By Yummylee 32 Comments
Pardon the stupid title, but it's just so I can call it something else other than ''top ten of 2012'', and creating the implication that I eat video games is... well, I'd like to think it helps it stand out an extra 0.2334%. Anywhoo:
Video gaming in 2012! The year where I officially began to grow jealous of PC gamers and truly loathe the poor performance issues of console games. Sure, it's kinda always been that way, and by virtue of me being a console gamer for the most of my life (though I did used to play a lot on my PC when I was younger), I don't ask for much. But when we've got games like, say, Far Cry 3 on the PS3 that are chugging along at like 20 fps or less... Fuck that. Fuck that right off. And what's more infuriating is so many gaming publications don't even regard such problems; both that and Assassin's Creed 3 have all been reviewed highly across all platforms, in some cases like Gamespot where each version is awarded the same score! I frankly think something is very wrong with reviews when a game's console port, that will actually give me eye strain the framerate is so bad, is receiving just as much praise as its PC equivalent.
OK, I didn't exactly plan to start this GOTY blog with my little tirade about the plight of the dirty peasant console gamer, but this can at least act as a disclaimer as to why Far Cry 3 isn't on here, when I know for certain that if I could play it the way it was meant to be played, it would be. So getting back to the matter at end, I shall give to you my completely important and valid opinions about my otherwise favourite ten games of the year!
Actually, since I've also got some long-winded blog rant coming up after sinking around 200+ hours worth into the meat of the entire Warriors franchise (sans Rockstar adaptation unfortunately), I'm gonna leave this one blank. Suffice to say, Warriors Orochi 3 is a pretty fun game. Nearly everything else that preceded it? not so much.
My reaction to Spec Ops: The Line was rather surprising, but not in the way you'd think. I only ''crossed The Line'' a couple of weeks ago, after the swarm of hype and buzz had already circulated, stating The Line to be something special. The story was meant to act as a bold step forward for military shooters, but the actual gameplay was a little below what one would expect from a shooter released in 2012.
Ironically enough, I found the story to be a wee bit disappointing, and the shooting to be surprisingly engaging. I understood that it was meant to be competent at best, but the shooting overall worked surprisingly well within the context. It all felt brutal, with the way enemies drop via but a few bullets, and the weapons all had a great sense of power to them. Especially as the game goes on, it starts to feel downright draining; the shoot outs are a little long, but I can imagine that's the point and while I was never 'bored' exactly, as the game progresses and our characters continue to degrade into broken down sacks of mud, I was left taking a few breaks here and there. The game also has a superb soundtrack that very lightly balances between making you feel like some sort of badass while at the same time accentuating the completely messed up situations Captain Walker and his team have found themselves in.
The fact that you're mostly gunning down fellow US soldiers in particular was a brave move for the story to take, as was the direction the moral compass sharply directs you towards during the middle of the story. It's a shame that the ending and its twist is super cliché, but the journey to that point was wrought with harrowing scenery and a highly engaging batch of shoot outs up to that point. The writing is pretty good overall, though, and Nolan North definitely pulls in one of his best performances across his entire catalogue of work.
I can completely understand why some are pretty down on Darksiders II. I can understand because I'm one of them! Sort of. There's a lot I like about Darksiders II, even if it's weaker than its predecessor overall. The combat is one such aspect that was greatly improved upon and a made for a great deal of fun, as was the smooth platforming controls and stimulating puzzles. Despite the exhausting amount of time you spend doing the bidding of everyone, including such quests that have quests within quests, and the terribly disappointing and noticeably rushed ending, I was left feeling... content with it all.
The absurd amount of collectibles and the fact that there's no reliable checklist to keep a track of them all was the true bane of this game for me. Had it not been because of my own collectible anxiety, and the fact that your collectible collection actually resets in NG+, I would have gladly invested another 20 hours. With its utterly engrossing soundtrack, enticing loot rewards, and fluid combat that could easily match with some of the best character-action systems out there, Darksiders II succeeded just enough to top where it faltered.
FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU... Oh, Spelunky. As many can relate, this is the sort of game that has a very love/hate sort of reception - in that even the people that love it probably have some form of hatred bubbling under the surface. I'm as ready to compliment its great controls and addictive platforming and utter unpredictability, to then consequently tear my eyes out afterwards due to that very unpredictability. The caveat is while the randomisation means that you're forever being presented with new and sometimes wholly unique obstacles, it also means that there's a high degree of luck that you have to rely on.
Seriously, trying to bring that fucking key across three worlds and then - oops, you've just entered a stage where there's no light so you have to try and carry a torch as well as the fucking key itself! I haven't even completed it so to speak - the Temple stage was just too much I'm ashamed to admit. But with every snippet of tooth that was chipped away as I grinded my teeth in frustration, it would all lead to a resolution of Miraculous proportions when I would in fact get that fucking key to that fucking tunnel fucking man fucking fuck ffffffffFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUSOHDFQSDASD ihaUDHqasisuGartittiesjOPSQMINNNNGEDWQ HRFC'ERFWRFGEWIFahsahspHSAHahps
The Darkness II is such a game that speaks to a greater question within gaming. When put against its predecessor, The Darkness II is as such a much... safer game. The original, for as shooters go, was surprisingly creative and unique even, with its HUB, side missions, putting in the entire To Kill a Mocking Bird movie for your viewing, first person hugging, and all of the craziness that occurs during the WWI segment. And yet despite that, The Darkness II is an irrevocably better shooter.
The shooting gameplay in the first was kind of a slog frankly, and there was a noticeable shortage of Darkness powers to call from. Darkness II on the other hand has some superb shooting, but it's all confined to what is basically a corridor crawler. It's also significantly shorter at that. It left me asking the question about whether it's worth it for a game to improve upon its gameplay at the expense of a more creative design? Fortunately for as corridor crawl games go, The Darkness II is a standout, with its highly fetching art style just to start things off. And again the shooting is just so riotous and fun, with a decent selection of weapons to the more expansive list of Darkness powers. It's a particularly fast moving game at that, but not in the Call of Duty sense with explosions every which way, but by the utter brutality that your own attacks conjure forth. Using a car door as a shield and then using it to slice a bad guy in half is never not fun. And those executions are fucking gruesome and could potentially even make Kratos himself blush.
It's a shame it has to be so short, but it almost adds a sort of... coziness to it all. It's a strange way to describe a game that involves such an array of decapitations and mutilations, but the length, and not to mention The Darkness II being one of the few ''B-grade'' games out there, gives it an almost ''indie'' feel. The great cast of characters and dialogue also further its likeability and is one such aspect that has survived the 'downgrade' as it where. The shooting is super fun to utilise, but it's the symbiotic relationship between Jackie and The Darkness himself, a list of hilarious supporting characters like the Woody Allen-inspired Johnny Powell, to Jackie's tragic struggle as he tries to get over the death of Jenny, that allowed it to stand out all the more for me.
I'm not an exceptionally... cultured individual, and I'm not exactly all too bright, either. The majority of my family is made up of an entire clan of dopes, and there's nothing that I can do about it. I am what I am, and I've accepted that fact... more or less. Point is I'm not the sort of fellow that divulges in the truly 'artsy' side of media. I've never bothered trying out any of thatgamecompany's prior work just as an example, but the amount of high praise that was being lavished all over Journey forced my hand, so I indulged the shit out of this thing.
And it's so fucking beautiful. Like, maaaan, playing through this and witnessing its wonders suddenly makes the world around me feel that much brighter, and all of life's problems feel petty in comparison to the sheer magnitude of what was on display on my TV.
OK, no, I'm stretching it a little there, and I don't mean to mock it, because Journey truly is an outstanding experience. The utterly gorgeous visuals are a treat for the eyes, and the act of travelling across this barren wasteland was almost bittersweet. For as beautiful as everything looks, the somewhat open-ended story and noticeably lonely adventure I went through made me feel... I dunno, it just made me feel damn it! The way it integrated cooperative gameplay was also memorable to say the least; I don't think I'll ever forget when my anonymous companion and I tried our best to brave that mountain, nor when you then fly up that son'bitch all the way to Scarf Heaven or whatever. Watching my little brother play it afterwards, I was surprised at how it still got to me just by watching it all again.
It's just goofy fun - pure and simple I honestly haven't had this much fun traipsing throughout an open-world crime game since Saints Row 2! The story, while predictable with some kinda 'eh' characters, was entertaining to follow regardless. It's the open-world madness that I especially enjoyed; sprinting throughout the world, bulldogging poor civilians onto the pavement, throwing people into the trunk of my car, then jumping out with a gun in slo-mo and watching it explode just with a single bullet was forever hilarious and devilishly satisfying. Or when I'd drive around in a car but would pull out my gun, which also enacts slow-mo, and just drive around knocking people over. What was great was how even the music was slowed down to a degree, making it all sound like something out of Enya's discography.
I had a surprising amount of fun messing around with the guns to be honest, mixing it in with the slow-mo like the aforementioned examples. But then there's still the fast, fluid and hardhitting melee combat and the large number of rewarding collectibles. Sleeping Dogs is one of those games that after all is said and done, you then go back just to make your own fun. It quite frankly out-sandbox'd Saints Row The Third for me personally and gave a world with a great deal of detail and stuff happening; so much so that then proceeding to wreak havoc across its streets was made all the more hilarious.
Certain issues aside, like a lot of the throwaway girlfriend characters and that the vehicles feel like they're made of tinfoil, Sleeping Dogs was a treat to behold. As someone who was rooting it for a good long while before its release, it made for a pleasant surprise to witness its reception and see there are plenty who would agree.
Oh, Silent Hill. As seemingly everyone else continues their apathy, I can't help but cling on to what little I have amongst the depressingly little amount of survival horror stuff to be found. On consoles most especially. I'm more than willing to admit that at least a part of my forgiving nature for Downpour perhaps stems from the fact that, well, what the fuck else there? Regardless, I had a really enjoyable time with Downpour. It's basically classic survival horror, only taken to a grander scale with the mostly open town of Silent Hill to explore. It has its share of problems sure. The enemy design and lack of variety was disappointingly weak; the soundtrack, while fine, doesn't strike the right level of making me outright disturbed while I'm playing; and most importantly of all, the story is kinda rubbish and doesn't have a lot of consequence. I had already envisioned where it may be going and it sounded like it could unveil to be something messy but... no dice.
Now a Silent Hill game starring a naff narrative will leave many wondering what else would there be to latch on. Fortunately, exploring Silent Hill itself was really intriguing and appropriately unnerving at times. The small multitude of self-contained side stories littered throughout were also rather interesting, such as one involving you warping into a film, to another where you have to rewind time using a gramophone. And then there's the fantastically creepy Hansel & Gretel psychological set-piece. It was most importantly refreshing to finally be handed such a large portion of the town to explore; part of what was so enjoyable about the first Silent Hill's was exploring at your own leisure for additional supplies or just to simply uncover more of the town.
If there was perhaps a little more competition in the horror department, Downpour might not rank so highly, but it would have still snagged a spot somewhere on here all the same.
Hey, I liked Borderlands! A lot! So much so that Borderlands 2 quite literally being more of the exact same didn't faze me. Thing is what made Borderlands 2 so special to me was, Borderlands 2 was not only more of the same, it was more of the same but better. Practically everything about it was improved upon! You've got this radar instead of relying on that antiquated compass thingy; each class has, like, double the amount of skills available (though I did miss playing as Lilith, if only because of how OP she got); the majority of the quests all feature voiced dialogue; and furthermore, I actually grew to care about the story!
That's what left me surprised during my playtime, as I travelled across with some actual goals in mind; an actual narrative to follow! There were admittedly still a lot of rather annoying characters, though, with Scooter in particular - especially since his voice actor changed his voice up a little from the original to make him sound even more annoying. Just... fuck that inbred shit. Fortunately there was Handsome Jack to balance it out... Sort of. He's a detestable cunt, but because he's meant to be. I grew to hate him thanks to the brilliantly effective performance by Dameon Clarke and some pretty decent writing to go with it. Yes, some of it is hit and miss, but overall I was still left with plenty of reasons to giggle (Mal the Hyperion robot especially) and actually have some additional motivation besides ''MOAR LOOTZ''.
Any complaints that it's too iterative are totally justified, but for myself I just couldn't resist more opportunities to Borderland and Borderlands 2 delivered what I wanted on a silver platter. It also gave me a Dwarf to play as, and video games need more playable Dwarfs damn it all!
A lot of discussion was brought up about whether this is even a game. I can certainly see why such a question would arise, given that the most prominent form of character agency is via dialogue choices. But there are still other such adventure game tropes in there, like occasionally going on a pixel hunt or even turning into some shooting gallery. They're not exactly very taxing, and that radio puzzle during the first episode is a particularly moronic ''puzzle'', but just because they're bad if not highly rudimentary doesn't exactly detract from whether it's a game or not.
It probably stands out all the more because certain episodes feature more agency than others; riding high off of Episode 5 with pretty much nuttin' but dialogue options, it's an understandable conclusion. When taken as a whole 12-15 hour game, compiling all of the episodes together, I think this deserves to stand as a game. However, I'm still conflicted because the reason why I've got it up as my No1. is because of the story and the way you can shape your own Lee, not because of how ''solved'' how to put batteries into a radio.
Very similar to the Mass Effect trilogy, The Walking Dead has a very strong illusion of choice; an awfully strong smokescreen attempting to make you think your choices actually matter. What it excels at significantly more so than Mass Effect at, however, is you building upon your own interpretation of the main character, Lee. You won't be choosing the gender/name/origin, but you build relationships with the cast; they'll perceive you differently; they'll remember things you may have, or haven't, said and so forth. Besides that, there's still plenty of actual decisions to make of course. Some of which, while may not shape how things will play out all that much, will have a lasting effect on Lee himself and any other such characters. Clementine especially. It goes to places other such franchises wouldn't even dream, and it's right to commend such an ambition. As an adventure game, the story and the writing obviously trumps all else, but it really succeeds in how your own player choices are taken into consideration. One such scene nearing the end where you're ostensibly ''judged'' by the game for all of your choices, while a tad incredulous, was a particularly standout moment as it addresses what sort of man you have turned Lee into.
You. By which I mean me. By which I also mean player... right? Yeah, that sounds like something someone who knows what they're talking about would say.
I just also want to add two other games which while aren't... ''officially'' apart of my GOTY 2012 list as they were released in prior years, still stood as two of my favourite games of this year:
I really enjoy me the Gears games, so not only did I find Gears 3 to be a damn fine shooter, but also to be the best Gears game of the three. A fantastic campaign, if a little flat during the middle segments when you're travelling through the desert-y areas, with some superb offerings in terms of both multiplayer and cooperative. I even managed to snag in some online time--which is a rarity for me on the 360--withand overall, Gears 3 basically lasted me through the summer. I wrote up a blog detailing my experiences with both Gears 3 and my temporary return back to Uncharted 3 at that. It's too bad I got around it so late because it would score a pretty high mark on last years. And when I've got friggen Hydrophobia Prophecy on there, then you know I was a little starved for choice.
And I actually sort of liked Hydrophobia Prophecy btw.
As such I'm really excited for Judgment, if not only for another Gears campaign, but to also potentially join in the chainsawing online along with the flock of other such new players so I'll perhaps be on some even ground for a change.
Turns out I bloody love strategy games. I mean I played a staggering amount of Hogs of War when I was a little cherub, but I kinda veered away because most tended to flock to the PC. Playing Valkyria Chronicles has also left me a little disheartened that I didn't check out XCOM, as I'd have probably end up sticking that on here at that. Anywhoo first things first: The story, the characters and the overall quality of writing are fucking terrible. OK, terrible is maybe a little harsh and fucking terrible is a bit of a violent tinge that perhaps isn't required -- point is it's not very good. It's filled with a bunch of melodramatic rubbish, generally poor voice acting despite the pedigree (basically everyone who voices acts in video games is in this thing), and a sea of terribly archetypal characters.
The idealist main hero who loves nature, what a goofball! The love interest who... um, is a girl? The step-sister who's of a race that has suffered prejudice! The middled aged guy! Robin Atkin Downes! Who basically does nothing but spout exposition! The eeeeeevil Maximillian guy! A fucking pig mascot?! Gah, and the writing! I'll mostly read whatever it is the characters are gabbing, just for context, and then skip the audio because quite frankly, barely anyone ever has anything all that interesting to say. And I have to admit, I actually giggled when one of the major characters was killed. I'm not a cruel person; I haven't made a habit out of laughing at death, but FFS... What's that you say, Main Hero? You want to be the bridge that connects all life/race/animals/whatever? Fuck you, you annoyingly good natured, soft spoken, 1-dimensional twat!
That's enough of that in any case. I only listed such 'qualities' because that then only speaks to how awesome everything else is. There's a lot of versatility here, which is perhaps nothing new to strategy (or is it tactics?) game vets, but for myself I couldn't help but be impressed at how many options the game gives to play your way. And while it starts off slow, it's to your own benefit as things steadily begin to become more and more complex. Managing all of the classes, weapons, experience points, R&D, tank parts, and with how seemingly every mission introduces new sorts of obstacles -- it can feel a little overwhelming at times. What I especially enjoy is how difficult this game feels, whether it actually is or not, and how it then results in such resounding satisfaction when I manage to beat a level. A superb game, and one more reason as to why I'm grateful for my PS3. Its graphics still look pretty alright considering its age, though the character models during the cutscenes and 'talking head' scenes animate poorly and look more like dolls.
It's been quite a refreshing experience as well, as action/adventure and shooters tend to stand at the forefront of my gaming habits.
And here's some bullet points to showcase other games that I've generally enjoyed, but not quite enough to make the cut:
- Mass Effect 3 - Yup. While it's definitely the worst overall Mass Effect game, it still features some of my favourite moments across the entire trilogy. Plus the shooting is pretty great.
- I Am Alive - Great gameplay, if a little fiddly, and while the story is pancake quality flat, there's still just dat survival gameplay!
- Dragon's Dogma - If this was contained in a smaller scale, like a dungeon crawler, or at least had the decency to feature fast travel, mounts or a dynamic world that didn't spawn the exact same bandits and monsters in the exact same places every goddamn time, this could have easily ranked as one of my top five games of 2012. The actual gameplay is fantastic, but the open-world nature is like a poison that slowly saps the energy out of the game as I'm forced to walk everywhere.
- Max Payne 3 - Another solid game, with some incredibly heavy and appreciatively weighty shooting. Story was a little confusing and not all that engaging, and the fact that you can't skip the cutscenes placed too many hurdles to leap across when playing score attack mode, but I had a blast all the same.
- Hitman: Absolution - I was really mixed during the early portions, but fortunately as it turns out they're the worst segments in the game. It just kept getting better and better, with a lot more sandboxy areas to fun scenarios like that one segment in the desert -- jus' so fucking cool, man! Now this too had a high chance in snagging a spot on my oh-so-prestigious (and Yummy) list of honours; however, as many will agree, the shitty design of the checkpointing and disguises were severe enough to drag so much of the good down with the bad unfortunately.
- Lego Batman 2 - Perfectly fine Lego game; in fact I'd go as far as to say it's a pretty great Lego game. But that's all it is, and after doing the same thing for so many years, the repetitive combat is only becoming more prone to criticism, and the allure of exploring missions with alternate characters is long gone. The open-world HUB was really fun to explore and mess around, though, and it still managed to get a hearty 12 hours or so outta me.
Annnnd here's a list of games I wish I could have played this year but couldn't, most likely because of the unfortunate limitations I have courtesy of my rubbish PC, or because I just never got around to it:
And that's that, another year wrapped up as it were as I'm probably going to spend the remainder of this month playing the stuff I'm still currently playing. Hopefully XCOM will probably appear somewhere on me next years.
Er, and here's some outro music I guess.