As I was running through my list (and Raptr) of what I played the most this past year, it turns out that despite buying several console games and two MMOs, I played mostly games from 2011 and 2010 the most. I started off the year with Star Trek Online easily taking the top spot with Modern Warfare 3 bringing in second place for its multiplayer alone.
In no particular order, here’s my personal favorite 2012 releases:
Mass Effect 3
I adore the Mass Effect series, and I played through all the DLC. When multiplayer was announced for 3, I had the same “huh?” questions as anyone else, but it turns out Mass Effect 3 has my all-time favorite cooperative Survival mode, slightly surpassing Gears of Wars 3’s Horde 2.0 mode mostly because of the variety of classes and enemies. BioWare has released four DLC map packs for free so far as well as increasing the number of available classes to play, adding personal challenges to set as additional goals, weekly balancing and almost every weekend has a new Operation with specific goals for specific extra rewards.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
I gripe and gripe about the Call of Duty games for various reasons, but the bottom line is my gamer friends (namely Hallower and Oakstout) prefer the faster paced jump in, jump out of Call of Duty over Battlefield 3, which they disliked to the point of trading in. However, I’ve always been a fan of futuristic military shooters beginning with Battlefield 2142, then this years’ Ghost Recon Future Soldier and now Black Ops II. For the first time ever, I don’t have any specific complaints about a COD title other than my general COD complaints such as quickscoping. I usually perform better in Black Ops II than I ever have in a COD game and I intend for this to be my go-to first person shooter for competitive multiplayer in 2013.
Ghost Recon Future Soldier
I never played any of the old-school Clancy games because my PC back then wouldn’t run them satisfactorily, but I’ve enjoyed all the current-gen console games such as the Advanced Warfighter series, the Rainbow Six Vegas series, End War and Hawx. So when Future Soldier was announced, I knew it would be a pre-order. Many reviews ripped it a new one, but ya know what? I really enjoyed the hell out of the campaign and the multiplayer is something fresh that doesn’t have the hyper-speed run and gun of Call of Duty. It attracts adults instead of kids, and being a purely objective-oriented shooter, it emphasizes patience and teamwork over kill/death ratios.
I can’t say the story makes more sense than the first game, but I can at least say there’s more story there. More importantly, the new characters you interact with are hilarious with some fantastic dialogue and excellent voice acting to bring that dialogue and these characters to life. Graphics are better, performance is better, pretty much everything has been improved in Borderlands 2 and it makes an excellent way to spend time running around shooting and looting with your friends.
Far Cry 3
Holy crap, was this game excellent! It’s been forever since I was so hooked on a game that I finished it so quickly, getting every single achievement (currently only lacking the final three co-op achievements). When they began hyping the game up and releasing videos, I was excited because while I’ve been playing Skyrim on and off (currently on again) this year, Far Cry 2 was a disappointment on many levels and Far Cry 3 was looking to fix them all. I was hoping for “Skyrim With Guns” and that is damn close to what Far Cry 3 delivered. It’s not 100% open-ended like Skyrim, but it worked to its advantage since it’s so much more faster paced than Bethesda’s RPG behemoth. You’re encouraged (and eventually forced if you don’t figure this out) to mix up your Sandboxing with your Story playing. Do a little sandbox action, gather some plants to craft with, discover new locations, maybe liberate an outpost or few for travel points then do your next Story mission. Despite the co-op not being popular in reviews, Hallower, Oakstout and I enjoy it because it can be challenging and it’s something a little different than your typical co-op. Co-op isn’t a mainstay experience, but I’d sorta liken it to last year’s Syndicate game which we still play from time to time.
I absolutely loved this game, which surprised me because I typically prefer more action or “driving combat” games like Blur. I still haven’t finished Forza 4 which is a pure racing sim but Horizon is more casual, more fun, and more varied. Plus it has the open world to just drive around in and have fun, work on some challenges along the way. The newly-released Rally expansion is also great and very different from the base Horizon game. Highly recommended!
The Secret World
Funcom really outdid themselves with TSW, delivering something both unique in several mechanics and certainly in setting and genre. Voice acting and story telling is excellent even if the coding for the NPC’s eyeballs gets a little freaky looking. Recently TSW switched to a “Buy2Play” business model which should definitely help its population. It’s been awhile since an MMO has had any legitimate challenge and entertainment so TSW is definitely tops on my list once I start getting back into MMOs next year.
Ghost Recon Online
I’m including this simply because I’ve been playing it frequently and really enjoying myself. It’s difficult to tell if the game is still in beta or has released; it seems to depend what you read and where you read it. It certainly needs more players, but as I mentioned with Future Soldier above, one nice thing is that it attracts more adult players instead of yappy annoying children and teens. It does use the F2P model though from what I’ve experienced so far, everything with the exception of the XP Boost can be purchased for the currency you get from playing (RP – Requisition Points) in addition to the “cash” currency Ghost Coins. I’m hoping the population increases and players drop a few bucks here and there so the dev team makes more maps and other features, but for now GRO is my favorite team shooter on PC. I have PlanetSide 2 installed but not really interested in playing right now. Maybe after the January patch…