Winner: Max Payne 3
Nine years and several iterations later (seriously, remember that rumored plot involving Max going to snowy Moscow to take on the Russian mob?), Max Payne 3 has graced us with its presence. And despite the departure of original developer Remedy and enough cooks to spoil the broth (a sizable number of Rockstar studios, spanning across the coasts of North America and elsewhere), the sequel is utterly amazing.
Rockstar's decision to shift Max from angry antihero to drunken pill-popping loser does wonders for pushing an even grittier narrative than in past games. The attention to locales provides a look at São Paolo from its high rises and wealthy playgrounds to the grimy favelas and gives a sense of a city that can chew up and spit out anyone, including a washed-up ex-cop. Plus, its gameplay weds the classic slow-mo gunplay with contemporary updates, such as super-smart AI and cover that dissolves under a hail of bullets. Max is back, and if a hail of bullets don’t take him down, the whiskey and hydrocodone will.
Runner-up: Diablo III
As worthy a successor to the Diablo throne as we could have hoped, Diablo III is every bit as addictive as its progenitor. Blizzard managed to keep the style in-tact while still making abundant changes to the formula, improving the pacing and the gameplay to create a distinctly Diablo experience that falls more in line with what is expected of a 2012 release. Only time will tell if this sequel will have the longevity of its forbearer, but either way we’re planning on spending at least a few hundred hours clicking, killing, looting, and repeating the process over and over again.
Editor's Note: Though Gravity Rush was one of the most critically acclaimed games we reviewed in May, you won't be able to pick it up until June outside Japan. Look for it in consideration next month!