2012 has been packed full of blockbuster video game hits, and we’ve compiled a list of our favorites of the year.
“Halo 4” (Xbox 360)
Master Chief is one of gaming’s most iconic figures. Having debuted on the original Xbox over a decade ago, the space marine returns in “Halo 4,” and he proves he’s not too old for this stuff.
At first glance, it may look like Master Chief is fighting the same old baddies (the Covenant), but “Halo 4” brings with it a new race of enemies known as the Forerunners. “Halo” fans familiar with the series’ backstory will know of the Forerunners from the game’s companion novels, but “Halo 4” is the first time we get to meet them face-to-face. We’re surprised at how scary these enemies are.
The good news is you can use their ammo against them, and just when you thought you’ve seen it all, developer 343 Industries provides a number of really creative weapons that will make your inner geek’s jaw drop. Xbox Live support for matches with your friends and the most stunning visuals we’ve seen yet make “Halo 4” the best Xbox 360 exclusive for any action gamer.
“New Super Mario Bros. U” (Wii U)
What’s a new Nintendo console without a Mario game? Thankfully, Nintendo isn’t making us wait, giving the famed plumber a day-one launch with “New Super Mario Bros. U.” If you aren’t familiar with the “New Super Mario Bros.” series, think about it like the old-school Super Mario games: Move from left to right, stomp some goombas, collect some coins, and repeat until you defeat the evil Bowser. Simple but awesome.
In “New Super Mario Bros. U,” Nintendo takes that classic gameplay and gives it a beautiful visual makeover thanks to colorful high-definition graphics. We also love the feature that allows you to play the game on the GamePad controller without having to turn on the television.
“New Super Mario Bros. U” also has a bunch of multiplayer modes allowing you and three other friends to pick up Wii remotes and join the action. You can work together to complete the level, or sabotage each other. Add a fifth person with the tablet and they can create platforms to help (or harm) you. This is a must-have game for any Wii U household.
“Assassin’s Creed III” (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U)
“Assassin’s Creed” is one of the most popular video game series to come out in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation, and for good reason. Stealth skills combined with parkour elements and a variety of offensives make for a game that rarely disappoints. After a few games set in Italy during the Renaissance, “Assassin’s Creed III” moves across the Atlantic during the Revolutionary War.
You play as Connor, an assassin with a Native American background thrust into the middle of the ongoing Templar war that is the common thread throughout the “Assassin’s Creed” series. Connor must use his skills to uncover the people behind a tragedy that befalls his village.
The story is compelling, and the ability to visit New York, Boston and Philadelphia during Revolutionary times is a great change of pace for an action game. “Assassin’s Creed III” also has online multiplayer options, but we were so engaged by the single-player mode that multiplayer took a back seat. If you’re looking for a unique backdrop for an adventure game or if you’re just up for killing some redcoats, “Assassin’s Creed III” fits the bill.
“PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” (PlayStation 3)
“PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale” brings together all of your favorite PlayStation characters (and a bunch you’ve probably never heard of) into a fun, action-packed fighter for up to four players. Imagine suave “Uncharted” star Nathan Drake battling against world-weary “Tekken” expert Heihachi. Add Kratos (“God of War”) and SackBoy (“LittleBigPlanet”) to the mix, and now you know what to expect from All-Stars.
Controls are as simple as pressing a direction and one of the action buttons to unleash a variety of moves specific to that character. You also unlock special moves that have the ability to clear the entire stage of enemies. We found ourselves playing again and again just to see all the different moves from all the characters.
Once you’ve mastered a few of your favorite characters, take them online via the PlayStation Network for competitive matches against gamers from around the world, or keep it local with up to four players battling it out on the same TV.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops II” (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U and PC)
When a series continues to break sales records with every new title, you know it has to be good. “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” is the latest shooter from Treyarch and Activision, but instead of taking you to Vietnam or World War II, they’re taking us to the year 2025.
Unlike other games that take place in the future, we’re not talking about some far-fetched world. Instead, they did a good job of portraying a future that is entirely plausible. If you’re a “Call of Duty” vet, you’ll recognize a few of the characters as you go through the single-player campaign, but if you’re new to the series, “Black Ops II” is a great way to jump into the action.
Of course, there are millions of “Call of Duty” gamers out there who won’t even touch the single-player campaign and will instead hop right into multiplayer. It’s that good, no matter if you’re playing a traditional deathmatch or one of the zombie modes that serve as a refreshing change of pace. If the action gamer in your household hasn’t played this one yet, do him a favor and pick up “Black Ops II.”
“FIFA 13” (Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
“FIFA” racks up annual sales that rival games like “Call of Duty” and “Mario,” with over 100 million copies sold since it hit the scene way back on the Sega Genesis. “FIFA” also delivers a quality soccer game that improves with every iteration, and “FIFA 13” is no exception.
Whether you’re a soccer newcomer or a veteran of “the beautiful game,” “FIFA 13” adapts to your skill level from the start. Simple controls allow you to get a handle on the basics of passing, shooting and lobbing, while experienced gamers can quickly move onto using the analog sticks to perform moves that include juking defenders and dishing out one-touch passes to a rushing striker.
It also doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the Premiere League, MLS or just International play, because “FIFA” will have the team for you. Visually, the game is represented as if you’re watching the game on TV, and audio is one of “FIFA’s” strength (yes, those are team-specific chants just for your team). Whether you’re a soccer fan or not, “FIFA 13” is a worthy addition to your gaming library.