The best (and worst) of the year – Joseph Barron
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.
To some extent, 2012 has not been a great year for the mainstream video game industry. Sales have plummeted, journalists have seemed determined to destroy each other and so-called “Triple A” games have continued to stagnate. However, despite the issues we’ve all seen, there have been some genuinely innovative and thought provoking games this year, especially on downloadable platforms.
Best Loved Games
Take me on a Journey
My favourite game of 2012 is ThatGameCompany’s PS3 masterpiece, Journey. It captured my attention from the main menu, to the closing credits by telling a fascinating story without the use of traditional game mechanics, or even any dialogue.
It is made even more magical by giving you the chance of bumping into other players at any time and in any place during the story. You can come across another player who is half-way through a puzzle and help them to solve it, completely changing the dynamic of a challenge which you might have had to solve on your own. You can stay with that person for hours, or part ways never to bump into each other again. Along this shared experience, you are never shown the other player’s PlayStation Network username and you can only communicate with a series of whistles.
If you have not played Journey yet, you really should. It is an astonishing achievement in adventure, graphics and design and is one of the best games of this console generation.
Formula for success
Over the last three years I have enjoyed watching Codemasters Birmingham take on the monumental challenge of turning the sport of Formula One into a modern video game success. With F1 2012, they have achieved something very special. While other racing studios have obsessed over physics and simulation in recent years, they have completely forgotten about motorsport. F1 2012 makes fewer attempts to be a driving simulation and instead is one of the most complete motorsport simulations ever created.
If you want to drive a wide variety of cars on the open road, then you should pick up Forza Horizon, but if you want to race and be thrilled by the best video game depiction of F1 in years, then you need F1 2012 in your collection.
Telltale Games are continuing to keep the point-and-click adventure genre relevant in modern games. With their latest episodic series, The Walking Dead, they have taken their writing and storytelling to a whole new level.
The beautifully realised characters are some of the best ever created for a video game. The game also handles decision making and choice far more competently than any other. You are constantly forced to make harrowing and seemingly impossible choices which can have huge ramifications on the lives of the other characters and their behaviour towards the protagonist, Lee.
I must admit that I was initially put off by the post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested setting, which has been done to death in the games industry of late, but this is a game about people struggling to come to terms with huge, horrifying changes in their lives. It’s not all about bashing and shooting the undead in the face.
The one proviso I would make is, try to play The Walking Dead on PC if you can. I had some horrendous technical problems on the Xbox 360, with Telltale’s solution to a game breaking bug being “buy the rest of the episodes now and your save file will correct itself.” Frankly, that is some unforgivably terrible programming, but the narrative is so good that it simply must be experienced. Just not in the console versions!
Assassin’s Creed III
Deciding which game I was most disappointed with in 2012 was actually quite difficult! For a while, I was going to include Mass Effect 3 here – you can probably guess why – but then I had the misfortune to play Assassin’s Creed III.
I didn’t experience technical issues, as many others did, but I did have to suffer through some of the most dreadful design choices of the year. Fast travel should take you somewhere “fast,” right? Wrong. “Fast travel to Boston” doesn’t actually take you to Boston – it pops up a loading screen which drops you off in the Frontier next to an invisible wall which you have to walk into to trigger a second loading screen which brings you into the city. Brilliant.
Then there was the chase mission design. The secondary objectives in these missions were nearly always, “Don’t bump into anyone,” which in cities as densely filled with NPCs and as narrow as those in the Assassin’s series, is nigh on impossible.
One particular chase, which I have talked about on the Citizen Game Cast, is without doubt the worst level I have played in any game all year. It went a little something like this:
Chase villain out of bar. Chase villain around the block, bearing in mind he is given a 50 yard head-start and runs almost as fast as the protagonist. Follow villain several times in a circle, back past the bar again and again, while very slowly catching up to him. Accidentally bump into pedestrian. Lose 50 yards to villain and have to pretty much start over. Eventually apprehend villain 45 minutes later by realising you can stand still and wait for him to catch up to you because he’s running the same circle over and over again.
Also, the ending of Assassin’s Creed III arguably has even less payoff than Mass Effect 3’s and the American Civil War era protagonist is nearly as annoying as Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. Meh.