By Ghostiet 12 Comments
2012 was a weird fucking year. A boatload of great games, but most of them had enough problems to rob me off some ultimate satisfaction.
By the way, fuck that. 2012 is no Year of the Bow. It's the Year of Drug Trips, because a lot of this year's titles were either reality-defying drug hazes or at least had such sequence. It's a trend I would really like to be continued.
Anyway, let's get on with it.
Yeah, I know. After playing a few more games towards the end of this year, I had to drop two titles - Borderlands 2 and Sleeping Dogs - from the list to fit others in. Ultimately, I couldn't bring myself to drop this damn visual novel. Katawa Shoujo affected me deeply. It was a much better, much deeper experience I ever anticipated, since it turned out to be a pretty well written, tasteful and deeply endearing game. Rin and Hanako's stories hit me very much and had me recalling some points of it throughout the year. I'm not going to fight for it or anything, but I couldn't ignore the fact that I've been touched by this game, therefore I had to honor it with a spot in my Top 10.
I enjoy games which play with the medium, which is why I'll always defend MGS2. Spec Ops is a remarkable damn title. It's a mediocre game from which I have derived little pleasure when actually playing it, since purely mechanically it's just a boring, plain experience lacking any cool ideas. But I didn't give a shit. The game's story and tone overshadow its flaws. From the moment I saw the game's main menu - with the ragged American flag and a horribly distorted version of The Star Spangled Banner playing from a radio, I knew I'll be playing something special. While it didn't invest me so much as other games this year, it was a damn memorable experience. And ultra-props to Nolan North for probably his greatest performance ever.
I never could fully enjoy Shank and Shank 2. I really wanted to. I loved the atmosphere, the art style, the controls, but there was always a deeply frustrating factor to those games and some little flaws that always prevented me from biting in, so when Klei's new game came out, I was super skeptical. But Mark of the Ninja turned out to be a very well made game and a love letter to virtually every stealth game that ever came out. And probably the most enjoyable I played in a long, long while. While not very challenging, I never found myself bored with the gameplay, like I did with Dishonored. NG+ is waiting for me and I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy myself again.
The deeper we got into this year, I found Diablo III sinking lower and lower into the list. Less due to some unmet expectations or anything and more due to me picking up the game in a shitty time. I enjoyed the game a lot and I'm still enjoying it, but I bought it just two months after launch and got annoyed by some small stuff that bugged me - mostly the lack of any challenge on normal, which prevented me from trying out new characters. Then bam, around the time I start my education at university and games begin to come out, Blizzard decided to roll out fixes and patches to most of that shit. Only without me having the time to play it. It was tempting to leave it out of the list, but ultimately I sank a lot of time and I got a lot of fun from the game and I'll be having more in 2013. Especially once my girlfriend picks up a copy.
I had absolutely no expectations when FC3 came out. Far Cry 2 was a glorious mess I desperately tried to love, but in the end I just couldn't give a fuck for the sake of my sanity and keeping some actual fond memories from playing that game. The E3 gameplay, which showed exhilarating sequences in a burning building where you shoot valves to quench the fires didn't help its case. Then, seeing the actual game in action, getting myself spoiled and seeing the excited reaction got me to play this game. It's one of this year's best games. I ate this crazy drug-induced haze of a game up, until the southern part of the island. Too bad the pacing falls apart in the last third, because this should be a lot higher, but I ultimately found myself forcing myself through these last bits. But it doesn't change the fact that it's an extremely memorable experience with this year's best villain - such a shame Vaas gets so underdeveloped.
AC2 is one of my favorite games, just shy of the top 5. It wasn't a particularly challenging experience or anything, but it's rare to find such a focused title. Hating AC1, I found myself loving the sequel much more than anything else that came out in 2009. I ate up AC2 and even though some call Brotherhood a better game, it just didn't do it for me as much as 2 did. So III had a tough act to beat, and ultimately it didn't fully deliver, but I still had a lot of fun. It's a more ambitious game which feels kinda unfinished at points, but it didn't stop me from enjoying it greatly. I might be the one of the few people who dug Connor as a protagonist and character, especially in contrast with Ezio. Too bad everything about Desmond is so fucking bad - starting with these weird damn faces, through clunky gameplay and finishing with a badly delivered ending. Not that it was bad story-wise, but it's such a flaccid conclusion I just sighed. Not that I care about the myth arc of the series, but II, Brotherhood and Revelations managed to end with jaw-dropping bangers and I expected another "oh shit" moment. Still, great fucking game.
Motherfuck chrysalids. Seriously.
I didn't buy into the hoopla after the enthusiastic reviews of Episode 1, since I played Jurassic Park and someone told me this was like Jurassic Park, only done well. I just couldn't think of a worse case of damning by faint praise. I spoiled myself up until Episode 4, where I finally relented and decided to play that fucker after seeing some insane crap going on. And I loved it. It's a tense experience with some of the best characters of this year and a great example of using the medium to deliver a punch to the gut. I wouldn't give half the fucks about what happens if this was a film or book. Even though I think the game peaked emotionally and atmospherically at the end of Episode 2 and then recovered at the very end of 5.
I'm no Max Payne purist. I really liked 1 & 2, but I always felt a lot of the game's fanbase has a case of rose-tinted, nostalgia-made contact lenses, so I came in to MP3 without being suspicious from the start. MP3 didn't disappoint me. I like where Rockstar took the character, I'm a sucker for this type of Michael Mann-influenced aesthetic and I absolutely adore the gameplay. It's been a long time since shooting someone in the face was so much fun, thanks to the punch the guns pack, to the brutality of the game and good ragdolls. It was a super-fun ride and that's why it's just shy of first place. The plot goes kinda too quickly, but I prefer it to being padded out with pointless sequences. I had fun and I'll remember this game for a long time - for the gunplay, for the story, for the atmosphere, for the soundtrack, for James McCaffrey's brilliant performance. And that magical ending.
I like focused experiences and nothing about Hotline Miami feels extraneous. The devs made a game they wanted to make and it just fucking oozes from the screen. It plays fast and brutal, it's easy to pick up, tough to master and manages to not frustrate too much despite its difficulty. I fully dig the coke-addled stylistic and I think it's one of this year's best narratives. Hotline Miami manages to have its cake and eat it - it's a fun game and also a smart study of video game violence which uses the medium in some really clever ways. Everything plays its role - the gameplay, the style, the soundtrack, the system, the plot, the meta stuff - to achieve something truly memorable and remarkable. All the pieces matter and all the pieces fit. And that's why Hotline Miami is my favorite title of 2012 - because none of the games I've played this year managed that to this extent.