Ashley's Top 5 Games of 2012

Our resident British editor Ashley Chittock has submitted his picks for Game of the Year 2012. His list has to be one of the most diverse lists out of any of our editors on the site. He has a puzzle game, sports game, a frustrating game, a third person shooter, an an episodic adventure game. Quite the list.

5. Fez

Few games bring the gaming community together in sheer bewilderment like Fez did. A merely functional puzzle-platformer on the outside, it soon evolves into a devilishly obtuse and quirky puzzle game that requires a level of player thought and decryption that’s been lost in the Call Of Duty age. Fez marked the first time I’d had to reach for a notepad and pen whilst playing a game for half a decade, and only some technical foibles detracted from what was a fascinating and finely crafted experience.

4. FIFA 13

Sports games often get dismissed as conveyor belt garbage that lack depth or long-term enjoyability for hardcore enthusiasts. FIFA 13 is the game to conclusively dispel that misconception. There are more game modes than you can have your fill of in one lifetime, it makes some neat additions to the social side of EA Sports titles and most importantly of all it’s all founded on a base of excellent gameplay. The physics are as close as you’re going to get to actually kicking a ball about, the improved sound design goes a long way to preventing repetition and it all feels as polished as an AAA sports release should.

3. Trials Evolution

The real winner of this generation of consoles has been the digital medium. XBLA, and later PSN, have grown from simple arcade replicas where you could download ports of twenty-year old games for a quick buck to fully-fledged platforms in their own right. No game epitomises what XBLA is capable of more than Trials Evolution. Bettering its predecessor in every conceivable way, RedLynx took all of the most obvious criticisms levelled at Trials HD – the lack of multiplayer, the poor creation tools, and the lack of visual variety – and fixed them all so effectively that Evolution, despite being small in stature, feels more complete than most retail releases. It’s a testament to what a small development team can do when they’re experienced and have a very specific vision, and it should be on every 360 owner’s hard drive.

2. Spec Ops: The Line

The faraway winner of surprise of the year, Spec Ops presents itself as painfully generic. From the box art to the title to the opening couple of hours, anybody that picks it up on my recommendation will be questioning what it does to deserve such a high place on my list. It’s only once it pulls back and reveals just what it’s trying to accomplish that you can appreciate just how refreshing it feels in the overcrowded modern military shooter scene. By the time it finished, I felt like I’d just played something more akin to psychological horror than third-person shooter. It’s full to the brim with subtle changes in pacing and style, and gets inside the mind of the player better than every other game this year. With one exception…

1. The Walking Dead

Few games have ever approached the level of characterisation achieved by Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Never before has the medium seen such effective, concise storytelling. Each of the five episodes weaves an increasingly fraught story in which nothing ever feels safe and within which you always feel like scope exists for player agency. The moral and dialogue choice system, which often forces you to think against the clock, is a genius move, as it means that your version of Lee becomes one based on your own instinctive decisions, rather than being shaped by any careful balancing act or consideration for reward. There’s a second season on the way, and I can’t wait to see how they attempt to better on this one. If you have any modicum of respect for yourself as an enthusiast of video games, you need to play this. Far and away the game of the year.

Honorable mentions:  Torchlight II, Hotline Miami, Rock Band Blitz, Theatrythm Final Fantasy, Asura’s Wrath.