GOTY 2012

This year was a strange one. If we were back in olden times when everything was a disk-based, full-price game this would probably have been one of the worst years on record. Even by their standards, the big studios pumped out too many lazy sequels and games whose better intentions were ruined by the grubby fingers and minds of money men and demographic/marketing obsessed suits. Thankfully the way we consume our face-shooting and platform-hoping is changing and this has opened up a big creative space which is being exploited by all sorts of crazy cats with stories, ideas and wacky obsessions we might not have been able to experience back in the old, controlled and closed of days.

Sadly, however this is not reflected in my list. This year my game playing has been hampered by two things, the lack of a regular job and not having a gaming PC. Not having work has meant relying on trade-ins for my games, which has restricted me from getting some of the good games available on XBLA and more than anything this year has convinced me I need a decent PC. Not for the sweet graphics on things like Far Cry 3, but for all the little games coming out on steam, lots of which might well have made my list. Dear Esther, Hotline Miami, FTL are just 3 I can think of that looked amazing but I never got to try. Mark of the Ninja, and Walking Dead (only played Ep.1) are also games I think might have had a chance had I got round to them.

With that said, here it is.

List items

  • If, if they had followed through on the hazy, ambiguous, threatening promise of the first half of the game this could have been an all-time classic. Instead all we are left with is game I had most fun with this year.

    Just a cavalcade of glorious 'oh shit' moments involving bears, sharks, pirates, fields full of weed and loads of really bad cars, perfect to drive off bridges or stack with C4 and explode in enemy camps.

    The more I read about the game the more I realise that all the ambitions they had regarding plot and theme didn't really work out and along with the Ur-Story I think another thing gaming needs to avoid in the future is letting you do loads of dumb shit and then claiming it's parody or irony. If Far Cry 3 was trying to be a commentary on gaming violence or tropes in general in failed by having its cake and eating it. The first and last dissection of choice in videogames was made by Bioshock and we should probably leave the subject alone unless there is something new to say - in fact let's stop discussing games in games altogether, its too navel gazing for such a young medium. It felt like there were so many places for the game to go after I had just met the CIA agent for the first time amd to end up in with such a traditional climax to the story was a waste.

    This sounds like a lot of criticism but there is always more to say about art which has had a lot of thought put into it, and much like the Mass Effect 3 situation I so want games I love to be perfect that I often focus too much on what could have been better than what was already great.

    And so much was great about this game. The best thing I can say about it is that it was like a theme park for Homicidal adults, miles and miles of lush beach and beautiful jungle to enjoy oneself in the worst ways known to humankind. Perfect!

  • I really don't get why this game didn't get more love this year. Maybe people can't take miserable, fucked-up characters or depressing dark nihilistic games where the only humour is black, dry and dripping with self-loathing and despair. Whatever, your loss.

    For me this game was just pure class, Rockstar proving once again why they are the kings of everything cinematic and atmospheric in video games. Every little detail in Max Payne 3 just felt so perfect, so studied and so stylish. The effort they went to in giving the player the feeling he is playing a movie wouldn't have worked if the gameplay fell apart but thankfully the action only adds to the strutting coolness of the whole experience. There were sequences I went back to and played over and over again because it felt so amazing to see Max dive around the screen in slow-mo, blood, bullets and mayhem erupting all around him.

  • Fucking Satellites! Why didn't anyone tell me?

    This game brought back happy memories of shedding tears playing Cannon Fodder back on the Amiga. All those days spent gloriously supressing guilt as boot hill was packed tighter and tighter with the broken and bloody bodies of the men I was supposed to be caring for. Ah, great times.

    This game raised more emotion in me than any of the deep plots or wonderful characters in this years games. Nothing will come close to the bitter rage and despair I felt when Shauna O'Shaunessy missed an 80% shot from 5 yards on a Mutalisk with 4 health left which was now going to return to full health and ravage my foolishly exposed squad and

  • This year I decided, if I am going to play FPS I want them to be in a open world. It is infinitely more exciting to be free to roam and approach action as I chose rather than crawling forward in a straight line, no matter how spectacular the developers make it.

    Borderlands 2 was exactly what a sequel should be, more of the same, but better. Nearly all the missteps of the first game had been removed, better action, better guns, and packed full of tons of varied and interesting places to go and shoot people in the face. The Co-op was also great, I can't recall playing anything as crazy this year as 4 player in Borderlands 2.

  • Man, I loved the way this game looked. The gloomy-Victorian, workhouse, whalepunk style just blew me away. In fact this game had so much I liked. Great art and huge nods to Bioshock and Deus Ex, two of my fave games of this gen. It was just so much fun to try different approaches to the puzzles the developers set, sometimes trying to sneak through, other times just murdering anyone in sight. The only downside was the flat plot and wasted voice talent, real incentive to go about your devilish business and this could have been an all-time great

  • One of those games I was really happy to have bought on release so I could follow the internet quest for truth as it progressed. It also provided me with some of the best 'Eureka!' moments since Braid and when I cracked parts of the code it left me feeling mighty smug.

    What I liked most was the chance to really experience one man's vision, something not often possible when it takes hundreds of people and millions of pounds to make games. I think there are a lot of developers and potential developers out there who realise that they can really get a chance to express themselves if they can find room to operate away from the pressure of traditional big releases.

  • Even on the Xbox this was a fine looking game, but most of all it felt like a game for grown-ups. Not just because of the habit of Sorceresses and Wizards to stroll around in the buff but because of the complex, rewarding storyline and deep interesting characters. The only thing which let it down for me was the lack of freedom to move around and the smallness of some of the areas. 2012 is the year I realised I could enjoy fantasy settings and this game is one of the reasons why.

  • A lovely unexpected little treat, like the auntie who always gets you socks surprising you with a beautiful suit. Great setting, good story, excellent acting, a crunchy hand-to-hand fighting system and the ability to slam car doors shut on heads all over Hong Kong.

  • I wrecked my time with this by playing through on Hard when I should have just breezed through it and enjoyed the story, too much time in between new events probably damaged the flow of the narrative. The story was good but the fact that it made such an impression on the gaming world shows just how far behind other story-telling mediums we currently are, after all the story it told is already a classic of film and literature.

    However the acting was great and there were some truly shocking moments which really helped create an chilling and uneasy version of the normal 'realistic' modern shooter. Also I always respect a game which refuses to have a happy ending.

  • My list should only have 9 games, because that is the amount of games I have played which are truly worthy of a best of list this year. However i've stuck this on here because however much I hate all the dumbing down, ending changing and worst of all the DLC which you need to make the game complete!!! I still love this series so much and I kind of want to say a last goodbye.

    I have just started playing Dragon Age Origins and its really reminding me of what I so love about what Bioware achieved with this series and it makes it even harder to believe they threw it all away so badly with this game. If Bioware just tried their best and came up sort it would be sad but I would understand, but this was a needlessly dumbed down game that couldn't keep its fingers out of your wallet.