Plagued by delays and shortcomings, 2012 was an up-and-down year for video games. We saw triumphant returns to form, fantastic new IP’s, and some tragic farewells throughout the year, as well as some big games coming out of small developers. And as the window closes for the current gen consoles, we at HST celebrate the year that was and prep ourselves for whatever can come out of 2013.
Game Of The Year: The Walking Dead
There was no question the most riveting game of the year goes to, of all things, a glorified point-and-click adventure. The Walking Dead takes the winning formula that the comic books and television show have taken and made a whole new adventure, ripping out your heartstrings in each of the five episodes that Telltale Games released this year. The relationships you make dictates what kind of game you have – and who will follow you to the end. And don’t even get me started about the ending – seriously the only ending this year that made me feel all of the things. And now that it’s a standalone game, there is no excuse not to pick this gem up.
Best Arcade Game: Micecraft
I have spent countless hours digging up dirt, punching trees, and falling into lava (accidentally, of course) around my Minecraft world. And for as much as I do it, I still find myself never bored. Now that there is Creative Mode, XP, and plenty of new things that comes out with every update, it seems like Minecraft will continue to be in my Recent Games section of my 360.
Favorite New Character: Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2
C’mon, this loud mouth, explosion happy 13 year old little sister to Roland take the prize as Best New Character in a landslide. Tiny Tina’s violent tendencies and utter ridiculous lines makes her the funniest character to come out of Gearbox’s epic sequel. Here are just a couple of her epic lines:
“Got the badonkadonks? Best day evaaaa.”
“Hey I told ya’z to get outta heeya, get out or do I gotta shank a bitch?”
“BURN ALL THE BABIES!!!”
Doesn’t she have a way with words?
Game of the Year: Mass Effect 3 – Even when considering a certain backlash in mind (that I never agreed with), nothing can reverse the greatness that comes from the 30 or so hours of immersive gameplay from this final game in the series. It’s not to say ME3 is without disappointments as Shepard brings the alien races of the galaxy together for one final confrontation with the Reapers (my biggest qualm was that after everything in game one with the Rachni queen, their lack of presence at the end did not go unnoticed as they are outshone in the game by a Thresher Maw), but the combat and storytelling combines to form one of the most emotional experiences out there as the squadmates we’ve faught alongside with and characters we’ve come to know give it all to see their hopes and dreams for the world come to fruition.
Game of The Series: Assassin’s Creed 3 – Some of you might be asking why Mass Effect 3 didn’t win this if it was my game of the year, but that’s because I prefer ME2 over ME3, whereas Assassin’s Creed 3 is definitely the peak of a series that has been constantly moving upward (minus the stumble of Revelations’ den defense). Connor isn’t the best protagonist with his constant screams of revenge, but he’s definitely the best fighter yet with a combat system that has evolved into it’s strongest incarnation, and I finally got to understand what the heck was going on because I was actually familiar with the history portion of the game, which gives a new take on famous American historical events like Paul Revere’s ride. And then there is the addictive hunting and world building of the Homestead, which is where I actually spent the most hours building up a world in which my assassin could call home. Eat your heart out, Oregon Trail 2!
Best New IP: Dishonored – In a year of sequels, Dishonored brought a new world to explore and litter with bodies. If you so choose. Building his powers allowed for a lot of variation to the assassinations (my personal favorite play-style was a blend of Blink and Dark Vision), but there’s something really exciting about the “accidental” kills and the option for an assassin to not actually kill a single person in the game. If only the story structure had stuck to this, instead of adding the second half of a new revenge plot that was more point A to B than start at A, explore for a while, then eventually get to B.
Runner Up: Kingdom’s of Amalur: Reckoning
Best Opening: Far Cry 3 – Ah to be rich and young. Vacations seem to be a real blast, with all that partying and drinking and skydiving onto islands that are overrun with evil pirates. This transition between the good and the bad is one of the best I’ve seen as it turns out what we are watching is a recording being held up to the captive brothers as they are actually tied up within a cage, waiting to be used for ransom. What a bleak way to start a game.
Biggest Kick to the Gut – Mordin Makes Things Right in Mass Effect 3 – [Spoilers] I might not have always agreed with Mordin’s beliefs in science and progress, but he sure knew how to talk your ear off in a way that you didn’t mind hearing him go on and on about it anyway. That and the guy could sing. Yet in the end, no matter how adamant he was in the belief that his part in the Krogan genocide was a necessary step, he had the heart enough to see that sometimes decisions are time sensitive, and made it right by sacrificing himself to see that the race that he once crippled would have the opportunity to start anew.
Biggest Surprise: The Templars Are Among Us in Assassin’s Creed 3 – [Spoilers] I’M A WHAT NOW!? The first few hours of Assassin’s Creed 3 are already full of impatience because we are playing as someone other than the tomahawk wielding Connor that we have been promised up to the game’s release. It is easy to figure out who this British speaking man we are inhabiting is in relation to Connor, but what I didn’t see coming was that instead of fighting the good Assassin fight (that our minds incorrectly lead us to believe) we are fighting on the side of the Templars. Shame face… (This revelation also comes with one of the best achievement names ever).
Biggest Disappointment: Hitman: Absolution – There are two main reasons why I was disappointed with this follow-up to Hitman: Blood Money, a game that I loved. First of all, the first time I finished the game and attempted to go back into the level of my choosing to expernece the different assassination experiences my game froze during a load and the save file was corrupted. This happened a second time during the epilogue level. Though this can’t be taken against the game completely, this is the first time this has ever happened to me, completely crippling my desire to ever play the game again. As for the gameplay, the new instinct system weakened the gameplay we were used to un previous games, especially when donning a disguise. No one was fooled by what you were wearing if they were wearing the same outfit, unless of course you pulled your hat down over your eyes. Really? You know every single cop in this city to know that I’m the one thing that isn’t like the others? Lastly, the game was trying to do more than the usual contract per level setup by forming the progression around a story, a choice that I wasn’t really fond of.
Worst Playable Character: Zero from Borderlands 2 – Sometimes when I look at this image, I like to imagine that the 0 is actually an L for loser, because that’s what Zero is. As a follow-up to Borderland’s awesome Mordecai/Bloodwing duo for the hunter class, this assassin is full of ridiculous catch phrases that will make you want to play on mute and a power that never really grows stronger. The soldier get’s a turret that can evolve into a nuke shooter, for crying out loud, and all Zero get’s is a longer time frame to cloak out and run away like a coward because it feels as if the badguys have leveled up without us.
Still Need To Play: Diablo III (Not exactly going to run on my MacBook Pro though…), Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Halo 4, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Lego Lord of the Rings, Max Payne 3, The Walking Dead, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Enhanced Edition)
Rock Band Blitz allowed me to dust off those old DLC songs in a fun pick up and play version of the game that didn’t need all of those instruments. Lots of strategy can be implemented or you can just play around and enjoy the tunes; Harmonix has done it again.
Halo 4’s transition to new studio 343 Industries went about as smooth as possible and here is the dirty little secret, they might do Halo better than Bungie. The campaign was fun, challenging and never repetitive while the multiplayer aspects of the game are as great as they ever were. I’ve put hours into the game already and will continue to for quite a few more months I imagine.
Lego: The Lord of the Rings is another great branded entry from Traveler’s Tales in their long running Lego series and they have set a high bar for their future games hub worlds. Middle Earth alone would be a great game worth exploring and having fun in alone, but the games levels are just as fun as any Lego game and the diversity of nine characters on screen at a time is handled well and never overwhelming. While I’m not sure it quite stacks up to the Harry Potter games, it is worth the trip to Middle Earth if you are a fan of the series.
Journey was an endlessly engaging and fun game, even if it only takes a couple hours to beat. The game is art and the random encounters you make with individuals along the way is oddly affirming and interesting as you watch them work through the same puzzles you are. The game has a jaw dropping finale and will reward multiple playthroughs, but even if I never played the game again it was worth the download no matter what.
Fez is kind of incredible and it gave the game below a run for its money as my favorite of the year. Easily the most inventive and hardest game of the year, Fez is old school and new school wrapped into one and shows the true potential of indie game developers. I beat Fez 100%, but not without the help of a number of guides as the games complex puzzles were daunting to a casual gamer, though there is plenty of fun to be had just jumping around the 2D/3D rotating world which is one of the most genius concepts for a platformer ever implemented. This game stuck with me and is one of my all-time favorites.
Mass Effect 3 is the crown jewel of video games this year and we shouldn’t have expected anything less from BioWare with their wrap up to their epic trilogy. The Mass Effect series is arguably the greatest video game series of all-time as the story transcended the stigma of videogames and can be held up against any great story in any art form. The third entry in the series might not have been quite as fun as Mass Effect 2, but it wasn’t that far behind either and I am not sure any other game has had so many hard goodbyes in it as characters sacrifice themselves for the greater good of Shepard’s save the universe mission.
We here at HST would like to thank you guys for reading our posts throughout the past year, and hope you guys continue sticking with us. 2013 is going to be a great year, and we hope you, the reader, stick with us. Have a great 2013, and be ready for more awesome content from HST!