(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.)
In the last part of this mini-series running through the games I played throughout 2012 and how I rated them, I ran down positions 15-11 in the list, which can be located here. In this second entry, positions 10-6 will be detailed as well as my thoughts on each title and my overall rating out of ten.
As I say each time, your thoughts and opinions what what I discuss in these posts, as well as your own choices for the best games of the year, are highly encouraged.
10 – Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Xbox Live Arcade
The majority of today’s big shooters usually follow a simple formula: guns, explosions, high-octane action and adrenaline. Some of them do it to a successful degree whereas others just feel like clones trying to replicate what the competition has already done. However, when you take all of that away and replace it with a game that requires thought, tactics and skill to succeed, it feels so refreshing. Global Offensive provided just that.
I had never played a Counter Strike title before Global Offensive so the style of play was relatively unfamiliar to me. That being said, I still appreciated what it was offering and how different it was to the other main shooters on the market. Having to think about how I was going to kill the enemy in front of me rather than mindlessly running in there with an SMG firing blindly was a nice change of pace that provided a welcome break from the chaos of the aforementioned big shooters.
Counter Strike was, and still is, part of the older generation of FPS shooters that contributed to how widespread and popular the genre is at present. Its style of play has retained its strength all these years after release and Global Offensive was not a newer iteration but a reimagined version of it. It played nice, it looked acceptable and it offered much to those wanting some tactical edge to their game but was it perfect? Not even close.
Even though I have never played Counter Strike on a PC before, I still know that CS was, and probably always will be, a PC game. The controls felt sluggish and awkward on an Xbox controller, whereas they would most likely be fluid and responsive to those playing with a mouse. I understand why they decided to make the game also available on consoles but Counter Strike will always be a game that truly belongs on a PC.
Amidst the chaos and hectic nature of the many shooters that saturate the market every year, a game that takes things a bit slower, requires a little more thought and tactical play is an appreciated break from normality and Global Offensive was the perfect provider of that.
9 – Sleeping Dogs
Originally billed as the next entry in the True Crime franchise, Sleeping Dogs had a hard time making the leap from ‘in development’ to ‘released’. Activision decided to cancel the project very close to its completion and were it not for Square Enix, the game would most likely have never seen the light of day. It’s fortunate that they did pick up the project because despite its faults, Sleeping Dogs was a damn fine game.
There wasn’t really much about Sleeping Dogs that couldn’t be easily found elsewhere in a similar game. It had the cars, the freedom, the character and the story to tie them all together. However, somewhere inside there lied an inherent charm that jumped out at you when you played it. It wasn’t the perfect game and it didn’t even come close to usurping the quality of some Grand Theft Auto titles, but it mostly succeeded at what it was aiming for.
One of the things I liked the most about Sleeping Dogs was that it didn’t need a massive city to play in to be instantly worth playing, like Grand Theft Auto, or to be ridiculously outlandish to entice people to play, aka Saints Row. It had an interesting set of characters to watch, a story that was actually rather believable and decently written and a city that, while not breaking any records for its size, felt different to the typical settings for games of its nature. I liked how it fitted into the genre while still being able to distinguish itself from the competition.
While some games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row have enough there to keep you playing months after release, Sleeping Dogs unfortunately didn’t. Unlike the aforementioned titles, Sleeping Dogs was very much story-driven and once you’d completed it, the urge to instantly restart just wasn’t that strong. Nevertheless, it remained a solid effort that had enough of its own material to be able to stand out amongst the competition. Quite why Activision abandoned it when they had the chance to be a part of it remains a mystery to me.
8 – Resident Evil Revelations
I have never been a big fan of the Resident Evil franchise. I’ve just never bonded well with its style of play, its story or anything concerning it. However, even with that in mind, I still played Revelations earlier in the year and it was a fantastic title.
Resident Evil Revelations didn’t just feel like a port of a console title made playable on a handheld system. No, it felt like a console game in its own right. The story was strong and interesting, the characters and their respective voice actors were of a high standard and even the way the game played felt too advanced for a small device like the 3DS.
There was also the fact that Revelations was a much longer title than I was ever expecting. The campaign itself was around 10-12 hours long while the exceptional and highly addictive Raid co-op mode added many more hours on top of that.
I didn’t know what to expect from Revelations prior to playing it. The premise of a Resident Evil game of its calibre being available on the 3DS appealed to me as well. What I got was a fantastic game that set the bar for what Nintendo’s handheld device could achieve that still shines above the competition to date.
7 – Max Payne 3
This year’s big Rockstar release took the form of Max Payne 3. After being a dormant franchise for many, many years, the gruff and hardened Mr Payne finally made a return to a somewhat mixed response. The game was good, enjoyable and another solid Rockstar effort but its flaws couldn’t be ignored, unfortunately.
Max Payne 3 was very much a story-driven game revolving around one central character. The plot was a little silly and not what you might consider ‘typical Max Payne’, but how they developed Max’s character throughout the narrative was very well done and certainly one of the stronger elements of the game as a whole. Max Payne really has been a series that’s concentrated on its protagonist as the main source of story and the third entry, despite feeling different in many areas, continued with that theme.
On top of a decent and exhilarating campaign, Max Payne 3 also had a rather solid multiplayer component to boot. The game didn’t really need multiplayer but it still had a decent one nevertheless. It wasn’t as strong or compelling as the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV or Red Dead Redemption but some effort clearly went into making the experience at least enjoyable.
It seems strange that it took so long for a successor to Max Payne 2 to finally surface but Max Payne 3 felt like a good, well-developed game that had equal success in providing a decent campaign and a somewhat addictive multiplayer experience. Chances are, however, that once Grand Theft Auto V is released, whatever remains of its multiplayer community will deplete so enjoy it while you can.
6 – Halo 4
Ah, Halo 4. Its existence was not needed and was probably only created purely to capitalise off the still-rabid Halo community but regardless of that, it was still a fine game. Master Chief returned, the big alien clashes made a comeback and so did the insanely addictive multiplayer component that Halo is typically famous for. Bungie may have left for pastures new but the series is still in capable hands with 343 industries.
Firstly, the campaign really wasn’t that spectacular. Its story was cliched, the ending sub-par and the narrative a little disjointed. That being said, I have never bought a Halo game in the past with the campaign in mind. My focus has always, and will continue to be, on the multiplayer and with Halo 4, it delivered strongly in that particular area.
Halo 4’s multiplayer is mostly a very strong, enjoyable offering. It could do with a few tweaks here and there, and it definitely needed to launch with more maps than the paltry selection it offered, but there’s a sense of balance and consistency lurking beneath it all. 343i clearly know what is expected when it comes to Halo multiplayer and they knew how to deliver it while also adding their own mark onto the series.
When Bungie handed the franchise over to Microsoft, who then employed 343i to oversee the development of Halo 4, some wondered whether the Halo they had played and loved over the years would retain its unique place in the crowded FPS market. Not only did it manage to achieve that but Halo 4 is a fantastic addition to the Halo universe that, with some alterations to its multiplayer, could be even better. 343 Industries did a stellar job at relaunching Halo and it looks good for the remainder of their Halo trilogy.