2012 was the year we got the epic conclusion to Bioware’s sci-fi trilogy, Mass Effect. The year we saw Telltale end the bum-streak it had been on with Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. It’s the year we saw someone finally rip off Smash Bros well. And it’s also the year that Paul, Mike and myself started the Glitch Free Gaming podcast almost entirely on a whim. It has been a fun time so far and something that we are looking forward to expanding in fun ways in 2013, starting with… this article on CalmDownTom!
Yes, you may have noticed that you are in fact not listening to this article. Well, unless you are using text to speech, but that’s cheating. No, 2013 is the year when GFG is partnering with CalmDownTom to try and share audiences. Does this mean we’ll be writing a lot for CDT? Hell no! But you’ll probably see us here and there, and likewise you’ll probably start hearing some new voices now and again on the podcast!
But you read the headline before you clicked it (I assume) and so you aren’t really here to read about the podcast. You’re hear to read this little round up of our Game of the Year winners this year. They are NOT the same as Calm Down Tom’s lists, these are solely the opinions of Mike, Paul and myself so expect some major differences in places! To hear our discussions, you can click these links to hear every little argument we had (I personally still think Gravity Rush needed more awards.)
Winner: Dead Or Alive 5
If there was one genre that had a strong representation this year it was definitely the fighting game, and here in the UK we didn’t even get all the important ones. We got some fantastic releases however in some well established franchises. All the big boys were there: Tekken, Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter, Dead or Alive, Street Fighter, Blazblue and America got a Persona fighting game (damn them!).
However the one game that definitely stuck out amongst them all was the latest Dead or Alive franchise. Each fighting game we played this year seemed to be missing a little something: Soul Calibur lacked a good story, Playstation All Stars lacked content in general and we’ll be honest, we just didn’t play that much Tekken for some reason. But Dead or Alive kept the spark of the rest of the series alive while coming packed with enough content to simply feel like one of the most complete experiences this year in the genre. It keeps the entry level low while still having enough depth for those who want to invest the time and effort into it to get pretty great at it, as proven from Paul and Mike completely destroying me every time we’ve played.
Runner up: Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Best New NPC
Winner: Tiny Tina from Borderlands 2
Best new NPC was a category we kinda made for Tiny Tina. There were a few nominations, but Tiny Tina was the one we knew from the start needed to be given this award. She was adorable, disturbing, hilarious and simply the most memorable character in Borderlands. She spawned some of the most amusing quests, such as setting up a teaparty for her inviting guests to fit the placecards of “Princess Fluffybutt”, “Sir Reginald” and “The Bastard Who Killed My Parents” and also participated in the main story quest in some eccentric and funny ways.
Runner up: Fidget from Dust an Elysian Tale
Best Multiplayer Game
Winner: Halo 4
Paul almost had a heart attack, the poor guy, when me and Mike actually agreed with him about Halo 4 being the best multiplayer game of the year. Mike and I were never overly into Halo’s multiplayer, and Halo 4’s multiplayer is kinda just more of the same. They made some interesting changes here and there, but overall it feels very much like a Halo game which we all enjoy, but only Paul has cared enough to invest a lot of time into the series multiplayer component. However, the core multiplayer is not really why we game it this award, it was the dedication to Co-op. Personally, the GFG crew are more into co-op multiplayer than competitive multiplayer, and to have a game that supports it in such an amazingly strong way as Halo does is just fantastic. Having a strong campaign that is fully co-op (a stable for the franchise to be fair) was of course fantastic, and then adding a crazy amount of free co-op missions with their own cutscenes and story through Spartan Ops? It’s pretty much unheard of to have this much support for a game come from a developer in any form, nevermind for co-op. Halo 4 deserves this award for what 343 has tried with Spartan Ops alone, but it does help that the core multiplayer is still pretty damn fun.
Runner Up: Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed
Winner: Wipeout 2048 HD/Fury
One of the sadder points of 2012 was the closure of Sony Liverpool, the studio behind the Wipeout series. The GFG crew are all huge fans of the series and have been for a long time, so seeing them go definitely put a damper on the whole gaming year. It’s at least a bit more cheerful to know they went out on a high note. The last thing Sony Liverpool released was DLC for their Vita iteration of Wipeout, Wipeout 2048, which added in absolutely all the content from the PS3 game Wipeout HD and its expansion Wipeout HD Fury (which in itself basically added as much content as the core game). They added two games worth of content to the portable iteration, and better yet made it free for everyone who owned Wipeout HD and Fury on PS3. And that’s not all! It also added cross-play functionality to allow Vita users to play online against PS3 players! The DLC pack added such a huge amount of content for a low (or even non-existent) price, and extended Wipeout 2048’s already meaty playtime by a significant amount.
Runner Up: Borderlands 2: Mechromancer, Gravity Rush Costume/level packs
Winner: Asura’s Wrath
I really, really hate Quick Time Events. They are easily the worst thing to happen to the games industry in a long time and are only becoming more and more prevalent. What started as a gimmick in Shenmue and God of War has escalated into becoming the core interaction of a weird sub-genre of games like Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead and Asura’s Wrath. So damn was I surprised when it turned out that Asura’s Wrath was a fantastic game. Somehow it managed to elevate itself over its contemporaries, using quick time events in a way that makes you feel like you are interacting just enough to make Asura do all the badass moves on screen but not so much that you’re just button mashing for a few hours or having to get very explicit timing down. It rides that line between interactivity and movie that is far more fun than it really has any right to be, and that I personally don’t enjoy in other games. I got bored of Heavy Rain and I think Shenmue is held in far too high regard by the internet at large, but this game has something that manages to keep pulling me in.
Runner Up: Retro/Grade, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Winner: Resident Evil 6
Oh, what is there to say here that you haven’t heard a million times already? Mike didn’t even hate this game as much as I did, and in some ways that simply added to his disappointment in the game. The main flaw we all agreed on was that the controls are pretty good; they’re different from previous games but they work surprisingly well as its own brand of third person action game. And if Capcom had built a game around those controls then maybe it wouldn’t be in this category, but the game feels very much like a mish-mash of poorly designed levels which just make the controls often feel pretty clumsy. A terrible plot that shits all over the story of previous games doesn’t help either. Lets be fair though, the story was never really great anyway, but Resident Evil has always had a narrative good enough to keep you playing, and with enough character to make it memorable and enjoyable. Resident Evil 6 has none of that. For the latest entry in a series we have such reverence for, it skyrocketed to the top of our disappointment list.
Runner Up: Hitman Absolution, Neverdead
Best RPG Game Game
Winner: Mass Effect 3
The RPG Game Game award is one of the most prestigious awards at the GFG annual game of the year awards simply because of our deep love of the genre. We grew up on RPGs, and as such we hold a pretty high standard for games of the genre. Mass Effect in particular has been an RPG series that has managed to blend shooter and RPG elements together smoother than practically any other game that we can think of, and 3 is no different. While some might argue it’s more shooter than RPG now, playing as a Biotic Adept and levelling up all my spells definitely felt like an RPG, and all those systems felt a little bit deeper than the previous game in the series.
Then there’s the dialogue and the choices you can make. There are multiple times when characters and entire species will live or die depending on your actions, actions which are continually under pressure by the thought of “What would be best for these guys? And what would be best for Earth?”. The role of Shepard is something players have been fleshing out themselves for this entire generation and to see what is most likely her final battle handled so well (in most aspects) is what made this the relatively easy choice for best RPG.
Although I will say, we enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning a crazy amount too, and that game doesn’t get enough love so go play it too.
Runner Up: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Borderlands 2
Winner: Forza Horizon
Another winner that Paul didn’t think me and Mike would side with, Forza Horizon personifies everything that EA did and continues to do wrong with Need for Speed. NFS has basically two developers now switching out and releasing a game a year, Criterions have been fantastic while Blackbox’s recent games have been utter garbage. The result of this is we have a good year and a bad year interlaced for Need for Speed. With Forza Horizon, Microsoft has given what should be in theory the “off year” for Forza to a completely unproven and brand new studio. Sounds terrible, right? Well, what if I were to tell you that studio was made up of a mix of the guys who made pretty much all the best racing games of the past generation? There’s guys from Codemasters, Bizarre, Criterion, Ubisoft Reflections, Slightly Mad Studios and Black Rock. That’s guys who made the Dirt series, Project Gotham, Burnout, Driver, NFS Shift, and Split/Second.
So suddenly the no-name new developer sounds pretty good, huh? But they had a lot to live up to and it’s both surprising and incredible that they succeeded. Forza Horizon kinda feels like a mix of all those games the team used to work on: it has a Burnout Paradise open world full of tons of races and side things to do, the handling feels like a smooth blend of arcade-y and simulation that Codemasters perfected in GriD, and overall it’s simply a fantastic racing game and one that everyone deserves to own in their library. Hell, I’ve considered buying an Xbox for it. It’s THAT good.
Also it looks really bloody pretty.
Runner Up: SSX, Wipeout 2048
Mobile Phone Game
Winner: Angry Birds Star Wars
Mobile games are increasing in popularity and quality vastly over time, and as such it would be just unfair not to give a shout out to the ones we enjoyed this year. The nominations mostly held a personal place in Mike’s heart as they were the games that helped introduce his girlfriend to the hobby that he has loved for so long, and Angry Bird Star Wars was one of those games that merged a fantastic license with solid gameplay and created what is easily the best Angry Birds game yet. We all joke about Angry Birds quite a lot, but when they put effort into a proper one like the first game, Space and this, then those guys know how to make an addictive game that appeals even to those who don’t normally like games much.
Runner Up: Smule Magic Piano, Chu Chu Rocket
Winner: Wipeout 2048
I’m gonna start out here by saying GRAVITY RUSH GOT FUCKING ROBBED. But also that Wipeout 2048 is an utterly fantastic game that everyone who owns a Vita should get. 2012 was not a strong year for portable gaming in terms of sales, but we got some fantastic games nonetheless. It was the year that the 3DS finally released some bloody games and the year that the Vita launched with onslaught of hits, Wipeout 2048 standing strongly out in that lineup. The fact that Wipeout 2048 was a launch game that looks pretty much as good as a PS3 game helped sell us on a Vita in the first place. I mean, if this is what these guys are pushing out at launch what are we going to see games look like on the Vita 5 years from now?
Floundering sales suggest we probably won’t see very much on the Vita 5 years from now, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Sales aside, Wipeout 2048 is the definitive portable racing game, bar none. It has a staggering amount of content, a deep multiplayer component, fantastic DLC that triples the game’s length, beautiful graphics and the same tight controls you’d expect from the Wipeout series. It’s simply a mastercraft in portable gaming and something that has rarely left my Vita’s cartridge slot since I got it.
Runner Up: Theatrythm, Gravity Rush
Best Gaming Device
In some ways this category was a little tongue in cheek, but we wanted to give a special shout out to the gaming device that impressed us the most this year and has provided some fantastic experiences. And the Vita is that device. Despite weak sales the Vita has had a strong lineup of games in its first years with some truly unique experiences (Gravity Rush) and a few console-quality entries to established franchises. Add in all the free games from Playstation Plus, the fantastic interface and above all the great controls (I mean come on, dual analog sticks on a portable? FINALLY. And not even cruddy nubs like the PSP or 3DS) and it’s simply a fantastic device that we all hope begins to pick up sales, because it deserves them.
Playstation Plus “Free” Game Of The Year
Winner: Gravity Rush
E3 this year was a big turning point for Playstation Plus. Boy did we get some great games. Seriously you guys should have seen the list we whittled down to get this winner & runners up group. But of course, Gravity Rush won out for us. The game was nearly brand new when it was made free for PS+ and such a massive value incentive alone nearly made it win this category, but add in the fact that it’s easily my favourite Vita game so far, Mike also loved and Paul thought it was pretty great too, meant that the other games barely stood a chance!
Gravity Rush is a beautiful and magnificent game that uses the Vita’s unique controls without feeling gimmicky and shows off its power with absolutely stunning graphics. Something I bring up a lot in the podcast is how I bought my PS3 largely because I wanted to play Metal Gear Solid 4 and how it disappointed me and how I was pretty worried Gravity Rush would be the same. I bought my Vita mostly for that game, but it lived up to every expectation I had and then exceeded them at points. It’s just magnificent, and is still available in the Instant Game Collection if you have a Vita now.
Runners Up: Mortal Kombat (Vita), Virtua Fighter 5:Final Showdown
Best HD Collection
Winner: Zone of the Enders
HD Collections. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s a damn lot of them. Luckily the GFG crew only actually played three, so this category was reasonably straight forward for us. But don’t start thinking that there’s a low bar of entry. Exact opposite, the three we played were simply fantastic and Zone of the Enders wins out mainly because of the amount of effort put into it.
When you look at HD collections like the Devil May Cry collection you see that yeah, these games look pretty okay. But the UI is ugly and stretched out and the menus are all in 4:3 and weren’t remade. You can’t even quit out into one of the other games. Konami didn’t take that approach with Metal Gear Solid and Zone of Enders, they redid GUI elements, they remade all the menus so they looked crisp and HD and they put a little bit more effort into every aspect of the collections. So really it came down to those two in our mind and Zone of Enders won because… we have no reverence for that series. We had never played them before and thus jumping into the HD collection was something special for us that introduced us to some fantastic games that we would not have played otherwise. And in the end, isn’t that what HD collections should be for?
Runners up: Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid
Best Music Game
Oh Square Enix, you’ve been disappointing us with pretty much every release as of late and as such Theatrhythm was pretty unexpected. But thank you. Theatrythm turned out to be a brilliant love letter to everything Final Fantasy, with adorable versions of all the characters you know and love running through levels based on your favourite games as you play a smart little rhythm game in time to all the songs you know and love from the franchise. Lets face it, if there’s one thing that hasn’t declined in quality in FF recently it has been the music. It’s different now, but it’s still marvellous and magical just like always, and if you want to you could totally ignore the more recent music. There’s so many songs and unlockable tracks in Theatrhythm that there should be enough to satisfy any fans of the series. And if you’re like me and like the music across all the series? Well there’s more to listen to and play than you’ll ever need. Also there’s DLC for even more.
Runners Up: Retro/Grade, Sound Shapes
It’s pretty rare for a game to feel so in sync with its soundtrack that it almost feels as though the soundtrack came first and that the game moments were built around it, old Disney style. Journey was one of those moments where the atmosphere of the whole game relied so heavily on the combination of the art and the music that it’d be unthinkable to play it with the sound off. It’s also one of the few soundtracks that I personally have paid money for and then listened to outside of a game because Goddamn it’s just beautiful.
Runners up: SSX, Theatrhythm
Winner: Lollipop Chainsaw
Good humour is almost entirely about timing, any good comedian will tell you this, and that’s one of the reasons that humour is so hard to pull off in video games and why so few games are really funny and so many try and fall flat. When a player is in control the timing is a lot harder to pull off well outside of cutscenes. Lollipop Chainsaw pulls this off amazingly well however. The writing is so silly but witty, music is used in often the strangest places that it doesn’t quite fit in but in a great way and all the characters are just absolutely nonsensical. It got a good few laughs from us at GFG, definitely the most of 2012.
Runners up: Borderlands 2, Tokyo Jungle
Winner: Risen 2
We played a lot of terrible, terrible games in 2012. Mike especially for some reason. In fact, it got to the point he was recommending bad games for us to play specifically for this category. He and Paul both rented Risen 2 when it was first released and talked at length about how ugly, clunky, buggy and just all around crappy the game was. I, being a PC gamer at heart, tend to have a little bit more… leeway for that kinda stuff. There are a lot of PC games that come out with those kind of issues but have a real gem of a game buried inside if you sink some effort into it.
Risen 2 is not one of those games. When I eventually got around to playing it I too realised “Wow this is abysmal.” I actually got stuck in one section because I accidentally quit out a conversation and couldn’t pass the character I was talking to as a result, so I had to cut them down. Another time I was running around and accidentally pulled my sword out (there is pretty much no tutorial, so I was figuring out the buttons) and guards rushed at me telling me to put the sword away. I ran from them mashing every button to try and put the sword away and eventually they started attacking me and killed me, how did this happen you may ask? Well you can’t put your sword away when moving apparently. Yeah. When I had the controls under my belt I began playing “for realsies” and progressed a short while into the game. And stopped. The writing and dialogue of the story were so terrible that I had no interest in that part, and the combat and other controls were all so atrocious that they didn’t hold any interest either. There was literally nothing about the game that made me want to play any more of it. And then as I was took one final little run around before turning it off I fell through the world.
Runners Up: Steel Battalion: Broken Kinect Edition, Game of Thrones
Gaming Deal of the Year
Winner: Playstation Plus
We’re in a transitional stage in gaming. Retail is dying, new consoles are coming and digital distribution has completely replaced retail PC game sales. Consoles have been grasping to try and pull off similar things, full retail games have been launching day and date on PSN, and sometimes after launch on XBL, but for significantly higher prices than retail. It’s not good enough. But Playstation Plus shows a glimmer of light in a darkened digital console future. For £11.99 per three months, users get access to an instant game library of around 10-12 PS3 games and 5 – 6 Vita games, as well as cloud storage for saves and discounts on tons of stuff. It’s great value and quite simply a must-have if you have a PS3 or a Vita, and despite technically starting in 2011 it’s on this list largely because the Instant Game Library only started in 2012.
Before E3 2012 when the Instant Game Library was announced and shown I would only recommend Playstation Plus under a very specific set of conditions. Now the only condition is “Do you have a PS3 or Vita?” It’s a fantastic deal for players with great content, every member of GFG has a subscription to it right now and none of them have any intentions to let it lapse any time soon, which is pretty impressive, especially considering how many complaints we all have about a certain other subscription service on consoles.
Runners Up: Indie Bundles, Playstation Cross-Buy
Our most talked about pre-2012 release of 2012
Winner: Dragon Age 2
We talked a hell of a lot about Dragon Age 2 this year for some absurd reason. We all agree it wasn’t that great, it had waves of mindless enemies, only a few dungeons which repeated over and over and had some other issues that were kinda bad. But for whatever reason the game came up a lot and Mike and I took every chance to explain that we did actually like the game quite a lot, and that while it didn’t end up as good as Origins, it was still damn fun.
And now Paul is playing it, so expect the Dragon Age 2 chat to continue two years after its release…
Runner up: Fallout New Vegas
Winner: The Walking Dead
Telltale single-handedly brought adventure games back into the spotlight with their Sam and Max revival, and then their revival of the Monkey Island games in their own highly successful episodic format. So when it was announced they had the Walking Dead license, hopes were high. The resulting games had such deep story beats and truly emotionally moving sections that there was no way it couldn’t win this category.
Sure, episode two was pretty predictable and straightforward but episodes three onward were full of twists and turns, and most importantly choices that could be made to influence the story. Entire sections of story can change depending on what choices you make. I mean, sure, like Mass Effect what you choose ultimately makes no difference on the ending, but like that game it doesn’t really matter. How you get there is what you help decide and who gets their with you and it’s implemented fantastically. The story is well written no matter what you choose, with the different branches for each choice being largely invisible to the player until they replay the whole thing. It’s worth seeing though for all fans of Zombie stories.
Runners Up: Asura’s Wrath, Mass Effect 3
Tokyo Jungle kinda came out of nowhere. It’s a survival game where you play as various animals in the city of Tokyo after some kind of apocalypse where humans have all vanished. Pomeranians, alley cats, golden retrievers and (for some reason) dinosaurs all have to struggle against each other to eat, mark territory and breed.
I was originally pretty sceptical when playing it as the meat of the game is definitely in the “Survival” mode where you are doing exactly that: surviving. You have some additional little challenge tasks, but you don’t need to do them. But then I found my first random encounter “A master of disguise as been spotted in Shibuya Woods.” I travelled there to find out what this vague message meant and found hundreds of rabbits running around happily and a single golden retriever hiding amongst them wearing a pair of pink bunny ears on its head. That was when I knew I was in for something special with this game.
As you play more of survival mode it unlocks chapters of the story mode which leads you through a bunch of scenarios which are all pretty insane and silly. You also unlock logs such as newspaper articles and such which explain the event and what happened. These range from funny to absolutely horrifying, which in the context of the insanity of the rest of the game is pretty funny in its own right. The core gameplay involves stealthily hunting prey, searching for collectables and events and marking your territory to attract and then mate with female members of your species. You also level up by eating more, and better mates will be attracted to you. It’s surprisingly deep, it’s silly and it’s one of the most fun games I played this year, and it makes me wish Paul had a PS3 to experience more of it.
Runners Up: Journey, Motorstorm RC
Game of the Year
For the overall game of the year list we decided to change the format a little, instead of a winner and two runners up we formatted this as a top five list:
5. Wipeout 2048
4. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
2. Gravity Rush
Winner: Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 faced a lot of controversy post release. Lots of people were disappointed with the ending and it cast a shadow over the rest of the game. Well, we here at GFG thought the ending was fine. A little disappointing maybe, but the journey was fantastic. The epic tale of intergalactic war was handled well and with the Leviathan DLC even the ending was made a lot better. The combat is the best in the series, matching that of even full blown shooters while still retaining the RPG elements of the past two games and even adding a surprisingly deep multiplayer mode which had really no right to be fun, but was! All in all, it was a fantastic game which we all loved and a fitting end to a trilogy we’ve enjoyed a lot this generation.
We ran a little poll on our facebook page to get YOU, the listener’s favourite games of the year, here’s what you said!
1. Minecraft (360)
2. Walking Dead
3. Trials Evolution + Borderlands 2
And here’s some personal top 5 lists we all wrote up! In no specific order:
Paul’s Personal GOTY
Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation
Dead Or Alive 5
Mass Effect 3
Kieran’s Personal GOTY
PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale
Mass Effect 3
Mike’s Personal GOTY
Mass Effect 3
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Thanks for reading everyone! Check out Glitch Free Gaming for more from us!