NGP Game of the Year 2012 – Matt's Top Three

Throughout recent years, gaming has become somewhat predictable. This isn’t a bad thing though. It helps us to remove ourselves from social activity in time for the massive November release schedule and tells us when to save our pennies for the heavy-hitting IPs throughout the year. Unfortunately, a considerable amount of triple-A titles this year missed the mark in capitalising on their strengths. This allowed attention to be directed to many games that otherwise would have gone under the radar.

2012 wasn’t without its constants but they were outnumbered and outgunned by ‘the year of the sleeper hit.’

Early 2012 marked the release schedule for many 3DS games that were announced during the console’s reveal. One offering, however, caught my eye and despite my greatest efforts, I could not divert my attention away. That game was Kid Icarus: Uprising.

Part on-rail shooter, part adventure and all action, Kid Icarus: Uprising was an enthralling blend of shoot ’em up within a wealth of modes, addictive weapon collection, as well a sense of self awareness that works deceivingly well within the game’s universe. I loved the multiplayer — it set a benchmark that handheld games have yet to best for smooth and incredibly hectic online battles. Developed by the team behind Super Smash Bros and Kirby, their track record alone is enough to highly recommend this portable gem.

[Watch New Game Plus’ Max Payne 3 review]

Elegantly put, Max Payne 3 is poetry in slow motion. The stanzas are riddled with bullets, rhythm is accentuated through the screams of Max’s victims and the momentum builds to a satisfying crescendo.

Initially, the drastic location change, new developer in Rockstar Vancouver and their ability to weave the traditional noir experience into this game was intimidating. But it can be said with great confidence that this game instead acts as a clean slate, while giving fans of the previous games enough space in the form of flashbacks (playable levels!) to accept such changes.

With Max Payne 3, it’s all about the little details. Guns have a good amount of oomph, kills are challenging and a balance between arcade and realistic mechanics has been reached with success. As Max, you are an ageing, substance abusing mess, and every dash, jump or sluggish scurry for cover only adds to the immersion — not to say that Max Payne isn’t capable of busting a few heads when he needs to.

Look no further for the best shooter and one of the greatest interactive stories told this year.

What can I say? Once the five-part episodic series took off in April, our adventures with superstar zombie ass-kicker Lee Everett went from surprise sleeper hit into what will be heralded as the game to beat for interactive storytelling within the coming years.

The Walking Dead is a relentless and unforgiving assault on the emotions that focuses on player decisions. They aren’t always there to facilitate ‘good’ or ‘bad’ endings, but to enhance and personalise the game’s pacing on the fly. Choices that are made by the player are frequently required to be made quickly, often within the space of seconds. Do you save this or that person? Do you take supplies that don’t belong to you? Do you mercy kill a survivor as they’re being swarmed by reanimated corpses?

Most of these decisions prove to be quite difficult thanks to the wonderful characterisation of the survivors you interact with during your journey. There are only a few games where hope is slowly built and then snatched away from you within mere seconds the way this title does.

It was possible for Telltale Games to revitalise their point and click adventure philosophy by injecting so many action elements within a genre commonly associated with anything but.

The Walking Dead is a tense, exciting, emotionally taxing and wonderful adventure deserving of its praise. Do play it.

Come back tomorrow for more games of the year from the NG+ cast and crew, or check out some of the previously posted GOTY lists.