Top Ten “Metal Gear Solid” Moments Part 1 (1-5)

So a while ago I wrote a piece about my top five upcoming games. Although since then the list has changed around a bit in my mind, one thing remains constant: “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” at number one. These days it’s rare I actually look forward to any games as such- I approach them with cautious optimism at most and complete negativity at worst. There are games I anticipate with genuine affection though, and in that regard I planned this article for a while, as a tie-in to my wait for MGSV. A few ground rules had to be considered before hand. Those of you who have already glanced down the list may have seen that it does lean rather heavily on the exploits of Big Boss. This is for two reasons: firstly he’s incredibly important to the overall plot of the series (he’s arguably the most important alongside Ocelot) and two he’s my favorite character, and this is a list based entirely on my experiences with the games. The one main rule I established for the list was that it can only include games in the “Metal Gear Solid” series- no “Metal Gear” or “Metal Gear Rising”. I’ve put the moments in order as best I can- a lot of them I deem worthy of the top spot. Finally: I love Metal Gear Solid. It’s my second favorite franchise. In fact it may even be my favorite when you consider the inconsistent quality of “Silent Hill”, which I consider my number one. I’ve been playing MGS for years, and I love everything about it. Every ridiculous, over-blown, nonsensical bone in its body. Except for MGS2. I like that one, but less than the others. So, onto the list:

Oh, spoilers obviously. Major spoilers.

1. “This is good… isn’t it?”

Game: MGS4
Who’s involved? Big Boss, Old Snake
What happens? Big Boss finally dies, after insisting Snake stop fighting.

After an entire accelerated life of fighting, and after completing his final, most important mission, there’s one last loose end for Solid Snake to tie up. He goes to the grave of MGS3 character “The Boss” (more on her later) to kill himself only to be interupted by his clone “father” Big Boss (long thought to be dead). Big Boss explains what happened to him between “Metal Gear 2” and “MGS4”, kills his old friend turned enemy Major Zero and after a touching embrace and the only real father-son moment the two share in the series he is killed by the virus emanating from Snake. He dies against The Boss’ gravestone, smoking a cigar, exiting on the reflection “This is good… isn’t it?”

Why is it in here?

For three reasons: One, it’s the genuinely surprising return of Big Boss, back to explain what the hell really happened to him, two: the moment he has with his “Son” is genuinely touching, as he implores Snake to stop fighting and live a normal life, and three: Big Boss dies. The big man himself bows out in as dramatic a fashion as he chronologically entered the series in “Metal Gear Solid 3”. “MGS4” was all about tying up loose ends and bringing a conclusion to it all, and what better way than to have Big Boss and Solid Snake have one last moment together?

2. “History will never know what she did.”

Game: MGS3
Who’s involved? Naked Snake, Eva
What happens? The first steps towards “Outer Heaven” are taken, as Naked Snake experiences the ultimate betrayal.

The main plot of “MGS3” involves main character Naked Snake (the young Big Boss) on a mission in Russia with one of his objectives being to terminate his mentor “The Boss”- the greatest living soldier, and the person who taught him everything he knows- who has defected to the Soviet Union. When he finally achieves this goal (the act itself enough to emotionally rip him in half), it’s revealed to him afterwards by Chinese spy “Eva” that his beloved mentor never actually defected. She was on a secret mission to steal the wealth of “The Philosopher’s Legacy”, which went sour when an insane Russian Colonel fired a nuke at a Russian base. Rather than lose the legacy, they threw her to the dogs and had her own student kill her. Snake visits her grave, salutes, and cries.

Why is it in here?

After a game that follows a more adventurous, at times melodramatic tone with a lot of humor throne in, the genuinely emotional climax is brought in to knock the wind out of you- getting a real reaction from events that feel logical while also being a good twist to it all. Also, this is where it starts- the US government are shown to be pretty shady in the MGS universe, and this is Ground Zero for Big Boss/Naked Snake’s decision to abandon it and form “Outer Heaven”. It’s also a fantastic ending to a fantastic game. I love it.

3. Return to Shadow Moses

Game: MGS4
Who’s Involved? Old Snake
What happens? A generation of gamers have a metaphorical homecoming.

For the fourth chapter of MGS4, Kojima took the series back to its roots with a loving, HD remake of Shadow Moses island- the setting of “Metal Gear Solid”- the first “Metal Gear” game many people played, myself included. Though the whole chapter takes place here and is pretty much all excellent set-pieces, one particularly stands out- the heliport. The first outdoor area you come cross in the original, here it’s thoroughly drenched in nostalgia. The wonderful ending theme “The best is yet to come” is played, various nods and flashbacks to the original can be activated (including Snake pining for the good old days of “overhead view”) and the whole thing opens with the original section carried over verbatim. It’s lovely.

Why is it in here?

It’s a lovingly recreated, beautiful nostalgia trip of the highest caliber. You don’t have to go around finding the flashbacks, but for me, a homecoming to Shadow Moses was far too good to miss.

Speaking of Shadow Moses…

4. “Snake… do you like me?”

Game: MGS1
Who’s involved? Solid Snake, Meryl Silverburgh, Psycho Mantis
What happens? Psycho Mantis appears, as the most interesting boss fight of MGS1 begins

MGS1 had one of the better teams of strange bosses: Fox Hound. About a third of the way through the game Snake encounters floating, telekinetic mind-reader Psycho Mantis, whose powers include making the screen go black, reading your memory card, making your controller stop working and possessing ally Meryl Silverbergh. He also has a creepy theme song, which acts as his “Mind Control Music”. He’s fun to fight, a cool idea and one of the more memorable fights in the game.

Why is it on here?

He’s an original idea for a boss, his “powers” are a humorous addition that was pretty impressive back in the day, and his fight offered something different than simply hiding behind cover and choosing the right moment to strike. The idea of turning Meryl against Snake was also a good one.

5. “This is Outer Heaven”

This is outer heaven

Game: MGS Peace Walker
Who’s involved? Big Boss, Militaires Sans Frontières
What Happens? Big Boss gives a rousing speech to his troops as Outer Heaven is born

After the credits roll for the second time on the excellent “Peace Walker”, the game cuts to a title screen. Footsteps are heard. Big Boss takes the microphone and outlines his Outer Heaven idea to his amassed troops. “…our purpose defined by the era we live in. We will sometimes have to sell ourselves, and services. If the times demand it, we’ll be revolutionaries, criminals, terrorists…”.

Why is it in here?

It’s one hell of a speech. Outer Heaven is born as Big Boss finally makes his dream a reality with a great choice of words that make the hair on one’s neck stand up. Much as I said about “MGS4”, what better way to end “Peace Walker” – a game all about Snake building up his personal army without a nation – than Big Boss succeeding and making Outer Heaven a reality? It’s a strong end.

This is starting to run on rather a bit, so I’ll break things off here. Look out for Part 2 of this list (6-10), which will be on here tomorrow at the latest.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Images used:

1. http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130529192002/metalgear/es/images/b/bd/Images_2.jpg
2. http://sleeplessgamers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2443436-big-boss-salute.jpg
3. http://herninavody.cz/wp-content/uploads/game-act4-2.jpg
(The image was taken from this site but it belongs to Konami. I claim no ownership of the image or what is depicted in it)
4. http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110823121859/villains/images/6/6a/Psycho_mantis.png
5. I took myself.

A few thoughts on… Ubisoft’s new take on game development

So just now I read a story on The Escapist (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/125997-Ubisoft-No-New-Games-Unless-They-Can-Be-Made-Into-Franchises) in which I learned that Ubisoft are not planning to release any new games that cannot be turned into franchises. They stated that apparently that’s what people like and want, and that gamers need “A chance to decide that [Watch Dogs] is going to be hot”. Notice the wording there was “That” and not “If”. You don’t get a chance to decide if it’s going to be good, just that it’s going to be good. 

Anyway, this new move from Ubisoft is a foolish one for one main reason: how will they decide what’s going to be successful? Through market research and focus groups? You know- those things that definitely always work out well for publishers and the games they publish? I’m reminded of when David Cameron said the government should be giving funding to independent films that will definitely go on to be “King’s Speech”-style blockbusters. This is a stupid, misguided way to do things. Supposing Ubisoft releases Watch Dogs and it tanks? Do they then recall every copy of the game and burn them? What if it gets to the point where every one of their games goes up in smoke and they’re terrified to take a chance on anything else? Unlikely, yes, but possible all the same. One reason they gave is that the “Fire and forget” style of development doesn’t work for triple A games, and that it’s too expensive. The very wording of that statement seems to be the problem here- “Fire and forget”. You know what? Don’t “Forget” about it then! Release a game and keep supporting it- develop meaningful DLC for it (by “meaningful” I mean at the very least don’t make it ripped content or on-disc. Create some extra content that makes sense and adds something without feeling like it should have already been included), create patches (if neccessary) and the like. If the problem is it’s too expensive to “Fire and forget”, then don’t bloody forget about it. 

So yeah, I think that’s a bad move by Ubisoft. Only time will tell if this new system will work for them, but I for one hope it doesn’t.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert

Thoughts on… Hotline Miami – the Playstation 3 version

So earlier in the year I wrote a late review for the Steam release of “Hotline Miami”- a top-down, 16bit, ultra violent homage to “Drive” and seemingly the 80s in general. A fluid mix of carefully planned stealth and hectic shootouts, the game was fun, interesting and original and definitely worth picking up. June 26th saw the European release of a downloadable PS3/PS Vita cross-buy pack for the game featuring a new stage, a new mask and – obviously – full gamepad control. Eager to dive back into the hazy, synth-filled killing sprees I enjoyed so much on PC, I bought the PS3 version and quickly ran through it. What follows here won’t be a review of the game as a whole (apart from the level and mask it’s the same as the PC release, the review for which is here: https://thereviewingfloor.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/hotline-miami-review/), but my thoughts on what has been added and on this port as a whole.

When I first started up the game the control felt awkward. Moving the stick in any kind of gentle/casual way in a specific direction will make Jacket instantly face that way, which for the duration of the mandatory tutorial section I thought was the only way to aim. It turns out, however, that if you push the stick out and hold it, you can then spin Jacket 360 degrees as you would with the mouse and keyboard set-up, which works a lot better and once you get to grips with it makes the game feel a lot more comfortable to play. Using the left thumb stick to move feels natural as does using the face and shoulder buttons to attack, but that was never going to be a problem; the central issue was always going to be aiming, at least for me anyway. Fortunately it turned out well, once I got to grips with it.

The new mask is called “Russell” and is a bull. It’s function is to make the game high-contrast black and white, with the exception of the blood and UI (namely, your ammo count and score). Much like the “Oscar” mask the filter has little gameplay use and is instead an aesthetic difference (although the Oscar mask made the game harder, it was purely because it made it hard to see- the enemies weren’t affected at all). As an aesthetic difference, it’s a cool one- high-contrast black and white may be slightly cliched but I’m a fan, and I think it works well here. The coloured blood gives a “Madworld”/”Sin City” kind of vibe, which is a plus.

The new chapter is called “Exposed” and set at the Euro Gamer Expo. Like “Highball” it is a story-less bonus chapter in a uniquely shaped environment, this time with little cover. I’m not a fan of the bonus levels myself (I prefer the multi-leveled story chapters), but it was a nice inclusion.

My small problems with the original PC game are still present (namely irritatingly unpredictable A.I and the crap forced stealth chapter), plus another thrown in for good measure: the game completely froze up on me a few times (usually just after I’d beaten a difficult section) and I had no option other than hard resetting the console. It was annoying, but nothing too serious, and I’ve beaten the game no problem.

The PS3 version doesn’t add a great deal, but that’s speaking from the perspective of someone who bought, completed and loved the PC version. For those who didn’t play it and are coming to it fresh, that’s not a problem, and considering this version is slightly cheaper than the full-price Steam release, it’s a win-win for them. If you haven’t already bought the game and can handle some violence, pick it up- this is an original, fun, challenging experience that offers far more enjoyment than several full price, triple A titles released in the last few months. If you already own the PC version, consider whether the new features are worth buying this version for.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Oh, I’m finally getting “The Last of Us” tomorrow, so the review for that will be next, followed by one for “The Walking Dead: 400 Days”

My top five upcoming games

With E3 over and just over a week to kill until I get “The Last of Us” (which is apparently incredible), I figured now is a good time to briefly talk about the five upcoming games I’m most looking forward to. The criteria I’m sticking to are games that have been announced and have had footage shown for them, but not necessarily a release date (Q1 2014 and such is alright, but not “We’re making a sequel to ____ and it’ll be out sometime in the future”). So let’s get to it.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2014)

Holy shit, where to start… Open-world MGS with real-time weather, vehicles, realistic day/night cycle with organic gameplay and a dark, adult, rather disturbing and unpleasant story that seems to detail that final leap from hero to terrorist for Big Boss (now called “Punished Snake”)? My money. Take it. As much as you like. A composite project consisting of “Ground Zeroes” and “The Phantom Pain”, MGS V is a new take on the series- as seen in the E3 2013 trailer the open world is beautifully detailed and the tactical options woven into the gameplay look great. The new story follows on from “Peace Walker” and involves Snake awaking from a nine year coma to find his private army and home based destroyed, his left arm cut off and “the whole world” wanting him dead, leaving him wanting revenge on a rather large scale (as seen in the first two trailers for the game). The story is the real draw here for me (I love “Metal Gear Solid 3” and I’m currently playing through “Peace Walker”, which so far is excellent, so I’m keen to see what appears to be the final chapter for “Naked Snake” as a heroic figure)- I love the new direction they’re taking with it, particularly the much darker tone, and I want to see the inevitable downfall of Big Boss and the forming of Outer Heaven. I’m also happy to see the gameplay continue to evolve from “Peace Walker”, and the series as a whole still keep the high standards I attribute to it. Big Boss’ downfall seems to have been saved for the biggest, darkest and best “Metal Gear Solid” game yet, and if they can pull it off, it’s going to be amazing.

Oh, and a quick word on the casting of Kiefer Sutherland as Snake- of course I would rather see David Hayter return to the role he made his own over every game Snake’s appeared in, but I do get why they made the change. I’m willing to wait and see how it sounds in the final game- I do like Keifer Sutherland, and were it an original character I’d applaud the choice.

2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (November 2013)

I have wanted an “Assassin’s Creed” game about pirates since the second game. Seriously. I remember running around Forli as Ezio thinking “This is great and all, but it’d be even better if Ezio was a pirate.” Well, presumably a slow-acting Ubisoft satellite was passing over the East Midlands of England that day (for some reason) because “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” is on the way. Acting as a prequel to AC III, the game focuses on Edward Kenway- legendarily badass pirassin (if that isn’t word, it should be) and best friend to Black Beard as he steals, murders and free-runs his away through “The golden age of piracy”. The ship captain sections of AC III were very well implemented, and they’re set to return, which is a plus. The more tropical setting, tavern fights and the new focus on exploration are all promising, and even the least innovative game in the series was still decent. My only reservation is that seeing as the historical narrative is a prequel, that could mean the present day story is too, which would mean a return for Desmond. Having said that, it’s an “Assassin’s Creed” game about pirates. I’m very much giving it the benefit of the doubt at this point.

3. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (Late summer apparently. It was delayed again recently)

There are two genres of video games I am particularly fond of: stealth and survival horror. Like many I’m not satisfied by the current mainstream attempts at horror, particularly “Resident Evil”‘s on-going effort to tear itself asunder (although apparently “Revelations” was a return to the good times, so maybe someone at Capcom finally noticed the Resi train was hurtling towards a river and slammed the breaks on), but unlike several gaming publications and websites I am not at all of the opinion that Shinji Mikami’s “The Evil Within” is going to “save survival horror”, for two reasons: the game doesn’t sound like much at all, and survival horror doesn’t need saving- it just moved on to Steam. “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” was an amazing example of how to do horror properly, and even the mere mention of this pseudo-sequel was enough to get me excited when it was announced. Featuring a story arguably more bleak than the last one revolving around a wealth industrialist who did something unspeakable in Mexico and suffering from months worth of fevered dreams involving a machine that grinds up pigs (and other things, depending on what you consider to be a pig…) the two brief trailers look even scarier than the first game (very dark rooms, machinery and some horrific, unseen pig-monster is a great combination it seems), which in itself is an achievement. I have my eye on this one- it looks to continue the work “The Dark Descent” started.

On a similar note, Red barrels’ “Outlast” (which follows a similar formula but in a modern setting) also looks to be scary, tense and enjoyable, although the story premise is less interesting in my opinion.

4. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (December 2013)

Apart from the demo released on PSN, I haven’t played “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow”. The sequel makes me want to rectify that as soon as possible. The original was a reboot to the classic franchise with a “God of War”-esque gameplay style, a few “Shadow of the Collosus” boss fights and exploration, with one big thing that stuck out for me: at the end of the game, hero Gabriel Belmont becomes Dracula, or “Dracul” as he puts it (respectively “Son of the dragon” and “The dragon” in Romanian). I thought that was an interesting move, and I’m glad to see the sequel picks up on it: the gameplay footage shown at E3 starts with Gabriel/Dracula in his castle, with human knights storming the place to try and kill him “Hammer horror” style. Dracula can feed on human enemies as well as his regular melee attacks, and upon him leaving his throne room to travel outside the sense of scale and graphical polish is excellent. So it looks like it runs and plays nice and smoothly, but the stand-out thing for me is the concept- playing as a badass, old-timey vampire who fights other monsters, drinks human blood and used to be a crusading champion for the good and the just is a great idea. In the mean time, I’m going to pick up the first game and see what I missed.

Oh, remember Alucard- Dracula’s son and the playable character for the superb “Castlevania: Symphony of the night”? Well he’s coming for Dracula, and he’s out for blood. This just keeps getting better.

5. Watch Dogs (November 2013)

Ubisoft’s cyber-terroism-’em-up could go either way, really. The shooting, takedowns and free-running are nothing new, but the real promise comes from protagonist Aiden’s super phone that can hack into a variety of objects including (but not limited to) traffic barriers, cameras, traffic lights, the city’s power grid and ATMs. Pretty much anything, within reason, and it all yields gameplay benefits. My worry is that each hack will be used in a very linear way to serve pre-planned story encounters, but I’m hoping that won’t be the case and that the gameplay will have a more organic feel to it. Although not original the shooting, chases and the like all look solid, and seem to serve the narrative nicely. I’m remaining cautiously optimistic about “Watch Dogs”, and I’ll be picking it up regardless.

So those are the five upcoming games I’m most looking forward to, but that’s not all of them- “inFAMOUS: Second Son”, “The Wolf Among Us” and “The Walking Dead: 400 Days” all caught my eye also, just not to the same extent these five did.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Viva La Playstation! or, how Sony won E3

So then, it happened. The first day of E3 is over, both Microsoft and Sony have had their big conferences and we can now formally begin choosing sides in the upcoming console war. However, as first skirmishes go, I think the Sony press conference was a lot like dropping a nuclear warhead on a village of jungle pygmies. It was spectacular, horrifying, and absolutely brilliant to behold.

Microsoft was already off to a bad start, before E3 even began. Their reveal of the Xbox One, with its stupid name, ugly case and perma-kinect (because the only thing people love more than having a camera pointed at them all day is to know that it’s always listening to you). They also failed to produce anything resembling games, instead featuring an overly long video of sports personalities talking about disingenuous bollocks and then a trailer for CoD Ghosts with a motion capture dog (which will definitely die) and more sun shafts than you can shake a stick (or the laws of physics) at. Coupled with the fact that used the words TV, more times than gamers, and couldn’t manage to deliver a consistent message about DRM post reveal conference, people were understandable worried about what to expect from the new christened Xbone. However, Microsoft, after seeing the less than stellar reaction across the board promised ALL of the games at E3. And to be fair to them, they delivered pretty well on that. There were an infinitely greater number of games at their E3 conference. They even had a few decent exclusives, including Dead Rising 3, the inevitable new Halo, and possibly most shocking of all Metal Gear Solid V. except Metal Gear wasn’t actually an exclusive, they just got overexcited on twitter.

sunshafts
because Science, that’s why!

All in all, an acceptable performance from Sony. They set out to win people back, and I certainly don’t think it hurt. After all, this is the future. £429 for a console that won’t play used games, has to make daily check in with the cloud to function, and is always staring at you, like the brain damaged cousin of Hal from 2001, is what we can expect from a console nowadays, right? Nope! Because just a short time after, the PlayStation 4 happened.

The Sony conference started inauspiciously enough, talking about their current consoles, the PS3 and the Vita. A variety of games was detailed for each including The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V and Batman: Arkham Origins. All very promising current gen titles. And then, things really began to get interesting. The PS4’s controller was revealed a while back at the initial announcement, but the actual hardware itself was shown in full at E3. And it was pretty. A stylish matte and shiny black affair, with blue lights that make it look like the sexy cousin of Hal from 2001. Score 1 for Sony.

They then decided to have a brief talk about the TV and movie functions of the PS4. Notice the word brief. What Microsoft spent most of its reveal time discussing was dealt with in about 5 minutes by Sony. And it then became immediately apparent that this was because any more TV stuff would get in the way of the ALL of the games. Because Sony brought a lot of games to the party. The first section of the event was used to show off some familiar (but still impressive looking) first party titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall, Driveclub and my personal ‘ohmygodfuckyes’ moment infamous: Second Son.

Then Sony pulled out the little guns. Their support for indie developers was made abundantly clear, featuring demos of Don’t Starve, Transistor and something called Secret Ponchos (which I will buy, no matter the quality). The confirmation was made that Sony will allow people to self-publish games on the PS4, making Microsoft’s demand that they find themselves a publisher seem crotchety and mean spirited.

In truth Sony could probably have left it there, and had all the hype they could have wanted. But they weren’t done. Not even a little bit. They followed up with their reveals of third party support including very impressive demos of Assassin’s Creed IV (the stream of which crashed, proving at least that it wasn’t a trailer) to the increasingly intriguing cyber-terrorist-em-up Watch_Dogs. They even showed a teaser trailer for a Mad Max game, which looks to be a nice antidote to all the serious semi-realism going on at the moment. even Square Enix got in on the action, showing off Final Fantasy 15 and the second numbered sequel in the Kingdom Hearts series.

ps4
it’s looking at the future. largely because it is

PlayStation Plus was back with a vengeance also, with Sony stating that the service will continue, with no need to buy another subscription if you’re already a member when the PS4 is released. The service will continue its services of cloud saving, discount and fucktons of free games. The first being Drive Club, from the launch day, and going on to include several of the indie titles mentioned above. There was however, a small razor blade in that particular stick of candyfloss. Online play will require PlayStation Plus. However single player games and all other functions of the PS4 will not. Given that this was the Xbox 360 current scheme, and given how much content is on offer under PS+ it seems like a bit of a no brainer. On the subject of DRM and online the confirmation that PS4 games can be traded  and sold freely between players got a colossal round of applause, as did the news that there will be no need to check into the cloud every 24 hours as the Xbox does. Honestly, at that point they could have just told Microsoft to go and fuck themselves and everyone would have applauded. Which they basically did, releasing a 30 second video on how to share PS4 games. Turns out you just hand them to someone else, and that’s it.

The conference finished up with a demo of the new FPS-MMO from Bungie, Defiance. It looked pretty, looked like a lot of fun to play and most importantly, enemies dropped loot. Tasty tasty loot. And then came the death blow for Microsoft, the aforementioned nuclear detonation that laid waste to the Xbone and all who followed its heretical path. The price. £349. £80 cheaper than the Xbox One. The over the audience’s rapturous applause, you could just about hear the sound of Xboners wilting under the ice cold shower of PlayStation superiority*.

There’s no arguing that Microsoft set the bar low with their two previous conferences. They didn’t provide enough games initially, have enough indie support, 3rd party excellence, or give away crap tons of free games. But that didn’t stop Sony from picking up the bar, lifting it above their heads, and beating Microsoft into a coma with it. Granted it’s a while before both console are released, but I already feel fairly certain which camp I’ll be in.

Xbox One is dead! Long live PlayStation 4!

*I apologise for the graphic nature of this metaphor

By Reuben Williams-Smith
@r_williamssmith

2012: The five best, and the five worst.

Well, better late than never I suppose. Let’s get on with it then.

The Best:

1. The Walking Dead

This was a genuinely hard choice. My most anticipated game of last year was “Max Payne 3”, and while it lived up to the hype to be one hell of a game, nothing got a reaction from me quite like “The Walking Dead”. There are technical problems, and certain outcomes are unavoidable, but the story and decisions in the game are superb, and the emotional investment the game draws out of you is remarkable. Every character in the game is interesting and feels needed, the relationship between the protagonist Lee and his charge Clementine (both genuinely likable) is genuinely touching, and the adventure game style focuses on advancing the story rather than absurd, illogical puzzles. It’s an incredible experience, and the best game released in 2012.

2. Spec Ops The Line

“Spec Ops: The Line” was a genuine, pleasant surprise when I got my hands on it last year. When it was first announced it looked like another generic war shooter where macho white men with the mental state of five year olds stomp all over brown people in the name of freedom, which couldn’t be further from the truth. What starts as a simple third person shooter quickly evolves into a gut-wrenching emotional slog through hell on earth that brings up horrific events and forces the player to move through them, no matter how dark. The story was incredible and genuinely affecting, and while the gameplay can be generic, it serves the story nicely. It was close between this and “The Walking Dead”, but while the latter edged this one out, “Spec Ops The Line” is an awesome experience, and it is essential you check it out. I mean, it’s depressing, harrowing and dark, but that’s the whole point.

3. Max Payne 3

It pains me- PAINS ME to put “Max Payne 3” here in third place. I was looking forward to this game more than any other that year, and indeed for several other years. It lived up to the hype, and was an awesome game, but from a more objective standpoint, the two games above were more worthy of first place. Anyway, “Max Payne 3”- the new setting of Sao Paulo, Brazil creates a great contrast from the first two games, provided a good amount of variety within its locations and gave the game a nice, “Man on Fire” feel (as did the plot, actually), the character of Max was darker than ever and the gameplay was intense, tight and incredibly fun. For fans of the series it was a wonderful culmination of everything leading up to it, and for those new to the games it was an excellent third person shooter. It’s a great game worth playing, but lacks the emotional impact of the first two games on this list, save for the incredible opening cutscene. Look it up.

4. Silent Hill Downpour

This one surprised me. I’m a huge “Silent Hill” fan and although I knew this game was going to suck (as do all the new Silent Hill games I’ve played), I gave it a chance anyway only to find something wonderful- it doesn’t suck. Far from it. The game has a good sense of exploration and has a number of genuinely interesting side quests, a great atmosphere, decent combat system and actually tries to do its own thing rather than wallow in the series’ past tropes (Unlike homecoming, which was terrible). It’s the best Silent Hill game since the Playstation 2 days, and is a pretty good horror game on its own merits. Like “Max Payne 3” it’s one to check out, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the previous games.

5. Assassin’s Creed III

Carrying on from the largely pointless “Brotherhood” and “Revelations” installments, “Assassin’s Creed III” changed the setting, time period and protagonist for the better- giving the new character a set of moves more useful for the environment, which is well realised and adds to the “Fight for Freedom” nature of the new character. The new tree climbing system was good fun, and the tweaks to the combat breathed new life into it. While not perfect (it had pretty much every problem the second game had; mainly the stealth system is very poorly implemented) but overall, it was a fun game and a good addition to the series.

The Worst:

1. I am Alive

An XBLM and PSN game tucked away early in the year safe from anyone remembering it, “I am alive” attempted to give a more grounded take on the idea of a post-apocalypse scenario, but tripped over the very first hurdle and smashed its head in. Bad game design, irritating sound and environments, logic painfully obviously being sacrificed to supplement an ineffectual atmosphere and a generally rushed feeling all around make “I am alive” the worst game I played last year. I genuinely cannot think of a single redeeming feature in the game. Not one. Give it a miss.

2. Lollipop Chainsaw

Suda 51’s latest installment smacked of a largely accepted “auteur” falling into a routine. Violent, overly quirky and obviously trying to be different, the story of vacuous, deeply irritating zombie hunting cheerleader Juliet ended up being the worst thing Suda has made by far. Repetitive, boring gameplay, irritating, unfunny dialogue and characters that are either boring, irritating or offensive were the order of the day. The abhorrent mini-games and wasted bosses didn’t help either. This is Suda being lazy- having built up his reputation with the incredible “Killer 7” and the awesome “No More Heroes”, he’s fallen into a groove. A groove that happens to be a rain-filled ditch with a dead raccoon in it.

3. Resident Evil 6:

Remember when “Resident Evil” was a survival horror franchise? Well the latest installment added in broken quick time events, vehicle sections and an over-reliance on action gameplay. The new story was built on a virus-based cover-up that is completely needless, and in order to have various points where the different playable characters meet up feels very lazy and repetitive. Moving through a spectrum of infuriating, boring, depressing (if you like the series at least- when you reflect on what it’s become) and just plain irritating, “Resident Evil 6” was a slog of repetitive, old-hat ideas strung together with a plot that was stupid even by Capcom standards. This is a series that really needs to end.

4: Hitman Absolution

As I’ll elaborate on in my review (which will be on here soon), “Hitman Absolution” is by no means a terrible game, but it is a deeply frustrating one, owing to new additions and changes that do nothing but hinder the experience. The more personal story isn’t entirely unwelcome, but the linear levels, instinct system and the fact that your cover can be blown in mere seconds for no apparent reason most certainly are. In shifting to a story focus, the sprawling, non-linear levels and immense freedom of the previous games is sacrificed for a more oppressive, reduced experience. Not a terrible game, but a step in the wrong direction for the series.

5. Dishonored/Far Cry 3

Sure to be controversial choices, I’m giving fifth worse to both games (I couldn’t choose between them) not because they were particularly bad games (although there were far better ones last year), but because of the hype surrounding them- hype they failed to live up to. “Dishonored” was supposed to be an incredible hybrid of Hitman, Thief and Deus Ex and ended up being a linear stealth game with a weak story and most choices in the game being easily ignored in favour of the much simpler “stab everyone in the neck” option, and “Far Cry 3” was supposed to have a deeply troubling, gripping “Spec Ops The Line”-esque story involving a normal man becoming a depraved, maniacal killer in order to save friends that would no longer even recognise him, but ended up being a decent if a tad boring shooter with a weak, rushed plot that was deeply disappointing. Are the games bad? No, and certainly no way near as bad as the other games on this list, but they should have been so much better.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18