Games

The Best Games of 2012

Coming as no surprise to gamers, the world didn't end this year. We've been staving off such disaster for decades now in the arcade and at home, so here are a few of the best titles of this otherwise apocalypse-free year.

Coming as no surprise to gamers, the world didn't end this year. We've been staving off such disaster for decades now in the arcade and at home, so here are a few of the best titles of this otherwise apocalypse-free year.

 

Game: Hotline Miami

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Developer: Dennaton Games

Release Date: 2011-10-23

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/h/hotline_miami_cover.png

Display as: List

List number: 10

Display Width: 200

Hotline Miami

Dark, brooding, and violent, violent, violent, Hotline Miami is off putting and hard to put away at the same time. Combat plays out like a series of "murder puzzles" that the player has to solve efficiently and at ferocious speed.

The game may be best experienced without seeing its "secret ending," as the crass meaninglessness of it all seems more appropriate in matching the tone of the game on the whole, especially more than anything like a plot-based explanation of the harrowing events of the game are capable of evoking. The game is not for the faint of heart or for those who give up easily. Hotline Miami will make you pay in order to master its toughest challenges. Each success, though, will leave you pondering the central question of the game. Might it be true that you really just like hurting other people? G. Christopher Williams

 
XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Firaxis Games

Release Date: 2011-10-09

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/x/xcom_enemy_unknown_game_cover.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 9

Display Width: 200

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Turn-based strategy games are generally thought to be pretty slow paced, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown utterly destroys that assumption. Its turn-based combat is so streamlined and intuitive that it feels like a fast paced shooter while you're playing. Off the battlefield, back at your base, things still don't slow down. You have to manage funding, panic levels, and equipment, all of which affect your ability to do battle. At any moment, there are a dozen things to consider, so every action feels like it could result in total disaster. When things work out, even just barely, you'll be ecstatic.

Despite all this, XCOM never feels overwhelming: It teaches you everything you need to know and ramps up the difficulty at just the right angle. It may be the most stressful and intense game of the year, but it's also accessible to players of all skill levels. Nick Dinicola

 

Game: Dishonored

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Developer: Arkane Studios

Release Date: 2011-10-09

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/multimedia_art/d/dishonored_box.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 8

Display Width: 200

Dishonored

Arkane Studio's Dishonored is the love child of Thief and Bioshock, set in the decaying and fully realized city of Dunholme. For many, it was a dream come true, a first-person stealth-action game that put enough faith in player ingenuity to hand them the reigns and let them forge their own path of destruction or pacifism, stealth, or brutal warfare.

Of course such freedom can also be overwhelming. For many, including myself, Dishonored takes time to love. Its subdued, largely optional background stories are mostly read in in-game texts, and options are not always made abundantly clear. Even deciding whether to invest in improved Blink, allowing you to leap across the environment with a beautiful artistry, or summon hordes of rat to devour your foes can be an overwhelming, and permanent decision. However, Faith, investment, and experimentation are rewarded handsomely with an unforgettable experience shaped almost entirely by your hands. Jorge Albor

 
Fez

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Developer: Polytron Corporation

Release Date: 2012-04-13

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/multimedia_art/f/fez_-_cover.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 7

Display Width: 200

Fez

Fez is a beautiful, maddening, and beautifully maddening game. Its soothing world of colorful pixel art and chiptune music belies a rabbit hole of mysteries. Your ability to "turn" the 2D world makes even the most basic exploration exciting as you discover mysterious door after mysterious door, each one leading to a new visually unique area.

But its mysteries go far, far deeper than simply locating hidden doors. Fez is filled with unexpected puzzles that force you to reconsider how you interpret the world. In lesser hands, this kind of ambitious world-building-through-puzzles could have been disastrous, but there's a strict logic behind everything in Fez that keeps it from going off the rails. Right from the start the game speaks to you in a foreign visual language, and learning that new language is one of the most rewarding experiences of the year. Nick Dinicola

 

Game: Assassin's Creed III

Publisher: Ubisoft

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Release Date: 2011-10-30

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/a/assassins_creed_iii_game_cover.jpg

Display as: List

List number: 6

Display Width: 200

Assassin's Creed III

Even the most ardent Assassin's Creed fans will admit that the series has become bloated and nonsensical as the franchise continues to pump out an entry every year. Assassin's Creed III was a return to form for the series. It trimmed much of its fat, including the terrible tower-defense and trap-making systems -- for the most part. Even the apprentice assassin system is heavily reigned back in the game's latest entry. The game does feature a slew of secondary objectives, but for the most part, they fit right in with the world, particularly the world-building frontier quests and the thrilling naval battles. Of course, it is Connor Kenway that stands at the heart of this game, and it is Connor's story that caps off the series better than Desmond ever could.

Assassin's Creed III is more than a personal story with a revolutionary backdrop, it actually carries themes of freedom and histories of violence throughout the narrative. It might surprise you, but despite its adherence to established combat and movement systems, Assassin's Creed III is actually a daring game. Jorge Albor

Next Page

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image