Sunday, December 30, 2012

Luke's Top Ten Favourite Video Games of 2012!

It's that time of the year again when we, like every other frigging site out there, obediently pump out our obligatory Best of the Year lists for you to disdainfully roll your dull eyes at. DOESN'T THAT SOUND LIKE FUN!?

Actually it IS a hell of a lot of fun, which is why we're still excited to do it and why you've managed to read this far! And to reward your tenacity I am kicking things off with my Favourite 10 Video Games of 2012! 

Are they without a doubt the absolute best games made this year? Well... I'll do all the usual disclaimers (and provide you with the full list)... after the jump!

So it's, of course, impossible to play every single game released and I don't pretend to be the arbiter of what makes a game great. But these are certainly the games that had the most impact for me personally this year and ate up the most of my rapidly-decreasing-in-value time.

And before we get too hot and heavy, here are some big releases that I didn't get to play:

Far Cry 3 (Although it is now at the top of my wishlist).
The Walking Dead (Because the pussy censors won't release it in Australia).
Black Ops II (Because I wasn't desperate for another Call of Duty).
Assassin's Creed III (Because I heard that it was shit).
Anything on the Wii. (Because the Wii is for babies and cats).

And I did want to make one other special mention. Just moments before writing this I had the immense pleasure of discovering, playing and completing Journey from the Playstation Network. It's a $20, two hour downloadable game that doesn't sit too comfortably on this list but is a beautifully haunting, highly atmospheric experience that I would heartily recommend to anyone with the means to play it. The innovative multiplayer helps craft a whole host of unexpected emotions and I totally wanted to hug someone by the end of it. Grab it.

And now that awkwardness is out of the way, I give you...


10. Torchlight II
This was by far the most contentious spot on my list as there was a slew of games that could have neatly slotted in here. I almost gave it to Blizzard's long awaited, but ultimately wearying, Diablo III, but it was Torchlight that proved to be brighter and more fun, especially when knocking the crap out of mythical creatures with friends. So I've conceded and traded Diablo's many demons for a lady berserker with a ferret as a pet.

Time factors meant that I've not nearly played enough of this as I should, but I have the constant urge to go back, plus I feel that Torchlight 2 should be rewarded for standing in front of the unstoppable juggernaut that is Blizzard and coming up on top. If you have the insatiable desire to go crawling through a dungeon, earning far more sparkly loot than you can possibly ever carry, then this is probably your game.

9. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale
Pitting together major players from a shit-ton of franchises this game attracts the obvious comparisons to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros, but that becomes less apparent once you scratch through the surface. PASBR (as I'm sure no one is calling it) is a surprisingly deep fighter with distinct mechanics and enough innovation to feel fresh.

Admittedly I have trouble engaging with most fighting games but was very compelled by the weird roster (Nathan Drake and Bioshock's Big Daddy versus Parappa the Rapper and Fat Princess?!) and the move sets are creative, accessible and fun. For example, Kratos alone has an arsenal of weapons (including his chains, a giant hammer, various supernatural artefacts and a flaming bow) all of which even a novice can readily activate by simply combining a direction and one of the three attack buttons. Sack Boy creates objects out of thin air. Fat Princess' tier two special move involves her riding a giant malevolent chicken. It's a welcome mix of slick fighting and a strong sense of humour. You can feel the passion that was poured into this game.

8. Borderlands 2
A vast improvement on the already much-loved original, Borderlands 2 grabbed me from the overly bombastic opening titles. Everything here feels stylish and amplified from the vast, vibrant world, to the cast of quirky characters. Combine this with plenty of solid, frantic, first person shooting and there's a lot on offer to love. Plus it added the word "bonerfart" to the lexicon.

Engaging enough alone, but even better with friends, it's a game I'd sink far more time into if it didn't make my stupid computer overheat. Should have bought this one on one of the consoles. Another game that I really need to get back to.

7. Mists of Pandaria
The introduction of pandas caused a lot of Internet angst but, let's be honest, it could have been giant squids with dicks for horns at this point and it wouldn't have made a difference. You either play Warcraft or you don't, and for many of us that do (even though I mostly only play during a new expansion) the lure of continuing to level up our primary characters - this time in faux ancient China - was too strong an urge to resist. Okay, so you don't like pandas, but do you like RIDING ON DRAGONS? HOW ABOUT PUNCHING MONKEYS IN THE FACE? Exactly.

The new continent was stunning, with a never a shortage of things to do, and it was enough to bring me back for another round. Again, this is far, far better with friends and we managed to have a blast tearing up each other's critters with just the new pet battles alone. Warcraft, at least in its current form, should probably be breathing its final breaths, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I still managed to squeeze out a bit more fun.

6. Hitman Absolution
I'm a newcomer to the Hitman games, and I hear that this one necessarily sit too well with all long-term fans of the franchise, but it's mix of irreverence and innovative violence hooked me in. There's nothing quite as fun as sabotaging some outdoor wires so that somebody takes a lethal electric piss, or climbing up the side of a building and stealth throwing a gas bottle on a busy barbecue party. The visuals were, at times, breath-taking and there was a pleasantly surprising variety in the environments. I didn't always love the story but I did like the ways in which I was integrated into the storytelling.

I've never thought myself a fan of the stealth mechanic but there are two games on this list this year that changed my mind. After so many run and shoot games it's refreshing and rewarding to eliminate your target without being spotted. But it's also sometimes rewarding to knock out a security guard at a strip club, put on his STAFF shirt, and get up on stage with the strippers.

5. Scribblenauts Unlimited
What's this!? A 3DS game?! Unbelievable, I know, but I adore the unbridled creativity of Scribblenauts. Blessed with the ability to manifest just about anything you can think of, you get out of this game exactly what you put into it. In my case that was a flying moustache, a rideable hipster centaur and a hovercraft made out of cheese. Maxwell now has a magic backpack where you can store your favourite items you create, which in my case also included a dirty flying toilet that occasionally farts.

No longer a series of puzzle levels, this new game has a large segmented world with plenty of areas to explore and strange people to help. I stopped computer piracy on a pirate ship by setting alight a hacker and his computer. According to the game that was a valid response. I also had a great time pouring manure on people. As I said, this game is as good as you want it to be. 

4. Guild Wars 2
Warcraft is a mainstay, but the real MMO innovation came from the instantly enjoyable Guild Wars 2 which effortlessly eliminated subscription fees and made working with strangers actually enjoyable and mutually beneficial through shared experience and world events. Easily the most social of role-playing games it felt like there were no real entry barriers - even the noobiest noob could chip in alongside experienced players. 

My only criticism is that, thanks to all this help, I was levelling up far too fast and was eventually running out of new things to do that were of an appropriate level. But out of all the MMO's I tried this year (and there were a few) Guild Wars 2 definitely made the biggest impact.

3. Dishonored
This new IP had me more invested in stealth games than ever as I became obsessed with slinking through this strange dystopian world and subduing my foes without leaving a trace. Of course, it seldom worked out like that and I unwittingly created all sorts of death and chaos, including killing my boatman who was then unceremoniously eaten by fish.

A clever mix of Bioshock and Assassin's Creed, the real reason that this makes my top three (and the same goes for the two that follow it) simply boils down to my level of investment. These are the games that engrossed me from the moment I started playing to the closing credits. I was invested in the characters, their stories, and the outcome.

2. XCOM Enemy Unknown
So why I was invested in the nondescript "characters" in this turn-based strategy game? Because they were MY characters that I customised, and named, and levelled up from mere rookies to alien ass-kickers. Do aliens even have asses? They didn't after my team was through with them. I played this game solidly for days and every time one of my beloved squad was killed I cheated and did a reload. (Unless it was some shitty rookie that was subbing in because one of my doods was in the hospital). You look at that box art and see faceless silhouettes. But I see British assault expert Alfie "Chav" Egganchips, heavy weapons expert Jesus "Cheesus" Doritos, and sassy sniper Abby Baps.

This game flew under my radar on release but once I finally heard enough about it to get my hands on it I was instantaneously hooked. Turn-based strategy may even have become my genre of choice. I should have been a military commander! Seriously! Trust me! I'll only accidentally kill off the people I don't like!

1. Mass Effect 3
The ending upset people. It kind of upset me a little too but only because I was insanely invested in my (female) Commander Shepherd and her ongoing epic story. Surrounded by characters that I had hand-chosen and accompanied on many, many a mission this was an emotionally draining final episode as the vice slowly closed around an entire universe. The decisions were gut-wrenching.

I love just about every piece of this game: the design, the characters, the dialogue, the music. If I didn't love the ending it was only because I didn't want it to end. A classic.

And so...
I think that 2011 was a better year overall, but 2012 had its handful of gems. My biggest disappointment this year was that the big releases felt few and far between, and one of my most anticipated games, Bioshock Infinite, was pushed to 2013. With fewer bigger titles I found myself playing more throwaway licensed games to get my fix. And there was some genuine fun to be had there. I want to give a quick shout out to The Amazing Spider-Man, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, and Lego Lord of the Rings, all of which grabbed me for the time it took to play them.

And I didn't get too deep into them but enjoyed my time playing the following MMORPGs: Tera, and The Secret World. And Planetside 2 would be great if I knew how to play it!

What were your favourites this year? Really? God, that's terrible.

Tomorrow will be my ten favourite films!


  1. I'm onboard with everything you say here - especially Mass Effect 3 as the best game of 2012 - except for Hitman: Absolution. I can't tell you if that is really a good game or not because I was hit by a game-breaking bug about halfway through that deleted my save game, and I haven't touched it again since. It was a really common glitch in the first couple of weeks of release and I have no idea if they've fixed it, but man oh man, there's nothing worse in a game. Nothing worse.

  2. Going to back up the Journey recommendation. It was like living in a Miyazaki film. Absolutely magical and truly innovative.

    ME3 was also my favorite of the year in spite of/because of the devastating end sequence. I was SO INVESTED by that point that the credits rolled and I was sobbing loudly and hysterically. A game has never done that to me before, never. Oh god my beloved Garrus