Editor’s note: Staff at Broken Joysticks will be sharing their top five games, or game related stories, from 2012 throughout the week. We’re starting the feature with the top five from our contributing reviewer, Jason Fayta.
It’s hard to believe 2012 is over, and it’s equally hard to believe we’re already two weeks into 2013. Overall, I found 2012 to be a solid year for releases, but I can’t say there was a title I was completely enamored with, which lead to some difficulty in rounding out my top five releases from the year. However, as I went through my playing history, certain games began to stand out as titles I found most compelling, regardless of their flaws. So, without further ado, the top five…
5: Max Payne 3
Rockstar Studios take on Remedy Entertainment’s hard-boiled neo-noir anti-hero mostly ditches the shades of gray of New Jersey for the colors of sun drenched Brazil, where the boozy and bleary eyed Max Payne stumbles and shoots his way through a multitude of well crafted environments, all ideal for shoot-outs.
The John Woo inspired bullet-time gunplay is still the main draw, but Rockstar’s fingerprints are all over the eponymous Max Payne, with its graphic violence, stylistic cutscenes, and brilliant, driving soundtrack, performed by HEALTH. Max’s trademark commentary is here as well, bringing his unique blend of self-deprecation and droll analogies to the CSI: Miami lit surroundings. It can be plagued by environmental glitches, which occasionally leads to checkpoint restarts, but overall it is a polished title that knows what it is and isn’t afraid to embrace it.
4: SoulCalibur V
2012 was an excellent year if you were a fan of fighting games. Dead or Alive 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 were both superb installments in their respective franchises, and Persona 4 Arena surprised nearly everyone with its quality for the first title in (let’s hope anyway) a new fighting series. Even the fan maligned Street Fighter X Tekken made positive critical waves. However, it was SoulCalibur V that captured the most of my time with its thoughtful gameplay refinements, notably the inclusion of the Critical Gauge, which added Brave Edge attacks and Critical Edge attacks, the former similar to EX moves made popular in 2D fighting games, and the latter much like ultra attacks, also from 2D fighting games.
The online play is exceptional, and the robust create-a-fighter hasn’t been topped. Unfortunately, lack of proper development time let SoulCalibur V become the weakest entry in regard to single-player content, but that doesn’t change the fact SoulCalibur V’s gameplay is the best in the series.
3: Dragon’s Dogma
It may lack the narrative polish seen in RPG heavyweights, and at times its design choices are peculiar at best, but Dragon Dogma‘s gameplay is impeccable. Dragon’s Dogma also has a grand sense of adventure and it is able to encapsulate the feeling of danger that should arouse when you’ve stumbled across a dank, foreboding cave. Couple that with the entertaining combat, and you have an adventure which is continuously engaging, because it is simply fun to dispatch the enemies the game throws at you, while exploring its dark fantasy world.
It’s unfortunate the engine can’t keep up with its ideas (time for a new generation of consoles), but don’t let that dissuade you if you’re in the hunt for an action role-playing game that isn’t afraid to be different, especially with its intriguing and satisfying ending.
2: PlayStation Vita
Okay, so it isn’t a game, but this is my list. And I know it hasn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire, but Sony’s dual stick handheld, with its OLED screen capable of producing fantastic image quality, may be the last portable device designed for gamers in mind.
Its library is full of quality titles, such as Gravity Rush, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, Persona 4: Golden, and wipEout 2048, and the PlayStation Network (PSN) selection is no slouch either, with the brilliant Sound Shapes and the nostalgia inducing Retro City Rampage. Add the PSone library on PSN; the integration with Sony’s PlayStation 3; and the benefits of Playstation Plus (if you’re a member), and the PlayStation Vita is a device offering countless hours of gameplay. 2013 should see the release of Soul Sacrifce, Killzone: Mercenary, Dragon’s Crown, and Tearaway, meaning there’s plenty to look forward to as well.
1: Far Cry 3
Ditching the gameplay irritants found in Far Cry 2, namely jamming weapons and malaria, and returning to the island environment which put the series on the map, Far Cry 3 has been described as “Skyrim with guns,” which isn’t that far off the mark.
An expansive, tropical island to explore on foot, in a variety of vehicles, or by hang-glider; flora and fauna to harvest and hunt; and many, many pirates to purge, Far Cry 3 doesn’t skimp on activities to sink your time into, and with its open-ended approach, you’re free to tackle its challenges any which way you desire. The plot unfortunately ventures into White Savoir territory, but Far Cry 3’s gameplay makes up for any narrative missteps.