2012 has been a year of ups and downs. Some of the best games of this year could possibly be the best we have seen in long time, bringing amazing new ideas, themes and experiences to us when some we have expected a lot from have let us down. Here are some of my tops picks of 2012.
5. X-COM: Enemy Unknown
I didn’t know much about the Xcom series before Enemy Unknown was released. I had heard amazing things here and there about the older titles, but was put off by the first person shooter that sprung up a year or so ago. I didn’t even buy the game until November, months after its release. Xcom: Enemy Unknown surprised me thoroughly. I wasn’t expecting a rich, deep progression system that require more out of you than just killing those alien scum. I grew attached to my squad, was shocked and sadden when they died which I didn’t expect. My greatest triumph with Xcom was keeping my first squad member alive until the very end, still managing to escape from the alien mother ship.
4. Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3, in my opinion, is the most realistic, yet also, most unrealistic shooting game ever. Mixing the ridiculous slow motion combat, the Man On Fire style story and the Euphoria physics engine makes for an intense, ultra violent crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. I have played through the game 4 times already and half way through a fifth clearing each of the difficulties progressively, each more fulfilling than the last. While I have enjoyed other games more for the stories and worlds, I have not enjoyed playing a game more this year.
It surprises me that a game that I never want to play through ever again, is on my game of the year list. This is not because it is a bad game, it is because my time with the game is how I want to remember it, unspoilt by repeated playthroughs. This feels like a Disney or Pixar movie, vibrant and colourful, less than £10/$ and two hours long. Yet it is very unique, a simple premise, getting to the the top of a mountain. It raises a lot of questions, that aren’t answered by the game but that was part of the my enjoyment with it. It is what it is to you, making it a very personal experience.
2. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition
The Witcher 2 was at the top of my list for the most anticipated games of 2012. I was extremely jealous of all the PC gamers out there who were playing this title and singing its praises. When it was released I didn’t stop playing it for nearly an entire week, with a ton of coursework to do. If it wasn’t for The Walking Dead, Geralt would be in his rightful number one spot. The Witcher 2 is classic fantasy story telling through and through but with a dark, more grounded feeling. While other games give the illusion of choice, The Witcher 2 takes you to completely different places depending on your decisions, facing off against enemies who could have been your best friends. It is also one of the only franchises that got me exploring the universe outside of the game, buying books that enrich the universe even further.
1. The Walking Dead
Even though I loved the 6 months of playing and waiting for each episode of The Walking Dead I find it hard to call it ‘game’ of the year. Comparing it to the admittedly, very few, other adventure games I have played The Walking Dead is rather basic. You do very little puzzle solving and when you do it is very simple. However, this is an emotionally draining, powerful, well written game that everyone should experience, whether you like video games or not. Almost everyone owns something that can play The Walking Dead, so there is no excuse. The connection between the two main characters and their relationship with supporting cast is so strong that you care when something happens. You will be truly protective, aggressive and sad when something happens to one of the characters. To put it plainly, this has to be one of the best ‘games’ of the last ten years.
Honorable Mention: Mass Effect 3, Halo 4, Darksiders 2, Diablo 3, Minecraft