Top Ten Games of 2012: Sean Clayton’s Picks
2012 was a strange year for gaming; the strength of releases throughout the year meant to pool from which to pick favourite games got a lot tougher and the release of two new consoles brought an expanding library of content for people to sift through. 2013 looks to be another big year but lets not jump straight there yet! 2012 was also the year of surprises with numerous games coming out of left field and earning their place on my most enjoyed games of 2012!
10. MLB ’12: The Show (PS Vita)
Building this list it became more and more apparent that MLB ’12: The Show belonged somewhere; this game captures a sport I’ve been curious about for years but never actually sat down and spent much time with, it offers the basics willingly but instantly challenges you to do things better with intuitive controls and a solid learning curve this game kept me coming back time and time again, continually punishing myself with each inning as I would incessantly swing at stray baseballs!
While sports games are usually of little interest to those outside the immediate fan base it was a great joy getting to know the rules and regulations through challenges as well as a career mode that saw my first Pro stagnate in the amateur leagues so my second could learn from his mistakes and make it to the Bigs. Although not a simple game to learn or master MLB ’12: The Show makes every painful second worth it and the reward coming out is something great.
9. Trials Evolution (XBLA)
Building on a solid formula already established on the platform Trials Evolution went bigger and better with every single step it took. Stepping out of the warehouse setting of the original was a risky move but going absolutely insane with settings and level layouts caused some extremely hilarious, unscripted results that went unmatched throughout the year. Trials Evolution gives you pause as you approach a new obstacle and then continually beats you over the head until you walk away in frustration or jump for joy when you finally beat the insurmountable odds and make it to the end of the Extreme levels.
While the level editor held little interest for me I watched with glee as new levels hit every week from some extremely skilled designers from the strong community that had carried over from the first game. The community levels kept the game fresh and made going back a new experience every time.
8. Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360)
A game that isn’t without flaws but should be lauded for its efforts in stretching video game storytelling to its absolute limits and trying something different to all the other generic shooters that flood the market in the modern era. Flaws in gameplay kept Spec Ops from being a perfect experience but if you were savvy enough to knock the difficulty down to its lowest and simply enjoy the story then you were in for something akin to a Hollywood blockbuster that tells a heart wrenching tale of a squad lost and alone trying to make sense out of all that’s going on around them. The late game twist provides some extremely good jaw dropping moments and allows a second play through to discover the flip side of everything that has happened to the special forces team throughout the game. Spec Ops didn’t overstay its welcome and traded on its story rather than gameplay to truly earn its place on this list.
Mark of the Ninja perfected something that many games before it had failed; the stealth mechanic was intuitive and extremely effective in this 2D world that followed a lone ninja as he set about to avenge his clan. While easily shrugged off as a 2D action side-scroller, Mark of the Ninja offered far more depth to players willing to invest the time and effort into the stealth and combat sections while levelling up their characters to a point where any enemy became a simple nuisance – a fly on the windscreen – as you ducked and rolled through vents to destroy the unaware guard before he could even consider setting off any alarms.
The story became secondary, a trivial plot that felt like something more from a 90s action movie that complemented the classic gameplay style and 2D art rather well; the cut scenes offered some fun and over the top voice acting but the appeal of Mark of the Ninja went beyond these gimmicks and so felt more like a disservice than anything else but didn’t truly detract from the core game enough to put you off.
6. Dragons Dogma (Xbox 360)
Although I’ve still yet to plow through the entirety of Dragons Dogma I have played enough hours to know it’s a truly epic RPG that all should experience. It feels as if it’s straddling a line between the Dark Souls and the Dragon Age games that it flits back and forth freely; the entire game is made up of a single drive and although full of the usual RPG trappings and fetch quests adds interesting dynamics into the mix for you to truly recognise it as something different and unique. The party system allows you to micromanage the people you surround yourself with in a very quick and easy way and this leads to combat changing very quickly during the fight and allowing you to switch up tactics on an enemy to survive their onslaught.
Although it’s Eastern routes will put off a lot of players I think it’s Westernised enough to have a much larger following than it has had up until this point.
5. Fez (XBLA)
Absolutely mindboggling is about the only two words that truly put down how I feel about Fez. With a crazy storyline this 2D puzzler completely captures your imagination and draws you into this once linear-land and imbues you with the power to rotate the world. The puzzles are intricate and it took months for the internet to truly learn all it could from the world of Fez and still to this day I consider it a great piece of storytelling wrapped in such simplistic trappings.
With a long and near destructive development cycle it was always going to be tough for Fez to live up to the hype and pressure put on it by mainstream media as it became somewhat of an indie darling before even gracing digital shelves around the world. Fez brought people together on message boards and forums like no other game in recent memory and reminded me of the days when I first started playing video games and huddled around with my friends as we discussed the different paths in Super Mario World. Whether nostalgia or simple enjoyment Fez was an unmissable experience this year.
4. Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360)
Far Cry 3 had a lot to live up too as its predecessor was one of my favourite games a few years ago and boy did this game kick it up a notch! While the story is disjointed and nonsensical it didn’t detract from the experience of trekking over a beautiful and large landscape using boats, cars and quads (And hand glider sometimes too!) to complete all kinds of missions and objectives. Far Cry 3 added animals and that means it also added hunting; although this usually means frivolous rewards for the time you spend finding the animal you need Far Cry 3 found a way to tie these hunting missions into your upgrade path so perfectly that you didn’t mind the long walks through the jungle to hack away at a lonesome Deer.
Although the story needs to be taken with a pinch of salt – and definitely needs to take itself less seriously – there’s so much to do that story missions are a minor factor in your time with the game that it’s hard to punish it too much for these missteps. Most of your time will be spent spotting enemy camps, making your way completely around them and finding the stealthiest, most deadly approach to completely destroy those who stand in your way. Far Cry 3 feels hard-hitting and brutal with its combat and leaves you extremely satisfied when you walk away. Truly, the best moments of Far Cry 3 are the unscripted craziness you witness when travelling across the island.
3. FTL (PC)
A roguelike set aboard a spaceship that has hints of a management sim? Yup, I knew going in this was going to eat up absolutely eons of my time this year and it did just that! While breaking the traditional mold and having you simply control the movements in your ship FTL offered some extremely rewarding gameplay that could suck you in for hours at a time. The game focuses on you managing your power output and crew to a level where minor efficiency drops can mean the difference between defeat and victory; if fire takes over too much of your ship and knocks out systems you’ll strand your crew away from vital repairs or allow an enemy boarding party to infiltrate your ship without you noticing because they knocked out your sensors.
Every playthrough is different and the simple nature of the design and gameplay means learning strategy is easy but mastering the minutiae takes hours and days of guessing and hair pulling to truly become the great ship Captain that took down the Rebel Carrier.
2. The Walking Dead (PC)
What can I say? The Walking Dead streamlines the adventure game trappings in favour of keeping a solid pace with its developing narrative. Telling the story of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, The Walking Dead takes the base set out by the comics and goes out of its way to tell something completely different within the same world. While it’s true, most of the tropes of a zombie apocalypse make an appearance they are handled with true care through the experience without standing upon trickery or gimmicks. While the ending lacks the finality and wrap up that I craved and comes down to a simple Mcguffin it doesn’t detract from the experience as a whole. THe true brilliance is the subtlety with which the characters are grown throughout the five-episode arc and the emotion that it instills within you when one of these characters are threatened or, inevitably, killed. I had more emotional response to this game than any I’ve had in recent memory and that not only made it tough to watch as the final scene played out but also unsure of what I wanted or needed as closure from the season.
1. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (PC)
While narrative can be super important within a game so can the freedom to write your own story. XCOM: Enemy Unknown provides this outlet; while the story arc of saving the world is something everyone will understand it is the story of your XCOM command that is what will matter to you, those who live and die, who grow and are sent on suicide missions. You feel like the commander and it becomes as empowering as it sounds as your young squad grow from this small team heading into the unknown to the most badass squad in the galaxy. The connection with your team is excellent and the ability to name them completely changes your attachment.
The combat is something solid and unmatched within the RTS genre and provides a casual experience that constantly challenges you to be better and to improve with each mission while the outside metagame often punishes you for minor mistakes as you watch funding for your command dwindle away to nothing and your efforts in combat come to nothing.