What a year it’s been. The world should have ended, but we’re still here and going strong. And in gaming it’s been quite a trip too, with the market ever shifting towards the casual online scene and small developers really hitting it big. The trend for Indie games making it up there against the AAA titles has continued, with the dare-to-try-something-different approach that was seen in the 90′s.
Since I’ve stopped playing all major MMORPGs, I’ve had a lot of time to test a huge range of games this year, so without further ado, here’s my Top Games of 2012, in both single player and online.
Without a doubt the highlight of the year has to be FarCry 3. Improving leaps and bounds over FarCry 2 (which was a stunning game in its’ own rights), the new installment puts you on a beautiful island somewhere between Japan and Australia – with the signs of early civilization and the ravages of World War 2 apparent at every turn. You’re one of a group of fun-loving friends that gets kidnapped by drug manufacturers with the intent on holding you for ransom. You escape, and what follows is a tasty exploration through a well-sculpted world of big guns, bad guys, vicious animals and bewbies!
The story-line is intense, the game drips open-world and everything just works so well, no matter what your playing style. Anyway, a full review will be up soon, so just know that FarCry 3 is a masterpiece of graphics, gameplay, guns and rich characters. Oh, and the ending will make you scream and force you to play again, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Honourable Mentions – Single Player:
Among the quirky Indie games available, two stand out for me: Kerbal Space Program and Game Dev Tycoon.
Kerbal Space Program (Still in Alpha, but good enough to play) is exactly what it sounds like. Design your own rocket ships to conquer the solar system. Sounds simple enough, but this game is closer to rocket science than anything I’ve seen before. My brother and I have been running challenges between ourselves, setting goals and seeing who can match them first, and as he put it: “Sometimes the difference between getting a sattelite into orbit and blowing up on the launch pad is one rivet – you have to respect the guys that do this for real.” It’s a great little simulator, really worth a shot.
I spotted Game Dev Tycoon on the Windows 8 marketplace and decided to give it a try during one bored day at work. An hour later I was scrabbling for my credit card and got the full version. The premise is simple: it’s about 25 years in the past, with home gaming just starting to gain momentum. You’re one guy trying to develop his own games and make a profit. Do well and your company grows, and so does the technology. The nice thing about the game is the fact that unlike 99.9% of the silly games on the marketplace these days, there are no microtransactions, there are no “Invite your friends to play otherwise you can’t get this crucial piece of kit”. If you have Windows 8, go check it out on the marketplace.
This was a tough one, with tons of games really vying for top spot, but in the end I had to go for World of Tanks. Yes, it was not released in 2012, but I think it has finally matured enough to be called a product. New tanks, new maps, and a host of new battle types has turned it from a grindfest into a thing of beauty. I’ve already reviewed WoT in a previous post, so have a look there for the full details.
Honourable Mention – Online:
I was fortunate enough to Alphatest War Thunder, and now that it’s on public beta I can actually write something about it. It goes on the same lines as World of Tanks – a World War 2 simulator with planes instead of tanks. Great game modes – you don’t just get to shoot the enemy, you actually have to complete objectives – and an all-round fun game. I think the only reason this didn’t get top spot for me this year is because it does still have its flaws – loading times are atrocious and the player base is still too small – if selecting the EU server, you tend to wait quite a few minutes before a game is ready for you, and you tend to play with the same group of people over and over again. If you select All servers, then queues are much faster but you’re shit out of luck communicating if you don’t speak Russian. With a bit more development (some artifacting does occasionally occur, as well as some physics glitches, but it’s improving) and a bigger fanbase, this game can be huge. Well worth the massive download.
Need for Speed – Most Wanted. OK, so Criterion has taken over from Black Box as the developers of the Need for Speed franchise now. Does that mean that they have to take one of their old titles, put in real cars instead of the fictional ones they used to use, take away half of the things that makes the Burnout series so good, and then call it a Need for Speed title? Fuck no!
The astonishing thing is the reviews by all of the top review sites – they all rave about it! How much did EA pay them? Yes, the franchise has been in decline in the last decade, losing out to the true simulators and the true arcade racers, while frantically bouncing between the two trying to find something that works, but I think they were actually on to something with The Run. Now instead they give us a watered-down version of Burnout Paradise and expect everyone to love it. The handling model is terrible (compared to older NFS titles, and to Burnout for that matter), on the PC the graphics are good for some parts and then awful for others, the Autovista 2 is counter-intuitive on PC (can’t say for the console versions) and the game modes are severely limited.
And then another thing – most of the last few Need for Speed titles have had some form of storyline – The Run actually had a captivating one, one that sucked you in and made every position you won or lost on your journey feel like it meant something. Most Wanted? Nope, it sucks. The Burnout series had some interesting game modes and a vast array of races. Most Wanted? An average of 5 races per car, limited game modes. At least the cars are nicely modeled.
Criterion, go make arcade racers like Burnout and leave Need for Speed to the publishers that can turn out games like the legendary Need for Speed: Porsche Unlimited. The original Most Wanted was a crappy title, this one was utter shite (Unless of course you haven’t played Burnout, in which case it’d probably be OK for you)