It’s here! Another goddamn ‘Best Of The Year’ list is here! Can you feel that false excitement?! Because I can!
Usually when Brutuxan does these lists he prefers to go outside the realm of, um, boredom. Like for example, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a ‘Top 10 Best Nabisco Products of 2012’ list?! It would, but unfortunately those tend to not grab the most viewers. Hence why I’m doing a ‘Best of the Year’ list for videogames! Keep in mind though, I haven’t played every major game this year, which is why this list is going to look a ‘wee’ short.
Anyway, 2012 seemed like to many as the ‘leftover year for gaming’ or the ‘unnecessary year gap transition to next gen’. I thought that same way too, until just a few weeks ago when I just finally wrapped up ‘Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Episode 5′. It was then I realized that this truly was the year of great writing in videogames, and not only that, but it also was kind of a throwback year in terms of dusting off old genre’s. ‘XCOM: Enemy Unknown‘ was a big hit with critics and brought back turn-based strategy games, ‘The Walking Dead‘ brought back that old-school adventure game genre, and PC games were starting to make a comeback as well with a new free-to-play model. While this year may have lacked with an abundance of fantastic titles, it made up for with ‘variety’ and ‘uniqueness’.
How am I going to demonstrate this ‘fact’? By putting up my best of the year in specific categories! It is a prestigous honor to showcase the…
“I spent only $5 on this entire set! Font included!“
Best Character of the Year Who Wore A Hat Award:
Folks it is an honor to crown ‘Gomez’ as the ‘Best Character of the Year Who Wore A Hat’, simply for the reason of…look at him.
Not only that, but Gomez was in one of the best games of the year that also happens to be the name of his hat, ‘Fez‘. You see folks, ‘Fez‘ is about a town of white people who don’t like change and prefer to keep it that way, that is until an awesome Latino individual, Gomez, decides to attain responsibility of ‘The Fez’. This not only changes Gomez’s perspective on the world, but it also crashes the game…literally. Like you have to start the game up again, but once you do, you get this awesome hat and get to see the world in 3D (along with the prejudices against cubes)! Thus Gomez is sent on a journey to collect these golden cube-things with the help of another colorful cube who seems to have dropped in from another adventure game, can’t remember which one though.
Here’s what the game doesn’t tell you, where to find all these cubes and the abundance of knowledge you must gain before you complete some of these challenges. You have to learn an entirely made-up language just to find a good majority of these cubes, not even kidding. Also I don’t know if it’s just me, but there seems to be some pretty sinister undertones going on in this game. Granted you’re not gonna find two cubes giving each other head in the sewer level, but it’s evident that those tones are there in certain parts of the game.
So it is a pleasure to hand this award to Gomez, may your acid trips take you to a higher place.
Well, It’s The Effort That Counts Award:
We went through a lot ‘Mass Effect‘ , didn’t we? We started out as the ‘best’ of best friends, sometimes I would take you out to go see a movie, but most of the time you gave me cool swag like the complete ‘007 boxset‘. But then you revealed to be part of the Westboro Baptist Church, and we weren’t friends anymore. Except in this case you…just gave me a really crappy and convoluted conclusion.
I’m not gonna lie, this would have been my ‘Game of the Year’ if they would have just ‘tweaked’ some few things. And when I mean tweak, I mean change the shit out of that ending! But I digress, there’s a reason why ‘Mass Effect 3‘ got the ‘Well, It’s The Effort That Counts Award’ because the team at Edmonton definitely showed a ton of appreciation for the fans in terms of incorporating a lot of care into this game. If only they did that for the ending…okay, I’ll stop right there, I’m done talking about the ending!
Let me start off with the positive aspects about this game. The combat flows very nicely in 3, allowing you to roll and change cover in an instant. Weapon upgrades are a blast, allowing you to customize an assault rifle with either a ‘sight and a reload boost’ or a ‘armor penetration device and a shotgun blade’. Speaking of customization, there’s a lot more armor pieces you get to collect as you progress through the game, some of which are actually really cool.
I will admit that the character moments in this game lived up to my expectations. There are even a few scenes in the game that got me a little choked up, and some that had me going “hell yeah!” Also with the Extended Cut, for me personally, I feel like they repaired enough of my issues of the ending to where it actually came back to resolving Shepard’s story (for better or for worse). In fact the ‘Extended Cut’ is the reason why this game wound up on my list, because without this the game would have just been an ‘honorable mention’.
So ‘Mass Effect 3‘, don’t take this award as simply a petty giveaway. Think of it as sort of a ‘new beginning’…except with disregard to that ending. Because I think that might work.
The ‘This Is F**ked up!’ Award:
I never would have thought that another 3rd-person shooter would have wound up on this list, but it did, and for good reason too. You see ‘Spec Ops: The Line‘ is like watching someone you care about getting mentally damaged, but it’s okay because at the end you both get ice-cream…filled with shame and despair. That’s what ‘Spec Ops: The Line‘ feels like, an ice cream cone filled with shame and despair. However that is in no way a bad thing, since that is just the nature of the game itself.
I already talked about this at length in my review, but let me phrase it up real quickly by saying this is a game with an actual ‘story’ to tell. Notice how I put quotation marks around the ‘story’ part, simply because it doesn’t bullshit around with the subject matter. This is one, well, another one of those cases where I can forgive the lack of gameplay in place for proper writing and character development. And I can’t believe I just muttered those words.
Anyway you deserved this award ‘Spec Ops: The Line‘, because I thank you for questioning my existence on this planet. My insignificant and meek existence…
Obligatory “Don’t Stop Believing” Award:
I rarely have a personal connection to a game, sometimes I either remember that one guy who gave me that super-awesome gun or the one time I did a total ‘Dukes of Hazard‘ over the empire state building. Those kind of connections, but this game on the other hand made me have sentimental feelings. That is a rough feat for this lizardy fellow right here, but it’s true that ‘Journey‘ is a game that touches those heart strings.
And it does it without any dialogue, but through imagery and sound. The reason why I consider this game to be well written is because of those reasons I just mentioned, plus the fact that it has a message that not only was inserted subtly into the game, but also made me think! Everything in this game is gorgeous, ranging from the sand physics to just the character itself. Another thing, because of it’s time span it doesn’t meander a lot with a bunch of sidequests that usually detract from the main quest in some bigger games. This game tells its story in the most natural and simplistic way, without bogging it down in clumsy dialogue or shallow characters (I’m looking at you ‘Heavy Rain‘). It’s a very immsersive game that anyone can play, which I think is a special thing to see nowadays.
So while I wasn’t able to make as many 80’s pop rock jokes as I wanted, I am not stopping you ‘Journey‘ from accepting this reward. Just don’t leave any sand trails in the studio is all I’m asking, I got enough problems to worry about.
The Giant Robot T-Rex Award:
It’s a magical thing that happens every now and then, it usually starts out with a series of products that was treated without any care and was put out for financial purposes only. But then in due time, we receive something that was treated with care and attention. This is where ‘Transformers: Fall of Cybertron‘ comes in, and man did it deliver. There was not one boring moment in the entirety of the campaign. Each character has their moment, and what’s even better is that each set piece feels unique and different than the previous. Of course I may be biased since I do have a thing for giant robots, however let me be clear that this is in no way some shoved-out trite.
High Moon Studios actually took the time to expand the universe and mythology, but doing it in a way that doesn’t upset the fans. Gameplay-wise, the vehicle and robot forms are implemented very well and are both equally useful. Multiplayer has a pretty cool component, allowing you to customize your own Transformer with a set of color tones and parts (plus no online pass in needed). Although most importantly of all, you get to play as a robot T-rex that shoots flames from its mouth. If that is not ‘Best of the Year’ material then I don’t know squat!
And for that ‘Fall of Cyberton‘, I award you with the ‘Giant Robot T-Rex award’. May Primus bless you.
The ‘This Is Even More F**ked up!’ Award:
This is in no stretch a ‘who can make me the most depressed’ competition between ‘Spec Ops: The Line’ and ‘Telltale’s The Walking Dead‘. But I will say while ‘Spec Ops: The Line‘ can be incredibly dark, Walking Dead is even worse. My reason for that is because, and this just goes to show how great the writing is, each episode is filled with so much suspense that by the end of each episode you’re left with a very dark resolution. Especially by episode 3 where things go off the goddamn handle, and it’s also the episode where the game shows its heart. It’s strange when you look at a game like this and think how this could possibly be that depressing when the artstyle looks cartoonish, but turns out that the artstyle only adds more dread to the game.
There’s this argument going on right now about why people don’t consider this an actual ‘game’, and to some degree I definitely can see their argument. However for me, what it comes down to is if it can immerse you into that mainframe (or in more artsy terms, ‘world’) and if there is some form of interaction that flows well within the game. Sure it’s always good to have gameplay, I’m a definite proprietor of that, it’s just sometimes there are exceptions. What makes ‘The Walking Dead‘ exception is how it integrates dialogue trees and does have some puzzles/actions that do keep you involved in the game. Most importantly it’s actually well written, and it has one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a videogame.
‘Walking Dead‘, your genre may be limping along, but you sure do keep it on a very lean diet. Here’s your award, and please don’t bite my hand off.
Brut Game of the Year Because He Was Too Lazy To Write A Creative Title Award:
There comes a time in my life folks where, shooting shit just becomes boring. Like literally how many aliens/mutants/thugs/brown skinned people do I have to keep shooting at? Now with ‘XCOM‘, sure I am shooting aliens, but I’m shooting aliens in a turn-based strategy game! Okay I may not be selling you on this game, basically all you need to know about ‘XCOM‘ is that’s its a strategy game that works exceptionally well on consoles.
Another thing you need to know? It’s really hard. In fact Firaxis had to release a patch to make the easy mode ‘easier’, let that sink in your head for a bit. So if you want a challenge, this is definitely a game you need to pick up.
However what makes ‘XCOM: Enemy Unknown‘ my pick of the year? Well for one thing, I always strive for games that have ‘decisions’ and ‘non-linear progression’, ‘XCOM‘ nails that. In fact your first level after beating the tutorial is gonna be different every time you start up a new one. The ant-farm facility helps break up the gameplay segments by offering research facilities, deploying satellites, and a lot of other neat things that help build up your squad. All of these things plus the difficulty add up to just a great experience that I love coming back to every time I boot up my console.
‘XCOM: Enemy Unknown‘, if you were a woman then I’d give you the largest ring I could find. Well, okay maybe just a silver ring…or a bronze ring…how about a night out at Applebee’s? Well it doesn’t matter because you are my game of the year!
Now let me explain before you tear down this entire blog, I think this is probably one of the most creative MMO’s I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t get the wrong idea here though, it’s not a straightforward MMO that has incredibly complex mechanics. However what it does excel in is breaking the mold by including a turn-based combat system. Along with a cool sky-pirate theme and a ton of really cool art designs. If you have a kid or just want to get into something that doesn’t involve killing sharks or scanning planets, then this is the game for you.
‘Pirate 101‘ is definitely ARG-right in my books! Yep.
Best Horror Experience:
What started out as a mod, wound up becoming a popular event and sky-rocketed a very pale dude in a suit into pop culture. The game of course here is ‘Slender‘, and while usually small titles like this would probably be skipped over in favor of much, eh, bigger titles, I think this game should get the credit it deserves. I know horror is a subjective genre, and I even know certain people who didn’t find this game scary. But to me, I have rarely found a game that was filled to the brim with ‘pure horror’ or even just ‘anxiety’.
Like ‘Amnesia‘ for example, it’s a fun game, but in a ‘set-up haunted house’ sort of way. Yes there are some few chilling moments, but they’re brief and sometimes can wind up being a bit silly. With ‘Slender‘ on the other hand, it doesn’t have the most polished graphics, but that’s a part of what makes it great. It tells you very little about what’s going on, other than you need to collect 8 notes. The audio in this game is incredible and serves the game exceptionally well in creating that atmosphere. Plus the idea of a monster that ‘kills’ people when you look at it is a great idea that I wish certain studios would take note on.
Whether you agree or not, ‘Slender‘ is a game that deserves to be the blueprint when it comes to specific horror videogames. And that is why you shall receive your reward Slender-Man, although could you please put a bag over your head?
And that’s my list, but before I end this I want to make to clarify my point here a little further. People have been saying that this year has been forgettable, that spring 2013 is where all the triple-A titles are coming out and that there’s nothing to salvage from 2012. While that is true that there are more grander games coming out in spring 2013, I think it’s incredibly unfair to judge 2012 as just a ‘forgettable’ year. Simply because of one thing that I’ve seen missing a lot in the past, good writing. Granted I don’t mind this so long as I get solid gameplay, but for some developers they want to make a game that involves ‘storytelling’.
Sure there are exceptions such as ‘Mass Effect‘ and ‘Portal‘, but for the most part I have seen games that have had either hokey, awkward, or just flat-out cheesy dialogue. Or in certain cases I have seen games rip-off stories from much better written movies or books, doesn’t make them bad games at all, but that doesn’t make it a ‘good story’ if you’re just copying and pasting from stuff you love.
Enter 2012 where we got ‘Spec Ops: The Line‘, ‘The Walking Dead‘, and ‘Journey‘. Three games that don’t linger around on stupidity or cliches, and one that doesn’t even have any dialogue at all. These games have proved to me that we actually can have intelligent, deep, and heart-wrenching scripts in videogames. For the longest time, I hated using the term ‘storytelling’ when it came to videogames, and I still do! But 2012 did prove to me that videogames can be taken seriously at times, just like with any other medium. Sure you can present a case for anything, but it’s all about how much proof you have before you present your case to the jury…or whatever confusing metaphor works in this case.
So don’t label 2012 as simply a ‘Year in Boredom’, label it as a ‘Year in Writing’. Or the year in which Usher took over the Microsoft press conference at E3, make your choice!
Alright well that’s it for now, I’ll probably be going into hibernation for a while so that I can catch up on certain games and prep myself for the stampede of 2013 spring titles. It’s gonna be messy, but until then check out my ‘best of’ lists for both ‘Albums‘ and ‘Videogame Scores‘. I hope you enjoy the read, and Happy Holidays ya’ crazy people!