Best of 2012: Top 10 Gaming Moments

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Just as there were plenty of segments within movies that stood out in the memory throughout 2012, the videogames of the year provided their own set of unforgettable moments. Many of these were related to the experience of playing around with game mechanics, and thus are both personal to me and by nature spoiler-free. However, there were also plenty of story-related moments that shook me much like a film scene might, so read this list with care.

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VR BEST OF 2012 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. You have been warned, fanboys.
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Spoilers

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10. Third Gym – Pokemon White Version 2

The first Gym in Pokemon White Version 2 is deliberately pretty vanilla and the music is identical to that of all the Gyms in White 1. The second Gym shows you in no uncertain terms that the music will not be staying the same from Gym to Gym this time around, but it isn’t until the third that the potential of such an idea really hits home. A string of creepy malformed chords greet your ears, sounding like cicadas dipped in LSD, and the visuals match the audio perfectly. Stringy cocoons litter the dusty building interior, leading up to a mega cocoon housing a psychedelic rainbow paint pool and the Gym leader. Trippy and awesome.

9. Pick Ten – Call of Duty: Black Ops II

After so long playing Call of Duty games that featured the same fundamental class creation system, a system that was admittedly pretty damn good, Black Ops II developer Treyarch changed up what I didn’t realise needed to be changed up, in doing so refreshing the core experience of Call of Duty multiplayer by allowing for much more creativity than ever before while tailoring the experience to each individual’s play style. The moment I realised that I could drop my secondary weapon, which I rarely use, in favour of an extra perk or primary attachment was rather special indeed. Six-perk class? Yes please.

8. Valhalla Prologue – Final Fantasy XIII-2

Though Final Fantasy XIII-2 robs you of the ability to play as XIII protagonist Lightning for the majority of the narrative, the game’s fast-paced opening does feature the feisty heroine. Though it’s best not to try to understand why she finds herself in such a weird and confusing parallel dimension setting, the fight during which you play as her is a visual feast that invokes the best elements of a showdown from Final Vantasy VII: Advent Children. It also accomplishes in twenty minutes what the first game took hours to do: Introduce newcomers to the game’s excellent battle system.

7. Doubles Frenzy – Mario Tennis Open

There were plenty of highlights for me when it came to local multiplayer in 2012, including Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale and Trine 2 (which would have been on this list were it not actually released last year). But the ease of play and sheer simplistic fun of Mario Tennis Open for 3DS was hard to top. On the weekend it was released I spent countless hours in my living room with three friends, laughing, cheering and getting way too fired up over Waluigi’s awesome reach at the net. When I look back at the life of the 3DS, my time with Mario Tennis Open will surely rank among my finest memories with the portable.

6. The Opening – Halo 4

It doesn’t feel like that long to me since the Halo series had players controlling super soldier Master Chief, though I know plenty of people had been waiting for his return with baited fanboy breath. Perhaps it was because I was in the minority of preferring the subdued campaign of Halo 3: ODST to that of Halo 3 itself, but I digress. The Chief’s return is a blockbusting success, as a truly fantastic opening CG cutscene digs into his backstory deeper than any that have ever graced a Halo game. Then you control the man himself as he escapes from his vessel of hibernation, which culminates in a breathtaking low-gravity sequence that really shows off the amazing graphics and sound engines at work in Halo 4.

5. Highrise Torture – Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs has a great story in my opinion, as its character interactions remain central in every cutscene. This makes the game’s tragic midpoint wedding sequence a real highlight, but it is eclipsed for sheer execution and shock value by a sequence near the end of the game. The protagonist, Wei Shen, awakes high on a skyscraper to the brutality of a dapper man whose job it is to torture and maim, but he leaves Shen alone with hapless guards for a bit too long. The escape uses disorienting camera techniques completely absent from the game up to that point, which adds to its impact, and it kicks off a frenetic last hour of action sharing much in common with Hong Kong martial arts movies, which is rarely a bad thing.

4. Initiation – Assassin’s Creed III

The opening few sequences of Assassin’s Creed III may seem a little confusing to those who had been paying attention to the game’s pre-release marketing material, which suggests you spend the whole game playing as new hooded assassin Connor. That’s because you actually don’t; for the first three chapters, in fact, you play as another man named Haytham. You go through quite a number of different experiences with the impressive figure, building followers and assassinating targets with haste. Until your control of him is wrenched away following a scene when he initiates a fellow man into an organisation that isn’t quite the Brotherhood of Assassins. That’s right, you’ve been playing the game as a Templar. Oh, and he’s also Connor’s dad. Bam.

3. “Wow, I’ve actually never played this before!” – Nintendo Land

This is the only gaming moment of the year for me that did not take place in the comfort of my own home, but rather at the EB Games Expo in October. Though I had read about the various “attractions” of Nintendo Land‘s theme park world time and time again online, it truly surprised me how much my opinion of the game changed when I actually held the Wii U’s Gamepad in my hands and played some of the multiplayer-focused offerings. Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, each of which I played with four other people, had some really clever uses for the new controller and they were just ridiculously fun to play.

2. The Discovery? – Catherine

Catherine’s story is unlike anything else in any videogame on the market. Its focus on exploring the intense guilt borne from infidelity is rather bold to say the least. As a player you are drawn into making some pretty stressful decisions on behalf of irresponsible protagonist Vincent, balancing two love interests until everything finally seems to come to a head in an engaging anime cutscene near the game’s end. Secrets come out into the open, loyalties are tested and insanity leads quickly to bloodshed. It does turn out to be just a dream, but somehow things only get weirder from there.

1. “Oh yeah, explosive!” – Borderlands 2

If you played the first Borderlands, you might be forgiven for thinking the series would be incapable of any genuinely affecting narrative highlights, because that game essentially had no story. Yet it was if you did play the first Borderlands, particularly if you played as Mordecai, that this emotional sucker punch in the sequel really caught you off guard. Magnificent bastard antagonist Handsome Jack goes from cruel but amusing to complete monster in one moment when he captures, mutates and then makes you fight Mordecai’s pet bird and best friend Bloodwing. He then remote detonates the poor thing’s head with a lame joke to accompany the blow. Hatred of the guy usually follows. Dem feels, man, dem feels.

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Honorable Mentions

–Bloodthirsty Bot – Skylanders Giants
–ANARCHY! – Borderlands 2
–All Grown Up – Tales of Graces f
–“Hey, this actually isn’t a Smash Bros clone!” – Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale
–Pandora’s Labyrinth of Deceit – Kid Icarus: Uprising

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