It was an odd year for games. Entering 2012, there were a lot of games that the staff was looking forward to, but I think everyone would agree that our final award winners were much different from what we would’ve expected. This was a year of low-profile surprises and high-profile disappointments, in equal measure. So without further ado…
MOST DISAPPOINTING GAME
ASSASSIN’S CREED III
For many people on the Error! staff, Assassin’s Creed III seemed to be a turning point. A great deal of people felt underwhelmed by the ending of Ezio’s trilogy, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and turned towards this game’s notable ambitions and interesting setting. But those ambitions brought a whole host of other problems, from an unfocused design, to technical mishaps and framerate issues, and even a lackluster sense of finality in story terms. Assassin’s Creed III is a stark reminder of why big isn’t always better.
Runner-ups: Final Fantasy XIII-2, Paper Mario: Sticker Star
2012’s 20-AUGHT GAME OF THE YEAR
SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: PERSONA 3 FES
This award was born out of a desire to recognize the brilliant games that are new to us, if not to the world. No game better represents this category than Atlus’ social sim/JRPG Persona 3. What appears at first to be a fun, Harry Potter-esque “teenagers battle monsters” story soon reveals itself to be something much darker, and much more interesting. The sublime cast of characters, complementary voice acting, and engaging battle system set this game apart from most modern JRPGs in a way that’s endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking. And if you were a fan of this series to begin with, this year was probably pretty exciting for you.
Runner-ups: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Hotline Miami is a game where its style is, to a large extent, its substance. This isn’t a detriment, either; Hotline Miami‘s feverish tone and design perfectly complements the game’s brutal top-down action gameplay. No part of this menagerie is as essential as the game’s soundtrack, which pulls licensed tracks and original work into something shockingly cohesive. I know people who don’t like Hotline Miami, but I don’t know anyone who could argue against its soundtrack.
Runner-ups: Fez, Mass Effect 3
Journey is a game about feeling lonely. Paradoxically, there’s a sense of companionship in the game’s subtle multiplayer aspects that no other game this year can touch. By stripping away the conveniences of online gaming: things like lobbies, voice chat, and username recognition, the geniuses at thatgamecompany struck upon something remarkably touching and primal. Your partner in Journey might be that kid you can’t stand when you’re playing Call of Duty, or it might be someone who doesn’t even speak your language. The fact that this game makes that irrelevant is truly special.
Runner-ups: Halo 4, Hitman: Absolution
SURPRISE OF THE YEAR
Everything in Asura’s Wrath is crazy, but what’s crazier is that it all works. Here’s a game comprised of cutscenes, extensive quick-time events, and painfully simple God of War-style combat. While those parts removed from its whole sound uninteresting, Asura’s Wrath combines them into something endearing and engaging. Everyone on staff either likes or loves this game, and I don’t think anyone was expecting that to be the case.
Runner-ups: Sleeping Dogs, The Darkness 2
MOST MEMORABLE QUICK-TIME EVENT
ASURA’S WRATH – PUNCH GOD IN THE FACE SO HARD IT CREATES THE GODDAMN BIG BANG
Please carefully note the syntax of this award; “most memorable” does not necessarily equal “best” or “worst.” This is important for only the runner-ups, though, because I don’t think anyone would disagree that punching God in the face so hard that it creates the goddamn big bang isn’t the best as well as most memorable.
Runner-ups: Resident Evil 6 – Gun Friendship, Resident Evil 6 – Rope Climb
On the next page, good and bad stories, featuring heroic and evil people…