DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT/ TORONTO STAR
HOLIDAY GAMES 2012
by Ian Daffern
1) Borderlands 2 (gearbox/ 2K) (windows/ ps3/ xbox360) $59.99
More of the mutant-blasting bounty-hunting you've come to love in this sequel. The original was a sleeper hit, a first-person, post-apocalyptic, shoot-n-loot; Diablo with guns if you will. This one features a new cast of playable characters from the double-barrel blasting Gunzerker to the holographic-decoy throwing Assassin. There is now a smoother interface—granting easier control of your inventory system, crucial when deciding which firearm gives the bigger bang. The RPG aspect offers broader skill trees and more levelling, making no two characters the same. Consider this 'a refined experience' of the original's free-roaming mayhem.
2) Tokyo Jungle (Playstation C.A.M.P. / Sony computer Entertainment) (PS3) $58.99
Never before have you been able to hunt and kill as a feral Pomeranian, but such is the genius of Tokyo Jungle. In this adventure title, mankind has been wiped out, and animals from tbeagles, to chickens, to elephants, emerge to reclaim the Earth. You take on the role of various cute critters in either survival or story modes, guiding them through an urban wilderness of ruined overpasses and burned-out vehicles. And just like on Animal Planet, all you have to do is forage, mate, and try not to be eaten by wild Hyenas.
3) Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Disney Interactive) (Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC /Mac, Wii) $59.99
In this platformer, Mickey re-enters the Wasteland, an alternate kingdom for lost and forgotten cartoons, who are once more imperilled. Luckily he's brought his magic paintbrush, that lets you fill in or take away objects from the backgrounds, to overcome various obstacles. True to the title, you can also play with a friend, taking the part of fellow toon Oswald the lucky rabbit, who stretches, flips and flies over trouble. He's also packing some magic of his own in the form of a remote control-- handy for shutting down your new animatronic opponents. A truly epic adventure for younger gamers loaded with hours of discovery.
4) Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft) (xbox360, ps3, PC) $59.99
On a remote chain of Pacific Islands, a tourist is Shanghaii'd into the role of morally ambiguous action hero in this immense open-world shooter. Far Cry 2 had us hooked with surprising twists like junky unreliable weapons, and a debilitating case of malaria. The new instalment features even more stunning tropical environments, improved stealth tactics such as the ability to throw rocks to distract guards, and a storyline that will have you questioning your motivations right up till the end.
5) Walking Dead (Telltale Games) (xbox360/ PS3/ PC/Mac/ iphone/ ipad) $29.99
Where the comic and TV series of the same name excel is in finding the human angle in a world of continuous zombie horror. And that's exactly what works in this adventure game, that puts you in the role of the leader of a new group of survivors on their way to would-be safety. Play mechanics are simple: point and click to look, use, or choose options in conversations. The addition of a time limit ratchets up the tension-- particularly when a zombie lurches your way. This year's most immersive story was released in “chapters”-- now you can catch all 5 and find out whether your band makes it out alive.
6) Rocksmith (Ubisoft) (xbox360, ps3, PC) $79.99
Rhythm and music games reach their peak with Rocksmith, a title that asks you to put down the plastic toys and plug in an actual electric guitar using its custom adaptor. Gameplay teaches you all the techniques: power chords, hammer-ons, strums and string-bends to have you shredding in no time. The set list is solid too, taking you from Keith Richards tasty licks to Kurt Cobain's doom and groan. No promises it'll make you the next Jimi Hendrix.
7) Assassin's Creed 3 (xbox360, ps3, WiiU, PC) $59.99
Past-life re-living Desmond Miles' story reaches its conclusion, as he inhabits his American Revolutionary War-era self to once more stop the conspiracies of the Templars. This time your ancestor is a half-English, half-Mohawk by the name of the 'Connor', equally adept with muskets, tomahawks, and two-weapon fighting. There's not much you won't find in this title, from custom-crafting of items gained from hunting and trapping, to massive Naval battles where you guide warships to victory. But most of all you'll enjoy the thrill of fluid movement and speed, gliding not just over buildings, but through forests, treeptops and vast army encampments.
8) Forza Horizon (X-Box 360) (Playground Games) $59.99
The Forza franchise changes gears, trading burning rubber on race tracks for the open highways and dirt roads of a virtual Colarado, like some infinite-version of Top Gear. An open-world racer means you're constantly in the driver's seat, taking on challengers at your own pace and choosing. Besides facing off against rival racers, you can also put the pedal down against stunt planes, helicopters, or simply bask in the game's gorgeous autumnal vistas, golden sunsets and streaks of neon by night.
9) X-Com: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/ 2K) (xbox360, ps3, PC) $59.99
War of the Worlds meets chess in this turn-based strategy game, a revival of a classic franchise by the designers of Civilization. You run a secret base funded by an international partnership, that sends out special agents to fight alien invasions on city streets. Battles involves careful deployment of troops on an isometric urban setting, with cinematic cutaways that highlight the action. Its persistent quality adds to the challenge-- if your combat veterans get ray-gunned, your team is out a man and have to start with a rookie. There's also an intriguing political dimension, where you must balance the concerns of backers from each nation. Engaging, tactical thinking in a sci-fi setting where only you can stop the destruction of the planet.
10) Dishonored (Arkane / Bethseda) (Xbox360, PS3, PC) $59.99
The grim tale of a masked assassin, a former bodyguard framed for the murder of an Empress, now on a course for revenge. The real beauty of this first-person experience is the creative mix of powers and devices at your disposal. You can dispatch foes by stealth, steel or supernatural means, including the ability to bend time and summon swarms of rats. And yet you can also solve the game without having to kill any opponents at all, adding an intriguing moral dimension to the tale. What's more, the steampunk-infused, neo-Victorian whaling city of Dunwall is unlike any gaming environment you'll experience this year.