It’s that time of the year again. 2012 was a decent year overall, and to accommodate all of this year’s releases, we will have many separate game of the year awards. Every nominee and winner is chosen carefully by our gaming staff, the most critical and fair reviewers in the world. Without further hesitation, let’s start the show.
Mod of the Year – Overhaul
Before getting into the actual games, we’d like to start off this ceremony with our Mod of the Year choice. For this award, we’re looking specifically at normal, but large scale mods designed to drastically improve a game. Our winner here is Misery for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat. It’s a gameplay and atmospheric overhaul, making the zone much more dreadful and deadly.
- The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky Mod Pack 2012
- Cuh of Duty: Modern Nigga
Mod of the Year – Total Conversion
Total conversion mods aren’t built for games, they’re essentially full standalone games. 2012 had some phenomenal total conversion mods, but the one that stands out the most is Icewind Dale – NWN 2. It’s a remake of Icewind Dale, an RPG from the legendary Black Isle Studios released in 2000, using the engine and tools provided by Neverwinter Nights 2. It stays true to the original, using the movies, soundtrack, and voice clips, but remaking the world in this vastly superior 3D engine with excellent attention to detail. In addition, it uses the superior gameplay offered by Neverwinter Nights 2, but expands on top of it by adding many spells from Icewind Dale. It’s just a perfect remake, and no more will you be limited to isometric 2.5D like you would be with the original.
Another excellent remake came out called Black Mesa, which is the long awaited Half Life remake. There’s also Cry of Fear, a lengthy psychological/survival horror modification for Half Life. But Icewind Dale – NWN 2 stands out the most since it’s a classic RPG reborn in a more modern era.
- Cry of Fear
- Black Mesa
Best Voice Acting
Great voice acting is a necessity in a story driven game. Thankfully, Mass Effect 3 has excellent voice acting and easily wins this award. It’s especially impressive in this game due to the amount of characters met, and the amount of dialogue it offers. It takes several 50+ hour playthroughs to have heard it all.
The soundtrack can really make or break a game. An excellent and very fitting soundtrack really goes a long way. Our winner for best soundtrack goes to Mass Effect 3, which has an even more impressive soundtrack than its predecessors. Thankfully, the soundtrack can be downloaded in lossless PCM format.
Best Sound Effects
Excellent sound effects can really bring immersion to a new level. Our winner for this award is Dishonored, a very immersive game with excellent sound effects. Environmental sounds, the awesome weapons sound effects, pretty much all sound effects are very well done in this game.
- F1 2012
- Mass Effect 3
Best Graphics, Visual Quality
Graphics are a bit overhyped in today’s industry, but nonetheless an award for this section is needed. We focus a bit more strongly on the technical aspects of a game’s graphics, but art style goes into consideration as well. 2012 didn’t have any amazing-looking games in terms of technical graphics; much better looking games were released in all years prior, up to and including 2007. So our vote in this category will go to Mass Effect 3. Although far from a technical marvel, it is one of the best looking games of 2012. Shader quality has improved compared to the previous ones, it has good vegetation models, and improved lighting as well
Best Level Design, Set Detail
This award goes to games with remarkable level design and attention to detail. Dishonored wins this award as many might expect. It is a sandbox stealth and action game with remarkable attention to detail. Exploring the sandbox maps provides insight into the game universe and the struggles its people face, and much more.
Another way in which the game showcases its level design is in logical non-linearity that leads to so many ways to pursue objectives, vital for a stealth game.
- Mass Effect 3
This was the easiest choice of them all. Today’s industry is polluted and over-saturated with consolized, casual PvP games, so truly good multiplayer games stick out like a sore thumb. Therefore, Natural Selection 2 rises above all other multiplayer games, easily earning our Best Multiplayer award. Following in the footsteps of the predecessor, which was a Half Life mod, Natural Selection 2 is an innovative PvP game that combines FPS with RTS elements. One player is required to command from a top down view, putting down objectives and managing resources for the team. It’s one of the most strategic and team-based PvP games out there, and one of the best multiplayer games of all time. As a bonus, it’s a true PC game. It is not only PC exclusive, but provides an experience you’ll only find on PC as well as good mod support.
- Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 picks up another win. Its best writing asset is its character development which is well above average for a video game. The story is far from a masterpiece and it has its fair share of plot holes. Far from a masterclass story but the best that video gaming saw this year.
- The Walking Dead
Best Shooter of the Year
The shooter genre is one of the most popular in the gaming industry today, despite the fact that the most popular shooters tend to offer nothing more than repetitive mindless entertainment. But we do have several exceptions this year, including our winner which is Mass Effect 3. While not primarily a shooter, it is one of the absolute best third person cover shooters ever made. Not only are the mechanics extremely responsive, but the inclusion of six available classes all with unique abilities (with many amazingly cool abilities) plus the abundance of weapons (including very unique ones in every category) make it a phenomenal shooter.
- Natural Selection 2
- Spec Ops: The Line
- Max Payne 3
There weren’t many big RPG releases this year, only Mass Effect 3 which is our winner. It is a very good action RPG, demonstrating the “choice and consequence” design that spans the entire franchise. Many of your actions from Mass Effect affect what happens in Mass Effect 3. The class based gameplay is very good overall, with three classes being particularly excellent in single player but mods can make all of them superb.
It must be noted that RPG is a declining genre and while Mass Effect 3 is good, it is a far cry from the truly elite like games by Black Isle Studios, Troika Games, and Obsidian Entertainment.
- Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
2012 had some excellent releases, such as Mass Effect 3, Dishonored, The Walking Dead, Natural Selection 2, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It was closely contested but our winner is Dishonored because it is one of the least flawed games ever made, despite its impressive ambition in delivering sandbox gameplay, extremely detailed level design, immersive atmosphere and world building, and both stealth and action mechanics. It is so good in all of these areas, that it is hard to point out what it’s best at. Everyone will have different opinions on this because the game mastered at everything it sets out to do, including superior, more open ended gameplay mechanics that are unlike today’s overly scripted games.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is another near flawless game, though not as impressive from an artistic or storytelling standpoint. Mass Effect 3 is great and heavily underrated, but not close to flawless like Dishonored is. Natural Selection 2 is one of the best multiplayer shooters ever made. 2012 was a pretty good year for gaming all around.
- Mass Effect 3
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- Natural Selection 2