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My personal top 10 of 2012

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Hi everyone!

I haven't posted anything on my GameSpot blog for a while, but now seems like the perfect time to get back in the swing of things. There's a bit of an update at the end of this post about what I have been up to in recent months, but for now, here are my favourite 10 games of 2012.

10. Hitman: Absolution

It's easy to hate Absolution if you're a long-time Hitman fan. I loved Blood Money's open-ended gameplay, which is why I really didn't enjoy the second half of Absolution, which is a generic stealth corridor crawl. However, some of the earlier levels are classic Hitman. Large, open environments with a selection of murderous fun on offer. It's also a gorgeous looking game, perhaps one of the best visual feasts of 2012.

9. Max Payne 3

Bald Max might have lost his original noir setting, but he controls better than ever in his third outing. Rockstar managed to get some incredible physical movement out of the character and squeeze some of the best graphics of this generation out of the Xbox 360. The story is even darker than the original Remedy games in places and the non-stop action makes for one of the best third-person shooters in years.

8. WWE 13

This is definitely my "guilty pleasure" of 2012. On the surface of things, it's just another wrestling game, but I grew up watching the infamous Attitude Era and that is where this game excels. The Attitude Era mode has you recreating the most famous matches of the era, with bonuses and unlockable characters for performing moves and events exactly as they happened. It's a fantastic idea which has opened up the game to older wrestling fans who don't care for the modern era.

7. Forza Horizon

Horizon is an incredible debut title for Playground Games - a supergroup of racing developers, most of them former employees of Codemasters, Black Rock and Bizarre Creations. It's quite a short-lived experience for an open-world racer, but while it lasts it is terrific fun and has much more visual detail than the likes of Test Drive Unlimited.

6. FIFA 13

It's more FIFA, but the atmospheric improvements this year are fantasic. Managers shout from the technical area, subsitutes warm-up by the touchline and the commentary is incredible. If they are interrupted by events in the match during a long conversation, they will actually return to the conversation later in the game. The amount of voice work this must have required is mindboggling. They even return to a touchline reporter to describe injuries. There's a lot of attention to detail in FIFA 13.

5. Mark of the Ninja

Klei have finally managed to match their incredible art style with great gameplay. This 2D, side-scroller is one of the most enjoyable stealth games that I have played since Metal Gear Solid 3. It is beautifully animated and intelligently structured, with plenty of upgrades to unlock and a New Game Plus to really test your skills. I really do recommend that you download the Xbox Live Arcade trial version to at least try this game for yourself.

4. Far Cry 3

While I hated this game's story, I loved exploring massive open-world - running into all manner of local wildlife, climibing huge mountains and soaring in a hang glider. The unlockable combo kills are great fun too and make silently clearing pirates from an outpost one of the most satisfying mechanics of 2012. That said, if you have a good enough PC, you should definitely play it on that platform. The visuals really need to be experienced there and you will get a substantially better framerate than the console versions.

3. The Walking Dead

Telltale Games are continuing to keep the point-and-click adventure genre relevant in modern games. With their latest episodic series, The Walking Dead, they have taken their writing and storytelling to a whole new level.

The beautifully realised characters are some of the best ever created for a video game. The game also handles decision making and choice far more competently than any other. You are constantly forced to make harrowing and seemingly impossible choices which can have huge ramifications on the lives of the other characters and their behaviour towards the protagonist, Lee.

2. F1 2012

Over the last three years I have enjoyed watching Codemasters Birmingham take on the monumental challenge of turning the sport of Formula One into a modern video game success. With F1 2012, they have achieved something very special. While other racing studios have obsessed over physics and simulation in recent years, they have completely forgotten about motorsport. F1 2012 makes fewer attempts to be a driving simulation and instead is one of the most complete motorsport simulations ever created.

If you want to drive a wide variety of cars on the open road, then you should pick up Forza Horizon, but if you want to race and be thrilled by the best video game depiction of F1 in years, then you need F1 2012 in your collection.

1. Journey

My favourite game of 2012 is ThatGameCompany's PS3 masterpiece, Journey. It captured my attention from the main menu, to the closing credits by telling a fascinating story without the use of traditional game mechanics, or even any dialogue.

It is made even more magical by giving you the chance of bumping into other players at any time and in any place during the story. You can come across another player who is half-way through a puzzle and help them to solve it, completely changing the dynamic of a challenge which you might have had to solve on your own. You can stay with that person for hours, or part ways never to bump into each other again. Along this shared experience, you are never shown the other player's PlayStation Network username and you can only communicate with a series of whistles.

If you have not played Journey yet, you really should. It is an astonishing achievement in adventure, graphics and design and is one of the best games of this console generation.

A small personal update

Some of you might know that I started 2012 with a new job in iPhone game development. I decided to leave that company in October because I was missing the challenge of writing about games. Since then, I have returned to writing for GameSpot and you can read my first large feature article on the website right now! My name is in the homepage carousel at the moment too, which is a strange feeling!

GameSpot homepage carousel

I am also using my iPhone development experience to write about the business of mobile games for PocketGamer.biz.

That's my 2012 in video games. I'm looking forward to hearing about all of your favourites!

I'm a guest on the GameSpot UK podcast next week

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Hi everyone.

I'm going to be returning to the GameSpot UK Podcast next week, for the first time in nearly two years.

I will be representing Kwalee, the iPhone game developer where I now work as Community Evangelist.

If you're interested in how iPhone games get made, or why someone would leave editorial to work in development, then send some questions to podcast@gamespot.co.uk. Hopefully Mark Walton will ask me a few of them on the show.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of the episode!

So far in my new games Community Manager job

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As many of you know now, I recently started a new job as Community Evangelist at Kwalee, a new iPhone game developer started by David Darling CBE, who originally founded Codemasters.

Its been a thrilling place to work so far. Our first game is beginning to take shape and I've met some wonderfully talented people, all of whom have become instant friends.

My boss is Bruce Everiss, who was instrumental in the success of Codies during the 1990s and before that, the success of Commodore developer, Imagine Sofware.

Andrew Graham, the designer and progammer of theMicro Machines series,also joined us recently as Gameplay Guru. Its amazing to be working so closely with people who worked on some of the games I loved when I was growing up!

One of the cool things I'm doing at work is a series of blog entries called the Kwalee Quiz, where I interview our staff to find out more about their experience and background. The latest entry in this series is all about me, my work as a games journalist and how I came to work at Kwalee. Give it a read!Previous Kwalee Quiz blogs talk about some of our programmers and artists.

Hopefully I will be able to tell you all about our first game soon!

New job! Community Evangelist at Kwalee

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This week I started my first ever full-time job in the video game industry!

When I started using GameSpot in 2005 one of my biggest motivations was to one day work in video games. Through my user reviews I found volunteer work at HookedGamers.com and worked with Danny O'Dwyer (before his GS job days!) to grow his Citizen Game website.

Since then I have written for many games websites and in the last 18 months I have gotten to experience the thrills of being paid to do what I love. After Interning at GameSpot UK I was selected to write freelance reviews for the site on a regular basis and I also produced articles for 360 Gamer Magazine in the UK.

All of this experience, which started as a GameSpot user, has taken me to a new job as the Community Evangelist at an exciting new iPhone game developer, Kwalee. I am working with some legends of the games industry, including David Darling, who was the original founder of Codemasters in the 1980s. We're working on some really exciting games for iOS and my job is to create all of the Internet shenanigans to entertain the company's fans.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my writing at GameSpot and elsewhere and to all the users who I shared so many great experiences with. I'll still be around on GS; reading, blogging and commenting but it would be awesome if you guys could come and check out Kwalee too.

You can find us at:

www.kwalee.com

www.twitter.com/kwaleeteam

www.facebook.com/pages/kwalee/159184604166313

New job! Kwalee games Community Evangelist

by on

This week I started my first ever full-time job in the video game industry!

When I started using GameSpot in 2005 one of my biggest motivations was to one day work in video games. Through my user reviews I found volunteer work at HookedGamers.com and worked with Danny O'Dwyer (before his GS job days!) to grow his Citizen Game website.

Since then I have written for many games websites and in the last 18 months I have gotten to experience the thrills of being paid to do what I love. After Interning at GameSpot UK I was selected to write freelance reviews for the site on a regular basis and I also produced articles for 360 Gamer Magazine in the UK.

All of this experience, which started as a GameSpot user, have taken me to a new job as the Community Evangelist at an exciting new iPhone game developer, Kwalee. I am working with some legends of the games industry, including David Darling, who was the original founder of Codemasters in the 1980s. We're working on some really exciting games for iOS and my job is to create all of the Internet shenanigans to entertain the company's fans.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my writing at GameSpot and elsewhere and to all the users who I shared so many great experiences with. I'll still be around on GS; reading, blogging and commenting but it would be awesome if you guys could come and check out Kwalee too.

You can find us at:

www.kwalee.com

www.twitter.com/kwalee

www.facebook.com/pages/kwalee/159184604166313

My favourite games of 2011

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I haven't written one of these for a couple of years, but I've got a bit of time on my hands at the moment so here goes nothing!

2011 was another good year for the video games industry, though perhaps not a great one. It was most definitely a year dominated by sequels, some which made major improvements and some which took definite steps backwards (Assassin's Creed: Revelations anyone?). My top 10 for 2011 contains a few great sequels, a couple of surprising returns to form and an intriguing new IP.

Before I start though, I would like to give an few honorable mentions to games which haven't quite made it into my top 10. I loved the open-world exploration of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but the general "jankiness" of the experience (at least on PS3) and the repetitive dungeons and combat prevented it from getting into my top 10. Mortal Kombat was a terrific fighting game with a tremendous story mode, but it still suffers from issues carried over from the genre's early days, such as arbitrary difficulty spikes that slow player progress. Bastion and Child of Eden both blew me away with their stories and artistic prowess, but didn't stick long enough in my mind to make it into my top 10. That said, I recommend all of these titles, especially if you see them in any new year sales. On to the top 10!

10. L.A. Noire

Finally a game has come along which captures the tension and intrigue of a detective thriller. L.A. Noire's terrific atmosphere and astonishing facial graphics made it a remarkable game full of great moments and real consequences for your decisions. It would have been higher on my list, but the sharp change in Cole Phelps' personality at the half way point and the ludicrous final moments (this game really didn't need a flamethrower) held it back slightly in the end.

9. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

The Uncharted series is probably my favourite adventure franchise of all time and 3 kept everything that was great about the previous games to provide another exciting Drake tale. I expected this game to be fighting for the top spots on my list but, outside of the mind-boggling cargo plane and desert sequences, the set-pieces and pacing never reached the heights of Uncharted 2.

8. Portal 2

More great puzzles, hilarious surprises and entertaining characters. Portal 2 is exactly what I wanted from the sequel and provided some really neat ways to explore the history of Apeture Science. My girlfriend and I had a blast with the co-op too.

7. Driver: San Francisco

The quality of Driver: SF was easily the biggest surprise of this year. The driving had an awesome "car chase feel" and the seemingly bizarre "Shift" mechanic made for some incredible set-pieces. Add in a wonderful, if slightly mad, story and bonus chases based on classic movies and you have an unbelievable return to form for a franchise that most people thought was dead.

6. Forza Motorsport 4

Its physics might not match those of GT5 and its circuit selection is missing a few classics, but the Forza series continues to offer the most complete racing game on consoles. The community and customisation features are as good as ever and playing it with the Fanatec CSR Wheel is a great driving experience. "Simulation" steering with the CSR Wheel was spoiled by the most recent patch, but switching back to "Normal" mode makes everything feel just right again.

5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

While it might be flawed in some areas, this Deus Ex prequel creates an eerie futuristic atmosphere and weaves a political plot that you'll want to see through to the end, despite its cliches. The stealth gameplay is the best that I have played in a long time and the conversation options provide even more tricks than those in Mass Effect. If you fancy a change of scenery and pace for your next first-person game then you should definitely play this.

4. FIFA 12

I honestly didn't think that EA Canada could improve on last year's FIFA game. I was wrong. Major changes to the defensive gameplay make this the most tactical football game ever made, requiring planning and precision at all times to stay on top of tough situations. An absolute must-have for any football fan.

3. F1 2011

F1 2011 is the best Formula One simulation since Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4. The implementation of real-world strategic techniques and driving tools like KERS, DRS and Throttle Maps create a tactical depth which has been missing from all other console F1 titles in the past. The graphical detail is incredible too. It is a shame that the most recent patch really messed up the number of car failures for the top teams, but if you play without that patch installed you will have an amazing, authentic F1 experience.

2. DiRT 3

The quality of the DiRT series has been steadily increasing since it was first introduced at the beginning of this console generation and DiRT 3 is spectacularly good. The car handling is a sublime balance of realism and accessibility and is only beaten by GT5 for quality of steering wheel support. The graphics are gorgeous and the new Gymkhana mode offers an exciting way to break up the traditional off-road formula. It could have used more rally stages, rather than hanging onto the truck/buggy racing from previous games, but this is still a terrific package that cements Codemasters' position as the best racing game developer at present.

1. Batman: Arkham City

As a huge Batman fan I could not have been more blown away by Rocksteady's sequel to 2009's Arkham Asylum. The story takes surprising twists and turns and features a glorious collection of superbly voiced Bat-villians. The open-world makes you feel even more like The Dark Knight than in the original thanks to exhilarating traversal techniques which allow you to shock and surprise enemies. The Riddler Trophies and Challenge Maps are even tougher than last time too, creating a massive amount of content and an overall package which is one of the best action-adventure games of all time.

First Impressions: F1 2011 - v1.02

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F1 2011 v1.02 is now available as a free title update on Xbox 360 and PlayStation. I have just completed my first post-patch 50% distance race at Hungaroring on the Xbox 360. You can read an account of this race below and my original review for GameSpot UK here.

In qualifying especially the AI is much better and closer to real life. Results were mixed up in each session and it certainly wasn't the same top 10 as usual in Q3. Got pipped for pole by Vettel in the dying moments of the session as well - so plenty of realism there :P

However, in the race there were A LOT more retirements than I have ever seen in this game before. By half distance the following drivers had all crashed out: Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Massa (the only one who didn't crash, retired due to a puncture), Schumacher and Liuzzi. More AI mistakes/failures is nice, but 3 of the top 6 drivers failing to finish is a bit OTT.

Another weird thing was that tyre wear seemed MUCH more severe in the race. Not sure if that's down to this circuit specifically (haven't tried any others yet), but I had to make one extra stop compared to the same race pre-patch as neither compound lasted as long as before.

Before the patch at this track I stopped on laps 6 (prime), 16 (prime) and 28 (option). After the patch and thanks to much higher tyre wear my stops were on laps 5 (prime), 13 (prime), 21 (option), 27 (prime). And I had to work hard to make the last set make it all the way to the finish on lap 35.

UPDATE

I have now done a second 50% race, at Spa this time.

Tyre wear is definitely more significant since the patch. I had to 3 stop, whereas I 2 stopped pre-patch.

There is a massive problem with the game now though. The AI failures are ridiculous. After having both McLarens, one Red Bull and one Ferrari retire in my first race, something similar has happened in my second.

In my second race (Spa) Webber retired after 4 laps, both McLaren's retired on lap 6 and later in the race Massa retired (with a puncture as in my first race) and Vettel retired a lap later.

Clearly something has gone wrong with the AI failures, so much so that I might delete my Xbox system cache so that I can play offline without this patch installed, as I don't play online anyway.

UPDATE 2

I've finished a third 50% race now, at Montreal.

Only had two retirements this time: Schumacher and Perez. I also managed to use the same 3 stop strategy that I used pre-patch without any noticeable tyre wear problems.

Hopefully this will be the pattern going forward and those first two races with the bizarre retirements were unfortunate freak races.

UPDATE 3

I am now beginning to hear more reports from fans who are also seeing very high DNF rates for the top three teams. If this becomes the norm over the coming days then F1 2011's realism will be severely damaged.