I am wondering why you didn't include ME 3, I am playing it right now (Played around 25 hrs) and it is brilliant in every way.
This is it ladies and gentleman, my five favourite games of the year. But first a disclaimer, I will admit the what I view to be the best game released this year (by quite some margin) and my favourite game released this year, is not on the list. Purely because it's a re-release of my game of the year last year, so if people want to say, 'how come Prepare to Die Edition didn't make it' you know why. It's the best game this year but I felt it didn't have a place on my list, Dark Souls got its praise from me last year, and remains one of the finest games ever made. So let the blog commence!
5. Spec Ops: The Line
This was a game I had no interest in at all. I dont care for modern military shooters and this one looked completely generic. How wrong I was. Spec Ops is definitely the most interesting game I played all year and is a landmark release for the medium. Now I recognise that on a gameplay level Spec Ops is flawed, its unexciting and overly generic, however besides that the game does so much right. What really made the game excel for me is how in reality it was a commentary on military shooters, rather than just one itself. It took the tropes and it subverted them, it instilled the player with familiarity and then shocked them when it became something so different. Its a game that goes some way to show the effects of war, in several intelligent ways, and one that has a stance. It has something to say and it says it so well, but importantly it says it through being a game. Spec Ops is the most important game of the year, but its a game that isnt fun. That is weirdly why it is so brilliant, I did not have a good time playing Spec Ops, but its in the same way that I dont have a great time watching Apocalypse Now (an inspiration for the developer). I still think Apocalypse Now is a tremendous movie and I still love Spec Ops. Its not a game you enjoy, but its not un-enjoyable in a pejorative sense, it does what it sets out to do and is excellent for it. Its an eye opener and wholly thought provoking, if you havent played it you should.
4. The Walking Dead
It seems Im in tune with the rest of the known world when I say Telltales The Walking Dead is rather magnificent. Ive been following this series from the beginning, picking up each episode as it came out and awaiting the next (Ive also reviewed every episode along the way for WikiGameGuides). I think I echo everybody who played these when I talk about the emotional attachment to this series and how it affected me in a way games usual dont. I cared for the characters deeply, and I agonised about my decisions. I echo the words of my good friend Ran Harpaz when I say that the Walking Dead is not a game that makes choice matter per se, it makes the act of choosing matter. Its a key difference, I didnt feel my choices had far reaching consequences that impacted the game, it carried on regardless and most things were the same whatever. In the moment though, it completely mattered because the choices were so well crafted. They were truly grey and questioned personal morality rather than abiding by a games system. Im somebody who has fallen out of love with morality systems; they are too clear cut for me. Recent games like Mass Effect 3 and inFAMOUS 2 really hammered home the bits I dont like about these conventional systems (though I stand by Mass Effect 3 as an excellent game), causing me to flock towards the Witcher 2s and Dragon Age: Origins of the world. But Walking Dead took it further, and while I agree that it was the act of choosing that was important here, I would also highlight the character impact as most important to me. My choices didnt change the story, but they changed how I felt about it and how I approached it. They didnt change the game but they changed me to a certain extent, and importantly they changed how I interact with characters. Situation A may still play out the same way every time, but Person B is angry at me because I took choice C. This really doesnt make a difference, but because I was invested in the characters it made a difference to me. It would upset me when friends took against what I did, or I would make sure to speak my mind to a character who acted wrongly in my eyes. Though this didnt change the overall picture, it changed my experience and thats what really matters. Yes the gameplay wasnt really good, it could drag, the pace was frequently halted and certain segments were completely misguided. But in spite of this, purely due to writing quality and interactivity, The Walking Dead excelled.
For me, Fez is the best 2D puzzle game since Braid. I say 2D purely because Portal 2 exists, and I havent really thought about whether I prefer it or not. I probably do, but Fez is still amazing. Why Fez worked for me is due to how unique it was, and how it turned out as something completely different from what I expected. If you havent played Fez but want to, dont read on, the discovery process is magical and I dont want to spoil anything for you. If you are not in that boat then let me tell you why I love Fez so much. It is partly because of how crazy it is, its a game which required me to write out several full pages of notes, which look like total gibberish, just to decipher its puzzles. Notice I say decipher, not solve, Fez is a game you decipher. It is so much more than a faux 2D world that you can spin to marvel at the clever design and the wonderful pixel art. Its a deeply complex puzzle; the whole game is one massive puzzle. Everything exists for a reason, what looks like background detail is all part of the riddle; its a game where you have to work out a new written language, set of numbers and a code made up of Tetris pieces. All of these things you need to know in order to solve Fezs grander puzzles, but getting to this stage is a puzzle in itself. You have to note repetition, keep an eye on the environment and actually work things out. Not just work out mechanics and apply in game logic, you have to use your mind, your external reasoning. A basic example of this is having to translate and solve a riddle, but the more complex examples are so brilliantly obtuse yet achievable that you cant help but sit and wonder at Fez. Its a remarkable game, the music is great, the aesthetic is wonderful and its just so very charming. Its beauty though is in how imaginative and creative it is, how different it is. But importantly not just different for the sake of it or having different as its only plus. Its great at what it does and it inspired something wonderful. Fez was so complex and abstract that it united the internet to solve it, it wasnt a case of get stuck and look up an FAQ. If you got stuck you headed to a forum where others were stuck and you discussed it, you worked it out together. You shared ideas and you had a social experience. Sadly thats not something you can capture again, if you didnt get in at the start, you missed out on one of the best parts of 2012. It was a magical time and Fez is a magical game.
2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
At one point, during my deep XCOM binge, my housemate came into my room with his girlfriend and said that if she wanted to see what a man addicted to a game looks like, she should look in my direction. XCOM was a game that grabbed me for a long period of time, all I thought about was XCOM, all I wanted to do was play XCOM and all I talked about was XCOM. Perhaps this is a bad thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time. Taking my team of elite space marines to tackle the alien menace, whilst also making sure my base was researching what I needed, properly built and that countries were happy with my progress. Every facet of the game was excellent to me; I loved the tactical ground combat and the base building. They complimented each other and made the game as great as it is. It was also the most satisfying game this year, though it wasnt the pure fun of Far Cry 3, it was so much more engaging and worthwhile. Satisfying is the perfect word for it, when your sniper pulls off that headshot that he really shouldnt, when the aliens come in and the odds seem so against you but your tactical decisions wipe them out in a single turn, there was nothing as gratifying for me this year. Though XCOM may have lost some of its novelty with repetition, and how you can get to a certain point where you have broken the games back and nothing really bothers you (a step away from the brilliant challenge that made it so involving) I still put a great 60 hours into it. Its impressive that Firaxis made this deep yet accessible traditional strategy game in 2012, its modernised and streamlined for sure, but these arent detractions. Its just brilliant and one of the best games Ive played in a while.
1. Max Payne 3
Apparently some people dont like this game. That confuses me. As you can tell by its placement, I adore Max Payne 3. I would call myself a shooter fan, but that doesnt mean Im a fan of most shooters. In fact Im generally very critical of the genre; Max Payne 3 though is a game that reminded me that when a shooter is good, there isnt much that can match it. For me Max Payne 3 is just a superb shooter, and this surprised me, sure I loved the previous two games (especially the phenomenal Max Payne 2) but I wasnt huge on Rockstar this generation. Ive recently rediscovered Red Dead Redemption, and fallen in love with it in a way that I didnt when I first played it, but the things that Max Payne was offering are things I dont class Rock Star as being good at. Rockstar make some decent open world games, why Red Dead is great is because of the sandbox open world. Where Red Dead falters is its core gameplay (especially gunplay), the pacing and some parts of the storytelling. A great linear style shooter like Max Payne needs to have excellent gameplay (especially gunplay), the pace needs to be spot on and if the game is going to be as good as those that came before, the core storytelling needs to be amazing. What Max Payne 3 showed is that the flaws I see in Rockstar come from their open world formula. It makes their games overlong (bloated) and the structure they abide by makes for story and gameplay conflict. This was gone in Max Payne, this game was just amazing. The production values where top-notch, the sense of style was sublime and it was just a joy to play. The game was a decent length, but excellently paced with nail biting action and perfectly judged quiet moments. The game posed a decent challenge, but wasnt overtly hard, it was just really fun. The core shooting (if you are a sane man and turned off auto aim) was perfect, the precise dot and your freedom of movement meant satisfying gunfights where skill had a deciding factor.
Some took against how fragile Max was, and how crazy shoot dodging was no longer the deal of the day. Well, I had got that deal done to almost perfection in Max Payne 2. Something different but excellent is fine with me and the game felt enough like Max whilst offering something new. It wasnt carefree anymore, it was tight and you had to cleverly use the skills at your disposal to get through. It wasnt just diving around; it was knowing when you should dive and when a dive would pay off. It was knowing to use cover and to use slow down from cover to rack up the head shots. It all came together for me, and it was also complimented by what I found to be an excellent story. It was dark, and brooding, and superbly written. It was very Rockstar, and not very Remedy, but it was very good. If you want to complain that its different from one and two, then you are right in saying its different. Its not a complaint though. One and two exist and three is an excellent game that captures enough Max Payne to make it fit, whilst allowing Rockstar to make it their own. Im glad they did, because it made for an astounding game that is no doubt my favourite game of the year. Judging by other peoples lists its not a popular choice, but for me it is the obvious one.
I am wondering why you didn't include ME 3, I am playing it right now (Played around 25 hrs) and it is brilliant in every way.
Max Payne 1 and 2 are two of my favorite games of all time, and I still haven't played Max Payne 3. I'm kinda scared to play it. I am afraid it might not live up to the perfection that Max Payne 2 was.
I will eventually play it.
I expected FTL and Skyrim would appear here but XCOM and Walking Dead are great choices as well (;
Haven't played Max Payne 3 yet, though, not planning either. Maybe some time in the future? (;
@SylvaeDragon Well Skyrim came out last year... And though I really liked FLT, I didn't connect with it as much as some others did. Awesome game though.
Great blog Steve. I totally loved it!
Max Payne 3 was the only game I really felt like playing this year, definitely my GOTY!
I gotto disagree on the Max Payne III. Hell of a burner there. Total letdown, that game was destined for disappointment.
Max Payne 3 was a great game gameplay wise but I still enjoy the story and characters far more in the first two games. Still it was excellently made, never saw a single bug or glitch and the soundtrack was one of the best in 2012.
Great list, man. Really glad to see Max Payne 3 getting some well-earned love. I, like you, do not understand people who don't like the game. It has a fantastic story, one that is gritty not just to be edgy, it earns that grittiness and delivers a very realistic depiction of Brazil. Also has excellent gameplay that is a joy to play. I really liked the sense of fragility to it, since it fitted Max's character perfectly, and I love it when storytelling is tied to the gameplay.
Cheers to our favorite ex-alcoholic.
A surprising choice in Max Payne 3 there. I have to say that when I was playing with it I liked it but didn't love it. However it stuck in my mind and it's one of those titles that stays in your mind long after you finished it and I reckon that's a great quality.
It's interesting to see Spec Ops on another top ten list as well. I am going to get it.
I loved walking dead but after I finished it fealt more like I had watched a great film rather than played a great game, obv this doesnt take any explanation, even tho it was a great experience there doesn't feel enough gaming to it for it to be reviewed as a top game of the year just an enjoyable money well spent bit of something different and plus once you'v done it once, that about it.
@LukeWesty It's a game and it was great. How does it not deserve a top spot? Just because it plays a lot differently from most games doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a top spot. Also, every decision you make changes the course of the game. It has a lot more replayability then most games on the list.
Cool list. I've been looking for some good puzzle games. Not many good ones are available you know? And the ones which are, they don't really make you think all that much and the satisfaction isn't much. Haven't played portal 2 though. Thx for this list now I can play Fez.
And also, here's a prediction - The best game of 2013 will also be Rockstar's. Yup, GTA 5. No frickin doubt about it. It's gonna be EPIC. :) Can't wait!
Max Payne 3 was definitely my top game for 2012 because I was going into the game expecting it to be crappy, but I should never doubt Rockstar as they delivered and gave one of the most satisfying games of last year and I'm hoping they'll keep the ending like they did.
This was a slow year for me, in terms of game releasing that I actually enjoyed playing.
Good list, though, I want to try out some of those games.
Spec ops: The line is Awesome. The story is a masterpiece and the game makes you think: WTF am I doing
On a serious note, this was a pretty great list, I have yet to lay Fez, Journey, and Hotline Miami, and Halo 4 though, and I think you accidentally put XCOM behind Max Payne 3. :P But all in all, this was a great list.
I happen to think that Walking Dead is pretty MEH, what with the QTEs galore. I guess I'm not part of the known world.
@starduke I would love to visit your planet. It's not that QTE heavy though, it's mostly dialogue trees.
@stephenage I watched Tobuscus play some of it, before I got bored. Even his commentary couldn't keep me interested. Anyway, it seemed pretty QTE heavy to me.
Of course, I think even one QTE is too many.
@Germandude2 Okay, here's another one. At the end of Dishonored the main character becomes a dragon and flies all over Dunwall lighting it's citizens on fire. Then he realizes that he's only hallucinating, and he wakes up, only to find out that he's back where he started in prison, and he's still waiting to get executed. So, he has to escape again...
@CasualGamer36x I'm actually glad I spoiled it for you.
BTW, RDR has a similar ending, and so does ME3!
@starduke Fricking idiot. Now it's spoiled for me. Try to use that thick skull of yours. And your brain if you have one.
@starduke Thanks, asshole.
@stephenage Knowing that the PC dies at the end ruins the whole experience for me. I'm not about to waste hours keeping someone alive just to have the stupid devs kill them off at the end.
@stephenage BTW, did I mention that I hate games where the player character dies at the end?