This week's first featured game, Journey, revealed an obvious though at times forgotten truth about what makes a game a contender for Game of the Year - Those that contain the most memorable experiences, the ones that define your year in gaming, are those deserving of the top spots. That game consists almost completely of emotional moments, and deserves a playthrough if you've not yet done so. I've got plenty more 2012 releases to feature, all of which I'll be ranking in the Top 10 list with each passing week.
- Released: March
- Giant Bomb Score: 5/5
- My Score: 5/5
- Quick Look
Journey was one of only a handful of games that I felt needed to be played from start to finish in a single sitting. I definitely think that there are right and wrong ways of experiencing many games; You shouldn't play horror games in the day, you can easily burn yourself out on games with complex mechanics, and playing Journey in bite sized chunks would be doing it a great disservice.
Every component is expertly crafted. Each moment along the way evokes such emotion from the player, at times exhilarating, at others calming or even unsettling. Your character's movement and flight is always gracious, and the gameworld is simply beautiful, but I've yet to talk about the most impressive element of Journey - the online play.
The game is a 2 player co-operative game, but not in any kind of traditional sense. If connected to PSN (and you really should be), you are randomly partnered with another player who in the same location as you. It isn't announced, you don't see their name, and your only means of communication are with a 'chirp' button that can be tapped or held. They'll be your closest friend as you make your way through each environment, yet they may just as easily depart from your game. This can lead to some harrowing and sorrowful moments as you realise they're no longer beside you.
My experience with the game was defined by my moments spent with one such other player that I spent the whole back half with… Or at least, I was pretty sure I did. I encouraged my girlfriend to play it and she instantly fell in love with it, though her experience differed pretty greatly from mine. The first player she connected with was dressed in white and gold, signifying that they had experienced a lot more of what the game had to offer than we had. They guided us about, leading us to items hidden in the game world, and had an infinitely respawning cape that granted them near limitless flight that we could benefit from. This experience got me thinking about my second playthrough, and upon reaching that first area for the second time, and encountering another player that seemed somewhat lost, I felt compelled to be their guide.
Coming back to the game now, all of the moments came flooding back. Journey is the home to a lot of my favourite gaming moments of 2012, and will be on the Top 10 list by the year's end without any doubt.
- Released: February
- My Score: 5/5
- Quick Look
Although I had high hopes for Binary Domain, my expectations of what it would be were pretty low. It turned out to be one of my favourite surprises of the year, full of brilliant characters and cutscenes, with a silly premise that wouldn't work if the tone wasn't in the right place, but it truly is, ad everything fits so well. It also turns out to be a solid third-person action shooter too. It's quirky, and is host to a number of pretty redundant mechanics (voice commands for responding to your friendly AI's inane questions during forced downtime moments springs to mind), but these matter little as the characters that you meet along your journey are fantastic, the action is ridiculous, and there are always new and engaging scenarios that you'll find yourself in. Taking down the enemy one robot limb at a time is satisfying and serves a strategic purpose; Take off their heads and they'll start shooting their allies, take out their legs and they'll have to crawl towards you. A characterful, solid experience.
|2||Dishonored||<> (WEEK 1)|
|3||Hotline Miami||<> (WEEK 1)|
Journey takes the top spot for now, Binary Domain secures a position in the Top 10 at this early stage but could get bumped off in the coming weeks.
Other Noteworthy 2012 Releases
Here are a few games from this year that I enjoyed, but that I decided not to cover as a GOTY contender. They are still worth your time if they match your tastes:
Need For Speed: Most Wanted - Another fine racer from Criterion, with a few issues that stops it from hitting the high notes that their games have reached in the past. Without dwelling on what those issues are, its worth noting that the online experience here is very entertaining and comes highly recommended if you didn't "burn out"on the concept by playing lots of Paradise.
WipEout 2048 - An impressive achievement for the Vita, and recommended for any owner of the console. The sense of speed that you might expect from the series isn't quite there, and the loading times are atrocious, but a solid experience nonetheless with impressive online features.
Tiny & Big: Grandpa's Leftovers - One of many games that I went and bought based on a Giant Bomb Quick Look, the concept of cutting and pulling scenery in the gameworld to progress is unique and fresh. The game's got style and a great soundtrack, and doesn't outstay it's welcome. One of the better indie PC titles of the year.
New Releases I Wish I Had More Time To Complete:
- Darksiders II
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Assassin's Creed III
Other Potential GOTY Material I Will Be Picking Up:
- Halo 4
- Hitman Absolution
- The Walking Dead Episode 5
- ZombiU (which implies I'll be getting a Wii U)
- Far Cry 3
The Spoiler Dilemma
I'd love to be able to finish every game that has a plot that might get spoiled in Giant Bomb's GOTY discussions, but its impossible for several reasons. I'll have to make some tough decisions, with this one top of the list: Spec Ops: The Line. All I hear is that its a thrilling story inside a fairly standard shooter, and although I'd love to experience that story myself, I don't have the time or money to invest in games that I'm not likely to consider for my own GOTY list.
Thanks for checking out the blog. Let me know in the comments if you have thoughts to share on this week's featured games!