By DarkFury 1 Comments
Doing this a little earlier this week as I had a 4-day weekend and had plenty of gaming time to leave Sunday night free.
- Released: October
- Giant Bomb Score: 5/5
- My Score: 5/5
- Quick Look
Horizon has some real talent behind it. Former employees of Codies, Bizarre, Criterion, Reflections, Slightly Mad and Black Rock all under one roof, developing a game for Turn 10 and Microsoft Studios? That's a little unfair on anyone else out there trying to make a racing game, surely?
The handling is straight out of Forza, but is set in an open world setting, with a festival vibe running throughout. As a huge DiRT 2/3 fan, I also recognise a lot of visual design that feels borrowed, but it's certainly not squandered, as everyone works together to provide the number one racing experience of the year. It strikes a near-perfect balance between Forza and the more arcadey games out there, with all the community features from the previous Forza games.
What I liked the most was the sense of steady progression as you upgrade to better and better classes as you 'rank up' and unlock new events for faster car classes. Finally getting into an R2 or R1 car and unleashing it on the open world is fantastic. There are also a few events that aren't your usual circuit or sprint races, where you battle a bi-plane or a hot-air balloon. These are essentially time trials, but that additional layer and the visual effects in use keep it feeling fresh and exciting.
I finished up the 'story' and have plenty more to do, including new races, collecting, discovering hidden cars, and the simple yet engaging multiplayer setup. Whether I'll lay down 4000 Microsoft Points for the Season Pass is a question I'm hesitant to answer, that's a lot of additional money for more cars, though one pack will add additional off-road races.
- Released: February
- Giant Bomb Score: 4/5
- My Score: 5/5
- Quick Look
SSX got my heart racing on several occasions as I made my way through the core career mode. The deadly descent events are the best thing it has to offer. Each course is devious in its own way, challenging you with ice, huge gaps, narrow paths and even complete darkness. Scraping through at high-speed as the original soundtrack blasts electronica at you is intense. Elsewhere in the career mode, the difficulty is a little too steep, forcing you to be at the top of your game at all times to secure first place race positions and scores. It's worth it to get to the aforementioned unique events.
Online, the game sets up global challenges that thousands of people can attempt at once, with the game throwing you random ghosts at a time. Get a high-ranking score and you'll get a huge payout when the events timer runs out. It was a shame that there was no same-session multiplayer, though it was added to the game later on and isn't bad, though wackiness that made the early titles in the series so entertaining is missed. SSX gets a spotlight in my GOTY feature for the incredible highs of those deadly descents.
I had the unrepeatable pleasure of playing Fez during the first few days of its release, and I believe that it might be difficult to appreciate just how brilliant that experience was if you didn't. The game, on face value, looks like a simple indie platformer, with an interesting dimension switching mechanic, but as you travel deeper into the game, the threads start to unravel. The music becomes more abstract, the map screen becomes more and more complex, and you begin to sense that there must be a meaning to the patterns and symbols in the levels.
What made those early days so incredible was that everyone internet-wide was discovering clues and solving puzzles together. These weren't traditional puzzles but far more obscure riddles with crazy solutions that required everyone's collective thoughts and ideas to reach. I stayed away from spoiling things for myself, and gave in only a couple of times when I found myself at the end of my wits, but the iconic 'cube found' audio sting made me feel so great every time. By the time I had discovered and unlocked absolutely everything, going back and thinking of it as it originally looked - a 2D platformer - is pretty crazy. I would recommend it for anyone out there who let it pass by originally, but make sure to push through and get deep in it. It is a special game, and oh so strange and wonderful.
|1||Journey||<> (WEEK 2)|
|3||Dishonored||vv (WEEK 1)|
|4||Hotline Miami||vv (WEEK 1)|
|6||Binary Domain||vv (WEEK 2)|
I've put Horizon into 2nd place for now. Fez takes 5th behind fellow indie game Hotline Miami, and SSX brings up the rear.
Other Noteworthy 2012 Releases
Dear Esther - An eerie ride, a semi-interactive story and one that you need to experience under the right conditions: On your own, in a quiet and dark environment, and leave any pre-conceptions of the game at the door. Will avoid saying anything specifically, and simply recommend you play through it in one go.
Rock Band Blitz - Blitz requires different skills than normal RB or Guitar Hero, and tasks you with keeping all of the plates that are each instrument track spinning at the same time. Much better than handheld title Rock Band Unplugged, uses a combined leaderboard of LIVE friends and Facebook friends, and the hundreds of Rock Band DLC tracks I bought all plug into it. I've lost count of the number of times I've launched it to kill a spare 5 minutes and then found myself playing for a full hour.
Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack! - A solid Vita title, though very similar to the original PSN game. The gyroscope-heavy mini-game levels had me looking like a mentalist on the metro as I moved the console around a full 360 degrees to get the blob moving, and the touch-enabled platforms added a unique twist to the Katamari-like 2D platforming. If you've got a Vita, then this is one of the few good options available to you, so get on it, I guess.
Games Completed in 2012
Just hit 50 games that I've completed, at least in the traditional 'credits rolled' sense. That's 2 more than 2010 and 2 behind 2011 with a month and a half to go. Check out the list here.
2012 vs. All-Time (Part 1)
It certainly looks like an impressive year for games, despite the end-of-gen creative draught we're inevitably seeing, but how do I rate these highlights against my all-time genre favourites?
Forza Horizon vs. DiRT 3, Burnout 3
Horizon definitely picked up some good ideas from DiRT - maybe less picked up than brought over by the developers themselves. What I loved most about DiRT 3 was its sense of speed when tearing down mountain side paths, and a great soundtrack accompanying the rest of the experience. Horizon nails a great sense of speed in its open world, but doesn't quite match DiRT 3's feeling that you're on the edge of control. Burnout 3 wins every match-up, so that's a little unfair. An HD re-release of B3 with an improved online infrastructure would kill it.
SSX vs. SSX PS2, Amped 3
The actual snowboarding in SSX 2012 is better than both, but it overall package pales in comparison to the sheer stupidity on offer in Amped 3 and pure arcade action of the PS2 launch title.
Dishonored vs. Thief: Deadly Shadows, Deus Ex: Invisible War
Each game absolutely nails its sense of place. The inhabitants of Dunwall are creepy and at times grotesque, lending a feeling of griminess. Thief 3 is even dripping in atmosphere, and some locations build up a sense of dread that makes them unbearable - Shalebridge Cradle being one of the scariest levels in a game, not through traditional scare tactics but through the atmosphere alone. Invisible War's future tech was really cool, I really got a kick out of it. As for combat and open path traversal, they're all fantastic.