And here we go again: It's time for our annual Game of the Year Awards, in which we hand out lots of hardware for all sorts of deserving titles.

If you're wondering, yes, the decisions were difficult. In fact, more deliberation was probably put into these awards than in the last couple of years combined . In our view, recent years have been more cut-and-dry but 2012 gave us a little of everything, and the competition was stiff.

So you may not agree with everything but hey, that's inevitable. That being said, we'll try to briefly explain why each award was handed out.

Here we go…

Achievement Awards

Best Graphics

Nominees

Winner: Assassin's Creed III

We start with one of the more difficult categories, as no one game really stood out from the crowd this year. From a visual perspective, multiple titles achieved fantastic things, such as what Golden Abyss did for handheld gaming and just how far digital games have come ( Journey ). But in the end, despite the hiccups and minor gaffs, the sheer size, scope and ambition of Assassin's Creed III makes us side with Ubisoft's project. Far Cry 3 and Mass Effect 3 could be argued to be more technically sound, but neither attempted what ACIII attempted; the immersion provided by that massive and amazing environment was just incomparable.

Best Music

Nominees

Winner: Journey

There's a very good reason why composer Austin Wintory received a Grammy nomination for the music in Thatgamecompany's masterful Journey . The beautiful, haunting cello will remain with the player long after he or she has completed that memorable, surrealistic quest. The score fits so perfectly with both the concept and the style, and becomes a gigantic part of the overall experience. No game in 2012 exhibited the importance of a quality score more than Journey , which is why this category was a no-brainer in our eyes.

Best Sound Effects

Nominees

Winner: Far Cry 3

There's just something about exploring that amazing environment in Far Cry 3 , and much of that awe comes from the fantastic sound design. The continual ebb and flow of ambient effects that keep you riveted, the diversity of the weapon audio that encourages experimentation, and the overall chaos of action that makes you tense; it all contributes to this AAA production. You had best have a decent sound setup when playing this invigorating open-world shooter!

Best Acting

Nominees

Winner: Assassin's Creed III

This could very easily have gone to Mass Effect 3 or maybe Dishonored , but once again the sheer scope of Assassin's Creed III swayed us. There are just a huge number of voices that were recorded for that game, and the vast majority are not merely competent, they're excellent. Connor is actually one of the weakest performers; his surrounding cast of major and minor characters are all exquisitely performed. And don't forget that you're hearing different accents, dialects, and a ton of hugely distinct personalities. If you really think about it, this award could only go to one title.

Best Writing/Story

Nominees

Winner: Mass Effect 3

The haters can whine and complain all they want. There really wasn't another game this year that boasted a better script, better writing and dialogue, better acting, and overall, a better assembled storyline. There were holes and flaws, sure, but that doesn't stop it from being a superb achievement, regardless of personal preferences pertaining to the ending(s). You have always been able to turn to this franchise if you're looking for emotional, dramatic, top-quality plots and character development. That didn't change with Mass Effect 3 .

Best Artistry/Art Direction

Nominees

Winner: Journey

The subtlety and mesmerizing nature of the gorgeous artistry on display in Journey is quite astonishing. It's minimalism at its best, as it emphasizes the invisible yet powerful elements of the game; it helps awaken that inexplicable attachment within us. It's not about the shifting sands or the gusts of wind rippling your scarf, or the wonderfully designed landscape. It's about bringing art to life, so what other game could possibly win this category? Really?

Best Character

Nominees

Winner: Max Payne, Max Payne 3

One of the biggest bad-asses in video game history returned this year, and he returned with a vengeance. Max Payne 3 featured the tortured protagonist at his gritty best, with plenty of surprises and plot twists to keep Max (and us) guessing. His no-nonsense, down-and-out persona has been attracting gamers for years, but he definitely took that grizzled awesomeness to a new level in the latest series iteration. Max Payne for President! The dude rocks .

Best Trailer

Nominees

Winner: Dishonored, Debut Trailer