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Its the end of the year folks. This can only mean one thing, its time for everyone — including myself — to award one very special game with the title, "Game of the year".
2012 has been one of the best years for our industry — arguably the best. But instead of me blabbering on about it, let the five best games of the year do the talking.
5. The Walking Dead – Telltale Games
Don't get all mad because its not my number one game. Please let me explain: While the Walking Dead is an amazing experience with a cast of colorful characters, it isn't the best game out there. Its a narrative that we loosely get to control through choices. I have always seen The Walking Dead more as an interactive comic than a video game. When there were puzzles, they weren't that challenging leaving conversations the only real mechanic of the title. The story was amazing, but there wasn't enough challenge for me.
Telltale games has shown that the episodic model can work, however what they did best was to allow players to question morality. For example: What comes first, survival or morals? They also proved that you don't need a massive staff and a large budget to create an amazing property.
The Walking Dead also wasn't the most stable title this year. Personally I had many visual hiccups on my Xbox 360, and Episode 4 also decided to delete all of my achievements from the previous episodes. There have been many occurrences on the PC version erasing players saves, or just completely crashing.
Considering that The Walking Dead is more of an interactive comic and with all of the bugs it isn't the best 2012 has to offer.
4. Far Cry 3 – Ubisoft Montreal
People are saying that Far Cry 3 is Skyrim with guns. But to be honest Far Cry 3 is more like Skyrim with guns and without load screens. Despite being the last major release of the year, this title allows you to indulge the hidden monster inside your psyche. The developers managed to implement a stealth system that actually works. The single player story took me about 20 hours to complete. I can't remember the last time I played a first person shooter that took me that long to finish. It was probably Far Cry 2.
What truly stands out with Far Cry 3 is that you can have more fun while free-roaming than you do with the story missions. In this regard it is much like Skyrim. There are many enemy outposts scattered all over the island, and it is up to you on how to over-take them. You can use pure stealth and sneak up behind every enemy for a takedown. Or you can disable the alarms and unleash hell, or you can lure tigers and bears to the outpost and let them do the work for you. Rook Island is truly a playground, and its addicting.
One thing that bothers me is the skill tree. Mostly because the trees are mixed with skills you will need and others you really don't have a use for. Let me explain: skill trees only matter when you can concentrate on one tree at a time. Far Cry 3, however, allows you to use all three at the same time. They may as well have just used a more basic level system where every level you get a new ability. But this is only a minor flaw in an overall great game.
3. Mass Effect 3 – Bioware
I really don't care what you think about the ending, but Mass Effect 3 was one of the best games I have ever played. What makes this game so special is how Bioware turned the entire game into an actual ending. During Shepard's third adventure he ties up loose ends from the previous installments, and says goodbye to friends and allies. Shepard's final odyssey is his best.
Bioware once again streamlined the combat making Mass Effect 3 more of a third person-cover-shooter instead of an RPG. The "RPG" mechanics are really nothing more than a simple way to give more combat abilities to the player. Another addition were the weapons. Instead of having a small amount like in Mass Effect 2, Bioware supplied dozens of weapons all of which had numerous upgrades.
Then there is the multiplayer. It was surprisingly great, and addicting. I found myself going back and playing the multiplayer months after I had beaten the story. While the multiplayer is nothing more than a varied horde mode, it is the constant search for more powerful weapons and the thrill of successful team work that make this mode so fun. Bioware also supported the multiplayer with many free DLC packages that adds new weapons, characters, power-ups and maps.
Mass Effect deserves to be called one of the best games of the generation, but also the best trilogy in video game history.
2. Borderlands 2 – Gearbox Software
Move over Bioware, Gearbox had made the best sequel ever. They improved upon the orginal Borderlands in every aspect.
While Borderlands 2 isn't the best shooter of the year, (Far Cry 3 takes that cake) it is the best action/RPG of the year. Every class felt different, and this time their action skills made a difference. The skill trees were fun to experiment with. Also the shooting mechanics were good when at their best, but it is the RPG element, and its witty charm that makes Borderlands 2 such an amazing game.
Gearbox added more color to the sequel which is a welcome addition. Each area has a distinct character to it, but at the same time still feels like Pandora. Anyways the best part about Borderlands has and always will be the loot.
The looting in this game is addicting. How do I know? I have spent over one hundred hours farming bosses to get the best legendary weapons. What drives players in Borderlands 2 is the constant want/need of better gear. Even when you hit the level cap, there is a strong need to find the most powerful weapons so you will be able to solo the raid bosses.
Borderlands 2 also offers the best co-op experience of the year. Going from your own solo-play to connecting to a friend is almost seamless, and you don' t have to worry about repeating missions multiple times. Once you complete a mission once you won't have to do it again unless you want to.
Much like other RPGs, Borderlands 2 has many fetch and kill side-quests. But Borderland's 2 does something different, they make it fun by making fun of the fetch and kill quests. Instead of going out in to the wilderness and picking up apples for a starving villager, you go raid bandit camps to steal some nudie magazine for a pervert, or deliver a pizza to a sewer for a bunch of stoner ninjas. On top of the loot is the charm of the world and characters that makes this game so special. Gearbox deserves much praise for taking all of the criticisms from the first Borderlands, and using them to make the best sequel I have ever played.
1. Max Payne 3 – Rockstar Studios
I feel bad for Max. Deep down he just wants to be loved. Not only do we find him a complete wreck who is an overweight alcoholic, addicted to pain-killers, but he is also not getting any attention from the press. Max Payne 3 was a very stylistic bloody good-time. The personal story of Max was one of redemption, but not in the way most redemption stories are told. Usually the anti-hero finds something to believe in and fights for that cause, and ultimately saves the day. Well this isn't the case for Max. Drugs and alcohol have consumed much of his life, and now he just wants to fight for something. And that he does: from the first minute you put the disk in your console the story of Max Payne begins — literally. There isn't a title menu, well there is but its worked into the opening cinematic. This is also the best aspect of Max Payne 3, the use of cinematics.
The cinematic direction leans heavily on the style seen in the movie Man on Fire. We too see the world like Max does, a drunk and drugged reality. Like a drunk man, the images on screen go in and out of focus. That is all fine and well but what about the shooting? Well Max delivers with that as well.
The shooting mechanics in Max Payne 3 are fantastic. What makes this third person shooter different is that Max's body flows with the direction he is moving in. This way no matter how you move him with the controls his guns are always pointed exactly where you want them. Oh and did I mention that this game is plain brutal? If you ever wanted to shoot the ears and noses of off bad guys, this is your chance. Every fire fight reminds you just how much pain can be caused by one man. While it doesn't go as far as Spec Ops: The Line, Max Payne 3 is still a bloody good time.
Sadly the multiplayer was drastically un-played in the early days, I'm sure we have Diablo 3 to thank for that (both games released on the same day). People love the Call of Duty multiplayer for its progression system and customization. Well they should start playing Max Payne 3. The amount of customization on your several different avatars is staggering. Not to mention all the various weapons that you can upgrade and customize. There are also several different modes you can play in single-player. The classic New York Minute where you have to complete every chapter in a certain amount of time, and each kill rewards you with more time. It is extremely challenging, and something that will keep you glued to your TV. There is also the score attack mode which gives you a score based on your performance on each chapter. All of these modes give you experience points that level up your multiplayer rank.
What also made the multiplayer great was how Rockstar threaded a story into each match. If you play the Gang Wars mode, each match has a small narrative that revolves around Max's story. While the stories aren't magnificent, they make the matches feel more lively.
Max Payne 3 is the perfect mix between a cinematic game and a third person shooter. The combat is intense and at times very difficult, but also supplies the player with a very modern presentation and enjoyable story. Max Payne 3 is a complete package. The main story will take you about 12 hours, and including the different story modes, and multiplayer, this game will last you a long long time.
Dishonored – Arkane Studios
Dishonored didn't hook me like it did others. I felt the stealth was shaky, especially because you could never tell if you were actually hidden. Also I dislike games that pressure you to be stealthy and non-lethal, while giving you abilities that makes killing so fun. I'm all for diverse gameplay, but please don't punish me for going one way instead of the other. Lastly, why is Corvo silent? Its 2012 guys, we should always have protagonists that speak. With that being said, Dishonored is still a fun game. For each assassination you have many different routes you can take to get to your target giving the player a large amount of replay.
Spec Ops: The Line – Yager Development
Yager games gave us something amazing this year. They brought us a military shooter that actually made you feel bad about being a hero. The game was brutal and unforgiving. But where the narrative succeeds the gameplay sadly fails. Also the spotty cover system is the number one reason you will die.
Deadlight – Tequila Works
A side-scrolling zombie apocalypse game set in 1980's Seattle? Sounds too good to be true right?Tequila Works did nail the atmosphere though. The crumbling Seattle backgrounds in the game were visually beautiful and horrifying. Sadly though the gameplay was rotten. Who knew you could miss a zombie with a fire-axe by standing directly in front of them.
Assassin's Creed III – Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Annecy
One of the biggest disappointments ever. This is the first game of this console generation that made me regret spending $60. The free-running felt like it took a step backwards from the previous installments, and not to mention the game had a five hour tutorial. But what makes such a long tutorial funny is the fact that they still don't teach the player everything. If you want to learn how to craft specific items or how to level up your artisans, tough luck, you'll have to figure it out on your own. I won't go into detail about the story, but it felt half-assed. Story-wise the first half of the game made sense and was entertaining, but half way through the story felt rushed, and Connor as a character never developed.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know down in the comments.