Let’s face it, nobody really loves the idea of an exclusive, but some properties are owned by certain publishers, and hey, that’s the way it goes. We’re not quite at the stage where we have a utopian society of game publishers, just putting out games for our pleasure and nothing more.
2013 is looking like a bigger year for exclusives, especially if you are Sony or Nintendo, but we still had some big hitters in 2012, with some latecomers thanks to the Wii U.
As we run down each position, our writers will have their say on each title, telling you exactly why they think each game is so good.
Of course, we’d love to hear your thoughts and picks for this category too, so please leave comments at the end of the article. In reverse order then, let’s get it on!
3: ZombiU (Ubisoft, Wii U)
Mick Fraser: While games like New Super Mario Brothers U and Nintendo Land are the games Nintendo had to create for established fans of the brand, ZombiU is the game Nintendo released for everyone else. Not only a fantastic tech demo for the Wii U’s unique GamePad controller, but also an incredibly atmospheric survival horror in its own right, Ubisoft’s apocalyptic nightmare stands as one of the most impressive and intriguing launch games ever released, one that uses new technology to brilliant effect without ever resorting to simple gimmickry. Challenging, affecting, immersive, captivating and downright scary, ZombiU is not a game to approach lightly, but one that no Wii U owner should avoid.
Adam Cook: I had a funny feeling I would love this game. Early reports were confusing, and perhaps a result of people not having the required time with the game, but once North American reports of the retail game started saying things like “Dark Souls”, I knew this would be for me. The term “survival horror” has been bandied around far too easily, for too long, but ZombiU is exactly that. A return to the fear you’d feel just turning a new corner, a feeling that you weren’t the all-powerful protagonist of this world. Vulnerable, scared, tense, this game has everything needed to have the player on the edge of their seat for the entirety, and any game that drills that far into my head gets a thumbs up from me.
2: Halo 4 (Microsoft, Xbox 360)
Jonny Lewis: Microsoft must thank their lucky stars that Bungie churned out Halo: Combat Evolved for their fledgling Xbox console a decade ago. Since then, the Master Chief, and the Xbox brand, hasn’t looked back. Yeah, Xbox has become way more than just Halo in recent times, but there is no denying the lean, green fighting machines mass appeal.
Adam Cook: I keep saying I’m not a Halo fan, yet I appear to have almost all of the games in my collection. Halo 4, however, is the pick of the bunch. 343 Industries took an existing formula and made it as near their own as they could. It’s an incredible achievement, and one that finally saw a Halo game look as good as the titles it was always compared to, gameplay wise. Microsoft needed Halo this year, and boy did it deliver.
Mick Fraser: When Bungie waved goodbye to the Halo franchise with 2010’s Reach and announced that newly-formed studio 343 Industries would be taking the reins, the collective facepalms were almost enough to cause a worldwide butterfly effect. How could Bungie walk away, and how could any other developer do justice to such an illustrious name?
Well, 343 managed it. Halo 4 brings the Master Chief back in a big way, reuniting him with Cortana and introducing a brand new enemy in the Prometheans. The campaign is close to flawless, perfectly paced and impeccably directed, and the interplay between Cortana and the Chief still feels like the love story that never was. More than this, Halo 4 retains the series’ trademark sense of epic majesty, dressing the old-fashioned battle between good and evil in sci-fi threads and inviting us all along for the ride. Not only the finest platform exclusive of the year, but one of the finest shooters of the year too.
1: Journey (Sony, PlayStation 3)
Colm Ahern: From Flow, to Flower, to the mastery of Journey, thatgamecompany has proven itself to be a powerhouse on the PlayStation 3. Since releasing Journey, the studio is no longer exclusive to the Sony family of systems, and there’s no disputing how much of a loss that is for PlayStation. For everyone else, it’s fantastic. This developer’s games deserve to be played by a wider audience, meaning their multi-platform status benefits all gamers who may not have a PlayStation console and are yet to play a game like Journey.
Robin Parker: What more can you say about a game that has already had so many superlatives added to its name. Journey is a beautiful achievement from a developer who has slowly built up a respectable stable of bite-sized downloadable games.
Adam Cook: Journey is a game I had meant to sit and play alone, when I had time. But one evening, with friends round, I decided to just fire it up quickly, because the buzz it was getting was incredible. I played through the entire game there and then, as the entire room watch on, transfixed, maybe even hypnotised, I don’t know. What a game this is. It’s an example of people not being able to appreciate something for what it is. We live in an age where everything must be quantified, but Journey is just magnificent. Sony have continued to support this kind of game, with The Unfinished Swan, and even titles in the PixelJunk series that came before Journey. This is the best exclusive of the year, possibly of any year. One thing is for sure, the scene we often reference on The Godcast is one I’ll never forget, and one of the most incredible scenes ever presented in video game form.
Jonny Lewis: I had to bug a PlayStation 3 friend (by staying at their house for a few days, uninvited) to play Journey. I did so because of the buzz that surrounded the game upon its release earlier in the year. I didn’t quite agree with the praise that it got from the press in general, but in a year of few great platform exclusives, Journey shines through strongly.
Lee Garbutt: Journey really is the type of game you only see on Sony systems at the moment, and it proves that Sony have really upped their game when it comes to taking chances with unique downloadable content.
The flowing beauty will suck gamers in, with its unassuming gameplay, but it is the revolutionary unnamed multiplayer that will perhaps be best remembered, where strangers will meet one another and help each other real their goal, never speaking, only using gesture and actions to communicate. It forces players to look at play and co-op in general differently, which is a welcome change.
Martin Baker: When I previewed Journey at the end of last year, I knew that it was going to be something special when it finally came out. It always felt like more of an experience than an actual game. Something that you discovered over the couple of hours that it takes to get to the end of the title. At the start of the game you’re not given an objective, you’re not really told how to play the game or what you’re expected to do while you’re out on your adventure. Journey is a title based all around discovery, and that discovery even includes figuring out what the game is all about; and that’s something that will take a couple of playthroughs to totally work out too.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is something really special too. Through your “Journey” you’ll encounter other beings that look the same as you. At first you’d be forgiven for thinking that these are just NPCs, randomly placed into the environment in order to give it a sense of life, however, it won’t take long before you start to notice that they move like a real person, that they are a real person. You’ll start helping each other out, experiencing the world together, you might even play through to the end of the story with them; all while never knowing who they are. It’s a beautiful thing that almost emphasises the relative kindness of strangers. In a video game. You know, that medium that, according to the news, only breeds killers…
Keep coming back throughout the day and the week for more Game of the Year 2012 content. If you want to hear which titles were also in the running in each category, then listen to the daily Podcasts throughout the week.