400 posts. Isn’t that something? It seems like only two and a half years ago I was drinking scotch and thinking, “I should start a review website. Nobody in the history of the internet has ever done one of those before.”

Of course, I couldn’t have done it on my own. Along the way I’ve had the pleasure of hosting guest posts from Matt Moore, Rollen Lee, K.W. Ramsey, and Matt Leaver. During that time we must have been doing something right because this year’s numbers doubled to roughly 5500 unique visitors per month. Granted those aren’t Scalzi or Wheaton numbers, but whatever, I’ll get there, and then Middle Earth shall feel my wrath…or there will be cake – either or, really.

So given the auspicious number of this post, and the fact that I’m on vacation starting next week, today seems an ideal time to do my best in genre of 2012.

Best Big Budget Video Game

XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Firaxis Games

Rebooting Julian Gollop’s classic 1994 turn based strategy game, X-Com: UFO Defence was a gutsy move on the part of Firaxis and 2K Games. On the one hand, anybody old enough to remember the source material is no longer part of the gaming industry’s target audience. Moreover, nobody makes turn based strategy games in a market dominated by first/third person shooters and sports titles. Yet Firaxis managed to pull it off. They streamlined classic X-Com’s clunky features, maintained the suspense and often punishing difficulty, and ultimately delivered an experience which pairs action with player driven narrative.

Best Indie Game

FTL, Subset Games

FTL is a rogue-like starship simulator. Similar to XCOM, FTL features persistent consequences and permanent death. Unlike XCOM, a single game of FTL only takes about two hours from start to finish. During that time players will command a starship on a mission to save the Federation from a looming rebellion. FTL puts a premium on resource management and strategy driven starship combat. Though the game’s objective always remains the same, no two playthroughs will ever be the same. Much of this replay factor can be attributed to FTL’s procedurally generated galaxy, variety of ships to command, and a huge pool of random events. Simple, elegant, and challenging in extremis FTL is not a title to be missed.

Best Novel

Rasputin’s Bastards, David Nickle

I’m almost certain the book isn’t an attempt on the part of ChiZine Publications and author David Nickle to subconsciously program an army of sleeper agents. That said, there are times when Rasputin’s Bastards feels like a twenty-first century answer to Catch-22. Both books are complex, revel in asynchronous storytelling, and left this reader eager to reread if only to mine for details, subtexts, and plot threads missed on a first read through. The novel also boasts a moral ambiguity in its characters which defies an easy D&D style alignment. Despite their various plans and machinations, some of which still don’t quite make sense to me, a reader can walk away from the book with a real sense of empathy for all the players involved. The Cold War might have been a lot of things, but before David Nickle’s treatment I don’t know if it has ever been quite so metaphysical.

Best Movie

Dredd

Yeah that’s right, I said Dredd. The Avengers has got enough people kissing its billion dollar ass. Dredd was the movie that nobody, save for dedicated weirdoes like yours truly, ever wanted. Despite utterly under performing at the box office, Dredd remains an accessible action movie after the hard “R” rated fashion of Die Hard. It skillfully brings an uninitiated viewer into the entropy of Mega City One, while remaining true enough to the source material to appease a veteran audience. As ever with Judge Joe Dredd, the writing remains a serious study on urban crime and civil liberties as seen through a set of extraordinary circumstances. Karl Urban as Dredd offers a unique sort of black comedy amid the action. Lena Headey delivers a brilliant performance as a cold calculating drug lord. While one special effect does get used a bit much, viewers can take solace in the fact that Dredd doesn’t spend fifteen minutes fixing an engine.

Best TV

NB: Live action genre TV sucked the devil’s ass in 2012. It should be telling that my only candidates for this category were animated series.

TRON: Uprising

Would that the story of TRON: Uprising was told in TRON: Legacy fans might have got the sequel they deserved. Despite the Disney branding, Uprising frames the back story of Legacy as a narrative of insurgency within the Grid. It’s poignant in ways that The Clone Wars can be when exploring stories involving the clone troopers and not their Jedi generals. At some point, we know Tron, voiced magnificently by Bruce Boxleitner, is going to end up as Rinzler, CLU’s mindless growling stooge. This foreknowledge makes his struggle against General Tessler, voiced with style by Lance Henriksen, and his search for redemption in training Beck (Elijah Wood) as the new Tron all the more bitter sweet. Meanwhile the writers are free to derezz and destroy to their heart’s content as the series’ cast, save for Tron, are external to the world of Legacy.

Best Web Series

Job Hunters

This is another tough call. Husbands remains one of the funniest things on the internet. Though I only recently discovered Clutch, it’s quickly become one of the most powerful things I’ve seen online. But where those shows entered their second season in 2012, Job Hunters debuted this year. I didn’t know what to expect in a series which described itself as a “dystopian roommate comedy”. Truth be told, I was bracing for terrible. Instead, I saw a series which tapped into the frustration of college graduates entering an outsourced and depressed job market. The series takes job hunting quite literally where grads become gladiators who fight for a position with the corporations of the world. Drawing inspiration from Rollerball as much as it does The Hunger Games, Job Hunters is looks great, sounds as good as any mainstream production, and uses both comedy and violence to explore a social phenomenon.

There we have it, my best of 2012 in the 400th post.

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