In a day and age where tacked-on multiplayer modes have become the norm (damn the Call of Duty ripple effect), an engrossing and entertaining single-player experience keeps you thinking well after the final credits roll, and is often the reason behind our connection to our favourite games of the past, such as the Zelda and Final Fantasy series’. 2012 has seen some truly immersive and diverse stories – from the 18th century American Revolution to a modern-day undercover operation in Hong Kong, there’s something for everyone. So alas, let’s take a look at some of the best storylines the year’s had to offer:
Sleeping Dogs | United Front Games
2012’s resident sleeper hit, Sleeping Dogs sees players take control of protagonist Wei Shen, who after being thrown in jail for a drug deal gone bad meets an old friend with ties to the Triads, part of the organised crime syndicate in Hong Kong. Essentially, we’ve seen this plot played out in movies before, but never this eloquently in games – skilled cop goes undercover to internally tear apart the biggest crime ring in Hong Kong - but is he in too deep?
The best thing about Sleeping Dogs is that it blurs the line between what we consider ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – continue helping the police, and your newfound criminal allies will lose everything – or live a life of crime and your original mission will be nothing but a distant memory. You’ll form a connection with the characters you meet, and like any good story, you’re going to hate some, and you’re going to love others. Plot-wise there’s never a dull moment and each twist and turn will constantly leave you questioning what’s really going on.
Max Payne 3 | Rockstar Vancouver
It was a nine-year long wait but everybody’s favourite self-loathing hero returned to kick some a** – South American style. After accepting an offer from an old friend, Raul, Max finds himself in Brazil protecting the wealthy Branco family. What seems like a pain-free gig turns into all-out war after a street gang by the name of the Comando Sombra makes several attempts on the lives of members of the Branco family.
Again, Max Payne 3 is a nothing-is-as-it-seems story, but done in a meaningful way we hadn’t experienced before. Max is still fighting a battle to move on from the loss of his family 14 years prior, with the writing brilliantly portraying a man’s war with his inner demons, whilst trying to uncover a family conspiracy.
Far Cry 3 | Ubisoft Montreal
Protagonist Jason Brody is holidaying with a group of friends on an island in the Pacific when they are taken hostage by a psychotic pirate named Vaas – one of the most deranged antagonists we’ve seen in recent times. Jason must join forces with the natives of the island (the Rakyat) in an attempt to save his friends and liberate the island from the clutches of the pirate organisation. While, again, it’s a formula we’ve seen before – Jason loses sight of himself along the way and is forced between to choose between the two lives he has forged – the story will keep you on the edge of your seat and Jason’s journey from zero to tribal hero provides plenty of shocks and surprises for players.
What makes Far Cry 3 so good is the fact that its environment is as much a part of the storyline as, well, the story itself. Survival is your priority and Jason must do whatever is necessary to save his friends. Whether its skinning animals to craft extra weapon slots or a larger wallet or liberating an outpost to swindle some additional cash, in Far Cry 3, every action has a larger purpose.
Halo 4 | 343 Industries
After spending four years lost in space about the Forward Unto Dawn, the Chief’s seemingly become in touch with his humane side, and as such, shows the most personality in Halo 4 than any other previous entry to the series. In a nutshell, the Chief inadvertently awakens the Didact, a Forerunner Promethean and Commander of the Forerunner military. The Didact believes humanity to be the greatest threat to the Promethean race, and as such, seeks a giant device known only as the Composer to blow the Earth to smithereens, and Master Chief is the only one who can stop him. Meanwhile, as if the Chief didn’t have enough on his plate, Cortana reveals she has lived a year beyond the usual lifespan of an AI (seven years) and will soon become “rampant” – basically, she’s going to go nuts.
While we’ve seen the Chief deal with threats to humanity on countless occasions, 343 have refreshed the Halo series by delving more into Master Chief’s struggle to be “human” and his ever-mysterious relationship with Cortana.
Dishonored | Arkane Studios
Players take on the role of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall. Upon returning from a journey to seek aid for the plague ravaging the city, a group of assassins render Corvo useless while they murder the Empress and kidnap her daughter, Emily. The Empress dies in Corvo’s clutches and he’s ultimately framed for her murder – however, mysterious friends in high places and mythical abilities lead to Corvo’s escape and his subsequent hunt for the truth.
The reasons behind Dishonored’s success are simple – while it provides unique and creative ways to blindside your enemies, the likes of which we haven’t seen before, it gives players choice. For every lethal option, there’s a non-lethal way of going about it. Whether you brutally murder someone or spare them and ship them off to slave mines – the game can be completed without killing a single person. It’s these choices that lead to an immensely enjoyable story and quest for the truth – even if it can be completed in less than six hours.
As always, this is just one man’s opinion, and a list of my personal favourites from the year. Honourable mentions go out to Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3. I really should’ve made more space.
By Jake Galouzis