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My 2012 in gaming

So yeah, this is going to be another one of those "End of the year blogs". However, I found it really difficult to sum it up in one or even two "Top 10" Lists. I know there are still people out there who view 2012 as a giant disappointment in gaming...I don't think these people have touched anything gaming-related in 2012 with a ten-feet pole. Every genre had highlights...even obscure japanese dating sims are said to have one of the best written games out there in years with Katawa Shoujo. It's also freeware, so maybe I'm gonna check it out sometime if only for curiosity how they made a dating sim about a boy dating disabled girls and NOT be awkward or offensive to disabled people in general.

But back to topic. I just made a list and some titles really didn't fit onto the list but stand out in some way, so I'm gonna give out some special awards, before hitting the obligatory lists.


Before I forget, let's get this out of the way: I'm a person with limited amounts of these two things: time and money. If you don't find your favourite game mentioned on here, chances are that I haven't played it YET. Also, I only recently got myself a PS3 and used it, to play the games that I really bought it for...the Uncharted Series and Heavy Rain that is, so please forgive me for the lack of Playstation exclusives on here. Playstation Vita games won't be on here, since I sadly don't happen to have one. In addition I also played some games from recent years I haven't played yet (like the excellent Darksiders) pr wanted to recap (Mass Effect 1 & 2).Here is a list of games from 2012 I have yet to play and definitely am going to play at some point (in no particular order). Again: it's not for fanboyism or anything but a lack of time and money...or both.: Tokyo Jungle, Black Knight Sword, Lollipop Chainsaw, Syndicate, Hell Yeah - Wrath of the dead rabbit, X-Com - Enemy Unknown, THe Darkness 2, Binary Domain, Thomas was alone, Dear Esther, Home, Anna, Resident Evil - Operation Raccoon City (for completionist reasons only), Legends of Grimrock, Sniper Elite v2, Ghost Recon - Future Soldier, Dragon's Dogma, Papo & Yo, Persona 4 Golden, Zero Escape - Virtue's Last Reward, Halo 4, Yakuza - Dead Souls, Hitman Absolution, Paper Mario Sticker Star, Thirty FLights of Loving, Madden 13 (YES, I'm a sucker for Football, YES, I love managing my team and giving my beloved Cardinals Franchise the success it's not really having right now...now git off ma lawn).

So on we go to the gaming year 2012:


With the arrival of downloadable games we got the great possibility of being able to relive some of the classics of days (more or less) past. Most of these games are well known so I'm not going to lose that many words about them, just some words about how they are ported and whether they stood the test of time.

Guardian Heroes (XBLA):

Tell me what you want: Sega got it right. The port of this overlooked Sega Saturn gem (ah...now I realize, why it's overlooked) is how it should be done. Reworked Soundtrack, Sounds and Cutscenes that nevertheless are true to the original; graphics are available in HD or the classic look (which holds up surprisingly nice) and the gameplay is nice, especially in Couch Coop. Has everything you wish for and more. Give it a try.

Toejam & Earl (XBLA):

Sega again...and they tricked me. I thought I was getting TJ&E for my points, but nope: despite not mentioning it, it's part 1 AND 2 of the wacky duo's adventures. Both play vastly different and are VEEEEEEERY 90s but if you happen to come from that time (like me) or have a genuine love for that period of time (like noone ever), you'll fall in love. The first one in particular is still somewhat unique. If you don't happen to know it: a rogue-like level crawler, where as one of two funky Aliens from the planet Funkotron you are trying to collect the parts of your downed ship. You collect presents that contain random stuff. Sometimes good and whacky, sometimes bad (and whacky).
Holds up and holds value since the world is randomized and the presents shufle every startup. Grab a buddy and get ready to get back to Funkotron.

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (XBox360, PS3, PS Vita):

Well...Konami and their HD collections. This one here is one of the better examples. The graphics and effects got some rework and MGS3 is on there in the Subsistence-Version, so yeah.
However, I still don't really get, how they can call it collection if it happens to have the entirety of three games on there...in a franchise that has 10 games in it. So yeah if you want to play MGS 2 and the excellent 3 again and always wanted to know what Peace Walker would look like in HD get it when it's on sale. Otherwise I can't really recommend it, especially since MGS2 hasn't aged that well.

Most Innovative:

Sound Shapes (PSN):

Dammit, this one took me off-guard. Innovation is often used but nearly never executed in...well...innovative ways (it's especially funny, when EA used that word to promote MoH: Warfighter). Not so Sound Shapes. It flawlessly blends the intuitive Handling of a Step Sequencer with surprisingly good Platformer elements to create something that's insanely creative without abandoning gameplay elements at all (something, SUDA51 games sometimes do). It is hard to describe until you play it yourself. Having the blueprint of a song and using your character to unlock more and more notes and beats to it is really a thing of beauty and can be soothing and challenging at the same time. The minimalistic visuals are as fitting as welcome, as is the soundtrack which features original pieces, but also tracks made by Artists like Beck or Deadmau5. To top it all off, they included an editor that is easy to use while never feeling limited. If you want to play something truly original, are a sucker for electronic music, love games where you can build levels or all of those points combined: don't hesitate. Get it. Nao...

Best Dragonball-Episode never aired:

Asura's Wrath (XBox360, PS3):

What can you say about this game, that hasn't been said before. It is loud, it is stupid, it is obnoxious and it is just tons of fun. The game mechanics can really be a bit on the short side sometimes, but what you get in return is definitely worth it. The boss fights are so ridiculously presented and so many of the set pieces are simply breathtaking that you tend to forget, how simple it is, that you do: Arena Fight, QTE, Cutscene, QTE, Arena Fight, QTE, End of Episode. But come on...when you are flying through space, blasting giant mutant-elephant carriers out of the air, push the Finger of planet-sized god around or get. Stabbed. From. Planet. To. Planet.....who fucking cares? Oh, the soundtrack is excellent, mixing classical elements with japanese folklore, spaghetti-western-style music and rock...and Antonin Dvorak's Symphony of the new world never gets old either way. Don't have time for it? Okay...

Top 7 Indie Games:

This year marked finally marked it: you finally can't call every downloadable-only title "Indie". I simply refuse calling games like "The Walking Dead" or "Journey" Indie with the production values in and behind it (despite the fact that they are easily accessible without long search for millions of customers). So I'm gonna part Indie Games from the rest of the bunch. Sadly I haven't found the time to play all of the Indie Games this year I wanted, so here's the Top 7. These games all deserve your support and your money.

#7: Universe Sandbox (PC):

While the game part is arguably up for debate it's up on Steam and it's basically what is advertised: You are given two of the most fun things to mess with: the Universe and the laws of physics. Want to give our solar system a second sun and see the gravitational forces catapult Mercury out and let Mars crash into the Earth? You can do that. Want to create a Quasar between the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy to see billions of stars and lifeforms face a horrible death? You can do that. Want to fling asteroids at the earth until it's an uninhabitable Rock, cleansed by the fires of your will? You can do that. Incredibly fun, it would be higher on this list if not for one reason: you need to be a little keen in astrophysics...because it magnifies the fun to understand the horrors you are producing.

#6: Teleglitch (PC):

You happen to like the Alien movies? Wanna be able to experience some survival horror paired with some top-down action? And it all shall be rogue-like, with randomly generated game worlds and an atmosphere of tension, created without flashy graphics or orchestral scores? Look no further and DON'T overlook this gem. It's haunting, it's disturbing, it will keep you entertained and plan your moves and it's just great.

#5: Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (Xbox360 Indies):

Basically, this is Oregon Trail on Crack. You have to make the trail west...by any means necessary. So grab your three guys 'n gals and embark on the journey, hunt animals for food, cross or jump rivers, unlock new carriages, get attacked be wolves, Spiders, Unicorns, Dragons, Machine guns and whaaaaaaaat? Yup. That + the "story" is non-linear. The set pieces are randomly out behind one another, some can only be unlocked in certain carriages or by pure chance. Damnit, it's just 80 points. Get it. It will make you laugh so many times and the replayability is off the charts. Nothing to keep you occupied for weeks, but definitely one of those "Holy Shit, how did I spend so much time on this"-games.

#4: Hotline Miami (PC):

OK, troll me. Yup, it's just number four. In nearly every other year, it would have made a serious push for the one spot, but not this year. Nevertheless, this disturbing, fast paced, LSD-fueled Trip into a serial killer and his morbidly brutal ways in finest SuperVGA graphics is worth every penny you invest.

#3: FTL - Faster than Light (PC):

That's it...my crew is dead, Shields, Weapons and Engines are down. Oxygen ran out minutes ago. It all started so simple: bring the documents to the Federation HQ. So I embarked on the journey, my trusty spaceship worked like a charm. On my many travels I met strange races, merchants who sold me fine systems or crewmembers. I fought pirates, rebels and aliens, rescued space stations from Defense-AI malfunctions and navigated Asteroidfields. Every battle was a challenge. It was no fast paced action, more a Star-Trek-esque "tactics and maneuver"-battle. And now, I found my master. He countered everything we shot at him and had some lucky shots himself. That my crew wasn't well-trained in close combat was another failure, as those chitin-based bastards cut through them like grass. I flooded them out the airlocks, however. Well, I'm signing off...they just fired a missi..........

#2: To the Moon (PC):

An old man dies. His last wish: He wants to go to the moon. No problem for this new company, that's specialized in implanting memories into people's brains on their deathbeds. However, this old man can't remember WHY he wants that so bad. Not able to do it, if they don't find out, two doctors travel through the old man's mind...and find out things, that you wouldn't suspect at first glance.
Like "The Walking Dead" this year, To the Moon is more a digital story with gameplay elements. Made with the RPG Make for the most parts it tells a beautifully touching story about a big dream. I'm not going to tell you any more, because I don't want to spoil anything. It's the first and only game to make me cry. The graphics are sweet retro, the soundtrack is beautiful (courtesy of Laura Shigihara, who also made the tunes for Plants vs Zombies), but the star is the tragic, funny, goofy, heart-filled story about a dying man's wish to see our primary satellite.

#1: Lone Survivor (PC):

Here you have it folks. The best Indie game of the year. With minimalistic things it does, what all the modern Silent Hills, Resident Evils and Dead Spaces can't provide. A horrortrip so disturbing, bone-chilling and panic inducing, when you are low on health, tired, need something to drink and are out of ammo, but there's one of those faceless horrors between you and the saving appartment-door. It actually made me feel uncomfortable while playing it and I loved every second. The strange colour schemes and "scratching" Synth-Sounds and Rock tunes are only enhancing, what is a masterpiece of Survival Horror and worth mentioning next to the all-greats of the genre (and CERTAINLY above their more recent entries into their respective series)

Top 9 most disappointing games 2012:

As I mentioned above, I'm limited in time and money. Since I own several consoles I simply do not have the time for titles that are obviously bad, just to have something at the end of the year to rant about. So the premise of the following games is all the same: they don't have to necessarily be bad. However, they evoked expectations through whatever sources that were left unfulfilled.

#9: Little Inferno (PC):

After World of Goo became one of my favourite games ever, I just expected more out of 2D Boy than a firemaking simulator. The style of it follows the one of WoG to a T so if you dug that you will dig this as well...it's just so....shallow gameplay-wise.

#8: Guardians of Middle Earth (XBLA, PSN) / Awesomenauts (XBLA, PSN, PC):

"Consoles and MOBA? That doesn't go together all that well." That was my perception at the beginning of the year. Two games later, my perception hasn't altered one bit. Guardians of Middle Earth was as generic, as they come with some balance issues and the awe-inspiring number of 2 Maps. Awesomenauts tried to do something new but ultimately failed. Too few players actually killed, what could have been an interesting new take. And while the PC got the promised Content updates, consoles were left out. Funny thing: both games have cool intros. GoME features a nice battle between some of Middle Earth's finest and worst, while Awesomenauts is designed like a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Sadly, not really much else speaks for those games.

#7: FIFA Street (Xbox 360, PS3):

Yes, I actually had hopes for this. I played Fifa Street 2 on PSP for I don't know how many hours. FS3 was too cartoony and over-the-top, so I was really happy to see EA announce a reboot of this beloved series of mine. However, it didn't really work out that great. The presentation wasn't the problem, the look was great, but the "feel" just wasn't there. What I loved about the old games was, that you could create your four-man roster from a wide pool of world-class players, while experimenting, to find out all the tricks. NOTHING of that made it into the sequel. You create your character and are than assigned a random team of other, player created players. Tricks are also not to be found out through experimentation, but through leveling up and unlocking them. It's soooo much fun doing the same thing over and over again, to learn something new to do over and over again...oh, except not at all.

#6: Max Payne 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC):

Just to get this out of the way: MP3 is not a bad game. Not by any stretch. Alone the outstandingly genious soundtrack by Industrial Rock Band "Health" is worth the price of admission (like the widely known Tears, or my favorite: the darkly looming Future) I also had my fun with it, so why is it on this list? Because Rockstar tried to forge together what doesn't belong together. This is mainly gameplay-wise. They implemented mechanics from modern mechanics into this, that somehow didn't work together all that well. For example the cover system and everything that comes with it. You take large amounts of damage from every hit so you have to get to cover, but at the same time the system is in parts still made for the "old" Max Payne, in that it enhances the use of "storm into the room, go to bullet time and shoot the crap out of every motherfucker that moves". These two things can work, but there are several scenes where it didn't and that kind of killed the game as there was hardly any flow coming up, because the story just passes by VEEEEERY slowly in the first 7 hours to take up pace in the last three. That's, when the game becomes really good. The scene in the airport, where the aforementioned "Tears" from Health plays is an absolute highlight/ You want to make gaming cineastic? That's how. The character of Max is really really good, but the supporting cast is bland, cliche and completely forgettable. There is good stuff in this game and also fun to be had...but that only makes me crinch MORE about its shortcomings.
...oh, also: the Multiplayer sucked.

#5: I am Alive (XBLA, PSN, PC):

I wanted to like this game. Interaction with humans is nearly always very intense. You get the feeling, that you have to survive and the completely desaturated color palette makes it seem so overwhelming...but then it comes to the gameplay and it crumbles mightily. This game loses it appeal faster than Lindsay Lohan on a Ladies Night out at the brewery. The Stamina-meter is a nice idea but implemented so bone-headedly it's just sad. The world is designed neatly, until you come to a point, where you can't point out, where to jump, hang onto, while your stamina bar lowers and you fall to your death....ten times in a row. So much potential and it just went to waste. Well...what to expect from a game, that was supposed to be Ubisoft's AAA-Fallout-killer and ended up as a hastily finished 15 bucks downloadable title after being handled by several studios. However, I did anticipate more. The potential was surely there.

#4: Ninja Gaiden 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU):

How to treat a series, known for it's toothgrinding difficulty-level and hard, but rewarding combat? Yeah, ease up the combat, give player's more dumb cannon fodder in larger arena battles, reduce the weapons to...one, make an interesting story-arc (self-reflection of one's actions) completely unbelievable by going banananutbutters an hour in and counter all those stupid, piss-easy arena battles with ridiculously frustrating boss battles in the later half of the game. Oh, and make sure to put everything, "nerds" nowadays like into these bosses. To give examples: I fought a giant cyborg T-Rex, a ridiculously oversized attack chopper and a guy in a wheelchair who transformed it into a giant walking death machine using parts from stealth-fighter-jets while standing on the deck of a submarine aircraft carrier.....WOW....THAT is a LOT to buy game.....THAT is a lot to buy....
Ah yeah: they also took out all the gore and replaced it with "more realistic" violence. While it is still a brutal game...it's just not "Ninja Gaiden".

#3: Alan Wake - American Nightmare (XBLA, PC)

Meeting in the Microsoft offices: "People want more Alan Wake. What can we do?" - "Let's make a completely average third-person shooter, cut out all the horror-elements, give it the bare minimum of a story and just have Alan ramble weird stuff....noone will notice it anyway" - "Deal."

#2: Amy (Xbox 360, PSN)

When the first trailer went online, I was really hopeful. It looked like combining the best of the big survival-horror franchises into one game and actually being survival-horror. Boy, was I looking forward to it and BOY, did the final product SUCK. The story was a convoluted mess of an afterthought, the gameplay was one big escort mission with partner A"I" at the level of the free-roaming brick. Don't even get me started on the technical dedpartment. The sound was just bad with bad voice acting, forgettable music and bad effects...but the graphics...oh my god the graphics. I'm by no way someone who wants great graphics. I grew up with a MSX and games like Galaga...not the XBLA Remake, the original. Basically everything released since 2006 looks awesome to me. But this...I mean this...even on the PS2 this wouldn't be one of the good looking games. This game is just atrocious in every way and it would have been a deserving Number One if there wasn't this one game. This one game, where it's publisher and developer managed to fuck EVERYTHING up...

#1: Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, hopefully not any more consoles....)

I don't know, where to begin. This is literally one of the worst games, I have EVER played. The camera is slow, sluggish and to close to you, the melee is to powerful and not fit for the camera angle, the action is bland and repetitive, the controls suck, the QTEs are atrocious, the pacing is horrible, the writing is corny, the delivery of it even worse, dramatic scenes are "laughable", the biggest WTF moments are those because of stupidity, the vehicle-sections are pointless (you can win the Hummer-section with Chris by Not. Touching. ANy. Button. Or. Stick. I'm not fooling you. Try it. I dare you), the characters are nearly all pricks, the story itself makes no sense, no atmosphere at all, no survival, no horror, not even good action....damn. This game is horrible and I am so sick and tired of people defending it, because it looks pretty and you can move and shoot at the same time. No, it is not enhancing, on what RE4 did. It's a blasphemy to say that and GODDAMIT CAPCOM HOW COULD YOU DO THIS??????

Now let's get to the good stuff. The year 2012 had many great titles...so many, that I could only bring myself to narrow them down to ten by mentioning the other great ones at well. These games are all worth your hard earned cash and maybe in other years had made the list. This was really hard and I feel really bad for alot of those titles in there to not rank them higher. So here's the

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Starhawk (PS3): Damn, that came out of nowhere. Why did this game sell so badly? It's a SciFi-Shooter in a Firefly-esque SciFi-Western-Setting with giant robots that can transform into flying thingies. Oh, and you can build stuff like turrets, bunkers, hangars etc. Campaign was nice, but multiplayer is where this game shines and boy does it shine. Give it a try.
Deadlight (XBLA): Yawn, Zombies again. However, this game delivers a different take on the apocalypse with a more puzzle based side-scrolling gameplay. A bit repetitive towards the end, the art-design, threatening atmosphere and awe-inspiring soundtrack make it one of the better takes on Zombies and a short, but entertaining trip.
Dust - An Elysian Tail (XBLA): This title was THIS close to making the list. Beautifully, hand-drawn graphics and animations, a great combat system and one of the best executions of the Metroidvania system, that walks the fine line between rewarding explorers but not penalizing people who just want to take the well-written story in, make for one of the best downloadable titles this year.
Fez (XBLA): A game with a twist (see, what I did there?) it makes you rotate the levels to find your way. All in nice pixel art and with fine chiptune-music it is a treat for the senses and a slobberknocker for the orientational-center of your brain.
Gotham City Imposters (XBLA, PC): Fake Batmans vs. Fake Jokers. Sounds fun? Is fun. And since it's now free-to-play on the PC go check it out. Just watch the Intro (linked in the title here) and you know, what you are up to...oh and make sure to play the tutorial. It's hilarious.
Hybrid (XBLA): A cover-based shooter without free movement, but fast position changes with a jetpack on a global persistent battlefield calls for the right tactics...and boy those better come fast to ya, because the 3 on 3 battles are paced insanely fast. Not for the weak of heart or patience because you're gonne eat dirt your first hours into it.
Mark of the Ninja (XBLA): Making a good stealth game is a difficult thing but the guy's behind "Mark of the Ninja" did it oh so well. Every kill feels rewarding, only to be topped by the feeling of sneaking by the guards undetected. What the developer stuffed into a 2D(!!) game is more than enough to make every Agent47, Sam Fisher or Solid Snake green with envy. Speaking of colours. Be in for some of the smoothest animations of the year and again a charming "Saturday Morning Cartoon"-look....with blood.
Retro City Rampage (XBLA, PSN, PC, WiiWare, PSVita): a wild and whacky trip down Nostalgia Lane that is charming for all the right reasons. If you happen to be a kid of the 80s or 90s you will feel home immediately and the referencial easter-eggs are too many to count. In the first minutes I encountered cameos of: Batman (complete universe), Duke Nukem, Skate or Die, Duck Hunt, Final Fight, Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Back to the Future, Sonic the Hedgehog, Frogger, the Nintendo Zapper and the Teenage Mutant Ninja motherfuckin' Turtles. A wild and whacky sensory overload. Cool extra: customize the screen to your liking in the Options Menu.
Rock Band Blitz (XBLA, PSN): Compatible with the entire Rock Band Back-catalogue of songs(!!!) this gimmick-free controller version of Rock Band has some interesting concepts to show for.
Spelunky (XBLA): FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. Remember that, because you will be screaming it constantly....just to start this great platformer over and over again.
Oh Noes 2 (XBL Indies): Avenge the Hamburgers.....'nuff said. It's just 80 points so try it out.
Trials Evolution (XBLA): I'm a sucker for "different" puzzle games. Be it a "World of Goo" or "The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom" that combine their puzzles with an intriguing narrative or be it games like Trials Evolution, that give me a motorcycle, generic NuMetal Sound, physics and batshit insane courses to master. Doesn't get better than that. Best puzzler of 2012.
Armored Core V (Xbox360, PS3): A mecha game that expands fully in multiplayer. Complex as fuck when it comes to mech building, weak in the graphics department, but every choice you make counts. And when a squad of you and your friends glide through town, each in his/her customized Mech, destroying everything that crosses your path...well....it's kinda rewarding.
SSX (Xbox360, PS3): Fifa Street sucked, but EAs Reboot of the well-beloved Snowboard Franchise rocked. There is just no comparable sports title of that quality on the market.
Resident Evil Revelations (3DS): Sigh...Capcom knows, how to make a good RE game...the atmosphere was great and...ah, what am I talking: it made nearly everything right, that RE6 did wrong + it is an impressive looking game...especially on the 3DS in 3D.
Transformers - Fall of Cybertron (Xbox 360, PS3): High Moon Studios showed us all in 2010 with War for Cybertron, that it actually IS possible to make a good Transformers game. They continued the story with "Fall of Cybertron" and what is there to say: they made better, what was bad in the first one and improved in nearly everything. Especially Storytelling. It's a great game and if you only have the slightest itch for giant robots that can transform into vehicles you owe it to yourself to play this game. It's everything a sequel should be and then some.

Now for the Main Event...this is my

Top 10 Games of 2012:

#10: Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS):

Yup, I love this game that much. What Nintendo made out of this franchise is just the right thing at just the right time. Okay, the ground levels can feel a bit clunky but nevertheless I enjoyed them. This is partly due to the creative enemy- and leveldesign and on the other hand to some of the best dialogue you will hear all year. The writing is sharp and incredibly funny, dialogues are a blast to hear and to top it off, the voices are casted excellently. The title is also strong in the technical department. The soundtrack is filled to the edges with memorable tunes, the graphics are fine and the 3D effect is the best ever seen. This makes especially the Rail Shooter parts in the beginning of each level so incredibly fun to play. Imagine Starfox with an Angel who never shuts up in 3D. Combine all that with a deep weapon-crafting system, tons of collectibles and the best difficulty setting possibility ever and you get my Number 10 Pick of the year. I've played about thirty hours (the campaign alone makes up about 10 - 13 hours) and it will only get more.

#9: Sine Mora (XBLA, PSN, PC):

The best bullet-hell Shmup this year. It combines the tight gameplay of familiar bullet-hell shooters with the new method of a time pool that depletes when getting hit and refills when shooting an enemy to create a whole new level of difficulty that provides challenge without being frustrating. The levels are gorgeous, ranging from luscious, green jungles over dusty deserts to the dark bottom of the sea. Tied together by a story about time travel and a talking bison that blackmails a racially discriminated rape victim into helping him avenge his son...all that presented in finest hungarian. The boss fights are, where every shmup's fate hinges on and Sine Mora masters this discipline fabulously. They are original, challenging and always just a blast to watch. You want Bullet Hell? It's not gonna get much better than this one.

#8: Sleeping Dogs (Xbox360, PS3, PC)

An asian-american cop goes back to his home"hood" in Hong Kong to infiltrate and ultimately overthrow the chinese mafia. Captured between his work ethic (and a boss who likes to bend the rules) and his former "friends" (who give him the feeling of family), he explores a well-designed open-world Hong Kong in which there's a lot to do. Of all the "GTA"-likes, I liked the fighting system in this game best. The melee is the heart and soul of it and it is a bit like the Batman-Arkham-games with more techniques to learn and some incredibly brutal, but at the same time incredibly rewarding, environmental kills. When you are given a gun, they always feel decisive and you don't want to waste your ammo. Car chases are some of the best in the entire genre and they just feel badass.

#7: Call of Duty - Black Ops 2 (Xbox360, PS3, WiiU, PC):

I liked it...so what? It's my list after all. The story was well paced and while some "twists" were painfully obvious the whole story itself made for an enticing trip around the world and to the future. The Strikeforce missions were a welcome novelty and are welcome to return (with a wee bit better AI please). Zombies and Multiplayer are top-notch but who expected different? The new Pick10 System allows for great customization and the ultimate creation of your uber-class. I could go on, but what would it bring. Haters gonna hate. Fans gonna....fan?

#6: Dishonored (Xbox360, PS3, PC):

A team of people that worked on the Thief-series, Deus Ex and Half Life 2 sure has some high expectations for their first project...and wow, did Arcane Studios deliver on the promises made. The Steampunk London is such a well designed place, you can't take it all in in one journey...but why should you? There are just so many ways to reach your goals, I'll bet you for money, that even after 5 walkthroughs, you haven't seen it all. Between going postal and going silent there are oh so many ways and nuances that blend into each other so well and flawlessly it's marvelous. And it is one of those rare occasions, where you are really free to do, as you like. It is first and foremost a stealth-game, but it has no penalties for being seen (well...other than being shot at). You actually CAN maul your way through your opposition if that is to your liking...and believe me: some of those bad guys are REALLY asking for less than royal ass-kicking...with a sword...and then being eaten by a swarm of rats.

#5: Darksiders 2 (Xbox360, PS3, PC, WiiU):

Darksiders was somewhat of a "hidden gem". Being snarled at for just being a plain rip-off of God of War it was in fact a plain Rip-Off of Legend of Zelda....the good old ones, that is. Darksiders was the best Zelda of this console generation...until Darksiders 2 came around and enhanced on everything, had a bigger, more diverse world, an absolute badass main-character, LOOT and some of the most creative locales in recent history (I'm looking at you giant flying death fortress). The combat system got enhanced to fit the new loot-based inventory and boy was it fun to grab your powered up scythes and slash through hordes of enemies. Darksiders 2 is beautiful, motivating and full of content that keeps you entertained.

#4: Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, WiiU):

I love Mass Effect. I also loved the third part. The Ending didn't bother me, because I always felt like the whole game was the ending, where you tied the loose ends together and the final decision was just that...another decision. This game had so many memorable moments with all my beloved characters (given that they didn't die in previous games) and featured some of the best sidestories in the whole franchise. For example the arc when the Geth Fleet attacks the Quarian Fleet and you basically have to take a stand between them. The mechanics of the game have been tweaked over once again and while the action feels like a shooter, it's a good shooter. I happened to like the action in this game as well as the RPG elements. The new Inventory was something I also welcomed as a change. The dialogue is well-written and features some pretty intense moments.
I just found it very very satisfying, roaming the galaxy, gathering the assets you need for a final assault on the biggest threat, the universe has faced. I expected great things after its two supreme predecessors and I, for my part, wasn't disappointed, thus giving it a deserving fourth spot.

#3: Journey (PSN):

By this point you will certainly know, what this game is: one of the most gripping, beautiful and atmospheric...well "Journeys" you will ever make. Starting all alone, being joined by random other players with your only way of communicating being movement and "chirps" is a fantastic emotional bonding tool. You begin to develop some kind of speech with that and with in about 10 minutes it really happens: you are able to travel together while facing all kinds of dangers or obstacles without speaking a single word. All for your journey to the mysterious glow, far far in the distance, learning about the fate of your populace in the same, wordless way. I can't say much, that hasn't been said before but: GO PLAY IT. It's fascinating, captivating and won't get out of your head anytime soon. I'm not even starting on how great the soundtrack matches everything you do, be it lightly flying through the air or slowly crawling up a mountain....or how beautiful the graphics and the art design are. Go play it...go...like right after this article. See it for yourself. It's not jsut a game, it's an experience worth making.

#2: Borderlands 2 (Xbox360, PS3, PC):

Nearly every other year, this one would be a flawless Number One. It has everything great from the original Borderlands plus so, SO much more. First of all, there is the story by Anthony Burch, who did such an admirable Job of giving this game a soul of it's own. The characters are so well written and the dialogue is so good, you wouldn't really expect it in a game like this. Especially Handsome Jack is a villain for the ages. At first he just appears to be your typical jerk. Like a corrupted version of a Vault Hunter. However, he delivers his jerkyness so well, that you just really want to punch him in his handsome Nuts....hard. As the story progresses, however, you discover more facettes about him and towards the end it gets really dark and grim sometimes. Mashing these two things together is a difficult job and Borderlands 2 does it with bravado. In addition it features a ton of sidequests that are just a blast to do, because you want to hear the funny dialogue accompanied by it. THe shooting mechanics are nice and every gun feels somewhat unique. There are more "base models" than in BL1 and with tons of attributes and enhancements, there might not be "a bazillion" guns...but the number has to be close. The landscapes are more diverse and feature something for every taste, the Multiplayer is implemented so well, the soundtrack is neat, Claptrap is hilarious and yeah..can't say much more about it. I love this game. It's everything that's great about gaming and if you just want the most fun, content-packed game stop reading here. You found it.
As I said: in any given year, this would be a clear-cut Number One but this year had another game...

#1: The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, PSN, PC):

Just go play it. First episode is free on nearly all platforms. The character development, the pacing, the drama, the story, the choices...my god. It's all so intense and so perfectly written and executed in just every way, it's almost hard to believe. The emotional bond you're forming with the characters you choose to take with you is more intense than to most other humans you will encounter. Clementine is the best written child in all videogames and arguably all media. Telltale delivered on a level that noone could anticipate. It is gripping from the second you start episode one to the moment the credits roll. Good or bad, you decide. And sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. The game puts you in situations where you want to scream "HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME" at it for forcing you to make a choice you don't want to make, but ultimately have to make. After playing it you will feel exhausted. And you will feel enriched, because you encountered a game, that in this fashion only surfaces every few years. You encountered an absolute masterpiece. One that will stand long, because this level of emotional investment will be very hard to top. TellTale Studios outdid themselves and yes: every GOTY Award is well earned. This reminded me, why I love video games.

Before I close this blog, I have one more award to give out. The "Award for the game you should really play, to see, what games can be". And it goes to:

Spec Ops - The Line:

What looks like your everyday, run-of-the-mill spunkgargleweewee, develops into something so horrifying (for the self-reflecting individual, that is) that you nearly feel yourself disgusted by the person that you used to know best...you. The descent from a soldier to a merciless, hate-driven killing machine is told so fluently that you don't realize it, till it's too late. It's not a morale spelled-out, like at the end of a He-Man episode. It slithers in, gets into your head. A professional "Target down" turns into a "Kill fucking confirmed" over time. Even the loading screen messages change...from the typical "Press X to not die" to stuff like "It's all your fault", "You are still a good person" or "How many men have you killed today". The revelation comes as a shocker, not only to the character, but to yourself, as you realize your journey and your actions and for this I salute Yager studios. You made what the entire Military Shooter Industry doesn't do and doesn't want to do. You showed us the ugly face of war...and you made us experience this special kind of hell.
I just had to give this game a special spot. Not, for how it plays, but for what it is.

So...that was my year in gaming. Hope you enjoyed reading and maybe some of you agree. Some will of course disagree but hey: that's what makes this hobby great: everybody experiences it differently.

So here's to the gaming year 2013....let's enjoy it.
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Nic Rowen   1



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About Zer0t0ninone of us since 4:01 AM on 10.30.2012