@Claude: Ten tons, and thanks for reading.
10 - Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3 comes in at number 10 for me simply because of how the game is presented. With this game I felt like it could of been quite a lot better, however it did enough things right to leave a good impression. Mechanically I felt like this game was confused at times, like Rockstar couldn't decide whether to make a modern third person shooter or an old school one. The bullet time mechanic is still really fun to use, but I felt the game was trying to push me into using cover and in my opinion that is not what Max Payne is about. On the story side this game did a really good job of making me feel sorry for Max, even if he does allow himself to get pulled into all this drama. Overall this was a solid package and fun to play even if occasionally frustrating, and the soundtrack added a lot of atmosphere to this title.
9 - Sleeping Dogs
At number 9 we have Sleeping Dogs aka True Crime Hong Kong, a game that almost didn't make it into the hands of the public but I'm sure glad it did. Over the years I have played my fair share of open world/gangster games, and post GTA V and most definitely post Saints Row The Third it's really hard for these types of games to stand out. This was one of my biggest surprises of the year because of its many strong points, whether it be the great but cliche story or the heavy focus on hand to hand combat rather than guns, Sleeping Dogs did a good job of setting itself apart from other titles in its genre. The main character Wei Shen is probably one of my favorite characters of the year and although I could see almost every plot twist coming, I still thoroughly enjoyed working my way through the narrative.
8 - Dishonored
Dishonored was a game that I was very skeptical about at first as I had no idea how the first person stealth mechanics were going to handle. However this game did not disappoint as I quickly became very skilled at sneaking through areas without being seen and without harming a single person. The ways in which this game allowed you to build your character was one of the best parts of this game for me, as I decided to go full stealth I felt like each upgrade helped my objectives significantly. Another major bonus to this game is the variety of ways you can handle your objectives and how you affect the world. Dishonored also has a few decent plot twists, however I found the ending of the game to be quite anti climactic, but you shouldn't let that stop you from picking this up.
7 - Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 was basically exactly what I wanted out of a sequel, which was more Borderlands. There were a lot of really smart improvements made to this title and I feel the increased focus on having a story and an actual villain is exactly what this game needed. I easily spent around 30 hours in this game and did my best to 100% Borderlands 2, and I'll most likely dive back in at some point in 2013 once all the DLC has been released. To be honest there isn't a lot I can really say about this game, at the end of the day it's fun, it's stupid, it's over the top and there are so many guns it's unreal.
6 - Black Ops 2
When I look back on this list in a years time I feel I may regret putting Black Ops 2 as high up my list as I have, but as of right now I feel it deserves the number 6 spot. This was Treyarch's year to make a big push and set themselves up as the new A team developers for COD and turn Black Ops into the new Modern Warfare. Although I do not consider Black Ops 2 as good of a game as Modern Warfare 1 or 2, I do consider it the best COD since Modern Warfare 2. This year Treyarch made enough changes to the series with its near future setting and adding some really well done moral choice sequences, that this year COD had more of a new and fresh feeling about it. The continuation of Mason and Wood's story was nicely put together and the campaign had moments when to put it simply cool shit happened. At the end of the day this is still COD, it looks like COD, plays like COD and sounds like COD. However Modern Warfare 3 felt very stale and Black Ops 2 has me interested enough that I'm really looking forward to seeing what Treyarch does with the inevitable 3rd installment on the next gen consoles.
5 - The Witcher 2
The Witcher 2 is normally the type of game I would stay away from as I felt it was going to be very punishing and almost too large of a world that I would care to explore. Once diving in to The Witcher 2 though I was fully engrossed in its world and characters and politics. I liked that there was so much stuff in this game to read and learn about the different kings and factions, but it wasn't forced on the player. One of my favorite aspects of this game was the combat, which on my first attempt at fighting the most basic enemies I was absolutely destroyed. After giving it some time to really get use to the way things work with the different types of swords, variety of spells and the stamina system, each battle then became just enough of a challenge without being frustrating. This game also looks fantastic, and the port from PC to 360 was handled well enough. The story tied up very well for me and I feel like the choices I made had enough of an impact that the story felt like my own. The Witcher 2 was another big surprise for me this year and easily makes it to the number 5 spot.
4 - The Walking Dead
As a huge fan of The Walking Dead TV show I was very excited when I learned a game set in this world was in the making. I was even more excited when I learned it was going to be a serious, story focused moral choice type of game. I had been waiting for someone to make an attempt at telling a serious and dramatic story in a zombie setting as I always felt it had tremendous potential. The Walking Dead season one was exactly what I had been looking for, and managed to pull off episodic gaming so well I'm hoping many other will take a shot at it. Now I wouldn't want to spoil any big story moments for anyone so I'll just say this. The story, characters and the world that this game takes place in are all written extremely well when you consider this is a video game. The attachment I had to some of the characters throughout this story was more than I've had in possibly any other game, and it feels that much worse if you end up losing someone. This is video game story telling done at its best and it deserves everyone's attention, regardless of how into games they are.
3 - Mass Effect 3
Well what can I say about this game that hasn't been said already. I think the controversy surrounding this game speaks for itself, and although I like many others was kind of disappointed by the ending, it still makes it to number 3 for my list. The reason this game comes in so high is simply because of the journey it provided me with, the ending could of been better but when it came down to it I still very much enjoyed my time with game as I finished MY Mass Effect story. Mechanically I honestly can't make too many complaints, although the 3rd installment leaned even further towards the shooter genre and away from RPG It still provided me with a very competent shooter with cool weapons and awesome powers and abilities. This game felt very much like a Mass Effect reunion in many ways as Shepard traveled from planet to planet fighting along side friends and tying up loose ends. It also gave me a lot of great memorable moments from the mass effect universe. This game did not end as well as it could have, but when it comes down to it, I stopped the reapers and the ride along the way was truly my story and one of the best experiences I had all year.
2 - Halo 4
Being the huge Halo fan that I am it took me a while to decide where this game would fit in top 10 list. This was definitely one of the best games I had played all year, but when I really thought about it, it wasn't the best. The reason I feel Halo 4 is the 2nd best game of this year is because it's an extremely well made FPS experience in the Halo universe, this game very much impressed me but it did not amaze me. 343 industries had a huge task of taking the reigns for this franchise and I can happily say that they did great job kicking off a whole new trilogy. There weren't many changes made to the Halo formula but the visuals were highly improved, the story had a more personal feel and the shooting still feels as great as ever. Once again we also have another great Halo soundtrack which I am listening to as I type this, and in my opinion this is possibly the best soundtrack yet. For me to explain what I like about Halo would just be a waste of time, at this point everyone pretty much knows whether they like it or not and what type of experience to expect with this title. Halo 4 is very much a game with the right improvements in the right places, and does more than enough to leave me excited to see where 343 go with this series. So to sum up Halo 4 is not a game changer, but still a fantastic game.
1 - Far Cry 3
So here it is number 1, my favorite game of the 2012. Far Cry 3 is without doubt my biggest surprise this year, as I completely forgot about it until a few weeks before its release. This game has been called by many "Skyrim with guns" which is a fair comparison, but for me this the type of experience I wanted from Skyrim in 2011 but did not receive. Far Cry 3 gave me an open world, but not too huge it seems like a chore to explore. It gave me a variety of options when approaching enemies, and made each one feel like a good option. It gave me a great story with fantastic characters, and it did all this in a game that looks amazing and plays just as good as any other top shooter out there. This game had so many "Oh shit" moments for me from using a flamethrower on a cartel's weed field, to unleashing a tiger onto a group of pirates and then sniping them as they ran away. All round this game just worked for me, I felt like enough of a badass to take on 5 pirates with an assault rifle, but at the same time felt slightly intimidated when approaching a bear or a shark. My only complaint with this game is that I wish I got to see more of the best character of 2012 which was the villain of Far Cry 3, Vaas Montenegro. Now although this character was basically like most other bad guys in movies today in a post dark knight world, the performance given by the actor who played Vaas (Micheal Mando) was so good that seeing him in real life is actually quite terrifying. Going back to Halo 4, I said it wasn't the best because it was extremely well made but it did not amaze me, and Far Cry 3 did just that. This game deserves to be played by everyone as it provides a technically impressive, mechanically sound game with great narrative that each player seems to have a different experience with. For the reasons listed above, Far Cry 3 is my top game of 2012.
So I realized the other day that my Xbox Live subscription is coming up for it's annual renewal, then I realized that I had been a gold member of Xbox Live for 8 years, which also lead me to my final realization that Xbox Live will be 10 years old come this November. So what does the last decade online mean to me? What does Xbox Live mean to the industry? and how does it affect the future of the industry?.
So let me set the scene for you. It's late into the year of 2003, I'm a few months away from turning 14, I just finish school and I head to my local Asda (Wall-Mart UK for my american readers) in order to purchase the latest copy of Official Xbox Magazine. Waiting in line to buy the magazine I stare at the front of the magazine and see the words "Xbox Live" written across the cover. Reading the words "Xbox" and "Live", my initial assumption was some new live game show of people competing for cash playing Xbox games. As I return to my home and quickly flip through the magazine I discover what Xbox Live really is. Words used in the magazine such as "a revolution" and "the future of gaming" caught my interest. This continued as I placed the demo disc that came with the magazine into my Xbox and played the promotional video for Xbox Live (shown below).
At this point I was sold and half an hour later when my mother came home begged her to upgrade our internet connection from dial-up to broadband, so I could join this wonderful online community. Nearly 8 years, £320 and 80'000 gamerscore later I have to say I am one happy customer.
I remember the early days of Xbox Live like they were yesterday, although it took me over an hour to decide on the gamertag that the 14 year old me thought the online community would fear, I finally decided to go with the name Super Saiyan 14, I also didn't realize at the time that I had would have to update this name annually, a tradition I abandoned after only 4 years of paying money to change 1 character of my name. I spent months just playing the Xbox Live demo disc which featured Moto GP and Mech Assault in order to scratch my online itch. 6 months later Halo 2 arrives and what I call the golden age of online gaming begins. The years roll by, I play anything and everything that has the ability to access Xbox Live, and also add anyone and everyone that I came across online hoping to build a group of elite gaming friends to take on the world with. Whether it be Project Gotham Racing 2, Halo 2, Unreal Championship, FIFA or Splinter Cell: Chaos theory I was playing them all and fully hooked on the Xbox Live experience.
Around the same time I pick up another issue of Official Xbox Magazine, this was just before the launch of the Xbox 360 and one of the articles within this issue was focused on Microsoft's aim with the 360 and Xbox Live. I'm always surprised by the way some people react to the way Microsoft operates these days, the main reason for my surprise is that within this article they flat out told you exactly what they were about this generation. This article went on for about three or so pages about how Xbox Live and the 360 was going to replace your TV provider, DVD player, CD player and PC along with the ability to download your games instead of actually going out and buying them. So when everyone complains about how Microsoft has lost touch with the hardcore because they add stuff like Facebook to Xbox Live ( and I do agree with this statement to some degree) It's surprising to me to see all of this uproar because this was their plan all along, and they told us from the beginning.
Over the last decade, I along with a lot of you out there have seen this service go through many changes especially the different dashboards shown below. By the way I still find the original Xbox dashboard extremely cool for some reason.
But through all these changes its not just been a simple cosmetic upgrade. The introduction of Xbox Live in my opinion is one of most important times in video game history. Not only was this service a revolution to video games by allowing the us to play and meet all sorts of people across the globe and introducing this to the mainstream. But it also changed the industry as a whole, whether it be the strategic business moves of Microsoft competitors with Sony and Nintendo introducing their own online service, or the way in which games are developed today to the point where it is almost considered suicide for a developer to release a game without and some kind of online multiplayer aswel as online pass. I'm not very happy about that last point though.
Looking back at Microsoft and their vision of the future of Xbox Live that they spoke of back in 2005, and looking at my TV screen right now as I am writing this with the LOVEFILM app playing movies while also in party chat with 2 other guys who are playing Modern Warfare. It is clear to me that Microsofts vision is fully realized as Xbox Live has completely replaced all of my other services and electronic equipment apart from the PC I am writing this blog post on. Now I'm not saying that Microsoft has made all the right moves, and has crafted a perfect service over the years, but what I am saying is that Xbox Live's influence on the gaming industry, whether you consider for better or for worse, is almost too large to measure. This service has shaped the industry and its their competitors forever and I must say that I'm glad that the 14 year old me begged his mother to upgrade the internet to broadband in order sign up for Xbox Live, because although this community has its share of screaming and verbally abusive teenagers, it also has it's share of friendly and interesting people that I have met over the years. Were it not for Xbox Live allowing me to communicate with all these different people about games, there's a good chance I may have moved onto other interests. Were it not for XBLA I would not have discovered some of the classic games that were way before my time. Were it not for Xbox Live I would not have been able to have some of the best cooperative experiences in my gaming life, the most recent being spending 5 hours going from wave 1 to 50 on Gears of War 3's horde mode. But as I sit at almost 22 years of age, I'm glad to say I was part of a defining moment in the industry I love so much.
P.S. Now get back to making games Microsoft, I have enough apps on my dashboard.
Use your keyboard!
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