Games of the Year: 2012

Here we go! I like to share my favourite games of the year, even if I can't always decide what is my absolute favourite. I have provided a list below of my favourite games and reasons why for each. I have three sections, Games of the YearHonourable Mentions, and Too early to say.

Games of the Year

Mass Effect 3 (PC)

And end to an epic trilogy, the best this generation, I'd say. A disappointing ending, but overall a fantastic game. Your investment in the story and most of all the characters is what makes you coming back for me, wanting to know more about them, how they would react to you and the other people in your story if you had done a certain thing differently, how would the story progress because of this? It is an intriguing, ambitious and brilliant franchise. It is such a shame it was overshadowed by the ridiculous overreaction in regards to the ending.

Diablo 3 (PC)

Blizzard has manufactured digital crack. I'm not sure what it is, and I'm not sure how they do it, but they do it like no other. They know how to appeal that obsessive inside of you, my addiction lasted around 150 hours, which isn't a massive amount, the small period in which I built up that game time is unmatched for me, at least in recent memory. It has problems, it was never going to live up the hype, but it is a type of game that I do love and I loved playing it with others, but I think I am done for now. At least till we see an expansion.

Hotline Miami (PC)

This was a surprise for me, I heard a lot of good things about it, but didn't really know how it played. I had built up an impression about the game based off brief glimpses of gameplay and screenshots, but I was wrong. There is hidden meaning in the story, in what you are actually doing in the game, but beyond that, there is a game experience in here that is so pure, so precise and intense. The mechanics are perfect, it has a real challenge to it and you know it is your fault when you mess up. This is a cheap game, but it is a brilliant one, pick it up and soak it in.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (PC)

An update to the best online competitive first person shooter out there, nothing does what counter-strike does these days, and in an industry obsessed with what Call of Duty does in online competitive play, it doesn't seem we will see anything like Counter-Strike again, at least not for a while yet. It is tactical, it is tense, strategic, there is a learning curve even for us who have been playing Counter-Strike for many years, but it is very satisfying. It doesn't try to distract you with progression systems, no perks, boosts, anything like that. It is about you, your skill as a FPS player, and most of all, your ability to play as a team, to execute on strategies and to learn about the other team as you play.

However, there have been updates to the game to make that learning curve a little less daunting, there is matchmaking in the game, skill groups that seem to work rather well in full on competitive matchmaking, modes inspired by popular Counter-Strike mods such as Arms Race (Gun Game) that will help new players get used to how the game feels, but of course is a much different experience than that 5 on 5 competitive play. This is the best first person shooter this year, and it is an update to the best online first person shooter of all time.

Sleeping Dogs (PC)

Surprise of the year! I must confess, I had not been interested in this game at all, but I was bored one day and noticed this game on sale on Steam (£15). I took a chance on it, and I'm very glad I did. It has a great combat system, it looks absolutely brilliant on PC, has a compelling story, good characters and a great voice acting cast. Do yourself a favour and play this game, especially if you're a PC gamer, Square Enix deserve a lot of credit for the effort they put into the PC version of this game. Reward them for their efforts.

Journey (PS3)

This is a game I struggle to describe, I can only give examples of moments that hit me, that I could give to others to demonstrate the effect it has on the people playing it. The game features a unique approach to online play, you are not in competition  mechanically and objectively, you are not benefitted by playing with someone else. But when you do meet a person online, completely out of the blue, you'll either hear them playing notes in the distance, or you'll notice them floating around the environment - you do feel compelled to catch up to them, and stick with them. You want to complete the journey with them, and they become part of the story you interpret out of the rather vague structure the game gives you (in regards to the story).

I like to give an example, there is a section towards the end of the game where you're struggling your way to a certain place, you make it, but environment effects could push you back off the edge and to the start of this section. A section that could take you 5 - 10 minutes to complete. I was being careless in my first play through and did fall off, I expected to continue the journey alone at this point, perhaps I would find a new friend later on. But no, my partner jumped down and redid the that section with me.

This is not the behaviour you expect from your typical online gamer. But Journey does this to you, it is an emotional experience that says so much without saying anything. It is a game I would hold up to non-gamers to play, It is a game I would hold up in pride for the games industry, to show that it can offer experiences that no other medium can.

Civilization V: Gods and Kings (PC)

This is not a game, it is an expansion pack, but it changed the game significantly. Civilization V is a brilliant game, and if you do enjoy it, you'd be silly not to pick up this expansion.

PlanetSide 2 (PC)

Thousands of players on a huge persistent battlefield, fighting two other waring factions simultaneously in ground vehicles, on foot, and in various aircraft. The game looks stunning graphically, and when you get a full on push to take over other bases with hundreds of other players, seeing aircraft, convoys of vehicles, and infantry running up to a base exchanging fire with the enemy, it looks seriously impressive. This is what I imagined the future of video games to look like 10 years ago, and it has arrived and it has been executed on brilliantly.

It isn't just an impressive game to watch, it is an impressive and fun game to play. Get a squad or preferably a full platoon and play strategically, it is a deep and rewarding game and it is the first Free to play game (of this current trend) that has done the business model justice.

LittleBigPlanet: Vita (PlayStation Vita)

The best LittleBigPlanet available for any platform. The level design is genius, genuinely taking advantage of the Vita's various inputs and doing so appropriately. It is a perfect match for the Vita, and the tools afforded to level designers take advantage of the Vita's unique form factor and typical use scenarios has brought on some fantastic community levels (and story levels).

WipEout 2048 (PlayStation Vita)

What is a PlayStation platform without WipEout? Maybe we will soon see with the recent closure of Studio Liverpool (sadface). But for now, we can still enjoy their latest addition to the WipEout franchise on the go! It is WipEout, and I love WipEout.

Rayman Origins (PlayStation Vita)

For me, the best version available. Technically, it probably isn't - it doesn't have some features of the console and PC version, but to me, on that high PPI OLED screen, it looks the best. It fits my typical use scenario of a portable console perfectly, it is brilliant fun to play and it is the most exciting and fresh 2d platforms I have played in a very long time. It oozes character and charm, and I just have to give a lot of credit to Ubisoft.

Sound Shapes (PlayStation Vita)

A brilliant game, fantastic style, great controls and mechanics, and fun level design. The community has developed rather well for the game, and there are some brilliant user generated levels out there. Well recommended.

Honourable mentions

Max Payne 3 (PC)

A really cool game, with a fantastic soundtrack, tight, fun gameplay but an annoying reliance on cutscenes. It interrupted you constantly, the story was sort of interesting, but with only one sort of interesting character in the game it is hard be pulled in. Shown a lot of potential, and has the foundations to be a really good game. I enjoyed my time with it, but it has some issues that let it down.

Too early to say

These are games that I have either started playing but not played enough of  yet, or games I have yet to play but show promise.

The Walking Dead (PC)

The praise this game is getting is immense, and I have enjoyed what I have played of it so far a lot. Numerous technical issues and swapping platforms has left me needing to start the game again frequently, which has delayed my completion of the game, but I suspect if I had completed this game by now, It would be on the list above.

Far Cry 3 (PC)

I have only just started playing this game, but with tight gameplay, some interesting mechanics that seem to have genuine consequence and use, some interesting characters and a story that shows promise, an absolutely gorgeous environment, a very good PC port.

Gravity Rush (PlayStation Vita)

What I have played so far has been enjoyable, whilst the story hasn't compelled me to keep playing just yet, it plays well and has a new twist on platforming that should be fun to explore.