Games Xtreme's The Games of 2012
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 2
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.
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.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
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.
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.
Spec Ops: The Line
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!