What a crazy year 2013 was for games. While it was easy to get caught up in the hype of new consoles launching (I know I did!), the current gen consoles were in their prime delivering more games than I had time to play. (sad face).
Out of the games I did play, these were my favorites from the year, because maybe you just might care, and if you read, let me know what ya think or what yours were!
DmC Devil May Cry
I haven’t played every game in the Devil May Cry series, but in general, I’ve always dug it. DMC3 was a bad-ass action game on PS2 that had an ultra sweet combat system. DMC4 was fine, but didn’t really leave an impact. But when I saw the first trailers for DmC and learned that Ninja Theory was helming development, I knew this was one to watch. Sure enough they SUPER delivered.
Everything from Dante’s much needed redesign, to the way the levels moved alongside you as you slashed your way through the awesomely realized world of Limbo, imaginative bosses, super fun combat, and a well-acted story which still managed to maintain nods to what make the fiction of the series fun. I loved not knowing what crazy surprise each level had in store. By the time the game wrapped up, I jumped right back in and played it again. Ninja Theory keeps showing incredible talent and growth in their titles, and while some nit-pick on the direction the series took with this entry, I’m definitely hoping they continue their take on Devil May Cry.
Bioshock Infinite gets a spot on here almost soley because of its setting. It’s like…look, guys, cities / kingdoms in the sky are fucking awesome. Cloud City on Bespin, Laputa, Kingdom of Zeal in Chrono Trigger; But Infinite gets points for not only taking the series in this new direction, but continuing the concepts of what made the originals and its influences so good.
And while it paid respects to the series’ roots, it also brought in some new ideas and concepts from both a narrative and a gameplay perspective that were fun to see realized. While I wish the story had been delivered a bit more deftly towards the end (I kinda needed to Wikipedia just what exactly happened at the end), I really enjoyed the journey with Booker and Elizabeth as they found out just what the deal was with the floating nation of Columbia. It’s a beautiful game with an imaginative and evocative story; plus gameplay so good I had to go back and try my hand at the crazy hard 1999 mode. Made it halfway through before another game came along to steal me away, but even on its hardest difficulty, it was a blast to play.
The Last of Us
Just when you think that the development community is beginning to step up to their level, Naughty Dog comes along and shows everyone that they know how to push the envelope from a graphical perspective, while breaking new ground in narrative delivery and story presentation in a game. Shades of Half-Life 2’s sense of restraint mean that the post-apocalyptic America setting gets to be the star right alongside Joel and Ellie. Not a game where you move from kill box to kill-box, some of my favorite moments were just walking around the world and listening to Joel and Ellie have a conversation about their past, what was going on at the moment, and seeing their relationship grow.
When you did get to those areas where it was time to take out some dudes, Naughty Dog develops a new take on the cover-based combat system that has a perfect blend of risk and reward. Low ammunition counts, high tension with every encounter, an awesome gameplay substitute for the ol’ movement radar with Joel’s listening ability, and enemy AI that resulted in some of the coolest ‘holy shit I can’t believe that plan worked’ moments resulted in the best overall action gameplay in a game I’ve played this year.
While Naughty Dog could have delivered a great looking game that makes it hard to believe it’s on a PS3, and fun gameplay, they also managed to develop a game that genuinely connects you to the characters in a way that many games try, but a rare few get there. By the end (and finally a game that manages to avoid ending clichés), you really understood what makes Joel who he is and what influences the actions he takes; as much as you might not agree with his actions. The Last of Us is a game that exudes confidence on every level, and it’s my personal favorite game I played this year.
D’awwww Tearaway, you were such a surprise. I enjoy LittleBigPlanet as much as the next guy, and was certainly interested in what Media Molecule had up their sleeve for this Vita exclusive. But I had no idea they would develop such a beautifully crafted experience.
The soul and passion that must have went into this game show through from the moment you enter in to the world, which by the way, is designed based off of actual papercraft designs, translated in to a 3D world you can tromp around in as the way too adorable characters of Iota and Atoi. (Atoi btw is the correct choice.)
Tearaway is special for two reasons: its artistic direction, and the unique way it literally brings you in to the story in a way that ends up being surprisingly affecting.
The artistry on display here goes way deeper than the amazingly paper-crafted world. The quirkily memorable soundtrack compliments every scene alongside characters that squark, quack, and grable their dialogue that somehow manages to put a smile on my face every time. You’ll stumble upon NPCs with the wackiest problems like how to make their pet pig cuter, having an insatiable desire to get a picture of the shoreline, or figuring out how to get a drum ceremony started; and all of them are super fun.
All of these scenarios share a common thread of being a backdrop for the main narrative adventure of in a storybook tale that uses the Vita’s tech to put you, your face, and a virtual representation of your fingers through the rear-touch, and even your voice at key moments. You’re also tasked with creating unique objects to bring in to the game’s world that take the user-generated-content aspects of LBP, and curates those moments in to a focused creative expereince that ends up taking your amateur hour creation and bringing it into the game’s word that always always works.
While The Last of Us was my favorite game of the year, Tearaway is tied with it. It’s a focused experience that only takes about maybe 6 hours to complete; but offers up such a fun world to jump into. I liked it a lot, and hope that more people get to experience the world that Media Molecule built.
Assassin’s Creed 4
I’m a fan of the Assassin’s Creed series, but over the past two games, it had seemed to lose a bit of its luster. Revelations was good for exploring Constantinople, and AC3 had a really solid middle portion with some strong character development in Connor but lost its footing towards the end, along with taking too long on the outset to get to the good stuff. But as much as I enjoyed the last two, both of them two didn’t pull me in to the world like AC2 and Brotherhood did.
While I think Kenway’s story in AC4 isn’t as strong as Ezio’s in AC2 (always pretty tough to top the ol’ ‘gotta avenge my family’ story), the devs created an open world that I couldn’t help but be addicted to explore. That’s always been the main draw of the AC series: experience worlds that you’ve never seen before in games. The historical appeal is always super compelling, but while AC4 didn’t have some of the stunning recreations of cities like Renaissance Rome and Venice; being able to experience life on the open 18th century Caribbean seas while having plenty to explore, plenty of dudes to sneakily take out, and have a solid story centered around new protagonist Edward Kenway; it was a refreshing change for the series that came right on time with the arrival of PS4 to power it just right.
From developers Housemarque, I was pretty interested to try Resogun when I got my hands on my PS4. I like Super Stardust ok, and Dead Nation was fun; but they seemed to really nail something pretty damn fun with Resogun.
Resogun is crafted around 5 levels. If you want, you could just blast through the 5 levels and simply survive, and still think it’s a pretty cool game. Listen to the awesome music, marvel at the countless shiny voxels whirling around the screen that not only make the game look amazing, but also showcase the power of the PS4 in a subtle but noticeable way. The game on its surface, is a blast. But if you look below the surface, you’ll find that the devs put in all sorts of little secret techniques, new challenges, and hidden methods to drive a high score and battle it out with your friends on the leaderboards.
While the big AAA, open-world experiences are always great to get wrapped up in to, it’s great to see a game come along and nail that time-tested crunchy focus on pure gameplay. When wrapped up in a super sleek package like Resogun, you suddenly have the makings of a true classic.
There were a lot of other games in 2013 that came out that I’m too lazy to write about. Some I finished, others I’m still playing, some I didn’t get a chance to finish, but in no particular order here are some of my other favorites:
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: currently playing, loving it. Will have more to say about it later, but for now, it seems to be super sharp classic 2D Zelda gameplay.
GTA V – I liked GTAV a lot if for nothing more than to marvel at the world R* created. The story was fun and maybe a bit too over the top, though for what it’s worth about as well executed as one could expect. A technical marvel, and great step forward for the GTA series.
Beyond: Two Souls – I liked Beyond: Two Souls a lot. I want more games like it. It’s an awesome game and a fun origin story about a type of super hero that I’d love to see more of in Jodie Holmes and Aiden.
Ni No Kuni - While I never finished it (pretty sure I’m really close, but I think Bioshock Infinite pulled me away and I never got a chance to go back), Ni No Kuni was magical. The combat system was a little wonky, but when it truly worked it was a blast. As a fan of JRPGs, it’s my second favorite JRPG this generation, right behind Persona 4 Golden.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – a perfect example of how gameplay can actually tell a story, and not simply having a story wrapped around gameplay bits. Short, but really sweet.
Tomb Raider – Loved to see a new Lara Croft with a fantastic presentation and return to form for the series.
God of War: Ascension – Kratos still gots it
Dishonored DLC: The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches – DLC for one of my favorite games last year. Raises the bar for DLC with an all new story that provides a great new lens on one of the more interesting characters from the core game.
also special shout out to playing Shadow of the Colossus HD for the first time in 3D. whaaaaa