Monday, December 31, 2012

Gryzor's Top 5 Best AND Worst Video Games of 2012

With 2012 behind us, it's time to take every video game from then (that I've played, anyway) and compile two lists that glorifies both the best and the worst that was on offer.

The Highs
Let's start positively with a bunch of games that gave 2012 the boost that it needed to keep you coming back.

Spec Ops: The Line
The idea of a video game might've always been interacting with a virtual environment, often with a story tacked on for good measure. Usually when I say a game's story is good, I mean it in the context of it being a video game story - these things are not substitutes for books or even movies and story driven TV shows. However, I'm happy to report that Spec Ops: The Line is one of the few video game stories that can stand alongside books. It has a highly engrossing story about the horrors of war and what everybody else has been glorifying. You may be shooting people, but who are you really shooting? Are you a freedom fighter or are you a bloodthirsty gun nut? Throughout the game, you'll be forced to make decisions to either press on and give the surviving citizens of Dubai two big fat middle fingers, or tell your squad mates to get fucked while you save some Dubaiins from trouble. Each decision is grey as there are positives and consequences no matter what you do. Due to details like this, the story ends up sucking you right in. The gameplay itself is serviceable, even good at times, but it's the story that helps it stand out. So if you're thinking of a story driven experience but you can't code gameplay worth a shit (eh Team Bondi), this game should be a decent enough starting point.

I Am Alive
The idea of being in a sort of post apocalyptic world is something that's somewhat done to death with the Fallout games and Darksiders. But I Am Alive takes that concept and bases not only the story and themes, but also the gameplay around it. It's not about shooting down zombies and mutants and shit; it's about surviving against the odds. Survivors may or may not be willing to let you live if you even register in their peripheral vision as anything that can move. You're not exactly a super soldier either - in fact, you have to use whatever tools you can find in order to find out what's going on. It's a highly engrossing game that keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially when you consider that while the platforming is mechanically like Uncharted (in which a lot of it is done for you), the addition of a stamina meter makes things more intense. If you can't play conservatively, you're going to die. That's how it rolls, people.

Hotline: Miami
It's easy to overthink about this game's intentions - about how it's about the glorification of video game violence and all that, especially with a level where you're not given bright neon colors nor the ability to fight. That level is meant to be crap because it's meant to show us our true nature when it comes to playing video games, and how fucking appropriate is this - you're rewarded points based on how you kill, including the variety of ways that you carry out the killing and the actual method. But look past that pretentious bullshit, and what you have is a fun, fun game about brutally fucking people up! It might have bright and colorful 2D visuals and it might have a top down perspective, but fuck me if it isn't bloody and brilliant... or just bloody brilliant. Perhaps it's the sadistic bastard inside me speaking, but this game is a lot of fun and I can see myself playing this repeatedly because I like to see cartoony heads roll...

Silent Hill: Downpour
Hey, it's my original pick for the game of the year! Fancy seeing you... no longer there! But really, Silent Hill: Downpour is a fantastic experience through and through. It, like the rest of the series, contains a lot of suspense not only with the pacing of its scares, but also the sound design. Daniel Licht may not be as awesome of a sound composer as Akira Yamaoka, but he still manages to compose something that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Also like the rest of the series, its story is one that keeps you compelled to go on as Murphy is a very likeable not to mention relateable character, going through situations that we only barely go through in our minds (fun fact: Silent Hill is basically a manifestation of one's inner demons) whilst trying to keep a level head and not go insane. Due to all of this, combat that can be seen as clunky (not Silent Hill 1-4 clunky but not as fluid as Homecoming's either) and Otherworld segments that can be seen as too trial and error heavy wind up being better seen as elements that are a result of Murphy trying to survive in a fucked up world. This is something I've always believed was lacking in survival horror games, particularly the eternally overrated Resident Evil series - the horror tends to be a result of arbitrary bullshit like tank controls and standing still while aiming. Not for Silent Hill. The horror there resides in the subconscious of the protagonist and his limitations... sorry, I'm just not over the fact that what essentially amounts to SWAT can't aim and run at the same time with fucking pistols while ordinary people like every Silent Hill protagonist can with smaller firearms...

The Walking Dead
Telltale Games, you magnificent bastards! While you guys don't always make hits (Hector: Badge Of Carnage was alright, and Jurassic Park: The Game was abysmal), fuck, when you do, you fucking do! Meet The Walking Dead, a set of five episodes based on the comic of the same name. The idea is to survive the zombie apocalypse and you'll do so by gathering supplies to keep the group of survivors alive whilst fending off the occasional zombie. Like Spec Ops: The Line, the story is most certainly the strongest point and at first, it helps you overlook some mediocre gameplay - the first two episodes feature basic gameplay that only really works in the context of itself. Thankfully, the later episodes up the ante and make things more exciting, even when they consist of pressing certain keys at the right time. But again, the story is what makes it work out so well in the first place! It's easy to get sucked into the whole thing as the writing is fantastic, as is the characterization of the survivors. To put it simply, you'll feel for their situation, you'll like their company while it lasts, and you'll be a little down in the dumps when somebody dies. It's one of those games you'll play over and over again to make different decisions, just to see where Telltale allows you to go with them - yeah, they subtle, but with characters like these and writing like this, it doesn't matter that much.

The Lows
Unfortunately, this year had its share of shitty games, so let's just get this shit over and done with. Too bad it felt more like the aftermath of a meal at Crapdonalds.

Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse
Did anybody at Heavy Iron Studios actually watch this show? I understand that Family Guy isn't exactly the paragon of intelligent humor... or even relevant humor, but this goes WAY overboard! Anything and everything people bitch about in terms of Family Guy's humor, like its irrelevance to the plot, overrepetition or Seth MacFarlane's overly liberal agenda, is found here. These aren't even jokes, they're comments. Instead of making you laugh, they make you cringe. If that's not enough, the game is complete shit. The aiming is flimsy, enemies are batshit fucking insanely stupid, physics are floaty, the graphics are complete shit and overall, the shooting is just boring. It's like a shitty arena shooter if it was way too forgiving with its respawn points... if The Walking Dead can kick ass, so should Family Guy: Back To The Multiverse. Oh, and it's 2012 - we should know how to make good licensed games by now. No excuses, this game blows giant nutsack. The only reason it's not my #1 worst game of 2012 is because... believe me, you can do worse.

Lollipop Chainsaw
Recently, I replayed the game because it was coming up to the time to do one of these lists up and I thought "eh, it can't really be that bad, right"? Well, I'm so wrong that I'm more retarded than Peter Griffin - this game IS bad! Where the clunkiness of combat is ignorable in Silent Hill: Downpour (at least when put into context), it's actually pretty damn annoying in Lollipop Chainsaw because... well, aren't you meant to be pretty fucking kickass at fucking up zombies with a chainsaw? I know a chainsaw is heavy, but still! Oh, and the mini games feel more like an arbitrary means of falsely increasing difficulty, and don't get me started on the quick time event shitfest that is when you control Nick. WHY!? Oh, and the humor is complete shit too. There's wittily written jokes, and then there's "it's funny because they exist", and this game falls under the latter. So no, I don't regret trashing this game before because it's a terribly conceived game that can't even fall back on its style!

Medal Of Honor: Warfighter
I suppose I can understand why Medal Of Honor's reboot deserved a sequel - it was a realistic take on war instead of simply glorifying it like Call Of Duty does. Really, Medal Of Honor 2010 wasn't terrible because its story was pretty good... it was just a bore to actually play it because it honestly felt like a broke man's Call Of Duty. So here comes the sequel - Medal Of Honor: Warfighter (more like Borefighter, am I right xdd), and its story isn't anywhere near as good! Unlike Spec Ops: The Line, it's boring. The writing is mediocre, the storytelling is haphazard at best and it honestly does nothing to capture your attention at any point. Outside of a handful of sequences, it's an extremely unremarkable game with fuck all going for it - at least Medal Of Honor 2010 had a good story!

Blades Of Time
"Oh golly, we have a "sexy" half naked chick on our cover, we're gonna sell millions!" - I'm not sure whether I feel like pointing out its sales figures (frankly, I'd be embarrassed publicly acknowledging having ever owned this shameless piece of shit) or whether to just rip this game a new vagina because holy fucking shit, this game sucks! I've covered this before - it's a boring hack and slash game that doesn't ever make you feel like a badass, nor does it ever make you feel anything other than bored out of your skull. The time mechanic is poorly implemented and feels clunkier than the combat in Lollipop Chainsaw. Buy X-Blades instead.. if you want to, of course; it's not much better, but it's fun at least, and Blades Of Time isn't.

Resident Evil 6
The only Resident Evil game I like is the fourth one. I can appreciate the first game for what it did, but the rest can fuck right off for all I care. Resident Evil 6 is meant to be a push in the right direction as far as action horror goes as you can *gasp* move and shoot. Sadly, this game embodies far too many things that this generation does wrong - the third person shooting, although better than Back To The Multiverse's, is clunky with some sensitive aiming controls, the cover controls are ass backwards, and it does everything in its power to keep on taking play control away from you by either boring you to death with an irrelevant story (Resident Evil's always had a shit story, but this is just ridiculous) or by shoving a million quick time events down your throat. Look, quick time events work either when a game is designed around them or when used for a few sweet action sequences. Resident Evil 6 doesn't have anything resembling a direction in its design, instead favoring throwing shit on the wall to see if it sticks while sticking you in mostly ultra linear hallways, cramming non stop and eventually fucking boring action down your throat. Pacing - what's that? We're Capcom, we're so out of touch with reality that we can make money by slapping a famous logo onto a shitty game - which is what this game is. If it was a no name IP, it'd sell like shit and it wouldn't have such a whiny fanbase... I think that already happened. It's called Quantum Theory! This and Back To The Multiverse are strong, strong contenders for the worst game of the year, but you know you can do even worse, if that's possible.

The absolute worst game of 2012 is...
To think that a game that was released at the beginning of the year would still be a benchmark for utter atrociousness is weird. Like Lollipop Chainsaw, I recently replayed this game just so I can say to myself that there're worse games - this was the worst game of the first half of 2012 and, although the bar had been set lower with Back To The Multiverse and Resident Evil 6... this is still such a wretched game that I can't really put it anywhere else, maybe except in a furnace! I've said it once and I'll say it again - if this is the true survival horror experience, boy oh boy, I am fucking glad it's ceasing to be a relevant genre. It still feels like it hasn't been playtested due to the fact that I've had moments where I couldn't backtrack after dying... when I needed to, as well! The co-op elements are even more forced than those found in Resident Evil 5 and the stealth level... oh my fucking god, after the likes of Dishonored and Mark Of The Ninja, I think even less of this shitty level! All in all, it's a poorly designed game that seems to take the piss out of what went wrong with Japanese survival horror games... YEARS AFTER PEOPLE STOPPED FUCKING CARING AND MOVED ONTO AMERICAN HORROR GAMES!

The absolute best game of 2012 is...
Sleeping Dogs
Like The Walking Dead, Silent Hill: Downpour and especially Spec Ops: The Line, Sleeping Dogs's biggest strength is in the story. Whether it's the writing, the concept or the storytelling, it's all very strong, and its implementation into the game itself is even sweeter than Strawberry Shortcake. Simply put, you're an undercover officer working to destroy the triads, but you find yourself becoming more and more like one of them at the disdain of your fellow officers. It's not just a cover; it's you. The dilemmas faced here in tandem with the events that unfold help keep the game's story as intriguing as possible. That's not to mention the gameplay - move on over Batman and Spider Man, because Wei Shen will fuck you guys up with his killer martial arts right after fucking up rival gangs! Seriously, the hand to hand combat in this game, while a tad easy, is masterfully crafted to work really well and be a lot of fun to pull off, and with unlockable combos earned either through Triad experience points or by collecting and returning statues to a martial arts club, there'll be more at your disposal. There's not much else to say without rambling on for hours and hours than this - buy it. Seriously, this is a fantastic fucking game that deserves your hard earned money.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen - 2012 is over. Overall, it was a pretty weak year. Yes, the best of the best drove the medium further towards storytelling that's backed up by great (or just workable in the case of Spec Ops: The Line and The Walking Dead, though the latter's case is one that can't be helped) gameplay, but the worst games embody quite a lot of things wrong with gaming today - whether they be frustrating mistakes or the embodiment of everything that can go wrong with modern gaming, one thing is for certain, and that's that you better keep a close eye on what you're going to buy. There are some honorable mentions in Mark Of The Ninja, Binary Domain, Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron and yes, even Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2. I wish developers all the best for their output in 2013, hopefully we'll see some more interesting games without going through so much mediocrity. I also wish you guys all the best for the new year and remember - keep a balance of gaming and real life responsibilities so you won't be a fucking jobless hermit!

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