2012: A generation-spanning year for gaming
In with the new, but not yet out with the old
This year has been arguably the most important year for the videogames industry in a long time. Not only did we see Sony take a final punt at the handheld market with the PS Vita - a move it may well now be regretting - but 2012 also saw Nintendo usher in the next generation of gaming with the Wii U. Sure, the Wii U may not be a graphical leap forward, but in terms of function - and definition - it certainly is.
Speculation that Sony and Microsoft might unleash their take on the next generation failed to pan out. Hence victory went to Nintendo almost by default, despite Link and Samus-shaped holes in the Wii U’s launch line-up.
Wii U: first of the new generation
The year also saw the development of numerous other innovations. Take the rise of Kickstarter funding, for example, a dedicated UK website launching at the end of October to provide a platform for local developers to seek financial backing away from the stipulations of major publishers. The US version of Kickstarter has already seen projects such as innovative Android-powered console Ouya, and the Oculus Rift VR headset backed by crowd funding proving there is another way.
Valve’s Steam service also got into the act, its Greenlight project acting as a way for independent games developers to have their games publicised on one of the world’s largest gaming stages. Valve then sparked rumours with its own foray into hardware development after grumbling about the lack of innovation in controller design. Reports surfaced suggesting the gaming giant might be working on wearable computers. The mind boggles.
Kickstarter creations: Oculus Rift VR tech (top) and the Ouya Android console
As mentioned already, the year began with the launch of Sony’s PS Vita. The handheld debuted with a reasonably strong roster of titles – WipEout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Escape Plan and Rayman Origins – but promptly fell flat through a dearth of quality thereafter. The release of Resistance: Burning Skies, Silent Hill: Book of Memories and Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified failing to deliver, leaving the console in something of a quandary ahead of 2013.
Just after the Vita’s appearance came the launch of Mass Effect 3, the final part of the hugely popular trilogy, which polarised its audience by, essentially, failing to provide an ending. The outcry was deafening – were EA and BioWare responsible for false advertising over the game’s failure to deliver a conclusion that fully reflected the decisions of the user? Well, no. But common sense is rarely shouted from virtual rooftops with the same drum-bashing as sensationalism.
The Walking Dead: from comic, to TV to game, but still great
Next we were treated to our first taste of what is quite possibly the game of the year, Telltale Game’s fantastically interactive The Walking Dead. The tale of Clem, Lee and the rest of the survivors a constant source of greatness throughout the year. Easily the equal of the comics, Telltale’s game is nonetheless all the more emotional due to the unavoidable connection you make with characters whose very lives are saved, and ended, by your decisions.
Kinect Star Wars garnered a reaction that was the equal and opposite reaction of The Walking Dead’s greatness. A game as limp as feared, it distilled the experience of being a Jedi Knight into jumping on the spot, ducking and waving your arms about wildly – all to a delayed response, courtesy of Kinect. Good work to all involved there then.
Kinect Star Wars: limp
The month of May heralded the return of the Rockstar hype train as blanket announcements proclaimed the launch of Max Payne 3. The shooter, however, failed to live up to the hype – as if anything could – but still delivered perhaps the year’s best slice of John Woo-style poise and violence as Max relocated to Brazil, taking his demons with him.
The MMORPG of the year made itself known in August, as ArenaNet launched Guild Wars 2 in a bid to steal the social lives of gamers the world over. And then, incredibly, the Christmas 2012 run began in earnest. The likes of Resident Evil 6, Dishonored, FIFA 13, Medal of Honor Warfighter, Halo 4, Assassin's Creed 3, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Hitman Absolution, Far Cry 3 and, finally, the Wii U itself all vying for big review scores and the public’s wallets.
Far Cry 3 (top) was worthy of a 'game of the year' accolade, while Dishonored (bottom) was one of the few genuinely original releases of 2012
Of the above games only Dishonored and Far Cry 3 offered an experience fitting the billing ‘game of the year’, both offering truly inclusive gameplay that we should demand of modern titles. But, unsurprisingly, neither were any match for Black Ops II; Activision’s behemoth predictably securing the biggest launch of 2012 - and indeed the fourth biggest of all time.
And what of 2013? Summer’s E3 expo might not have officially announced a PS4 or Xbox ‘nextbox’ but it didn’t think twice about letting us see the games we’d be playing on such devices. LucasArts’ (now Disney’s) Star Wars 1313 and Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs were both confirmed for PC and ‘unannounced’ systems, and both displayed visuals well beyond the abilities of Xbox 360 and PS3 – whatever could it mean?
Grand Theft Auto: biking in in March 2013
And Grand Theft Auto V will arrive setting cash registers on fire and undoubtedly sparking a Daily Mail witch hunt. Valve will finally confirm Half-Life 3... as pigs circle Heathrow. The PS4 and the next Xbox will be unveiled – and, if rumours are true, be released. A new era for gaming, or simply shinier graphics? I can’t wait to find out. ®