Kazlo's Best 2011 List of 2012
by Kazlo

Well hey hey hey folks, welcome to The Best Damn 2011 List of 2012! A couple of things I want to get out of the way first; this was an absolutely incredible year for gaming all around, and I am not at all in the business of hating on games because they were popular, or dismissing any game without trying my best to get into it and find its greatest qualities, meaning if there was a big, critically successful game this year, I probably played it and loved it.

However, I also think there'd be nothing more boring than listening to me gush about games that EVERYONE knows are great without some kind of angle, especially since you could go to any number of other sites to hear better writers extol their virtues. So I'm going to take a cue from a number of other SMPS list writers and follow a different format than "best X", and maybe save a couple of big titles I don't have much to say about for a big happy hoe-down at the end. Now, to listin'!

Second time's the charm:
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time

This category is for games that I tried not long after they came out and dismissed, but got this strange little inkling this year that they just deserved another shot. Blame the fact I've played all the Ratchet games up to this point (except Secret Agent Clank, and no, I WILL NEVER) or the fact that I'd come off of Ratchet and Clank: Future not long before, but I got about an hour into A Crack in Time and my reaction was a resounding "meh". Actually, it wasn't even a particularly resounding "meh". Buuut, I saw the game on sale along with a number of other PS3 "greatest hits" (which will feature in this list!) and gave it another shot, and... well, then I got to space.


The space sections add a little extra juice to the game, replacing the loading screens that once made up transitions from planet to planet with little hub areas. Each system has a few major planets where the story will take you, and lots of little Mario Galaxy-esque planetoids for you to land on, each with an upgrade or a weapon mod to find if you can solve a puzzle or survive platforming challenges and survive waves of enemies. They're a great way to milk just a little extra XP to level up one of your weapons, or just to relax. Oh, and every system is drop dead gorgeous.

So the game looks good. It also streamlines and epitomizes the Ratchet and Clank series in a lot of ways. You finally START with the ability to attract bolts (the game's currency) from a great distance, for those of us who have collected enough of the damn thing for their addictive tendency to wear off. The game has the usual large selection of oddball weaponry, with the addition of "Constructo-Mods", which allow you to alter the functionality of your starting weapons, reducing the total number of weapons you need to grind up to max level. Apart from that, it's typical Ratchet and Clank fare - circle-strafe around lots of baddies and blow them up, and occasionally play as Clank and solve some interesting puzzles.


It's worth mentioning that Clank's puzzles are by far the best in the series, replacing tedious "order the minions around" with time-bending switch puzzles that require you to "record" several instances of Clank who will perform the actions you did. They ain't Portal, but solving some of the trickier ones, which require you to have several of the "Clank" copies synced to help each other bypass obstacles completely independent of you nets you a pretty good feeling of satisfaction. Overall, a great game, the height of the Ratchet and Clank series, and now Insomniac will you please, PLEASE work on a different franchise before the PS4 comes out. And not Spyro.

Second time's just as baffling as the first:
Alpha Protocol

It's the perfect disguise.

Oh, Alpha Protocol, Alpha Protocol... where do I even begin? Finally Obsidian gets the chance to show their chops and create an original IP instead of getting other RPG developer's sloppy seconds, and they made... this. The first time I tried this game I hit the very first boss fight and then dropped it like it was hot, but after reading up on a lot of the cool stuff the game did story-wise (and laughing at the hilarious Bro Team Pill video on it), I decided to try it again. I could write a whole article on it, and someday I probably will, but to avoid getting bogged down, I'm just going to create a list of a few particularly illustrative bulletpoints.

Pro: There's a decent range of customization for main character Michael Thorton, and characters will actually notice and react to the more outlandish ones in-game.
Con: Every option except the default shaved head with no hat or beard looks horrible, and becomes transparent in any cutscene with smoke due to the horrible rendering effects, showing you the default head underneath.


Pro: There are a wide range of weapons and skills to choose from. Each weapon has a set of mechanics all its own, and each skill point carries with it real benefits and consequences that will determine how you play the game.
Con: Every weapons' mechanic is terrible. You will create a broken, worthless character without knowing it, and no amount of points will stop your aim waving all over the place like you're going through the DT shakes. You'll spend the entire game wondering if you're doing something wrong, because stealth is so tedious and unfair if you haven't played the game through already and mastered its bullshit, and direct combat is so awkward and stilted that you'll constantly feel like you're not supposed to be doing it, even if you specialized your character specifically for it.

Pro: There's a range of characters, and you can befriend or make enemies with almost any of them using an interesting real-time conversation system. Who you befriend and the choices you make have greater consequences on the ultimate outcome of the story than in almost any other game.
Con: All the characters are awkward, unintentionally hilarious exaggerated caricatures of human beings. You often have NO IDEA what stupid idiot Michael Thorton is actually going to say when you select a given one-word conversation option, and no matter what you select he's a stupid annoying douche who you will want to punch in the mouth every time he opens it. The game is all too happy to put choices with long-term consequences on a strict timer, or not even warn you of their importance beforehand. 'cause it's SOOPER REALISTIC that you would only have ten seconds to decide whether to kill or spare the lone, disarmed opponent you're holding at gunpoint five feet away. You don't want to give them the impression you're not a confident, take-charge kind of guy before you put a bullet in their bonnet.

The real reason I gave the game another shot. And no, turns out you can't hit that.

Pro: Creating a combat-oriented character who deals with situations using lethal force has far-reaching implications, and you will deal with the consequences of killing guards and soldiers who don't deserve it, whether as part of the story or as a hit in reputation with your friends and allies.
Con: Creating a combat-oriented character who deals with situations using lethal force has far-reaching implications, which is a shame because using stealth is such ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT and I went through this whole level by the skin of my teeth just to non-lethally KO all the security guards with my shitty hand-to-hand skills and I still got a reputation hit and blamed for murder because my ally showed up and firebombed a guard right at the end of the mission because he's a STUPID BASTARD ASSHOLE AND HE AND THIS WHOLE GAME CAN DRINK A DICK

Resistance 2

Holy Christ, I didn't think they still made games this awful.

Best Game About Heeding the Call of Duty to Engage in Warfare on Modern Battlefields:
Battlefield 3

Just to be clear, I like the Call of Duty games. I've enjoyed them since the feeling of being part of a real, effective squad blew everyone's minds back in 2003, and I would play team deathmatch with a bunch of my classmates (and a few teachers) during lunchbreak over the LAN at school. I've continued to enjoy the series up to this day, despite the blatant and irritating attempts by the marketing teams at EA and Activision to pit fans of the Modern Warfare and Battlefield series against each other like goddamned political parties, insistent that not only is their brand superior BUT THEREFORE EVERY OTHER BRAND IS INFINITELY WORSE AND DOES NOT DESERVE TO EXIST. Screw that! I declared that I had love enough for both, and picked them both up on the first day of release in defiance.

The night is young, and you're so beautiful.

Well, we had our fun, and there's more than enough room in the world for the kind of multiplayer fun both games provide. But it turns out I really only have love enough for one, and MW3 has gone to the great trade-in bin in the sky while BF3 has continued to get its time spinning in my 360 drive almost every day. Here's why.


Battlefield's greatest strength since the first game - and its greatest sin - is that it's everything about other ONLINE WARSHOOTIN' games amplified. At its worst, when an enemy team has pushed you back to the spawn and is stomping your nuts with impunity, it's ten times worse and more aggravating than the most horrible match of CoD could ever be. But when you pull together with the rest of your team or a party of real-life buddies, there are emergent, transcendent moments that simpler shooters could never dream of.

Try riding in a helicopter piloted by Mechophile, using the squad system to spawn inside it every time you get killed, and look out the window using the Spot button to mark enemy soldiers and vehicles for your teammates below (and getting points for it every time it leads to a kill!) Then, jump out the side and parachute to the ground to assist in the takeover of a command point or defend one that's about to be overrun. Or experience the tension of beginning a match riding in a troop transport with 5 other players, scanning out the side windows for enemy vehicles or anti-tank soldiers waiting to ambush you on the road to the objective. Even the simple camaraderie that emerges naturally in any online team game - watching each other's back, spotting enemy targets, dropping ammo and health for your squad. It's a wonderful thing, and what's even more wonderful is getting points for all of it.

I know what musical reference you're thinking of, and it's not funny.

And hell, I just like the huge maps that stretch for miles in every direction, and fighting at the actual ranges assault rifles were intended for every now and then, rather than in small, boxy maps. Not to mention the Rush game mode, where the attacking team pushes the defending team through different "stages" of a single map. Operation Metro is one thing, starting in a park, moving through a half-mile of subway tunnel into a bombed out city, but nothing compares to the final stage of Damavand Peak, which has the attacking team base-jumping off a 500-meter cliff into the defending team's base below.


The simplest way to sum up the presentation and visuals of Battlefield 3 would be... you know those CGI "target" trailers Sony's devs absolutely love releasing to impress people when their games are still in the preliminary stages? Well, Battlefield looks and feels like one of those brought to life. For a series whose greatest problem has always been a focus on vehicles and a spotty experience for soldiers whose feet are on the ground, BF3 has a greater sense of... physicality than any other shooter I can think of this generation.

I always wanted to go to Paris!

It's hard to even describe. Just look at the natural way your character holds their rifle, and slight randomness to the way it shakes in your hands when you run around. Feel the jitter of recoil and the way your view is obscured when firing, based on simulating the effects of firing a gun in real life as opposed to following simple mathematical game mechanics that can be easily mastered. Listen to the amazing acoustics and sound mix, with guns that realistically drown out all nearby sound and bullets that emit a sound-barrier breaking CRACK that can be heard across an entire map when fired outdoors. Jump over a small piece of debris and watch your character's hand reach out to grab the top and see your legs hop over it. Aim down the sights near a piece of cover with a bipod equipped and watch your character automatically unfold it and set it up. The knife kills are unlike anything short of the Killzone games - knife a player from behind and watch your character grab the enemy player by the shoulder and turn them around before plunging a knife into their throat. Or have it happen to you and curse as they make you look straight into their eyes before delivering the kill.


MW3 wants to charge me 15 bucks a pop for map packs that usually suck, and BF3 gave me a whole expansion with four maps, three new vehicles and ten guns just for showing up. Ding! Check please.

Worst Game About Heeding the Call of Duty to Engage in Warfare on Modern Battlefields:

Oh man, proof that not even brazenly copying the Call of Duty formula and marketing like crazy can bring you success if you suck. This game tried to do everything the Modern Warfare games have done and somehow failed on the most basic levels. The gunplay was awful, the graphics underwhelming, the story silly and hackneyed even by the standards of the genre, and despite being shorter than this evaluation (4 hours! Not a joke or exaggeration!) getting to the end was an unbearable slog. The multiplayer wasn't terrible, but who gives a shit? Nobody will be playing it anymore.

Brashn'angry McHeartofgold guards the inexplicably legged storage crates while Alyx Vance hopes nobody notices her pudgy tummy.

The best memory I have of this game is partway through the level where you rip off Chernobyl from Modern Warfare and sneak through a survivalist camp, where the uneducated hick survivalists are using captured North Korean soldiers for forced labour in exchange for feeding them. Your generic angry brash NPC sees this and says OH MY GOD THIS IS SO FUCKED UP I NEVER THOUGHT HUMAN BEINGS COULD DO SOMETHING SO WRONG. Several hours earlier, he and you avoided capture by a North Korean patrol by HIDING UNDER THE ROTTING BODIES OF HUNDREDS OF DEAD CIVILIANS THE NORTH KOREANS WERE POURING INTO MASS GRAVES.

No wait, maybe my best memory was after your negotiations with the survivalists fall through because in exchange for passage through their land, they want to gang-rape your female NPC friend. After you run for cover, one of the survivalists shouts over the gunfire "Try to keep them alive! They'll fetch a good price when we turn them over to the North Koreans!" Yes. They want to turn you over to the North Koreans. The North Koreans who have invaded your country, and who the survivalists have created massive self-sufficient fortifications in the countryside in order to fight. For money, which will be very useful when they want to buy something from THE WOODS IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING NOWHERE WHERE THEY ALL LIVE IN A HUGE BASE BY THEMSELVES.


Biggest Load of Stupid Goddamn Bullshit:
When my knife kill on that guy didn't work and he immediately went prone and turned around and killed me with his pistol - Battlefield 3

Hey asshole, REMEMBER ME?!

First Runner-up:
That asshole who just killed me with the sawed-off shotgun because he's a loser who probably sucks at all the guns that require actual skill - Gears of War 3

It's just not fair :(

Second Runner-up:


Really, this is what passes for interesting, mature themes in Japanese games at this point? Simple questions about relationships and growing up, hidden under the most obvious visual and thematic metaphors ever? And then you wrapped it all in a crappy puzzle game nobody wanted that barely meshes with the story because it was the only excuse you could come up with to tell this story as a game rather than a forgettable anime. Get the fuck out of here.

Most Pleasant Surprise:
Sonic Generations

There's something important you gotta know about me before I start discussing Sonic Generations; I was a Genesis kid. And it wasn't about fanboyism (my first console was the NES although we called 'em game systems back then), but in our particular suburb of Vancouver, in the mid 90s, there was not an excess of places where one could buy video games. One of our neighbors gave us his Genny when he went to college, along with a couple games, and almost all the games we played were rented from one of the few local rental places.

I always wanted to go to racist Italian caricature!

The point is, Sonic the Hedgehog was my HERO as a kid. Just ask my folks, he and Tails and Dr. Robotnik and the badniks and the Freedom Fighters were the number one thing I drew and obsessed over. I rented Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles as often as I could, I taped all the TV shows, I bought all the comics I could find, and although we couldn't afford a Dreamcast, I rented one just to play Sonic Adventure because I knew it would be the best game ever. And at that time and place, it was, and I rocked out to the opening tune and I laughed at the cutscenes and you couldn't rent VMUs, so I had to let that Dreamcast run until it was red-hot and making a sound like a jet engine to beat the game, but god dammit I did.

I've had to do a lot of repression to deal with Sonic's fall from grace and into bullshit. I turned up to get disappointed again and again, and once I even half-heartedly defended Sonic Team's efforts, but... in the last few years I finally gave up and declared Sonic the Hedgehog all but dead, a casualty of the 3D era, and accepted the fact that, let's be honest, even Sonic Adventure wasn't all that great, really. Maybe Sonic was never that great. Who, Sonic? Oh yeah, I played some of those games as a kid. They were pretty good. I dunno. I don't know about anything anymore.


So it's a surprise to no-one more than me that I LOVE Sonic Generations. I love almost everything about it. I love the poppy, colourful visuals and remixed soundtrack. I love the re-interpretations of classic Sonic levels. I love the 2D Classic Sonic stages and their old-school platforming, and I love the 3D Modern Sonic stages where they finally made Sonic control just right. I love the great level design, with lots of paths and variation, no cheap deaths, and a subtle but consistent logic that's been missing for so long but once you wrap your head around it, you know just when it's safe to boost or spindash and when you need to slow down. I love how every level has mechanics and gimmicks of their own, just like a classic Sonic level, and some of then even reflect the game they're actually from, like the Light Speed Dash that only appears in two levels. And I love that the game was willing to be short and sweet - you could blaze through the levels in about an hour, but every time I boot up the game I want to play them all again.

I don't know whether it's new talent or old wisdom, but Sonic Team has finally realized and internalized the fact that Sonic games can be simple and straightforward and don't need to be padded out to 8-10 hours to satisfy a modern audience, as long as the time you spend with it is wonderful. And for the first time in ten years, I can't WAIT to see what they do next.

Biggest Disappointment:
Alice: Madness Returns

For another dissection of this game I would direct you to Polly's 2011 list, where she makes pretty much every point I might have to say about it. If nothing else, I can reassure her that her disappointment in this game wasn't solely a result of high expectations - I went in with practically no expectations save for having seen a few trailers and thinking the game looked gorgeous, and... well...

Alice enjoys a game of Bridge.

The game IS gorgeous, and not just for having tons of polygons and shaders and whatnot. Each level of Wonderland is unique and interesting, with a colour palette and atmosphere all their own, and stand in fantastic relief against the dreary "real-world" segments. The animation is good (which is probably the most important factor in any third-person game for me personally), and the music... don't even get me started on the music, or I'll never stop gushing. I'm willing to cut any game a ton of slack for good direction - basically, having a clear style and mood that the game as a whole is going for - and in these elements, Alice nails it all the way through.

Even the gameplay was pretty swish... at first. The platforming was good, if a bit too floaty, shrinking at will to go through holes and find hidden paths was a neat effect, and the combat was some good old-fashioned Zelda slash and dodge with unique weapons that felt great to use. The problem is... that run-on sentence pretty much sums up the whole game. Apart from a few new enemy types and weapons, the game reaches the bottom of its bag of tricks about three hours in, yet keeps going for five to seven more. It's not even that it feels padded, the environments keep changing, and a lot of them are clever and well-realized, but ALL YOU DO is triple jump float to the platform. Hit a switch to open a door. Walk another narrow sky path. Fight some guys. Hit a switch. Make some more triple-jumps. Fight some guys. For an hour at a time, between story points (and egregiously, at one point, between checkpoints). The obstacles don't reflect the levels you're in at all. Nothing changes, nothing HAPPENS, and there are almost no real bosses, with almost all built-up villians or obstacles being dealt with via cutscene.

Alice enjoys a game of Poker.

I have finished some terrible games, but I was so bored by the end of Alice I didn't even beat it. I watched someone play through the last few chapters in a walkthrough, and even fast-forwarding through the gameplay to get to the cutscenes, I was STILL bored. And that's a damn shame. Because deep down, I think Alice was just trying its best not to disappoint the fans who held out hope all this time by being "too short".

LA Noire

Oh God, I have to talk about this too, don't I? Ugh. Look, I'm tired and I don't enjoy writing mean things about overall good games. The facial animation was really cool and I respected and admired what it was trying to do in being a procedural drama, where you had to follow all the steps a real detective would have had to back in the 1940s. I also think it took the greatest shot yet at creating a game with engaging action sequences that were believable in the context of the story, and were subdued and spaced out enough that the game didn't seem like MURDERTRON KILL-FEST 5000 to an outside observer, handily taking the crown from Red Dead Redemption (although RDR is still a much better game, and has a better plot overall IMO.)


But partway through the late-game sections where things actually got more Noir-y and less police-y, with rough-and-tumble fistfights, sneaking around, escaping from a car trunk and avoiding thugs hunting for your blood, I realized I kinda wished that this was the game I had been playing all along. The first half of the game was consumed by a plot that led to an anticlimax with no bearing on the rest of the game, and the remaining plot ultimately seemed kind of pointless and the ending was dumb, lazy, and meaningless. The end.


Best Ending
inFamous 2

Hollywood Trilogy Syndrome: a set of symptoms that turn up when a successful standalone video game or movie is optioned for not one but two sequels, so as to achieve maximum profit based on three unassailable truths. 1. It's far easier for a corporate-controlled team of design-by-committee hack writers to push through an unfinished script for Part 2 when they can pretend it will all make sense in the context of all three parts. 2. It doesn't matter how bad you fuck up Part 2, because everyone who enjoyed Part 1 will pay for it. Absolutely no pressure. 3. It also doesn't matter whether Part 3 is any good, because no matter how abysmal Part 2 was, everyone will turn up for Part 3 just to see if the franchise can pull up out of its uncontrolled nosedive.

Stop staring at my weird pushed-in face.

inFamous 1 was a fantastic game, but its plot and writing were dumb. They were a giant bulk vat of government-inspected, grade-A dumb stirred for hours by an industrial-strength paddle mixer made of solid stupid. If I'd written a list like this in 2009, inFamous 1 would have gotten an entry all to itself for WORST ending, and for the most part inFamous 2 happily follows in its predecessor's footsteps. It's an even better, more polished game, but it brings back to the table bizarre, stupid villians, technobabble, utterly irrational good and evil decisions that nonetheless have almost no effect on the story, and an attempt at some kind of study of morality and transhumanism that's basically just wannabe X-Men. However, it deviates in the ending, one of the most important and overlooked parts of almost any game.

I'll speak in very vague terms, so as to avoid spoiling much of either of inFamous 2's endings, but they revolve around one final good vs. evil decision that for the first time actually gives pause for thought and difficult, considerable sacrifices regardless of which option you choose. Each shows you a very different yet believable Cole, and a few quiet moments of introspection and lines of dialogue were not only genuinely touching, but made me feel connected with the character for the first time in the series. Either ending delivers, sometimes tragically, on all the promise of Cole's friendship with his new allies and with Zeke, whose renewal as your pal was one of the best-written parts of the game. But best of all, both endings thoroughly avert Hollywood Trilogy Syndrome (HTS) and bring a satisfying, definitive conclusion to the series that I remember more fondly than any other game ending this year. Ubisoft, take notes.

Portal 2

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. And you know what? I actually liked the new one BETTER than Still Alive. You heard me!

Best Single Level:
Abducted - Uncharted 3

Everything great about the unscripted gameplay of the Uncharted games brought to its ultimate logical conclusion. The level starts with Drake breaking free in the hold of a pirate ship and having a good old-fashioned brawl with his pirate interrogators, giving you a chance to use the improved hand-to-hand combat system to stun your enemies, throw them into breakable furniture and hit them over the head with wrenches, bottles, and anything else you can get your hands on. After dispatching a pretty ridiculous number of dudes singlehandedly, you escape from the hold to discover the ship is actually a rusted piece of junk sitting in the middle of a massive ship graveyard.

*CLONK* woop-woop-woop-woop-woop-woop

After making a number of death-defying leaps over fields of rusty scrap metal, the level opens up to a section that's probably among the hardest in the series on the higher difficulty levels: a large pool of rafts and small scuttled ships, each with an armed patrol. The only way to stand a chance is to dive under the surface of the water and swim from ship to ship, climbing the side and stealth-killing the pirates on top one by one for precious ammo and weapons. Should you get spotted (and eventually, you will) prepare for one of the hardest gunfights of the game, where you'll have to constantly reposition, hang off the side of ships for cover, dive under the water to escape grenades and scrounge up every bit of ammo you can to deal with waves of enemies who have no trouble leaping and climbing from ship to ship to hunt you down. It's hard, it's thrilling, and it grabs everything that's unique to the hybrid climbing/shooting action of Uncharted and makes sweet love to it.

Nathan Drake's 83rd leap of faith this week.

After all that, it's time to move on, or rather up. The next obstacle is a single giant dilapidated ship to climb up and through, with enemies dropping down from the top to get in your way. This results in a few of the coolest moments of the game - fist fighting with enemies leaping onto narrow platforms just as you do, or landing on a level you were just about to swing to, forcing you to make split second shots while hanging by one hand - and a few sections where you shoot it out with baddies standing on an upper level while you hang off the underside of a piece of cover on a huge vertical wall.

Drake is actually hanging off the underside of this piece of cover. I'd like to see Marcus Fenix do that shit.

In a series loaded with more amazing setpieces and sequences than I can count, Abducted stands out as my personal favourite. Strangely, the chapter (and the similarly tense and gunplay-heavy chapters following it) feel like an intentional call-back to the first Uncharted rather than the bombastic second. It creates the challenge and the tension without falling platforms or a force driving you onward or any obvious scripting, just to prove that Uncharted can be as fun falling back to basics as it is in its most complex setpieces.

Bastion - Prosper Bluff

(the real magic starts at 1:20)

Best Game MooMan Told me to Play and I Didn't:
Dark Souls

I dunno. It just looked like Demon's Souls to me. Maybe I'll check it out when it's 20 bucks. Whatever.

Worst Game MooMan Told me to Play and I Did:

I picked this up as part of the Humble Indie Bundle 4, along with... err... I don't actually remember what else was in that bundle, I just drop a few bucks above the average on these bundles whenever a new one comes out, stick 'em on my steam, and if I actually get around to playing them someday, hey, awesome! Anyway, I booted it up, and all I can say is... more like LAMEStown. Or... JamesDOWN, as in slow-down to the point of being unplayable.

If I confronted Moo about it he'd probably sputter something about how it's unreasonable to expect a game with such large, gorgeous sprites and so much exciting onscreen action and probably cool RPG elements to run well on an old laptop like mine that can barely manage Minecraft... to which I'd respond "Oh yeah? Well this beaten-up old laptop can run Max Payne, AKA the best game ever... so obviously the problem is with Jamestown. CHECKMATE." The point is I didn't really play this game either but it's all MooMan's fault.

Best Oh My God That Came Out This Year Too:
Tie - Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Saints Row: The Third


Skyrim is amazing. It's like Oblivion, only fun. If Skyrim sounds like your kind of game, you'll like Skyrim. However it doesn't get a made-up award and podium spot all to itself because of some fucking inexcusable bugs. Like, I don't want to discredit Bethesda's testing team, and I'm sure they did their best, but... "The game doesn't load textures properly if you install it to your 360"? How did that never come up? No, forget that, "The larger your PS3 save file gets, the slower the game runs until it is literally unplayable"! It boggles the mind how you could test a game for months on end and yet never run into that issue. And to the best of my knowledge, they haven't even fixed that one yet! Way to break the trend of PS3 owners always getting stuck with the worst-tested, least-optimized version of every multiplatform game ever. Jesus. But yeah, you can kill dragons, marry an orc and shoot an icicle the size of a football straight through someone's throat. If that sounds like a good time, pick up Skyrim, but not on the PS3.

Batman: Arkham City

Close enough.

Arkham City was fantastic. It was everything great about Arkham Asylum squared, and while Arkham Asylum felt pretty safe by and large, Arkham City wasn't afraid to really shake things up and take some actions of consequence in the Batman universe. I'd like to say that this game didn't get a special spot because of the sexism issues which I won't get into (but are an issue), but to be honest, it's because I can't think of anything more to say about it.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Oh man, talk about a game that delivered on its promise. Hell, not just as a sequel/prequel to the original Deus Ex, either. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was also the best Metal Gear Solid game I've played since MGS3, and had shades of what originally brought me back to Alpha Protocol, come to think of it. Deus Ex doesn't get a podium finish because it was a tad rough around the edges, the bosses and it honestly wasn't quite finished, but I still recommend it fully. It gave you more genuine choice in how to deal with obstacles that weren't bosses than the rest of the year's first-person games combined and showed us that taking the stage in a public debate can be the most engaging boss battle in an entire game.

Saints Row: The Third

Ever since the original tawdry, focus-tested Saints Row, there's been a little something bulging right beneath the URBAN GANGSTA surface of the series. A genuinely funny joke here or an out-of-place line of dialogue there that tells you there are people of real creativity, talent and humour stuck working on this cheap GTA knockoff, and they'll deliver the product they've been told to, but they won't do it without a fight. They came closer and closer to breaking through the surface, hiding their advance and usurpation of the brand under the banner of "WACKINESS" with Saints Row 2, and the game did better for it, but it's not until Saints Row: The Third that they've finally broken free and begun running the asylum by themselves, with hardly a trace of the "GTA knockoff for the 'urban demographic'" left.

Saints Row: The Third has some of the funniest and most interesting female characters of the year. No, really, this caption isn't a joke. Where are you going?

Saints Row: The Third is like a drunken uncle at a New Years' Party dancing around shirtless with a lampshade on its head, showing you which relatives laugh and cheer and which ones cover their face with a hand when he comes near. Except now and then, when you and you alone can see him, he lifts the corner of his lampshade and winks at you because he hasn't had a drop and he's been listening to every word whispered about him tonight. It's a game that can't hide how smart it is even when it's trying it's best to be stupid.

SR3 didn't get a fancy spot of its own because the gameplay could get a little tiresome, and wasn't as much as a leap forward from Saints Row 2 as I had hoped. But there were times the game made me laugh so hard I had to put down the controller for 20 seconds before I could go on. With the exception of the unfunny Zimos (and his boring missions), every character in the game is interesting and funny, and what's more, for all the madness in the world around them, believable. I can't think of video game characters who have had more complete senses of irony, sarcasm, and humour, yet aren't simply walking one-liner dispensers. They recognize how utterly insane the video game world they live in is, but instead of cheaply breaking the fourth wall, they joke with each other, and then they get on with things, 'cause those VTOLs aren't gonna hijack themselves.

Well, I think that about sums it up for this year, and what a great year it was. I hope my fellow list-writers enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed theirs, and everyone else found something worth reading in these here miles of run-on sentences, and I hope the next year has even half as much material to work with. Keep it hot like Kitana, smooth like Smoke and cool like Sub-Zero!

...Ah, hell, I knew I forgot something.

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