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The Five Best 2012 PS3 Games So Far

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We need to face the harsh truth: It really hasn't been much of a year for PS3 owners. We've had some solid offerings and some divisive titles (along with a couple of great exclusives), but there's been little that could be called game-changing. In fact, as much as I love a few of these titles, I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of them fall short at the end of the year when it's time to do a top ten. So why not give them some credit now while they still make the cut? The five best PS3 games released in the first half of 2012 (and five runner-ups), in alphabetical order:

Runner-Ups: "I Am Alive," "Lollipop Chainsaw," "Spec Ops: The Line," "Twisted Metal," and "The Walking Dead".

Journey

Journey
Image © Sony

Publisher: Sony
Developer: ThatGameCompany
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Rating: E (Everyone)
Genre: Adventure

There hasn't been an emotional experience this year that has come close to matching the final act of Sony's exclusive downloadable game, another brilliant experiment in gaming courtesy of ThatGameCompany (the developers behind the equally-impressive and landmark "Flower"). "Journey" deconstructs what we should expect from a video game, taking the very foundation of nearly all gaming (journeying from level start to final boss) and turning it into a reflection of the journey of life from birth to death and beyond. There has been no more beautiful a game released this year with its simple-but-stunning graphics and as memorable a score as any 2012 feature film. ThatGameCompany uses tools that other developers often ignore entirely to emotionally engage the player in ways they would never expect. If only there were more companies this willing to take risks.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3
Image © EA

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Rating: M (Mature)
Genre: RPG

Put down your pitchforks. Can we ignore the most controversial ending in the history of video games and focus on the quality of what came before it for just a minute? Can you really deny the character development, stunning graphics, perfectly-designed gameplay, and unbelievably personalized experience that preceded those final five minutes that you hate so much? I'm of the school that there was no ending to "Mass Effect 3" that could have pushed it off a list like this one simply because of the stunning accomplishments that came before it. "Mass Effect 3" isn't just an action game. What made people so emotionally attached to the perceived failures of its final minutes is also what makes it a masterpiece in that it was a game that became so important to so many. If it hadn't been the powerful, riveting, mesmerizing experience that it was for so many hours of our lives, we wouldn't have cared about the final moments. And that's an accomplishment that shouldn't be ignored.

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3
Image © Rockstar

Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Vancouver
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Rating: M (Mature)
Genre: Action

The best shooter so far this year is also the best cinematic single-player campaign, a balls-to-the-wall experience of blood, guts, and slow-motion chaos. Not only has "Max Payne 3" been the closest thing we've had to an addictive multiplayer experience but it also simply represents a step-above in terms of video game screenwriting. There hasn't been a lot so far this year that one could call influential but I hope more video game developers co-opt the Rockstar style of storytelling and the way this game seamlessly transitions from chapter break to cut scene to action and back again without taking you out of the story. More than any game this year, "Max Payne 3" feels like a movie in which you're merely playing a role.

MLB 12 The Show

MLB 12 The Show
Image © Sony

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Sony
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Rating: E (Everyone)
Genre: Sports

A critical bar for a great sports game comes down to how long it stays in rotation in your machine. We've all bought sports titles that we get tired of playing after a few weeks or even months. And yet anyone who loves sports games also has a few annual editions that just haunt their machine as other games come and go. For me, I've played Sony's latest incarnation of their award-winning baseball series more than any other title this entire year by a wide margin. Working my way through a Detroit Tigers season nearly as frustrating as the real thing, I'm still stunned by the accomplishments of this game from the seamless play to the gorgeous graphics to the deep off-field experience. It's unlikely to be topped as the best sports game of 2012.

Prototype 2

Prototype 2
Image © Activision

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Rating: M (Mature)
Genre: Action Adventure

This is perhaps the most surprising entry on this list but few action games gave the player a sense of pure power as distinctly as Activision's vastly superior follow-up to their hit "Prototype." Yes, the storytelling is a bit weak here, but few action games have been more perfectly designed in terms of expanding superpowers. As you continue to unlock new abilities and new sections of the map become available to you, "Prototype 2" builds steam like a runaway snowball. It has what's missing from so many inferior games that get repetitive and dull -- momentum. Other developers should take notes.

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