Well, it’s that time once again! With 2012 coming to a close, it becomes apparent just how important this year will be to the history of gaming. In these 12 months, we’ve seen major AAA trilogies come to an end, and long-beloved series of old step back into the spotlight. Kickstarter has redefined what it means to be an “indie” video game, proving that many high-profile projects don’t need traditional funding to be relevant, and budding services like Steam Greenlight and IndieGameStand offer chances for smaller titles to reach new markets. As we sit on the brink of a new console revolution, we may not know what the future holds, but with the amount of great games that have come out this year, it’s safe to say we’ll be set well into 2013!
We will be releasing five lists over the course of this week, each covering genres or facets of gaming that we think are important to our industry, culminating with the final “Game of the Year” decision. In the interest of full disclosure, we at Press Play have made the conscious decision to abstain from any “Best of Console” awards, as we would prefer not to encourage discussions we believe to be detrimental to the gaming community. With each ultimate choice, you can also see the individual choices of our three judges, Senior Producer Nick Hawryluk, Web Producer Andrew Whipple III, and guest judge Chris Nagy. We have tried to be as impartial as possible, and in the interest of full transparency, you can listen to our entire deliberations process in the embedded podcast as well.
That said, get ready for Part 1 of Press Play’s Game of the Year 2012 Awards!
Best Action Game is a very divisive category, as this broad genre intersects so many different types of games. All three of our judges had wildly differing opinions on what should take the crown this year, but when the dust settled, Borderlands 2 came out on top. Improving just about every gameplay system from its already-fantastic predecessor, Borderlands 2 has been refined down to the absolute essence of fun. Whether you play with your friends or alone, you don’t spend more than a few minutes of this game’s campaign without popping someone’s head with a burst-fire sniper rifle or rocket-launching machine gun. Enemies transform as you fight them, and weapons are introduced so frequently that players are constantly finding new ways to make things go boom. For the sheer variety it offers, Borderlands 2 is our choice for the Best Action Game of 2012.EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Sleeping Dogs Chris: Dust: An Elysian Tail Andrew: Borderlands 2
With Adventure Games arguably becoming relevant again in 2012, we wanted to begin acknowledging the genre by creating its own award. While there were many worthwhile titles this year, and thinking players would do well to try all of them, it says a lot that The Walking Dead Season 1 came out the unanimous winner for Best Adventure Game of 2012. Telltale’s adaptation of the excellent zombie-focused comic book series makes a lot of right decisions: it tells a unique story, it encourages meaningful player choices, and it’s a concrete example of the “episodic game” done right. What’s most important though, is that Walking Dead has gone a long way towards placing the adventure genre in the public eye. By changing the formula to favor character interaction and story advancement over cryptic puzzle solving and pixel hunts, this game could be the first in a new breed of adventure titles, and that’s an exciting prospect!EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: The Walking Dead Season 1 Chris: The Walking Dead Season 1 Andrew: The Walking Dead Season 1
It’s always good to see people supporting a game post-release. On the PC, mod communities have proven to be the major reason for a games’ long-term appeal, even going so far as to inspire full-on retail games like the Counter Strike or DOTA series. Day Z is one of those special mods that has taken the world by storm- in fact, it skyrocketed source game Arma 2 to the top of the Steam most-played list for a good while, and is getting its own standalone spin-off to boot. What makes Day Z so compelling is its strict adherence to survival mechanics like hunger, broken bones and blood loss, in the context of a world where you’re forced to enter enemy territory to solve these problems. Z also takes place entirely online, and like any good zombie story, the humans are usually the real enemy here, and trying to decide whether to trust others has been some of the most compelling and intense gameplay we’ve experienced this year. For crafting a desolate, hopeless zombie experience and inspiring some of our best (and most frequent) water cooler stories of 2012, Day Z takes the cake for Press Play’s Best Mod of the 2012.EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Day Z Chris: Black Mesa Source Andrew: Black Mesa Source
It’s tough when a series many people care about comes back in a completely different form. It happened in 2007 with Shadowrun, and again this year with Syndicate. If you can look past its baggage however, you’ll find a hugely compelling sci-fi action title with a lot of really fresh ideas. In addition to the gameplay systems of first-person cover and certain Brink-style traversal, the approaches to science fiction storytelling through the video game medium were in top form here. The way the HUD would be displayed through the world and how our hero could control or hinder others through a sort of high-level techno-war were genuinely good ideas that hadn’t been done quite so cohesively before. Whether it’s getting a sequel or not (we sure hope it does!) Syndicate is our pick for Best Reboot of 2012.EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Syndicate Chris: Twisted Metal Andrew: SSX
New or old, awesome characters are the backbone of any great video game. For our Best Character Design/Re-imagining of the Year, we decided to take a step back and look at a legendary gaming figure that was represented in his raw, primal form. Easily taking it, the award was bestowed to the one and only Mega Man of Street Fighter X Tekken. Representing the original, infamously terrible box art form of the first game, the sheer fact that Mega Man was included in a robust fighter like this was humorous. Rocking his pistol, beer-gut and lethargic style, simply glancing at Mega Man instantly results in violent laughter. Whether you’re a fighting game fan, Mega Man fan or none of the above, seeing such a timeless joke brought to life is a notable feat any gamer can appreciate. Mega Man, this is why you’re our Best Character Design/Re-imagining of 2012!EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Mega Man (Street Fighter X Tekken) Chris: Mega Man (Street Fighter X Tekken) Andrew: Mega Man (Street Fighter X Tekken)
The annual clash for Best RPG of the Year is always an uphill battle, but it’s one that must be fought. Everybody loves a good RPG and while we were locked in seemingly eternal conflict, the victor eventually emerged from the cloud of dust; Guild Wars 2 was the clear champion. Presenting itself to both MMO lovers and haters, GW2 attempted the impossible and managed to deliver on almost every level. The world, while obviously being enormous, is brimming with content to explore and makes traveling with or without friends a painless and fun process. Did we mention there are absolutely no subscription fees? If there’s one RPG you need to get your hands on this year, make it Guild Wars 2!EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: FTL: Faster Than Light Chris: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Andrew: Guild Wars 2
Our staff editors had a couple of valid ideas about which game made you feel most badass, but when our guest host brought up Asura’s Wrath, the others essentially dropped all their arguments. You may have your qualms about its ‘playability,’ but it can’t be denied that this game is a veritable ‘Greatest Hits’ of badass moments. Characters fight with the stamina and killing power of gods, and destroy things in ways that would make even the most badass Dragonball Z character blush. Chris put it best when he said “I’m sorry, but Asura’s Wrath has a guy with six arms punching God in the face,” and that alone is enough to give it our Best Badass-Enabler of 2012 Award!EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Sleeping Dogs Chris: Asura’s Wrath Andrew: Prototype 2
This year had its fair share of controversial DLC, but none more than Mass Effect 3’s “Extended Cut.” Although it was free, the events surrounding the content were subject to massive criticism. If you were somehow in the dark, know that the Extended Cut completely alters the game’s original ending. It’s great BioWare listened to its unhappy fans, but at the same time some think they inadvertently opened the proverbial can of worms. By creating this content, the rest of the gaming industry could be subjected to a sort of gaming coup if, say, another controversial moment pops up in another game. Would that company have to change what the fans were unhappy about? Isn’t it the developer’s choice to decide what’s right? The discussion rages on and that’s why Mass Effect 3’s “Extended Cut” DLC is our Most Controversial DLC of the 2012!EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Mass Effect 3 “Extended Cut” Chris: Asura’s Wrath Episodes 19-22 Andrew: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Entire DLC Suite)
Contemporary gaming calls for DLC to be one with all manner of games, and the industry is a better place for it. Since we’re constantly being bombarded with the stuff, our Best DLC of the Year award wasn’t easy to pass out. Saying that, Artorias of the Abyss, the newest add-on to Dark Souls, took our coveted award home without any deaths from our crew members. Adding a whole new layer to one of our favorite games this generation, (and perhaps all-time) Artorias of the Abyss is what all DLC should strive to be. It’s an engaging, deep experience that caters to all types of players and adds unprecedented longevity to one of the most brutal titles in recent memory. Dark Souls, your DLC was fantastic and thus, Artorias of the Abyss is the winner for Best DLC of 2012!EDITORS’ PICKS: Nick: Borderlands 2 (Entire DLC Suite) Chris: Dark Souls “Artorias of the Abyss” Andrew: Dark Souls “Artorias of the Abyss”
The Game of the Year 2012 Awards were judged by two Press Play staff editors and a guest judge as tie breaker. Don’t think we made the right choices in a category? Let us know what you think should have won in the comments below!
Trophy from The Noun Project