Jan 25, 2013 By Shujaat Syed @shoejaat
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the Part 1 of the series to get caught up on my thoughts and opinions.
Why do most people play video games? Is it to feel like a hero, or maybe it’s to feel like you can make a positive difference? I’m not sure, but what I can tell you is that this category is not about feeding that fantasy. This area is often left unexplored in games and it’s quite refreshing to see a video game take a crack at this.
It is safe to say Spec Ops: The Line is a very bleak and gruesome game. You play as Cpt. Martin Walker, a Delta Force operator sent to Dubai with his company for a rescue mission. Suffice to say, things don’t go exactly as planned and Walker is left to bring everything to rights. However, that job is a whole lot easier said than done.
In an industry that glorifies modern warfare by making it a thing of joy, it is refreshing to see a game that goes against that train of thought. Spec Ops: The Line is essentially a social commentary on modern-day shooters. This game handles deeper themes of morality and the horrors of war brilliantly and is one of the most important games released this year. Hats off to YAGER for creating something that challenged gamers in a very different, gruesome way. This game is disturbing and there will be times where you are going to put the controller down and think about the things you have done.
War is not pretty, war is not good, and war churns people up in a meat grinder and spits them out. That sort of human story is something that really interests us.”
Denby Grace – 2K Games
In The Walking Dead, you play as Lee, an African American man who has had a troubled past. As Lee, you have to make some tough decisions. The outcomes of your choices feel real because of the excellent writing and stellar voice acting. While it never takes the themes of villainy very far, the games does try to make you feel responsible for some of the more abrasive actions you take.
If there is one thing video games can offer us that no other medium can – it is the feeling of exploration. Some games offer a deeper level of exploration than others, often leaving you to explore the game world by yourself with no clear direction. The feeling of discovery in those games is the reward and one game in particular stood out in that department.
FEZ is a very different kind of platforming game. You take control of Gomez, a two-dimensional creature living in a seemingly two-dimensional world. However, you are quickly granted the power to rotate the world around you. You rely on this power for navigation. Tasks such as walking around, entering rooms, and rotating the world never feels tedious or repetitive because you are always making progress.
However, Fez is also a puzzle game which relies on its strength of exploration to set it apart from other games. Do not be surprised if you find yourself jotting down symbols or maps to aid you in your journey. This game is truly one of a kind, and it is unfortunate to see it forgotten so quickly. It brought back memories of when I first began playing video games– the sense of wonder and excitement. The game also has one of the coolest introductions I have ever seen.
…I came up with the idea of the aesthetic of the pixel becoming a cube and building everything around that, and I got really attached to that idea. Everything kind of grew from there. The lure of the game is based on this mechanic–the idea that there are four sides to everything.”
Phil Fish – Polytron Corporation
Dishonored does something very different when compared to other games in its genre, and that’s the exploration of vertical space. The level designers constructed each stage as a sandbox environment that you are free to explore in a non-linear fashion. There are many ways to get to your objective, and there is a good chance you won’t find all of them in your first play through. Heck, it took me 20 hours to beat the game and I still found new areas my second time around.
As technological advancements are made in the computer gaming space – consoles are lagging behind. Greater processing power allows developers to add more polygons, larger texture sizes and expensive effects to their video games. But what is all that extra power if you don’t have great artistic design to back it up? This was made clear this year, because the best looking games (aesthetically speaking) weren’t on PC but on consoles.
Previous Halo games always had great underlying technology but always lacked on the artistic side of things. You could only do so much with aging consoles so compromises had to be made. 343 Industries, after taking the reins from Bungie, decided to pare back some of the tech and put more work behind the art. Safe to say, 343 delivered with flying colors.
In Halo 4, you are thrown from one gorgeous environment to the next. The variety and quality of each place you visit topples Bungie’s previous efforts quiet significantly. 343 really pushed Halo’s art design in a much more creative direction, offering something new to an aging franchise.
It’s a combination of what’s come before — because obviously there’s a lot of stakes in the ground that we want to preserve — but definitely there are changes that have come about as a result of the new team taking things on.
Josh Holmes – 343 Industries
It doesn’t take a big studio to make one of the best looking games of the year, and Journey is proof of that. Thatgamecompany has a knack for creating simple yet beautiful games, and each of their efforts was more ambitious than the last. There are times during Journey where your mouth will drop wide, making it one of the most beautiful games of 2012.
If there was one thing video games truly excelled at in 2012 – it was in the music department. Honestly, this is one of the hardest categories for me to choose from; just because the quality of music was unlike anything we had before.
Now, I rarely listen to video game music outside of the video game itself. That wasn’t true with Hotline Miami. I put the soundtrack on my phone and I listened to it on my daily commutes and walks and it’s still there and I still listen to it. The soundtrack was not a one man effort; it was created by many artists who make music. I could talk about the music but that is no fun. You can check out the official soundtrack for free on SoundCloud.
That about wraps up (briefly) my thought’s on some of the games that really stood out to me this year. I played and finished over 30 games this year but only a handful did something truly wonderful and note worthy. Here’s hoping 2013 can provide with not only great – but also truly unique games that push this medium to new heights.