Every year we’d like to highlight some of our favourites from the past twelve months. There’s something immensely satisfying about making lists, and with the benefit of hindsight, some games appear very differently. We’ve tailored the categories to things we care about, and not bothered with ‘best for each platform’ as so many games are multiplatform now. So, without further ado…
The categories are:
- Best Looking Game
- Best Story in a Game
- Most Surprising Game
- Most Disappointing Game
- Game of the Year
Best Looking Game 2012
I really do care about graphics, and this year has been an absolute treat. From the ‘I’m surprised it works on my system’ Far Cry 3, the rainy streets of Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs, to the 3D treat that is Wipeout 2048, but no game left such a mark on me as Journey. Set in a mystical desert, but taking you much further than that, this downloadable gem had not only a spectacularly unique art style, but the technical proficiency to pull off the look it was going for. I’ve got a lot of problems with the PS3, but when a developer gets it right, they can do wonders with the machine. The fact that Journey is downloadable and cheap as hell is just mind-boggling.
Best Story in a Game 2012
The Walking Dead (multiformat)
The Walking Dead made me hate myself for doing certain things, but I didn’t feel forced into them. Of course much of the choice was an illusion, but the threat of consequences felt very real. Despite the fact that my characters ended up in a similar way to everyone elses doesn’t change the fact that I got them there in my own way, and I had to live with my decisions. The story was emotional, had things to say about society and morality, and made me question everything I was thinking at any given moment. It even offered some real surprises that kept me guessing. The ending might have been a slight disappointment, but here’s hoping they can pick it up neatly for the next season.
Most Surprising Game 2012
Spec Ops: The Line (multiformat)
All I knew of the Spec Ops games was the terrible legacy left by titles in the Playstation era. They were horrible budget games that were about as generic as they could possibly be, hoping to sneak into a kind of military genre populated by the likes of Medal of Honour and Rainbow Six. Spec Ops: The Line came out and I pretty much wrote it off, assuming it was more shovelware, until I started reading things about the effect it was having on people. It came up on a rental from Lovefilm, so I gave it a try and my god, it’s amazing. If you like military shooters, you owe it to yourself to find a copy and play it right the way through to the end. It might begin as a generic military third person cover-based shooter, but it sure as hell doesn’t end that way and the journey to get there is numbing and enthralling.
Most Disappointing Game 2012
Assassins Creed 3 (multiformat)
I adored the first three games in the series. I wasn’t too taken by Revelations, but that’s ok, it was just to fill a gap and make some money for the next proper entry in the series. But then it came out, I finished it in a couple of days, and just felt bored. Sure technically it has a few things going for it, and most of the improvements across the series make an appearance here, but the whole thing feels so bland. The main character is forgettable at best, the story is convoluted and simply ties some unrelated incidents to each other, and the gameplay is growing tiresome. There are some incredibly bad design decisions (the entire last mission) and too many glitches to count, the whole game was a wasted opportunity and completely drained any enthusiasm I would have for spin-offs from this entry.
Ok so it might not even be a game, it’s just a mod, but what a mod. It’s done what so many of us have dreamed out, and for a pretty low start-up price. I’ve spent years dreaming of an open-world hardcore zombie apocalypse MMO, and Dean Hall created it with DayZ. There’s so many problems with glitches and hacking, but for a long while they mod was going strong and it was so very, very good. Hopefully the standalone will be out in the next few months and we can get back to surviving in Chernarus without the threat of teleporting invincible bandits, but this year the game has given me so many hours of enjoyment it’s really hard to express.
Stalking across the countryside towards the mythical ‘Northern Airfield’ with friends, only to meet more along the way and team up was a beautiful thing that happened regularly in the first few months. We all dropped to the floor, terrified when one of our members spotted someone on the horizon. Turned out to be a cow. Twice.
Providing overwatch for a friend as he ran from tent to tent in the infamous Starry Sobor with sniper rifles, calling out zed spawns and bandit whereabouts.
Being shown to a city of tents with all the equipment and trucks you could ever hope for, before hacking was in force, and knowing these people were gaining all of these things the hard way and were willing to share it with you.
Getting a helicopter running and sourcing every single thing it needed, getting all the parts to the coast, finding a boat, getting everyone across the island with a boat, and then flying off across the cities.
All of these moments were glorious, and all of them were made possible by a mod with no objectives, no rules on PVP, and no tutorials. It’s the future.
Hotline Miami (PC)
Guild Wars 2 (PC)
New Super Mario Bros U (Wii U)
The Walking Dead (Multiplatform)
Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
Borderlands 2 (Multiplatform)