Games to remember for GOTY 2012

A year is a long time, and in a year I can easily play 50+ games, so to help me remember the games that deserve to be mentioned at the end of the year I'm going to make a handy list

So here we are, the end of another year, and even though we are still running heavily into sequels, I was pleasently surprised this year by a number of titles. So, as usual here is my annual top 10, for more (including the rest of the list feel free to visit my GOTY2012 list to see which other games almost made it.

List items

  • Simply put, this game is incredible. I had high hopes for Journey going in as I'm a huge fan of flower and it didn't disappoint for one second. This short 2-3 hour experience packed more emotional punch for me than almost anything else this year. With both beautiful visuals and music it really is a treat for all senses and left me feeling a kind of joy for gaming I haven't really felt since I started playing games over 15 years ago.

    To say something for it's appeal as well, my girlfriend who is one of the pickiest gamers I know and will put a game down forever for one tiny flaw, has never really replayed anything and yet even she has played through this multiple times and still to this day goes back to it when she feels an urge.

    It's ability to not only tell a coherent story with no written or spoken words as well as to create an incredible bond with players from across the world with nothing more than a simple chime noise speaks volumes for this game. It's not just a game, it's an experience and not only does this game take the number 1 spot on my GOTY list it very easily makes it way to near the top of my top 10 of all time.

  • What can be said about The Walking Dead that hasn't already been said? Going in I wasn't expecting anything nearly as emotional or as moving as the story that Telltale managed to tell over 5 episodes and yet I felt a connection with Clementine and would of done damn near anything to keep her safe. In an industry that is keeping my interest in games for a progressively shorter amount of time I can safely say I was glued to this from start to finish. I can't wait for next season.

  • In a year of surprises comes possibly one of the biggest. Having followed this game since it's days as True Crime: Hong Kong, I was disappointed when it was cancelled initially. Not because I was expecting anything great (after all, I did play True Crime: LA.... sigh) but an open world sandbox crimegame set outside of the USA is something I've wanted for a very long time.

    The game that ended up coming out however was not True Crime: Hong Kong, it was Sleeping dogs, and it's it's own beast.

    Sleeping Dogs is really great, it combines some of the best aspects of GTA with the hand to hand combat system of the Batman Arkham series, without it feeling tact on or out of place. The first time your driving a super bike and accidentally jump off the back at full speed, as the game slows down and Wei Shen reaches for his pistol, giving you full control to either shoot car wheels around you, bad guys or to simply shoot the tank of your bike and send a ball of fire flying into your enemies you realize you are playing something a little special.

    I'm not crazy enough to suggest that Sleeping Dogs would ever be able to take the GTA crown, but in a year without GTA it was really enjoyable and I spent many an hour reaching 100%, something I'd happily do again.

  • Far Cry 3 was something of a shock for me, having played Far Cry 2 and become frustrated by it's active hatred of the player and design choices that simply wanted to eat away at your enjoyment at every opportunity I had already written this game off long before it came out. However with every review praising it pre-release my interest grew until I decided to take a punt.

    What I found was a great game that was both exciting and interesting, with great characters (including the psychotic, yet enthralling Vaas) and systems that allowed the player to solve problems their own way, want to drive into a camp of guards, run over as many as possible before diving out and shooting like a madman? Go ahead! Fancy hiding in the bushes, shooting guards in the head from range with a bow? Just as viable an option!

  • For some reason Dishonored was another game I managed to avoid a lot before release, and maybe that is why I enjoyed it so much when I did eventually get my hands on it. Whatever the reason, Dishonored is a great game that takes the best parts of stealth gameplay and mixes it with what essentially are cheats, to make the experience a lot more forgiving and fun. Blinking around the environment became second nature to me after an extended period of time with Dishonored, and I loved this game so much that I even achieved the no skill upgrades, no kills, no being spotted playthrough on the hardest difficulty.

    Combining the gameplay with a really beautiful art style that I haven't seen in many other places helped as well to bring the world to life. I don't know if I would ever want to see another Dishonored, I imagine it would only be a disappointment compared to this great first outing, but I know full well I wouldn't be able to not play it.

  • Gravity Rush is beautiful. Unless you've played it I really can't articulate how great this game looks and plays. The city you find yourself flying/falling through is a huge one, that feels both fantastical in design but surprisingly realistic in terms of it's layout. For a game that has very few reasons for you to explore every nook and cranny other than to find collectible orbs I found myself looking everywhere as every road and balcony is full of some great (yet simple) geometry and some brilliant level design.

    The actual gameplay of Gravity Rush is pretty good to, flying around the city is very easy to get the hang of and you'll soon find yourself doing crazy trick moves, such as falling very fast and navigating Kat through gaps in buildings only slightly bigger than she is, or landing softly after a crazy run.

    The only downside really to Gravity Rush is that towards the back third of the game the only real way they find to make the game more difficult is to simply throw more enemies at you, which has the effect of simply revealing some of the games faults with the combat systems to you.

    Overall though it's a great game andI'd love to see the city rendered on a powerful next generation console rather than the Vita. If you own a Vita you owe it yourself to play this game. It is the single best thing on the system (no persona 4 golden in europe yet D:) and if you don't, well it's almost worth it alone.

  • Having never played the original X-Com my only real experience of this type of game has had to come from the Disgaea series, while they enjoyable enough it's nice to finally see the real deal. X-Com is a great game that while difficult is still rewarding. Apart from the occasional dice roll that makes me want to flip my desk in frustration I've lost many an hour to this and I anticipate I will lose plenty more.

  • It's probably worth mentioning before I start with this one that I do technically work for Sega, so if you decide my opinion on this is invalid then fair enough although I don't exactly give them any special treatment. Sonic sucks e.t.c :D

    Binary Domain was a surprise for me this year, I only gave it a chance because despite my better judgement I've always had a soft spot for the Yakuza series and hearing this was to be made by the same people, well I couldn't pass it up.

    The game I ended up playing was surprisingly fun. With an interesting plot that kept me guessing at all the right places Binary Domain oozes with the style of Yakuza, from the overly dramatic plot, to the painstakingly paced cutscenes. I also found myself enjoying the gameplay, which is essentially a gears of war clone more than gears of war itself. It may be down to the tone of the game, or the faster paced action it delivers, but shooting robots in Binary Domain did more for me than fighting any locust hoard in Gears ever has. The robots fall apart with such a fiercity that it really does feel like your responsible for it.

    The icing on the cake for me however was the conversation system, it's safe to say that not once did I try the voice commands, but the controller prompts were enough for me and the game even caused me a few awkwards moments where I would have to chose between impressing the ladies or going full bromance with Big Bo.

  • Mark of the Ninja is a really enjoyable stealth game that can be both difficult and empowering, it manages to strike the balance almost perfectly and for me I think it's because of how well it shows the user its systems. Nothing is hidden, every system the game uses for detection is made apparent to the user which helps a long way in clearing up what could be frustrating moments of being seen by guards and not knowing why.

    In Mark of the Ninja, if you get seen, it's your fault, and you know why.

  • Borderlands 2 is great! But I can't shake the feeling while playing it that I've done it all before. Still, it makes my top ten due to the way it has expanded upon what made the original so great in some smart ways. Oh, and Tiny Tina.

  • Lego games have always been a guilty pleasure of mine, but Lego Lord of the Rings is easily the best one to have been released. It covers so much of the fiction in such a clever way, right down to different events happening for players when playing multiplayer (Player one follows Gandalf down the cliff after the Balrog while Player two escapes Moria for example)

    The voice acting, while taken straight from the movie is a really strong edition to the game and the open world Middle Earth is fun to explore and find hidden bricks and treasures.

    Overall it's a great game and even more fun when played with a partner.

  • I hate FF XIII, not in a "oh, that's a shame that didn't work out well" kind of way, but more in a "what the fuck were they thinking? This shit isn't even a game! If you like it your opinion on everything is now invalid" type of way.

    So it was a shock to me that Final Fantasy XIII-2 isn't awful. It still has some of the problems that plague the original, but the linearity has been toned down enough, and the combat system does now include a little more than simply tapping X until you win.

    The story is still pretty dumb however, no one ever seems surprised or interested in the fact that Sarah and Noel have TRAVELLED THROUGH TIME! Only that they help to find the teddy bear they have lost e.t.c

    This game makes this spot on the list then because I did actually enjoy myself, even if I spent a fair amount of time grinding my teeth at certain aspects of it (A casino that is in a time stream and has people from all over time in it!? How many people are time travelling?! Why is this not a big deal!?) The ending alone, as dark as it is, is enough for me to be happy with the conclusion and change from FFXIII.

  • FTL is a game that I really enjoyed this year, it scratches a very similar itch for me that X-Com does, but rather than taking 7-8 hours to realize you've fucked up and to watch your campaign fall apart, the whole thing is done in around an hour or two, making it a much easier pill to swallow. Still I feel that FTL could do with a bit more bulking out, maybe it's with more missons, ships or alien races or all three.

  • Fez is a really beautiful game, however the reveal of information and it's progression was sadly a little to slow paced for me to keep interested in it for long stretches of time. That made it something very difficult to get back into after long periods of time away from it, and meant that to this day I haven't finished it, and it will probably just remain another curiosity, a beautiful mystery.

  • Hotline Miami is a game that splits me literally 50/50 and that is the reason I couldn't place it in my top 10.

    On one hand I love the incredible soundtrack, striking visuals and fast paced gameplay, but certain things stand in the way of making it a proper great.

    For one it's buggy as hell. On multiple occasions I had all music stop, or exits to levels become blocked for no reason, causing me to have to start again multiple times. Also the controls are a nightmare to get used to, even in the final levels I would still find myself fumbling over which button does what.

    The game is unforgiving, which at times when you empty a room of 4 guards in less than 10 seconds with 3 bullets a bat and then a thrown knife is incredible and brings with it a rush of adrenaline. But when that sequence goes wrong, only because your hit with the bat didn't register (for what appears to be no logical reason) it can be frustrating beyond belief.

  • Dear Esther is more of an experience than a game, if you were to tell me it was in fact some 3D artists interactive portfolio I would believe you in a heart beat.

    Dear Esther is stunning, especially when taken into account that it is made with the same (although heavily modified) engine that made Half Life 2, some sections of it are so strikingly beautiful that I found it to be entirely believable as a real place, which instilled in me a new form of fear for our unknown protaganist as he makes his way around the island.

    The beautiful scenery is punctuated by some really well narrated dialogue that while cryptic enough to never really make sense (at least to me) was always interesting and had me guessing at what was to come.

    Finally Dear Esther manages to make you feel truly alone on that island, a feet which is really difficult for a game to do, however every know and then you may catch sight of someone in the distance, and while it's never made obvious enough that you have to see them, for me this was terrifying to think I was being watched.

  • Spec Ops: The Line is a game that is more interesting in theory than in actual practice. The gameplay is nothing that exciting but the story and the method in which it is told to the player is great, and includes some of this years best story beats. However the big shock moment that was meant to make me feel like a monster was lost on me, because I saw it coming and wasn't allowed to continue until I pressed the button.

    A shame really, the rest of the story worked wonderfully though, all the way through to the ending which is a great twist in itself.

  • Let's get this out of the way early. Hitman: Absolution is not a hitman game. It's Splinter Cell with a bald Sam Fisher.

    Gone are the large open levels with multiple complex solutions that make the player feel like a real assassins. Instead they are replaced with a terrible disguise system that while technically more accurate to real life breaks the enjoyment of the series, a few smaller open levels with only a few very obvious (almost insultingly so) solutions and then level after level of thin boring corridors in which the only way to remain stealthy is to move from cover to cover... like splinter cell!

    It's a shame to see this happen, but in what I can only assume is a move to appeal to a wider audience they have managed to piss off the core fanbase and bore the new players they were after.

    It's not all bad though, the contracts mode is fun for a while and the challenges built into each level make it worth playing again to try and finish them all. It also has some really good hitman moments, which just makes it more frustrating when it's packaged with so much other crap.

  • WWE games have been a guilty pleasure for me for years now. I don't play every year, and I don't follow any of the T.V shows any more, but it's always a good way to check back in and usually say the following things "Who the hell is that guy?" "Oh wow, he's still wrestling?"

    WWE 13 however is on this list for one reason. The Attitude Era mode. Simply put it's a history lesson that goes into detail about the WWE from late 1996 to around 2000, detailing the feuds, the backstage antics and even the viewing figures compared to WCW. All the way through it's laced with classic wrestlers and wrestling matches as well as some nicely edited promo packages for most of the major events along that time line.

    It's really good, it's just a shame that nothing else about this game has really evolved since the PS2 days.

  • Mass Effect 3 is so difficult to articulate any feelings for. I was a big fan of the first two games in the series, and while the ending to this game was disappointing at the time beyond all belief, I still enjoyed the majority of what lead up to it. After months of nothing but negative talk about it however it's hard to really know what feelings are mine any more, and what instead has simply been left on me like an imprint from the general bad taste this game left in most peoples mouths.

    Still, I will say that my Shepard wasn't someone I was happy to sum up in one of three coloured choices from a dues ex machina like A.I child and no patches or free dlc will ever make that have not happened.