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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Gaming Review of 2012: Sequels Galore

Published: January 18, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

January releases such as Final Fantasy XIII-2 and December games including Far Cry 3, 2012 brought a wide ranging collection of stellar video games to try out. In handheld gaming, Sony released the successor to the Playstation Portable, the Playstation Vita, and has since faced a mixed reception. Nintendo, bringing forth the first console of the eighth generation of gaming, released their new Wii U console. It marked the first foray into high-definition gaming for the house that Mario built. Games deserving honorable mention that just barely missed the list include New Super Mario Bros. U, Persona 4 Golden and Dishonored. Looking forward, 2013 appears set to include new hardware from Sony and Microsoft as well as new games such as the sixth generation of Pokémon with Pokémon X and Pokémon Y in stores this October.
Before looking at the year ahead, below, in no particular order are 10 of the best games from 2012. One notable trend is the prevalence of sequels: many developers and gamers stuck to what they know and the franchises that have staying power. Unsurprisingly, it seems to have worked to their benefit.

Halo 4
The Master Chief returned—on Election Day no less—to thunderous applause. While some had concerns about 343 Industries taking over as the series’ developer, they did a great job of bringing back the Master Chief and setting the stage for an interesting sequel trilogy.

Pokémon Black and White 2
The latest releases in the long running Pokémon series, and now officially the last games in the fifth generation of the series, offered a new take on Pokémon sequels. The series was set in the same region as the most recent games but take place a few years later. Seeing what happened to characters from earlier Pokémon games, and having the ability to battle almost every gym leader from prior games in special tournaments, ensured both excellent adventure and nostalgia.

Kingdom Hearts 3D
Dream Drop Distance is the latest, and hopefully last, Kingdom Hearts game that builds toward the much-anticipated Kingdom Hearts III. 3D introduced new worlds, tied stories together from the many side games, and offered extensive story and gameplay for both series protagonist Sora and Riku. Although a handheld release, the visuals were certainly on par with the rest of the series.

Mass Effect 3
After 2012, gaming controversy cannot be mentioned without discussing Mass Effect 3. Bioware’s concluding chapter to the Mass Effect Trilogy finally brings to the forefront the battle against an extragalactic force known as the Reapers. With great visuals, and three gameplay modes—Action, Story and RPG—there’s also a variety of ways to play the game. Many choices made in the earlier installments affect the final game.

Transformers: The Fall of Cybertron
A game based off of a toy franchise is not often worth praising. It is even more astonishing when such a game’s sequel makes a top 10 list. Fall of Cybertron offers excellent gameplay, great levels and an interesting take on the last days before the transformers abandon their planet and head to Earth.

Assassins Creed 3
After a trilogy of games covering the story of Renaissance assassin Ezio, Ubisoft finally released a game with a new protagonist, Connor, along with a new setting in colonial America. Even though the game had a lot of glitches at launch, after a few update patches it becomes impossible to deny the impressive level of things to do in the game’s open-world environment.

Call of Duty Black Ops II
Yet another of Activision’s annual Call of Duty releases. Black Ops II highlights include a revamped multiplayer level up system, in which weapons and equipment advance with use, an updated Zombies mode and a much praised campaign story. As with any series that features an annual offering, new features are a must. This year’s new features included a future warfare storyline and alternate endings to the campaign story.

Borderlands II
A blend of first-person shooter, role-playing and action, Borderlands II is much like the 2009 game that preceded it. The story still involves treasure hunters searching across the fictional planet Pandora—a different planet Pandora than the Avatar film series—five years after the story of the first game. While the story is not amazing, the gameplay is top notch. With the many random treasure vaults throughout the planet and customizable aspects of the weapons, there is no shortage of fun gameplay.

The only non-sequel on this list is also the only indie game on the list. Developed by Thatgamecompany, it’s presented entirely through visuals. Beyond the opening tutorial, no words are spoken or written until the end credits. It’s a game about a robed figure’s journey to a mountain very far in the distance, which is seen at the game’s beginning. Its simplicity makes it an excellent game. Additionally, its soundtrack became the first video game soundtrack nominated for a Grammy Award. It faces tough competition from movies including The Artist and The Dark Knight Rises.

Far Cry 3
Unlike most sequels, Far Cry 3’s story doesn’t connect with stories from prior titles in the series. Another hybrid of FPS and RPG games, Far Cry 3 tells the story of a group of friends on a vacation that goes awry and the decisions one of them has to make in order to survive and escape.