A lot happened last year. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was downright ugly. I think it’s safe to say that when it came to the horror games of 2012, there was something for everyone. There’s the bustling indie horror revolution, which brought us amazing games like Slender and DayZ, both of which will soon be getting their own standalone games. That was fueled by Steam Greenlight, and even Kickstarter, to a certain degree. Also, zombies. There were a lot of those, too. Too many, even, and I never thought I’d say that. The year also brought us long anticipated sequels to two of the major horror franchises, with Resident Evil 7 and Silent Hill: Downpour. Oh, and Bloody Disgusting got a total site redesign. It looks gorgeous now (I know, I’m shameless).
I’ve looked through the highs and lows of 2012, brought them all together, and now I’d very much like to share them with all of you. Let’s look back at the year that was 2012, so we can better prepare ourselves for the craziness that will be 2013.
Isn’t it annoying when someone asks you if you want your good news or your bad news first? I mean, who wouldn’t choose to hear the bad news, because no matter how awful the thing is that they’re about to tell you, you can take solace in the fact that there’s good news on the way. With that in mind, let’s start this retrospective off with the good news.
To me, 2012 was all about indie horror. Mark Hadley’s Slender: The Eight Pages scared the crap out of all (or most) of us, and eventually led to a surge of reaction videos on Youtube. Even if you’re not necessarily a fan of horror games, watching other people play it is just as fun as playing it yourself. It’s upcoming “reimagining” also looks pretty great.
There was also DayZ, the mod that brought post-apocalyptic survival to Arma II. It was created by Dean Hall, a soldier in the New Zealand Army, who was inspired by experiences he had while training. His time in the military directly affected the development of DayZ, transforming it into the survival-focused game it is today. What’s really unique about the game is the bandit mentality many of its players adopt. Because people are evil and death is permanent, many players started sticking together, much like you’d probably see in a real apocalyptic situation. The standalone game should be out early this year.
When Valve launched Steam Greenlight, a community driven indie distribution platform that lets the players vote on the games they’d most like to play, indie horror games like Miasmata, Routine, No More Room in Hell, The Intruder, Paranormal, as well as a host of Slender: The Eight Pages inspired games like Slender: The Orphanage, Faceless, and The Legend. It’s flawed, but the platform is still very much in its early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing how Greenlight evolves in 2013.
Kickstarter also became a tool for devs to get their games out into the world this year. Ever since Doublefine made over $3 million with their project, game devs across the world have flocked to the platform to find funding for their projects. Several have been successfully funded, including the zombie survival RPG Dead State, an “unconventional” game called Knock-Knock, and one of my personal favorites, Sir, You Are Being Hunted.
The Kickstarter funded Ouya console isn’t out yet, but that too should help indie devs reach a wider audience. The open source Android platform was built from the ground up to make it as easy as possible for developers to build whatever games they want. The $99 console is currently slated to release this Spring.
Finally, the games. As a whole, 2012 was a mixed bag, but there were many games that were actually pretty good. Minecraft finally came to the Xbox 360 and despite what some of you might say, that is totally a horror game. I’ve jumped as many times while playing that as I have while playing Silent Hill or Dead Space.
There was also Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, which was fantastic and packed with content, even though it was an arcade offering. Resident Evil didn’t have a great year, but that didn’t stop the 3DS exclusive Revelations from being incredible. We also got our first next gen console (though in this case, “next gen” is a term I’ll use loosely), the Wii U, which brought with it ZombiU as a launch title. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the only game to make a good case for the Wii U’s GamePad.
There was an episodic game from Telltale Games — you may have heard of it — called The Walking Dead. That was my pick for Game of the Year.
Guillermo Del Toro’s action horror game Insane, a planned trilogy, was picked up by a mystery developer after being dropped by THQ (more on them later), so we’ll actually get to see it. That’s excellent news for fans of Del Toro, who’s tried a few times to adapt something from HP Lovecraft (his film adaptation of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness was cancelled earlier this year).
Zombies were big in 2012. They were also big in 2011, and even 2010. We had numerous zombie games release, and there are even more on the way. I love zombie games, I really do, but when will this tremendously popular subgenre produce too many zombie games? Or rather, in the words of the late Albert Wesker, when will they reach “complete global saturation?”
Lastly, we have Resident Evil: Damnation. This, to me, was big, because it marked the first time I really enjoyed a Resident Evil movie since the first flick back in 2002.
Unfortunately, not all of the news was good news. Here are the happenings that weren’t quite so cheerful.
I’m not going to bury the lead, so let’s jump right into the games. Amy was a failure of monolithic proportions, garnering some of the worst reviews of any game released this year. Silent Hill tried, and failed, to bring multiplayer RPG elements to the mix with Book of Memories. Deadlight wasn’t awful, but it sure did disappoint. The first third of the game was fantastic, but it the rest was rubbish. Oh, and there was Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, which wasn’t very good even though it was developed by the Fatal Frame team and had an awesome idea (it was an Alternate Reality Game, or ARG, that used the 3DS’s camera to find ghosts in the real world).
I hinted at Resident Evil’s less than stellar year, and while we did get the excellent Revelations — Operation Raccoon City was a generic take on the squad-based shooter genre that definitely did not give Outbreak fans the game they’ve been hungering for since File #2 released way back in 2005. There was also Resident Evil 6. I loved it, but its baffling quantity of quick time events and generic Chris scenario (among other things) polarized critics and fans.
This year was also pretty heavy in the HD remaster department, and not in a good way. The Doom 3 BFG Edition didn’t quite fill the Doom 4 shaped hole in our hearts, the Silent Hill HD Collection was plagued with technical issues that Konami didn’t fix on the Xbox 360 version, and the Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection was just… meh.
I can’t believe it, but two of my favorite games of the year ended up being the most controversial. Blizzard decided you need to be online at all times to play Diablo III, then when it released the game was hit by server issues, keeping many players from enjoying the game they waited a decade to play. Then, that same day, after several players had beaten the game, they started complaining about the end-game. I can understand the issues with Diablo III, I have them too, but I cannot for the life of me understand why Mass Effect 3 received so much hate. I’m pretty sure it’s a perfect storm of hatred for Electronic Arts and a fairly bland ending that led to the mountains of nerd rage that washed over BioWare and EA after the game released. Ending aside, ME3 is an amazing game, and a fantastic end to a trilogy that’s grown to define this generation of consoles.
Did I mention there were a lot of zombie games? To me, that was both good and bad, so I thought I’d give it a mention here, too.
This wasn’t a great year for THQ, the publisher behind the upcoming Metro: Last Light, Saints Row 4, and South Park: The Stick of Truth (among others). The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, went private, and may soon be bought up by Ubisoft. It was a long time coming, as THQ has been struggling financially for some time now, but it’s still sad to see a great publisher collapse like this (though, thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the end of Kingdoms of Amalur dev, 38 Studios).
Oh yeah, and the PS Vita launched… yeah, that’s all I’ve got.
For a story to make it into this category it has to be really bad. THQ’s collapse, Amy’s demise, and all that Diablo/Mass Effect controversy was bad, but the following two stories were ugly.
DayZ is successful, and like all big successes, it inspired a copycat. The War Z tried to do what DayZ did, but then several players discovered several obvious lies in the game’s Steam description, followed by a pay-to-revive feature that was added as soon as the game hit the top of the Steam charts, which eventually led to the game being pulled from Steam.
The saddest news of the year wasn’t exclusive to the games industry. On December 14th, Adam Lanza murdered his mom, then entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered twenty children and six adults before committing suicide. People looked for someone or something to blame, as they do after tragedies like this. The blame for the incident was put on the man who committed the act, then on the guns that are so readily available in this country, then unsurprisingly, on violent media. After being quiet for several weeks after the mass murder, the National Rifle Association (NRA) held a press conference with the sole purpose of directing as much of the blame away from them as possible. It was desperate, and actually a little sad to watch as NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre didn’t look like he believed everything he said that day.
So we’re not ending on a sour note, I’m going to include zombies here, too! There were lots of ‘em! In fact, there were so many we dedicated a category in our fourth annual FEAR Awards (which is going on right now!) to the undead hordes! Vote here!
What did you think of 2012? Good? Bad? Ugly? Don’t remember it? Can’t wait to forget it?