It was always going to be hard to follow 2011. If it's possible to pity a year, I truly feel sorry for 2012. That's not to say that the year just gone failed to deliver any worthwhile experiences. I think it's more accurate to say that 2012 was full of double-edged gaming swords (if I think of a less elegant analogy, I'll be sure to be post it here).
"What do you mean by that?" I hear you ask, mildly frustrated. Well, in all but a few instances, there was something significant that detracted or was missing from the best games released in 2012. How about some examples to qualify my nonsense: Journey was a beautiful, heart-wrenching experience, but it wasn't really a game. Rayman Origins is the best game on the PlayStation Vita, but it's a port of a game released in 2011. Far Cry 3 delivers wild animal attacks and high explosives, but is also troubling with its Colonial themes and apparent racism. Seldom did I find myself playing something for what it was -- or in the case, of Far Cry 3, what it was trying to be according to the author. Every good game released in 2012 came with a catch.
I don't think I played a truly terrible game this year. At the end of the day, I only have so much time to play video games, and I'll always be somewhat discerning in how I choose to use my spare minutes, hours, even seconds. There were some games that disappointed though, some that failed to deliver on promises or assume the lofty weight of my expectations. Where to begin?
Let's start with the PlayStation Vita. I love the machine, I love the controls, I've even come to love the "bubble" interface. I can now play PSone games on the device, and the amount of compatible titles from the PSP back catalogue is slowly increasing. Yes, despite flagging sales, the Vita is finally delivering on most of the promises made by its maker. There's only one, relatively-large problem: there's no games exclusive to the Vita which could prove to be system sellers -- the fabled "killer apps", if you will. Yes, there are some great -- amazing, even -- games available on the portable, but none that couldn't be or haven't already been done better on home consoles.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss was a solid outing, and the initial stages -- which have Drake acting more the treasure hunter than wily mass-murderer -- almost had me convinced the series was heading in a promising, less-violent direction. So enamoured was I with the initial stages, that I even lashed out at Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton via Twitter over his negative review of the game. For what it's worth, Kirk, I apologise, as after enough time, the play formula reverted to the mass of firefights and death I've come to associate with the series. Back to my previous point, I'm not sure that anyone would take Golden Abyss over any of Drake's home console adventures.
AAA releases like Halo 4 and Borderlands 2 failed to hold my attention long enough to see either game's end. These big guns also failed to deliver the compelling narratives that many a critic promised. Master Chief and Cortana don't measure up to any of Reach's Nobility (see what I did there), but I will concede that Gearbox's second effort is better written than the sparsely-storied original.
Yes, there were a few games that left me wanting in 2012, but none quite like Street Fighter X Tekken; a game that took two storied franchises and combined them to produce the most lopsided contest in fighting game history.
That's right, I'm not even (that) mad about Capcom's hideous DLC strategy that had players shelling out for content included on the disc. Why? I didn't buy any of the costume packs, and I got a voucher for the extra characters with my copy of the Vita version. I wasn't even (that) upset about the game's lacklustre online offering, which was at first plagued by audio glitches and is now, in some cases, unplayable following efforts to fix problems found at launch (I can remember Gamespot reporting that a fix for the fix is due this month). When it's all said send done, I prefer local competition, so the online issues are a pain, but they wouldn't stop me from playing altogether.
What killed me is that save for a few exceptions (the Mishimas), the Tekken side of the roster has a hard time defending itself from the projectile-laden arsenal of their Street Fighter opponents. Paul Phoenix, a powerhouse in his native series, is neutered by his inability to fling fireballs. King and Marduk, intimidating, hulking wrestlers with prowess in throws, parries and counters in their home realm, are most often pinned to corners in this crossover effort. Even a fighter as wacky and nimble as Alisa is able to be relegated to the edge of the screen.
Also problematic is the combo system, which relies heavily on sneaking in light hits to chain into launchers and juggles. It's not something that can be imparted easily to newcomers (read: I've tried to get friends that are comfortable with both series playing this game to no avail), and worse still, it's not a system that proves satisfying after sustained play.
For someone who's been playing fighting games for nearly twenty years as well as someone who's invested a lot of time in both series, Street Fighter X Tekken is the most disappointing game of the year. It takes legends of the genre and delivers something that is glitchy, at times cheap, and one-sided. I like the game, but there's no way it could've met my expectations.