This week, Zero Punctuation shares the best and worst games that 2012 had to offer.
Well, it's time to take stock of my last 365 early morning farts, and just to remind you of the rule, only games I reviewed feature in the top and bottom 5, which may leave a few significant gaps, I admit. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, for example, a.k.a. Sony Smash Bros.. But I didn't really want to play that, just abuse it for five minutes. I remember thinking Sony must've been fucking kicking themselves for letting Nintendo use Solid Snake, 'cause it meant they had to do with Raiden instead, the knockoff of the popular one that nobody likes. But then I thought "Wait! Actually, that makes him fucking ideal, doesn't it? He's the fucking metaphor for the whole game!". It's in the same boat as the Justice League movie; it's trying to fight a battle three years too late that you can't win because your opponent isn't on the battlefield. They're at home, rubbing Brasso on their trophy that they got for winning the battle 3 years ago that you just joined and are infinitely less well-equipped to fight.
Still haven't played it, mind. It might be alright. Don't care. Fifth Best:
This one I agonized over a bit 'cause it made two mistakes that stained everything else in the game with original sin; a moral choice aspect that constrained the player's decision-making and dialogue that made every character seem about as lively and engaging as a tree stump with a paper cutout of Kristen Stewart's face nailed to it. But for good world-building and gameplay that managed to do stealth and keep the pace going without too much hiding behind crates waiting for sideburned tosspots to turn around and expose the big, glowing targets on their backs, number five goes to Dishonored and it can thank its lucky stars it didn't come out in a more interesting year.
But from fresh new IP, we move to the very, very old: Resident Evil 6, and it really is resident now, isn't it? We just can't persuade the fucking thing to leave our house. With the entire overarching story of the series completely undermined by the death of the main villain and the continual ramping-up of global disaster to the point of total meaninglessness, Resident Evil very decisively blew its load two games ago, and Resident Evil 6 is the series just refusing to leave the bed. Enough with the quick-time events, enough with the fucking nineteen-stage boss monsters, and enough with the Dutch Ovens, you filthy sod!
Let's make like pretty much the entire entertainment industry and stay on the subject of zombies for now. This is another one I had to think carefully about but in the final analysis I have a very great interest in interactive storytelling and so, it seems, does Walking Dead. I guess you can't make five million episodic games without getting better at it, and by effectively alternating between slow exposition and quick high-tension decision making, Telltale showed us just how pacing is done. I won't go higher than four though, because the Q key on my laptop still hasn't forgiven me.
To be perfectly honest, fourth worst is a game I actually find kind of adorable, for all its absolutely hideously broken design, and that's NeverDead. Is it possible to stay mad at a game where your head keeps flying off without warning to roll clumsily around the floor, avoiding instant-death quick-time events? Well, yes, demonstrably so. But you know, it's only when you try to do something interesting that you crash and burn in the most spectacular way. You may laugh at the bloke who thought he'd invented the parachute coat and threw himself off the Eiffel Tower, but what's history gonna remember you for, funny man? That time you found a copy of Razzle in a hedge?
3rd place goes to something of a late entry for 2012, but no less deserving its spot for being fresh in my memory: Far Cry 3, Ubisoft's rather lovely organic mindfuck tiger-'em-up. It's got it all, really; characterization, stealth, explosion, shark fishing, titties, and every player'll come out of it with their own story of how they set someone on fire and fed them to a Komodo dragon. If we as an industry feel we must shackled to franchises for name recognition sales, this seems like a good way for the creative to beat the system; just make something cool and randomly slap a franchise name onto it. We may well be revisiting that strategy before the end of this list, tee hee hee.
In this age of big money and outsourced quality assurance, it's rare to find a game that's completely unplayable. If a game's bad, it's usually because not enough people cared, not because development was formulating a murder-suicide, but that's the only explanation I can think of for Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. And whatever thought process decided that the best direction for a series previously based around massive, ridiculous controllers would be no controller at all! Microsoft brandished the Kinect and said "We'd like to make this relevant to hardcore gaming!", and the universe looked down upon it and said "Yeah, we'd all like a lot of things, Microsoft!"
It's a sad fact, but by simple virtue of video gaming being so much more widespread than it used to be, yes, perhaps a certain amount of translation is necessary when re-introducing popular tactical games from the '90s. So what you do is to trim off the fatty bits, make the interfaces less horribly designed than a '70s government housing project, and roll the difficulty back from 3 A.M. influenza fever dream. And the result is the very absorbing XCOM: Enemy Unknown. What you do not do is to slap the name on a fucking shooter, Syndicate! We're good for shooters, thanks, although I hesitate to use the word "good". Case in point:
Yes, it's confirmed. "Warfighter" is actually a word used by the actual military, but I don't see how that makes it any less dumb, or Medal of Honor: Warfighter any less obnoxious, incoherent and boring. In the year I started referring to schizophrenic, overly-linear modern military shooters as 'Spunkgargleweewee' with the good taste and maturity you've come to expect, I felt it would be remiss of me not to represent the genre here. A genre I would've been tempted to now put alongside one-on-one fighters, real time strategy and train simulators as shit that's just not for me and not worth opinionating on, if it weren't for:
Spec Ops: The Line! And thanks a fucking bunch, Yager Development, 'cause now I have to keep playing modern military shooters just in case they turn out to be the most exciting thing to happen in video game narrative for fucking years! It's my game of 2012, not necessarily for being the best game functionally, but for being the game that most fucking deserves to be played. And anything I'm still taking every opportunity to bang on about however many months after release is kind of beyond comparison. It's one for the history books, or at the very least it'll make you want to pick up a history book and hit yourself with it until you're a less horrible person!
Perhaps the plan was to release this game right at the start of the year so that it might be forgotten about by now, or at least eclipsed by something even worse, like for example, a game that comes with free crystal meth. Yes, it's Amy, an uncontroversial choice perhaps, but my god, there's offensively bad and then there's the kind of bad that dresses up like Hitler and starts doing impressions of people with cerebral palsy. It is notable in being the first indie game I put in the bottom slot, so that's one accolade it can put on the box blurb, alongside "World's best argument for post-term abortion!"
Wringing out the old: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw
So it turns out the world didn't end this year so you'd better pull your fucking socks up, humanity, I want to be living Mad Max in ten years or less.
I hate when the year ends in a prime number
Good game sound effect was '20110409 choir 01' by freesound.org user 'doboide', www.freesound.org/people/dobroide.
Bad games sound effect was my windy bottom.