In one word, how would you describe the video game industry in 2012? Exciting? Disappointing? Something in between?

Looking back on my year, I have no idea how I’d summarize 11 months worth of amazing games and experiences. Between the launch of a new handheld beast with the Vita, the revitalization of classic series like Max Payne, XCOM, and the growing indie scene, there’s a lot to be excited about this year. Still, in a year that sees a major new console release that I’m NOT excited about,  can I really use that word? Maybe by the time we podcast this week, I’ll have an answer.

Saturday, 6:43 pm – Ricky

The podcast is up! Grab it here and thank us later.

Friday, 11:44 am – Albert

Definitely TONS of games which could be on the decade list. The problem for me is that I have a hard time remembering my feelings after I’ve played a great game if i’m onto another game which I really enjoy. I mean I know I really enjoyed those games in the past but it’s the ones that I’ve recently played that stand out the most because of how fresh the experience is. Such is my primitive brain.

In other news, The Humble THQ Bundle is a massive bundle of THQ games such as Saints Row 3, Darksiders, Meto 2033, Company of Heroes (and expansions) and Red Faction. You can pay whatever and these games are worth ALOT (in my opinion). Unfortunately, I have all the games but I love the cause! It’s for Child’s Play Charity.

Yeah, also here’s Giant Bomb’s QL of Far Cry 3… Pre-Purchase here I come!

Friday, 11:02 am – Ricky

For sure, there are a lot of great games that could be on “the decade list”. I hadn’t even thought of Call of Duty 4, but it’s impact on the industry is unquestionable, as was the impact Halo had before it. But again, if we were to each make a list, I’d bet we’d have very little overlap based on pure subjective opinion.

By the way, do you like science? Do you like video games? Here’s the science behind why we like video games.

Thursday, 6:11 pm – Gavin

We must not forget that while we know what Dolphin Emulator is, there’s a huge portion of the population who doesn’t know how to use it or doesn’t care to try.  Emulation is easy for us because we’re savvy.  Emulation is scary for plenty of people.  To many people, computers are still these magical boxes that turn on when you push a button, let you play Farmville, and then turn off when you select “POWER OFF”.  If I tried to explain emulation to my sister, she’d probably say “I don’t have to time to figure that out.  Why would I waste my time with that when I can buy a small, simple console that lets me play the games quickly and easily, and doesn’t rely on my ripping the data from the disk or downloading a questionable torrent?”

$100 isn’t a drop in the bucket, but $300-$350 is 3-3.5x not a drop in the bucket.  If you want to play Wii games now and can’t, but aren’t convinced about a Wii-U, or you simply cannot afford a Wii-U at this point in time, or you don’t care about Internet-based functionality, then the choice is pretty clear.

As for Wii-U Deluxe vs Basic, the theory there is that the basic unit is simply a foot-in-the-door product.  It’s easier to market a console that “starts below $300” than it is to market one that is full-featured but starts at $350.  With respect to the basic model, it depends on whether you want NintendoLand or not.  Storage for the Wii-U costs nothing because it’s USB storage, so instead of dropping $50 for a game, 32gb of storage, and a controller stand, you could buy the basic one, pick up a third-party controller stand for $10, and use the remaining $40 to buy ten times as much USB storage as you’d get in the Deluxe model.  It’s not flash storage, but meh, the OS will run on the built-in flash storage, which is good enough.  Saved games can boot up from USB quickly enough anyway.  The only thing you’ll miss is NintendoLand, and that game will end up like Wii Sports – you’ll be able to pick it up for a song in two months’ time on Craigslist or Kijiji or what have you.  I’m not jumping right now, but if I were, I would probably consider the basic model, simply because I could make it more cost-effective for myself.

Switching gears, if we’re talking about top-ten lists, I will acknowledge what that list got right – Half-Life 2, Portal, and I will acknowledge RDR even though I didn’t really care about it.  But Wii Sports?  Sure, it was revolutionary with respect to motion controls, and I certainly had an absolute blast with it, but it felt more like a science experiment than game.  A really fun science experiment, but it was a party piece.  I also never played WoW, Mass Effect 2, Bioshock, or Arkham City.  I only played about half an hour of Wind Waker, and no SotC, but everyone I know who played that game adored it, so I’ll let it slide.

What would I throw on that list?  For me, it’s a no-brainer – Super Mario Galaxy 2.  It was absolutely gorgeous, it controlled like a dream, it had a perfect learning curve, and most importantly, it was fun.  It never felt contrived, and the level design constantly felt fresh, even when boss battles were lifted wholesale from Mario Galaxy 1.  One level was a direct copy of a level from Mario 64 – the Throwback Galaxy.  But that wasn’t a lack of creativity – it was blatant fan service, and it worked.

Even though we may decry what the series has become, we cannot deny that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare deserves recognition.  The campaign was short and sweet, and didn’t overstay its welcome.  All Ghillied Up was a FANTASTIC mission.  It also raised the bar for competitive multiplayer.  It looked great, sounded great, felt realistic, and had terrific production values.

Of course the Nintendo fanboy had to bring this one up, but Metroid Prime was fabulous.  I complained a bit about the backtracking, but still, it was perfectly crafted and took the series in new places.  It was effectively a 3D version of Super Metroid with a more comprehensive storyline, but without losing the spirit of the Metroid games.  The environment was nearly perfect, the challenge was intuitive, it was tremendously balanced, and the music was top-notch.  It unfortunately suffered from people trying to categorize it as a first-person shooter.  If you’ve played a single Metroid game, you know that classifying them as shooters is fundamentally flawed.

I’d also add in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory for reasons I have elucidated in the podcast many times.

I have a few personal choices that I’d put in there, like Fable, Fable II, and Jade Empire, but I would understand others not feeling the same way.  I also need to give something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution some time to simmer, to see if it still has the staying power in three years’ time.  I loved it now, but I don’t want to feel as though I loved it solely because it was new and shiny.  We’ll see on my next playthrough.

I think at the end of it, I don’t want to necessarily replace many of the games on that list (Wii Sports aside, and I’m the biggest Wii fanboy/apologist on the site) as I haven’t played them, so I don’t want to be unfair, but I also know that the games I listed were among the best games I played over the past ten years.  How could I not give them the respect and adulation I feel they so richly deserve?

Thursday, 12:10 pm – Ricky

While I may be the target for this console, I can’t help but think: Why wouldn’t I just use Dolphin on my PC, or pick up a WiiU? At $100, it’s not chicken scratch. Plus I’d still need to buy the games. If I need to buy the games, then I can just run them using Dolphin on my PC. If I’m convinced I need a console, why not drop the extra $250 to get the latest tech? I’m a responsible adult with disposable income, so my would I settle for the baseline? Similar questions will be asked of the base WiiU vs. the Deluxe – with less space and no game pack-in (Nintendoland costs $60 on it’s own, more than the difference between the base and Deluxe models), who wouldn’t want to spend the extra scratch to get the Deluxe model?

While we’re discussing our favorite games of 2012, Entertainment Weekly, in conjunction with the VGAs (Video Game Awards) on Spike TV, have pulled together their “Game of the Decade” list:

Wow. Some glaring omissions here.

Off the top of my head, I’m not seeing a single Mario game, or Halo title. I’m not seeing Grand Theft Auto. We’re missing a number of different titles and genres. Granted, “top” lists are very subjective, and you’re bound to get a different one from each person you speak with.  What would you like to see added to the list?

Wednesday. 2:24 pm – Gavin

Interesting, thanks Albert!  I didn’t know that Canada was an ideal test market.

I understand totally about wanting the options available.  If I were paying a competitive market price for a full-service console (read: $300ish for a new console), then I’d want the additional functionality aside from just the ability to play this generation’s games.  Obviously you aren’t getting that with the wee Wii.  But that’s really all this thing is – a small device that lets you play this generation’s games.  And it’s priced appropriately.  Want to do more than that?  Pay more.  If you skipped out on the Wii but have another console (360/PS3), then you’ve got all of the other options, like Netflix, browsing (latest update to Xbox Dashboard includes IE, and it actually works quite well), streaming, etc.

Basically, this console is just for those who say “Well, I want to play Wii games, but don’t care about the other functionality.  As such, I want the console to be priced accordingly.”  Effectively and practically, I’d say this console is marketed at someone like Ricky – has a PC, a PS3, and a 360, but no Wii.  He does not require the internet-based functionality of the Wii because that is available through at least three separate devices in his place.  He just wants to play games at a cheap price.

In theory, everyone who has the internet already has access to the internet-based functionality of a high-level console – streaming, Netflix, browsing, game marketplace (Steam/Origin), etc.  Obviously not everyone can connect their personal computer to their television, but for those people, the way I look at it, the cost of a wee Wii AND a streaming/browsing device (Roku/Slingbox/AppleTV) is greater than the cost of a brand new full-functionality Wii console.  As such, if you want the full functionality, get the full Wii.  Don’t care?  Get the wee Wii and pay much less.  Same argument for backwards compatibility.

The wee Wii is not a full-functionality console.  However, it’s not being marketed as one, and it’s not priced as one either.  On paper, I’d suggest that it’s a great idea, provided that Nintendo doesn’t lose money on them (i.e. overproducing based on higher anticipated demand).

Albert, looking at your 2012 games list, you’ve got four sports games on there – FIFA Street, FIFA 13, NHL 13, and Madden 13.  Which would you say is your favourite from the year, and why?  I only played one round of NHL 13.  Albert and I beat Ricky and Preezie.  It was glorious.  I gloated.  NHL 94 CONTROLS 4 LYFE.

Tuesday, 5:56 pm – Albert

The new Wii console is most likely exclusively in Canada as a test market. Generally, at least from what I know, is that Canada and Australia are huge test markets for software so I would be very surprised if this was not the same tactic for hardware. I’m not going to lie though, that new console looks awesome. That’s an interesting point you guys made about Internet access. I rarely use my Wii but I do use it in one room for Netflix. Without internet connection my Wii would become completely useless outside of gaming in which I feel I’ve become reliant for my console to be multi-functional. My PS3 allows me to stream sports, browse internet, watch Netflix, and play Blu-rays, while my once living Xbox allowed me the same vices, except for the browsing and streaming. While I understand that gaming consoles are gaming consoles, I just like having options. On the topic of backwards capabilities, I don’t think that it’s that important but it’s nice to have. Having said that i’m along the same lines as Gavin, in which I would most likely never use it anyways. I probably have my old console around to play those games if I really really wanted to. Oh, also I use my PC for everything. It’s the console that does EVERYTHING. Honestly. Computers. They are awesome.

This steam sale, I didn’t buy much actually. I purchased Star Wars: Knights of the Old Repulic II, and The Skrim DLC – Dawnguard and Hearthfire but I was generously bought Mark of the Ninja, Chivalry and Dishonored! I love you guys.

WOW. Reflecting on 2012 gaming. Where do I begin? Out of the titles released this year, I played:

  1. Tropico 3: Gold Edition
  2. Jagged Alliance: Back in Action
  3. UFC Undisputed 3
  4. Dear Esther*
  5. FIFA Street
  6. Diablo III
  7. Max Payne 3
  8. Madden 13
  9. NHL 13
  10. FTL: Faster Than Light
  11. Borderlands 2
  12. FIFA 13
  13. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  14. Hitman: Absolution
  15. Dota 2
  16. … and counting

I also played some other games that came out last year single player and multiplayer: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Age of Empires III: Complete Collection, Anno 2070, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2: Mann vs Machine, Supreme Commander 2, Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, Dead Island, Skyrim (x3 really) Saints Row: The Third, Terraria (…so much Terraria)…

Those last three games Skyrim, Saints Row 3 and Terraria sucked a lot of my time this year. Out of the ones this year, I can easily say it was XCOM: Enemy Unknown who has kept me addicted, although Hitman: Absolution is catching up. I finally made my first contract in Hitman so we’ll see if Ricky can best me at my own game… contract… thing.

Don’t tell Ricky but the trick in my contract is that you can poison the guy with Fugu fish… but shh.. that’s just between you and me.. and now that dead guy.

Tuesday, 5:07 pm – Gavin

That “new” console looks fantastic.  This is not an unprecedented move, as Ricky advised me earlier today – Sony introduced a new version of the Slimline PS2 in July 2007, 8 months after the release of the PS3.  This is a great opportunity for those who are casually interested in playing Wii games but don’t currently have one and aren’t interested in dropped $300+ on the Wii-U.

The way I look at it, the no-internet thing wouldn’t really bother me.  I mean, let’s consider some fair standards here – it’s a new piece of hardware that costs $100, and it plays Wii games.  At that price, what else would you reasonably expect it to do?  Despite not being a huge tech junkie, I imagine that backwards compatibility wouldn’t be that difficult to put in from a design side, but I don’t know what it takes from a programming side.  But still, backwards compatibility is often one of those things that people claim they want, but don’t often jump to actually use.  My 360 was backwards compatible from the day I got it in 2008.  Do you know how many times I used the backwards compatibility functionality?  Once.  Literally once, for a single playthrough of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.  Not to say that it would never happen, but I would be surprised to meet the gamer who has a Gamecube (or at least Gamecube games) and is desperately considering a wee Wii, but is upset that it can’t play those Gamecube games.  I would submit that most people who are desperately interested in backwards compatibility with GC games probably picked up a bog-standard Wii at some point over its life span.  Perhaps I’m spoiled for space and money though – if I wanted to play an older game, I’d just hang onto the system for which the game was designed.  But that’s an aside.

$99 for that kind of system is crazy if you’ve never picked up a Wii before.  I would buy one in a heartbeat if I didn’t already have one, solely so that I could enjoy the wicked first party games that I’ve raved on about so many times, and some of the really cool third-party games like MadWorld, No More Heroes, Muramasa: Demon Blade, etc.  Plus it has a great form factor.  The damn thing is tiny.

Interesting that it’s exclusive to Canada.  Any idea why that might be?

Tuesday, 12:12 pm – Ricky

In an interesting turn of events, Nintendo has announced a new version of the Wii console. It’s interesting because, this announcement comes exactly 1 week after the launch of their latest-and-greatest, and it’s exclusive to Canada

I have to say, at $100, I’m pretty tempted to pick one up. Note that there’s no internet access, and no GameCube backwards compatibility. Still, with huge library of first-party titles I’ve been meaning to try, this system is made for me. Just needs more white to better rep the Great White North. The new system is available for preorder now, and in-stores December 7th, just in time for massive holiday buyer confusion the holidays.

Monday, 1:03 pm – Gavin

As you no doubt expected, I don’t have much to say on the 2012 gaming scene.  The only games released in 2012 that I played were:

  1. Dear Esther, which doesn’t even count, because that had been released years prior as a mod.
  2. Microsoft Flight, which doesn’t even count, because it’s more work than play.
  3. About three minutes of Papa & Yo, which doesn’t even count, because it was three minutes.
  4. Trials Evolution, which was the shiz.

Therefore, by the process of elimination, I must say that the best (2012) game I played in 2012 was Trials Evolution.  Not a bad pick, to be honest.

As you could expect, I did acquire a few games over the Autumn Sale with Steam.  I acquired the following:

  • Max Payne 3
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
  • World of Goo
  • Syberia
  • Syberia 2

I was also graciously gifted copies of To The Moon (honestly can’t wait to play that one) and Chivalry: Modern Warfare.  So, as you’d expect, I’ll likely have to balance Trials Evolution against Max Payne 3, Spec Ops: The Line, and To The Moon.

I previously played World of Goo on the Wii in 2009, and it’s a BLAST of a puzzle game.  As for Hot Pursuit, what can I say?  I’m a sucker for a good racing game.  I’d heard great things about Spec Ops in terms of the story and the fact that they actually contextualize the violence, and I gave in to Max Payne 3 when I saw that it was 75% off.  I loved the hell out of 1 and 2, and I heard great things about 3, even if I wasn’t exactly roped in as much as I felt like I should have been.

2012 was a catchup year for me.  I look back on some of the big titles I played, and the list is phenomenal:

  • Half-Life 2
  • Portal
  • Portal 2
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Dear Esther
  • Gears of War 3
  • Just Cause 2
  • Earthbound

It was a great catchup year.  I’ll have many of those, because my library keeps growing with great older games, and because generous people keep gifting me copies of games, but I honestly really look forward to what the new year brings.  Needless to say, Skyrim will be in there.  I don’t know what I haven’t tried it yet – I guess I’m just afraid of getting into something that big and immersive.

Monday, 8:09 am – Ricky

Although I went afk late last week, I did get a chance to play some games. I was able to play another match of DotA2 with a couple experienced players, and I think I’m getting the hang of Lion, a support character. We also played a training match against AI bots on Hard, where I get to mess around with a “carry” character, one who is weak early game and needs to be supported by guys like Lion, but “carries” the team late game because they have better powers at the higher levels. The strategy is still really fascinating to me, as is the language employed.

Put in some more time with Assassin’s Creed 3 and Borderlands 2, and finally picked up my first couple of games in the on-going Steam sale. The crew will be playing some games of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare at some point, and I nabbed a copy of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, the follow-up to my favourite space-based RTS. LASERS EVERYWHERE! Here’s hoping they close out with a bang today.