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Revealed: CVG's Best Games of 2012

We ask our writers to pick their favourites...

With 2013 - belatedly - heralding the arrival of next gen, this year has seen console developers squeezing all remaining juice out of existing hardware... while PC devs show us what awaits in The Future.

The past 12 months might not have been the best year for gaming, but they were marked out by impressive diversity - a theme you can see running through the list below. We gathered together the major contributors to CVG over the past 365 days and asked them to pick their favourite. Let us know yours below...


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XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN

Andy Robinson | Editor, CVG

In the last 12 months some of the absolute giants of gaming have spawned fresh iterations with larger numbers on the box; Halo, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed...

That's why it's absolutely astounding that, looking back, the experience that gripped me the most in 2012 was a turn-based strategy remake of a forgotten franchise from 1994.

At a basic level, one of the keys to XCOM's success is how it managed to accomplish what so many other genre stalwarts have tried and failed; it deliverd all the complexity of a PC strategy classic, while remaining accessible and entertaining for the couch-bound console crowd.

On a joypad, the blend of turn-based alien battles and meaty base management are manoeuvred via well-mapped controls and intuitive menus - but there's no less depth than you'd expect from a top PC strategy game. In fact there's tons of it.

Even more impressive is how Fireaxis managed to make Pokémon-esque gun battles as satisfying as Gears of War shootouts, thanks to masterful sound design and truly dramatic camera work, showing you every gloop of ET's brain spray as your bullet sends it splattering onto a post-box.

But the biggest impact XCOM left with me - and most players - is the emotional attachment I inadvertently developed with my little army men.

With a plethora of customisation options and the bold risk of perma-death if you choose the wrong bench or wall for them to cower behind, as well as being brilliant fun XCOM offered one of the most rewarding and emotionally powerful experiences of the year.


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THE WALKING DEAD

Ben Griffin | Writer, CVG

In a year spent knifing tigers on tropical islands and spearheading American revolutions, no game grabbed me quite like The Walking Dead. I didn't save a galaxy or star as the invincible hero of some predestined plan. I was simply told a good story.

Telltale's five-episode string of point-and-click adventures is testament to how willingly players engage with fiction if it's well written. It's a landmark in videogame storytelling because it works. Coherence? Warmth? Character arcs? Afterthoughts in a medium obsessed with mechanics like physics systems and weapon feedback and vehicle handling, yet The Walking Dead brushes them aside to engage on a deeper level. You'll do well to find a more touching moment than surrogate father Lee covering the ears of the eight-year old girl he's protecting as she learns to fire a gun.

The challenge developers face now is applying the same priority of story to genres that offer deeper levels of interaction and freedom, two areas in which this series is irrevocably, perhaps necessarily, hamstrung. That way lies the future of videogames, and I can't wait for it.


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RHYTHM HEAVEN FEVER

Alex Dale | Games Editor, CVG

Ah, Rhythm Heaven Fever. Let us count the small, subtle, delightful ways in which you ruined my life in 2012: 1) I blew my chances with the pretty girl from HR because she caught me mouthing the words 'bwr-br-bwr-br-bwr-br-SQUAWK!" to myself in the office canteen; 2)Nearly got deported from the US because I kept insisting on shouting 'POSE FOR THE FANS! HURRGH!" during the security retinal scan; 3)Permanent ban from the Brislington branch of Sainsbury's, for going a bit Patrick Bateman on their fish counter. How dare that Quicknibble snigger at me?; 4) Family not speaking to me since I accidentally launched my niece into the sun after some over-exuberant see-saw play. BEE-BOM BA-BOM!

I'll have to stop there, because I keep getting distracted by thoughts of rolling seals and 'monkey watches' and dogs and cats playing badminton in biplanes. Beat The Beat: Rhythm Paradise is a veritable conga line of infectious earworms, each accompanied by the kind of barmy visual feedback that would have ketamine users reeling. Oh, and don't worry about what it is or how you play it, just pick it up and cram it into your Wii (U), because learning is half the fun.

If you're telling me you don't want to play that, then I don't think we can be friends any more.


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FAR CRY 3

Michael Gapper | Associate Editor - Features, CVG

When Ubisoft are trying to force Uncharted-style scripting into Assassin's Creed's massive open world, it's clear game design is headed down a dark rabbit hole. And at the bottom of that hole isn't a magical wonderland filled with whimsical characters and adventure; it's just a regular hole filled with rabbit poo. Far Cry 3 is good because it lets you tell your own stories within the neat boundaries Ubisoft give you. Mad emergent things happen and you're forced to deal with them using whatever comes to mind - stealth, fire, missiles, running away and hiding - Far Cry 3 doesn't care what you do, so long as you're having fun.

And then you go away and tell your friends about what happened in your tropical adventure and they tell you what happened in theirs, and the stories you tell are different. That's what videogames are supposed to be. Any idiot can tell you a story, but only a videogame can give you enough flexibility to be creative and tell your own.

Far Cry 3 is a proper videogame and I have the stories to prove it.*

* The unabridged version of Michael's Far Cry 3 piece can be found here.

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