With the holiday gaming season just around the corner, and with such heavy hitters as Borderlands 2 and Dishonored probably about to receive praise from anyone with fingers and a set of eyes, it's time for us to take a look back at what we game players have been given thus far in 2012. So, without mincing any more words, let's run down the best and worst the video game industry has offered up to this point this year. Here are the Best and Worst Games of 2012 So Far.
Sound Shapes (PS3, Vita)
One part platformer, one part music sequencer, Queasy Games and SCE Santa Monica's Sound Shapes is one of the most inventive and artistic titles to hit the market this year. Yes, I know eyes are bound to roll whenever the "A-word" comes out, but in this case the claim is valid. Sporting a killer soundtrack that features the likes of Beck and Deadmau5, Sound Shapes also contains a robust level editor, simple controls, and great PS3-to-Vita functionality. Plus, it's only $15. Sounds like a winner to me.
Max Payne 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Max Payne's long-awaited return saw him a little bit gruffer, a little bit more world-weary, and a lot balder. Yes, Max Payne 3 was given the traditional Rockstar makeover, with Hollywood-esque production values, a dark sense of humor, and a campaign that may have been grittier than even the first two Max Paynes. But this is still a Max Payne title through and through, and series trademark Bullet Time combat is as stylish and satisfying as ever. It's not for the faint of heart, to be sure, but Max Payne 3's a (very) bloody good time for those willing to invest in it.
The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Telltale's The Walking Dead series is a gift that keeps on giving. The zombified journey of Lee Everett and company has been a suspenseful one thus far, one that's concerned with engrossing you into its world and its narrative above all else. It wants you to feel, and to take accountability for the choices you are always forced to make. I think it succeeds. The adventure game absolutely nails the tone of the popular Robert Kirkman comics, placing in you an ever-growing sense of dread and unease with each passing episode. The best part of it all? There are still two more parts left to go.
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
Perhaps the last great game for the Nintendo Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles lived up to its long-sustained hype. For one, it's absolutely enormous, with an almost overwhelming number of things to do, be they side quests, optional challenges, or the game's massive story. It's simultaneously a nod to JRPGs past and a look forward into how the genre should be brought into the future. It also manages to look gorgeous, despite the Wii's obvious graphical limitations. We at CCC gave it a perfect 5/5, and with good reason: If you remotely consider yourself a fan of RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles is not to be missed.
On the surface, Journey sounds like an absolute snoozefest. You have to get to a big mountain off in the distance. So you walk there. And that's it. But it's what happens in between these base actions that really makes Journey so special.
People often say that Journey isn't a game so much as it is an "experience." I think that's selling thatgamecompany's latest work short. No, there technically isn't much to do, but it's the interactivity aspect of Journey that makes the whole time you spend in its world worthwhile. Everything in this game is specifically designed to evoke an emotional reaction within the player, from the speechless co-op play to the airy jumping mechanics, the cold winds blowing at the mountain's summit to the sunshine gleaming on the desert sands at dawn. It supersedes the fact that it's not "fun" in the traditional sense by being so engrossing and so damn beautiful.
But writing about it or watching it can't ever fully do Journey justice. That's why it can only be considered a video game: You have to participate in it in order to truly "get it." You can't just be there—you have to do there. It's your journey, and yours alone. To me, that's the sign of a video game at the top of its craft.