GOTY 2012

If I could sum up this great year of gaming for me with one word it would be first. It was the first time I ever played an MMO, I attended my first, and probably last, midnight launch and it’s the first time I can recall playing a lot more games online. It also was the first time I didn’t play the new Call of Duty the weekend of launch and lastly it was the first time I feel lot of games were made for adults only. No matter your thoughts on the year, whether you were excited or disappointed, and whether you are playing AAA, independent, free to play, console, or PC games, Salute.

Games I did not play in 2012:

1. Mass Effect 3

2. Dishonored

3. Far Cry 3

4. Sleeping Dogs

5. Call of Duty Black Ops 2

6. Dragons Dogma

7. Darksiders 2

8. X Com

9. Max Payne 3

10. Fez

Top 10 Games 2012

1. Journey

There are only a few moments during my 30+ years of playing games where I have been speechless. The first time was probably in a pizza parlor playing an arcade game and the second was when I finished Journey. It touches on your emotional soul like nothing else. It’s simply a magical experience that will be discussed as one of the best games ever for a long time.

2. Borderlands 2

This is what fans want from sequels. Polish, improved characters and story, better RPG elements, huge open world, more quest, new enemies, guns and loot, loot, loot. After spending close to 100 hours in the original it will not be hard cracking that barrier with the sequel. Mission accomplished.

3. The Walking Dead

XBLA box art (cropped)

Is it a game? Not in the traditional sense even if from a point and click adventure but what it does is include characters you care about, devastating choices that have consequences, and an emotional rollercoaster that will keep you questioning your decisions long after the end credits roll. You never know what could happen or who may not make it next. Ground breaking in every way, unforgettable weeks after completing the story The Walking Dead does more than set the bar for episodic gaming but raises it for the entire industry.

4. Mark of the Ninja

XBLA box art (cropped)

If there is a rising studio in the games industry Klei has to be in the discussion. Not only did they release an improved sequel to Shank this year but they also released one of the best stealth games in years with Mark of the Ninja. Right from the start you are a sneaking in the shadows as a bad ass assassin. How many games offer you that right from the start? Solid game mechanics, levels, pacing, cool art style, generous checkpoints and RPG elements that warrant replay ability while all tied together with a unique story from start to finish.

5. Syndicate

360 box art (cropped)

First person shooters by far are the most difficult to differentiate from each other but Syndicate does enough that it was probably my game of the year up to this last month. Set in a very Dark City futuristic setting with solid shooting, an interesting level up system, a good single player campaign and addictive four player co op that kept me hooked for a long time. Its mechanic of extracting chips and enhancing your ability to drop enemy shields, or disable grenades was a fresh idea that made game play different. For a game that a lot of people seemed to dismiss it was never a problem then or still today to find a game. If supported with DLC Syndicate may have been my GOTY.

6. Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning

360 box art (cropped)

It sort of breaks my heart knowing the only thing anyone will remember about this game is the complete failure, mismanagement, and politics of the owners at 38 studios/Big Huge Games. What should be remembered is the team of developers who created a huge colorful open world with some of the best RPG action to date. The story can get a long in the tooth but it has its moments and after spending over 150 hours in Amalur I never encountered any broken quests or bugs and I didn’t need a mod, or a patch to fix anything. That accomplishment in itself, imo is pretty impressive.

7. Jagged Alliance Back in Action(V1.13)

UK box art.

This is my S.T.A.L.K.E.R. award winner this year joining previous winners Dante’s Inferno and Two Worlds 2. I give this award to the game that has everything in place to be fantastic and innovative but fails in execution, polish and /or balance. As an example you can’t buy footwear from anywhere, yet is armor that degrades over time. Its that type of annoyance, the agonizing time consumption of arming and keeping towns under your control, and the lack of funds to name just a few problems. However, taking a team into a variety of nicely detailed environments,methodically placing them and then luring the enemy into your killzone were some of the most satisfying moments I had in gaming this year. If Firaxis can do what they accomplished with X Com imagine the possibility they could do to Jagged Alliance.

8. Ratchet and Clank HD collection

I’m a moody gamer in which I choose games to play on how I feel. I rarely play back-to-back genres, grind fests, tense action or 100 hour rpgs. I like balance in my hobby and after watching the quick look for Ratchet and Clank HD I knew it was time to, pardon the Xbox motto, jump in. Aside from knowing the developer and creator of the series, Insomniac, my knowledge of Ratchet and Clank overall is limited. That doesn’t matter anymore because I have only finished the first of the three games and I can’t recommend it enough. Its execution is numbingly close to perfection and the HD upgrade makes the game seem fresh with only some minor graphical limitations. I cant believe this game is 10 years old and after close to 20 hours to complete the story, collectibles, and (some)skill points I have to ask why is this not recognized or discussed more as a benchmark for plat formers because IMO, it should be.

9. Spec Ops The Line

“This is General Konrad of the U.S. Army. Evacuation of Dubai is a complete failure Casualties….too many” And with that haunting opening transmission I realized this wasn’t going to be a typical shooter and it wasn’t. Yes, it’s very ABC basic in its third person game play the and the story is very Apocalypse Now mixed with some Twilight Zone but the voice acting, music and writing add something to the shooter/war genre that has been absent forever. My only grip with the game is I wish they would have made the environments bigger to allow for more squad control commands ala Brothers in Arms, and I am infuriated by the achievements basically telling you of some creative hidden choices in the game. Those minor gripes aside, this is one of those games that are needed to continue to move the medium forward.

10. Planetside 2

The last time I played an on line shooter on a PC without a controller may have been Medal of Honor, or Battlefield 1942. That learning curve is enough but throw in everything else Planetside 2 offers and you can be quickly overwhelmed. Hell I’m still learning. However, if you are patient you will be rewarded with a combat experience unlike any other. The game looks and plays incredible even on medium to high settings, and watching large teams of 100+ players gather before rolling together to a target is pretty awesome. The two complaints are player progression and most of the locations look identical. Those minor gripes aside can be easily forgotten by the cost of the game. Its Free to play.

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