Yes, we realize you’ve already seen almost everyone’s Game Of The Year, but be kind to us; it’s our birthday.
January 1st not only marks the beginning of a brand new year, but also two full years since Critical Hit! began. Here’s a list of our favorite games that were released during that year.
Game of the Year
James: Max Payne 3
To this day, I’m still confused as to why Max Payne 3 got such a lukewarm reception. While the reviews were fantastic, the game’s fanbase turned out to be significantly weaker than it should be. Max Payne 3‘s story continues to follow one of the most unlikely superheroes in history as he dives, shoots, and drunkenly stumbles his way through Brazil. Max Payne 3 has a great story, fantastic acting and addicting multiplayer, and the expertly-crafted gameplay elements blow any other third person shooters out of the water. Max Payne 3 not only looks and sounds like a great game, it feels like it too. The amount of control you have over Max, and how natural everything in the game feels makes me upset it didn’t get the attention it needed before it was too late.
For me, it was clear that 2012 was the year of the downloadable title. Journey, The Walking Dead, Fez, Mark Of The Ninja, Hotline Miami…these are all games that are far more innovative and seem much more interesting to me than any triple-A release this year. But this is partly because these games were allowed be innovative. So much money is invested in triple-A titles that there’s more pressure for those games to conform to whatever is currently en vogue, in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. Downloadable titles on the other hand have a much smaller budget, which allows them to experiment and take chances. For me, the best game of the year was Journey, which created an experience so purely emotional that I think it’d make even Roger Ebert finally admit that videogames can indeed be Art.
James: Hotline Miami
I knew Hotline Miami would be great from the first glimpse of gameplay that was revealed. What I didn’t know was all the gritty, pixellated kills would serve as an ingenious backdrop to one of the smartest, most artistic commentaries on violence I have ever seen.
Kate: The Walking Dead
I’ll be honest, Telltale’s previous games have mostly left me cold. I’m a huge fan of the Back To The Future trilogy, but I found the gameplay of their videogame sequel to be extremely tedious, with an otherwise amusing story that was filled with annoying plot holes. I had initially dismissed The Walking Dead without a second glance, but clearly I made a mistake.
James: Max Payne 3
Now… hold on a second. Max Payne 3 is still my Game of the Year. Its phenomenal. So how is it the biggest disappointment? Well, Max Payne 3 had everything going for it on release. Awesome gameplay, a great storyline, addicting multiplayer, and the ending to one of the most-beloved video game stories. What went wrong?
It was the fanbase.
Clocking in at 1.21 million total sales to date, Max Payne 3 barely made a dime in comparison to most triple-A titles. A huge marketing campaign barely did any help to sell people on a game that wasn’t Call of Duty or Halo. The multiplayer should have brought in more people, but it didn’t. The lack of sales drove Rockstar to move onto other projects, and the planned DLC and any patch updates suffered because of this. I still play multiplayer from time to time, but its kind of sad looking at what could have been, staring at the DLC maps I’ll never get to play because only me and like five other people actually bought the Season Pass.
While Max Payne 3 may be my Game of the Year, the lack of fan support also makes it my biggest disappointment of the year.
Kate: Quantum Conundrum
In many ways a spiritual sequel to Portal by that game’s co-creator and lead Kim Swift, I was very much looking forward to Quantum Conundrum. What I wasn’t expecting was such a heavy emphasis on first-person platforming, on a timer no less. The game was filled with creative and innovative ideas, but was far more flawed than I ever imagined it’d be.
Best Co-Op Game
James: Dragon’s Dogma
Borderlands 2 had some really great co-op, and it was a great game overall, but Dragon’s Dogma did some really interesting things with co-op. You can’t actually play in real-time with your friends (which would’ve been amazing), but what instead happens is people can “rent” the pawn you’ve created and customized alongside the main character. Random people over the internet can rent your pawn if they’re within a close enough level, but anyone on your friends list can take part, regardless if their current level.
This really brought forward the aspect of working together, for me. For instance, if you’ve just started the game, I could borrow your pawn and buy them some really nice gear to go back home with, or another friend could borrow my pawn and show them how to defeat a monster I haven’t encountered yet. This would allow my pawn to come back and tell me about any weak spots or useful strategies to know when we do encounter the monster. Dragon’s Dogma isn’t without its flaws, but it is still a solid RPG with some very interesting co-op.
Kate: Borderlands 2
The first Borderlands was an amazing co-op game (though in my opinion, not as fun solo), and the sequel actually managed to improve on the formula.
Best PSN/XBLA Game
This really was the year of the downloadable game. So many great games came out on XBLA, PSN and Steam (even some independents!) that could stand for Game of the Year on their own. My favorite this year, however, was Fez. Despite some controversy surrounding the creator, Phil Fish, Fez is still an imaginative, memorable puzzle-platformer that brings back the old childhood feeling of entering a huge, new world in a video game for the first time.
Best Handheld Game
James: Scribblenauts Unlimited
I love Scribblenauts. I always have. While the 3DS version is missing the incredible object editor found in the Wii U and PC versions, Scribblenauts Unlimited is still a fun handheld game with way more room for creativity than I know what to do with.
Apparently I made bad choices with my handheld purchases this year, and all the games I played ranged from flawed (Super Mario: Sticker Star) to disappointing (New Super Mario Bros. 2), and I don’t think it’d be fair to considered the 3DS eShop port of Cave Story a new release.