It’s that time of year where we celebrate the memorable games from the last year. The best, the best-looking, the one’s that kept us on the edge of our seat, and the ones that nearly had us tossing the controller in frustration. Be sure to check out the other MTV Multiplayer Best of 2012 lists!
This is my second year putting together a best of list for games, and it’s tricky task when two of the three home consoles on the market share so much retail and digital content. Barring a terrible port, what am I supposed to say–that “XCOM” was one of the best games on the 360, while the particulars of my list on the PS3 might not allow it to chart? It’s a problem of having a lot of great games to play this year and multiple places to play them (I’m not overlooking the PC or the Wii U, they just offer something different and uniquely diverse on their platforms),
With that said, here we are at the end of the year, and it’s time to say something about the last 12 months. So let’s look back and see what rose to the top on Microsoft’s console.
The story of 2012 will be how Sony and Microsoft backed away from multiple, huge AAA titles this year as they wound down what will theoretically be the last full year of the current console cycle. What were the AAA releases on each console? “Halo 4” and “Forza Horizon” for Microsoft and “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale,” “Starhawk,” and flirtations with new peripheral-based entertainments for Sony.
If we’re going to single out first-party, 343 Industries and Turn 10 with their titles proved that Microsoft will throw time, energy, and money at their flagship titles, with an eye to quality. “Halo 4,” in particular may have played it a little safe in terms of the overall product, but that doesn’t mean that it’s multiplayer–featuring new weapons, armor abilities, and a freakin’ mech–wasn’t compulsively playable.
But while the AAA exclusive bench wasn’t all that deep, there were plenty of excellent third-party titles this year, with “XCOM: Enemy Unknown,” plagued as it was by odd bugs and aiming issues, nonetheless offering enough sheer tension on the battlefield to be one of the year’s best. I’ve talked about how much I love “Asura’s Wrath” in spite of its not strictly being a thing you sit down and play–and yet, I “played” through this interactive story twice in the same week, I was so hooked on its beautifully animated excesses. And even though 38 Studios didn’t survive its performance at retail, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” felt like it delivered on a grand action RPG with deep, compelling combat. And while I couldn’t find a place for it on this list, let’s not forget “Black Ops II,” which did enough interesting things to revitalize the “Call of Duty” name in terms of how it told its elastic, mutable story, and took chances with the campaign (alas, the RTS elements didn’t work out as well as Treyarch hoped).
That doesn’t mean either the PS3 or 360 didn’t have any great console-specific titles, it just means you have to dig into the digital vaults to see some of the greats each system had to offer, leading off with Phil Fish’s “Fez” back in March. That game had a long path to completion, delayed in part because its creator Phil Fish is such is an intense perfectionist while working with a very small team. “Minecraft” made the jump to consoles (some of us have the lost hours to prove it), while “Alan Wake: American Nightmare” offered a clever, shooter-centric expansion of the horror-thriller. “Spelunky” is as infuriating as it is fun, and playing it with a couple of your friends locally is a great opportunity to see which of them is a horrible, terrible person who can’t play well with others.
Here’s my list, although I struggled to put it into some kind of order, in cases like this, it’s hard to make the apples and oranges comparison to say which was better: was “Hitman: Absolution,” a stealth action game, objectively better than Rogue-like “Spelunky?” I can’t even say I had fun by one or the other since both games offered dramatically different things.
10. “Persona 4: Arena”
9. “Asura’s Wrath” (my review)
8. “Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning” (my review)
7. “Hitman: Absolution” (my review)
6. “Forza Horizon”
5. “Mark of the Ninja” (my review)
3. “Halo 4” (Clint’s review)
2. “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” (my review)
And the Xbox 360 Game of the Year award goes to:
“Fez” – Polytron
Ultimately, it came down to seeing something new, and I think “Fez” did that, creating fiendish puzzles with the obvious/brilliant conceit of adding a third dimension to the problem solving. It was a game about exploration and discovery as much as it was about expanding on the same old platforming tropes. “Fez” is a game you can hand to a new gamer (note, I’m not saying “casual” here) and what it means and how it works becomes clear immediately, and those same players will undoubtedly be hooked.
Again, it’s apples and oranges to compare the pleasure I felt playing to “Fez” to that of “Halo 4,” but I can say that Phil Fish’s fame stuck with me to the extent that I was still thinking about its multi-dimensional puzzles well after turning “Fez” off.
So congratulations, Polytron, for one of the best titles of 2012 and the best game on the Xbox 360.
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