What Game Surprised You This Year?

Rather than pick a blockbuster or indie from this year, I'm going to turn the calendar back to 2010 and raise BioShock 2 above my head. I was in a shooter mood and keen to see how well my new notebook — an ASUS UX32VD — could handle the visual load. The only problem was... I didn't really want to play it.

I'd just come off consecutive playthroughs of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Dishonored and was burnt out from games that promoted stealth over action. I was never a big fan of the Thief series, so you can imagine how frustrating these two games proved to me, the guy who loves grenade launchers and heavy machine guns over sleeping darts and hand-to-hand.

Don't get me wrong — I had a blast with both games and I know you can just gun your way through them — but I'm not a fan of games that passive-aggressively pigeon-hole you into the stealth mentality. I think Dues Ex was the most disappointing to me in this respect. I played the first one and kitted myself out to be a walking tank and expected a similar path would be available in the latest one. There sort of is, but it is nowhere near as viable, where even with the armour upgrades you're still incredibly fragile and you get reduced XP for "loud" kills.

As I said, I enjoyed both games. I'm not criticising them, more I had certain expectations that weren't met, but I understand (and have no lingering issues with) why that's the case.

But yes, back to BioShock 2. It was something I was extremely reluctant to play, but I was desperate for an action shooter that wasn't completely mindless (say, anything starting with Call of Duty). I felt the story of Rapture was a hard one to tell twice and I had doubts about how well the game could impart vulnerability and isolation when the player is in control of one of the city's most fearsome foes. A good way to mix up the formula, sure, but it departed from the staples that made its ancestor, System Shock, so successful.

Yet, I persevered. And for the first couple of hours, my fears were validated. It started slowly, everything looked and felt the same and the story, well, I wasn't sure if there was one. But, once the game found its groove things picked up quickly. You get a few weapons and some plasmids, the gene tonics open up and suddenly it started being fun. The way the game handles Big Daddy encounters is excellent and allows most of your arsenal to remain useful.

So, what game surprised you this year? It doesn't have to be the latest triple-A, or even released in 2012. Just a title you expected to be one thing and was something else. Or you thought would be a bit rubbish, but deprived you of sleep and human contact for longer than it should have?


Comments

    Biggest surprise for the best was Resident Evil: Revelations on the 3DS
    Not only did it turn out to be a superb game even for a handheld, but it was WAY better than it's console counterparts.

    Surprise for the worse was Black Ops 2's storytelling
    What the hell were Treyarch's writers thinking? In standard popcorn action flicks its the hero's that have the humane sometimes tortured backstory whilst the villains are 1 dimensional psychopaths, but in Cod Blops 2 those roles are reversed and its the heroes that are the crazy ones making them come out more like "Team America but serious" fashion of recklessness.

      Glad to heat about Revelations!

      I'm a bit mad for RE and Revelations is on my list of games to play. I just can't bring myself to buy a 3DS for it, because I know it's the only thing I'd use it for -- much like the GameCube for the RE remake.

        You missed out on some awesome games if you only used your GC for the RE Remake.

        You deserve to be slapped Logan!! Pikmin, Smash Bros, Wind Waker, Fzero, dear god - the list goes on for what you SHOULD have a Gamecube for.

        Atleast the prices of the 3DS has come down should you choose to get one, and there should be some stellar games this year for it also.

        dude you only played RE on gamecube and you are a shooter fan, what about Metroid prime? bioshock is good but playing metroid prime for the first time was like walking into the future.

        Last edited 30/12/12 9:43 pm

      Mine was Resident Evil 5. Not 6, but 5. I only got around to playing it recently, after picking it up cheap. I wasn't that keen on playing it because I'd heard some mixed things about it. So I didn't go in with particularly high expectations but it ended up surprising me and was enjoyable. Would I have paid full price for it? Well, no, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it.

    I was blown away by The Walking Dead, I genuinely didn't expect it to be as powerful and moving as it was.

      As some one who generally shuns point and click titles I have to agree it was quite good.

      Can't agree more. Finished it two days ago. Best gaming experience I've had in a long while.

    Honestly? It was Black Ops 2. I went in with the attitude of, "Here we go again" and found myself enjoying the campaign a whole lot.

    Pokémon Black 2. And White 2, I suppose. I was very surprised by Black and White, but going through another adventure in the same region, right after finishing Black...
    But, I played it anyway, and while it took a bit of time to get there, it became my favourite Pokémon game to date.

    Sleeping Dogs. Expected just another middle of the road GTA wannabe game. What I got was an amazingly well done kung fu game where the gun play was a distant second thought (in an ENTIRELY good way!) the driving sections were solid, the city layout was well done and it felt like a real, living breathing city, in some ways even better done than any of GTA's cities. The developer said it filled a middle ground that hadn't been touched by these styles of games yet. The chop-socky genre definitely fit in perfectly with Sleeping Dogs.

      Straight up. The city was a fresh breath of air, the main character was interesting, and combat was fun, fluid, and pretty flexible with weapons and background hazards to sweeten the deal.

        Indeed. All the characters I can remember months later. Jacky was great fun. Dog Eyes was a shifty bastard who I just wanted to ice so bad... Winston I initially loathed but grew to really adore, I genuinely felt sad when he and his bride were killed on their wedding day and Wei Shen I thought was one of the best developed characters in years. I loved the conflict that arose from being an undercover cop. Actually that's possibly my only true criticism was I thought that at the same time? That aspect COULD have been better focused on at the same time. You should have had more of a focus on it as well, more conflict than there already was should have arisen from being undercover. But aside that, I adored it.

        DAMN IT NOW I WANNA PLAY IT AGAIN!!!!!

      A great game. I wrote it off initially, after trying the PC demo, and hating the keyboard control scheme during melee. Got it with the Hitman: Absolution deal on PSN, and promptly put Hitman aside to get my Kung Fu on! The Zodiac Tournament done in the style of Enter the Dragon was very cool.

    For me it was Walking Dead, Sleeping Dogs and Mark of the Ninja.

    I expected so little of those games and they gave me back so much.

      Plus they, all 3 of them, set great standards for being ports :)

      Those three plus Spelunky. Damn it's addictiveness!

    I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed Assassin's Creed 3, with all of the negative reviews floating around. Only quibbles I have with it are the sometimes finicky controls, everything else is absolutely superb.

      Really? I'm jealous that I couldn't like the damned bug/QTE-ridden mess.

    Hotline Miami and FTL.

    Two games I really didn't see myself playing but after hearing all the good word of mouth I picked them both up cheap.

    Hotline Miami is really simple on your initial play but as you progress the depth of the design really comes out. Planning how you are going to kill five guys in room starting out with just a baseball bat is thrilling. When you pull it off, god damn, it's just fun.

    FTL, never really been into rougelikes before, but the word of mouth got me. Once again, it appears really simple at first glace but there is a lot of depth in it's design. What I love the most is the story you end up creating for the characters and how much of connection you get for them and your ship.

    Spec Ops : the line. God damn, that was not what i was expecting. Best surprise of 2012.

      Same here. I'd heard good things about the story, which is why I bothered trying it all. I was under the impression the it was about the realities of war, but what really drew me in was the fact that the game was a direct criticism of its own genre. Because of that, this seemingly run-of-the-mill game I bought on a whim, just may be one of my favourites.

    Borderlands 2. I Had a ton of fun with my mates in co-op. I never really liked Borderlands 1 so much though.

    Kid Icarus. I wasn't really sure what to expect from it, even from the brief demos I'd had at the various Nintendo setups around the place. But then I picked up and started playing properly and WHOA! This game friggen kicks arse! Especially loved the goofy Saturday Morning Cartoon feel it had to it, self-awareness thrown in about the place, the tone of it all was just perfect.

    Actually all three of my Wii U titles surprised me too. Nintendo Land and ZombiU I figured would be good, but was surprised by just how good they actually were. And NSMBU... I didn't think I'd enjoy that much at all, wasn't even all that fussed about getting it. But I was completely wrong about that one :P

      Kid Icarus is sitting in the draw at the moment, ive got a back log of games im determined to play. Wasn't sure if it would be as good as the original (god knows how many hours I spent on it) so its good to hear that its enjoyable. Will be moving it up the list a bit now :)

    FTL
    Spec Ops
    Mark of the Ninja
    Super Mario 3D Land

      Spec ops and Mark of the ninja definitely.
      I would include RE revelations, p3p and SH downpour.
      sh is till horrible, but better then I expected.

    Mark of the Ninja. Soooooooooooooooooooooo good!

    Logan: did you play the singleplayer DLC for Bioshock 2? It's as good (if not better) than the main story.

    Anyway, for me - Far Cry 3 surprised me.

    I hated FC2 - the stealth system didn't work, I hated the setting, etc. But I'm loving FC3. Stalking through the jungle figuring out how to best attack an outpost is one of the best gaming experiences in year - nothing linear whatsoever.

    Sleeping Dogs for all the reasons mentioned aboved.

    Max Payne 3. The single player was great, but honestly, a friend and I spent so much time in the multiplayer that it's just crazy.

      Wow - you read my mind. Sleeping Dogs was brilliant, much more than a GTA knock off with the most fun combat since Batman, and I'm currently running through Max Payne 3 single player. Just picked it up over Xmas for $36 at EB Games of all places, and I can't put it down.

      Haven't looked at the multiplayer yet. What's so good about it. Only MP I have been playing lately is ACIII - at least there is something in that game they didn't mess up.

    FTL cost me a lot of hours when I first got my hand on it. That far exceeded my expectations. So simple yet punishing and the "just one more go" factor was hard to ignore.

    A close second was XCom. I wasn't too sure how the reboot would hold up, and was surprised to find it delivered.

      Yeah, I think FTL has to be mine too. It didn't strike me as a game that would be particularly appealing to me, but after listening to people on Twitter go on and on and on and on about it as they're wont to do, I finally game in a picked up a copy and lo and behold found myself really enjoying it.

    Gears of War 3, came in at a time this year (July) when there wasn't much around to get excited about game wise and it was a real crap shoot. I bought the first one back when I bought an Xbox and although it was interesting enough for me to play through to the end, I found the Controls frustrating (Cover and Run being the same button lead to a lot of deaths for me) and the Multiplayer didn't have any of the Cover based gameplay of the single player, instead it was all shotguns at 20 paces

    That's why 3 (I never played 2) really suprised me, pleasantly. The control issues had been fixed up - they're still using A to run and take cover, but now the game seems to understand the context better, your AI teammates revive you in Single Player now - a huge improvement which cuts down on frustrating deaths. Moreover the multiplayer was so improved it actually replaced Battlefield 3 as my 'go-to' gaming fix.

    The Binding of Isaac
    - Originally bought it on impulse during the mid-year Steam sales and out of the 20 or so games I ended up picking up it became the one I spent the most time with and probably enjoyed the most. I had absolutely no idea what it was about and was pleasantly and disturbingly surprised about what the game was like.

    The Walking Dead
    - I heard it was just alright but I didn't expect it to be that bloody awesome. Aidan summed up what I thought about it too.

    Airmech.
    - I really didn't expect much from it, but being a clone of Herzog Zwei and being a fan of that I had to give it a go. Was pleasantly surprised by how fast and fun it is!

    Botanicula.
    - Loved Machinarium and had high expectations for this game. Well, the game well and truly surprised me. Loved the music and the humour, and it was great to see some more cleverly thought out puzzles. Shame it was over so fast..

    ZombiU.
    - I expected something great, then to see the reviews lost hope. After playing it for a bit I was shocked at how good it was, and its great to jump into the Miiverse community and see different stats, screen shots and people having fun. Tis a great game.

    The Last Story.
    - Hadnt used my Wii in a while, lots of games ive been meaning to buy/play but never got around to it. Been playing this the past couple of days and I am really enjoying it - never thought I would be able to get into a JRPG like this again.

    Far Cry 3, by far. I hadn't played any of the prior games and wasn't even planning on playing this one either. I heard a few good things and bought it on impulse. Turned out to be the most engrossing game I've played in a very long time, and I'm quite disappointed how it's been passed over by many GOTY awards.

    Technically a mod, but Black Mesa. I thought that the gameplay would have been changed in bad ways, and that the graphics would be the only improvement, but it is like a whole new game! It's amazing what the modding community can do

    FTL and Far Cry 3 both surprised me with awesomeness. XCOM I expected to love (and did).

    I'm so sorry to be using a game from a few years ago, but grabbed Fallout: New Vegas+DLC from a Steam sale for $12. I loved the shiz out of that game. Liking it so much was crazy surprising because I hated Fallout 3 with a passion. The New Vegas setting and goofy atmosphere was tops

    Driver San Francisco. Played this year and it was amazing! Haven't played a great driver game since the first, so much fun

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