2012 has been a muddled year for boxed blockbusters, with several established franchises showing distinct signs of wear and tear, but a triumphant one for digital gaming, thanks to a stellar run of Xbox Live Arcade releases. After due consideration and copious imbibing of energy drinks, we've singled out 10 that you shouldn't miss.
Read up on the best Xbox 360 games of 2013 if you've already exhausted last year's offerings.
10. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
The quintessential multiplayer-only shooter, reborn for console audiences - and a solid pick for those who consider ironsights to be the work of the Devil. Global Offensive's objective-based modes are classic Counter-Strike, allotting you one life and one life only per round, while new modes Arms Race and Demolition offer faster-paced, comparatively relaxed blasting to help laymen get started. A shortage of unlockables makes this very much a shooter for those looking to master the core mechanics. "Fight your way up the steep learning curve, beyond the sparse, static maps, and those 1200 MS Points will seem like a bargain," wrote our review. "Many, however, will start to hanker after something more complex and fulfilling long before mastering it.
A funky, well-considered introduction to the generally impenetrable Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, dispensing with the usual genre fantasy archetypes in favour of cowboys and space aliens. Two teams of heroes must knock over each other's bases, aided by a stream of NPC "creeps" which serve as XP-grinding fodder. It's lightning-fast but intelligent stuff, helped along by solid splitscreen support. Matt went nuts for the game earlier this year in the form of several videos, one of which you'll find below.
8. Sine Mora
I know nothing of schmups, but Log fell head over heels in love with this one. "Once you pick up the ways in which it tests you, dicks you around, and emasculates you, it'll be one of the best abusive relationships you've ever been in," he wrote. In what appears to be a masterstroke, enemy bullets shave away seconds from your life-clock rather than damaging your craft. Killing enemies, by contrast, buys you additional longevity. You can find out more, bizarrely, in Log's OXM Breakdown on the subject of gay sex in Mass Effect 3.