Fresh off their success with The Walking Dead series, as well as experience with half a dozen other properties that belong to someone else, developers Telltale have told Red Bull (the website of... the drink) what their dream projects are.
And they're about the same as anyone else's dream projects.
"Coming from LucasArts we always felt we could do a great Star Wars story game," Telltale's CEO and co-founder Dan Connors says. "We also love the idea of building out a deeper story to a great game franchise, something like Half Life Stories or Halo Stories."
I'm pretty sure Halo's story is already deep enough, thanks, but it'd be hilarious to see someone try and make a narrative-driven adventure game out of Half-Life. The Adventures of Lamarr & Barney...
So even though I missed out on games that looked right up my alley—like Hotline Miami or Natural Selection 2 (which I've actually played a little bit of and loved)—I still found plenty to play that kept me more than happily occupied. These are my favorite games of 2012, in no particular order.
The game with psychotic personalities and more weapons than I could ever dream of. I loved the first Borderlands. It was the perfect cooperative game. Borderlands 2 took everything that first title made great—loot and silliness—and added even better writing, better characters, and more creative weapons. And on top of all that, Gearbox has been busting their butts to deliver us timely DLC that keeps on delivering. It's one of the few games that has come out this year that I keep going back to.
Virtual tourism at its best. Exploring the open world of Hong Kong was not only gorgeous, but it was also full of life that gave a real depth to the game. The story kept me compelled, driving (and perhaps more so, hijacking other cars to drive) felt wonderful, and the hand-to-hand combat is some of the best I've experienced.
I've talked this one to death, especially considering it's my personal nomination for Game of the Year. Suffice it to say that it was the most emotional game I played through this year, with some really powerful characters and, more importantly, relationships. This game can teach you something about yourself.
I only go half-stealthy in most stealth games. Mainly because most stealth games let you get away with doing so. But Mark of the Ninja's practically perfect design puts stealth at the forefront, making it not only manageable and comfortable to play stealthily throughout the entire game, but also incredibly fun to a degree that feels rewarding.
Journey is an adorable game. It makes you want to reach out to someone, help them and rely on them for help. Journey teaches you that you don't need words to communicate with people, and that encouraged people to work together to survive. And that ending? That ending was almost unbearably heartwarming. Even if it was somewhat somber for me, when I'd lost my companion just when we'd reached safety after everything we had been through together. In a way I almost preferred that ending, because it reinforced what Journey showed me: that cooperation is a beautiful thing.
I'm a puzzle person. Fez is an all at once a smart and terribly confusing puzzle game. So much so that the Internet had to come together to compare notes to solve some of the game's tougher puzzles. And beyond that, there were even more secrets to uncover. A challenging puzzle game would normally be enough for me. But the bright and pretty colors and an adorably pudgy Fez made this puzzle game an absolute joy to play through, too.
Being a dedicated fan of Bungie's Halo, I was a little nervous for Halo 4, the first title to be developed instead by 343. But the second I hopped in and started killing the Covies with my battle rifle, I felt at ease. And then 343 pulled a fast one on me and turned the singleplayer story into something of a romance, and a personal story of what it takes to be Master Chief. Even after the campaign is over—and after you've played it through on multiple difficulty levels, cause c'mon—there's plenty of fun times to be had in multiplayer. I must have played thousands of rounds of Flood and Oddball and straight Team Slayer.
It took me a while to finally find the time to get around to playing this one, but once I sunk a few hours in I was hooked. I love driving around the island, pulling over quickly because I spotted a tiger whose skin I really need before continuing on to my mission. I even love scaling those radio towers, including the more frustrating ones that took me a few day/night cycles to complete. But my favorite parts of Far Cry 3—something I wish the game had more of—were the trippy scenes Jason experienced after lots of drug and whatever liquid taking. Scenery morphed, he battled weird enemies, and he faced his fears. I wasn't too sold on the strength of the storyline otherwise. Some average tourist all of a sudden turning into a badass assassin and being welcomed into tribes of warriors who inexplicably can't do anything on their own? Well thank god Jason came along, eh? It felt a little too unbelievable. But I accepted the storyline. Because the game—or perhaps really my skills with using the tools and tatau given to me that helped me wipe out entire camps of soldiers—convinced me just fine otherwise.
Here's my "wtf" entry. Jumping Finn Turbo is an iOS game. I rarely love mobile games. I enjoy some, but I'll toss them aside almost as easily as I pick them up. Super Hexagon is one that came close, but nothing kept my attention like Jumping Finn Turbo. Maybe it's the Adventure Time hook that got me. Or maybe it was the competition to beat high scores (try to beat mine!) and reach the actual "end" of the game. Ultimately? I think it was how simple and yet addictive the game was. Addictive because you knew if you pushed on just a little farther, you could unlock that next ability. Get to that next level that once felt so far away but is now in your reachable grasp. And yet, like most mobile games that come my way, I don't play this one anymore. But I played it longer than most others.
Remember: this game came out in 2012! I'm a blood and gore kind of girl. The more guts I get to spill the merrier, I say. The Darkness II fed into my taste perfectly, and supplied me with two extra arms to multiply the effect. I absolutely loved multitasking between ripping enemy spines out and shooting other people in the head. I've killed a lot of virtual bad guys in my time, but rarely have I done so with such eviscerating enthusiasm as The Darkness II allows.
I played more games in 2012 than any other year of my life. It was a weird—but thoroughly wonderful—year, and one that upset a lot of my expectations. Games I'd assumed would be amazing fell short of the mark, while others came out of nowhere to become fast favorites.
This being a time well-suited for retrospection, I thought it'd be a good idea to write down my
ten eleven favorite games of the year. (I tried to keep it to ten, I really did.)
Here they are, in no particular order.
Usually when people talk about Blendo's Thirty Flights of Loving, they talk about its brevity. What's most striking about this game's brief run-time isn't just that it's short, it's how much it manages to do in such a short time. By cleverly using hints, allusion, tropes and subverted clichés, Thirty Flights packs more drama and intrigue into 15 minutes than many games manage in 15 hours. It was one of the most memorable things I played all year, and something I'll be recommending to friends for years to come. (PC only)
For some reason, I feel this underlying sense of disappointment whenever people talk about Max Payne 3. And yet all these months later, I still find myself playing it, and I have to say: This game was baller. It wasn't just that it had better graphics than anything else that came out this year (on PC, anyway). It wasn't just the ridiculously good soundtrack. It was the way it played, the overwhelming sense of kinetic, chaotic danger. A sequence set in a cubicle-filled office was the most brutal and exhilarating action sequence I played all year. It has its share of problems, sure: Some difficulty-spikes made me want to throw my TV out a window, and at times it felt like more of a movie than a game. Considering how gritty and self-serious it all was, it sure could be ridiculous. But even if it lacked the charm of past Max Payne games, Max Payne 3 more than made up for it with satisfying, stylish, bloody-minded action. (Xbox, PS3, PC)
For a time, somewhere immediately after I completed the devastating, masterful third episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead, I was convinced it was the best thing I played all year. After completing the game and taking some time to really look it over, I have to say that there were enough technical niggles, rough edges, bugs and reported save-game errors that I came away a bit frustrated with it. All the same, seeing a mainstream game this well-written, a game that treats its characters with this level of care, felt like a watershed occurrence. Sure, there have been other great adventure games in the past, but never one that felt so confidently of-the-moment. With every accolade, game critics and players are making a statement: We want good stories in our games, thank you very much. May The Walking Dead pave the way for countless more games like it. (Xbox, PS3, PC, iOS)
Violent, crazed, self-aware and painfully cool, Hotline Miami was one of the most maddening, involving games I played this fall. The soundtrack was so good it hurt. The story was as disgusting and uncomfortable as anything I've ever played. The action was peerless. I can't remember where I first saw this, but Hotline Miami is best described as a series of rehearsals before a final performance—again and again you die, until you choreograph your own perfect ballet of death. By the time you leave each blood-soaked floor, you'll be intimately familiar with every nook and cranny. An exacting, meticulous, brilliantly brutal game. (PC only, coming soon to Mac)
I didn't know what to expect going in to Gravity Rush. I'd heard good things, liked what little I'd seen of in trailers, but really had no deeper notion of it. It didn't take me long to fall for it, and when I fell, I fell hard. Appropriate, since this superhero game isn't about flying; it's about falling. And it's a superhero game in the best sense: It showed me a world that was as mysterious as it was fantastical, loaded with unanswered questions and improbable vistas, and let me explore it as an instantly likable character. Best of all, the gravity-manipulation controls actually took me a while to get used to; they felt genuinely, at times startlingly new. The game had its problems—notably, the combat was frustrating and several sections from the halfway point onward could be a real slog—but when it was firing on all cylinders, Gravity Rush was a dizzy joy. (PS Vita)
Every year, it seems there's one game that hits me right in my gaming sweet-spot. Last year it was Deus Ex: Human Revolution and this year it was XCOM: Enemy Unknown. I fell entirely under this game's spell, regularly finding myself up at 3 or 4 in the morning, heading out on one more mission before finally going to bed. Here's a story: the early PC press build of the game caused a strange error with my save game, and I lost about ten hours of progress. I had to start over fresh, but I found myself doing so without a complaint. And I wasn't even reviewing the game! I relished the opportunity to play the opening acts again, to use what I'd learned and get everything right. I anticipate I'll be playing it well into the future. It doesn't just belong in my top
ten eleven—XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my two or three favorite games of the year. (Xbox, PS3, PC)
Just today, I put forth the argument for why this game should be Kotaku's overall game of the year. I also reviewed it back when it came out. I don't have much more to add, so I'll just say that it's a beautiful, remarkably assured game that does what it does so well it's easy to forget just how difficult it must have been to make. It's ThatGameComany's masterpiece. (PS3 only)
I showed up to Far Cry 3 with a lot of baggage: See, Far Cry 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, and everything I'd seen of Far Cry 3 made me think it would be a less serious, less focused, move video-gamey take on its predecessor. And it was that. It was also awesome. At some point, maybe around the eight- or nine-hour mark, I realized that I didn't want to stop playing. I wanted to keep going, and going, growing my abilities, learning the island, exploring, conquering, and hang-gliding. Sure, the story fell apart for me a bit after the halfway point. And yeah, my adventures wound up making the islands far too safe, devoid of enemies to fight. But as a feat of game design and technical artistry, Far Cry 3 deserves recognition. (For more, see my full review.) It's not just that it does so many things so well—it's that it does them well in the service of being a really fun video game. (Xbox, PS3, PC)
No other game this year made me smile as widely or as often as Botanicula. The Michel Gondry-esque art, the wonderful physical comedy, the amazing, handcrafted music and sound effects, and fantastical story won me over completely. So many games concern themselves with mastery and competition; far too few concern themselves with joy. Botanicula was easily the most joyful game of 2012. (PC, Mac)
Sleeping Dogs was one of the very best surprises of 2012, a fine open-world game that proved how oftentimes, GTA-style games can be even more fun without guns. It didn't quite have Rockstar's lavish production values, but United Front's take on the city of Hong Kong sparkled at every turn, and the PC version in particular looked lovely. It conveyed such a remarkable sense of place, perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that you had to drive on the left side of the road. The story was strong too, a surprisingly mature tale that borrowed heavily from Hong Kong cinema. Anyone familiar with undercover cop-stories likely saw every twist and turn coming, but I still enjoyed it all, thanks largely to the top-rate performances. Sleeping Dogs felt like a game that knew its own boundaries: It didn't come with any shoehorned-in multiplayer, and it didn't become overstuffed or fall apart in the third act. It was good all the way to the end, and even beyond: I'm still playing the DLC. Here's hoping Sleeping Dogs merits a sequel. Sleeping Dogs 2: Waking Dogs? I'd play it. (Xbox, PS3, PC)
And now we come to the end, where I'd put the number one game, if these were in order. And while they're not in order, still, Persona 4 Golden kind of deserves to be mentioned last. XCOM may have hit me square in the game-nerve, but I fell even more profoundly into Persona 4 Golden. I ache for this game, you guys. Earlier this year, I had played 60-odd hours of Persona 3, and every time I'd tell someone how much I dug that game, they'd say, "Wait until you play Persona 4." They were right.
Jason and I have already gone into great detail about why we love Persona 4, and if I couldn't capture my feelings in that many thousands of words, I probably should just give up. The town of Inaba and its residents have left an indelible mark on me; I'll never forget this game. (PS Vita, original game is also on PS2)
And that's that. Oh, hmm. There were a few games I didn't get to list here, so honorable mentions go to FTL, Mark of the Ninja, Dyad, Torchlight II, Dishonored, Papo & Yo, Super Hexagon and Sound Shapes.
2012 was a great, often surprising year for games. Here's hoping 2013 is even better.
Happy new year. I'd like to start the year by helping you avoid a mistake I made in 2012. But let's rewind one more year, first, ok?
In 2011 I had the good fortune of playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on a machine that wasn't the PlayStation 3. I played it on an Xbox 360, but I just as well could have played it on a PC and experienced the same benefit of avoiding the version of one of 2011's top games that made its players miserable.
Skyrim on PS3 was a mess. It was laggy. It crashed. It had problems in its launch month. Patches and updates still left it underperforming a month later, in December. In February, the game's lead creator was still having to explain just what in the world had gone so wrong. But by that time, many people had declared Skyrim Game of the Year for 2011 (it was a runner-up for us).
Some PS3 Skyrim players fumed.
How could a game that had a version that was that much of a mess take top honors? You could debate for some time whether a buggy version of a game that can be played smoothly on other platforms should disqualify a game from Game of the Year consideration.
We're not quite in the Skyrim PS3 situation again a year later, but I must warn you: if you're going to play Game of the Year contender/winner The Walking Dead and if you have a choice of what to play it on, avoid the iOS version.
For the past few weeks, I've been playing The Walking Dead, the much-loved five-part graphical adventure game about a band of people struggling to survive a zombie outbreak in south Georgia, on my iPhone. I could have been playing it on PC or Mac, on Xbox 360 or PS3. I could have been playing it on my iPad. But for maximum convenience (or so I thought), I downloaded it to my iPhone and committed to playing it there. That was sort of a mistake.
The game is good on my iPhone. The acclaimed story is gripping. Using finger-taps to choose dialogue options works fine. Whatever the best is that the game has to offer, the iPhone version of the game gave me that. That's why, when the game came to iOS, we gave it a thumbs up. Bring the best over of an exciting, impressive game, and we'll be plenty pleased.
The problem is that, after a longer time playing it, it's clear that the iPhone version of the game fails the prime use case of any portable game: it can't handle being interrupted. The game doesn't handle being started back up once it's been put to sleep and it winds up requiring its players to re-play as much as several minutes' worth of its adventure time after time.
As you play The Walking Dead the game will automatically save your progress. These auto-saves occur infrequently and typically only after scene changes or major decision moments. There's nothing weird about a game that doesn't let you manually save and makes you sweat it out to the next auto-save checkpoint. That's standard, if sometimes inappropriately archaic, game design. It's also, sadly, incompatible with how mobile games are played. You don't time your sessions on a mobile game to the length of time between save points. You time them to the amount of time it takes for your bus or subway to get to the next stop or until it's your turn at the supermarket checkout counter or in the doctor's office. When it's time to stop playing, you have to stop playing.
Any well-made mobile game can deal with these sudden pauses. The iPhone, like the 3DS or Vita, lets you put a game to sleep. Most well-made mobile games can be woken right back up so you can resume playing. Most well-made mobile games can even tolerate an iPhone user's need to take a phone call, snap a photo or use any other app, other than the game, before returning to the game.
Through auto-saves, build stability and who knows what else, most mobile games can be woken back up just fine. Not the Game of the Year contender The Walking Dead. It wakes up about as well as a cranky one-year-old. After interruption, it often will display the moment you last saw in the game, but then it will freeze, choke, kick back to the title screen and wipe out any progress you made since your last auto-save. Because of this, I've had to replay small chunks of the game two and three times.
My colleague Jason Schreier has had the same problem with the iPad version, aka the version I almost played this game on. But I'd say that an iPad arguably could be considered a device you do play on for fairly long sessions. I could accept a save system and inability to handle idle states well on a tablet. On a phone? That system is terrible.
The game also doesn't support cloud-saves, for some reason. Progress in the iPhone game can't be picked up on the iPad, which is another way The Walking Dead fails to meet the standards of average iOS games, let alone one of the supposed best of the bunch.
In the days to come we'll be talking about our Game of the Year contenders here at Kotaku. I imagine we'll be talking about The Walking Dead quite a bit. I know that I'll be able to talk about the game's best qualities, but I'll also know that I experienced the game at its worst. I played the Skyrim PS3 version of the game and am simply grateful I haven't run into many of the crash bugs listed by other players on iTunes (I only hit one game-killing bug, early in the game's second act; re-loading to the last checkpoint resolved it).
I don't recommend that you avoid The Walking Dead. You'd be missing out. But I do recommend that you avoid the iPhone version if you can. It's more hassle than an iPhone gamer should have to put up with.
News of an Activision-published Walking Dead FPS first shambled out over the summer, but all we've had so far is a few screenshots and art pieces to set the mood. This trailer give a first look at the gameplay in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, which is being developed by Terminal Reality. Seems like some stealth and redirection tactics are going to be necessary amongst all the melee and shooting. What do you think, TWD fans? Does this clip make you want to play as one of the show's more controversial characters?
I didn't notice how fairly quiet a year it's been for zombies until doing this round-up of all the flesh-eaters this year's media has to offer, but there were definitely some highlights that more than fill those gaps. Some duds, too, but you can't expect such a watered down narrative to always go over so creatively.
So let's take a look back at 2012 and all the zombie media that it had to offer. From games to comics to TV shows to film, here are a few highlights. If we missed any you're keen on, share your noteworthy selections in Kinja below.
This is the star of the list. Telltale's wonderfully harrowing episodic series was a somber exploration through your personal judgments as the game threw increasingly difficult decisions your way. The point-and-click adventure game also featured some refreshingly interesting characters, including a remarkably enjoyable young Clementine and a steadfast Lee. Though definitely the mediocre platform of the bunch, the iOS version available was an alternative to non-console gaming users. Which is great, because the more people that play this touching eye-opener the better.
There were hits and misses embedded in this franchise's 2012 existence. Resident Evil 6, for instance, was incredibly underwhelming. As much as the game tried to make interesting changes to the series, it felt too outdone by other games. Resident Evil: Revelations was a surprise hit on the 3DS, combining a quality Resident Evil vibe with an episodic structure that suited the mobile game well. And then Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City ran somewhere in the middle at mediocre.
The mod so good it's getting its own standalone game, DayZ has had an incredibly good year. It's marked by hundreds of compelling player tales on survival and trust, and a bunch of funny videos, too. Truly an experience unlike any other MMO or zombie game.
Not only is ZombiU arguably the game that makes best use of the Wii U's GamePad capabilities so far in the early launch days of Nintendo's new console, but it's also a fascinating game. The shooter experiments with new concepts—like having to kill zombified versions of your previous lives—and includes an incredibly fun multiplayer mode, too.
But, wait! This is a first-person, war shooter! Well it also has a multiplayer option completely dedicated to zombies. And it's quite good, if not a little tough.
Zombro is a clever, bright puzzle game where you can dismember your zombie body to roll, bounce, and crawl your way around each level. It's a lot of fun.
Deploy survivors, give them tasks, and survive.
Here's an interesting take on the world of zombie games. Zombies, Run! is an exercise game. As you go for a run around your neighborhood, you'll be listening to the story and taking instructions from the game, picking up supplies while being chased by zombies.
I imagine viewers are split on this one, as video games adapted into movies are never great. But our movie reviewer, Matt Hawkins, thinks that there are enjoyable elements to the latest film. Like great action sequences and some actual nods to the game, albeit not always too accurately.
This stop-motion animated zombie flick is different than what you're used to. It leans to the comedy variety rather than a horror film. Protagonist Norman has to use his ability to speak with the dead to fend off against the living dead. It's an adorable entry in what is normally a gross and scary one.
Perhaps not the most unique of zombie movies, REC 3: Genesis is at the least packed with gore and ludicrous action. What else can you expect of a wedding gone awry at the hands of a disgusting and infectious illness?
AMC's The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series, started off strong. Though losing some of its viewer loyalty somewhere near the end of season one and a whole lot of boring farm episodes in season two, the show has since picked up the pace in recent months with season three where the group of survivors finally starts to make more moves. The highlight of which has to be Daryl, who is certainly my favorite character, and unique to the show.
Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series is absolutely fantastic. Artist Charlie Adlard's powerful black-and-white imagery adds to the many, many tense moments in the series that has been ongoing since 2003. It follows a group of survivors as they meet their biggest threats head-on: other survivors. Think of the series as less about zombies and more about the world zombies have left in their wake.
From Evan: If you only know Robert Kirkman from The Walking Dead or his other creator-owned hits like Invincible, you may not know that he delivered a gleefully gross mash-up of superheroes and shambling undead a few years back. Marvel Zombies gave us versions of Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Man and others who devoured every human being on their home planet and went battling across the multiverse to hunt for more fresh meat. This year, a massive anthology collected all the MZ mini-series between two covers. It's good gory fun that makes the good guys very bad. Get it for the zombie lover in your life.