars, goats, deer, tigers, and all sorts of other beasts. Want to kill some dudes? There’s plenty of people to kill on the island – and you’re free to take your pick on how you want to take them out. Heck, you can even get the animals to do the killing for you. The few gripes I had with the bland main character and the driving mechanics are overshadowed by the amount of awesome there is in this island. The world is your sandbox, so go out and play.
Honourable Mention: Sleeping Dogs
Best Adaptation: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
It was tough to decide between Transformers: Fall of Cybertron and The Walking Dead because they both did an amazing job at fleshing out their respective universes, while also adding to the lore.
In the end, I have to give it up to TF:FoC for furthering the story along, and for the meticulous detail shown by High Moon Studios. Its evident that this is a group that has great respect for their source material, and there are so many small nods for Transformers fans. Like War for Cybertron before it, they managed to give fresh new Cybertronian looks to the characters we’ve grown up with, while also keeping in line with the source material, and delivering an action-packed thrill ride from start to finish.
Honourable Mention: The Walking Dead
At the low price of $29.99, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t get Sleeping Dogs. This third-person open world sandbox game set in Hong Kong delivers on all fronts, with excellent hand-to-hand combat, fun, varied driving and hijacking missions, and a story lifted out of Chinese cinema (think The Departed), where the lines of cop and criminal blur, and your loyalties to each faction will be tested. I personally could not put this game down – it’s just that damn good, and belongs up there with other greats like Red Dead Redemption and Batman: Arkham City.
Meh’s of 2012
There were a few releases that, while not terrible, also failed to deliver on the hype. They’re not bad, but a few design choices and a lack of polish keep them from being great. Here are a few of them:
Nintendo Wii U
While Microsoft and Sony spent this generation duking it out amongst themselves, Nintendo not-so-quietly went after the casual market and made huge profits by selling motion gaming to the masses. Their follow up console, meant to cater more towards the “hardcore” fans, has so far missed the mark. Disappointingly, the Wii U is about on par with the PS3 and Xbox 360 in terms of processing power, and while there was a good number of release day titles specifically catered to the Wii U’s unique dual screen model, fans are taking a wait-and-see approach. It’s not a disaster, but we were really hoping that Nintendo would be more aggressive and take more risks by fully pushing for the next generation in console gaming.
Max Payne 3
It took almost 10 years for Rockstar to finally deliver the next chapter in the Max Payne saga, but they finally released the 3rd game in the series and it was simply average. The mechanics that made Max Payne such an innovative franchise in its day are now dated and stale, and the gunplay has since been eclipsed by better shooters out there.
You know, I almost forgot about this game. After a lengthy hiatus, EA rebooted SSX, the extreme snowboarding game with big jumps, big tricks and big mountains to shred – and I was very excited. Unfortunately, they also added layers of complexity with their RiderNet social interface and various gadgets, while also removing split-screen two player and any real multiplayer modes, which was a big selling point of the older games. The Dark Descent levels were fun, but many of the courses were boring, and the rewind feature really sucks the life out of this game. Couple that with the steepest difficulty spike I’ve ever experienced in a final boss level, and we have one of this year’s “meh” games.
I admit, I was looking forward to seeing what publishers would do with the Kinect – Steel Battalion was very intriguing, and integrating the kinect with regular controller-based games was something I wanted them to do well, but this year was very disappointing. Aside from the always-awesome Dance Central series, we didn’t really see much else. Sure, a bunch of mini-games and free Kinect Labs stuff was fun, but the 30 seconds of amusement don’t even justify the bandwidth I used to download them. We want more of the Child of Eden and Gunstringer games. Here’s hoping Microsoft finally allows Rare to do something other than Kinect Adventures type of games for the Kinect.
Resident Evil 6
The Resident Evil franchise has always been the pinnacle of survival horror, but it’s undergone many changes over time. After the action-packed romp in Africa that was RE5, Capcom went even further with its latest game, to the disdain of many fans. I actually haven’t played the full game, which I still have sealed in my collection, but the demo showed me enough to know that I can wait til I’m finished with other games in my backlog before tackling it. It’s not that the game is bad – it’s technically sound and it looks great – but it lacks the heart and a certain something that makes it feel like Capcom has sold out yet again.
Worst of 2012
Worst game of 2012: Syndicate
Let’s recap on how EA massively screwed this one up. Take a beloved tactical turn-based game with a good following of older, nostalgic gamers, turn their beloved franchise into a squad-based first person shooter, slap on one of the busiest, ugliest head’s up displays I’ve seen, and toss in a dose of terrible gameplay mechanics, and you’re left with this piece of crap. For a look at how they could’ve done justice to the Syndicate name instead, check out XCom. Otherwise, steer clear of this sloppy cash grab.
Dishonourable Mention: Medal of Honor: Warfighter