5. X-COM: Enemy Unknown
The X-COM franchise is a longtime veteran in the PC gaming world, one that recently entered the console arena in style, with X-COM: Enemy Unknown. Designed as a “re-imagination” of the 1994 original, X-COM: Enemy Unknown skillfully combines elements of turn based tactical role-playing, paired with the look and feel of a futuristic shooter. The latest installment to the series, puts the player in control of an elite multinational military organization called XCOM that is tasked with defending Earth from the ensuing alien invasion.
Where most games set the perspective on an individual hero, X-COM allows you to take charge of an entire squadron of soldiers, scientists, engineers, military crafts and more. The game shines in its multiple levels of gameplay. From the ground, players control a handpicked team of soldiers to rescue civilians, protect key personnel, destroy alien threats, and/or capture new alien species. In the air, satellites need to be constructed in major countries across the globe to monitor the extraterrestrial threat while military aircrafts must patrol the skies to defend against incoming enemy ships for example.
Picking and choosing which research to focus on, what technology to create, recruiting and leveling soldiers, and upgrading HQ, while managing X-COM’s finances makes for an overwhelming, fast paced experience that most would not expect from a strategy game. The wide variety of activities and gaming mechanics means that there is a little something for everyone. Non-strategy gamers won’t feel alienated by the change of pace and seasoned tacticians will find enough variety to keep them challenged and entertained for hours on end.
4. The Walking Dead
Capitalizing on the success of the television series, The Walking Dead: The Game immerses players within the same universe, shortly after the onset of the zombie apocalypse. This isn’t your typical guns-blazing zombie game either. The Walking Dead is a point-and-click adventure that takes the unique approach of utilizing a series of button/action commands that allow you to do everything from search through a drawer, to bash a zombie in the face with a hammer.
Split into five episodes, The Walking Dead follows the protagonist Lee Everett through a variety of experiences in which the player has the opportunity to make decisions that will follow and impact the entire story. Surviving the zombie apocalypse amounts to more than just defending against hordes of undead, the living are just as dangerous. Choosing to help one survivor over another will have its consequences. Get caught in a lie, and that character is sure to remember it.
Beyond an intertwining and variable storyline, The Walking Dead succeeds in transporting players into hell on Earth. The harsh emotional tone complements the unforgiving atmosphere of the world which paints not only a realistic, but a deeply touching journey that fans of the TV show and newbies to the series will fall in love with.
3. Borderlands 2
Mix 87 bazillion guns and 4 badass vault hunters with a giant world of angry bandits, robots, and creatures and what do you get? None other than Borderlands 2 of course. Gearbox Software’s first-person role-playing shooter sequel improved upon everything from the original, while staying true to the over-the-top antics set in place by Borderlands 1.
The characters are brash, the missions are entertaining, and the loot is as alluring as ever. Not to mention that players can go looting, questing, and exploring with not 1, not 2, but up to 3 friends at once. The great thing about Borderlands 2 is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Expect quirky jokes, juvenile innuendos, and pop culture reverences that are sure to catch you by surprise causing you to laugh your ass off.
Borderlands 2 departs from the traditional first-person-shooter formula by granting players the ability to level up their characters with extensive skill trees. My Gunzerker will most likely be substantially different than yours and that is a very good thing. With tons of loot, the appeal of leveling up, and the challenge of besting super bosses such as Terramorphous and Hyperius the Invincible, Borderlands 2 stands out as one of the most addictive, co-op friendly experiences to hit gaming in a long, long time.
Out of every game released in 2012, Dishonored could very well be the biggest surprise hit of the year. Arkane Studios’ stealth action game succeeded in crafting an adventure that shined on both a stylistic and a performance level. Set in the fictional plague-ridden city of Dunwall, the story follows the royal bodyguard Corvo who is framed for the murder of the Empress and must prove his innocence while seeking revenge against those who conspired against him. Dunwall is no majestic kingdom; infected citizens wander in confusion, tainted rats congregate in bloodthirsty packs, and bodies lie scattered in the street. It is a world rife with death and fear for the masses, and opulence for the few in charge.
Where Dishonored shines in presenting a dynamic setting, it sings in highlighting player choice. There is no right way to assassinate a target or traverse a level. It’s up to you whether you want to eliminate all enemy targets or to sneak past them. Poison a target’s wine glass or slit his throat (or find a nonviolent approach), the choice is yours. Adding to the freedom, the player’s actions have a direct effect on the world. Help someone early on, and they might assist you later. If the player chooses a path of revenge and bloodshed, the city and ending will gradually reflect a darker atmosphere as well.
The many tools at Corvo’s disposal allow for a variety of gameplay styles. Run-and-gun with sword and pistol in hand, or sneak past enemies by entering the body of a nearby dog or rat. Other notable powers include the ability to teleport, see through walls, and freeze time; all of which can be used in accordance with stealth, action, or anything in-between. Overall, the sheer freedom of Dishonored paired with the darkly whimsical setting earns it a solid spot as one of the best games of 2012.
1. Far Cry 3
Out of a multitude of worthy games, some close calls, and intense deliberation, Far Cry 3 has earned the number one spot as the best game of 2012. What makes Far Cry 3 worthy of such an honor? A better question is, what doesn’t? A compelling story showcasing the pitfalls of youthful exuberance and a vacation gone horribly wrong paired with an absolutely massive and unpredictable world yields to Far Cry 3’s success. From the get go, players experience a contrast that thematically continues throughout the entire game; an island with promises of carefree enjoyment countered by a underlying shadow of danger. Unfortunately for the California college kids, their unhindered fun was very short-lived after landing on a pirate-infested island.
Far Cry delves into the realities of being captured, tortured, and surviving in an immensely hostile world. Each character, once naive, undergoes a transformation; a loss of innocence and rite of passage into maturity. The protagonist Jason Brody by far experiences the most dramatic alteration, from rich kid to tribal warrior. Players control Brody as he attempts to save his friends from captivity with the help of the Rakyat, island natives that grant him special powers to fight on their behalf. Far Cry 3’s story evolves from rescue to revenge, with enough unpredictable events to keep players on their toes throughout the entire game.
If that wasn’t enough, the game boasts a ton of collectables, side missions, and unlockables to keep players engaged. The island is wild and alive in more ways than one. Unpredictable encounters with a wild tiger or komodo dragon can shift any engagement from ordinary to crazy in a matter of seconds. Far Cry 3 exemplifies one of those rare instances where a game looks good, but it turns out to be beyond great. The story, characters, environment and gameplay of Far Cry 3 excel even among the other stellar games on this list and it undeniably was one of the greatest video games of 2012.
Editor’s Note: There are plenty of titles that could have easily been dubbed one of the Best Games of 2012. This is my personal take, my favorite games of the year. There is no right or wrong answer, only opinions based on a ton of memorable gameplay over the year. I’d love to hear what your favorite games of 2012 are, shout out in the comments below!