Twenty twelve. What an interesting year for gaming.
When you think about it, 2012 is going to be the very last year where it's this generation of consoles only. '13 is bound to have the next PlayStation and Xbox biting at each others heels with new fantastical visuals and exclusives. While 2013 won't be the last year amazing PS3 and 360 game will come out (one would hope), it's no longer the 'current-gen' market going into 2014.
SO! How did 2012 do? In my opinion... pretty damn good!
It's easy to look at any year ahead and expect it to be the "Best Year in Gaming" since 1998. Hell, this year has 'BioShock Infinite' and 'Grand Theft Auto V' just ready to eat GotY nominations up. But when it comes to the gaming year as a whole... I love surprises. Pleasant surprises, mind you. Not 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' surprises...
With all that 'ado' out of the way, I present my Top Ten Games of 2012!
I was addicted to Borderlands and I'm almost one hundred percent positive I wasn't alone. What drove people to play the ever-living-hell out of that game, beating it multiple times and acquiring some of the most fantastic weapons known to mankind? Well it sure as hell wasn't the story. The two massive driving forces in its popularity was the loot and the personalities. Not only was collecting, trading, examining and using every gun fun and ENSLAVINGLY FUN (made up word), but every character was actually fun to talk to. Every voice actor put a lot of work into making each character recognizable and interesting.
Borderlands 2 is the first game times a thousand. The characters are more amazing and funny as ever, the gun collecting is just as habit-forming as ever, and whoever wrote the script must be some sort of genius. Play with three friends, enjoy the ride.
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
Take everything you might have known about this series (I seriously wish more people would have played '999', which is an amazing DS game) and amplify it. Make the tension more intense. Make the deaths more gruesome. Make the characters more bizarre. Make the puzzles more challenging. Make the story much longer and more complex. Welcome to a game you will not win. Part visual novel, part intense puzzle game, 'Virtue's Last Reward' thrives on tension, subtle hints and massive reveals. Each character looks fairly cut and dry (or just like freaks) from the start, but as you unravel the mystery while avoiding death each character starts to make more and more sense.
Also, you won't win on the first try... Or will you? With 24 different endings, the ways you can approach this games narrative is MASSIVE. I still suggest playing '999' first to get a general feel of the story, but it's not necessary to enjoy this game to it's fullest.
The 1980's are alive and well... and dripping in mass quantities of blood. This is ultra violence in the most 'ultra' way possible, yet still tells a striking and simply narrative that ties it all together (whether you notice or not). 'Hotline Miami' is a mixture of so many different elements that it's hard to describe efficiently. Top-down beat-um-up, shooter, stealth, "neon-noir" bundle of arcade madness.
It's simple enough to play and understand. Get a mission, grab a mask, kill everyone in a building then leave. But the way the plot builds, the way you take on every enemy, the way the action ramps up, the way where even killing one henchmen can be as dangerous as killing a boss... This game is much more deep then it lets on with it's "in your face 16-bit gore", and is addictive to boot. Give it a go and wear your sunglasses at night.
Unique. Beautiful. Uplifting. Depressing. Amazing.
This isn't blowing smoke, this is the real deal. 'Journey' is 2 hours of breathtaking visuals, one-of-a-kind multiplayer and stunning concepts. I don't want to give too much away, as I know there are still some people who haven't played it yet, but the interactions you have with other players alone is wonderful in it's simplicity. You just kind of meet someone. You can't talk to them, see their name or chat with them. You communicate only in beeps and flashes. The title is not just a word, it's the game you are getting. You and this random person you run into take a journey together, and it's one you won't forget anytime soon.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Turn-based strategy is back with a vengeance! Simpler than it's old-school counterpart, 'Enemy Unknown' take a much more accessible approach to turn-based combat and resource management, yet still leaves enough detail and difficulty for the hardcore fans to take notice. Aliens are landing on Earth. Abductions, killings, UFO sightings and crash landings... the fight has begun.
You are in command of the only hope for the human race, "XCOM". Using your brains you must out-maneuver and out-smart an enemy we know next to nothing about. You must research them, dissect them, learn their technological secrets and use this knowledge to drive them away. Just make sure you remember to take cover.
Spec Ops: The Line
I don't know a single person who saw this game before it came out and didn't dismiss it right away. Hell, from the time it was announced to the time it was released, the most people knew about the game was "HEY, THERE'S A LOT OF SAND. SHOOT STUFF TO MAKE SAND FALL ON BAD GUYS, KTHXBAI".
Who knew that hiding under the guise of yet another brown modern shooter was one of the best games I'd play all year. When you think of a game about war getting deep story wise, you imagine the whole "horrors of war" story. That's not this game. This game is about the horrors of man. Any man. Every man. What a person will do to convince themselves they are right in their actions, that what they do is just. That what they do has a purpose and a meaning, one they are willing to go to the ends of the earth to prove. They are willing to get themselves and the people they know killed just hoping in the end someone will say "what they did was right".
This game starts as you average shooter, turns slowly into 'Apocalypse Now', and then becomes something even greater. Original.
Rhythm Heaven Fever
"Darris", I hear you say through my computer screen, "... you pick only one Wii game for your Top Ten and you DON'T pick 'The Last Story' or 'Xenoblade Chronicles'?!?". And to that I say "HELL YES, LOSERS!", and then I ride away on my motorcycle looking awesome and cool and stuff.
Rhythm Heaven Fever is perfection in my eye, whether or not it's perfection in your eye comes down to one question: do you have rhythm? If so, then your new favorite game is here! SO weird. SO strange. SO wonderful. Colorful. Musical. FLAVORFUL! No motion controls, you just use the A button and B trigger and still this game is pure gold joy-splosions.
Painstakingly ported from the nearly identical Japanese version, Nintendo did fans of the series (yes, there IS a series...) very well. The music is the same, but with English singers and translations that actually make sense! The challenges and character you meet become like old friends at you strive to "Perfect" every single stage. All I can do is leave you with a slight taste of what the game is like. Enjoy the strange wonder.
Persona 4: The Golden
'Persona 4' is everything that was right with Japanese RPG's and was one of the most original and inventive PS2 games of all time. 'Persona 4: The Golden' somehow found a way to perfect perfection. New characters, new Personas, new social links, new cut-scenes and new voice acting all make a game everyone though was complete even better.
For those who don't know much about P4G, or the Persona series as a whole, then here's a little synopsis. In the Persona games you have creatures you can summon to fight called Personas. These evolve and form not by traditional RPG methods, but instead by a unique system called "Social Link". You literally make friends and you gain access to new Personas. The stronger the link in the real world, the stronger the creature fighting by your side. In 'Persona 4', a small Japanese town has been turned upside down by a series of very strange and very cryptic murders.
Aaaaaand that's all your getting out of me. Go play this game. Don't want to get a Vita? FINE THEN, GO PLAY THE PS2 VERSION, GOSH.
But when you do get a Vita eventually... Don't forget to grab your glasses and turn on the telly.
(God, I love this opening... so cheerful!)
The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Everyone suddenly loves this game. Jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride, because this game is one of the single best gaming experience you can have. Let's forget for a moment that Telltale Games has been making original and funny games for YEARS now (Sam & Max never gets any love...), This game is exactly what the gaming industry needs more of; CHARACTER DRIVEN EXPERIENCES.
This isn't hard to nail down people. Put likable, funny and interesting characters in danger and we will care for them so much more. Even if you are not a fan of 'The Walking Dead' TV show or comic series, there is a story here that needs to be heard. One with (seemingly) real people, in deadly and dangerous situations. People who haven't lost their sense of humor and can still joke occasionally. People who know that their actions carry more weight than ever with the threat of death always on their doorstep.
While it might seem like the main character is You/Lee, this isn't entirely true. It's mostly Lee's story with some slight variations. The story doesn't change all that much in reality for a "choose-your-own-adventure" game, but it does change enough to feel major decisions effect your own personal conscience. You make brutal choices. Ones that weigh on your mind well after you turn off the game.
Also, while the game was originally going to be a download only game until the first two episodes got massively popular, I find the ending quite ballsy for a game that has now been played even by casual gamers. This game has a story to tell, and there is nothing that is going to stop it.
Season 2 can't come soon enough.