Monday, 21 January 2013

Looking back at 2012

The image above says it all for me. 2012 was great year for gaming. There was lots of sequels, an unexpected console purchase and a change of allegiance. Christmas 2011 had given the family a brand new Kinect with Disneyland Adventures. So the 360 needed to be move into the lounge for the Little Gamers to enjoy. Disneyland Adventures is still in our eyes the best of the Kinect titles and has been played throughout the year. The move of the Xbox did not cause any issues for me though as I was playing the Old Republic and spent a good part of the beginning of 2012 wrapped up in Bioware's awesome Star Wars MMORPG. That kept me captivated for the first couple of months of 2012.

Then, in February I caved once again to my inner tech demons and wandered into my local HMV with my 3DS and a bundle of games and walked out with brand new PS Vita with Uncharted: Golden Abyss. I cannot resist new kit and even more so if it costs me nothing to do it. I fell in love with my Vita straight away and the love affair lasted for the rest of 2012. Regular readers of this site are probably familiar with my gushing praise for Sony's handheld successor to the PSP.

February also saw 2012's biggest disappointment  When EA announced a reboot of the classic Syndicate franchise I was very excited. When it then turned out it was going to be a FPS developed by Riddick developer, Starbreeze., I was started to worry. The finished game was, in my mind, an awful tribute to one of Bullfrog's greatest games. After developing two successful games that used darkness as an ally, Starbreeze decided to step in to the sunshine and turned the bloom dial up to 11. Gone was the dingy Blade Runner style cities, replaced by the shiny plastic gleam of corporate design. The crowd controlling persuade-a-tron from the original was dumbed down to limited use hack tool. I played at as far as the first boss fight in a subway station, where a cyborg assassin riddles you with bullets whilst Skrillex blasts out in the background. A little piece of me died and I deleted the game from my 360 forever.

March was good for two reasons, first the release of Mass Effect 3 to wide spread celebration and joy as everyone got to enjoy the ending of Cmdr. Shepard's Space Opera that they had wished for. Oh no, hang on! Thats right everybody hated it and they almost set the internet of fire with the amount of flame posts about on on Bioware's forum. The second thing was it was my birthday and I got Mass Effect 3, surprise!

April saw the start of my summer of gaming shame. By that I mean trying to play the games the cool kids were and failing miserably. First up was Disgaea 3 on the Vita. A turn based tactical RPG set in a demon school and featuring 100 hours of game play. I didn't make it past the opening act. It wasn't that I didn't like the game or the setting. I actually think the enormity  of possibilities with the game and combat system, scared me off the game. To my loss, I am sure.

May brought The Witcher 2 to the Xbox 360 and another shame. I have not yet finished The Witcher and even though I was trying my best to race through the game, it meant that The Witcher 2 sat on my shelf. I do mean to return to it one day, but that maybe some time in the future.

Lollipop Chainsaw brought more shame in July. I loved the game to bits. It had a great story, art style and humour. So when faced with a shooting mini game in baseball field, designed to teach how to use your latest power up, I hit a wall. Now, I am sure that I am in for some flak for other gamers here, but I couldn't get past it. I tried again and again and every time i failed. So, I walked away from lollipop Chainsaw, knowing that for once a game had beaten me.

Thankfully, though September arrived and with the silly season, where the all the major publishers attempt to release all the biggest games of the year in a pre-arranged release schedule, making it impossible for any normal human being who play games and has kids to actually even play anything to completion before the Christmas bundle of games adds to the pile of un-played blockbusters that gather dust on the shelf. This years highlights included 2 Assassins Creed titles, 1 & half Call of Duty games (yes, thats right Black Ops Declassified you were really only half a game) and Criterion Games brought Burnout Paradise 2, I mean NFS: Most Wanted to the Vita and it looked and played as good as the home console versions

Far Cry 3 came out of nowhere and became an easy contender for my game of the year. It addresses everything that was wrong with Far Cry 2. The game is such an amazing experience. Not once have I sat down to play it with the intention of just doing the main missions. You always get caught up in something else.  Hunting wildlife, hang gliding, Jet Ski rides through cave systems, securing outposts from local pirates or just having playing with fire. It is a game where a new adventure awaits every 5 minutes. Far Cry 3 also features 2012's most interesting character in its main bad guy, Vaas. He is unpredictable and insane, and the performance is captured perfectly by Michael Mando.

I can't let Far Cry 3 take all the glory as my game of 2012. A special mention must be made for Sonic & All-Star Racing: Transformed on the Vita has been one of best game experiences of 2012. This is just because of the sheer smile factor to be had with this game. I started playing  the first Grand Prix and by the time I had got to the Afterburner track, where you fly between several aircraft carriers in the middle of the ocean, I was grinning from ear to ear. Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed apart from steeped in Sega retro goodness, also happens to one of the most playable kart racers in the last few years.

2012 ended with a power shift in the Little Gamer house. I now own a PlayStation 3 and also a bundle of classic PS3 exclusives that I have never had a chance to play. The Xbox is taking pride of place in the lounge, so that the Little Gamers can now Kinect whenever they want. Meanwhile I am working my way through Heavy Rain, the whole Uncharted series, the Infamous games and quite a handful of games that come with the PlayStation Plus subscription.

Quite a good year for the gaming overall then. Will 2013 match up to it? Well with several huge titles in the pipeline and the promise of the next generation of consoles being announced as well. It could be the biggest year for gaming for quite a few years. I can't wait!

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