So 2012 is just about done, and while it is only a matter of hours until we are all undoubtedly eradicated by whatever cruel fate the Mayans predicted for us over a hundred years ago, I thought "What better time than this to jot down what matters most?" Obviously, it would be my top 10 video games released this year!
Now I wouldn't exactly call this a stellar year for gaming, as least for me personally, but there were still a number of stand-out titles, a few of which I feel strongly about, and some which I liked enough to use to pad out this list. Some simply left a feeling that can only be described as 'meh', and there are a couple that were downright disappointing. But here are my:
Top 10 Games for Two-thousand and Twelve
9. Journey I purchased a PS3 over the summer and while I really haven't played a ton of games on it, Journey was near the top of my list of games to check out. I have only played it once, and I'm not sure if I will ever play it again, but it was a beautiful, unforgettable experience unlike anything else I've ever played. I spent most of my playthrough with one other person and over the course of the game, we developed that strange bond that everyone spoke of. We went through a lot together, but in the final segment, we somehow lost each other and I became legitimately upset over this. Journey is a really neat experiment that gave me something I never expected out of a game, and for that it makes my list.
4. Far Cry 3 Far Cry 3 manages to fix virtually every major problem with Far Cry 2 while only sacrificing a bit of the game's realism and immersion for the sake of making it more fun. It has a colorful, lush open world teeming with life, much of which wants to end yours. It's one of those games that where its multiple systems and mechanics can work together in unexpected ways that lead to unique and often hilarious experiences. Sadly, the extremely promising first act of the story only sets one up for the disappointment to come. The wasted potential is almost maddening. Many of the main characters are portrayed and voiced so well that it just adds insult to injury. The game's villain, Vaas, is perhaps the most criminally wasted asset, as he comes across as a genuinly menacing, evil dude. In the end, Far Cry 3 still serves up enough chaotic gaming bliss that I just can't help but love it.
1. Max Payne 3 The first two Max Payne games are something special and they will always be near and dear to my heart. God only knows how much time I spent playing them growing up. Rockstar's take on the series might not be a pill everyone can swallow (har har), but for me, it works on every level. I started out being annoyed by it due to the weird and imprecise console controls, but once I messed with the options and got a hold of it, I was having an incredible time. The combat is some of the most brutal and impactful I have seen in a long time. The Bullet Time mechanic is still fun to use and makes you feel like a complete badass, even if you do have to use it more sparingly than you did in the past games. I found the story and presentation to be utterly enthralling, which is helped further by some brilliant voice acting. James McCaffrey reprises his role as Max and gives what is easily my favorite performance of the year. He has more great character moments than I can count on both hands, and his almost-nonstop commentary and self-deprecating remarks kept me fully engaged in the experience. I played through Max Payne 3's campaign three times since it has come out, and that is something I will rarely ever do anymore, but I felt compelled to re-experience the greatness this game has to offer over and over, and it delivered every time. Max Payne 3 is not without its faults, but I feel pretty secure in calling it my favorite game of this year.
Oh man, how wrong I was. RE6 is a disaster on nearly every level. It controls like garbage, with some of the most unwieldy shooting and movement mechanics I've witnessed in quite a while. It doesn't help that the camera feels like it's losing its fucking mind and working against you on a regular basis. There are also constant QTE's, most of which feel unnecessary and out of place. They can require inhuman reaction times that leave you dead if you miss your ever-so-brief opportunity. The game is always ripping control away from the player at the worst moments. Some of the boss fights are so incredibly drawn out that you question if you're even doing the right thing to progress the fight, but due to the lack of any feedback about anything, you're left guessing and using all of your ammo until hopefully something happens. There are just absolutely awful design decisions every step of the way, leaving me wondering how much, if any of this game was play-tested. A very lazy, nonsensical story that does nothing to enhance the ridiculous-but-charming fiction of the RE universe is the creamy frosting on this shit cake. Some fleeting moments of what could be construed as "fun" aren't enough to redeem what surrounds them. But hey, at least it looks pretty, right? Resident Evil 6 is not only my biggest disappoint of the year, but the most disappointing game I've ever played.
Darksiders II, while not a bad game by any means, still leaves so much to be desired by the end that I can't call it anything other than a disappointment. The fact that it was a prequel was already enough of a downer to me that I went into it with some trepidation, but remained hopeful that Vigil knew what they were doing. Turns out, they didn't. Or they did and just didn't give a shit about telling a good story anymore. The easiest way to describe this game is 'bland'. The dungeons, puzzles, exploration, all bland. The story is insipid as well, which reflects perfectly on the dull and forgettable characters. The last act finally starts getting interesting, but is ruined by a mix of wasted cameos and characters that are introduced as fast as they are taken away. Also, this may be the first game that I would say has too much content. A lot of the side stuff feels like filler and serves to only make the already-poor pacing of the main story even worse. The only true improvement over the original is the combat, and there are times where even that is debatable. Combat is fluid and responsive, but at the same time feels less impactful than it did in the first game. It's good enough to carry the game, however. The inclusion of a loot system is a welcome idea, but it isn't implemented too well and you end up using only a handful of weapons throughout the game.
The end is was really gets me, though. Forget Mass Effect 3 when it comes to upsetting video game endings. The original game's ending showed immense promise that Darksiders II does literally nothing with. It wasn't enough that the final boss is a pathetic anti-climactic pushover. They had to go ahead and make it feel like your entire journey was merely a side story that really had no benefit to being told. I sincerely hope Vigil gets a third shot at the series, because the idea of a four-player co-op game with all four horsemen makes me salivate wildly.