Out of a general lack of time I’ve decided to condense all of my ‘end of year awards’ stuffs into just one award. I’ve done a Hitman Absolution with this streamlining! I haven’t even played that game to be honest. In fact, I have barely played any games this year out of time time time and a growing sense of apathy with the industry as a whole. Huzzah! Regardless, here’s my runners-up and eventual GAME OF THE YEAR 2012.
XCom: Enemy Unknown
A little while ago I was pretty angry 2K were producing a simple first-person ‘tactical’ shooter reboot of the Xcom franchise. Having never played it myself, gasp, I really wanted a lick into the franchise. I’ve since then played some of the older Xcom games and then, out of the blue, discovered a few videos about Enemy Unknown. Enemy Unknown does something I truly value out of a video-game: it actually creates value within your gameplay. You care about your little toy soldiers because of the wealth of play you’ve had with them, there’s a sense of history to each of them. Every battle won, every comrade slaughtered and every weapon upgrade achieved. Enemy Unknown is a masterclass of tension and suspense through the simplest probability mechanics. A tour de force of game design.
You’ve probably not heard of this thing. It’s a mind-bending first-person AND third-person puzzler and platformer all in one. It takes a while to get a grasp of the mechanics but this is probably the smartest game I’ve played since the original Portal. It’s made by students at DigiPen, the same home from which Portal and many other projects were spawned within. It’s a real treasure, and FREE too.
I haven’t had enough time with this, let alone on my own computer. This is a visceral, and I do mean VISCERAL, and adrenalin pumped experience that shares a lot of its structures and ideas with number one on this list. Hotline Miami is, simply put, a violent indulgence into violent indulgence. It’s breathtakingly frantic, eccentric and a game that is constantly beating you into addiction.
Games like Journey don’t come around that often. It honestly is the most visually astounding game I’ve ever played, but it does something magical with its mechanics too. It’s built largely around a journey, and the enjoyment that comes with it, yet its mechanics of communication and networking make it an incredibly memorable and emotionally suggestive experience. A real work of genius.
Spec Ops: The Line is my game of the year, and one of the greatest interactive experiences ever made. The word ‘harrowing’ doesn’t do it enough justice. It is truly a game that made me re-evaluate my experiences with the industry over the last few years and, indeed, is the only reason that I carried on with much of my writing and interest in the medium. Spec Ops is all kinds of gamechanger, and ‘gamerchanger’, and doesn’t deserve to have its heart spoiled for anyone. It does stuff with video-games and its internal history which has never been done before and delivers one of the finest cultural, political and social commentaries on the culture of video-game violence. This game will serve the basis of Volume Four of my book series on video-games, Up, Down, Left, Right, for this very reasoning. Spec Ops is beyond fun, enjoyment and astounding beauty; it has a message to tell and it does it perfectly in every way possible.