It’s that time again. The time for giving. No, not for giving thanks or presents dummy, I’m talking about game awards! We’ve seen an absolute landslide of terrific titles released this year, but, as they always do, a few have stood apart from the pack. All due respect to Dishonored, Darksiders II, Diablo III, Black Ops 2, Resident Evil 6 and Assassin’s Creed III, but here are the candidates that I have narrowed it down to for my personal, completely biased Game of the Year award. It’s interesting to note that of the nine titles I mention in this article, only one (Dishonored) isn’t either a sequel or a licensed property. Weird.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 was my most anticipated game of the year coming into 2012, and I wasn’t disappointed when that beautiful box finally hit my hands. Forgetting about the whole ending controversy, Mass Effect 3 was an epic magnum opus for BioWare, and was an excellent finale to the series that redefined narrative in video games. Presenting an outlandishly polished and cohesive gaming experience, ME3 expanded the series with a well-received multiplayer than many, like me, are still playing regularly.
Seeing the choices that some of us had been making for years finally come to fruition was worth the price of admission alone, but the ending to the tale of Shepard’s fight against the Reapers was unbelievably epic. The gunplay was better than ever, and a revamped talent system finally provided the choices in character building that the story had always provided. Featuring beautiful graphics and most jaw-dropping sound designs of this generation, Mass Effect 3 may have released early in the year, but it remains a strong candidate for Game of the Year.
The Walking Dead
Beyond a doubt my surprise hit of the year, I am so totally engrossed with the Walking Dead. I haven’t finished the so-far-stellar finale, but the beauty of this game has truly been in the journey. Bringing tough player choices front-and-center proved to be an excellent choice by Telltale Games. Lee’s adventure and the characters he meets on the way bring a heavy sense of personal connection that I’m not sure any other series can match. All this from an episodic downloadable game.’
Part of me can’t help but wonder if I like the game so much simply because I’m such a huge fan of the franchise. I know the game is good of its own merits, but would it be as good if it weren’t attached to the Walking Dead mythos. I don’t know, but I think we can all agree that Rocksteady isn’t the only studio who can nail a licensed video game. I’m not quite sure it has the clout this year to actually win the award over the big boys, but if season 2 delivers like the initial game, or blows it away, we could be in for a real treat.
There are few games, ever, that have entertained me the way that Borderlands 2 has. It’s ridiculous how much I have enjoyed this game. I played the everloving crap out of the first one, and Borderlands 2 was right there with Mass Effect 3 on my radar. To say that I wasn’t disappointed is a massive understatement; it completely obliterated any and all expectations I had for it, and before I knew it my beautiful Siren Maya murdered and looted her way right into my heart. I played the entire game cooperatively, and I’m not sure that I have ever had that much fun with couch co-op. Ever.
Heck, I’m still playing it, only this time I’m going through it as Axton. So far he’s not quite as fun as Maya, but I’m eyeing a couple of abilities that should make his turret a bit more fun to play with. The breadth of content and Easter eggs in this game continues to blow my mind, as I haven’t even come close to finishing up my checklist in Borderlands 2. It’s this kind of addictiveness that caused me to give this award to Skyrim last year.
Of all the games released this year, and obviously some really good ones belong in that category, Halo 4 might be the most technically impressive. 343 inherited sky-high expectations, but delivered with jaw-dropping sound and graphics, an impressive multiplayer and the best story in the series. Critics who didn’t think anybody could follow Bungie were immediately put to rest. Ahh, who am I kidding, they’re still out there, but clearly I think they are wrong.
It’s hard for me to find many complaints with Halo 4. The campaign is extraordinary, and gives a life to Master Chief and Cortana that, yep I’m saying this, even Bungie couldn’t do. The multiplayer took some drastic departures from the series norm, but I am loving it, and the gameplay is all Halo. Spartan Ops is probably the weak link for me, but that’s really not saying much. It’s definitely not perfect, and it will never replace Firefight, but it is fun all the same.
These are my nominations for Game of the Year. What are yours?