NGP Game of the Year 2012 – Jamie's Top Five

2012 was a bizarre year for video games. It was the year for games that made me feel really awful (thanks Spec Ops!), but also the year where genre and franchise revivals were at an all time high, mostly thanks to Kickstarter or other crowdfunding sites. After all, did you expect a new Tex Murphy or Elite game to be announced, let alone see a turn-based XCOM game in 2012?

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Have a gander at my five favourite games of 2012. Because it was a pretty good year overall.

Hotline Miami is an incredibly weird game to describe. It’s an 80’s themed, acid tinged, overly violent puzzle game with hints of a racing game. It’s also kinda broken in a lot of regards, but it’s also one of the most satisfying yet incredibly uncomfortable video games ever created. And it was all created by one dude. One dude known for creating video games stupidly quickly.

Where Hotline Miami works is that it’s a game about adrenaline and the rush you get. Thinking about a situation is going to get you killed. Just going in, getting into a Zen-like phase and killing dudes is the way to succeed. And it’s absolutely beautiful once you pull it off. Couple that with the most perfect soundtrack for this game, and you’ve got something truly special.

[Watch New Game Plus’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown review]

While I do love me a good turn-based strategy game, X-COM was never a series that I really invested the time in; it felt like it had just a tad “too much” going on for my liking. So who would’ve thought that all it would take is for developer Firaxis to reinvent the series for a new audience, and do a damned good job in doing it?

Where XCOM: Enemy Unknown works is that it’s quite easy to get in to and never really feels too complex…even if the game can be murderously hard at times. But that’s part of the fun, and it never gets old when you kill one of the aliens. Because they deserve it.

Just go into it expecting one hell of a turn-based strategy game and you’re in for a treat. And it even works on consoles.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was a hard act to follow. It’s one of the few games that has an incredibly satisfying set of endings that deliver on its hype. So it’s sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward has some big shoes to fill — and it does so decidedly.

While it isn’t too different from its predecessor, it fixes up quite a number of that game’s issues, from improving the pacing to making it easier to replay the game and see its 24 endings. That being said though, the puzzles are still pretty awful to play through, making it prime candidate for a walkthrough.

If you want a great story, Virtue’s Last Reward does not disappoint. Just don’t come in expecting too different of a game from 999.

[Watch New Game Plus’ Forza Horizon review]

Forza Horizon came to a shock to many people. It’s the first game in the series not developed by Turn 10, but it also changes up the Forza formula dramatically, dropping the career progression of prior games in favour of open world racing. If you think it sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’d be right in thinking so. Except it couldn’t be further from the truth.

What makes Forza Horizon work is that it brings in a fantastic atmosphere and vibe, adds in a smartly designed open world, but also has just enough of Forza’s roots to not completely turn people off. While it’s not as much of a hardcore simulation as Forza games past, the best features of the series — such as the detailed tuning, customizable difficulties and design storefronts — are all here and present.

While isn’t much variety in the races, and it does fall into a bit of a microtransaction trap, the game is easily the finest racer of the year and an absolute blast to play.

I went into The Walking Dead with possibly the worst set of expectations one could have. On the developer side, I wasn’t as keen on Telltale thanks to the sour taste left by their prior works. As for the Walking Dead franchise, the comics never really grabbed me, nor did the TV show. Hell, if anything, I purchased it on a whim, making it my last attempt to finally get why people actually dug this IP.

It wasn’t until the second episode that what Telltale was trying to do ‘clicked.’ A certain event happened that made me do something that I don’t otherwise do unless I’m particularly irked by a game.

I swore in absolute shock.

The purest form of shock to boot — the shock that completely and utterly took me by surprise. From then on, the rest of the game just worked. I fell in love with it, ignoring the fact that there really wasn’t much gameplay and instead focusing on the fleshed out and well-written characters.

If anything, the game is worth checking out for the relationship between the player character Lee and survivor Clementine. Once meeting Clem, you want to ensure you never see any harm come to her, ensure she stays alive, ensure she still retains part of her humanity while everything goes to hell around the two of you. It’s a powerful relationship that works.

In a year of dark and serious stories, The Walking Dead easily stands on its own as an incredibly strong product that has little to do with the existing IP, and my pick for Game of the Year.

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.