10 Most Overlooked Games of 2012

-10 Most Overlooked Games of 2012-

Every year see’s the release of hundreds of games for any number of platforms; big or small. There are the huge ambitious blockbusters from acclaimed studios, titles such as Assassins Creed and Halo, that light up the charts selling millions of copies to their rabid fans worldwide. Then there are titles from smaller studios, games that don’t have the backing or support from publishers such as Electronic Arts or Activision, or if they do, they don’t have the marketing push to get the game out to consumers. There are thousands of passionate developers out there that do what they can to release a title they are proud of; but unfortunately, too many of them go unnoticed by the mass market. 2012 was no different, with the majority of the big releases coming out around the holiday season, the months leading up to the big push can hide some quality unseen gems. Listed below are ten games that deserve a second look by gamers.

10.)  Binary Domain 

  • Now this is an odd one, a Japanese developer that attempts to replicate western shooters; but actually manages to pull it off. Unlike other overseas developers that have tried to capture the action packed spectacle of titles such as Gears of War and Call of Duty, and have failed miserably (looking at you Capcom) Binary Domain manages to have gameplay that isn’t overly complicated or generically simple, it just is. Sega has managed to make a solid action game. It’s not truly special but it won’t bore you either. If you want a fun third person cover based shooter set in a futuristic Tokyo where a war between man vs machine is on the brink of boiling over, than this is your game. Add in decent squad mechanics and story that actually manages to have some moments of brilliance along with multiple endings depending on your choices throughout the course of it, and you have a game that deserved to sell a few more copies. It doesn’t have the amazing action of Sega’s Vanquish, but it is a much more coherent product.

9.) Gotham City Impostors

  • Monolith Productions, developers of F.E.A.R and Condemned: Criminal Origins brought this quirky first-person shooter to PC, XBLA and PSN in February. Taking place within the Batman universe Impostors pits two sides, Jokerz and the Bats, against each other in frantic competitive multiplayer action. The game encourages customization, with hundreds of pieces of clothing, nametags, taunts and weapons in which to outfit your characters with. The game has enjoyable cartoon humor along with comedic weapons and gadgets that you won’t find anywhere else. You may prefer to swing a sword and use spring shoes to jump away from your enemies, or maybe just roller-blade around a stage hauling a bazooka to blow your enemies away with. The sheer zaniness of it all allows Gotham City to separate itself from it’s other online competition. There is quite a bit of DLC for this game which is a shame, considering the majority of it is extra costume pieces and taunts, which is a large part of the fun of the title; looking unique. But the DLC doesn’t detract from the solid package that is already there. On Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, Gotham City Impostors is $15, but on PC the game recently went to a Free To Play model, so there is no reason not to enjoy this fun title.

8.) SSX

  • SSX used to be quite the large franchise during the original PS2 and Xbox run, but once next generation came around it was left in the powder to sit and wait. Luckily EA and EA Canada decided it was finally time to pick up the old favorite. SSX returned to the extreme sports genre in a great way, fantastic gameplay, solid presentation, great soundtrack and an awesome multiplayer portion all came together to deliver an amazing package. The simple mechanics mixed with large depth allow you to keep coming back for more, as does the competitive challenges you can make against friends. The game revolves heavily around multiplayer and some didn’t like that upon release there were no true competitive races online, instead opting for asynchronous play. At the time this may have been a bummer for some players, but true head to head was eventually patched in with a free update. Although receiving high marks across most sites and a big marketing push the game apparently did not sell as well as EA had hoped and thus, it gets a spot on this list.

7.) Syndicate 

  • Starbreeze Studios can’t seem to catch a break. They’re first critical hit was on the original Xbox with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, followed several years later with The Darkness for the Xbox 360. Both games were great, but sold little. The Chronicles of Riddick would get a remake/sequel on the 360 which would also not move many units. Starbreeze yet again would be disappointed in 2012 with Syndicate. Syndicate is a reboot of a classic Bullfrog strategy series, only this time it has been transformed into a first-person shooter. Set in a future where corporations run the show as they battle over new technology and even more power the player controls an agent named Miles as he completes objectives his company sets out for him. The shooting is well done but the gameplay is enhanced with smart new elements. Each agent is connected to the world with Chips that have been implanted into their heads, these allow them to hack into terminals or see through walls, but Miles chip is so powerful it allows him the ability to hack into other agents themselves. This factors into the gunplay, as you can hack agents and turn them on their allies, order them to kill themselves and more. The quick decision making and stellar visuals set Syndicate apart, even if the choices or the story aren’t anything to write home about. The game included separate co-op missions that were produced really well and a nice boost to the games longevity. In a similar style to Call of Duty you have your own agent that you enhance through experience you accumulate while out on missions, each agent brings to the table a unique set of skills that your squad will need to utilize to make it to the end of a given level. Syndicate is another good game put together by a studio that desperately needs a financial hit on its resume; otherwise the gaming world may lose another talented developer.

6.) Rayman Origins

  • Some may be slightly confused by the mention of Rayman on this list, they may say “Hey, Origins came out last year! This is wrong!” But I would answer, “Technically the PC version of Rayman Origins came out March 2012. So there!” Yes this could be considered cheating, but Rayman Origins came out November 2011, it was released during the big holiday push alongside titles such as Assassins Creed: Revelations, Uncharted and Call of Duty 3. It was buried and left to die. That was a huge shame. Rayman is one of the best platformers to come out in years! It can stand proud alongside its more popular competition Super Mario 3D Land which released in the same week. This game boasts some of the best animated graphics ever in gaming, beautiful worlds brought to life with crazy and unique characters, there’s more imagination in one screenshot of this game than the entirety of most games released today. The music is infectious and the varied stages are a joy in single player or with up to four players running and jumping together, although that can become too chaotic rather quickly. The only slight against this one is the difficulty spikes rather deviously towards the end of the game, but it deserves to be seen and played either way. Rayman Origins released twice, and both times it didn’t sell units; a freaking tragedy.

5.) Xenoblade Chronicles

  • One of the last great games for the Nintendo Wii, and it almost never made it out of Japan. Petitioned by fan’s to get a western release Nintendo finally obliged and allowed it to happen, the game would go on to only be sold from GameStop in the United States nearly two years after being completed in Japan.  Developed by ex-Square veterans the game released to huge critical acclaim; and I have to agree. Xenoblade is one of the best JRPG’s released in years. The game boasts a huge world that pushes the Wii hardware to its limits, breathtaking scenic moments abound as you run around taking it all in. It might sound cruel, but it is truly a shame Xenoblade is a Wii exclusive. The world is gorgeous to look at, but you can’t help but wish it were running on more powerful hardware; if only to see what the developers could have achieved. The story of Xenoblade starts out strong, with two ancient Titans locked in eternal battle until finally becoming lifeless. These two titans are the world of Xenoblade, with civilization growing atop them. As you move from town to town you may be moving along the giant arm of one of these ancient beasts; and the game uses it to great effect. The main plot revolves around a young man named Shulk wielding the ultimate weapon Monado, to defeat the Mechon; a race of machines that threaten humanity. Like most JRPG’s the plot takes a while to develop, but that’s alright, since the game is lengthy. Really this game will easily eat away 70+ hours of your life. Twenty hours in you may find yourself still near the starting region if you’re actively completing the side objectives and exploring. Some may see that as a negative, and fairly, but at least with Xenoblade you are getting more than your moneys worth and a game that you can continue to come back to time and again; similar to an MMO. Which brings me to the gameplay, this game actually FEELS like an MMO, in a good way. The action within Chronicles is fast paced and will require you to continue to move around the combat zone. Each member of your party fulfills a specific role, as you would assume, but your skills and theirs behave similarly to how skills act in an MMO. Upon activation a move will go on cooldown, similar to many games, but the act of controlling aggro is a big component to the structure of a fight, as are actively keeping track of Buffs and Debuffs. Your first party member acts as a Tank would in a dungeon crawl of WoW for instance, with skills that allow him to soak up the damage and keep Shulk safe. Loot is also a crucial driving force of this game, with stats and physical appearance altering depending on what you use. Monsters roam the world and you are free to engage or ignore as you wish as well. Xenoblade Chronicles is a terrific blend of the past and present, as well as adding its own elements into the mix, such as the ability to see the future, which becomes pivotal as the game progresses. Its a shame Nintendo owns a majority of developer Monolith Soft, as this is a company that can do great things. If you own a Wii, do yourself a favor and pick up one of its best games.

4.) Spec Ops: The Line

  • Military shooters…they’re played out and dull at this point. To be frank, I’m sick of them. If you’re not bringing anything new to the table, then stay the hell away from it! Its cluttered enough as it is. Luckily for Spec Ops, it brought at least one new thing to the table. The Line is another by the numbers third person shooter, you have a small squad, you hunker down behind cover, and you shoot hundreds of other similar looking enemies. But Spec Ops benefits heavily from a focus on story and presentation, instead of those “set piece” moments and multiplayer components the other shooters chase after. Unlike Call of Duty or Ghost Recon, Yager Development chose to focus on the psychological ramifications of battle on the human psyche, with the game showing the constant strain the choices and battles are having on your squad. The sand covered region of Dubai is an interesting departure from other games and the ending is a solid conclusion to this surprisingly emotional shooter. You may know how it plays, but everyone should see how it plays out.

3.) Asuras Wrath

  • Beautiful art style, ridiculous over the top anime battles, and a badass lead who wants to get to the bottom of an act of betrayal. Those three things will pull you to the end of Asuras Wrath. And you may look back and wonder, what the hell just happened? Asuras Wrath is a game few probably played, in fact most probably never even heard of it. Its not part of an established franchise, there was no big advertising push and the cover, while cool, won’t grab consumers looking for another shooter. But the game deserves to be played! The story, while formulaic, is still gripping with interesting characters and events. The gameplay on the other hand, switches from brawler to quick time events…and that’s about it. Its fun and competent enough, but not groundbreaking in any way. It won’t matter however, because the sheer crazy of it all will stick with you even long after you’re done. The next crazy event or story thread should keep you compelled enough to finish the game and it’s DLC Chapters. No game has managed to bring epic Anime to life quite like this one, but unfortunately, that teased sequel thread at the end most likely won’t come to pass, since nobody gave this one a second look in the few stores that did carry it.

2.) The Darkness 2

  • The original Darkness has a special place in my heart, one of the first big FPS’s for the Xbox 360, Starbreeze Studios (mentioned earlier for Syndicate)  brought to life the story of Jackie Estacado from the pages of the Image Comic Book to that of the videogame realm. In the translation they took it in a more Nolan style direction, leaning more towards grittiness and realism instead of the far fetched action depicted in the comic series. The story and characters were center stage, blossoming one of the better realized and more realistic and relatable relationships in gaming, between two young lovers caught up in the city’s violence. No other game allows you the ability to watch the entirety of “To Kill a Mockingbird” while cozying up with the girl, it just doesn’t happen. The Darkness came and went, garnering positive reviews but not positive sales. Fast forward several years and developer Digital Extremes comes out of nowhere and announces they are working on a sequel to the cult hit. The Darkness 2 followed its precursor; positive reviews, but little sales. The graphics were changed to a much more fitting and fantastic cel shaded look that captured the comics visuals in a brilliant way. The gameplay was made more chaotic and visceral, while the story brought in the elements of the fantastic, while still nurturing and respecting the great aspects of love and loss the originals handled so well. The Darkness 2 is a great game that few plunged into. The gunplay is great while the powers the Darkness itself brings to the table are fun to play around with. The level design is well done as is the co-op brought into this sequel. The Co-op campaign is separate from the main story, but it also runs parallel to the events occurring within it. Four players can play together, each controlling a unique character with their own special maneuvers. Great presentation, great gameplay and a great story…why can’t games like this sell? Digital Extremes deserves to be able to continue to move this story along, especially with the ending this one finished with. I demand more Jackie and Jenny!

1.) Journey: The Collectors Edition

  • Developer thatgamecompany is pretty special, releasing three wholly unique and original games for the PlayStation 3 that outclass most of the big blockbuster titles the console has seen since its release. Journey is the last of the titles under the contract TGC had with Sony, and if this is the end of their exclusive partnership, this hurts Sony’s PlayStation Network pretty hard. Journey is unlike any game released, utterly beautiful yet completely simple. It’s a game that goes back to videogame basics. You start in a world where all you see is a vast landscape of sand, and in the distance, a mountain with a beam of light, and then without orders, you walk. YOU make the decision to start this quest and it is YOU who must figure out how to achieve it. The game does not get in your way at all, it just gives you the means to control it. This statement is true for all of thatgamecompany’s work. FlOw and Flower before this are two more majestic games of simple premise mixed with dazzling graphics and gameplay. All three are packaged in this Collectors Edition, and all three are calming experiences that should be enjoyed by every gamer. Journey released in March, and was the ‘fastest” selling game in PSN history; but how many actual units is that? Not enough I say. Every PS3 owner should have this alongside their Uncharted’s and Call of Duty’s on the shelf. Don’t read about Journey (I am withholding any descriptive information for a reason) don’t watch videos of Journey, just experience Journey. This retail box also comes with several mini-games, a documentary video, the soundtrack, bonus PSN avatars, as well as a full month of Playstation Plus. Journey will go down as a classic in gaming and this package is a steal,  that is why it truly deserves to be #1 on a list of Most Overlooked games.

3 thoughts on “10 Most Overlooked Games of 2012

    1. I included most entries as Retail releases due to the budgets on such games being vastly larger than a budget for a smaller Indie game. These are games that took a loss and deserve to earn some extra sales from consumers. Journey made it to #1 and that is an Indie title, but I included the Retail copy which comes with several games that deserve to be played by more gamers.

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