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!
When preparing this list, MTV Multiplayer Clint Mize rejected the category title “Best-looking,” or “prettiest game.” It makes sense–making the case that a game is simply “pretty” ignores the careful assembly of elements–from lighting, to object placement, to overall style, to how it animates and looks in motion–that go into defining a game’s art direction.
These are the games that put it all together, that one’s that shouldn’t be hung up as works of art because we’re too busy playing them.
There are a couple of titles deserving of honorable mentions here, taking a stab at something new and interesting in terms of style without quite locking it down. “Gotham City Imposters” with its comedic take on the comic book grit of Gotham City is almost the reason this section exists. From the beginning, the low-rent Batman and Jokerz designs were why we were consistently drawn back to the trailers. Likewise, “The Darkness II” evoked the Top Cow Comics without being a direct life of anything from the series–this one, with its jittery, twitchy characters almost pushed its way into the top three based on this and the creepy, busted-up New York it presented.
And we wish we could give something to “Hawken,” but since it’s still in open Beta, it’s more of a work in progress than anything else right now. “Hitman: Absolution” was a little too scattershot in its visual style as it drove through pulp tropes headlong, but some moments were great to behold, for instance the Chinatown level and moving through the pot dealers’ loft. “Halo 4″ added extra layers of texture, wear, and beauty to that game’s universe, but so much of it’s familiar now that it’s hard to be surprised that a “Halo” game looks good.
And that’s not counting actual works of art like “Journey,” “Fez,” of the 8-bit stylings of “Superbrothers: The Sword and Sorcery EP.” The field of contenders was crowded, and it was tough narrowing it down to just three.
So which games made the cut?
3. Asura’s Wrath (Capcom/CyberConnect2)
Everything about “Asura’s Wrath” is composed with scale in mind: your character is a powerful, angry demigod facing off against even more powerful gods. Two parts anime and one part actual thing you play, CyberConnect2 (who’re old hat at the anime-game hybrid with their steady stream of “Naruto” releases) brought together the epic scope of a planet-wide battle with a look that borrowed from mythology, manga, and mecha.
2. Dear Esther (thechineseroom)
If we were to award the “prettiest” game to a particular title, developer Thechineseroom’s “Dear Esther” might take home the prize for its desolate, achingly lonely environments. Every step of the way through its photorealistic environments, you were invited to walk further into its first person mystery.
However, the game with the Best Art Direction of 2012 is:
Mark of the Ninja (Klei) (my review)
Without its excellent art direction, “Mark of the Ninja” might not necessarily have been as imminently playable as it was. A game predicated on what you did with light and sound would have to have top notch design in both areas, right? Klei’s stealth action game never disappointed on this front, with both stark and gently contrasting light and color cues to orient the player on threats and opportunities to create silent but violent mayhem. Plus, it featured Klei’s patented brand of fluid, expressive character animation which made every leap, roll, and kill seem as impressive as possible.
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