Rather than do a hoo-hah list of the top 5, 10 or whatever games of 2012 at Games Xtreme, we decided to be different and just talk about some of the games we really liked in 2012 and why. They're in no particular order but if we had to pick a top game of 2012 it would probably be Far Cry 3.Assassin's Creed 3
The arrival of a new assassin brought with it a few issues, a great naval battle system, a much improved combat and traversal system and some really great moments. For us, Conner wasn't as likeable as Ezio and his performances often fell flat. Overall though with the new multiplayer and improved Anvil Next engine - this conclusion to the Desmond story-arc of Assassin's Creed was certainly fun. Add to this a bunch of open-world gameplay and a lot of replay value too... our only major issue was we felt AC 3 lacked much in the way of assassination and focus at times.
A first person crazed romp across two separate islands against the forces of nature, animals, Somali-like pirates and madmen. Far Cry 3 is a huge open-world immersive experience which builds on the Far Cry legacy and amps everything up to the nines. We've had a ton of fun with this one and it's pretty much our Game of the Year 2012. Far Cry 3 gives you all the skills, experience systems and story you can handle - lets you play it as you want and doesn't penalise you for playing it your way. You can blaze in guns blasting, or take the subtle approach and sneak around taking enemies down in brutal and inventive takedown moves. You can mix and match to use the arsenal at your disposal. There's good strong cooperative multiplayer and there's adversarial too, along with a level creator. Far Cry 3 is Skyrim with guns, basically.Dragons Dogma
When CAPCOM first announced this game we were fairly excited. It looked like a cross between Monster Hunter and Shadow of the Colossus meets Skyrim in third person. When we got our hands on it and dived deeper into the game we found a solid fantasy romp with some really great reactive combat and some truly epic boss battles. The way the physics system ties into battles with Dragon's Dogma makes it some of the most satisfying battle-action yet and the RPG systems, character customisation and innovative Pawn hiring system come together in near-perfect harmony. If we had a particular niggle it would be: there's no co-op and this game cries out for that kind of thing. The graphics do suffer from pop-in but it's very atmospheric and dark places feel really creepy.
Most of us are rabid fans of Mass Effect as a franchise, we were eagerly awaiting 3 with the kind of anticipation that most gamers feel for Call of Duty's next big game. Mass Effect 3 promised to be a mix of 1 and 2 with some better RPG elements returning from 1, and the combat system from 2 with tweaks. We got that, we got a massive epic storyline too with all good things coming to a pretty big end. The problem for many of us was that the ending to the game split the Mass Effect fandom right down the middle, putting people at loggerheads based on Bioware's choices for the end of the game. Many felt the original endings were cut and paste, they didn't take into account the actions from 1 and 2 and it might just have been a generic soldier at the end rather than your story and your Shepard. The Extended Cut DLC did a lot to fix this and Mass Effect 3, even though it has a few missteps, is still a damn fine game and worthy of the franchise. We would have preferred a proper co-op multiplayer rather than a horde based mode, but hey, we got some kind of multiplayer in what is essentially a very single player driven experience.Hitman: Absolution
Loyalties are divided over this iteration of the Hitman franchise; some people felt that adding the blending/instinct/trick system to the game took away from the original. Having the finite resource which once depleted removes Agent 47's ability to blend in with characters wearing the same costume might be a step too far for some fans. Agent 47 is completely ignored by the other characters with different costumes, yet draws near-instant suspicion from anyone who wears the same disguise as him. Walk past a cop too close when dressed as a cop and they can very quickly (even on Easy) figure out you're not Bob their partner.
Overall though, with this minor niggle aside, Hitman: Absolution is a great game with a ton of replay value and some superb level design. David Bateson returns as 47 and there's even Contracts mode, an innovative online play-as-you kill contract creation system which lets you earn in-game money and unlocks by challenging your friends to kill as you did.
There are unlockable weapons, skills and a few surprises in Hitman: Absolution for the real pro player and customisable difficulties make the game even more fun.
When 2K and Firaxis sent us an email announcing the return of a turn-based XCOM, the hollars and hoots of joy were detected as far as Ganymede seriously. We were eagerly awaiting the release and when that magical day arrived - yes, the game was as good as we hoped if not better. Yes, there were some changes to the old X-Com, things have altered, new game systems were devised but it remains XCOM through and through. The storyline was far better, the cinematic touches were excellent and the difficulty was fiendish. The research tree is cut down, there are certain things we miss from the original but overall we're as happy as we can be with this remake and reboot!Dishonored
A first person story about revenge and supernatural assassins? Tell us more! Dishonored's our wake-up call to the world in which Corvo, the hero or anti-hero of the game inhabits and an introduction to Dunwall City. Revenge solves everything was the tagline to the game and the publisher (Bethesda) and developer (Arkane) were not lying when they said it. Dishonored lets you approach every mission and level with your own pace, your own style and rewards you by changing the city based on your actions... ultimately the ending is going to change and well, that's the best thing about this kind of gameplay. The combat system is smooth, the stealth system is great and the game is basically the Thief of this generation.
The Lego games are often really great and well, Lego Batman 2 is no exception. It features full voice work from an accomplished voice cast and it's the oddest thing to hear those little guy and gals speak, when like the Sims, they've always had their own unique sounds and grunts. The game features expansive levels and some mechanics changes, including mid-mission save-points. The game also has a massive cast of DC heroes/villains as well as featuring a full Lego Gotham City for you to explore in an open-world manner. A GTA style Batman game, we never thought we'd see it from Lego first. But we did!LEGO Lord of the Rings
Sticking with Lego, one of the biggest fantasy franchises (and it was only a matter of time) to hit the games so far comes in the form of the Lord of the Rings. Taking cues from all 3 massive films the game weaves a wonderful series of levels inspired by key plot points, brings in loads of new mechanics and wraps the whole thing up with a free-roam/open-world Lego version of Middle Earth, from Bree, to Isengard and Mordor - it's all there. There are a load of characters to unlock and a vast array of secrets to uncover. Like Lego Batman 2 this game has full voice work and most of it is taken directly from the films, with a few extra performances for NPCs and the like.
A sleeper hit, once a True Crime franchise game, Sleeping Dogs wowed many of us here with combat mechanics taken from games like Arkham City. Free-flow moves, counters, combos and the like. It had a great story, cool characters, tons of action from Kung Fu, slow-mo shooting, action-hi-jack driving and more. It had mini-games which made sense in the context of the game and brought Hong Kong to life with some high octane movie-style action. A great cast of actors assembled for this one with some superb performances across the board. Later on Square released a Big Trouble in Little China inspired Halloween addon which allowed us to battle demons, hopping vampires and more on the streets of Hong Kong.Darksiders II
Darksiders was a game we loved. It mixed a bit of God of War, with Metroid and Zelda in a post-apocalyptic wasteland Earth after the End of Days. War was a brutal combat driven machine and a tough cookie, yet the sequel brings Death out to play and improves on Darksiders in every way possible. It adds an expansive overworld, some fiendish puzzles and traps, lots of great action, RPG skill tree and Diablo-style random loot drops. The fast travel system is a joy and Death is an acrobatic fighter who prefers to dodge and leap out of the way, compared to War who basically stood there and put his head between himself and the enemy blow. Death takes advantage of an improved traversal system and a refined combat system to make Darksiders 2 the best game in the series so far. THQ's troubles aside we hope to see at least 2 other games with Fury and Strife.
Welcome back to Pandora Vault Hunters. We loved Borderlands, so much we put hours and hours into the game. We've done the same with Borderlands 2 and the 5 (yeah 5) new character classes are pretty amazing. The Siren is certainly quite cool with her new slew of powers to set her apart from Lilith in the previous game and Borderlands 2 takes everything up to 11 literally across the board. There are new expansive areas to explore, better designed quest systems and rewards as well as Badass Ranks, persistent points that give you upgrades across all of your characters. Looting and shooting does not get much better than this one. With upgraded systems and graphics, Borderlands 2 is a welcome addition to the Borderlands franchise and a game with constant DLC packs that add even more awesome content.Mark of the Ninja
An XBLA game which came from Klei Entertainment, the folks behind: Shank etc... Mark of the Ninja marries old school platforming fun, great level design, excellent storytelling and superb stealth action all together to make a really addictive and pretty long game. It has unlockable costumes which can impact the way the game's played, gadgets and even ninja skills for you to play with. The controls are spot on and the gameplay is engaging, it is one of our top XBLA titles for 2012 and thoroughly deserves to be in everyone's collection that has a hankering for some old school ninja-tastic action.
KoA was a game which took ideas from Skyrim (Ken Rolston was involved), saw the demise of the game studio which made it, and produced a fantastic lore-filled romp through a massive fantasy world with a great combat system, some really cool action and some superb character-driven game mechanics. Fate played a big role in the game and the presentation of Fable-esque dynamic battles, with a mix of magic, ranged and melee thrown together were great. The game also has a dynamic class based system which really lets you mix/match your ideal playstyle... and the core rogue was an amazing mix of assassin and thief.Witcher 2: Xbox 360 version
The Witcher 2 blew us away on the PC. It was a mature action-adventure with a non-linear storyline and amazing brutal combat. It had sex, violence and is in many ways a truly mature game set in the dark world of Andreas Sapkowski's devising. CDPR are amazing developers and they proved it by bringing the dark fantasy epic onto the Xbox 360 with a excellent enhanced version, complete with new quests, updated combat mechanics, a spanky new intro and several cool outro sequences to further define events at the end. If you missed out on Geralt's adventure, get it now!
Torchlight was amazing; it was a Diablo-clone with epic heart and soul, great graphics and a really solid action. Torchlight 2 takes all that, adds cooperative multiplayer and overland areas plus a slew of enhancements and fixes to the Torchlight mix. There are new takes on the old classes, new companion animals and a reworked system for those. Overland areas mean that the dungeon delving takes on new meaning and in many ways a lot of us prefer Torchlight 2 to Diablo 3.Diablo 3
It took Blizzard a long time to deliver this game and a lot of people felt it fell a bit short. We liked it though, we liked it quite a bit and it was great to venture back into the realms where Diablo haunted every shadow. The new character classes and combat system took a little bit of getting used to but the game itself was solid enough. The multiplayer and the auction house were fairly neat, however we're not really fans of 'always on' DRM - so Diablo 3 lost out a lot to Torchlight 2, because that game owns far more.
Guild Wars was OK, it wasn't anything amazing and it certainly didn't pull many folks away from WoW according to a lot of gamers. We really liked Guild Wars 2 though because it did a lot of things that truly rock. It has a better combat system than the previous game, it has a more robust world and the quests are impactful. The world itself isn't static and dynamic gameplay means you don't see the same thing happen twice. There are a lot of good character classes, the characters feel unique and the customisation is solid. All in all, it might not be a WoW-beater, but its right up there with games that are unique and offer something other than just the same-old-same old.Starhawk
The PS3 had an interesting entry to the third person genre this year. The makers of Warhawk brought us Starhawk, a game which allows you to Build & Battle, calling in soldiers, structures and upgrades on the fly whilst under duress. It works really well and the online play is pretty fun. There's a cooperative horde mode for some Build&Battle friend action as well as adversarial team-based multiplayer. It looks nice, has a Firefly/Serenity space-western feel and plays really well. The music is suitably impressive and the controls give a solid sense of feedback.
Ubisoft brought Ghost Recon back and provided us with a third person, high-tech offering that fell a little short of the original mark. It was no-where near as impressive as the E3 demo in some places but still managed to be a fun and engaging third person shooter. The multiplayer cooperative horde mode was solid enough and the adversarial was really quite good. What stands out is that Ubi made the game cooperative for up to 3 other players and with some nice tagging systems and controls it rapidly becomes a great tactical game when you replace the AI. Solid visuals support the gameplay and once again the storyline is typical of the genre.Journey
If there's a PS3 game of the year for us, and especially me, it's Journey. Journey is one of those games which may be short, but has an immense impact on everyone who plays it. It has beautiful music thanks to Austin Wintory and superb visuals which really draw you into the simple, yet fiendishly addictive gameplay. The story is sublime and the whole experience has affected people in many different ways. Key to Journey is the way it handles multiplayer, randomly assigning you companions as you travel through the levels. You'll never talk to them, only communicating with little symbols and sounds as you try to reach the end. Journey is a great case for the argument that Games are Art.
Early on when Bungie studios quit the Halo franchise many fans thought that was it and their beloved Master Chief would never be seen again. This is where the Halo crown has been truly passed on to the new studio - 343 Industries created an amazing Halo game which stands head and shoulders above the previous entries, has some of the most stunning graphics for the series and produced some pretty stunned reactions from us when we finally got to the end. Updated multiplayer, amazing Forge mode and more are packed into Halo 4. Spartan Ops is a superb cooperative stand-alone campaign for the game and you can still co-op with your friends. There's a bit of lag from now and then in co-op online but the game is so stunning and so well animated, we can forgive everything!Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Infinity Ward has lost their CoD crown at the moment to Treyarch. The multiplayer is fantastic for Black Ops 2 and the whole game oozes polish. This is the first CoD game we've really thoroughly enjoyed and the single player was a whirlwind of surprises which kept us guessing until the end. We also loved the way you can make impactful choices to the game and watch it all play out differently. Rather like Witcher 2 in that regard, your choices shape the end in a really big way. Characters live or die on your actions and events change the shape of the game, including the look of some characters. Visually it is showing its age a bit now but the gameplay is razor sharp and fun. It's definitely a worthy sequel to Black Ops and Zombie mode returns with even better gameplay.
First on PC and then moved to XBLA, Spelunky arrives with much improved graphics and a bunch of other things. The game has a lot of replay value though many of the levels can be completed in around a few minutes. It shares a lot of design to Roguelikes, going through the same stages and so on. The levels are randomly generated so you don't know what's coming and the game's hard, fiendishly hard in places - so unless you're an excellent badass, prepare to DIE a lot. Portals to later levels take some of the sting out of the tail, but still, no one likes to die that much unless they're playing Dark Souls.Resident Evil 6
4 character campaigns, 2 characters per campaign, cooperative gameplay returns along with zombies and other surprises. Resident Evil has changed and it's never going to go back to the ponderous ammo-scarce slow survival horror of the previous games. Resident Evil 6 is like someone gave Joss Whedon the helm and told him to direct the cut-scenes. There are some amazing set-piece moments and Samuel L Jackson comes to mind with a certain aircraft based mission, only its zombies, not snakes. Leon's campaign is the more survival horror based of the 4, with Chris' being a Call of Duty/Gears of War third person zombie shootfest. The game also features an RPG like skill system and a bunch of control changes, cover based shooting combined with a 'slow' move and shoot aim-method. All in all though, we liked Resident Evil 6 and it was a fun game.
It might be a generic 3rd person shooter, with cover and all the bells and whistles you might expect from the genre. However, it has stellar performances from Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) and Drake (Nolan North) creating a deep and emotive story, full of twists and turns which builds and bulds to a really solid climax. It had some forgettable multiplayer tacked on, and the true meat is in the single player and the story itself - having the whole thing set in Dubai during an apocalyptic sandstorm event is also fantastic - using the environment against your enemies and watching the battlefield alter as the sand comes crashing in, truly makes a mediocre kind of game into something cool. It's based on the story: Heart of Darkness and is worth a look.
In terms of characterisation, again, it's solid with Nolan North's character's squad changing (along with the main character) over the course of the game and developing beyond their original hard-man marine images... going from a tight tactical unit to something else.
So that's our (short haha) list for 2012. These aren't the top games, these are the games we really enjoyed and with so many Games of the Year from other sources, we decided this would be the best way forwards. A Game of the Year personally from me is Journey on the PS3, and Far Cry 3 in general for everything else.
Sorry Assassin's Creed 3, but you don't hold a candle to wing-suiting across a jungle and killing two guys from a big fall with a survival knife.
See you in 2013!