We are officially in the great summer game drought of 2012. While Hollywood releases its biggest hits during the middle of the year, the game industry annually holds back its hand until the fall. The result? A very slow summer of new game releases, only to be followed by a big fall with releases like Borderlands 2 in September, AAA titles like Assassin's Creed III in October, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in November.
While 2012 hasn't been a great year so far when it comes to frontline console releases, below are my picks for six great 2012 games to put in your GameQ this summer.
Although its ending was mired in controversy, no one can deny that Mass Effect 3 is still one of the best - if not the best - game so far in 2012. The end of this sci-fi trilogy has Commander Shepard confronting the Illusive Man and coming face to face with the mysterious Reapers who planned to rid the galaxy of all human life. The third Mass Effect deftly blends together the best of the Action and RPG genres, as seen in the game's surprisingly fun multiplayer mode. But, above all else, Mass Effect 3's branching narrative is both innovative and memorable, allowing players to experience an ending authored by the choices they make throughout the game. If you're worried about the so-called "bad ending," there's some good news: This July, BioWare released free DLC that significantly expands on the ending.
Rockstar's return of Max Payne added multiplayer and a story set in Brazil.
2K's The Darkness II is the only game in 2012 to offer quad-wielding!
Any release from Rockstar is notable, although this year's game isn't the company's typical open-world adventure. Max Payne 3 is more of a typical action game like Gears of War or Uncharted, starring ex-cop Max who finds himself caught in the middle of a turf war in Brazil. It's fair to say that Max Payne 3 isn't as memorable as a game like Red Dead Redemption, but Rockstar's incredible production values make the single-player game a solid albeit somewhat challenging experience. Perhaps the most notable part of the game is its multiplayer mode, which lets players customize their own "crew" of friends, which can then be carried over to the multiplayer campaign in Grand Theft Auto V. In a year when there haven't been many big releases, Max Payne 3 is definitely one of the top games of 2012 so far.
Released with little fanfare back in February, The Darkness II is a psychological horror first-person shooter inspired by the comic book series. You play as Jackie Estacado, who wields The Darkness, a force that gives him supernatural powers - including the ability to wield two guns and two tentacles! These so called "demon arms" let players pick up and throw enemies and items around the environment. While the campaign is kind of short, the game is a solid weekend rental with a twist-filled story and interesting gameplay abilities you won't find in other shooters.
Although Sony has an incredible lineup for 2013 on the PS3 including The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, and Beyond: Two Souls, 2012 has been rather quiet so far for faithful Sony fans - besides the incredible downloadable game Journey. But, there is one boxed game that deserves a spot in your GameQ: Starhawk. Created by Lightbox Interactive out of Austin, Starhawk blends together strategy and action to create a spiritual sequel to the online shooter Warhawk. Here, you can build bases and structures on the ground to assist in your campaign, as well as pilot a flying mech called, of course, a Hawk. Thirty-two players can battle online, but it's the game's single-player campaign that impressed me the most with its story about two brothers caught in the middle of an epic and personal battle over "rift energy."
Talk about a fanboy dream: Earlier this year, Capcom released Street Fighter X Tekken, a previously unfathomable combination of characters from both of these fighting game universes. The 2D gameplay is similar to past Street Fighter titles, with super combos and a focus on tag-team action. While the game's release was met with some criticism because certain characters are included on-disc as DLC you have to pay to unlock, as a rental there's no denying that Street Fighter X Tekken is worth a spot in your GameQ.
One game genre that has been struggling as of late is Sports. EA Sports, in particular, seems to have been reduced to shipping the same games every year. This year, however, the re-birth of the SSX snowboarding game franchise was a welcome surprise. Although snowboarding is a niche sport, the nine deadly descents in the game are fun for anyone, including trips down the Himalayas and Antarctica where you can pull off your own tricks in the air - and sometimes alongside avalanches, darkness, and huge cliff drops. My favorite moment in the game? Using a "wing suit" to clear large gaps, which is a combination of parachuting and snowboarding.
Next month I'll be back with a look at the big games for the rest of 2012, including Assassin's Creed III, Black Ops 2, Borderlands 2 and much more. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @geoffkeighley and inside the GameFly app.