Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 3 Games of the Year, 2012

With 2012 ending today, it's time to post my top three games of the year!

As I mention every year, I'm not a professional reviewer and I don't get review copies of games, so I'm limited in considering only games that I've played through.  This means that certain triple A titles that don't interest me won't be on the list, and I'll also only list something that I've played through fully and reviewed.

This year I also spent a lot of time playing games released in 2011 as I've been rather busy and free time's been at a premium, so keep that in mind as you read the below.

3) Halo 4 (Xbox 360).  As 343 Industries first brand new game on any platform ever, they had a lot of expectations to live up to.  The Halo franchise is massive and synonymous with the Xbox platform itself, and that's a mighty high bar that they had to raise.  Thankfully, 343 Industries was up to the challenge.

The first true sequel to Halo 3, Halo 4 continues the story of John-117 and Cortana as they face a terrifying new threat in the wake of the end of the Human-Covenant War.  While 343 Industries generally plays things safe and doesn't mess too much with the franchise's long established formula, the gameplay mechanics and the way they tell their story is done in such a way where the game and franchise are now definitely theirs.

The Chief speaks more and shows genuine emotion in the face of this new threat to humanity and Cortana's degrading Rampancy.  Featuring a slower paced but more focused Campaign, the Single Player element feels more like classic Halo than many titles before it.  Infinity Multiplayer is a new take on the tried and true online carnage, incorporating actual story elements to the traditional matches we know and love, and introducing a new episodic Cooperative game mode: Spartan Ops.

Filled with a healthy mix of new and old, Halo 4 is a solid entry to the franchise and a great first step for 343 Industries.

2) Mortal Kombat (PlayStation Vita).  Some may call this double dipping, as I gave Mortal Kombat Game of the Year for 2011, however the PlayStation Vita version released this past Spring and like its console big brother, I've spent way too much time with it.

Featuring almost all the extensive content from the console versions, the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat also includes a 150 mission Bonus Challenge Tower as well as two new mini-games, Test Your Slice and Test Your Balance.  NetherRealm Studios also included several more Klassic Costumes not available on consoles, amongst a few other minor additions.

While the portable version isn't as graphically impressive as the console versions, it features a proper frame rate and plays exactly like its bigger brother, making it a great portable version and wonderful companion for those who love the game.  In truth, Mortal Kombat is the reason I got a PlayStation Vita and still stands as the game I've played the most on that platform, and thanks to being able to enjoy it during my lengthy commute, I've greatly improved my game with my primary characters (Mileena and Scorpion) and also really tackled learning Kitana, allowing her to become another main.

With the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat I continue to learn new things about the game and for me, it's been a solid reason to give Sony's new portable a go.

1) Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3).  So many people jumped on the hate bandwagon with Mass Effect 3, and I feel this was truly done unfairly.  Featuring the end of your Commander Shepard's journey to stop the Reaper threat from destroying the galaxy, players can once again import their Shepard's from the previous game to continue their adventure and allow their choices to have an influence on the story.

What follows is a character driven, emotional ride throughout the galaxy where gamers see the Reapers' devastation first hand as they struggle to unit the galaxy against the common foe.  In addition to forming alliances players attempt to build their War Assets for the final assault to take Earth back, and the number of Assets you have will generate subtle to not so subtle changes to your Shepard's ending.

Not only is there an amazing in-depth Single Player game here, but for the first time the franchise features Multiplayer.  Tied into the Single Player experience, gamers take part in specialized N7 squads in a cooperative "Horde" style experience where players take on waves of enemies to achieve objectives and build their Galactic Readiness, a variable that affects the effectiveness of the War Assets Shepard is collecting in the Single Player game.

This all comes together to form an engaging and complete action RPG experience that's as story driven as it is intense.  Though many took great exception to the game's ending, I personally had no such qualms as I kept my experiences realistic.  At the end of the day, it's the journey that matters, and the Mass Effect franchise provided me with an exceptional experience from start to finish.  As such, BioWare's epic deserves the honour of my Game of the Year for 2012.

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