Kevin VanOrd has the best top 10 list, no over-hyped game in the list if you know what I mean.. But I would exchange Spec Ops with Max Payne in that list.
The GameSpot editors reveal their personal top 10 lists for 2012.
Kevin VanOrd, Senior Editor Follow
Last year, I asked some members of the editorial team to write about their favorite games of the year. It gave a chance for us to speak from our hearts, and allowed the games that meant the most to us take the stage. This year, even more of the GameSpot staff participated, and we are excited to share our individual thoughts with you. Each day this week, we will unveil top ten lists from the GameSpot staff so that we might celebrate our favorite games of 2012.
Mind you, there is a difference between "favorite" and "best," and it's an important distinction to make. I don't believe that a few of my entries represent the best of 2012, but they nonetheless mean something to me, and sparked a part of me that made that game remain in my consciousness well after I had moved on to others.
Of course, such personal lists are always a reminder of all the wonderful games that I haven't played this year. I am still only halfway through The Walking Dead: Episode 1 - A New Day and Halo 4; I have only dabbled in Sound Shapes and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward; and I haven't even touched FTL: Faster Than Light and Lone Survivor. (And those are only a few examples of my 2012 pile of shame.) If only I had unlimited hours! But of the games I have played that came out this year, these are the ones that made the biggest impact. Please note: there are minor spoilers within.
10. PlanetSide 2
I liked but didn't love the original Planetside, which at its launch, made it difficult to actually get to the action. Planetside 2 has its downtime, but you need moments of respite in this game, which makes it easy to participate in its massive battles no matter where you are. Obviously, this massively multiplayer shooter deserves attention for its thrilling battles, but Planetside 2's structural successes deserve nods too. You don't need to wait for vehicles to spawn or to invade chat to find a group to buddy up with, and you can jump quickly to major battles--but not so often that you can exploit the system. Planetside 2 has the right mix of risk and reward, which in turn keeps you firing on the opposing faction.
Darksiders II might be the least original game on my list, but this is one of those times where I don't really mind. This game mixed Diablo looting, God of War slashing, Prince of Persia wallrunning, and Zelda exploration into a moody journey through a dark fantasy world. It may have looked to other sources of inspiration, but Darksiders II feels like one cohesive vision. Developer Vigil Games knew what tone they wished to strike, and understood what they wanted to convey with their world, their combat, and their characters. This consistency made the disparate elements come together wonderfully, and the overall result was fun and absorbing.
It's important not to confuse unnecessary obstacles in games with depth--just as it's important not to confuse the removal of such obstacles with a "dumbing down." XCOM: Enemy Unknown strikes a great balance: easy to get into, but still complex enough to inspire thoughtful decisions. What I loved most about the game was how I felt at war with percentages. How do I position myself to increase my chances of hitting while reducing my chances of being hit? Is it worth taking a shot when I have a 48% chance to hit, or should I get behind cover and activate overwatch? The resulting rhythm of tension-and-release made XCOM a real winner in my book.
From a gameplay perspective, Spec Ops is just a regular old cover shooter. And if its narrative were to work, it absolutely had to be. In most military shooters, those big moments where you kill legions of bad guys or hop behind a turret and mow dudes down are supposed to make you feel like a badass. In Spec Ops, you are supposed to feel shame. The game takes the expected recipe and turns it inside out, forcing you to reconsider all the power trips you've had in shooters before and look into the soul of a man who loses his soul in a power trip of his own. Spec Ops subverts the very expectations it originally expresses, initially passing itself off as just another military shooter, and ultimately condemning you, itself, and the entire genre. This kind of self-awareness is decidedly rare in games--and all but unheard of in shooters.
I admire developer Funcom. They have made three major MMOGs (not counting expansions), and each one is different from the last. Anarchy Online's sci-fi universe, complex character progression, and palatable mission structure make it my favorite MMO to date. Age of Conan's dark fantasy universe was so thick with atmosphere you could practically smell the fertile land. And then came The Secret World, a modern-day mythical adventure that mixes adventure-game elements with open-world exploration and intense storytelling. It has its problems, but The Secret World is one of several games that proved to naysayers in 2012 that modern MMOGs aren't just World of Warcraft clones anymore. This is an online RPG with the gall to actually make you think, and along with Guild Wars 2 and Tera, represents a trifecta that should influence developers of future games.
5. Far Cry 3
I am exhausted of hearing that "Far Cry 3 is like Skyrim with guns." That's silly. Far Cry 3 has similarities to other games, and is the product of a developer that employs some of the same themes from game to game. (Assassin's Creed was a clear inspiration, for instance.) But Far Cry 3 is above direct comparisons, instead standing out as an individual shooter in a genre crowded with copycats. While linear power-trip shooters will probably always have a role, I suspect that Far Cry 3, Natural Selection, and Planetside 2 pave the way to the future. If you still believe that games are just the same-ol' same-ol, I implore you to take a closer look. That is, if you can tear yourself away from Far Cry 3, which can get you easily hooked on freeing outposts, hunting tigers, and poking around in dark caves to see what secrets might be hidden there.
The final game in Commander Shephard's story greatly affected me. While some folks were up in arms over an ending that disappointed them, I was still mourning the losses of friends I'd grown close to. Bioware handled these moments of loss with great care, giving the characters the honor they deserved. I never saw Mass Effect as a franchise about plot: it was about people, places, and relationships. I will miss those things, which speaks to the power of this wonderful series. With its variety, its pacing, and the emotional investment it inspired, Mass Effect 3 made a mark on me.
3. Guild Wars 2
Any MMOG made from here on out exists in a post-Guild Wars 2 world. Guild Wars 2 fixed problems with the genre-standard quest limit by eliminating the quest journal completely. It brought exploration back to the forefront by rewarding you for moving through its world and investigating every nook. It shipped with enticing, broad player-versus-player regions. ArenaNet reconsidered everything we take for granted in role-playing games, and crafted them in new ways that made so much sense, it was a wonder no one had done it before. Guild Wars didn't drastically rethink the online RPG. Instead, it rethought the individual elements and brought them together in a great game that is both fresh and familiar.
Dragon's Dogma won't get out of my head. It's uniquely flawed and a teensy bit broken, but if you were to ask me at any given time what game I wish I were most playing, this would probably be the answer. To walk out of Gran Soren, only for a shrieking griffon to land with a thud and engage you, is a thrill. Climbing upon it and stabbing it while your pawns fling magic at it is more thrilling still. And holding on for dear life should the griffon soar into the air is the greatest thrill of all. The frustrations in Dragon's Dogma are many, but the battles, the nighttime journeys, and that ending--oh, that ending--are what make this game so special.
Journey seems to be a game that either works for you or it doesn't. For some, Journey is too mechanically simple; it lacks challenge and complexity, relying on atmosphere to convey its meaning. Those players never establish a connection.
I feel fortunate that Journey spoke to me so profoundly. Each time I played it, I was moved to tears, yet the game features no spoken dialogue, no named characters, and no traditional storytelling. It's just you, perhaps a human companion, and the entities that inhabit the land.
Simplicity isn't always an asset, but Journey is transcendental precisely because it strips interaction down to the essentials, and perfects those essentials so that you never struggle with the mechanics. Instead, the struggle is felt in the slow steps through snowdrifts, the shining eye of a hovering beast, and the force of the wind blowing you backwards. The struggles, though, are outshined by the joys. There are moments in which the slope of the land carries you forward, and all you can do is steer yourself through this gorgeous world and take in the sights and sounds, the lonely desert no longer a vast and empty prison, but a sun-drenched oasis.
There comes a moment when all seems lost. And then: a glimmer of hope, followed by a rush of freedom and ecstasy. If you have played, you know the moment I speak of. The uplift of the moment, and the ones that follow, is overwhelming. My spirit is lifted higher and higher, and then I understand. I understand.
Journey is exquisitely crafted precisely so that it might speak to you in this way. To call it too basic is to miss its true power. Journey strips away the intellectual elements almost universally associated with games so that it can instead directly impact the heart. Yet it wouldn't work as a film. To love Journey, you must feel it, and interact with it, and understand the flow. You can't just watch it happen--it must happen to you.
If you haven't played Journey, I hope that you will, and I hope that it speaks to you in the same way it did to me. I want people to feel the joy that I did; it's a feeling so wondrous, so overwhelming, that I want to share it with everyone. Like any experience designed to elicit emotion, the experience I had with Journey isn't universal. But even if Journey doesn't carry you away as it does with so many, I hope you are glad that such a game can exist, and that there are developers seeking new ways to explore the human condition.
@666NightsInHell It accepts box 360, PS3, and third party controllers just fine. The game was build ground up for the controls to work with a controller and there isn't a good transition to mouse and keyboard.
Either I'm continuing to drift away from enjoying video games or nothing fun or interesting came out this year. Either way, I'm saddened by it.
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@Suikogaiden Games can still be great or memorable yet have flaws to them. Also Chris is the one that reviewed the game and it isn't on his top 10 list.
Look for the podcasts Gamespot Gameplay, they talk often on there about Spec ops and what makes it good. Very good show that gives you insight to the staffs true thoughts and opinions about games.
Don't look at one review and take the number for granted. Compare it to similar games so you get an idea of how much it will appeal to you, then watch a number of reviews/impression videos on youtube. This game obviously appealed more to the person who wrote the article than gamespot's reviewer.
I?m definitely feeling this taking Q3 2013 by storm http://goo.gl/yNmuP
[i]It's also a huge criticism of the many shooters out there that glorify and justify their subject matter.[/i]
its the line of the year ...
1. Deus Ex Human Revolution, like every year since release
3.Max Payne 3
4. Planetside 2
kevin and carolyn sure are my fav reviewers , both of you should review bioshock infinte when released
If anyone ever has a problem with GS review scores, just check out these lists: Some editors don't know how to count to 10.....
Mass effect 3, Dishonored, The walking dead, Amalur, FTL, Xcom, Hotline miami and Guild Wars 2 are my games of the year.
1- The Witcher AOK EE
2 - Max Payne 3
3 - Hotline Miami
4 - Mass Effect 3
5 - Far Cry 3...and what else honestly...
1-Far Cry 32-assassin's creed 33-mass effect 34-saints row the third5-kingdom of amalur reckoning6- Max Payne 37-Sleeping Dogs8-Darksiders II9-Dishonored10- Hitman Absolution
Good ol' Chris Watters! If it hadn't been for him, I would have made a HUGE mistake and passed on Dishonored.
Thanks for that list Danny. As is so often the case I find myself agreeing with you yet again. Max Payne 3 is a real gem of 2012 as is F1 2012. I'll get round to Journey & FTL eventually...
Every blessing for the new year!!
oh Tom Mc Shea like anyone cares what u have to say or like. u are by far the worsr reviewer on game spot. with a new year coming soon i hope u loose your job so u can stop being paid for your bad reviews. i hope all the bad things in life happen to you and only you. pos
@jcwainc Baseless accusations and attacks don't go very far, you should take them elsewhere.
There are many people, myself included, that respect and enjoy what Tom has to say.
@Toysoldier34 its not baseless attacks. look at his reviews then look at the people telling him off. if u like him thats fine but in my and a lot and i mean a lot of people he is the worse reviewer here on game spot. his shinning moment is his the Simpsons review. please understand reviews really dont mean nothing to me cause i'll buy a game cause it looks good to me. but people look at reviews in a means to buy a game. its sad but true (thus why metacritic is a good and bad thing). well i could go on and on but why the kool aid drinking people will believe what they want to. while others will see with eyes open
@jcwainc There is no need to hide behind your keyboard and say things like you have about him that you would never say to a person. It only reflects poorly on yourself.
@jcwainc Boo hoo McShea writes OPINIONS I dont like, boo hoo I am too childish to look for second opinions, boo hoo there was something else my whiny ass wanted to say but the rock between my ears cant hold water.
Happy new year mate, hope everything goes swell for you too this year.
@jcwainc Regardless of how you feel about the work someone else produces, to me, those who wish bad things on others, especially to the severity that you just have, are the worst kinds of people in this world. Nothing he has done is so evil that he deserves to suffer for it, so you seriously need to wake up and smell the roses and stop being so selfish and immature.
@jcwainc Dude, he's just a piss poor reviewer. No need to get personal.
Aaron Sampson had the best description for ME3 being his 2nd choice (besides the fact that he chose Control) lol
Lot's of good games missing: Xenoblade Chronicles, Kingdom Hearts DDD, AC3, Kid Icarus Uprising, The Last Story
@Kenshin0011 We recognized Xenoblade Chronicles in our 2011 awards. Both The Last Story and Kid Icarus Uprising actually do appear on one of these lists!
@carolynmichelle @Kenshin0011 No disrespect but why are there soooo many arcade games up there? I mean come on, people don't even take half the time REAL developers do to make there games. Where is Dishonored, Borderlands 2, AC 3, and so many other GOOD games that people had sweat and blood in to it. I'm just saying that ARCADE games need to be separate from RETAIL games. And by the way, you are one of my favorite reviewers on this website :D.
Hotline Miami is a great example of a game that doesn't have a massive budget and marketing campaign or is even that long. While it may be short it uses every moment to the fullest and is one of the best games of the year.
It is funny that you mention people putting blood and sweat into projects when indie games are often the ones fueled by entirely that. While they may be solid games stuff like Assassin's Creed 3 is being pumped out year after year for money, not because of the passion of its creators and all the blood and sweat they put into making it.
You should look up Indie Game the Movie, watch it and see if you feel the same way. That even smaller arcade games don't have countless hours and sleepless nights poured into their creation.
@Livefantasy7"I mean come on, people don't even take half the time REAL developers do to make there games."
how are they not real developers. If any, they are the real ones. And remember, these lists are "personal perspectives"
I think it's unfair to assume arcade game developers aren't putting in the same time and effort as the teams making retail games. If anything, because of the escalating cost and time required to make successful retail games, we're already seeing far fewer games made each year. If all the development efforts were going into making the next Uncharted, Mario or Halo to put on a disc, we'd probably never have experienced amazing games like Journey, The Walking Dead, Minecraft or Hotline Miami.