By GunstarRed 19 Comments
So, I have written a lot of words about how I feel about ten games I really liked this year. I feel pretty confident in saying that there isn't another list that will be posted that will look like mine, and I have liked a lot of games released this year. Some of the bigger games were disappointing for one reason or another, but I continued to love and like the vast majority of games I played. I did outright hate a couple of games throughout the year which is quite rare for me, but overall it was a good year full of unexpected surprises.
I would have like to played Max Payne 3 and put more time into Dead or Alive 5, but overall I'm happy with what I did get around to finishing.
The game I played for the longest amount of time in 2012 was The Binding of Isaac after dismissing it as a rubbish flash game last year. The Wrath of the Lamb DLC and a real understanding of all the little quirks of the game made me fall in love with what I feel to be one of the most cleverly designed games I have ever played.
I have a lot of nice things to say about Asura's Wrath, Alan Wake, Fez, and will stay eternally conflicted about how much I enjoyed Dragon's Dogma (All the thoughts of all the games I played this year - WARNING!: Lots of words.) I have also added a handy spoiler tag with my top 10 to save you from going through a lot of awkardly structured sentences with my games of the year plus a short sentence on why I chose them.
09. E.X Troopers - I like this game.
08. Lego Batman 2 - I like this game.
07. Resident Evil Revelations - I like this game.
06. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy - I like this game.
05. Halo 4 - I like this game.
04. Mark of the Ninja - I like this game.
03. Journey - I like this game.
02. Binary Domain - I like this game.
01. Kid Icarus Uprising - I like this game.
I like my list, it is my list after all. Thanks for reading. (or skipping to the end) I continue to love video games.
10. Far Cry 3 (360)
I had no intention of buying this game, I was always interested in Vaas since the Ubisoft conference unveiling of the game, but I had grown incredibly tired of first person shooters. It came as a real surprise that the game they were putting out in December was getting really good reviews, I started to warm to the idea of playing another first person shooter as I had been really impressed a month earlier with the wonderful Halo 4... and from experience (Red Dead) I know I like murdering wildlife in games.
I played the 360 version, I know it's full of technical issues, but that never really detracted from what is a really well made and story focused first person shooter. Sure, the story eventually goes off of the rails, but the scripted story moments with really memorable characters are well written, well acted and really bring you into Jason Brody's world. I would have been happier if they continued along the supernatural path it looks like they are headed about midway through the story, and any of the sequences containing the otherworldly are well done, especially fighting a giant demon and avoiding traps like Indiana Jones in underground caves to collect the parts of a seemingly magical compass.
There's a lot of content in the game, bases to take over, quick checkpoint races, animal hunts, tortoise stabbing, Assassin's Creed-esque towers to uncover parts of the map and what I found to be pretty strong story missions. I could have done without some of the turret sequences and the instant fail stealth mission was atrocious, but I felt compelled to see as much of the island as possible. I lost a couple of days to this game and loved almost every minute of it. It's a real shame that Vaas doesn't get more screen time.
9. E.X Troopers (PS3)
It hit me really early in the morning while I was shooting a giant space armadillo to death that a lot of the games I feel really passionate about follow the exact same pattern and that is, if it lets me dash and boost into super weapon counters there is a high chance I will really love it. I love simplicity, I love arcadey, it's why I'm so fond of a lot of older Sega games.
I was pretty down on lost Planet 2, but this anime inspired spin off which seems to have some light RPG moments and a hell of a lot of sharp, short missions that require me to boost kick monsters in the face is the kind of thing that warms my heart, zaps the "fuck yeah, VIDEO GAMES!!" part of my brain and just reinforces everything I love about noise and colour and spaceguns and monsters.
I hate being the person that puts a dumb imported game in my top 10, I expected Anarchy Reigns to be THE game here, but this is everything I want from a game, as simple and idiotic as that may be. Man, I love video games.
8. Lego Batman 2 DC Superheroes (360)
Lego! Yeah! Batman! Yeah! Superman! Yeah! Robin! Yeah! Green Lantern! Yeah! Hawk Man... No, fuck that guy. Lego games... What more can I say? An open Gotham City full of things to do, as much fanservice as either of the Arkham games, (if not more) and a bigger focus on telling an original story... with talking. There's some genuinely funny writing and the usual visual gags the series is known for running throughout the game.
Lego Batman 2 has a lot more set piece-like levels where you're falling from buildings or blowing up giant sky-bases with Superman. And this is the greatest thing about the game, the fact that Superman is godlike and fun to play. It works so well in this type of game that every time he was taken away from my little party I was a little disappointed. I would get so excited every single time I had control over him in the open world areas because the John Williams theme would start playing as soon as you leave the ground, and every single time the hugest smile would appear on my face. It's a shame the rest of the Justice League are really underused, especially The Flash as he has a really cool look and some unique movement compared to other characters, but hopefully that's something they fix for an inevitable third game.
Lego Batman 2 feels and sounds great, and while I know there's a bunch of framerate problems and the vehicle sequences aren't the best, the amount of content and care that has gone into creating this tiny toy world is incredible.
7. Resident Evil Revelations (3DS)
So, there was a Resident Evil game worth talking about this year, it just so happens to be the one the least amount of people played. I should mention up front that I used the Circle Pad Pro so this was my very first Resident Evil experience where I could both move and shoot. The funny thing is that even though I was able to back up whilst firing, the game still felt in line with previous Resident Evil's where 6 always felt loose and awkward.
I know that some people weren't as impressed with the game as me, but I found it to be a pretty good balance between the tense exploration of the older games and the all out action of four and five. There were points where I seriously had to consider fleeing from enemies as I didn't have enough ammo to take them down, and even though some of the horror is lessened by being on a handheld there is still a pretty tense atmosphere in the ship sections where enemies can come from vents above and behind you in a very Dead Space inspired way. I think the game is gorgeous for the system it is on which is probably why there is the insane loading into areas where the screen stutters and stops, which is quite unfortunate, but once out of them the game plays really smoothly with great animation and lighting.
I really enjoyed the stupidity of the story, it felt like the big, dumb overblown parts of five. Chris and Jessica probably have the stupidest sections, some of which are on rails boat sequences where lots of things explode. I am a big fan of the stupid parts of this series and this game seemed a little like it wasn't taking itself quite as seriously as previous (and later) games. I loved a lot of things about it, like the gun customization mods, the open environments where you would have to keep moving as enemies could do real damage to you if backed into a corner, some of the bosses and bigger enemies could take a whole chunk of your health off in one swipe. I even had a lot of fun with the scanning mechanic and there's a neat puzzle that could only be done with a touch screen.
I finished the single player game in about ten hours, but I put another thirty or so into the Raid mode where you had to get from one point to another in the fastest time possible while killing all the enemies that come at you. This mode proved to be a really great time sink where you are always unlocking new mods, perks and guns while leveling up and adding new herb slots and resistance to damage upgrades. I found myself addicted to this mode for a couple of weeks as there are a ton of stages and the difficulty really ramps up so playing with others online is the only real way to play. There's a ton of costumes to unlock and a constant stream of unending achievements that generate every so often.
I enjoyed the hell out of both parts of the game, but Raid was the unexpected star of the show. I wish this was more the direction the main series had taken, and I'll be pretty happy if they make another one of these for the 3DS... I need any excuse to get some use out of my neglected CPP.
6. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)
This game should be awful. A Final Fantasy music rhythm game... on a handheld. There's one major reason why I like this game. It feels more western in how forgiving hitting the notes is. A thing I have noticed over the years, being a fan of the genre is that the timing is always a lot less loose in Japanese music games, requiring much more precise hits. Games like Rock Band etc are far more lenient with much bigger windows to hit the notes, and Theatrhythm feels a lot less punishing in it's scoring. I never felt like I was unable to progress. It really helps that there is also a leveling system where you can equip your party with skills and perks to help with harder songs which is a really cool idea.
There's something incredibly charming about the cute style of the characters and their little nonsensical battle cries before a song starts. The game is a great reminder of how good the music in those games is, the older songs don't hold up so well and in some cases all sound a little samey, but Fighting Sephiroth to One Winged Angel whilst hitting notes in time with the song is a real joy.
It's always hard trying to explain how one of these games is better than another, they're all essentially the same kind of thing, just with a unique visual style. Theatrhythm goes out of its way to provide a fun playing experience with fanservice overload, and whilst I don't care for all of the games in the series some of the music from them is quite stunning. Who would have thought a bit of music from FFXII, a game I despise would have one of my favourite pieces to play.
I also must mention how great the DLC song descriptions are, really overblown and expressive descriptions instead of sound samples. It's totally dumb, but in a way really Final Fantasy-y.
5. Halo 4 (360)
Whoa, check out Cortana's boobs... no, no, no that's not how I wanted to start this... It actually took me by surprise to see people disappointed with the campaign, the reason why this game is placed so high on my list. I have always enjoyed the Halo series with ODST being my personal high point. My problem had always been that despite this rich universe they never seemed to do anything all that interesting with the series, and when they set the seeds at the end of Halo 2 for these two opposites (Master Chief/The Arbiter) to play a huge part in an overarching story it seemed like they were headed somewhere interesting, only for Halo 3 to come out and ditch all of that in favour of making The Arbiter "Player Two", what a waste. ODST tried a couple of new things with the flashing terminals scattered around the city, and Reach tried its hand at being an emotional story without the good writing or characters to back it up.
I know I've mumbled far too long about other games in the series whilst trying to explain what I loved about Halo 4 so much, but this is important. The Storytelling is a million miles ahead of what has come before, despite having far too much of the back story of the villain tied to easy to find, yet awkward to access terminals scattered around the game. The Didact stuff isn't really what makes the game so special. Sure, Cortana and Chief have always had a strange kinda-love-story-thing going on, but the way they humanize her in the game really adds a whole new emotional layer to what is essentially a big dumb shooty-space game.
I've seen complaints about overacting and how cheesy the love story angle is played out, but It worked on me. It made the game feel both intimate and like there was something real at stake beyond the usual fight for humanity displayed in the core action of the game. I found the game to be well paced with its story and big action set pieces, it never really let up, a forceful nudge forward instead of the "OH SHIT EVERYTHING IS EXPLODING AROUND ME!" that many shooters go for these days.
I Like the multiplayer and I think Spartan Ops is fine for what it is and as of writing this there has been interesting story developments in the small cut scenes that play out weekly, but I fell in love with Halo 4 from mission one. I can't explain what makes it feel better than previous games, and I'm sure I'd be called an idiot for saying that 343 is the best thing to ever happen to Halo. I don't come to these games for anything other than the campaign really and Halo 4 doesn't disappoint. A stunning soundtrack and visuals that I'm sure many would think would be impossible on such an old piece of hardware. I'm incredibly excited to see where this new trilogy takes us and if they can keep up a consistent level of quality. Man, what a great start they had here.
4. Mark of the Ninja (360)
One of the best stealth games I have ever played. It takes the best of the Arkham games stealth and then adds some gorgeous 2D art and really fluid controls. The first time through the game was slow, methodical and stealthy. If I felt like I wanted to do something there was a really high chance I could, and picking off guards one by one until one lone and scared guard was left freaked out was immensely satisfying. I loved the way that experimentation doesn't get punished and messing something up isn't an instant game over, you always know what your tools are going to do and watching a series of events you set up play out in a snap of your fingers makes you seem like the master ninja with the insanity inducing tattoo on screen.
I love the story cut scenes, they seem so well made and wonderfully animated. As brief as they are they really help with the atmosphere of the game. If I had any complaint at all it would be that I wish there was a little more, but that's a very minor complaint with such a well executed game.
I loved the first time through, but New Game+ is where the whole thing really shined. With a fully upgraded ninja and all your previous knowledge, you can jump and flip and crawl your way through the game speedily and gracefully in a handful of hours. I have never felt like such a stealth master in any other game based around hiding from dudes. Fantastic game which I hope gets a sequel, it really deserves one.
3. Journey (PS3)
I spent a while thinking about how I'd approach my thoughts on this game. I thought about whether I'd discuss games as art or if something as basic as running and jumping and floating without any challenge could really be described as being a video game.
My first time through Journey felt very guided by another player, a stranger who had obviously experienced this world before, prodding me and calling me towards hidden rooms and alien symbols. I felt almost cheated out of an experience that was supposedly to hit me at the centre of my soul.
I got up after an hour and forty minutes, put the controller down and went to bed. I woke up feeling disappointed by something that was so well crafted, so guided, so tested to perfection that everyone should walk away from Journey with some kind of newly formed sense of self worth or something else similarly impossible to gain from a video game.
I left it a day, wrote a couple of quick opinions and skimmed over others thoughts. People were describing how it had them in tears left me confused, did they play the same game as me? Sure, it's pretty and the music is stunning, but it's hardly this work of high art.
I sat at the opening area at about 5am running around the sand in circles, not really doing anything at all. I was jumping around the ruined buildings and floating around in circles. Eventually I grew bored and moved onto the fabric bridge and someone was running around and surfing in the sands moved by wind. I progressed, not really with any intention of going through the whole thing again, the same sights, the same sounds, the cave full of monsters, the seaweed corridor. I was no longer playing, but just moving, flowing through the environments with another at my side, flying and flapping and moving around each other in circles chirping our little chirps.
The room with the spiraling bridges and carpet-manta ray hit me in the face out of nowhere, I was there for so long just weaving in and out of a strangers path, our flowing scarves moving gracefully through the air, it was something different, something magical and in that tiny moment my whole opinion on this thing had been turned on its head.
I cannot describe how I felt whilst climbing to the top of the mountain, Austin Wintory's sublime score escalating, me and my voiceless friend had made it through everything, it was like my first playthrough had never happened. It's not the kind of thing that would make me cry, or even consider doing so, but that thud in my chest, my heartbeat had changed. For a handful of minutes, a video game had done something amazing, something that I doubt could ever be recreated.
What is most important about this waffley description is that I totally prestiged to the max in Journey. White, fully embroidered robe bitches!
2. Binary Domain (360)
I never thought that this would be the game I would have the most difficulty describing my love for. I didn't really have to replay any other game to come up with a handful of barely cohesive thoughts for my top ten. I messed about with Kid Icarus for two missions before I went "Oh yeah, this is why I love this." but Binary Domain doesn't do anything particularly spectacular. I played through the first four chapters again and fell in love with it all over again, and I still don't have a concrete answer why. I'm sure its heavy emphasis on story has a lot to do with why it unexpectedly gained a place in some of our hearts. The shooting is great, (I have a real issue with people calling it "Competent", Mass Effect is Competent, this is up to the standards of many western shooters on the market.) the voice acting is way above average and in places it looks incredibly sharp, with great character models and some well designed robots.
It really shouldn't be that surprising that a game from the maker of the Yakuza series would have expressive faces and a lot of character development. The hero, Dan starts the game so unlikeable, with a crap catchphrase and some dickish comments to others in your elite robo-killing squad, but over time he grows, not only into someone you want to see succeed, but his stupid sense of humour starts to grow on you.
In fact a lot of the characters that seem like your standard action movie stereotypes have a very human side after you get to know them. It really took me by surprise how seriously the game takes its story, it isn't devoid of fun (Cain the French robot.) but it isn't trying to be dumb, it is actually trying to tell a pretty compelling story with some great twists and a real I Robot type feeling. I never expected violence towards robots to seem so much more brutal than a lot of games where you kill humans.
I think the game does a really good job of mixing things up with a little variety. The game starts with some swimming and there's some vehicle sequences and on rails driving mixed in with the cover based gunfights featuring some really satisfying combat where every single part of the robots can be taken to pieces. It isn't without a couple of issues like when some of the larger bosses constantly knock you down with rockets, but there is some really great bosses designed to look like spiders, gorillas, jellyfish, horses and a variety of other animals. I found so many things about the game quite charming, a word you wouldn't expect to use when describing a sci-fi third person shooter. I thought this would be one of those games I'd feel passionately about and constantly find myself telling people they need to play the dumb robot game with the silly name from Sega, but it seems to have found an audience and deservedly so. I adore the hell out of Binary Domain... Of course I do. IT HAS A FRENCH FUCKING ROBOT IN A NECKERCHIEF!
1. Kid Icarus Uprising (3DS)
When I say I love this game, I mean I love it from the core of my heart. I get a warm glow just thinking about my time with this game. It's like Nintendo wanted to make the video game equivalent of a Disney movie, Kid Icarus is one step away from having songs and a talking candlestick sidekick. Kid Icarus is a weird game, a really weird game, not just because it's a pretty hardcore action shooter from Nintendo (which can be made infuriatingly tough using the difficulty slider), but because it mixes so many elements of other things without ever feeling like it's being held together with staples and glue. From the box art you could be mistaken that this is high fantasy, all bows and arrows and high adventure, but by the fifth stage we are flying through Starfox on the SNES-like tunnels and we are firmly in Science Fiction territory. The game gets much weirder as it goes on, you fly through space, jungle planets, shoot giant bombs out of the sky, through constellations, fight space pirates and A GIANT SPACE OCTOPUS! and that's not even mentioning that you occasionally get into space motorbikes, gladiator spheres and pilot angelic mechs. As I said... Kid Icarus Uprising is a weird game.
So, Kid Icarus is a game that never shuts up, never! You would think that a constant stream of people talking at you and Pit being so enthusiastically pumped like some kind of heavenly Power Ranger you would get annoyed at all of the noise, but somehow the writing is so self knowing, so witty that it comes across as charming more than irritating. I found myself in fits of giggles at some of the things Palutena or Viridi said to me. There's a lot of winks and nods to other Nintendo franchises, it wants you to know that they are in on the joke. Kid Icarus is a game and it is proud to be game, but not at the expense of its storytelling, there's a shift in the later parts of the game where the story moves towards to being a little more serious, you get to play as a couple of other characters other than Pit and they manage to do this without sacrificing the humour. Anyone that wonders if Nintendo could do a fully voiced Zelda this is the game that proves they could pull it off perfectly.
I know I need to stop at some point, but I have so many things to say about the game, I think the game looks stunning and the Sin & Punishment-esque on rails sections at the start of most levels weave in and out of the scenery and put the 3D effect to some of the best use on the system, and the music is so varied and consistently good with huge orchestral themes, 16 bit era boss music, classical guitars and even some jazz. Now I get that some are not fond of the on foot sequences which I found to be just as fun, but for long periods of time they did hamper my ability to play well, there are ways to lessen the awkwardness and once I was into a rhythm I barely thought about it. I think the positives of the game far outweigh the control issues it has. Kid Icarus is one of the best game universes I have ever encountered, wonderully expressive bosses and a couple of main villains that are just gloriously evil in that Jafar-like way. This is pure Disney, if Disney did explosions and made fun of their other properties, hell, there's even a section where Pit sings along to the music.
As I said, I love this game from the core of my heart. My mum knew I was so taken by it she made me a Kid Icarus birthday card. The best game I played this year, the best game on the 3DS and one of the best games Nintendo has ever given us. I fucking love this game.
So, I totally wrote one of those annoying end of year top 10's. Thankyou for reading it, because if you wrote one I definitely read it. I love making lists and I love reading them, I don't really care if my opinion only matters to me. I love video games... I cannot stress that enough.