The best (and worst) of the year – Paul Walker
It may come as a surprise, but we absolutely love games here at Citizen Game. Old games, bad games, big games, whatever. We love to play them and we love to talk about them. Right now everyone else is trying to sort out and definitively list the “best” games of the year, to compile them into Top Ten’s and Best Of’s. We don’t do that because we don’t really care which game was best this year. We only remember the games we love and the ones that have broken our hearts. So, to that end, Citizen Game will be presenting its Best Loved Games and biggest disappointment of 2012 in a series in the run up to Christmas, with staffers taking a moment to reflect on what made their favourite games of the year so special to them. We encourage you to do the same in the comments.
Best Loved Games
With Dishonored eliciting comparisons to Deus Ex from almost ever y publication that covered it in the leadup to its release, I was pretty certain that this game was going to be right up my street. As it turns out, I was not disappointed.
I won’t spend too much time describing what makes this game great — if you want to read about that go and check out Rich’s review — but suffice to say I loved the vertical exploration, the freedom, the stealth mechanics and pretty much everything else you could care to mention about Dishonored.
There are few games which lead me to think: “I’m going to play through that again”. There are even fewer where I actually follow through on that initial thought. In fact, Portal 2 is the only example I can think of in the last few years. That Dishonored has managed to find its way into such exclusive company speaks volumes about how much I like this game.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has probably been the most pleasantly surprising game I’ve played this year. Don’t get me wrong, I heard the hype, but I initially thought this game wasn’t really for me. Eventually, talk of its point and click elements, tough choices and excellent character design persuaded me to give it a go (I wrote a piece about this called What’s All the Fuss about The Walking Dead) and I’m so glad I did.
The Walking Dead managed to engage me to a degree that few games manage. It made me care about its characters to an extent that very few games manage. It also had me fretting over choices I had made long after the fact. Having this kind of experience with The Walking Dead made me realise how disappointingly rare these experiences are in videogames and I hope that the excellent work Telltale have done in creating The Walking Dead serves as a lesson to the “bigger” developers out there.
Of course, while I’m sitting here writing about The Walking Dead in the past tense, it’s not actually finished yet — the final episode is still to come. That’s the other thing I’ve really enjoyed about this game —picking up individual episodes which connect to an overall arc, but which are self-contained stories in their own right. Sure, videogames are often divided into chapters or levels, but this feels different. Sitting down with something which you can play thorough in one shot and come back to weeks later with a new episode is a new kind of gaming experience and one that I have heartily enjoyed.
You might think of Hotline Miami as another one of those indie darlings that the gaming press likes to faun over. Well, ignore that thought. It’s legitimately brilliant and unquestionably stands up against big budget AAA releases as one of the best games of the year.
The game’s basic premise is very simple:
1. Go to a place.
2. Kill everyone in that place.
Hotine Miami is a violent game then, one which aestheticizes violence in a tarantinoesque fashion. Like a Tarantino film, Hotline Miami also has a fabulous soundtrack and is heavy on the pop cultural references with Retro graphics, an 80s neon colour pallet and a Scarface like Miami all part of the formula.
This game demands flawless execution and breakneck reaction speeds from its player, but meeting that challenge is always a joy rather than a frustration. Mechanically, it’s pretty much perfect.
Despite its somewhat crass exterior, Hotline Miami also has a surprisingly sophisticated narrative which really intrigued me. The game adopts a surreal tone as it contemplates the appeal of violence while simultaneously asking the player to think about their own role in enacting it.
Mechanically perfect; narratively intriguing; brutally violent — a few of the phrases which have come to mind as I try to explain the masterpiece that is Hotline Miami. But what I suppose you really need to know is that it’s bloody fun to play — go do so.
I really wanted WWE ’12 to be good. I wanted it to be good because I wanted to be able to enjoy a wrestling game again; I have fond memories of playing Warzone and Attitude with friends on the first Playstation and I also remember the early days of the Smackdown vs Raw series and what a step forward for the genre those games proved to be. Since then however, wrestling games have come to embody mediocrity, settling into a pattern of lazy iteration which makes the Call of Duty franchise look as if it’s at the zenith of innovation and creativity.
With WWE ’12 THQ promised to give their wrestling franchise the shot in the arm it truly needed; WWE ’12, they said, would reinvigorate the series.
It’s clear that some effort was made to try new things with WWE ’12, but it wasn’t enough. Poor character models, stolid animation and poor sound design were problems carried over from past games, but WWE ’12 also managed to create some new problems of its own —vague objectives which left you unclear as to what you had to do to end a match being one notable example.
WWE ’13 is now on the horizon and fans are being tempted by the game’s nostalgic return to WWE’s Attitude era. It’s almost enough to tempt me, but I remember WWE ’12 and I’m not going to get burned again. Probably.