5.) Borderlands 2 – “It is an all-around superb title that can be enjoyed alone or in co-op with up to three other people. The story is a sort scifi-Western, but it’s loaded with humor and will have you laughing out loud occasionally. It’s a fun-filled romp through a world that you will want to see more of and will want to help save from the most like-ably evil villain since GLaDOS. I don’t say that lightly either; Borderlands 2 ranks right up there with Portal 2 as the funniest video game ever made. It starts literally right from the beginning with the loveable Claptrap (“your ability to walk small distances without dying will be Handsome Jack’s downfall.”) and it just doesn’t let up.” That was from my review of the PS3 version. You can also check out our News Editor Eric W.’s review of the PC version here. [4 out of 4]
4.) Sleeping Dogs – This is one of the games on the list that I did not review. Instead, our Reviews Editor Brian “Sandman” Hall handled this one and did a great job with it. With that said, here’s a quote from Brian’s review, and I’ll follow up with a comment or two of mine afterwards: “This really is a fantastic game. It has a good main story, along with many, many side missions that are both interesting, challenging, and tell good stories of their own. Always rewarding to play a game that offers you quality in every aspect of the offering, makes you want to keep coming back and get that full completion. And that can only help if you like many, including myself, and consider yourself to be an achievement whore…or achievement junkie, whichever you prefer to go by.” Sleeping Dogs is an amazing open world game with some of the best driving and shooting that I’ve seen in the genre, by far. If for some reason you haven’t gotten this yet, put it on your Christmas list. It’s a must play. [4 out of 4]
3.) XCOM: Enemy Unknown – “XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a truly wonderful experience that all gamers ought to give a shot, even if they’re not typically fans of the genre. If you play the game for a while, you’ll undoubtedly experience all of its flaws multiple times during a single play session. At the same though, if you sit back and allow yourself to be immersed in the experience, you’ll quickly discover how easy it is to look past the games few glitches and questionable design choices and see the game for what it truly is: an intense and highly challenging game that will make you feel connected to its world and care about the soldiers you’re commanding. It forces you to think, be strategic and creative, and ultimately make difficult decisions. It’s truly the closet thing we’ve ever seen to an alien invasion simulator. It may not be the most highly polished game on the market, but I’d much rather have all my games be this fun and this addictive versus some super-polished game that looks fantastic and runs smooth but is no fun to play. XCOM is easily one of the best games of the year, and for console gamers who like strategy games, you’re not going to find a better game in the genre than this one.” [4 out of 4]
2.) Assassin’s Creed III – “It may not be the runaway Game of the Year that I was expecting, but Assassin’s Creed III is definitely in the running for my personal GOTY even despite its glaring issues. I’m actually considering buying the game again for Wii U just to see how that version plays. Any fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise should absolutely love this game provided they can look past the bugs and glitches (which I know some people can’t). It nails it where it counts most to me; run and replayability. Between the single player and the multiplayer, I’m hard pressed to name a game I’ve had more fun with all year long, and there have been some extremely fun games released this year. Pick this one up ASAP.” [4 out of 4]
1.) Hitman: Absolution – If you’re looking at the scores included at the end of each finalist’s paragraph so far, you’re probably going to be starching your head wondering why four of the five have four star ratings and the one listed as the Game of the Year has a three star rating. It’s simple. Hitman: Absolution was reviewed by Eric W. based on the PC version, and was the first game to be scored using our new four star scale. Every other finalist was reviewed using a 10-point scale, and in transitioning, everything that scored a 9.0 or higher was given a four-star rating on the new scale. With that said, here’s a quote from Eric’s review:
“It’s a good game on its own merits but when you put the name Hitman on something there are certain expectations people have and all of those expectations simply aren’t met here with this game in its present form as of the date I write this. I’m hoping a robust patch or two comes along from IO and helps put this over the top. If that happens, I’ll happily revise my review upwards accordingly. There’s a lot to like here and a lot of potential but my list of complaints holds it back from realizing that full potential.” [3 out of 4]
My experience with Hitman has been based on playing the PS3 version, which runs great and looks great. Unlike Eric, I’m not a, as he calls himself, “Hitman fanboy.” This is my first true experience with a Hitman game (I played the first level of one of the games in a web browser window and it didn’t run smoothly at all). So the complaints that he and other longtime fans of the franchise have don’t really impact me. Things like not having a safe house and not being able to choose your loadout aren’t things I miss since I didn’t play the previous games.
I do agree that the disguise/AI detection is broken at worst or terribly imbalanced at best. I like that wearing a disguise grants you certain freedom but can be blown if you get near other people dressed like you are. For the electricians, I can buy that they all know each other and would be able to recognize you as not being one of them. Would they be able to start detecting you while you’re walking away from them at a nice distance? Probably not, but they do in this game. I don’t think it’s at all realistic that just because you’re dressed as a cop, every other cop in the level can become suspicious of you. Does every cop in Chicago know every other cop in the city? No, but they do in this game.
Eric called out the game for generally having less freedom than the previous games in the series, but even that didn’t bother me. I like the freedom this game offers as is, so if the others were more freedom oriented then I wish they’d release HD versions on PSN/XBLA/Steam. I understand and agree with the complaint leveled against the scoring system and how easy it is to lose points, but at the same time I like that system (again, with no previous experience to compare it to). I love completing a level, seeing my score and the score breakdown, and going “I can do better than that” and immediately going back into the level to get the Silent Assassin bonus.
I love sneaking around the wonderfully created levels and exploring every little bit of it, and trying to get the best kill I can. I love it even when I have to sit for a decent amount of time without doing anything but watching and listening. The game truly awards patience and stealth, and as a result it’s unlike anything I’ve played this year, last year, and the year before that. I love the slow, sneaking pace so much that after beating the game on normal I started a new game on Purist difficulty and have really been enjoying the tremendous challenge that it is (especially when trying to be as stealthy as possible).
All of the games that made my top five have been truly wonderful games that I sunk many hours into and had tons of fun with it. When it’s all said and done though, no other game this year sucked me in more than Hitman: Absolution did, which is something I would not have expected prior to buying the game off PSN a few days after it released. At the end of the day my biggest criteria is the fun factor, and while every game on my list has been fun (I don’t buy or request games I think won’t be fun), Hitman wins out as the most fun. Yes, hiding behind a dumpster for six minutes watching the environment and then sneaky around to more cover is way more fun than it should be (as is the game itself, which is a glorified murder simulator). I’ve enjoyed being patient and carefully maneuvering through the levels avoiding killing anyone who isn’t a target.
I can’t help but look at the list and point out that two of the games have no real multiplayer and another one has no competitive multiplayer. More and more, developers are shoehorning in multiplayer modes that aren’t needed all because of some weird belief that gamers don’t want single player games. Sleeping Dogs and Hitman: Absolution have no real multiplayer; they both have leader boards, and Hitman has Contracts mode that allows you to set targets, kill them, and then challenge others to play your contract and best your score. Borderlands 2 only has cooperative multiplayer.
In addition to naming HITMAN: ABSOLUTION my overall Game of the Year for 2012, here are some other selections for different categories.
Best Downloadable Title: Rainbow Moon
Best Sports Game: WWE ‘13
Best Team Sports Game: Madden NFL ’13 (PS3/360, not the Wii U version)
Best Multiplayer: Starhawk
Best Publisher: Square Enix (they put out two of my top five, could it be anyone else?)
Best Surprise: Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland
Again, these are just my personal selections based on the games I played this year that were released in the United States in 2012. The “Official Vortex Effect Game of the Year” will be announced in mid-January, and will be decided by a mix of staff voting and voting from the community. Stay tuned for me info on that in the coming weeks.
Now you know my selection for Game of the Year, and so now I want to know yours. Which game released this year did you enjoy more than any other? Let us know in the comments below.