The game Tom thought he'd never play.
Before we knew it, December was upon us and all the games had arrived in stores in time for everyone to buy them as presents. We've got the reveal of our Game of the Year coming after Christmas, but for 24 days starting December 1 we'll bring you a new contender for the title. Please note that these games are in no particular order, but feel free to speculate on where they might appear in our final list.
Tom Orry, Editor
I was prepared to hate XCOM, what with its turn-based combat and uninspiring pre-release videos and screen shots. But I was a changed man after about an hour with the game. I haven't played a more intense game this year, which is saying something considering you spend most of your time planning what moves to make. I've lost count of the number of times I've unleashed a barrage of expletives as a squad member missed an enemy despite standing so close that it's actually harder to miss completely. Even with these moments of insanity I grew attached to my squad, which made losing any of them quite emotional.
Neon Kelly, Video Production Editor
I was looking forward to this one from the moment it was announced, but I'm not sure I expected it to make our end-of-year shortlist. The Firaxis crew obviously know how to make great strategy games, but come on: Remake X-COM: Enemy Unknown?
Well, they did it. The hyphen-less XCOM: Enemy Unknown isn't perfect, but it does a remarkable job of standing up to the original. It's a game that generates horror stories at will, partly due to its uncanny knack of completely screwing you over at the most inopportune moment. When I was a kid, I used to believe that my computer knew exactly what it was doing, that it actively enjoyed wiping out an entire Skyranger's troopers with a single Blaster Bomb. The new Enemy Unknown conjures that exact same feeling; it makes me shake my head in despair, and yet I curiously enjoy being treated that way.
Oh, also: I've loved every second of our Extended Play Campaign. It's given me some of my favourite gaming moments of the year, so cheers to everyone who signed up. Especially if I or Matt got you killed by doing something stupid.
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor
The only game in our GOTY shortlist that was completely off my radar until it landed in the VG office, XCOM: Enemy Unknown managed to suck me in faster than a cow stuck in a tractor beam.
Being a 90s kid (and therefore raised almost entirely on PC strategy titles), I think it was that fuzzy feeling of being beamed back to my childhood that resonated best. I'd forgotten how addictive and taxing the genre could be, or how one false step could lead to crushing consequences. Your courage will never be forgotten, Scammell Jnr.
But putting all that to one side, it was Firaxis' alien yet accessible craft that made XCOM's strategic warfare some of the best seen in the genre, and one of my personal highlights of the year.
Matt Nellis, Video Producer
When a classic game gets remade for this generation I tend to be a bit wary. But in the case of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and in the safe hands of turn-based strategy kingpins Firaxis, I needn't have been worried. Indeed, having a chat with Jake Solomon and Casey O'Toole certainly put any lingering fears I had to rest.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown turned out to be pretty darn good. Sure, it can be pretty buggy at times, but with a solid layer of strategy and an uncanny knack of creating emotional attachments to your virtual soldiers, XCOM quickly became one of my most played and enjoyable games of the year.