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MLG Game of Year – Honourable Mentions

January 7th, 2013 by

Yes, the votes have been counted. Yes, the Top 10 has been decided and yes, the Game of the Year 2012 is set in stone and will be announced tomorrow. But, and there is always a but, it has been such a great year for gaming in 2012 whether this be in advancement of technology or the evolution of storytelling there really has been something for everyone.

This became quite apparent when after the MLG Community had registered their Game of the Year votes there were 49 different games that had received a nod from someone. As such – and as our beloved Uncle Fista would put it – sit back and relax with your biscuit and beverage of choice as Derek “Digi” McRoberts, Currierox, CraigieH, Type 40 Dashboxer, MunkiMatt and I introduce to you the Midlife Gamer Community Awards Honourable Mentions 2012.

Day Z

It is my firm opinion that if the qualifying criteria for GOTY had not excluded mods then this would be in contention for top three of this years grouping.

DayZ, a mod created by Dean Hall for the somewhat niche ARMA II engine, was a stroke of genius and a fluke of timing. Placing you in the shoes of a survivor, you awaken on a beach with only the bare minimum required to survive. Early iterations had you packing a weapon from the outset, but since the game was not tough enough, (sarcasm off), that was removed.

Your first venture into the Chernarus world is fraught with danger, confusion and mistakes, which will cost you dearly. DayZ comes with no instructions. Everything you come to know in the game is learned from other players or by figuring it out yourself. It is an ant farm full of clueless and clued-in adventurers. Every death and encounter a lesson.

The mass appeal of this punishing style of game can be seen in From Softwares Dark Souls, where any mistake can cost you dearly, but DayZ takes this to a new and deadlier height. No Map, no guidance, no instructions, it is up to you to experience or be taught what you need to learn in this game in order to survive.

No game this year has made my heart race and my palms sweat as much as DayZ. Should the standalone make it to these shores in 2013 with the same gameplay and brutality as this Mod,  I firmly believe we will be talking again about this game, this time next year.

Dishonored

As a spiritual successor to the Thief series Dishonored certainly had a lot to live up to. Thankfully the Bioshock, Half Life, Deus Ex and, as previously mentioned, Thief influenced title delivered in spades, mashing up those treasured titles with the result being something truly fantastic.

Set within the city of Dunwall, an Orwellian vision of plague-riddled London in the 1800’s, Dishonored should be regarded as a masterpiece of design and of how to make the player feel as if there are consequences to your gameplay.  As you push Corvo through each level your actions can be felt reverberating throughout the city, leaving lasting repercussions on your surroundings. For example, playing as an all-out murderer destroys Dunwall from within, as the chaos envelops the vicinity and drives its inhabitants to violently turn on each other while rats swarm the streets.

Beautiful steampunk style artwork and a mixture of assassination and stealth gameplay, I believe the only reason Dishonored misses out on a top 10 finish is due to it being slightly on the short side, however I do believe the game deserves multiple playthroughs to fully appreciate it.

In a generation where annual updates of franchises are the norm it was great to see a new IP arrive and blow people away. I can only hope that Arkane Studios get the chance in the future to expand on such a promising start.

Spelunky

Based on an Indie game that was released for PC in 2008, Spelunky is an action/puzzle platformer with its gameplay roots firmly placed in an old school style with a few quirks that make it stand out from the rest of the pack.

Spelunky literally makes everything up as it goes along. Every single time you start a stage – even ones you have played before – the game creates it on the fly. This means that you never see the same level twice, causing the replay level to go through the roof

The simplest way to describe Spelunky is if you put Dark Souls and Paper Mario in a box.  Shake it up until fully mixed and the end product is Spelunky. If you enjoy difficult games and have the patience to give your full concentration as you plan your every move whilst the randomly generated stages challenge every single part of your decision making process, then there are very few better games available.

Birds Of Steel

This one is more of a personal shout out. Flight games whether arcade or sim is a genre that has never really appealed to me before I played Birds of Steel. As I said in my review of this title this game is to aviation nuts what Forza is to petrol heads. There has just been so much care put into this title. The look of the planes, the sounds they make, how every last one of them feels like a new experience to fly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the campaign as well which focuses on the Pacific war between 1941-42. I really liked the presentation; archive footage is presented to you before most missions and is narrated over by Stephen Fry who sets the scene perfectly. It’s the best history lesson I’ve ever received in a game not just this year but ever.

So give it a go, it may surprise you like it did me.

Dragons Dogma

How to sum up Dragons Dogma in a few paragraphs, or even a few words?

This title gave gamers an epic open world RPG that defied convention and created itself a new genre, while still retaining some of the atypical classic RPG tropes from the JRPG staple. Though there are countless flaws in this game; a plethora of boring side quests, an open world that can be quite laborious, several graphical and frame rate niggles, a slow cumbersome storyline, and the infamous Capcom micro-transaction bullshit. It still holds a dear place in many of the communities hearts. But why?

Even with the problems contained within, this game does enough right to outweigh the issues. A complex, deep and involving character development system, with your standard and advanced classes, and introducing hybrid classes, all of which can be changed as many times as you wish giving you the benefit to judge each class to see how it suits your own play style.

Dragons Dogma introduced a multiplayer aspect to the RPG genre, with their new PAWN system. Each player has a specific NPC you can level up, equip and style using the same class system as your own character, and most importantly share with everyone else playing the game. As such, you could form your party with two additional pawns, which can be taken from your friends game. While playing, these pawns earn experience fighting specific enemies and can bring items back as rewards from their adventures with other players.

For everything it does wrong with the open world, it makes up with a complex day/night system, epic enemies to battle and a distinct need to be prepared for all eventualities. In this aspect, a lot of similarities can be drawn between Dragon’s Dogma and Monster Hunter or even Demon/Dark Souls.

This game has a complex crafting and upgrades system very similar to Monster Hunter, where items you pick up off enemies and in the world at large can be combined to make all the potions and items required for any eventuality. With epic monsters to battle this game is also reminiscent of Dark Souls to a lesser extent. Larger Monsters can punish you, but Dragons Dogma is slightly more forgiving.

All in all, although this game is broken in so many ways, this is a superb title that just fell short of greatness. Maybe we will see more from the world of Dragons Dogma?

WWE ‘13

If the somewhat glitchy WWE 12 was the revamp of the franchise. WWE 13 was the evolution. By including what some call the greatest period of WWE history THQ created a game that appealed to both the nostalgia yearning older fans and the history learning younger fans at the exact same time. This along with the sheer number of characters you controlled throughout the campaign gave this franchise a refreshing breath of fresh air.

More than an annual iteration of the franchise; WWE ’13 applied the polish in vast quantities to every aspect of the game from the single campaign to the managerial WWE universe mode and from the create modes down to the crowd and commentary reactions to what you had actually done.

When we reviewed WWE ’13 back in November we called it “the greatest WWE game of this generation”. As the highest ranked sports (entertainment) game from the communities votes, you do too.

Darksiders 2

The fact that Darksiders 2 has only made it to this section is testament to what a great year of gaming we have all been treated to.

The first Darksiders really took me by surprise; the term “Zelda for grown-ups” was thrown around a lot around the time of its release. This was enough to make me want to give it a try. It was a very accurate description but to only compare it to Zelda is a disservice to the title. It felt more like a love letter to a lot of great games. Zelda’s dungeons, God of Wars hack and slash combos and lots of nods to other franchises as well. Imitation is the best form of flattery and while Darksiders didn’t really do anything new it certainly made for a very entertaining experience.

Darksiders 2 expanded on this in every way. A larger world to explore, loot drops, a level system and a shopping list of collectibles to keep you trapped in the world for hours. Death is an awesome character to play, you truly feel empowered and whatever stands in your way is in for a seriously rough day.

I am looking forward to seeing where the series will go from here as the storyline to Darksiders 2 ran parallel to that of the first game. The ending didn’t blow me away as much as the first game but the journey itself is certainly one that nobody should miss. Easily one of the highlights of 2012.

Rocksmith

“I don’t care how good you are at Rock Band/Guitar Hero it’s not playing the real thing”.  How many times did gamers hear that from their guitar playing friends? If only you could plug a real guitar into your rhythm game of choice.  That would shut them up. Step forward Rocksmith.

Part guitar tutor, part rhythm game Rocksmith bridged the gap that many gamers had longed for.  Allowing you to plug your own instrument into your console or PC and to not only learn entire songs but also chords and techniques to improve your musically and gaming ability.

The number of songs available for Rocksmith is immense considering the amount of time the game has been released; when including DLC there is over 100 songs readily available for you to learn and play but here comes the rub.

The DLC isn’t cheap.  If you had purchased the title with guitar and then went on to purchase every single piece of DLC, you would have already spent almost £300 on this title.  I’ll be honest this will never happen in my world, mainly because there is a Nickleback pack that I refuse to buy, but I just can’t resist a Queen song.

Established guitar player or novice who has never picked up an instrument before in his life Rocksmith certainly is the game to pick up to advance your ability.

Assassins Creed 3

In development since the beginning of 2010, we were certainly promised a title that would earn its true numerical sequel in the series. Featuring a part of history that many in the UK won’t really know a lot about, our new protagonist is the half British, half Native American Mohawk Connor (or Ratonhnhaké:ton if you prefer and no, I still can’t pronounce it even after hearing it dozens of times in the game).

Connor, bit parting his way through the American Revolution like Forrest Gump, also becomes Captain of the naval warship, The Aquila. The naval missions that feature in the game are a real highlight as you steer the ship through a heavy storm whilst trying to take down an enemy vessel’s masts with a well-placed chain shot from the cannons.

It’s worth mentioning the frontier actually. This was Connor’s playground. Effortlessly leaping through the trees, it looked superb. Lots of collectibles, side missions, hunting and trading opportunities were also included in the game and there was well over 40 hours of gaming goodness to be squeezed out of it.

But there were more fundamental problems, for a stealth game it’s almost impossible not to get spotted on rooftops, and the two featured cities of New York and Boston lack the architectural beauty of a Rome, Jerusalem or Istanbul. Climbing to the top of a not very tall church tower to reveal a mass of green fields and a few sheds or climbing a tall tree in the frontier to unlock the games signature viewpoints was not terribly satisfying.

Controls and combat had been overhauled, with the fighting dumbed down further. Spot the red triangle over the redcoats head? Hit the counter button and it’s an instant death for him. Hit someone else before they touch you and you start chaining your kills together quite quickly. Very much Assassins Creed: Arkham Edition

For a AAA title that was showing great promise, perhaps the end product was a disappointment. I still loved it though and can’t wait for my next annual installment.

New Star Soccer

As the highest ranking iOS only title in our Game of the Year voting; New Star Soccer needs little introduction. It truly is a title that appeals to anyone that played football management games in the early nineties.

Put simply, you take over the life of a footballer and build your path to superstardom through scoring goals and setting up your team mates. Simple enough right? Complication occur when you have to balance upgrading your skills with treating your girlfriend to a night out or partying with your team mates with talking tactics with your boss.

The games micro management system evolves as you progress and building your skills to transfer to a better team whilst keeping everyone happy really is “just one more go” at its finest. New Star Soccer is a wonderful little game that will eat into your life and have you itching to play every spare minute you have.

Trials Evolution

I love you. I hate you. I love you. I hate you.

Has any other game engendered this most primal of emotional reactions? Trials Evolution lives up to its name as Red Lynx evolves the sadistic cycle of trial and error established in the first game. A sequel that is bigger, longer and more challenging than its previous iteration.  Who can forget playing the Gigtrack for the first, second and twentieth time?

This is the game that has you controller throwing and jumping out the seat in equal measures. A game that has you disappointingly squealing and triumphantly cheering in the space of a few seconds as you traverse the increasingly varied environs of its expansive new settings. The first game confined you to warehouse districts, whilst the sequel has a much more varied setting, and this coupled with a level editor on par with anything that Sony’s Play, Share, Create ethos has to offer, make this one of the most underrated gems of the year.

Which is surprising as Trials HD was on the one most successful XBLA games of the service’s lifetime, whilst this one  despite it’s smashing of initial sales, seems to have been forgotten in the unfolding drama of the year, and the inevitable conquest of the almighty MineCraft, and that is a shame. This is a game that delivered on both the bedrock that the first game provided, but also the expectations that fans demanded.

Hitman Absolution

As the fifth title in the franchise; Hitman Absolution not only pleased established fans, in the main, but also won over some new hearts.  With its cinematic overtone Hitman Absolution was a joy to watch as well as play and who can forget the sheer number of ways you could off your target.

Creativity was rewarded but going gung-ho with all guns blazing was never punished. Each level is there to be replayed multiple times as you think of a slight variation in the intricate puzzle of reaching and terminating your target

The multiplayer element, entitled contracts, was also fun to play as you attempted to not only beat challenges laid out by other Hitman Absolution players but also raise the bar as you set your own in a mass game of leaderboard based one-upmanship.

Missing out on the official top 10 by a single point; Hitman Absolution comes highly recommended.

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line isn’t just another military shooter. It is a psychological horror game, both in terms of plot and in terms of how it affects the person playing. You’re forced to perform atrocities throughout, an accomplice to the quickly deteriorating mental state of the protagonist.

Every military shooter has the same general identikit base plot; The world is on the brink of disaster from an aggressor and it’s up to you, the hero, to save the day. How can you be the hero though when your character, and by extension you as well, has just discovered in a chillingly graphic cut scene that you’ve brutally killed 47 civilians, women and children included, using unfathomably barbaric white phosphorus? What if it’s you and your willingness to progress at all costs that’s the threat?

One of the most fantastic elements is that the truth of what’s going on is apparent from the very start, yet the player is too blinded by the action to see the subtle hints of madness unfold around them. Luscious trees that wither and die when you pass by. Faces on posters have their eyes scratched out so they can’t see the terrible events that take place. The path of every mission forces you downwards, hinting at Walker’s descent into madness. Scene transitions fade to white to signify hallucinations taking place and loading screens taunt you with messages such as “This is all your fault.” One of the very first things you see is a large red ‘STOP’ sign. Is it just a piece of meaningless scenery or is it the very first warning that you really shouldn’t continue?

Spec Ops: the Line deconstructs the military shooter genre and forces you to question your participation and actions while playing this style of game. It holds a mirror up to the gamer and shows a repugnant reflection of what you’re willing to do. For this it deserves our applause and its honourable mention in our games of the year countdown.

Bit Trip Saga

Here’s one for the 3DS owners among you. This game should be a part of your collection. What it is, is a selection of six rhythm based mini games. They are all incredibly simple to play but all get insanely difficult the further you get into each of them. The aim of the majority of the games with the exception of Bit Trip Runner is to accumulate a high score. Bit Trip Runner focuses on set levels where you have to jump/slide under/smash obstacles to reach your destination. This mode also features some very creative boss stages.

It’s the kind of game that you would think would be great for a quick fix. Just a quick 10 minutes can quickly turn into a three hour session which is only interrupted by the power indicator on your 3DS going red. It really is a must own for any 3DS owner and one of the best titles released for the console this year.

The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition

I love highly immersive RPG’s and this game created may be the best example of 2012. Officially, this came out in 2011 on PC but this enhanced edition was the one I was realistically able to access and it was a revelation to me.

The first game was a rough and potential filled oddity that first appeared on the PC in 2007 and was subsequently released in an enhanced version a year later. The writing – first established in Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s  excellent novels and short stories – show a level of characterisation and narrative without peer, and the developers have created a lived in, dirty and real world, despite the stereotypical presence of magic, trolls and dragons.

I would argue that this is the best third person RPG of the year, containing a mature, intelligent and fully realised world that genuinely responded to your choices and reflects the consequence. I am yet to go back and play the half of the game that I closed off due to one pivotal choice.  Based on this CD Projeckt RED is certainly a developer to watch out for in the next generation.

To see the full countdown of the 2012 Midlife Gamer Game of the Year Click Here

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