There are only a few weeks left in the year, and as we wind down to the end and lurch into 2013, let’s take a look at some of the best games that 2012 gave us.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
While my mid-90’s nostalgia meter has its needle thrust firmly in the red for XCOM, developer Firaxis managed to craft a thrilling, fun strategy game that’s seemingly simple on the surface, but offers hours of deep, compelling gameplay. Turn-based gameplay has never been so nerve-wracking as when your squad is facing off against the Sectoid invaders with the ever-present specter of permanent death for your units that you’ve spent hours enhancing and leveling. Even worse is the potential of sponsor countries dropping out of your organization, stripping you of much-needed funds at crucial moments. It may not be for all tastes, but XCOM is accessible, tense, and brilliantly executed in every way.
Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil 6 is a divisive title. Some may bemoan the lack of traditional survival horror elements, stripped out and replaced by white-knuckle action, but this is what Resident Evil has become, and Resident Evil 6 represents this mutated vision with an incredible level of polish. Insane, explosive set pieces, an army of vicious new monsters, and an epic four-part story may not be reminiscent of Resident Evil’s past, but it shows its furious and fun future as a balls-to-the-wall action franchise with a tasty bio-horror topping.
Resident Evil: Revelations
The second of 2012’s great Resident Evil titles (Slant Six’s lame-duck Operation Raccoon City will not be making the list), Resident Evil: Revelations gave a full, nostalgic RE experience on the Nintendo 3DS. It shared the same over-the-shoulder perspective of RE4 and its contemporaries, but its tone and pacing bore more of a resemblance to the first RE, especially in its desolate cruise ship setting. While it all but demanded the optional Circle Pad Pro add-on for the 3DS, which added on a much-needed second analog stick, it gave a full, authentic RE experience in a handheld, which is an amazing feat in itself.
The Walking Dead: The Video Game
It’s rare that a licensed game lives up to the promise of its source material, but it’s practically unheard of for the source material to be eclipsed. The Walking Dead: The Video Game referred back to Robert Kirkman’s original comic instead of the AMC TV series, and it delivered an experience that exceeded the quality of both. While most of the characters were new to the franchise, with the exception of a few fan-baiting additions, the main characters of ex-con Lee and his young ward Clementine were compelling, fascinating, and wonderfully written. Clementine in particular was a fascinating journey, from wide-eyed little girl to world-hardened survivor over the course of the game’s five episodes, watching her world and those around her fall to the walkers and each other. It’s a rare game that brings a tear to my eye, and The Walking Dead did just that.
It ain’t that rare for me to feel a little misty in 2012, as thechineseroom’s Dear Esther made me feel a deep, mournful sadness unlike anything I had played before. Less a game and more an interactive memoir, the game had your character reading love letters to his dead wife as he walked around an island that was haunted my memories and quite possibly something else. Far more subtle than what horror gaming is used to, Dear Esther is no less effective in building an atmosphere that’s equal parts tingling and tragic. While not a true “game,” it’s an engrossing experience regardless.