Compared to even an average year, 2012 was a desolate time for quality for video games. Compared to 2011 — after which I listed fifteen great games while still forgetting some (sorry, Witcher 2) and neglecting others (I’ll get there, Skyward Sword) — it was a complete wasteland. That said, here are the best titles I played released in 2012, ordered from less-best to best.
Yet To Be Played: Far Cry 3
I’ve heard good things about Ubisoft’s open-world sandbox game, but not yet enough to draw me in after wasting so many hours in the similar-looking Just Cause 2 and better sandbox games like inFamous and Skyrim. When it cheapens up, I might have a look.
Yet to Be Played: The Walking Dead
That’s misleading: I’ve played an hour of the five-part ‘interactive story’ and so far it seems pretty good, but the dryness of the cicada-filled Georgian backdrop rubs me the wrong way in the same vein as the TV show. I’m sure I’ll get through it eventually.
Number 6: Assassin’s Creed III
Thought slightly disappointing and not involving enough to enrapture me from start to finish (I’ve just got up to New York — about two-thirds through by my reckoning), AC is generally as fun as ever, despite the almost overwhelming amount of glitches. I suppose it just feels like a bit of a grind now, riding my horse or jumping over rooftops from point A to point B to stab someone. I’ve heard the ending is disappointing, but we’ll have to wait for my thoughts on that. As has been said elsewhere, though, the naval missions are fantastic, as well as the treasure-hunting action setpieces that take place in their own unique locations (i.e. when the game is closest to Uncharted).
Number 5: Journey
Journey is a great indie PS3 title and a pleasure from start to finish. While the few hours I put into it are easily worth the price, it doesn’t have the longevity to match the remaining games in this list. Heartily recommended, with the unique distinction of bringing me to tears at the end without a single word of dialogue throughout.
Number 4: Halo 4
It wasn’t easy putting Halo 4 here, but if I’m being honest, it just doesn’t have the same atmosphere of Reach and certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Halo 2 for blowing me away (oblique Halo 2 reference there). The new host of Forerunner weapons are welcome, and the campaign is enjoyable, though the ‘ancient metal’ environments do approach the sterility of the original’s in some places. The multiplayer is quite different, having taken a leaf out of Call of Duty‘s book in class organisation, though it can all be customised back to the Halo of yore. Forge has a new snap-to feature that is sure to be a big boon if I ever get into it. This makes it all the more mysterious as to why it just doesn’t feel as satisfying taking down an opponent. Maybe it’s the maps. I’m also not a huge fan of the Spartan Ops, especially as a replacement for the awesome Firefight.
Number 3: Mark of the Ninja
Originally an Xbox Arcade title, Mark of the Ninja eventually hit Steam and I wasn’t disappointed. The violent-cartoon art design, the flawless stealth mechanics, and diversity of strategies available make it a blast, and the story is more than servicable as well. The game is filled with extras and achievements to keep wannabe ninjas occupied for a long time.
Number 2: Dishonored
This was almost as easy a pick as the impending Number 1. Dishonored crafted a fascinating steampunk world full of whale-oil-powered technologies and delightfully corrupt characters, while offering a myriad of playstyles (ALL of which are fun, for once) and story consequences. I haven’t picked it back up after finishing my mostly-light-side stealth playthrough, but I’m looking forward to it. BioShock meets Deus Ex 3 indeed.
Number 1: Mass Effect 3
Was there any other possibility? ME3 concluded an unbelievably good trilogy in style. While at first slightly ‘disappointing’ in the same way as Uncharted 3 (in that it is marginally inferior when unfairly compared to its groundbreaking predecessor), ME3 eventually takes off with improved space exploration (stay away from me, Reapers!) and a handful of long, intense main missions alongside perfectly enjoyable side missions, all of which have (some would say overly) tangible effects on the mission to retake Earth at the game’s epic conclusion. Yes, the ending was originally a slap to the face of cosmic proportions, but my problems with it were rooted in its suddenness and lack of cutscene diversity rather than its logic or the story direction (I was, for example, fine with the Starchild). Consequently, the free Extended Cut DLC was right up my alley and restored an abysmal ending to a more than acceptable one — though the ‘Shepard indoctrination’ conspiracy theory would obviously have been even more incredible. I’ve head that the recent Leviathan DLC goes further in explaining the Reapers’ origins, which is good. In summary, ME3 barely stepped wrong, and I would consider it almost flawless up until a flawed but fine ending.
Revisiting 2011: Dark Souls
That was it for 2012, but strangely (or perhaps not, considering their sheer number) I have more to say about my top games of 2011. Specifically, Dark Souls, which I hadn’t played much at the time I published my list. Now that I’ve finished it, I can apologise to all and boost it the top of the list, on par with (though significantly different from) Batman: Arkham City. A truly remarkable game that harkens back to the days when you got more out of the game by looking up a guide while also exploiting today’s hardware capabilities in producing some truly stunning enemies and environments.
Ahead in 2013: Dead Space 3, BioShock Infinite, God of War: Ascension, and more
The first quarter of 2013 looks to be a lot more eventful than that of last year. DS3 looks like it could be hit or miss — EA is forcing the multiplayer components once more, with coop-only campaign segments in addition to the competitive multiplayer. Depending on the game’s reception and the importance of said multiplayer, I may need to switch consoles to one with free online. Similarly, I’d be happy picking up BioShock Infinite on PC if it’s just as good. I haven’t heard much about the new God of War, but they haven’t steered wrong yet, and I do love a game with epic bosses.
That’s all for 2012.