Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Games of the Year

A Tradition Unlike Any Other: Spending my New Year's Eve writing the Top 10 instead of partying, getting drunk, or sleeping. I feel the need to get this in before the next year rolls around in three hours and change. Principles, I has them.

We're not going to spend a whole lot on hating what didn't go right in 2013, because there was a bit. Instead, we'll dive right on in and talk about what did go right in the last 364 days, 20 hours, and 40 minutes, because there was a lot. 

This year's top ten was pretty unanimous at the top, but diverse near the bottom. There were quite a few good games that came out this year (though not many from the next gen consoles -- I'll give that a free pass, though). 


5005571.jpg (190×270)10. SAINTS ROW IV (Multi)

This game is fucking ridiculous in every way that makes it awesome. The series decided to say fuck it we're going to take this franchise from a Grand Theft Auto ripoff/homage to elevate things to the insane. The result? Insane fun. We're not going to get Keith David to voice a character, we're just going to get Keith David. When the game thinks purple dildos were going to be too outrageous, they just decide to make it longer, more wobbly and more pleasurable.

5006190.jpg (190×169)9. ZELDA: A LINK BETWEEN WORLDS (3DS)

from EGM: "A Link Between Worlds recognizes that it’s not tacked-on stealth segments or waggling a controller to roll bombs that makes Zelda tick—it’s the unbounded exploration and freedom found in the NES original, and it’s finally back in full force here. Every Zelda fan needs to play this game."

5006721.jpg (480×685)8. BROTHERS: A TALE OF TWO SONS (PC)

from Lord Bling: "I started to type a synopsis of what this game is about, and then I deleted it. Just play it. Take some time to get used to the 'two player co-op on one controller' setup, and let it draw you in. You won't regret it. The comparisons to 'Ico' and 'Journey' are valid in a lot of ways, and the last 30 minutes are some of the best in any game I've ever played."

5005637.jpg (480×685)7. BATTLEFIELD 4 (Multi)

This is the like the high school kid drafted into the NBA purely on Potential. He has no real jump shot, he can't get to the basket but he has out of this world athleticism! Battlefield can be one of the best shooters of the next generation. However, the game is pretty busted on Xbox One, not great on PC, but I can manage to get a few games in before crashing on PS4. This is still a better multiplayer experience than Call of Duty Ghosts, but until EA/DICE can focus on making the game stable, this may still toil in the D-League.

Rent Animal Crossing: New Leaf for 3DS6. ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW LEAF (3DS)

I can't really fully explain the addictability (just made up that word and it works) of this game. This is the first Animal Crossing game I've played in any great detail, but it is something I can both play with my 7 year old daughter and my 33 year old co-worker. The game changes with you as you play, and gives you the ability to be Urban Planner, Interior Designer, Bell (the game's currency) farmer, Hedge Fund Manager.

Rent Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for PS45. ASSASSIN'S CREED IV (Multi)

from Lord Bling: "A major improvement over the last installment. They took what was best about part 3 (the boats!), removed all of the nagging tutorials, and just hand you the keys and say 'Have fun!' I have minor complaints about some scripting and bugs in some missions, but it's nothing that we haven't dealt with in previous games in the series. I can't wait to get back on the seas and start pillaging again."

Rent Grand Theft Auto V for Xbox 3604. GRAND THEFT AUTO V (Xbox 360)

from Lord Bling: "This is what a very talented group of developers can do when they have access to an almost unlimited amount of time and resources. Was it worth the wait? From a technical standpoint, yes. It's massive, and runs as stable as any open-world game on a console to date. However, we get three playable characters, yet not one of them is even remotely sympathetic. Each is a step back from Nico in part IV, and I found myself not wanting to spend time with any of them. Also, the online mode was hugely ambitious, but by the time they got it working properly, I'd moved on to something else."

Rent Tomb Raider for Xbox 3603. TOMB RAIDER (Multi)

The Franchise may be 15 years old, but this reboot is as good as ever. Visceral, engaging, and gorgeous, we get to see the humble, violent, beginnings of Lara Croft's transformation into Tomb Raiding bad-ass, even if there isn't a lot of... Tomb Raiding. Crystal Dynamics didn't just use the reboot to set us up for future endeavors, they made the iconic character all her own.

Rent BioShock Infinite for Xbox 3602. BIOSHOCK INFINITE (Multi)

Taken into the air from Rapture, the latest installment is storytelling at it's best. One of those things where you go through to the and am like "WHAT". The ride is fantastic, thrilling, challenging, and thought provoking.

Rent The Last of Us for PS3

This was the Unanimous Game of the Year by not only every contributor, but pretty much every gaming site everywhere. If you haven't played this game already, do so; it isn't too late.

The Last of Us is a step in to then descent that goes with loss, and among utter devastation, when one slowly and abruptly one loses their sense of humanity, how one thing is worth holding onto, fighting to the death for, and even making decisions that make for water cooler discussions and rationalizations.

Naughty Dog doesn't usually fail to meet expectations, so the bar had already been set pretty high. However, from the opening sequence, you are thrust into an immersive environment with incredible visuals and virtual voice and movement performances that are worthy of live acting recognition.

This game is a must play for everyone and not only the best of 2013, but one of the best games of this console generation. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Year in Review begins with E3 Impressions, Part II: Six Months Later

There seems to be a recurring pattern here: Revive, Re-brand, Re-publish, Renew, Retire. I got this stunning urge and inspiration to write on the flight back from LA, and then that wonderful thing called life, job, career, kids, happen and then *poof!* we're two days from the new year and I'm like 'Holy Shit; I haven't put virtual pen to virtual paper in forever'.

This time, it is a little different. It isn't like I've been playing games non-stop and am just too lazy to write about them. This time, I started a new career, something more demanding, time intensive and not very friendly to an off peak video gaming lifestyle. While I tried to dedicate some time this year to playing through some games, it was severely diminished; something I hope to rectify in 2014.

This year featured the launch of the oft talked about next generation of consoles, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. I found myself in the fortunate position to be able to acquire both systems at launch, and after 6 weeks I find myself underwhelmed. I don't want to get caught up in this "which is better" nonsense because the capabilities themselves are essentially the same, but when I look back to what I thought at E3 in June and where they are now.

The talk of the show in the Summer was that Playstation 4 was the clear winner. Lower priced, no DRM locks, used game friendly, good lineup. My personal straw poll saw the PS4 was going to be the console of choice among those that were Xbox Loyalists; something that only confirmed to me of Microsoft's huge misstep. Microsoft figured brand loyalty would just let them coast into their standing lead among the big three in terms of install base with their new console. However, it seemed that everything they would announce for their new system would just piss people off. Back in June, I mentioned that Microsoft had five months to make their people happy, and to their credit, they tried.

Now that the smoke has cleared from the launch, I'm kind of back to where I was right after the Sony Conference; the Playstation 4 is the game console of choice for the new generation right now, though right now the game console of choice is still the Xbox 360.

None of these launches were bungled in any great way, but the selection of games is kind of lacking. No game that was exclusive to either next gen console made our top 10 of the year. I found a lot of the Xbox One's features to be frustrating. Setting up a party chat is a pain in the ass, and never really worked. There is too much going on at the dashboard. It as is if the interface was developed by someone who wanted to cater to the ADD Generation. I cannot force quit out of a game when it hangs up (which if you play Battlefield 4, you'll need that feature a lot).

Obviously there is a lot to be determined, here. Interfaces can be tweaked, there are better games coming on the horizon, and I think there will be some better support for Indie titles. However, now that we're looking forward to 2014, there is a hope that there is going to be a lot more in store in order for these consoles to live up to their four and five hundred dollar potentials.