(PLEASE NOTE: Since this post was written and posted, I have revised my Game of the Year list to include titles that I hadn’t played prior to writing it. My thoughts expressed on each title remain the same but you can find the true list here.)
It’s that time of the year again, folks. Christmas is right around the corner, all of this year’s biggest titles from the gaming world have been released and it’s time to reflect on just how good or bad they actually were. Last year, Skyrim was my ultimate Game of the Year so what was good enough to take that spot this year?
Across this year, fifteen titles have been purchased by me, ranging from Xbox 360 titles to Xbox Live Arcade games and the 3DS. There will be three parts to this post with each one counting down from the bottom before eventually reaching the top.
The opinions expressed within these posts are entirely of my own and it is very possible that you will share some of them and not others. Either way, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments box.
15 – Zombie Driver HD
Xbox Live Arcade
Is Zombie Driver a bad game? Not really. That being said, is it a good game? Absolutely not. I went into the arcade title expecting nothing more than mindless vehicular carnage that consisted of nothing more than splattering zombies into pieces. Essentially, that is all Zombie Driver is; mindless, short-lived fun that only retains any element of enjoyable escapism for all of two hours, or maybe three depending on how patient you are. As such, its position at the very bottom of this list is very deserved.
There’s not a lot one can say about Zombie Driver other than simply ‘it’s mediocre’. It has a story mode that actually has no story, gameplay mechanics that are clumsy and awkward, a disappointing lack of multiplayer despite the fact it would’ve been great if it had it and, as mentioned before, absolutely no longevity whatsoever after two hours.
All that taken into account, however, Zombie Driver is still not a terrible game. Why? Because for providing short bursts of gory mayhem that requires little to no thought process, it’s exceptional. If you were truly insistent on buying the game, you’d probably want to look at getting it on a mobile device. That way, you can run over the undead whenever you like without being tethered to a television. But other than that, Zombie Driver feels like nothing more than one of those interesting sounding mobile games that you download and then forget about straight away.
14 – Alan Wake: American Nightmare
Xbox Live Arcade
2010’s Alan Wake was a fantastic title, in my opinion. It cleverly combined an interesting horror story with unique gameplay mechanics that, despite its occasional repetition, was mostly just enormous fun to play. When Alan Wake returned earlier this year in American Nightmare, he seemed like he had lost a lot of what made his first outing so good, and it was a massive disappointment.
American Nightmare was never expected to be of the same calibre as the first game was simply because it was a downloadable arcade title and Alan Wake was a full-fledged game. When you’re operating with those restrictions, it’s inevitable that certain things have to be sacrificed. However, what American Nightmare did went far beyond sacrifice and instead into mutilation territory.
One of AN’s chief problems was its repetition. It had three levels, all of which were repeated three times each with slight variation each time. Sort of like Groundhog Day only much less enjoyable and without Bill Murray. I’m not a fan of this type of mechanic being employed in any entertainment medium whether it be videogames or otherwise, but sometimes it can be done well. American Nightmare’s use of it felt like it was done merely out of convenience more than because it was necessary, and it was extremely tiresome as a result.
On top of that, it just felt so limp, especially when compared to its predecessor. The same gameplay that was so unfamiliar in Alan Wake suddenly didn’t feel so fresh anymore, the enemies were fairly uninspiring and the plot felt like one of those spin-off television shows destined to fail.
American Nightmare has not bridged the gap between the first and second title. It had too many disappointing and underwhelming elements that stopped it from being that. It was fairly decent in some areas, such as the graphics, and it was somewhat fun to play, but that was about it unfortunately. The sooner Alan Wake comes back properly, the better.
13 – Trials Evolution
Xbox Live Arcade
Don’t think that because Trials Evolution is towards the bottom of this list that I consider it a bad game. It is not by any definition of the word. In fact, I would’ve placed it higher hadn’t other titles yet to come been more favoured by me.
As far as addictive games go, Trials Evolution is right up there with the greats. It has a unique formula that even when you’re playing absolutely terribly, getting scores your grandmother would be embarrassed about and dying every three seconds (very possible), it still has enough power to drag you back again and again for more. It’s rare that a game can be so difficult and so enjoyable at the same time and that is, essentially, what Trials Evolution is.
As well as being overwhelmingly fun to play either solo or with others, Trials Evolution’s level editor ensured that the game would have almost limitless content as long as the community continued to build it, as they have done. It’s the sort of game that inspires you to create wacky/difficult/exciting levels just to see how they fare.
Trials Evolution is one of the strongest Xbox Live Arcade titles that have launched this year. Unfortunately, despite it being completely fun and exciting to play, the novelty wore off not too long after the game launched but that doesn’t stop it from being an excellent game. If you want a game that is challenging, has endless content, is more addictive than a Class A substance and is perfect for casual gaming with friends, Trials Evolution is what you need to be downloading. It’s worth every penny.
12 – Mass Effect 3
I love Mass Effect. The first title was suspenseful, had a well-told and interesting story and polished gameplay mechanics. The second game in the series was more of the same only with much bigger scale and scope. The third, and final, entry in the trilogy felt like it was more of a step backwards than forwards, though it still remained an enjoyable game nevertheless.
Mass Effect 3 wasn’t a bad game by any definition. It felt very grand and massive in scale, the combat systems worked the best they had done in the entire series, the graphics were top notch and the game played very well. That being said, it had more than its share of problems and that stopped it from securing a position higher on this list.
You likely heard plenty about the game’s flawed (rubbish depending on who you ask) ending, and no doubt Bioware weren’t so keen themselves as they released an extended version months later. Yes, that was a big problem but it was by no means the game’s only fault. In general, Mass Effect 3 was more of a step back than it was forward. It didn’t feel like it was achieving the same heights that the previous two games did and for a game with such promise, it failed to deliver on a lot of it.
Also, the inclusion of multiplayer didn’t help matters. While it wasn’t a tacked-on competitive affair like others games have employed, it still relied heavily on team-mates worth a damn, which can be tricky to come across. Also, it just didn’t impress me the way I was hoping it would. It wasn’t a poor effort, just one that didn’t seem necessary or deep enough to continue playing months after release.
I can neither declare Mass Effect 3 a great game nor a poor one as it meandered quite frequently between the two points. It was, however, not as good as I was expecting or hoping it to be, especially when compared to the quality of the previous two titles. We know there’ll be another Mass Effect title in the future but hopefully it won’t have made the same mistakes as this time around.
11 – Gotham City Impostors
Xbox Live Arcade
When I’m playing any game online, several factors come into play when determining whether or not it’s a good game; the graphics, the gameplay, the story and vice versa. However, chief among them is how fun it is to play. It can be one of the most graphically astounding titles available and employ the deepest gameplay mechanics to be seen, but if it’s not fun to play, it’s not a good game. Gotham City Impostors is not visually impressive, it does not have brilliant gameplay and it doesn’t have any story at all. However, it is exhaustingly fun.
The rules are simple with Gotham City Impostors: you shoot people, you die and you occasionally glide across the map and dive-bomb poor unsuspecting fools. It has a vast array of bizarre, nonsensical features, such as the aforementioned glider wings, rappel guns to reach higher surfaces etc, but it’s because of these that the game is just terrific fun to play, even if it makes very little sense.
As I mentioned earlier, GCI does not have impressive graphics, fantastic gameplay or the sort, but it’s clear that the focus was on making the game as fun as possible to play, and it was a huge success. For a small, multiplayer-only game, it managed to be more enjoyable than some fully-fledged titles and my appreciation for it was rather high as a result.
In the next part of this small series, positions numbered from 10-6 will be detailed, as well as my choices for positioning them where they will be.
As mentioned at the beginning, I would love to hear your thoughts on the various titles released this year as well as what you thought of them.