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This blog series is all about the best games of the last 20 years. George and Matt from the Monitor Audio team take a look at each year and pick their favourites. In this post, we’ll be going back to the year 2012.
2012 was the year we said hello to the ill-fated PlayStation Vita handheld console and the Nintendo Wii U. Both consoles unperformed for several reasons, but we still got a great year worth of games!
Ubisoft Montreal | Ubisoft | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The third instalment in the series, from Ubisoft, took place in the stunning location of Rook Island, with an absorbing storyline and extraordinary open-world.
Set between the Indian and Pacific Ocean, a group of friends celebrate Riley receiving his pilot's license, as they skydive down to the tropical Rook Island. Upon landing, pirate Vaas Montenegro kidnaps them, holding them as slaves. As one of three brothers, you control Jason, older brother of Riley. As he escapes, Jason and Riley’s older brother Grant is killed. The islands' native Rakyat tribe know all about Vaas and rescue Jason, agreeing to help him. Dennis, previously an outsider and now member of the tribe, believes Jason could be a warrior and gives him a tattoo of the Tatau. In return for their help, he agrees to help the Rakyat with various missions.
Dr. Earnhardt, a botanist studying the island's flora, has helped to look after Daisy, one of Jason’s friend’s. Meanwhile, after acquiring a Silver Dragon Knife, the tribe are impressed, and after Dennis, Jason is only the second outsider to enter the Rakyat’s sacred temple. Priestess Citra then initiates Jason into the tribe, after he returns the relic, leading him on his way to rescue his girlfriend Liza. Soon, Jason manages to release Liza, alongside friends Keith and Oliver, before the CIA assist Jason in his fight against the pirates. The Rakyat begin to take control of their island, with help from Dr. Earnhardt, before discovering that Vaas is Citra's brother. Notorious slave trader and drug lord Hoyt Volker employs the pirates, but as Jason continues to fight alongside the Rakyat, he loses touch with his friends. As Jason prepares to leave the island to find Vaas's pirate base, Jason unknowingly has an affair with Citra, after she drugs him. As Jason reaches the base, he becomes delusional, but still manages to kill Vaas with the Dragon Knife, before collapsing.
Jason rescues Riley; killing Hoyt in the process, before returning to find the Rakyat has captured his friends and fatally wounded Dr. Earnhardt. Citra once again drugs Jason and as you wake, you save your friends, but as Dennis attacks, Citra sacrifices herself. Jason leaves the island with his friends without the Dragon Knife, banished as a powerful warrior of Rakyat legend.
The huge map had so much to discover, as you navigate using jet skis, dune buggies and gliding through the air in a wing suit. As you hunt animals, from crocodiles to tigers, you improve your inventory and the fun cooperative multiplayer was a huge improvement on the original Far Cry. Many hours were spent just driving around the island, scouting and liberating outposts, whilst coming up against many of the jungles fiercest predators. Easily one of the best first person shooters ever made.
Thatgamecompany & Santa Monica Studio | Sony Interactive Entertainment | PlayStation 3, Windows, PlayStation 4
Co-developed by Thatgamecompany and Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, Journey elevates indie-game development to a whole new level with an incredible artstyle, moving story and emotional score.
Journey has you take control of a robed figure in a desert. Waking upon a small dune, the character can see a large mysterious mountain looming in the distance. At the base of the mountain lies the remains of a once-thriving civilisation, reclaimed by the desert. At the mountain top, there is a glowing crevice that splits the peak.
Scattered throughout the ruins as the character explores are large stones that the character uses to rest. During these sequences, the character meets a large white-robed figure with art adorning the walls, telling of the collapse of civilisation. Contending with left over automated weapons from the war that ended civilisation, you eventually reach the mountain itself. As the character struggles their way up through the colder climate, the white robed figure gives you the energy to carry on. As you reach the top of the mountain and walk into the crevice, the screen turns white. A shooting star emerges, showing the individual path you took through the world, landing back on the dune to start again.
Being the spiritual successor to Thatgamecompany’s previous visual art games Flow and Flower, the idea was to create a game that moved past the typical defeat/kill/win mentality, creating a minimalist environment.
The game’s score was so well received, it was nominated for the Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Journey is generally viewed as one of the best video games of all time.
United Front Games | Square Enix | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Taking inspiration from Shenmue and Yakuza, United Front Games gave us a beautiful open world environment, as you go undercover, infiltrating the triads.
You control Wei Shen, a supposed criminal, sent to jail after a drug deal goes wrong in Hong Kong. Jackie Ma, an old friend of Shen’s, offers to introduce him to the members of his gang, as soon as they are released. In an effort to infiltrate the Water Street branch of the Triad organisation, Superintendent Pendrew and Inspector Mak had actually sent Shen undercover to gather more information. Jackie Ma introduces Shen to Winston Chu, the leader of his gang, who initiate him, once he has carried out some jobs against the Jade Gang, a rival Triad branch.
Whilst undercover, Shen leads a second life, also carrying out arrests on various drug suppliers, starting with Popstar. Once the Water Street brand find out about his arrest, Shen has to convince Winston he isn’t a cop. To gain his trust, he manages to kidnap Siu Wah, a drug dealer for the Jade Gang. Men pose as members of the rival 18K Triad gang and kill Winston at his wedding, as Shen helps to save the top-ranking boss of the Water Street branch, Uncle Po. As Shen takes over as temporarily leader of the gang, he chases down Jade Gang leader Sam Lin, who was behind the massacre, as Uncle Po passes away in hospital. 18K members then attack them during Po’s funeral, leading to Shen becoming involved in an altercation with other Water Street branch members over the leadership of the gang. After agreeing to an election, Shen refuses police orders to take himself off the case, as Henry Lee starts a campaign to intimidate the competition to vote for him. After Jackie Ma is found dead, feared Triad enforcer Liu Shen Tong tortures Shen, after discovering his true identify as an undercover officer. After escaping, he makes his way to Lee, who tells him that Superintendent Pendrew sold him out. Shen kills Lee, ending the civil war, allowing Jiang to become the leader of the Sun On Yee.
As Pendrew escapes, Shen finds out that he was promoted to Interpol. After being praised for the fall of so many senior gang members, Shen doesn’t stop, pushing Jiang for more information on Pendrew, determining that he was responsible for Po’s death. After using footage given to him by Jiang, Pendrew is arrested and the Sun On Yee is ordered to allow Shen to live.
In contemporary Hong Kong, whilst moving from police to gang enforcer, you navigate the bustling nightclub district, floating harbour and markets. Similar in combat to Batman: Arkham Asylum, the player uses the environment to their advantage, fighting off hoards of enemies. Borrowing parkour physics from Mirror's Edge, it’s the little touches that help separate it from the rest. With superb voice acting, witty dialogue (pork bun) and its authentic setting, Sleeping Dogs is a gem.
Arkane Studios | Bethesda Softworks | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
This first-person action adventure from Arkane Studios focuses on a supernatural assassin, seeking revenge, whilst navigating the plague-ridden city of Dunwall.
Bodyguard to the Empress of the Isles, you control Corvo Attano, who returns from a voyage to the city of Dunwall, which is dealing with a deadly plague. After delivering a message, Daud, a teleporting assassin kills the Empress and kidnaps her daughter Emily. Corvo is charged with the murder of the Empress and Emily's abduction, as the Empress' Spymaster names himself Lord Regent, and takes control of Dunwall. After six months imprisonment, Lord Regent confesses to Corvo during an interrogation that he was behind the assassination and intentionally framed Corvo.
A letter from Empire Loyalists makes its way to Corvo, instructing him to escape, before his impending execution. Samuel, a member of the Loyalists, takes Corvo to meet their leader, Admiral Havelock. When Corvo briefly slips into a dream, a powerful being, whose name is the Outsider, imprints his mark on Corvo, giving him magical abilities. As Corvo heads back to Dunwall, to neutralise the conspirators behind Lord Regent's plot, he first runs into High Overseer Campbell. After removing the Overseer, he discovers twins Custis and Morgan Pendleton are holding Emily in the Golden Cat brothel. After meeting gang member Slackjaw and a mad practitioner of black magic called Granny Rags, Corvo rescues Emily and eliminates the twins. Emily is prepared to become the new Empress, as Corvo interrogates Sokolov, a genius inventor who worked for Regent. Corvo then finds himself at Lady Boyle's masquerade ball, where he disposes of Lord Regent's mistress. After learning that Lord Regent imported the plague to decimate society, Corvo removes Lord Regent from power.
After celebrating with the Loyalists, Corvo wakes from a deep sleep, realising Sam had poisoned him, to ensure he couldn’t stop them from ruling the city using Emily. Daud then takes Corvo prisoner, but before they can claim the bounty on his head, Corvo defeats him. Lord Havelock kills many of the Loyalists and after tracking him to a lighthouse, Corvo discovers a journal, which reveals that Emily may be his daughter. Depending on Corvo’s decision at the end of the game to kill or neutralise the enemy, brings various endings. Will Emily ascend the throne as Empress with Corvo at her side, or will Dunwall crumble, as the plague overruns the city.
Full of experimentation, you can decide to stay on a stealthy or violent path with the "chaos" element. With incredible visual aesthetic, that takes you through Dunwell, inspired by late nineteenth-century London, you use your powers to see through walls, possess rats or turn enemies to ash. With a number of cunning choices at your disposal, Dishonoured is extremely memorable and a truly rewarding experience.
SIE Bend Studio | Sony Interactive Entertainment | PlayStation Vita
Taking place prior to the original game Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, this spin-off squeezed an exciting Uncharted adventure onto the blighted PlayStation Vita handheld console, offering incredible graphics and gameplay from the team at Sony’s Bend Studio.
Nathan Drake accompanies old friend Jason Dante to a dig site in Panama, led by archaeologist Marisa Chase. After finding the remains of poisoned Spanish conquistadors, Dante leaves to take a phone call. Marisa approaches Nathan with an amulet she hid from Dante, inherited from her grandfather Vincent Perez, who started the research dig. Deciding to team up, Nathan and Marisa are then captured by Dante’s business partner Roberto Guerro, a warlord with a small army. After escaping, the pair learn of a marker referring to Sete Cidades, an ancient Christian sect, dedicated to finding the ‘Seven Cities of Gold’. Friar Marcos de Niza has been part of a failed expedition, led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, to find the city of Quivira or ‘The Golden Abyss’.
Further clues refer to the ‘Sword of Stephen’, the sword of Esteban, the personal guide of Marco de Niza, that could give further clues to the whereabouts of Quivira. Guerro’s army ambushes the pair and captures Marisa. Guerro betrays Dante, pushing him off a balcony. Dante hires his own mercenaries to avenge him. Nathan encounters his old friend Sully, and convinces him to help rescue Marisa and finish Perez’s work. After saving Marisa, the pair follow a map made from charcoal rubbings of symbols on the Sword of Stephen. Using Marisa’s amulet, they open the door to Quivira, discovering a gold-lined cavern. They find Esteban’s corpse and a Geiger counter stowed in Marisa’s backpack reveals that the gold is irradiated by nearby uranium deposits. It turns out Marco de Niza killed Esteban and the scouting party to prevent looting when discovering the people of Quivira slowly died from radiation poisoning.
Dante arrives and intends to sell the irradiated gold regardless. After a fight, Nathan and Marisa escape, sealing Dante in the Golden Abyss to prevent anyone else from finding it. Leaving on a stolen helicopter, Marisa throws the amulet away saying “it belongs in hell” with the rest of Quivira.
Taking such a big series and putting it onto a handheld console must have been a huge feat for the developers at Bend Studio, along with adding new features, such as touchscreen puzzles and motion controls to finely adjust aiming. It’s a shame that this spin-off adventure is trapped on a handheld console, forgotten by time.
Gearbox Software | 2K Games | Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PlayStation Vita
Playground Games | Xbox Game Studios | Xbox 360
Check out more of our favourites