Staff Picks: Best of 2012
Posted 4 months ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
While our official Game of the Year awards have yet to be posted (look for that to go up before the turn of the calendar), we did want to highlight some of the staff picks this year. Each one of our writers have a wide variety of platforms and tastes, so we wanted to find out from some of them what stood out during 2012 as among the best our favorite medium had to offer. Be sure to make your voice heard as well in the comments, letting us know what YOU favorites of the year was!
Michael Dulson (MikeD)
Super StickMan Golf - I enjoy physics-based puzzlers because they add a great amount of challenge to the game. I also enjoy golf games, so put those two together and the result is one of my favorite games of the year. Super StickMan Golf is one of the App Store’s most creative, fun golf titles - with an unbelievable amount of replayability - out there today (it is also available on Google Play for you Android gamers). If you have not yet played Super StickMan Golf, download it right now for your mobile device of choice! Golf has never been better!
Angry Birds Star Wars - A lot of people said that this collaboration of the two franchises would be a terrible idea, but after playing it, I’m very happy to say that those naysayers are wrong. Angry Birds Star Wars is the biggest installment of the popular bird swinging franchise to date, and is also the best one yet. Meshing together gameplay styles of both regular Angry Birds with Angry Birds Space, then infusing it with a ton of love for George Lucas’ classic Star Wars films, you get a game that is easily one of the best mobile titles to launch this year. If you haven’t played Angry Birds or if you jumped off the Angry Birds bandwagon, Angry Birds Star Wars will definitely change usher back to the fold!
TellTale’s The Walking Dead - TellTale’s The Walking Dead series is an achievement for both storytelling and character development in video games. With each passing episode in the series, I grew to love and hate the various characters presented in TellTale’s zombie apocalypse tale. Every decision I made mattered, and after seeing the outcome, I wanted to play through the scenario again just to see what else could happen. However, the big reason The Walking Dead is my favorite game of 2012 is because of how emotional the game becomes, especially in the later episodes. In my lifetime, I have never played a game so emotionally connecting than TellTale’s Walking Dead. This game is beautiful in every way possible, and deserves to be played, whether it be on a console or iDevice. TellTale Games, well done!
Honorable Mentions of 2012: Rock Band Blitz, NHL 13 and Uncharted: Golden Abyss
UFC Undisputed 3 – I had enjoyed the fighting mechanics in the previous two iterations of THQ’s Undisputed series but found the career mode to be a punishing grind. So much time was spent on repetitious training that it would not be an exaggeration to say five hours were spent in the gym for each hour in the cage fighting. Thankfully the career mode was overhauled for Undisputed 3 giving fighters equal time honing their skills and in combat. The submission system was also completely changed so that my ability to make my opponent “tap out” was not directly correlated to how fast I can hit a button or make circles on the stick. Add to this the addition of Pride Fighting tournaments and an improved cage clinching system and you have the best combat sports game ever made. It is therefore with nervous reservation that I await to see what EA will do with the UFC license given their lackluster MMA game released in 2010.
Mark of the Ninja – I normally take a pass on downloadable titles. Fortunately I heard a podcast reference the XBLA title Mark of the Ninja and thought I’d give it a shot. From that decision I saw the future of 2D platforming. Mark of the Ninja is the slickest title I have seen in a long time, with a jaw dropping visual smorgasbord of darkly lit environments and hand crafted animations. The game’s ninja moves with unparalleled precision and fluidity, giving gamers full control in both the x and y axis to dish out crazy kills from the shadows. Multiple gaming innovations are also on display including the visualization of any sound made by the ninja’s actions and the disappearance of NPCs from the screen view when out of the ninja’s line of sight.
Mass Effect 3 – I was a big fan of my Commander Shepard that I had controlled since the Mass Effect series began. He wasn’t the pretty boy do-gooder you saw on the cover and in the promos. My Sheppard was a pock marked, bald, crotchety maverick that antagonized and alienated every person he had a conversation with but….he still saved the world. Mass Effect 3 had everything going for it from great third person action, huge scale throughout the planetary reaches of the galaxy, and the ability to act however you wanted. The enemy and teammate AI were excellent, and I appreciated the amount of weapon and character customization. The game was one of those rare experiences where it felt like I was in the driver’s seat the entire time instead of just being along for the ride. It was also nice to see Vancouver in a video game, even if it ended up being destroyed by the Reapers...
Ryan Roster (Frosty)
ZombiU - An actual survival horror game in 2012?....Preposterous! Nope, it’s ZombiU. With Silent Hill: Downpour completely failing at being scary, and Resident Evil 6 being an all-out action game, and a bad one at that, you would think horror is completely dead within the gaming medium outside the indie scene. Yet Wii U owners may rejoice. ZombiU excels at having you constantly on edge, forcing you to conserve everything from pistol bullets to candy bars. Opening up your backpack doesn’t pause the game. Your inventory isn’t a safe haven, so you better be damn sure there are no zombies around you when you’re digging around for your items. The constant use of the cricket bat may be tedious to some, but as a lover of all things horror, and more specifically survival horror video games, one of my favorite things about ZombiU is the use of the cricket bat and how I needed to learn to deal with the delay with each hit. This isn’t Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil...these are real zombies who will absolutely kill you if they bite you even once. Yes folks, survival horror came back to shine, and it’s on the Wii U.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance - Not many handheld installments of popular, big budget video game series have the ability to impress me. Both Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Resident Evil: Revelations are two of the most impressive handheld titles I have ever played, but there was one other game to come out this year that really hit home for me. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS made me feel nostalgic, and renewed my love for the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Sure the Drop system can get extremely annoying during boss battles, the lack of side menu navigation while moving can get frustrating, and the story is a bit of an incomprehensible mess...but I couldn’t deny the magic of Kingdom Hearts had brought back for me. Having not played a single handheld Kingdom Hearts game, Dream Drop Distance was the perfect way for me to return to the series. Everything from the gorgeous art style and the fantastic music, to the warm, strong theme of friendship is here tenfold on a mere handheld installment. Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance once again proves the magic of Disney combined with the intrigue of an action JRPG can only get even more magical. Now I’m even more excited for what the series is sure to have coming up next...
Journey (My personal Game of the Year) - Much like the game itself, it’s actually difficult to express how I feel about this game in words. The emotions I felt while playing through Journey are emotions for a reason. Emotions aren’t said aloud, because they can’t be. True emotions are simply felt. Soaring through the sand with the taste of discovery, adventure, and excitement in the air...finding strange creatures to help you along the way...thinking you have the hang of this Journey when you quickly find out the scary part of life...dealing with hardships and overcoming the brutal dangers lurking in the darkness...becoming stronger because of it, and rising up to fulfill your goal...but nothing could have ever prepared you for the hardest challenge you have to face. Making the final climb, after everything you’ve gone through, is undoubtedly the toughest part...but in the end, you are rewarded for your strength. In some form, you are rewarded with maybe not what you wanted, but what you needed and deserved. Pure satisfaction. These words may be the closest I can come to expressing what my Journey felt like, and let me tell you right now, it doesn’t begin to bring those feelings to complete justice. Calling Journey an "experience" and not a "video game" would be an insult to what the medium is capable of. Games like Journey are living, breathing proof that video games have all the potential in the world to be more than just high scores and unlocking achievements. Don’t give a casual gamer Wii Sports or Kinect games...give a gaming newcomer Journey. No matter who you are, Journey will give you one of the most effective emotional roller coasters you will ever experience within any art form.
Dave Molinski (DMolinski)
Dishonored - The game that stood apart from all other titles released in 2012 was Dishonored. I was initially astonished at the lack of advertising that it received, especially during the week prior to its release. This, however, did not affect the sales in any way. Bethesda Softworks and Arkane Studios knew the quality of their title would be enough to compel potential buyers to hand over their cash, which they did. Reviews went up across all media channels and gamers rejoiced. Dishonored created a memorable experience by incorporating elements from other titles that were successful. It also stands out among other titles by rewarding strategic and creative gameplay. Your arsenal of weapons result in multiple ways for killing enemies, an aspect that is continually rewarding and enjoyable. Dishonored provides an experience that should not be missed.
Far Cry 3 - Far Cry 2 was a great game, but several game-ending bugs plagued the experience to the point where it was not worth the hassle. This is not the case in Far Cry 3. It is a game designed for gamers. The defining feature was the transformation that the protagonist, Jason Brody, undergoes throughout the story, which creates an immersive experience. The atmosphere is immediately set as Vaas appears on the screen as the definition of evil and insanity within the video game world. The only way to combat pure evil is with evil itself, but for a just cause of course. You risk everything to rescue your captured friends. The exploration of the tropical island is extremely rewarding as you don’t always know what you will come across. Having the option of running through the environment with guns blazing or moving quietly within the shadows also presents variety that many individuals seek. Another feature that I love is the game editor. The option to become a game developer and bring your thoughts and designs to life, and then share with the gaming community is exciting, especially when others enjoy and compliment your hard work. The compelling narrative, atmosphere, and gameplay create an immersive experience that can be compared to a blockbuster movie. What you can take away from this is a) buy this game, and b) do not travel to unknown islands with a group of friends. You will regret it.
Angry Birds Star Wars - The inclusion of Star Wars in the Angry Birds franchise was definitely a wise decision for Rovio. The comical, yet extremely enjoyable, gameplay will have you feeling less frustrated whenever you encounter a transit delay on your daily commute to work or school. The simple fact of possessing such an enjoyable game on your mobile device extends the lasting appeal that the game provides. You can play through the original Star Wars movies with the option of downloading (or earning by getting 3 stars on the Tatooine/Death Star levels) the Dagobah add-on, which includes plenty of levels as well. I just hope Jar Jar Binks does not make his way into the Angry Birds franchise in the near future.
Luke Brown (EastonAssass1n)
Mark of the Ninja - As a self-professed stealth game junkie, no game quenched that thirst quite like Klei’s Mark of the Ninja. With its clean-cut animation, and easy to learn and master controls, Mark of the Ninja proved that you don’t need a massive budget and an overwrought story to compete with the likes of Metal Gear. It’s addictive, and I can’t seem to stop going back for more to try and top my previous scores. Plus, the bite-sized nature of the game allowed me to enjoy a few minutes whenever I had some time to spare. That said, that spare time quickly turned into try after try of finishing a board without being detected. Of all the games released this year, this is the one I want a sequel for most.
ZombiU - While most video games have thus portrayed the zombie apocalypse as a gung-ho fight against the undead, ZombiU takes a slightly different approach, and it’s much appreciated. You only get one shot to make it through the plague-infested London alive, which keeps you on your toes more than any recent survival horror game. I still haven’t even finished the game (read: made it out alive), but I’m constantly drawn back into the struggle to survive. It’s certainly a game that takes some getting used to, but the satisfaction of clearing a new area in ZombiU is euphoric, and that feeling is hard to replicate in games.
Mass Effect 2 / 3 - Yes, you read that right. Mass Effect 2 is one of my favorite games of the year. I never played ME2 until after completing ME3, and I’m so glad I took the time to go back and enjoy BioWare’s middle entry in the Shepard trilogy. Of course, if it wasn’t for my love of Mass Effect 3, I would never have thought to go back and try my hand at the much ballyhooed suicide mission that concludes Mass Effect 2. Both games featured some stellar storytelling, and Jane Shepard is one of the most compelling leads I’ve seen in a video game. Say what you will about the ending of the trilogy, these games are outstanding.
05/08/2013 :: DLC Talk: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
03/24/2013 :: DLC Talk: Vergil's Downfall
02/14/2013 :: Hardware Talk: Razer Ouroboros Gaming Mouse
12/29/2012 :: GameFocus 2012 Game of the Year Awards
12/26/2012 :: Staff Picks: Best of 2012
12/19/2012 :: DLC Talk: Dunwall City Trials
12/08/2012 :: The 12 Days Of GameFocus Christmas
12/02/2012 :: The WB Wii U Launch Event In Toronto
11/07/2012 :: Vice City - 10 Years Later
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