The best and worst video games of 2012

Daniel Woodhouse

By Asim18, via Wikimedia Commons
If you missed any of the games receiving praise in the list below, boot up your boxes, pick up your controllers, and get to gaming, folks.

After some much needed R&R over the holidays I, like many others, have returned to greet the New Year. So, without further delay, here are my best and worst games of 2012.

Let’s start with a game that makes me feel that its developers are really scraping the bottom of the barrel — Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. When a game that has robots, zombies, and warfare on a global scale induces a snooze-fest, you know something has gone wrong. Ultimately, the reason I hate this game is not the repetitive gameplay, lazy writing, or bland multiplayer — it’s the fact that gaming will not be considered art, much less be taken seriously by the public, as long as attention whores like Call of Duty continue to be the stereotype of modern day gaming. COD is like the latest Hollywood blockbuster, except it doesn’t try as hard.

Moving on to a much more satisfying experience, let’s talk about Dishonored. From its intriguing steampunk setting to its brilliantly executed stealth gameplay, Dishonored presents the player with a variety of options for completing missions while providing an engaging story filled with mystery, intrigue, and assassination. Dishonored asks, why just shoot your target when you could poison them, blow them up, throw them off a ledge, snap their necks, or — my personal favorite — surreptitiously slit their throat?

Next up is a game I had forgotten about — partly because it was released at the beginning of the year, though mostly due to the fact that I did my best to block it from memory: Final Fantasy XIII-2. I barely made it three hours into the game before I came up against a giant tomato-boss-thing that seemed to have infinite health; after battling it for half an hour, without dealing any real damage to the creature, I threw my controller in the air and promptly chucked the disc out the window. I don’t even know where to begin to describe how insufferable it was, with its kooky characters that fail to grasp human emotion, absurdly designed set pieces, absolute mess of a narrative, and atrocious interface. Maybe the fans of this series can make sense of this game, but I couldn’t care less of how they may justify what I consider crap. The trailer should prove my points:

On a brighter note, we have Far Cry 3. Who knew being captured and stranded on an island populated with crazy pirates, mercenaries, wild animals, a mentally unstable criminal, and a sadistic human trafficker could be so much fun? A dense, colorful, organic sandbox of fun, Far Cry 3 has an immersive story and action-packed missions. Special attention made to the game’s deranged, psychopathic antagonist, Vaas, will send chills down your spine; such as when he buries you in a pit of dead bodies. Giving you the opportunity to hunt bears with flame throwers, to go “all in” during a game of Texas hold’em, and to fly hang gliders over enemy outposts while blowing raspberries at them, Far Cry 3 is an example of a shooter that goes the extra mile in both writing and gameplay.

If there’s one game that shows everything that is wrong with reboots of old franchise hits, it’s Syndicate. The dystopian real-time-strategy series from the ‘90s was hastily rebooted as a dull, repetitive, first-person shooter. Though it’s not terrible, it makes my blacklist for tarnishing a classic franchise, and for its constant use of blinding lens flares.

The word epic is tossed around a bit too often, but that’s the word I use to describe Mass Effect 3. Despite its somewhat crappy ending, no one can deny this game for having such believable characters, well written dialogue, and a story told on an epic scale. Having to unite an entire galaxy of alien species against thousands of giant, nearly indestructible, sentient machines is no easy task, mind you. From its complex set pieces to its beautiful score, the Mass Effect series is a glorious space opera.

If it looks like a turd, feels like a turd, and, dare I say, smells like a turd, then it’s probably a turd. Though, it could be Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Broken is the best way to describe this terrible abomination. The plot has gaping holes, your teammates are totally unreliable, the guns show awfully, the voice acting could have been done better by robots, and the graphics are downright hideous. This game deserves nothing more than to be thrown into a fiery pit and never spoken of again.

Here at last — drum roll please — my game of the year: Spec Ops: The Line. Every so often, a game changer like this comes around and shakes things up. More than just a game based on Heart of Darkness, this is a journey into madness that deals harsh realities like the brutality of warfare and the effects of PTSD. This is probably the first game that actually made me feel bad, even terrible at one point, while making decisions that often have tragic consequences. The game really turns the entire shooter genre on its head and gives us a look at how soldiers, slowly and overtime, shed their former selves and are forever changed by the horrors they witness.