So, I’ll admit it; I was pretty down on 2012. But you’ve got to cut me some slack, here. Every single one of my most anticipated games (except Borderlands 2) were delayed into 2013. Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us (okay, that was more of a disappointing release date announcement than a delay, but STILL)…the list goes on and on, with titles dropping like flies.
It’s because of this that I grew pretty negative about 2012 in general. I wasn’t too jazzed about the releases of the major franchises, the new IPs looked interesting enough, but didn’t necessarily promise to be good games.
And yet, here in November, I find myself eating my words. 2012′s been a great year for games, with a lineup of releases that has proven to be much more exciting than I imagined they would be.
Since it’s Thanksgiving here in the States and I don’t want to list what I’m thankful for on my Facebook status like all of my friends (because NO ONE CARES), I’ve decided to share my thoughts on one of the things I’m most thankful for here in 2012: Video Games. Ever the optimist, here are 5 games from 2012 I’m thankful for (and why).
1. SLEEPING DOGS
Like so many others, Sleeping Dogs was not a game on my radar. I’ve never been a big GTA fan, open world crime dramas have no draw for me, and its troubled back story certainly didn’t lend it any hype.
Still, I decided to play it on a whim, downloading it to my shiny new PC and jumping in to at least get a sense of what it was all about. And am I ever glad I did.
Sleeping Dogs is undoubtedly a hidden gem of 2012. It looks great, plays smooth, tells a great story, and takes place in one of the most unique and well-realized worlds seen in a game.
In Sleeping Dogs, you play as Wei Shen, a cop tasked with infiltrating and taking apart the infamous Sun-On Yi gang from the inside. Complete with interesting missions and great combat, the game became an absolute joy to play, and one I couldn’t walk away from until seeing it to its completion.
2. MASS EFFECT 3
Despite the controversy it sparked, I’m still thankful for Mass Effect 3, because it was a more than fitting end to one of my all-time favorite game franchises. In fact, it’s thanks to the Mass Effect series that I even developed an interest in writing about games. Having this conclusion to the epic series in 2012 has made for one of the best games I’ve played this year, and certainly one of the sequels I’m thankful for.
3. TO THE MOON
I had the opportunity to award my first ever 10/10 review score this year after playing the small indie PC title To The Moon, a beautiful game that told one of the most unique stories I’ve ever encountered in a game.
To The Moon follows the story of Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts, two specialists with the strange job of helping patients re-live an edited version of their memories on their deathbed as the memories they wanted them to be, rather than the reality that exists. Using humor, drama, and some hard-hitting emotion, the game delivers a compelling story coupled with a great soundtrack and highly stylized pixelated art design. It’s a game for those of us who crave a great story with interesting gameplay.
(For my reivew of To The Moon, click here)
4. BORDERLANDS 2
Borderlands is one of the most unique games I’ve ever played, simply for the reason that it’s a game that doesn’t necessarily have an interesting story, but the gameplay more than makes up for it in its addictive quality.
Borderlands 2 saw a repeat of this on a much larger scale, delivering a game with the same conventions that made the original so great, all while introducing new ideas and story elements that made it seem much more well-realized than the original.
For me, Borderlands 2 is everything a sequel should be. It takes everything familiar and beloved about the original and couples it with new ideas and re-imaginings of old conventions, creating a seamless and fun experience that’s both clever and a blast to play. With its wit, gunplay, and iconic cel-shaded graphics, it’s by far my favorite FPS of 2012 and one I find myself pulled back into time and time again.
5. THE WALKING DEAD
If there’s one theme for 2012, it’s player choice and the effect it has on a game. RPGs, branching story paths, and carry-over saves have all been well represented in 2012, but few games tackle choice and hard-hitting narrative as well as Telltale’s adventure game series The Walking Dead.
From the first episode, The Walking Dead is a game that has stuck with me in ways only the most compelling forms of media can. The story is so gritty, so bizarre, and so punishing, with each decision feeling like the painstaking choice between bad and worse. There’s no happy side to The Walking Dead, but its fascinating character dynamics and writing make it the most grueling story seen on consoles both this year and in years past. It’s because of the hours of tough choices and shocking story developments I’ve had the pleasure of sitting through this year that I’m grateful for The Walking Dead.