2012's Most Surprising Games
With the gaming year about to come to a close, we can't help but look back at some of the more astonishing titles that have come out over the last 12 months. Sure, there have been a fair share of stinkers (Medal of Honor: Warfighter is obviously in that pack), but the truth is, we've seen some really cool stuff that has changed the way we play in certain aspects.
But what were the biggest shockers of the bunch? Some of these might even surprise you. Here's a look at 2012's biggest shockers. If you haven't played them yet…really, what are you waiting for?!
X-COM: Enemy Unknown (2K Games)
When the original X-COM game that was announced last year had taken a back seat in development (it's now rumored for a 2013 release), 2K Games called upon Firaxis to fill the gap with their own traditional offering in the series, one that would relate back to the classic style of play where it first got its start. But who knew that it would make such a difference in today's gaming scene?
Enemy Unknown is one of the year's best underdogs in games, mainly because of how well-adapted its play style is (it's strategic, but action packed and filled with plenty of thrilling scenarios) and how it really made you feel involved in each battle. What's more, crucial decisions had to be made at every turn, with one country receiving support from your team while others were left hanging – though temporarily – and leaving themselves exposed to a possible alien takeover.
The tone was just about perfect for this game, and the ability to manage your team and equip them with new tech at a home base hub is really something else. Multiplayer's not bad either, for what it is.
If you're in the mood for a classic alien invasion or a different kind of strategy/action title, XCOM is the way to go. And who knows, maybe it'll even overshadow the big budget game that 2K initially announced. It's certainly looking that way.
Sleeping Dogs (Square Enix)
Originally conceived as the next game in Activision's True Crime series, this tour-de-force action title was unceremoniously canned and laid to rest before it even had a chance to succeed. Fortunately, Square Enix felt it was worth saving and resurrected it as Sleeping Dogs, featuring a similar set-up – undercover cop brawling his way through a Triad world – but with a story that went its own way.
Some folks were worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype, but United Front Games delivered on every accord. Sleeping Dogs oozed all sorts of style, from its crazy car chases to its free-flowing combat (nothing beats slamming someone's head into an air conditioner) to its Hard Boiled-inspired gunplay. And the graphics look great as well, especially for a "cancelled" title.
Sleeping Dogs is living proof that no project – no matter how overpriced or lost in development – should simply be scuttled away. Salvaging it and tweaking it could make all the difference into creating something awesome. Because that's exactly what these Dogs have become.
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Most of the time, strategy games follow a pre-set path that's rather easy to follow, even though they still manage to involve players in some way. Still, there are those that manage to stand out, and independent favorite FTL: Faster Than Light is easily one of those games.
Taking place on a space freighter of sorts, your job is to manage your ship as you try to keep safe tabs on a data packet, which is intercepted from a rebel fleet. You're trying to reach your Federation, all the while avoiding those who are in pursuit of your precious cargo. Considering your ship isn't exactly the Starship Enterprise in terms of strength, timing makes all the difference.
Featuring beautiful retro-style graphics, addictive gameplay (we've been managing missions for hours) and a fairly good price on Steam, FTL: Faster Than Light deservedly shakes up the indie market for 2012. It's one of the best underdogs you can spend cash on these days.
Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment)
After producing not one but two effective side-scrolling action games (in this case, the Shank series), we were wondering what the folks at Klei would be cooking up next. But we had no idea that it would be an authentic ninja action game.
Don't go confusing Mark of the Ninja for another Ninja Gaiden, though. Sure, you've got useful killing tools and nimble climbing skills on your side, but the tempo of this game relies on a completely unique nature – one of stealth. You'll hide behind objects and slowly kill your enemies, while avoiding detection from searchlights and well-armed guards. It isn't easy, but the game encourages getting through a mission without anyone even knowing, so keep at it.
With a refreshing animation style (similar to Shank's), smooth gameplay and hours' worth of challenges, Mark of the Ninja is spot on for true masters of gaming. And rookies can have fun with it too – even if they manage to get caught.
The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
Finally, we can't talk about the most surprising games of 2012 unless we mention Telltale's Walking Dead episodic series, which stands as one of the finest efforts of the year.
Telling the story of an escaped convict named Lee and an innocent girl named Clementine who fight their way through zombie hordes, the game enthralls with its emotional decision making. Not every choice you make will be an easy one, and sometimes people will die in startling ways as a result. Though it's more of a point-and-click nature that stands apart from, say, Left 4 Dead 2, it's a remarkable gameplay feat that is simply Telltale at its best.
Available in downloadable form or a retail package (including a collector's edition with packed-in comics), The Walking Dead is a must-own. Period.