Tag Archive: marvel


Ray Carsillo interviews Disney Interactive’s Jose Villeta about the latest developments to the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes universe during the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con.

Advertisements

Spider-Man No More

If you’re like me, Beenox is a developer still relatively fresh on your radar. Sure, they ported some Spider-Man games to the PC in the mid-2000s, but it wasn’t until 2010’s Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions­, when the studio took point on the web-slinger’s gaming presence, that they really grabbed my attention. Since then, they’ve delivered three solid Spider-Man games in a row, a feat that hasn’t been done, in my opinion, since the LJN/Acclaim days. Unfortunately, it seems that all good things must come to an end, because Beenox’s latest, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is one of the worst Spider-Man games I’ve ever played.

Right from the get-go, the game may confuse more casual fans, since it’s not a true “movie tie-in.” Instead, you need to go back to Beenox’s first Amazing Spider-Man game. There, they didn’t follow Marc Webb’s first take on the character beat for beat, but rather continued the story of that movie: You played through the fallout of Dr. Curt Connors’ cross-species research and fought several new creatures that resulted from it. Since Sony Pictures seemingly wasn’t enamored with the idea of having their blockbuster movie franchise follow the story a game created, Beenox continued their story from The Amazing Spider-Man, thus crafting an alternate continuity from the films. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game, therefore, only has the loosest of tie-ins to the new movie in that Green Goblin and Electro are there (Rhino isn’t, because in Beenox’s Amazing Spider-Man universe, he’s a cross-species monster).

Still with me? Once you wrap your head around the multiverse idea, it’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened. This allows Beenox to still have a little creative freedom with the story and not be regimented to following a movie script. After the complicated setup, however, things quickly become mundane in regards to the narrative: Each chapter devolves into loosely tied-together boss battles. In fact, there’s barely any narrative cohesion, period. Most of the story relies on your ability to find audiotape collectibles instead of actually telling you as you progress through the game.

And the dialogue is some of the worst I’ve ever heard in a game, from both Spider-Man as well as his foes. My favorite was a thug screaming out “I like to hurt people!”—truly the bad-guy equivalent to “I like turtles” if I ever heard one. At the very least, the actors who deliver these miserable lines try the best they can with a script that clearly lacks any sort of entertainment value.

The weak narrative isn’t the only thing that makes this the worst Beenox Spider-Man yet; nearly every aspect of the gameplay is inferior to previous titles by the developer. The “menace” system, touted when the game was announced, is a joke. This is your typical “good guy/bad guy” meter that you see variations on in games like inFAMOUS and Mass Effect. As expected, it hinges on doing good deeds in the open world, or ignoring them and seeing the people’s view of you diminish. Only a handful of the same crimes repeat, however, so they become as boring as the boss battles. Meanwhile, there are usually so many going on at once that it’s a neverending uphill battle to keep Spidey from being viewed as a threat. The worst part is that all this has no influence on the narrative, and the reward for being lauded as a hero is minimal stat boosts and fewer enemies in the world. Why even bother at that point?

Also, going back to the boss battles for a brief moment, while it’s nice to see some of Spidey’s most iconic villains again in a videogame, the battles themselves are of the worst “rinse and repeat” variety, wherein the bosses don’t have more than two or three easily avoidable moves, causing you to repeat the same pattern over and over until you whittle away their health.

The developers also emphasized how much time you’d be spending in the open world this time around compared to the last Amazing Spider-Man game. That’s as blatant a lie as I’ve ever heard. There are just as many “dungeon” segments in Amazing Spider-Man 2 as there were in the previous game, and you probably spend even less time web-swinging down Manhattan’s concrete canyons than that one due to the shorter story. Beenox can do indoor sequences perfectly fine, as proven in previous games developed by them like Edge of Time and Shattered Dimensions, but when you stress that you’re going to keep players more in the open world, do it.

Speaking of web-swinging, though, this is the worst gameplay change. Talk about trying to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with. I understand there’s a movement for “realism” in comics and games, but this is a story about a man who has spider-based powers fighting a man made out of electricity. The need to be grounded in reality isn’t necessary, but Beenox tried anyway and now web-swinging requires a solid surface to stick to. While this design has been done in games before, this iteration of Spider-Man’s Manhattan—already a bland and lifeless shell of the hustling, bustling metropolis—doesn’t lend itself well to this tweak. I’d often shoot my web at some ridiculous angle, if I could find one at all, in order to adhere to this rule. Thus, I never really got into a great rhythm with my web-swinging, which was especially frustrating during the game’s racing side missions, which require a lot more precision than the game allows.

But wait! There’s more! While it’s clear that the combat/counter system is a rip-off from the Batman: Arkham games, it seems Beenox couldn’t resist to steal a little more from the Dark Knight. Amazing Spider-Man 2 sees stealth rooms make an appearance, and they just reek of the “predator room” designs from Rocksteady’s games. And, like everything else in this game, they’re inferior in every way. Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense replaces Batman’s Detective Mode, and much like Arkham Asylum, players will run into the problem where they’ll feel like they never have to turn the power off. This means that even if the levels were beautifully designed (which they aren’t), they’d only see them in the red-and-blue hues this mode paints everything in. On top of all this, the combat upgrades from the first game have been simplified into only eight powers, with three upgrades each. So much for doing everything a spider can.

My final issues with the game come from the technical side of things: Glitches galore, folks. Not only are the character models bland—and only half a dozen of them are scattered throughout the game—but many of them love just vibrating themselves through walls, sidewalks, and rubble. Throw in three late-game crashes in the middle of boss battles, and I almost had enough to never look at this game again.

Despite the abject time I had playing the game, I was able to finish it, however, because flashes of the competency Beenox illustrated in their previous games do appear sporadically. These came in the form of tributes to some iconic moments from Spider-Man comics—like Cletus Kasady being wheeled into Ravencroft at the start of the Maximum Carnage storyline—that, as a lifelong fan, I understood and instantly recognized. But that only made me more frustrated, because it meant that Beenox had to know them, too, and yet they still let this miserable pile of data get stamped onto a disc and sent to stores. If you’re a Spidey fan, hope that Activision lets Beenox out from under this movie-licensing deal and gets them back to making original Spider-Man games.

Developer: Beenox • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.29.14
2.5
Easily Beenox’s worst outing with the Spider-Man brand. Nearly every game system is a step backward from the previous three Spidey games—this one isn’t worth your time or effort.
The Good The story has its moments.
The Bad Web-swinging takes a huge step backwards, the “menace” system is a joke, and the dialogue made me want to stick a pencil in my ear.
The Ugly 40 years of comic book history was diluted down into a less than 10 hour game.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, iOS, and Android. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review.

NYCC 2013: Ray Takes on Cosplayers!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a video of any kind, and I felt I needed to shake some rust off my interviewing skills. NYCC 2013 seemed like the perfect place to serve this purpose and so I went around the show floor and chatted up some awesome cosplayers. Enjoy!

Join the Merry Marvel Marching Society

When LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was first announced, some of us less-open-minded comic-book aficionados had some questions about the idea of Warner Bros. (who owns rival DC) publishing a Marvel product of any kind. Luckily, it seems that developer TT Games has just as many mighty Marvelites on their staff as they do dedicated DCers (just don’t tell the bigwigs upstairs!).

Similar to the LEGO Batman games, TT started by making a LEGO-ized version of New York City, giving fans of the comic-book giant an open world comparable to DC’s Gotham. Sure, they’ve taken some liberties—the X-Mansion’s been moved to the North End and out of Westchester County, for example—but these changes were necessary to make everything fit logically into what’s a truly massive hub made of LEGO bricks. With well over 100 heroes and villains coming together in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, however, there needs to be a universal threat that ties this hub and these heroes together.

Fortunately, Marvel has exactly that in the form of the world-consuming Galactus. And he hungers for Earth. Again. Only a select few know of his approach, though, and some of Marvel’s most nefarious nemeses like Magneto, Loki, and Dr. Doom look to turn this global threat to their advantage. Marvel’s best and brightest heroes will now try to work together to thwart the master plan of these villains, as well as turn Galactus away.

If you’ve played any of the LEGO titles before—whether they were based directly on a movie or more loosely inspired by a property like this one—then you have an idea of what to expect. For this particular game, the action’s broken into 15 levels across many familiar Marvel Universe locales. As you make progress, you unlock gold bricks for performing certain actions, such as saving Stan Lee (who always finds himself in a perilous situation!) or collecting a certain amount of studs (the LEGO version of coins). As you unlock more bricks and play more of the game, you’ll add more heroes and villains to an ever-expanding cast of characters—who can then, in turn, be used to unlock more bricks. And the cycle continues until you 100-percent the game.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes features more activities than previous entries when it comes to acquiring bricks, giving the game solid variety and replayability. Some gold bricks require puzzle-solving and swapping of powers, but the game also includes plenty of fetch quests that are rather dull and populate much of the hub world. Escorting mini-figs slowly on foot from one side of the map to the other is not my definition of fun and could grate on completionists.

Speaking of swapping powers, your mini-figures can now wield more abilities than ever before. And not just the super-strength you’d expect from characters like the Hulk or the Thing—you can fire laser blasts with Cyclops, activate Magneto’s mastery of magnetism to move all things made of metal, or use Jean Grey’s telekinesis to move just about everything else in the world around. Mind you, wielding Magneto and Jean Grey’s power classes can take some getting used to, since they’re not as accurate as, say, a blast of flame from the hands of the Human Torch.

Since many characters can flylike Thor and Iron Mangetting around the hub world has also never been easier. The game even includes vehicles (some of which even having character themes, like the Green Goblin’s helicopterthough he really doesn’t need one, since he has his glider, right?) for characters that move around mostly on foot, such as Black Widow or Hawkeye.

So, some of the gameplay has changed to go along with the new IP, but one element remains mostly the same: the writing. TT Games usually does a tremendous job of finding ways to sprinkle in humor that freshens up the experience for older players, but they also inject plenty of slapstick and childish antics to ensure appeal to younger audiences. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is no exception, and its charm should warm the hearts of even the most jaded of comic-book fans.

Unfortunately, the technical problems that have plagued the LEGO series also return here. The camera remains a problem, especially in the hub world, and it’ll often lead to some unnecessary deaths. The rotating split-screen in co-op is also a distraction and detracts from the co-op experience, since two characters can’t just run off—they need to stay close to each other at all times. In future entries, TT Games either needs to make two static, horizontal split-screens or keep me and my buddy stuck within the same window. I started getting sick from the rotating line that appears when one player decides to run north and the other south.

While on the subject of co-op, the other big problem is that we still don’t have online 4-player co-op. The game includes many instances with four heroes in a group in the story, and I had to needlessly rotate through them all to try to progress. Even at my age, I can imagine having a good time with friends or my younger cousins on the other side of the country if we could do this online. And why limit the 4-player fun to the story? The hub world is easily massive enough to fit four mini-fig heroes in it.

Besides the legacy technical shortcomings, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is immensely enjoyable. It has enough side content, including bonus missions and challenges, that should keep gamers of all ages entertained for hours. But even if you’re just in it for the story, you should walk away happy. If you love LEGO, Marvel comics, or both, this game won’t disappoint.

Developer: TT Games • Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment • ESRB: E10+ • Release Date: 10.22.2013
9.0
Some technical shortcomings aside, this is a tremendously fun experience that will appeal to LEGO and comic book fans young and old alike.
The Good Same humor and charm we’ve come to expect from all the LEGO games.
The Bad Same camera and technical glitches we’ve come to expect from all the LEGO games.
The Ugly Same wonton destruction of property we’ve come to expect from all the LEGO games.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U, 3DS, DS, PS Vita, and will be a launch title for PS4 and Xbox One. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

As part of the Marvel Video Games panel Saturday at San Diego ComicCon, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes game director Arthur Parsons revealed a plethora of the 150 characters that look to inhabit TT Games’ LEGO-fied Marvel Universe.

A special focus was given to the heavies, the hulking brutes who are far larger than most LEGO characters and were given their own trailer (embedded below). In it we see the Blob, Rhino, Kingpin, Lizard, Colossus, the Thing, and the Juggernaut join the likes of the Hulk and Abomination. We even catch a brief glimpse of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor in LEGO form.

Parsons had more up his sleeve at Comic-Con, playing a slideshow that a whole host of other Marvel characters set to make their LEGO debut. This list included the likes of:

  • Dr. Doom
  • Jean Grey
  • Beast
  • Gambit
  • Storm
  • Elektra
  • Magneto
  • Vulture
  • Silver Samurai
  • Punisher
  • Green Goblin
  • Iron Patriot (pre-order bonus)
  • Squirrel Girl
  • Sabertooth
  • Deadpool
  • Howard the Duck

And to cap off the cast additions, Parsons revealed that some Marvel execs, including the legendary Stan Lee (who then appeared on stage to arguably the loudest applause of the entire Con) would also appear in the game.

At the heartfelt behest of a young boy, Parsons also revealed that Doctor Strange had made the cut, and mentioned that Troy Baker will be playing Loki, Clark Gregg will reprise his role of Agent Coulson, and Nolan North returns to the character of Deadpool.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes’ brick-building mayhem commences on the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, 3DS, DS, PS Vita, and Wii U this fall (sometime later for Xbox One and PS4). Excelsior!

Don’t forget your syrup! We’re making pancakes!

It’s never easy turning a licensed product into a videogame, but it can be especially hard when it comes to comic books. Developers typically have a wealth of history from which to draw, but that also leads to fanatical fanbases who love to criticize the slightest bit of “creative interpretation.” Or, on the flipside, you’ll see projects commissioned to be made with half the budget and half the time—and then publishers wonder why we, the game-loving public, trash the end result.

But every now and again, the stars align. With time, money, knowledge, respect for the product, and understanding from the fanbase, you’ll have an experience worth playing. The guys at High Moon Studios are familiar with this; they’ve done it twice now with a pair of original Transformers videogames. But can they possibly handle the biggest challenge they’ve faced so far in the form of Deadpool?

Based on the Marvel character best known for breaking the fourth wall and spoofing a flurry of other comic-book characters, Deadpool is a love letter, plain and simple, to the fans who’ve supported him since the Rob Liefeld/Fabien Nicieza days in the early ’90s. Luckily for us, though (no offense to those guys—well, maybe Liefeld a little), High Moon asked Daniel Way to write the script instead. Fitting, since Way’s run with the character is probably why Deadpool’s now at the height of his popularity.

And the game unfolds exactly how Deadpool fans might expect: Everyone’s favorite Merc with a Mouth decides he wants to be in his own videogame. Yep, fourth wall already smashed to smithereens. So he calls up the guys at High Moon, threatens them (a lot!), and gets the green light. We then begin stage one, where Deadpool must hunt down a big-time executive type in order to rake in a big bounty. Unfortunately for Deadpool, this particular fat cat is doing business with the Marauders and Mister Sinister, and he’s under their protection. Deadpool can’t be having that—no, sir!

Thus begins one of the wildest gaming rides I’ve had in quite some time. Sure, Way’s comics made me laugh for a couple of minutes each month, but this game had me in stitches for almost the entire eight-hour experience (give or take an hour, depending on your difficulty).

Aside from the smartly executed script, the game looks solid; it’s firmly entrenched in Marvel lore, yet it’s also got a splash of Looney Tunes when it comes to animations, character reactions, and general tomfoolery. The excellent voice work certainly adds to the atmosphere, too. Nolan North channels every ounce of Deadpool (and the voices in his head) he can muster through that red-and-black mask and when grouped with other voice veterans like Steve Blum as Wolverine and Fred Tatasciore as Cable, the acting is top notch.

But not everything about Deadpool is a perfect mile-high pile of pancakes. Deadpool loves guns. He also loves swords. In fact, any tool that can deal death is a high priority in his fractured mind. So High Moon faced an understandably difficult undertaking in finding the proper balance between guns and melee weapons. Unfortunately, the Deadpool game doesn’t quite get that balance right as the action ebbs and flows back and forth between having to use guns and then use melee weapons, instead of blending the two together more to craft a smoother combat experience. Also, while the combo system works fine and sees Deadpool transition smoothly from enemy to enemy, the broken camera and floaty platforming sequences serve as unseen foes that ultimately detract from the experience.

Still, Deadpool also features a few combat tweaks that definitely add to the experience, such as a “Momentum Meter” that fills up with continued success. The upgrade system that requires you to cash in “Deadpool Points” earned from massive combos is a decent touch, and being able to wield a variety of handheld, throwable, and projectile weapons helps keep the experience from becoming a complete button-masher. The game also offers eight challenge maps—with four levels of difficulty—that offer some replayability.

Even with a few gameplay issues, Deadpool hit just about every note I wanted. The campaign offers enough hysterical choices that I played through it several times—and I even watched as others in the office experienced it for the first time. Ah, so many fond memories.

If you’re a fan of Deadpool, you’ll certainly appreciate the experience, but if you’re really unfamiliar with the character (even though I don’t know how that’s possible at this point), you might be a bit wary of having this game be your first experience with Wade Wilson (Oh, no! I revealed his secret identity! Spoilers!).

Developer: High Moon Studios • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 06.25.13
8.0

You’ll be fighting the camera sometimes as much as enemies, and the balance between guns and melee needs a bit more work, but most of the time, I was laughing too hard to care. The script is a love letter to Deadpool fans, so if you love the Merc with the Mouth, this game will hit your chimichanga-flavored sweet spot.

The Good Hysterical story that channels the best of Deadpoool.
The Bad Balance between melee and guns needs work; camera can be a hindrance.
The Ugly WHERE’S HYDRA BOB?!
Deadpool is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Spector speaks, but who should listen?

I’ve wanted to write an article like this for some time now. I knew I wanted to vent my frustrations with the comics industry, but I didn’t know how to jump into the subject without coming across like a raving lunatic—which I admit to sometimes being the case.

As my comic qualms simmered in the back of my mind for weeks on end and I pondered how to kick off this editorial, DICE 2013 rolled around. I’d planned on burying my anger even further in the recesses of my mind in order to focus on the conference, but I found some inspiration in an unlikely spot.

Celebrated game designer Warren Spector was scheduled to speak at the conference; he didn’t cancel his appearance even after the disheartening news that his studio, Junction Point, closed just a week prior to DICE. I’m sure this experience inspired Spector’s talk about spending almost four decades in the game industry—and what he saw now that he had the chance to take a step back.

Anyone who’s had the pleasure to speak candidly with Spector knows that he’s quick with a joke no matter the subject. Because of this, his presentation was one of the more enjoyable ones at the conference, even if it lacked the structure of other talks. But shooting from the hip—as Warren is wont to do—certainly ruffled a few feathers. Spector condemned the tongue-in-cheek zombie-ripping romp that was Lollipop Chainsaw and gushed over Heavy Raincreator David Cage’s work (maybe Warren’s trying to line himself up for an interview?), but what made my blood boil was his encouragement that we all “put away our geeky things.”

This irked me on several levels. Not only does what we do as game journalists drip with geekiness, but my beloved hobby of comic books is another cornerstone in the foundation of any solid nerd cred. My rage was palpable, to say the least—to begin with, anyway.

Like many other geeks, my first instinct had driven me to anger, before rationale (and, later whiskey) settled in to calm me down. After all, the same old song and dance from our favorite games, movies, and comics are like geek comfort food, and we don’t take too kindly to folks messing with tried-and-true recipes. But the more I thought about Spector’s words, the more I realized that he didn’t mean for us to drop the hobbies near and dear to our hearts or to stop being inspired by them. He didn’t literally want us to stop being who we are.

Warren Spector wants us to get away from the same tired formulas we’ve been using in games since he got into the industry. He wants developers to stop being so geeky and to grow up in a figurative sense so that we can break boundaries as a medium. The same can be said for what’s going on in the comics industry.

And this leads me into the point of this article (yeah, I like the sound of my own voice—I know, I know!). For the most part, the comic industry, much more so than the gaming industry, has become tired and stale, at least when speaking of the Big Two, DC and Marvel. “Transmedia” was a buzzword thrown around liberally at DICE, and it seems that with the comics industry being so focused on crossing over into games and movies, Marvel and DC have completely forgotten what it means to tell meaningful, entertaining stories through the traditional pages of a comic book.

In fact, Marvel and DC have gotten so far away from what they once were that they’ve transformed into an Ouroboros—a snake eating its own tail. I’ll let you decide which one of the Big Two is the head and which is the tail, but it doesn’t really matter. At this point, we can’t tell which came first, the chicken or the egg—because both are scrambled. Every time there’s a major story in one universe, the other has to go for a copycat narrative. When one relaunches, so must the other.

And heaven forbid that an original idea actually explains the drastic story switches this constant cycle signifies. If a writer uses time travel one more time to launch a series, I’m going to break the fingers of whoever wrote it. I’ll still never forgive DC and Geoff Johns for how they brought Swamp Thing back. And I’ll never forget what Marvel and J. Michael Straczynski did to Spider-Man back in 2007; they felt the best way to relaunch the character was for him to sell his marriage to Mephisto. I want you folks to look back over that last sentence and contemplate that for a little while if you’re not familiar with a horrendous little story arc called One More Day. Spidey sold his marriage to the damn Devil! It’s too much for even a comic-book fan like me to swallow.

The worst of it—at least in regards to the Big Two—is that it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon. In fact, if this weren’t my job, I might be tempted to take Warren Spector literally and stop buying comics altogether, because the stuff being printed nowadays on a regular basis is slop.

I do see some potential for hope, though. While the Big Two continue to bite off each other to the point that, soon, there’ll be nothing worthwhile left to read, the indie scene is resurgent. The return of classic Valiant Comics likeArcher & Armstrong and Shadowman, new Star Wars books from Dark Horse, IDW’s takes on Ghostbusters andTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Archie’s continued success with other videogame properties like Mega Man andSonic the Hedgehog keep comics viable, much like how gaming’s own indie scene continues to breath fresh concepts into the industry year after year.

In the end, Warren Spector was right. It’s time for the comic-book industry, just like the game industry, to put a lot of their geeky, tired, uninspired ideas of what constitutes content away and to grow up. We can keep the capes, though!

When not playing video games, I like to curl up with a good book. These books just so happen to be full of pictures–and only a few hundred words of dialogue—surrounded by several dozen words of onomatopoeia. Yes, you guessed it: I am an avid comic book reader. So, as I sat down to finally read Thunderbolts #4—I’m catching up after my trip to D.I.C.E. 2013—I couldn’t help but notice a full-page ad talking about everyone’s favorite Merc with a Mouth.

What specifically caught my eye about the ad, though, was the bottom of the page, where it exclaimed that Deadpool’s first solo video game adventure would be hitting this summer. Considering this was the first myself, or anyone else in the office, had heard of any sort of release date for the game, I thought it was news to be shared with the community. Oh, you lucky people you. The word “summer” also came up again with a spattering of new screens released last week over at Marvel.com in regards to the Deadpool game.

The summer is a large period of time, however—lasting from the end of June until the end of September—so although this narrows it down from the ominous “TBD 2013″ of other sites or the bulls*** “December 31, 2013″ listing of retail stores, we still don’t have a super-solid date. If we look back at previous High Moon Studios releases, however, my money would be on June, since the last title game director Sean Miller worked on was Transformers: Dark of the Moon—and that was a June release. Meaning, if he went straight from one project to the next, he’d have a full two-year dev cycle with Deadpool. It could also be August, though, since that was when the last game from High Moon Studios in general was released (last year’s Transformers: Fall of Cybertron). Of course, until we get a more solid date, anything beyond “summer” is all just hyperbole on my part. Thanks for the info comic books!

 

It was a weird year for games in 2012. A lot of highly anticipated triple-A titles got delayed into 2013, and although a lot of great games still came out, there wasn’t a clear-cut winner for me this year like there was with last year’s Batman: Arkham City.

Thus, the deliberations between the voices in my head continued deep into the year, coming right down to the wire. It was neck-and-neck between a handful of titles, but when the chaos finally settled down, a Top 5 list emerged of what are—in my opinion—the best games of the year. These are those games—enjoy!

Ray’s Top 5 Games for 2012

#5: Sleeping Dogs

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: United Front Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Mixing Batman: Arkham City’s hand-to-hand combat with Assassin’s Creed–style free-running, Grand Theft Auto–inspired open-world mechanics and gunplay, and Need for Speed’s driving sequences sounds like the ultimate videogame Frankenstein’s monster. However, unlike Mary Shelley’s rotting, mindless beast, Square Enix created an Adonis of a game with Sleeping Dogs. Although there may be little left to the imagination in terms of gameplay, developer United Front Games wove these aspects seamlessly together with an original, engaging plot—and that made Sleeping Dogs one of my must-play games of the year.

#4: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

It’s never fun to die in games. But in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you must get comfortable with the concept of making sacrifices if you ever hope to complete it. In fact, the game kills most of your team right away in the tutorial just to help get this initial shock out of your system. After all, if humans were actually fighting a war against a superior foreign invader, losses would be commonplace. But even through all that failure, I still had tons of fun as I worked to save Earth from aliens.

#3: The Walking Dead

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Platforms: XBLA, PSN, PC, Mac, iOS

It’s not easy to make a comic or TV show into a videogame—especially when your fanbase is as rabid as the zombies they read about or watch. The Walking Dead, however, successfully captures the spirit of Robert Kirkman’s original comic while introducing us to an entirely new slice of life in that crazed, zombie-filled world. The young heroine Clementine is arguably the best new character gaming’s seen in years—especially considering the emotional range she’s forced through—and the story’s branching paths afford dozens of playthroughs. The Walking Dead lets you know that adventure games are back—and in a big way.

#2: Borderlands 2

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, OS X

I’ll admit that I don’t like to play games with other people. They slow me down—or I kill them too much, and they get frustrated, and it just ends up a mess with thrown controllers, slammed headsets, kids crying to their mommies, or me sleeping on the couch. One game is the exception to this rule, though: Borderlands 2. It’s got so many moments where you just wanna go “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” and you need to share that with someone. And if you do play alone, the game doesn’t suffer for it. Throw in probably the best all-around script of the year, and this should be on everyone’s Top 5 list.

#1: Assassin’s Creed III

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC

The new naval battles perfectly balance the addictive gameplay and historical accuracy for which the series is known. The plot has more twists than a Twizzler, keeping you hooked the whole way through. The new Wolf Pack co-op mode helps strengthen an already impressive multiplayer suite. Oh, and did I mention you can now stab people in the face more fluidly than ever before? By the time you get to the fifth entry in any franchise, it’s damn near impossible to continually raise the bar. And yet, Assassin’s Creed has done it so spectacularly that I can’t help but give Assassin’s Creed III my game of the year.

Ray’s Off-Topic Awards for 2012

The People’s Champ Award
Street Fighter X Mega Man
Mega Man X Street Fighter - Header This year marked Mega Man’s 25th anniversary…and yet, we didn’t get an official game. For some reason, Capcom cannot remove their collective heads from their asses long enough to be bothered with a new title starring the Blue Bomber. It was Street Fighter’s anniversary, too, and that got a game (even if it was a piece-of-garbage crossover with Tekken). Well, Capcom may not care about Mega Man anymore, but the fans do, and one devotee in particular—a Singaporean designer named Seow Zong Hui—honored Mega Man with his own Street Fighter–infused take!
The Marlboro Man Award for Most Unhealthily Addictive Casual Game
Marvel: Avengers Alliance
I rarely play casual or browser-based games, but when I heard about one based on the Marvel Universe, I figured I’d give it a shot. Any good comic nerd would! Now, nine months after its release, I find myself breaking the level-70 barrier with my custom-created character—and I’ve compiled a true dream team of superheroes. All while devoting far too much free time (and occasionally money) to this free-to-play Facebook addiction, as I continue my quest to save the universe from the element ISO-8!
Popsicle’s “The Colors, Duke! The Colors!” Award for Most Colorful Game
Dust: An Elysian Tail
I gave this award out last year, and I feel compelled to do so again—because it would be an indignity to not mention the stunning visuals of Dust: An Elysian Tail. Its hand-drawn animation left me in awe, and when you compound this breathtaking art style with the fact that it was created entirely by one man—Jazz Jackrabbit veteran Dean Dodrill—you can’t help but admire his extreme talents in crafting this intense labor of love.

It was an interesting week in the comic world as IDW brings back another old-school hero while Marvel and DC continue to try to spin our old heroes into something new. So let’s just get right to it with this week’s Pullbox!

IDW – Judge Dredd #1 – The year is 2100. Most of the world is a radioactive wasteland aside from a small strip along the North American east coast where all people can do is build upward at this point. The facilities of this last bastion of humanity are mostly automated, but occasionally man’s primal urges to break the law rise to the surface and when this happens, there is only one true form of law. The Judges And the most severe of this militant law-enforcement group is Judge Dredd.

Capitalizing on the fair success of the Dredd movie, this comic is the start of bringing Britain’s most infamous comic book hero ever here to the States in a way that stays true to its dark, dystopian future. This first comic is a joy for any comic reader that is even just vaguely familiar with the character as it throws you in head-first to Judge Dredd’s world without pulling any punches. Pick this up and stick with it folks because it is going to be one hell of a ride from here on out.

DC – Talon #2 – Calvin Rose begins his war against the Court of Owls in earnest in the hopes of finding the women who helped prevent him from succumbing to the same fate as all other Talons. When he looks to hit one of the Court’s primary fund reserves, however, he realizes that he may have bitten off more than he can chew and will need to push his skills as an escape artist to the test if he hopes to live.

Even though this book is only a couple of issues in, and I didn’t even really enjoy the whole ‘Court of Owls’ concept, Talon shows a lot of potential as it is already introducing new and unique characters, and looks to be working hard to give Calvin some nemesis of his own to do battle against. The idea of bringing back Owls from the dead could get old quickly, but it definitely works through a couple of issues and it should be interesting to see how Calvin’s war on the Owls continues in the coming months This is definitely one book to keep an eye on.

Marvel – Astonishing X-Men Annual #1 – In this one-shot story, we again see how being an X-Man affects Northstar and his marriage as The Friends of Humanity terrorist group has started targeting the loved ones of mutants instead of just the mutants themselves. Labeling them gene traitors, Northstar must aide his friends in hunting down the hate mongers before his husband becomes the next casualty.

If you’ve been reading Astonishing X-Men, this Annual issue really helps put a nice little bowtie on the recent events that have happened with Northstar and his wedding and all that. It doesn’t really feature a lot of action, but does a nice job of fleshing out some characters, including Karma, Northstar, and his husband, and feels like it is setting them all up for something big in the future. A solid read, but not a must have unless you’ve been following this series very closely.

DC – Batman, Inc. #5 – Batman claims he’s had a vision of the future where Damian becomes Batman and Gotham gets wiped off the map because of it. Everyone Bruce knows and loves die in the future and so in order to prevent this from happening, Bruce wishes to send Damian back to Talia as a peace offering.

A little confusing at first, as is typical of most of Grant Morrison’s more recent works, it all comes together in the end as this issue has an old-school ‘Elseworlds’ feel to it that I appreciated. Also, having the Joker being the villain the brings about the end of Gotham was a nice touch as any time you can work in the Clown Prince of Crime is a bonus for sure. It would have been nice though if aside from explaining Batman’s insane vision, if this issue has actually done something, like, I don’t know, forward the story, perhaps. Not the best issue of Batman, Inc. in how it relates to the series, but I’ve read worse.

Marvel – Secret Avengers #34 – Captain Britain and Hawkeye are trapped in the Earth-666 parallel universe where all the heroes we know are classic movie monsters (Thor is the Mummy, Wolverine is a vampire, Punisher is a Frankenstein monster, etc.), Venom and Valkyrie are ejected into space, and Hank Pym gets turned into a Deathlok!

This was one of the most difficult issues for me to follow in a while what with so many different stories going on at once. I usually love Rick Remender’s work, but he needs to get a grip on the reigns of this one fast because it feels like an out of control train ready to wreck at any time. And it’s not like I tried jumping into this one cold turkey. I’ve been following this series and still had trouble trying to piece together everything that was supposed to be happening. The whole feel of Secret Avengers seems to have taken a downward turn ever since Hawkeye took it over from Captain America and even though I’ve been with this book since the very beginning, it needs to pick up soon or I’m jumping ship.