Hey HBG, long time no see! How you doing? I hope you’re all well. I thought I’d write up a little top 5 list of my favourite games this year, and I encourage you all to do the same! 2012 has been an interesting year for our medium, sure they may have been no earth shattering release like a GTA V, but the year was littered with interesting, fun titles. Keep in mind, I’ve probably missed out on a few larger releases such as Far Cry 3, so if something amazing is missing, please don’t assume I hate it!
But hey, let’s get down to business. Here’s my personal top 5 games of 2012!
Number 5: Syndicate (2012 remake)
I’d be surprised if this made anyone’s list other than my own, hell – I’d be surprised if anyone on the planet other than myself bought the game. When you’re remaking a cult classic such as Syndicate, the last thing fans want to hear is “it’s a first person shooter”. Combine that fact with a Skrillex remix of the theme song, and you have people frothing at the mouth with absolute hate. Fortunately I was never a fan of the original game, and admittedly I’ve been known to bob my head back and fourth to a wub wub beat now and then, so naturally this game was right up my alley.
I felt the game played wonderfully. Sure, the shooting mechanics could be compared to its contemporaries like a Call of Duty or Battlefield – but those games are successful for a reason, they play very well. Combine solid shooting mechanics with hacking powers, like the ability to overheat an opponents weapon, or FORCE HIM TO COMMIT SUICIDE, and you have an enjoyable single player romp littered with dubstep. Oh, it doesn’t hurt that the multiplayer is basically Left 4 Dead with suicide powers, either. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a sequel, but I’m extremely glad that I got to experience this game.
Number 4: Journey
If you told me a year ago that a game developed by the same guys who made Flower would be on my top 5 list, I’d probably tip my coke all over your head and call you a lemon. I’m usually quite a snob when it comes to “artsy-indie” titles, but Journey is a game that everyone should experience. The beauty of Journey isn’t just its amazing graphics (which are absolutely mind-blowing in motion) but rather the way its online play is implemented. You’ll be randomly matched up with people on the fly, but here’s the kicker – there’s little to no form of communication, with the exception of small audio cues triggered by a button.
Over the course of the game I grew attached to my random buddy. If I may recite a popular internet saying, we had seen some shit. The person I was playing with could have been the worlds most ruthless racist, or an obnoxious kid who does nothing but scream in his headset – but in the moment it didn’t matter. We experienced a Journey start to finish together, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had, not just in 2012.
Number 3: XCOM
XCOM is a motherfucker, plain and simple. You create a squad, rename them so they’re your buddies and them watch them all be mercilessly murdered by invading bastards. It’s amazing that 2K would put out a rather hardcore turn based strategy game in 2012, but I for one am absolutely grateful. We haven’t had a triple A complex strategy game like this in a long time (at least to my knowledge). It’s refreshing to play a game that doesn’t hold your hand. If you make one wrong move, expect to see a soldier that you’ve carefully cultivated just be annihilated right in front of you.
Even if you’re quite good at strategy titles, there’s an Ironman option in there. It’s essentially hardcore mode – forget loading if you made a mistake, you’re going to have to live with the consequences. If you’re a fan of games like Final Fantasy Tactics, or even the original XCOM, you really do owe it to yourself to play this. It’s definitely one of those “just one more turn!” type of games. The multiplayer is hilariously entertaining too! Many nights were spent clashing with friend of the site Dave Oshry in an all out battle for supremacy. (side note: fuck you Dave, I’m better than you at this game)
Number 2: The Walking Dead
Alright fine, I’ll admit it – I CRIED A LITTLE. It’s hard to explain why this is one of my favourite games without going into spoiler territory, but the way the Walking Dead handles player choice is absolutely fantastic. I’m bored to tears of the typical good & evil choices. It’s a played out mechanic. If you pick good early on, chances are you’re going to confine yourself to only selecting those options all the way through a game, lest you rob yourself of achievements and certain powers. The Walking Dead encourages experimentation. You’re always cast into the middle of extremely fucked situations, and more often than not, your choices don’t make anything better – they only make things slightly less bad.
It’s a game that isn’t afraid to punch you right in the stomach, I’ll just say it – expect to grow fond of certain characters, only to watch them die later on. It’s the zombie apocalypse after all. Eventually the game wraps up a little too neatly, and everyone will end up sharing common narrative threads, but the Walking Dead does a good job of disguising this fact. You feel as if this is your story. You feel as if you’re the reason someone just died. You feel as if your choices matter, and in the end, that’s what we want from games. I’m looking at you Mass Effect 3, you lemon head.
Number 1: Max Payne 3
Yeah, it’s not an Aaron list without some Rockstar love up in here. I’m not nominating this just to appease the Rockstar overlords, though. This game really hit home with me. Without writing an emo diary entry, I had a rough patch this year. Sure I didn’t witness my family be murdered right in front of me like Max did, but let’s just say Max and I were very cynical people. Throughout the game, Rockstar really explored the psyche of someone who’s seen some shit, someone who’s lost everything he holds dear, someone who really doesn’t give a shit any more. Max is cast into a set of situations that he really doesn’t care about, he’s only shooting bad guys to take his mind off the real problem – he’s a very sad, hopeless man, clinging to the past, attempting to wash it all away with alcohol and pills.
Throughout the game you’re gunning people down in slow motion, watching the Euphoria physics craft a dynamic battleground for you to play around in. Even without the carefully crafted narrative Max Payne 3 offers, it’d still be an immensely satisfying shooter. The fact that it does have an extremely interesting and dark story to pull from really does set Max apart from the pack. That being said, there really is no way I can authoritatively say “this is the ultimate game of 2012″, because at the end of the day someone could look at it objectively and state “oh, you’re just shooting guys”. It really comes down to the absolute care and precision Rockstar is known for – they could develop a Bus Simulator that blows everyone’s minds.
The music, the story, the game play and visuals - they aren’t separate pieces, they’re all equal parts of a truly complete and satisfying package. When I hit the moment of Max shaving his hair, picking himself up, and gunning through an airport listening to TEARS, it was a moment of reflection – Everyone wants to move on from the dark chapter in their life and become the ultimate badass they know they can be. When a game inspires you to further yourself in real life, you know it’s something special.
Guilty pleasure: War Z
Mindfuck of the year: Spec Ops: The Line
Disappointment of the year: NBA2K13
Best game of all time: GTAIV
So there it is! Thank you for taking the time to read my list, and thanks for a great year, HBG. I’m immensely looking forward to Kreyg’s streams, and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to sit in on a few of them. Until then, take it easy. Oh, and (obligatory shill) BUY RISE OF THE TRIAD!