- Assassin’s Creed III
- Borderlands 2
- Far Cry 3
- Halo 4
- Mass Effect 3
- Max Payne 3
Like 2011, 2012 was also the year of sequels and three-quels. Although last year’s lineup was a bit stronger and featured more battles between console-exclusive trilogies like Gears of War 3 and Uncharted 3, developers still put out some heavy-hitting third installments to popular franchises on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as both consoles’ life cycles wind down and the next generation of gaming systems gets ready to debut.
This year we saw the return of every Xbox fanboy’s faceless cybernetically-enhanced supersoldier hero, Master Chief, in the best Halo to date. 343 Industries shocked everyone after taking the iconic series over from Bungie by managing to one-up the esteemed original developer, who has moved on to a new IP. But while doing almost everything better, 343 still played it a little too safe to completely step out of Bungie’s shadow and blow everyone away, making Halo 4 an amazing game, but still not doing enough to truly evolve the series’ combat.
Commander Shepard also made his return in Mass Effect 3, but the game’s controversial endings unfortunately kept it from delivering on the original promises made by developer BioWare, setting fans into a rage and instead giving us the biggest gaming story across all forms of media in 2012. Far Cry 3 clearly showcased the best visuals this year and did an amazing job mixing open world gameplay with a solid singleplayer story but its generic multiplayer kept it from being a true masterpiece which was the opposite case with 2012′s Best Multiplayer Game, Starhawk. Like Borderlands 2, Assassin’s Creed III delivered yet another entertaining campaign for those hooked on the series, but newcomer Dishonored managed to give assassins an innovative and fresher BioShocky take on the stealth genre, even with some of its more predictable twists and turns.
Speaking of surprising twists and innovation, one of this year’s smallest and best games was a downloadable indie title that allowed for people to play together online in an experience unlike anything before it. If it weren’t for its short length that kept us from playing it hooked for months like all the other game’s nominated this year, Journey would have been any even stronger contender for this year’s Game of the Year award.
While there were a lot of trilogies with beloved main characters this year, it was Max Payne’s triumphant return that stole the show. Moving away from their traditional open world style of games, Rockstar Games took a different approach with a linear story that brought Max back in all his slow-mo glory after his venture into theaters might have soured many fans’ views of the series. Rockstar once again proved that they’re one of the best developers in the business and managed to create a dramatic and depressing story jam-packed with intense action and with some of the most realistic characters ever, surprisingly even without the use of L.A. Noire‘s stunning facial capture technology.
Rockstar’s revamped gunplay mechanics, perfect character animations and voice-acting, and dark story that seamlessly transitioned between cutscenes and gameplay were what made Max Payne 3 this year’s most enjoyable title. Add in a deep multiplayer experience with the series’ unique slow-mo gimmick, and you have all the makings of the only game that we gave 5 out of 5 stars this year and that deserves to be called 2012′s Game of the Year… and a great sign of things to come from the acclaimed developer’s next game in 2013, Grand Theft Auto V. Winner: Max Payne 3.