The obligatory ‘Game of the Year’ article 2012

December 31, 2012, Author: The TIMJ Team

For those that have followed us for some time now, you’ll know that we’ve never had a traditional ‘Game of the Year’ set-up. The way we see it is that it’s practically impossible for any diverse team to agree on one true GOTY; everyone is different, not everyone has played everything this year, so we always opt for a more personal GOTY structure.

So without further ado, here are our staff members to tell you in their own words exactly what they’ve chosen as their GOTY and why…

Andy Buick (Podcast Co-Host) – Mass Effect 3

A controversial choice perhaps given “that” ending, but I played this later in the year once the epilogue had been added and I have to say I don’t know what all the fuss was about. I don’t see how else the game could have ended, or what those people who complained were expecting. Leaving that behind why is this my pick? Simply, I loved every minute of this game.

Mass Effect 3 more or less perfected the battle system, it lost the dull probe searches of ME2, and had epic battles every step of the way, plus high drama at every turn. Most importantly for me, it provided a real emotional punch, it’s not just my game of the year but one of my favourite games ever.

I don’t remember any other game (previous Mass Effect games aside) that have drawn me in to the story so well and made me really care about the characters since Final Fantasy VII. With a new adventure in the Mass Effect universe coming in the not too distant future, I’ll be keen to see where this franchise goes next.

Runners up: Dishonored, Machinarium

Neil Hughes (Site Manager) – The Walking Dead

There has been too much talk about a stale console gaming market needing a good old kick up the arse, as people begin to tire of yet another sequel to choose from this Christmas. Call of Duty arrives and nobody plays the campaign, causing reports of Single-player games being “dead”, but this is not strictly true.

Telltale made a massive gamble in bringing the episodic adventure game, The Walking Dead to our living rooms, but the heavy focus on characterisation, story-telling and emotion were what made this a game one that I will never forget.

No other game has kept me on the edge of my seat for seven whole months, or had the power to evoke a whole range of emotions because of the decisions that I had made. My choices affected the outcomes of these characters that I had invested so much time in throughout 2012.

Most gaming characters are quickly forgotten, but Lee, Kenny, Glenn and, of course, Clementine, will be forever remembered fondly. I don’t think I have been this immersed in a gaming world or cared about characters since parting with my old friend John Marston and his family in Red Dead Redemption.

Runners up: Max Payne 3, FIFA 2013

Trent Pyro (Staff Writer) – Dragon’s Dogma

Rarely does a game genuinely make you feel as your character does. In Dragon’s Dogma, your fledgling creation is a pathetic, weak, appallingly under-skilled whelp right from the start, forcing you to take baby steps in order to build them up until you can stride around like a bad motherfucker. Instead of being tedious, this process creates genuine achievement and an unbridled sense of adventure and discovery.

No-one bought it, but I don’t care. For pure, original playability and for its revolutionary and innovative Pawn system, Dragon’s Dogma is my GOTY.

Runners up: Sleeping Dogs, Mass Effect 3

Phil Ubee (Staff Writer) – Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 is, quite simply, a joy to play. Every single time I switch it on I get a “wow” moment. Random events, like being rescued from a firefight by a Tiger only to have it turn on me because I stood there admiring it, to spotting a cave that when explored turned up a bundle of loot and some hidden items. The fact that I have spent around twenty hours on the Rook Islands and only played three story missions says it all.

Runners up: Madden 13, PES 2013

Matt Parker (News Editor) – XCOM: Enemy Unknown

This is a game that manages to balance its systems superbly and rewards risk taking, forward planning and strategic thinking. Do well on a mission, you get money for your base and more materials to use. Do well managing your base, you get better weapons and squad members to use in your missions. These two systems work beautifully together.

It’s also paced superbly. You’re never more than five minutes away from unlocking a new something, getting a new building completed or having a mission kick off somewhere in the world. The Firaxis team have created another gem that just keeps you playing for ‘one more turn’. It somehow manages to be brutally hard yet always fair, so every squadron’s death is your fault.

They’ve created a strategy game that is as cinematic as it is deep. Neat graphical touches and smart camera angles make the action much more exciting than its turn-based roots give it any right to be.

With such great expectations on their shoulders, the developers could have easily chickened out and churned out nothing more than re-make. They were brave and they were brilliant, this is XCOM re-imagined for the modern world and it is brilliant.

Runners up: Hotline: Miami, Mass Effect 3

Paddy X (Community/Social Network Manager) – Journey

Anyone who has played any of thatgamecompany’s previous titles know that they are masters at crafting emotionally engaging, immersive experiences. Because that’s exactly what they are: experiences.

To look at the trailers, it would be easy to dismiss it out of hand as some oddity with no narrative structure and no gameplay to speak of, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’d love to wax lyrical much more upon the many surprises and wonders it contains, but I think it would be incredibly unfair of me to rob anyone else of their own experiences. When you’ve finished it yourself, you’ll understand exactly what I mean, and to be perfectly honest, it’s best experienced alone, with no distractions. So unplug the landline, turn off that blasted cell phone that’s the bane of your life anyway, and just let it work its magic on you.

To call Journey just “”a game”” makes me feel like I am selling it woefully short, because it’s so much more than that.

Play it, experience it, live it, love it, whatever; the clue is in the title folks.

Runners up: Mass Effect 3, The Walking Dead

James Sheppard (Sub-Editor) – Max Payne 3

I was initially going to award Halo 4 my GOTY, as 343 Industries have undeniably done themselves and the franchise proud. Then I changed my mind, opting for a title that I’d have never expected to be in my top games played this year, let alone a serious contender for the very best.

Max Payne 3 was originally something I picked up in a BOGOF deal, as my filler item for The Witcher 2. Little did I know I was letting myself in for some of the best story and characterisation I’ve ever experienced in a shooter. Starting out as the bodyguard for rich young people at their extravagant parties, it feels like Max is part of a modern-day Gatsby.

Soon, however, everything turns to shit when the people he’s protecting are kidnapped, and Max is plunged into a dark world of corruption as things go from bad to worse. This chronic alcoholic with a haunted past is a magnet for poor luck, and he narrates his situation with a gritty cynicism that’s morbidly fascinating. Accompanying the absorbing atmosphere is slick and refined gunplay with gripping set-pieces, creating a full package that blew me away.

Runners up: Halo 4, Diablo III

Ariana Hester (Social Networks) – Journey

I’m not picking this game for the simplistic gameplay, beautiful graphics or the Grammy nominated soundtrack.

I’m picking this title for the player interaction it was able to achieve. When I heard they were going with zero dialog I thought it was a mistake. How wrong I was. It made me realise how it’s possible to fully understand someone without uttering a single word. It broke the language barrier. It encouraged loyalty. Players would wait for others to catch up, point out something they missed. If you lost someone you felt real disappointment. It truly saddened me when my companion accidentally fell off the side of the cliff, though I admit to one or two laughs.

Every playthrough is different. There is no hand-holding from the CPU. Every choice is yours. The mixture of fear and excitement was great. Not knowing which hill to climb or alcove to investigate was thrilling. This was made clear to me when I watched my sister’s first playthrough. She took different routes, found hidden areas I hadn’t noticed, lingered where I rushed, zigged where I zagged. With Journey you have more than one first playthrough. Every time is the first time.

Runners up: Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Assassin’s Creed III

Ray Willmott (Site Manager) – Halo 4

Bungie created a beautiful, brilliant franchise and made it legendary. It’s a series I’ve played incessantly, and I’ve enjoyed its company most of the time. Yet my anticipation for Halo 4 was minimal. In a year full of exciting sequels and enticing new IP, it just wasn’t catching my eye.

Now it’s my Game of 2012.

343 Studios have inherited this franchise so naturally, it’s almost as if they made it in the first place. The multiplayer is back on form after Reach’s sketchiness. The campaign sets up some fascinating possibilities for the rest of the Reclaimer Trilogy, and Spartan Ops is a real breath of fresh-air.

I expected little from Halo 4. I got a lot.

Runners up: Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3

Adam Boffa (Staff Writer) – Journey

Thatgamecompany’s Journey is my game of the year because no other game this year connected with me as profoundly as Journey did. Its gameplay mechanics are minimalist, but it takes tremendous advantage of a fact that is often taken for granted. The simple act of controlling a character makes for a unique and visceral connection that is impossible to replicate in other mediums.

Thanks to the near-perfect execution of its design goals, Journey offers an experience that is absolutely singular and absolutely worth playing.

Runners up: Papo & Yo, Max Payne 3

Andy Corrigan (Editor and Owner) – Spec Ops: The Line

My choice for Game of the Year hasn’t changed, hasn’t wavered once since I first played it back in late June. I found Spec Ops: The Line and its tale of Captain Martin Walker’s mental descent in a sandy, war-torn Dubai to be so haunting that it’s stayed with me for most of this year.

At first glance, the game just seems to project itself as a generic, modern warfare shooter with standard cover mechanics and initial actions that border on stereotypical. Sadly, many gamers might come away with that as their point of view after playing it for a short time, and hell, many would have dismissed the game out of hand on account of that alone.

While it’s true that The Line has you performing these same horrific things that you’ve always just mindlessly done in video-games in order to progress, things that we’ve become too accustomed to, it makes sure to constantly rub these actions in your face. The Line never lets you forget what you’ve done, never lets you distance yourself from your foes, and ultimately makes you think about every single bullet you’ve ever fired in earnest when playing games.

It’s a multi-faceted, brutal yet meaningful example of story-telling.

Runners up: The Walking Dead, Max Payne 3

Neil Hickton (Podcast Producer) – Uncharted: The Golden Abyss

My favourite gaming experience this year has to be Uncharted: Golden Abyss; the crazily good Playstation Vita launch title. While it has its problems and doesn’t always have the polish of its cousins on the PS3, it’s still got that Uncharted feel in abundance and the story is on par with the other Uncharted games. The fact you can experience a game like this while travelling in this very pure and neat form is liberating. The multiple control methods available also allow you to play the game the way you are most comfortable with, without forcing you into one particular way.

Launch titles are usually lower standard and perhaps there are times where they cheat a little. However, it certainly does wonders to whet the appetite of the potential Vita owner (every gamer should own a Vita by the way). Play it and you won’t be disappointed.

Runners up: The Walking Dead, Escape Plan