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GOTY 2012

Huh, you know I thought this list was going to be pretty tough considering I am a very indecisive person when it comes to favorites. However, when I went down the list of 2012 releases and wrote down my short list, I only came up with 13. 13 games that I thought were even remotely of note this year; kinda makes me sad. That's not to say these 10 games are any less special than the 10 best games from last year; after all I didn't even play the majority of this year's releases including the majority on the PC. Anyway, for better or worse these are the games that I actually played.

List items

  • My Game of the Year probably doesn't do much to shake what will undoubtedly be the status quo. More than any other game(s) this year, hell, the past few years, The Walking Dead made me feel proud to call video games my hobby. The next time someone asks me why games are worthwhile as a story-telling medium I will point them to this game. What else really needs to be said?

  • I have all the XCOM games on my steam list right now, and I've played them all for about 10 minutes collectively. They are nigh-impenetrable, with zero tutorial and no manual to accompany them. I suppose I could search the net for a guide but that all became moot once Enemy Unknown came out. With the world's most seasoned 4X developers behind it, I was pretty much sold on this game as soon as I knew about it. Needless to say, this game is strategy-game ambrosia. The gameplay loop is flawless, the stakes constantly high, and the victories all the sweeter for it. I never liked Demon Souls but this game does it for me. It will kick your ass and you'll rarely blame anyone but yourself.

  • The Crowd Pleaser. My biggest complaint about the original Borderlands was that the loot just wasn't that great. After the first 10 hours or so you start to see the formula played out and you're mostly just comparing numbers. Borderlands 2 brought back some of that gun lust magic by creating some truly unique discrepancies between the gun types that led to many "My gun's better than your gun" arguments between my buddies and myself. The humor went all out and probably failed more than it worked but I've always been a fan of Mikey Neumann's writing and Anthony Burch's HAWP stuff, and I still found myself laughing sincerely at a lot of the jokes. All in all, not a revolutionary game, but one that I sunk 100+ hours in to nonetheless.

  • This would be higher up if it wasn't on the Wii; I just didn't have the time to pull out my Wii and set it up every time I wanted to play it. However, Rhythm Heaven is the end-all, be-all for unfiltered gameplay bliss. The mechanics are the show and everything else just serves to accentuate them. Great music, awesomely funny cartoony graphics, and the carrot on a stick guiding you along to unlocking STUFF are all just there to remind you not to throw your controller down in frustration as you try (and fail) to get a perfect on that fucking tap dancing game. REA-DY and TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAPTAP. Great now it's stuck in my head.

  • Stealth games have always been some of my favorite types to play mostly because I'm insane. I actually like reloading my checkpoint over and over to get the perfect result; it's how I play a lot of games. In Mark of the Ninja, I didn't have to do that because the game gave me every tool to do it perfectly the first time. It made me realize what people wanted out of their stealth games, and I don't think I can go back to Splinter Cell now. Actually scratch that, I DEFINITELY can't go back to Splinter Cell because it's barely about stealth anymore.

  • Oh no, it's a Ringer! Certainly won't be the last one either... Syndicate is fucking awesome you guys. I know most of you were skeptical about Jeff's perfect score but this game deserved every last star. The Single Player was decent stuff, with some pretty great work by Brian Cox and a neat little back-stabby, corporate espionage plot but that was all just icing on the proverbial cake. The real game was found in the four-player co-op mode, which had it's own progression of skill trees and weapon upgrades and abilities and... yeah it sounds just like every other mutiplayer shooter doesn't it? Trust me on this one, it is heavenly. You can put a red dot sight on your sniper rifle. Your sniper rifle can hit guys through walls. You can see through walls. Do you see where I'm going with this? The guns and abilities and minute-to-minute gameplay is all just so perfectly in-sync that it's a damn shame everyone got hung-up on the Syndicate license being "mis-used." Fuck that man, this game paid some serious homage to the original and no one even bothered to care. Starbreeze, I will follow you to the ends of the earth if I have to, you guys know how to make a goddamn VIDEOGAME. Giant Bomb Heavy Industries 4 Life.

  • A late-comer to the list, as I just finished this up a few days before writing this. As a big fan of Far Cry 2 I was a little disappointed by this game at first. The story was markedly improved for sure (FC2 had some great ideas on that front but ultimately there wasn't very much of it) but it felt to me like they were speeding everything up to make it more marketable. Far Cry 2 was a very deliberately paced game, where you have to constantly worry about where you are, what your status is (ammo, sickness, weapon condition) and what the threats are.

    By comparison Far Cry 3 is on auto-pilot: marking your targets for you, giving you free health and ammo constantly and basically shoving money in to your hands to buy anything you need. HOWEVER! Once I started letting go, I was having a goddamn blast with this game. Sneaking in to a base, disabling the alarms and then leaving a mine by the box for when they come running over to it provided me with endless hours of entertainment. Having a herd of buffalo suddenly appear and take out the three shooters that were harassing me literally had me pause the game so I could laugh. The sandbox is so choc full of crazy variables that murphy's law is most definitely in effect. The gameplay is fun all on it's own, even if some of it isn't really necessary to slog through the game and that's the beauty of it. You don't have to play with the toys they've given you but you're still going to want to.

  • If you've been reading these over-long descriptions so far then you've probably figured out that I'm more interested in mechanics and gameplay than I am a good plot or atmosphere. Those things are great, don't get me wrong, but they're not what makes a game special to me. The best games are the games that a youtube video could never spoil. The kind of game that doesn't need a iphone app to improve the experience, or mountain dew product synergy to entice you to play it. The best game is a game like Trials Evolution, where the only things you'll ever have to worry about are:

    1. What is my friends score?

    2. How many hours of sleep can I skip to beat him

    3. Am I slowly going insane with rage, or is that an aneurysm?

  • Holy shit, Capcom actually released a new IP! That is reason enough to sing their praises and perhaps even promise an HJ but the fact that it's pretty awesome is probably too good to be true... and it is. Dragon's Dogma is a deeply flawed game that has some big ideas and executes on a lot of them with proficiency but never quite excellency. The story doesn't even exist until the last 2 hours of the game, at which point it becomes a mind-meltingly Japanese clusterfuck of quasi-mystical jargon about fate and destiny and you've heard this all before I'm sure. Capcom's never had the best writing staffs on the payroll, and I'm sure localization makes that even harder but in the end it actually works. The titular Dragon is actually quite compelling and the story's ending has quite the bite to it. It's just a shame that stuff doesn't really happen until the very end, but thankfully the game is a blast to play. Japanese action games in the post DMC/Monster Hunter-era have always had a nice deliberate physicality to them and this is no exception. Your character runs, jumps, attacks, and falls all with a convincing heft to every action that western developers could really learn from. Couple that with a truly exhaustive character creation process and deep character class selection and you've got yourself a very immersive action-RPG.

  • Can I truly put such a by-the-numbers action shooter on such a pedestal? I wrestled with this question a lot this year, and yet I always found myself thinking about this game. Here's what I wrote immediately after finishing it, I think it's the closest I'll get to articulating how this game made me feel:

    "In nearly every video game about war, there is a sequence where you pick targets on a map and a mortar/predator missile/rocket fires down on the "bad guys" wherever you aimed. You're disconnected from what's happening and usually shown the events through some kind of buffer like infared vision or radar.

    In Spec Ops: The Line you do all that down to the letter, but are then forced to walk through the aftermath. Your virtual squad-mates at a loss for words, asking you how you could do such a thing.

    One moment, you're gleefully picking off targets in a shooting gallery and the next moment you're reminded, in excruciatingly gory detail, that you just committed virtual murder. Never before has a game made me turn it off in disgust; not disgust at the game, but disgust at myself."

    If games are truly art, and art is designed to make us question ourselves, the Spec Ops deserves a place in the discussion. That is why it is one of the best games of the year.