Did you ever think the term "Summer Blockbuster" would apply to video games? Well this summer, it did.
Matt Tuthill 1 / 11
The words summer and blockbuster simply go together at this point. They’ve become as much a part of American pop culture as baseball, apple pie, and all the rest of the clichés about this wonderful land. But movies don’t have a monopoly on summer blockbusters anymore. The games industry has gotten in on the act, too, and the summer of 2012 saw some of the best offerings outside of the holiday rush since… pretty much ever. Click through the slideshow as we count down the 10 best games for XBox 360 and PS3 that released this summer.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">10. Madden 13</font></h3>
It would seem like a lazy no-brainer to toss an annual iteration in here, but <em>Madden 13</em> deserves a spot on the list for correcting some long-standing problems of the franchise. For example, it’s no longer possible for a defender to leap blindly with his back to the QB and come up with a pick; you have to be looking for the ball to make the catch. The physics engine has also been tweaked to broaden the number of animations you see, and the CBS broadcasting team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms add gravitas with the series’ most recognizable voices since John Madden and Pat Summerall last did the honors in the early 2000s. Even long-time Maddenites will find something new to get excited about here.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">9. Prototype 2</font></h3>
This game had hit written all over it, but <em>Prototype 2</em> sadly never found its audience; the development team was laid off shortly after the game’s release when it fell way short of sales expectations. So while this isn’t a blockbuster in the technical sense of the word, it does a better job of providing a superhero experience than most of the established superheroes ever do in video game form. You control a new main character, James Heller, who’s hell-bent on killing Alex Mercer, the protagonist from the first game who infected Heller’s family with the Blacklight virus. Heller has many of the same powers Mercer had, including super strength and the ability to morph his limbs into deadly weapons. The story is solid, but the gameplay is even better. You can probably find it now at a reduced price, so snatch it up and enjoy an unfortunately well-kept secret.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">8. Expendables 2</font></h3>
Not every gaming experience needs to have over-the-top production values to be loads of fun. Consider this Exhibit A: <em>Expendables 2</em> is a $15 download that essentially skins Smash TV with Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, and Jet Li, then drops them into an adventure that takes place before the new movie. There are some fun surprises, too, like on-the-rails shooting levels, and signature kills that make it the height of brainless fun… kinda like the movie itself.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">7. Starhawk</font></h3>
<p><em>Starhawk</em> is nothing if not unique. It’s got an old-west themed sci-fi story (that’s smarter than <em>Cowboys and Aliens</em>) and seamlessly crosses genres by combining a third-person shooter with a real-time strategy. The game takes place in the distant future and drops you into a violent struggle over a resource called Rift Energy. Naturally, you’ll wind up in situations where you’re going to have shoot your way out, but you’ve also got to build bases and defense turrets, thinking hard about where everything should go to increase your chances of survival.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">6. Lollipop Chainsaw</font></h3>
<p>The number of games with a sexy, scantily-clad lead female character that are actually good is a lot shorter than the number of such games that totally sucked. If you were unlucky enough to play a horrid title called BMX XXX back in 2002, you know how painful a game built solely around sex appeal can be. But Juliet Starling of <em>Lollipop Chainsaw</em> proves that a video game gal can have brains and a body, dropping witty one-liners on the undead as she hacks them to pieces with her chainsaw. But much more importantly, the gameplay is tight, fast, and addictive. Looks mean nothing if you don’t have the complete package, and <em>Lollipop Chainsaw</em> is definitely all that.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">5. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron</font></h3>
<p><em>War of Cybertron</em> gave the Transformers the treatment they always deserved—epic sci-fi battles built around a story equal in scope. <em>Fall of Cybertron</em> progresses that story into darker territory—the Transformers’ home planet is dying, as noted in the title—and fine-tunes the gameplay with new transforming animations and more varied battlegrounds. Peter Cullen, who has been the voice of Optimus Prime through all cartoons and movies dating back to the 80s, is back again to lend his baritone and put you right at home in the Transformers universe.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">4. Arkham City: GOTY</font></h3>
<p>This is technically just a re-release with a second disc for all the downloadable content that came after <em>Arkham City's</em> original release last fall. Even so, <em>Arkham City</em> is considered one of the greatest games of all time, not just this console generation. If you didn’t don the cape and cowl last year, do it now with this spiffy Game of the Year version, which, on top of all that pricy DLC at no extra charge, comes with download codes for three <em>Batman</em> animated films. This is the perfect thing to tide you over until the <em>Dark Knight Rises</em> hits Blu Ray.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">3. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier</font></h3>
<p>It takes A LOT to stand out in the military shooter genre these days, and just when you think you’ve played all the <em>Battlefied</em> multiplayer you ever could, and you’re all <em>Modern Warfare</em>’d out, along comes <em>Ghost Recon: Future Soldier</em>. Instead of simply fitting in, <em>Future Soldier</em> actually raises the bar for the genre. If you like the gritty realism of Battlefield and the action movie vibe of <em>Call of Duty</em>, you’ll fall in love with <em>Future Soldier</em>, which strikes a perfect balance between those extremes, as well as a delicate balance between stealth and all-out gunfights. The “future” portion of the title means near-future, with plausible innovations like tactical pocket drones and cloaking camouflage. Picking apart the enemy in the dead of night without being detected is almost like putting together a puzzle; kill the wrong guy too soon and his buddies will find him and sound the alarm. There are a lot of “fitness” video games on the market now, but this one does a better job than any of those at actually elevating your heart rate.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">2. Sleeping Dogs</font></h3>
<p>The term “<em>Grand Theft Auto</em> clone” no longer applies, if only because the idea has been re-used so many times in the last 10 years. <em>Sleeping Dogs</em> falls into a new genre—the open world crime drama—but thankfully gives gamers a different take that will make you feel like you’re walking around inside of a John Woo movie. The gameplay elements that make an open world set-up work—shooting, driving, and hand-to-hand combat—all get an extra layer of polish beyond what you’d expect from a game that tries to do it all. The main character, Wei Shen, is an undercover cop who’s in deep with the Triads in Hong Kong. He also happens to be an expert martial artist who can disarm an enemy in one press of a button, then use just about anything in the environment—iron gates, circular saws, refrigerator doors—to whoop some serious ass. If you’re the type who likes to tool around at your leisure, you can do that here, but the story offers enough incentive to ditch the free-roam aspect, and push forward to see what happens next.
<h3><font color="red" font family="Arial">1. Max Payne 3</font></h3>
<p>Simply put, Max Payne 3 is the crown jewel of the summer. No game released this year so perfectly combines a great story and voice acting with all the right technical elements—great graphics, sound, and gameplay. If you’ve followed the series since the original Max Payne, you’ll probably appreciate this more, but it’s a standalone game in its own right. Payne is the ultimate bad cop, a self-loathing, alcoholic John McClane, but without the sense of humor. His only talent in life is using a gun, which is good, because after he calls it quits in the NYPD, he takes up personal security for a rich family in South America and absolute hell breaks loose. When “bullet time” made its debut in the original Max Payne, it seemed like just another attempt to cash in on the slow motion special effects popularized by The Matrix. But the gimmick has aged remarkably well, and now you can slow down your last kill in each area to really savor a job well-done. It seems like a sick thing to say, but once you get your hands on Max Payne 3, you’ll be doing the same thing, and loving every second of it.