Ah, it’s that time of year again, when one of us lines the other’s pockets and, in the process, provides a handy recap of the past year in gaming.
Just in case you weren’t here this time last year, Megabits’ dread lord and master Bojeeva and I have an annual wager in which we pick the ten impending games we’re most excited about for the year, outline what’s got us interested and then, twelve months later, add up the Metacritic scores for our selections to see who has the best taste in games/prognosticating ability. For the winner there’s a nice, crisp £20 note. For the loser, public mockery of his atrocious critical faculties, and for you, the reader, a neat recap of the year's gaming highs and lows combined with a hopefully informative insight into your humble reviewer’s personalities. You can find Bojeeva’s list here and mine here.
What we expected: All the early hints make this look like the isometric, upgrade-happy tactical adventure we remember has been chucked out ofthe window in favour of an FPS with a tech tree. So, that’s Deus Ex all over again. But have a little faith, this is Peter Molyneux we’re talking about. The man has one of the most consistent hit lists in gaming, and if he’s turning his hand to an FPS, then we’re sure it will be worth playing.
What we got: We were right about it being an FPS with a tech tree, but wrong about it being worth playing. Dull.
Metacritic Score: 74
What we expected: A stealth-action game with the freedom to choose your own methods of completing missions.
What we got: Exactly what we wanted. Hooray. Sure, it got a little repetitive at times, but it does stealth, player impact and freedom very nicely, which is what we wanted.
Metacritic Score: 88
Ibwib: Bioshock Infinite
What we expected: The coolest art design in gaming, two-fisted shooter gameplay and a deep, immersive story set in a striking environment. What else do you expet from something with the name Bioshock on it?
What we got: Nothing, it slipped down the schedules and headed for next year.
Metacritic Score: 0
Bojeeva: Minecraft Xbox360 Edition
What we expected: A construction game where anything is possible, this should get your creative juices flowing and bring some real open-ending gameplay.
What we got: A trouble-free port of an outstandingly addictive game, a timesucker with not-so-hidden depths.
Metacritic Score: 82
Ibwib: Mass Effect 3
What we expected: “If there is a similarly enormous improvement between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 as there was between ME 1 and 2, then Mass Effect 3 should be one of the best games of all time. Bioware have already replaced the convoluted menus with a streamlined interface, the bland planets with worthwhile exploration, and the mediocre boss fights with genuinely absorbing battles. Minor tweaks are all it will take to make the 3rd installment a GOTY contender.”
What we got: This game had been on my list in 2011 as well, and it’s no appearance might have cost me a win, but when it finally arrived, it was worth the wait. ME 3 continued it’s immediate predecessors action-oriented focus, much to the disgust of those who preferred the original’s Trek-a-like stylings. There wasn’t much that you could call new in the gameplay, but the story was huge, detailed, action packed and decisive.
Metacritic Score: 93
Bojeeva/Ibwib: Borderlands 2
What we expected: Borderlands is all about loot. That addiction to crate-smashing and chest-searching that affect every RPG player are brought to the fore here-every time you think you should turn it off, you decide to just have another rummage in the next box, under the next rock, or in the next crate. Pretty much all you find is money or special guns, and pretty much all you'll spend the money on is more special guns. Get together with your mates, tool up with lightning shotguns and acid assault rifles, and go get yourself some money. It's a simple idea that bears plenty of repetition.
What we got: Pretty much what we asked for. More of the same. Much more, with better graphics and greater environmental and mission variety.
Metacritic Score: 89
Bojeeva: Hitman Absolution
What we expected: The usual Hitman combination of difficulty and creative freedom. The joy of Hitman is the ability to figure out how best to accomplish your mission, and then put your plan, be it a carefully constructed "accident" or a display of sniping prowess, into effect.
What we got: A story. A rather contrived one. Which has plot points to reach and narrative beats to hit. In order to do this, it sacrifices some of the sprawling freedom you were expecting in favour of shorter, to-the-point levels. This is just disappointing enough to make Absolution one of the weaker Hitman games, but not enough to actually make it a bad game in itself.
Metacritic Score 79
Ibwib/Bojeeva: Grand Theft Auto V
What we expected: We were hoping for something that combined the thoroughly convincing world of GTA IV with the scale of GTA: San Andreas and the lighter tone of The Ballad of Gay Tony.
What we got: The usual lesson that "Expected 2012" is a guideline rather than a promise. Ok, we knew that already, but the trailer had gameplay, and it looked so polished, we kidded ourselves into thinking it would make it.
Metacritic Score: N/A
Ibwib: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
What we expected: It should be so easy to make a Transformers game. Giant robots mixing gunplay and fisticuffs with stealth and driving. Distinctive character designs, varied abilities, and a whole load of nostalgic fanboy love. How can you go wrong?
What we got: Well, the easiest way to go wrong is to repeat its predecessors major mistake, which is setting a game full of giant robots in their natural environment, making them all seem normal sized. Disregarding the physical side of the combat didn't help either. Bring them to Earth, make it fun, and don't use standard third person shooters as your model, please.
Metacritic Score: 79
Bojeeva: Max Payne 3
What we expected: A continuation of the classic slo-mo shooter with some added innovations-after all, if Max Payne can popularise slo-mo gunplay, surely Max Payne 3 will try to popularise something new?
What we got: Well, there wasn't really anything new to be seen in the mechanics, but the move to South America was fun, and the gunplay was as enjoyable as ever.
Metacritic Score: 86
Ibwib: Half Life 2 Episode 3
What we expected: Nothing, really. HL2E3 is slowly turning into the Flying Dutchman of gaming, destined never to reach port, and we didn't really believe 2012 would be it's year. Still, Gabe Newell dropped a few hints in verse form that we shouldn't forget all about Gordon and the gang, so we stuck it on the list. More fool us.
What we got: Nothing.
Metacritic Score: N/A
What we expected: A shooter with gravity weapons...it's not like that hasn't proven awesome in the past. Of course, in Inversion the effect of the weapons is all the larger, and the baddies have them as well.
What we got: A bog standard cover based shooter that occasionally uses the gravity conceit to invert the scenery. Nonplussed.
Metacritic Score: 54
Ibwib/Bojeeva: Prototype 2
What we expected: Bojeeva loved the first Prototype in spite of its flaws, I hated it for its flaws but thought the basic idea had potential. We both expected Prototype 2 to take the free-running, shape-shifting super-powered dice-fest to a new level, hopefully by including a more compelling environment and streamlining the interface.
What we got: Another tiresome plot, another unengaging lead character, a fractionally more engaging city, and a truckload of action. In all, an improvement, but this game should have been a world beater, and instead it barely manages to better its middling first installment.
Metacritic Score: 74
Ibwib: I Am Alive
What we expected: A moody, post-apocalyptic wasteland, full of agonising choices, difficult inventory management and ever-present menace.
What we got: All of the above, yet strangely we were disappointed. The broken world was strangely gray and uninteresting, and there was no real sense of freedom or exploration.
Metacritic Score: 75
Bojeeva: Anarchy Reigns
What we expected: Sega and Platinum brought us the speedy gunplay of Vanquish, so naturally we were expecting a similarly lightweight but enjoyable OTT beat-em-up from Anarchy Reigns. Flashing lights, pretty colours and violence, the fast-food of gaming.
What we got: Pretty much what we asked for. Simple and enjoyable, but just a little too lightweight to be a big scorer.
Metacritic Score: 74
Ibwib: Resident Evil 6
What we expected: We were hoping that after the cheap-shotting, tension-free mess that was RE5, the series would either go back to its survival horror roots, or to the perfectly polished action of RE 4. If it had done either of those things, we'd have been overjoyed.
What we got: Oh dear, it's amazing how far the mighty can fall. There was a time when Resident Evil was my favourite series, but RE6 is a dull shooter with cheap QTEs that bears no resemblance to the series we'd previously adored.
Metacritic Score: 67
And the winner is...Bojeeva, with a whopping and very neat score of 700 to my rather less impressive 551. Well done chief.
What a strange year. How many sequels grabbed our attention? How many games ended up on both lists? How many games failed to show up? Most importantly, how many sequels chose to merely polish their predecessor's laurels rather than build on them? If the 2011 Top Ten With a Twist shined a light on what a good year 2011 was for games, then 2012's list merely shows that we've spent twelve months treading water. Having said that, if we'd had Dark Souls: Artorias of the Abyss, Far Cry 3 or even Spec Ops: The Line, we'd have had more interesting things to talk about, which just goes to show-the games you get excited about are not necessarily the games you'll love by years end.