So I was able to convince Mike that the usual categories for video game awards are stupid. I think they are arbitrary, silly and don’t really add anything to the conversation. My suggestion was as he said, for us to each compile a list of the ten games we think were worth playing from the past year. On the next episode of FreeDLC we’ll compare and contrast our lists, defending the games we chose and heckling each other for the ones we differ on. After the end of all that we’ll decide an overall best game of the year. There is no reason to tell you which game had the best cutscenes, or was most fueled by dew, that’s just silly. Without further ado here are the 10 games I personally think you should have played in 2012:
Binary Domain – Probably the biggest dark horse on my list comes from one of my favorite developers, Team Yakuza at Sega. Their first foray outside of their comfort zone of hard-boiled crime dramas and as far as I’m concerned it was a smashing success. The gunplay was smooth and the setting was second to none for me. I’m a huge fan of robot stories and Blade Runner-esque settings which this game delivered in spades. They also gave us a french robot wearing a bad ass ascot! The voice integration, while a little rough around the edges was a cool idea that unlike most Kinect games isn’t completely broken and actually works most of the time. The trust system the game uses to branch the storyline worked well and kept things interesting. Most people probably missed this game in 2012, but it’s probably super cheap by now so give it a shot.
Dishonored – I know Michael will argue me on this one as he got bored with this game fast, but I however think it’s still brilliant. This game came out of literally nowhere, with no established IP to ground it in Dishonored threw itself upon the mercy of the gaming public and I think it succeeded extremely well. I love that in 2012 we have a game that can take the look and feel of Bioshock and the gameplay mechanics of Thief and marry them into a competent and fun action/stealth thriller. While the name of the game may seem to be stealth, I think a lot of people who end up bored with Dishonored never took the time to get blood on their hands. I found the game much more exciting when you’re using all the tools at your disposal to utterly destroy your foes.
Far Cry 3 – Far Cry 3 comes out of nowhere and astounded me this year. I had played a bit of the original Far Cry and it was cool and all but nothing amazing. I didn’t really bother with Far Cry 2 as I thought the “real world” stuff was completely overbearing and out of place. So when this was announced, and you can check our records we both thought the E3 trailer was god awful, I had literally no hope for this game. Yet I gave it a shot and find this is the one big triple A title that I can most easily come back to and have a good time with. I like that even when I’m ignoring the story segments I am still having fun with its plethora of side content.
Max Payne 3 – Here is a game that I don’t see getting much love from people this year, but it was fucking amazing. Max Payne was a character that, much like his storyline, I had left for dead after the second entry. Rockstar had picked up his corpse and were tossing him into a brightly lit South American locale… how could this possibly work? And yet somehow it does! The game keeps the same somber tone of the earlier entries while also lightening things up and giving us some of the absolute best gunplay this year. The screen effects that occur due to Max’s drinking are used to great effect and help give the game a unique and interesting look. Max is also still one of the most bad ass dudes in video games I can’t take that away from him.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted – Woah… a racing game in my top 10?! Normally with racing games I’m one and done, I’ll play for a day or two and then just move along to something else. However, Most Wanted has captivated me in a way that I can’t really understand myself. The city is large and beautiful with plenty of nooks and crannies to drive through. The races are fast and frantic, and I love when the police get involved making this so much more than the sim racers I usually get bored with. Some have complained that there isn’t enough car customization and that may be valid, however for my money that extra layer would push me away from trying multiple cars and keep me focused on one or two which isn’t the point of this game. Even without Razor Callahan this is still my racing game of choice this year.
Persona 4: Golden – The game that taught me to love again. For years people had been telling me to play Persona 4 but I never got around to it. I bought it for the PS2, but never played it. I had tried getting through P3 before and couldn’t quite do it, the gameplay wasn’t clicking for some reason. When I got a Vita and saw there were literally no other games to play on it I picked up P4 and jumped head first in and what a great ride its been since then. The only time I’ve sat with a game for 8 hours in 1 day is with P4G on the Vita, that’s right there isn’t a single game on the consoles that have held my attention for as long as this beautiful game has. As I didn’t play the PS2 version I don’t know whats new or different but Mike assures me there’s enough even if you did play the earlier game. Anybody who ever wanted to get into the Persona series or just likes RPGs in general would be doing themselves a disservice by missing P4G.
Sleeping Dogs – Without a new Yakuza game coming out this year (Dead Souls doesn’t count) I had to look towards Sleeping Dogs to try to satisfy me, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. Dropped by Activision and picked up by Square of all people this game probably should have been a train wreck, but it’s totally amazing. Walking and driving (well… riding a motorcycle) around the streets of Shanghai was probably the most fun I’ve had in an open world game since Red Dead Redemption and this game is the single biggest argument for other games like GTA to move overseas for once. The hand to hand combat is the real standout here, and I do wish there was less gunplay in the second half of the story but overall it’s a competent package with a great story to tell.
The Walking Dead – I had originally avoided this game as I had just completed the abysmal Jurassic Park and wasn’t ready to jump into TellTales next project that quickly. I also have no love of the series as I don’t watch the show or read the comics so there was nothing pulling me in. This was a blessing and a curse though, as The Walking Dead is hands down one of the single greatest video game stories I have ever had the pleasure of playing through and I abstained from that for far too long. Luckily I didn’t have to put up with month long breaks between episodes, I don’t think I could’ve survived that way. Having been one of the people who bought and played through Bone all those years ago when TellTale started, it makes me proud to see not only how far they’ve come, but how a small studio could take a dead genre and defy all conventions and move the entire medium forward.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Unlike Mike I was a big fan of the original XCOM. While I didn’t think the FPS looked horrible (It looked just ok) I was disappointed in the new direction. When I heard that Firaxis was working on an actual XCOM sequel I all but lost my mind. One of my favorite developers taking the reigns of a classic turn based strategy game? Sign me up! This is the only other game on this list that has, much like Civ 5 used to, eaten up entire days without my noticing. While I wish the base building and intercept missions could have been as robust as the original versions you cannot complain at the package we got. Build your elite squad, name them after all your best friends, and watch in frustration as they continually fuck up and get each other killed. THAT is the beauty of XCOM and something only this game can deliver.
WWE ’13 – Well this one is likely the most personal entry on my list, however it is completely still valid. I had said last year that WWE 12 was such a solid foundation that they were going to knock it out of the park with 13 and I wasn’t wrong as this may be the single greatest wrestling game ever made. You’ve got the solid engine and polished universe mode from 12, but on top of that which would have been a full game in itself, we are given a veritable love letter to the greatest era of sports entertainment. Rather than go through a tired fake story mode they decided to take the gameplay from another favorite of mine, Legends of Wrestlemania, and have you actually re-enact full matches from the attitude era. This is the strongest roster we’ve ever had as all the attitude greats are there along with the current stars. THQs financial woes have me worried for the future of this series, as soon as they finally really NAIL it the company may go under. Here’s hoping we get to see where they go for WWE ’14.
And that’s that: Do you agree? Disagree? I wanted to have Asura’s Wrath in here because that game is amazing and blew me away, but at the end of the day it’s not a better game than any of those I listed, so consider it honorable mention!