Now that 2012 has come to a close, we can reflect on another solid year in the gaming community. While there weren’t as many heavy hitters released as there were in 2011, there was still plenty to play for everyone. I have taken the time to select winners (or losers, in some instances) in 18 different categories in a bit of a different style than last year’s more VGA-centric and poorly formatted style. Feel free to take a look at last year’s awards. For this year, keep reading.
Without question, Halo 4 is my 2012 Game of the Year. While I enjoyed Halo Reach, it didn’t stick with me the same way that Halo 3 did. The multiplayer felt a little off to me and was missing some of the fun factor I had grown accustomed to in the Halo games. On top of that, the campaign didn’t feature Master Chief and I was never compelled to finish it.
Then Halo 4 comes out, made by a different studio, and breathes fresh life into the franchise. Master Chief is back, and we’ve got a few new enemies and weapons to toy with that vary the gameplay a bit. The multiplayer takes some obvious cues from Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, but still retains all the things that make Halo fun to play. Adding the Sprint button speeds up the pace and makes for a great addition. We’ve also got the Spartan Ops mode – a co-op centric mode separate from the campaign – that offers free, episodic content.
Taken together, Halo 4 is packed with content, and I glossed over several additional features (like Forge and Theater modes, for instance). It gives me the most bang for my buck, and is the only game I can guarantee I’ll be still playing 2-3 years from now, or whenever it is the next Halo releases.
Runner up: The Walking Dead
What did you expect? My Game of the Year is also the best game on the only console it’s available on.
Runner up: Fez
I initially didn’t think I would play Journey. I rarely pay more than $10 for downloadable games and Twitter was exploding with overwhelming love for this game. All the “games are art!” craziness and it made me want to play it less. But then they released the Journey Collection and I rented it from Gamefly.
Although it is a very brief game, I think that in this case, brevity is a plus. You can and should experience this game all in one sitting. The visuals and art direction are so smooth and it sets the mood with an award-winning soundtrack. There’s not much to concern yourself with other than taking it all in – no way to die or fail, just keep going and enjoy the relaxing, emotional trip the game takes you on.
Runner up: Rainbow Moon
While I was tempted to go with ZombiU in this space, I decided to stick with Mario because of the pure fun factor. My very first experience with my Wii U (after the update, of course) was playing New Super Mario Bros U with my future brothers-in law. 3 players in Boost Mode. It was a blast and the most fun I’ve had in a Mario game since Super Mario 64.
Playing single player is pretty fun in its own right, and the game certainly does have a bit of challenge to it in the later stages. And since I haven’t played either of the two previous New Super Mario Bros games, this was a fresh experience for me on a brand new console. Plus, Mario looks great in HD.
Runner up: ZombiU
As there is every year, there was plenty of competition in this field, but Halo 4 stands head and shoulders above the rest for me.
Runner up: Gotham City Imposters
Sleeping Dogs is a fantastic game and you should play it. You’re an undercover cop working your way through a large Triad gang in Hong Kong, and kicking all kinds of ass all the way through. If it sounds like a throwaway-type story, I’d have to tell you it is, but you’ll likely enjoy it all the same. The voice acting is excellent and the story bits are well presented, immersing you in the daily struggles of Wei Shen.
It sports a hand to hand combat system akin to Arkham Asylum, and although less refined, it’s still incredibly fun. You get to do some gruesome environment takedowns, and there’s something called Action Hijacking, which allows you to steal vehicles while you’re on the move. So much awesome there.
The city of Hong Kong is beautiful, and you’re encouraged to explore all of it. This game has allowed me to impale someone with a swordfish and taught me how to become a man: by eating a Pork Bun. This is the best game I played this year outside of Halo 4 and The Walking Dead.
Runner up: Assassin’s Creed III
I was skeptical about FFXIII-2 coming in after hearing that your third party member was essentially a Pokémon, but seeing as it was a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII – a game I enjoyed – I knew I was going to get it. I’m happy that I did.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 was able to respond to many of the criticisms about its predecessor with adjustments that ended up making the game more open. While the story itself was pretty weak, the villain was fairly awesome and the presentation was good, helping mask some of the deficiencies. But most of all, it was fun to play. I liked the Paradigm system before, and I liked it in this game, too.
Runner up: Rainbow Moon
When I first played it, I was underwhelmed and disappointed. I’m not enamored with the presentation and it felt a bit off at release. The control scheme has a steeper learning curve than previous years and it didn’t really seem like a clear step up from the Jordan Challenge of 2K11 and the Historical Matchups from 2K12. And the soundtrack is, for the first time in the series, terrible (it consists of years-old Jay Z songs that we’ve heard a billion times already).
However, move past the learning curve and add in the balancing patches and bug fixes, and the gameplay is terrific. In this regard, it greatly improves on the already great gameplay from NBA2K12, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment.
Runner up: None. I didn’t play any other sports titles in 2012.
While not nearly as good as Criterion’s own 2010 release Hot Pursuit (at least in this writer’s estimation), Need for Speed Most Wanted presents an open world that’s ripe to be explored. I do feel that the racing and events are a bit of a chore, but everything outside of racing (admittedly an important part of a racing game) is still pretty fun. If you’ve got a bunch of friends who have this game, it feels good to see their face on a billboard and then smash it. A little too good.
Runner up: None.
For those that know my gaming preferences, this should come as no surprise. For those that don’t, it’s so much more than just the fanservice. The Dead or Alive series has more checks and balances than the US government in its Triangle system. You’ve got your regular strikes, throws, and holds (counters) and they’ve become more diverse than ever before.
It used to be that you could counter your way through difficult battles, but now it requires much more skill as the hold commands have become more complex and the openings are much smaller than in previous titles. There’s a story mode which acts as a tutorial and the Tag Team mode is just as fun as ever. There are so many smaller changes that affect the balance of the game for the better and it goes without saying that the game is gorgeous. Oh, and massive boobs.
Runner up: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
2012 was a great year for downloadable games. We got The Walking Dead, Fez, Journey, Mark of the Ninja, Papo & Yo, and so many more and I love the growth we’ve seen from “indie” games (not so indie anymore, huh?).
That being said, this was an easy choice. The Walking Dead is such an excellent experience – one that I think everyone should try – because it’s just so well presented. Even when you can see the things being foreshadowed in the game, it still finds a way to make every decision tense, every line of dialogue feel important, and every event gut-wrenching. The environment presented is dire, and you have some say in how you react in the spur of the moment.
The Walking Dead will depress you… and you’ll be glad that it did.
Runner up: Journey
There were a lot of games in the running for this category. I considered Far Cry 3, Journey, Dead or Alive 5 (glorious cleavage, duh!), and a few others, but Halo 4 wins this by a slim margin. I really love the way everything about the game looks. I didn’t notice any awkward textures, screen tearing or other graphical glitches while playing it, and everything animated (or ragdolled) smoothly.
Runner up: Far Cry 3
After giving this some real thought, I have to go with Lee. When you play The Walking Dead (and you have played it, RIGHT?!), you basically project as much of yourself into Lee as you can, and there’s no more awesome a character than me. You form a real connection with the character and thus, feel what he feels. Plus, he has some spot-on facial expressions.
Runner up: Asura from Asura’s Wrath
I was >this< close to awarding this to the God of War Saga, which packed five full games in one collection, but I ended up going with the Journey Collector's Edition. I really liked Journey, plus there's fl0w and Flower, which are pretty laid back games as well. Throw in three more small games, some awesome backgrounds for your PS3, and the soundtrack, and you've got a winner.
Runner up: God of War Saga
Going in, I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t think I’d like it much. But, being the fair man that I am, I gave it a chance and I was mightily impressed insomuch that it is my number 4 best game this year (behind Halo 4, The Walking Dead and Sleeping Dogs).
Runner up: Papo & Yo
If I told you there was a game comprised mostly of Quick Time Events and cutscenes, you’d probably scoff and tell me that sounds like suck. But what if I told you it was a game that’s basically an interactive anime in the vein of Dragon Ball Z and the main character was similar to Vegeta with a bit of The Hulk sprinkled in?
Do I have your attention?
Because that’s what Asura’s Wrath is. It’s simply fantastic and filled with so many grandiose moments that you’ll likely have a hard time choosing a favorite. And you will have favorites. If you’re still on the fence because of the QTEs, just know that you can really fail them. Being slow only affects your rank at the end of missions.
Runner up: The Darkness II
Resident Evil 6 is not a bad game, but it clearly has a lot of bad parts to it. Going in, we all had high hopes for it. I mean, we could finally move and shoot at the same time! Despite that (big) change, it turned out to be decidedly mediocre because of the way it tried to please everyone by offering a campaign for essentially every type of player with overly long branching stories. Every campaign had something to hate in it, whether it was Leon’s ridiculously long final boss sequence, an annoying area and boss in Chris’ part, or multiple poorly executed vehicle segments with Jake.
While they did fix a few things, like the camera (that I personally never had issues with), I was more underwhelmed with the implementation of the co-op partner in Ada’s campaign (simply named Agent) who looks similar to many of your early enemies and can’t even open doors. Plus, the DLC for the multiplayer modes (currently only available on 360) still don’t allow you to play online with two people on the same console.
I am cautiously optimistic for Resident Evil 7 when it is inevitably announced, if only because there’s plenty of feedback from Resident Evil 6 for them to look over.
Runner up: Need for Speed Most Wanted
And now, what you’ve really been waiting for…
This was the very first game I played in 2012, and boy, was it a stinker! I honestly don’t know how this game got released in the state that it was in, because it was practically unplayable. It’s a shame, too, because the premise was good and it appeared to be very promising. Nothing about this game is good, and you should avoid it at all costs. No price is low enough.
Don’t believe the non-hype? Take a look at THIS.
And that’s it for passthemsticks’ 2012 Game of the Year choices. I hope you enjoyed reading them and feel free to sound off in the comments.