It’s been a long year and a lot of games have made their way onto the market. Sony and Microsoft both launched new consoles and exclusive games adding to the list of 2013 titles. It wasn’t easy to narrow them down, but here are my Top Ten Games of the Year 2013.
10. Gears of War: Judgment
I’ve always liked the Gears of War franchise and when I heard that Epic was making a new game, I really wanted to play it. This new game stands out from the other games in the franchise in that it does a better job of storytelling. Gears of War: Judgment tells the story of a younger Lt. Baird and Pvt. (Cole Train) Augustus Cole and the rest of Kilo squad as they are facing a military tribunal. The story is told in flashbacks as each member of Kilo squad gives testimony. I thought this was really clever as it breaks sharply from the one sided story telling the previous games used. It was nice to see a story being told from different points of view, other than Marcus Phoenix’s. It was also nice not to have to sit and listen to Marcus’ gravelly voice for 8 hours trying to discern what he was saying. I also didn’t have to listen to Dominick whining about his dead wife either. For me, the story stands out as the game’s high point, but I also enjoyed the multiplayer mode as well. Gears of War: Judgment is a good game and stands out enough to make my list.
9. Dead Space 3
Dead Space has been one of my favorite horror games since its launch. Over the years the game has changed from its traditional horror roots to a more action oriented style which I actually liked. The story this time focuses on Isaac and John Carver going directly up against the Unitologist and the origins of the necromorphs. The character interaction between Isaac and John did a good job of winding up the tension as the two characters didn’t like each other but worked together for the sake of accomplishing their goal. This game is entirely co-op. I didn’t think much of it in the beginning but it grew on me later. Even though I never had anyone to play with, I did enjoy having the AI around. It did a good job of killing the enemy instead of letting me do all the work. Although the story did have some minor issues, it held together well enough to keep me interested in the franchise. The biggest change in the franchise has been moving from a horror game to a more action oriented style.
The controls are more fluid as Isaac Clarke doesn’t move like a tank anymore. I’ve always liked the game’s over the shoulder point of view because it gives the best view of the character and everything else on screen. Another change Dead Space 3 added was the ability to augment every weapon in Isaac’s inventory to create new weapon combinations. This is the part of the game I really liked. Don’t get me wrong, I like the original weapons but combining them is much better. Modifying the weapons took some getting used to but was very easy in the end.
Along with weapon modding came new environments. The majority of Dead Space has always been in space. This time around, a large section of the game takes place on the surface of a planet. The game still has the same look and feel of a Dead Space game as the necromorphs still pop out of air vents but now there are more places for them to hide.
As happy as I was with Dead Space 3 story, weapons, and even the co-op, I was disappointed with the game ending on a cliff hanger and having to wait for EA to release the rest of the ending in DLC.
8. Killzone: Shadow Fall
Killzone has been a favorite shooter of mine since its release in 2004. Although not quite the Halo killer it was supposed to be the game does have a well written story to support it. With the release of the fourth console game in the franchise, Killzone: Shadow Fall picks up 20 years after the events of Killzone 3. With the Helghan defeat and the destruction of planet Helghast, the surviving Helghan are allowed to live on planet Vekta. The Helghns are given half the planet to live in and quickly force out the inhabitants by force, sometimes executing them as they go along. That’s where the story picks up. Players take on the role of a young Lucas Kellan as he and his father are forced to escape the new Helghan controlled city. During the escape, Lucas’ father is killed and young Lucas is rescued and raised by a Shadow Marshall named Sinclair. Sinclair trains Lucas to become a Shadow Marshall and sends him over the wall into Halghan territory. While exploring, players will see just how beautiful the game is. The power of the PS4 really gives the graphics a realistic quality.
The series has always had a good amount of weapons to choose from and this game is no different, except that this time around, the Shadow Marshalls carries the LSR44 as the primary weapon and scavenges any other weapons he can find as his backup. I wasn’t too keen on this idea in the beginning but the LSR44 can switch from an assault rifle to a sniper rifle at any time. The Helghast are given a more human face this time around as Lucas fights his way through slums and see’s how the Helghast treats its civilians.
The multiplayer portion of the game has all the weapons unlocked from the start. All the player has to do is achieve specific goals to unlock attachments. This makes the game a little easier to get into, and players don’t have to gain a certain level to use a specific gun. The one thing multiplayer in Killzone is known for is letting players create their own type of match which adds greater variety to the game.
7. Saints Row IV
As crazy as Saints Row The Third was, Saints Row IV goes even deeper off the deep end by giving the player super powers. Saints Row IV starts off with the leader of the Third Street Saints as President of the United States. Keith David is Vice President, Aliens have invaded the planet, and it’s up to the player to save the day. Along the way, the Earth gets destroyed, and the player goes in and out of a virtual world to save their friends. That’s where the super powers come in.
It’s really cool having super powers in a game that does it right. Players can run around Steelport city, running up buildings, jumping really high and gliding great distances. Aside from that, the gameplay is still the same from Saints Row The Third. Players still complete missions the same way, the humor from previous games is still there and there are lots of guns in the game to use. The only difference is you have super powers. I can’t express this enough; you have super powers! That doesn’t mean the game is easy, you will still need plenty of guns and ammo to complete the different mission including taking out the alien towers. Saints Row IV has all the same trappings from the previous game, like purchasing property, fighting rivals gangs, avoiding the police, and side missions. Only now, you have super powers to do it with.
6. Bioshock Infinite
Irrational Games returned to their roots of fundamental storytelling when they created Bioshock Infinite. The game starts out with an outsider name Booker Dewitt infiltrating the floating city of Columbia to retrieve a woman named Elizabeth. To do this, Booker must board a rocket that is shot into the shy. Once there, players will encounter a false utopia filled with racist overtones as Columbia’s leader, Comstock, attempts to rebuild his perfect version of America.
Along the way, Booker gains the use of psychokinetic powers granted to him through the use of Vigors which he uses to defend himself and Elizabeth. Unlike the AI characters in most of game, Elizabeth actually inserted herself into the gameplay by helping Booker when he needed it and getting out of the way when fighting. Elizabeth also did a good job at throwing Booker money and ammo when he needed it. It was cool to see an AI character who had been locked up her entire life show genuine curiosity when she encountered something new. I liked the dialogue the two characters have with each other along with Booker’s desire to emotionally keep his distance.
Throughout Columbia there is a rail system that connects all the floating islands together called the sky-line. Booker gains a tool to ride the sky-line early on in the game and the two use it for travel or the occasional fight. The enemies in the game consist of the Columbia police, motorized patriots, and individuals who had their limbs replaced by hardware called handymen. They’re no big daddy but they all get the job done. Of all the enemies in the game, I really like the motorized patriots. I like the idea of a giant wind up doll attacking Booker. The biggest threat in the game is by far the song bird whose sole job it is to protect Elizabeth. Unfortunately the song bird wasn’t in the game enough for me but it did do a good job of frightening Elizabeth when it came around.
I like Bioshock Infinite. The game does a good job of placing real world issues that are still plaguing the world into a mainstream video game and making them work.
5. Tomb Raider
It wasn’t the same as the original but it’s worth buying. I really like the Tomb Raider remake and appreciate the time and effort that went into making this game. This time around Laura Croft and several crew members aboard a ship are marooned on an island. The game starts off with a young, timid, and inexperienced Laura who has to find her courage in order to save herself and her friends. Along the way, she battles pirates, finds treasure in various tombs and must figure out the secret of the island in order to escape.
The game threw in numerous weapons to choose from including a bow and arrows, something Laura has never used in previous games. Tomb Raider introduced Laura and the player to some serious situations including the possibility of rape and watching the character’s gruesome death. The game introduced new gameplay mechanics like upgrading weapons, stealth, and fighting. The stealth mechanics were the biggest change in the franchise and a much needed one. I really liked the idea of sneaking up on an unsuspecting character and using the climbing pick to execute them or just sneak on by. With everything Tomb Raider offers in the way of exploration, adventuring, puzzle solving, and action, the game carves out its own path, rivaling the Uncharted franchise.
4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a hilarious take on 80’s action movies. The game stars Michael Beihn as Sergeant Rex Power Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando sent to stop his former commander. Set in a dystopian future of 2007, the game opens up with Sgt. Colt and Spider flying into an unknown island. After a brief conversation, Sgt Colt grabs a Gatling gun and open fires on the enemy while Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” plays in the background. This game screams 80’s with a plot that involves getting the girl, stopping the bad guy, and saving the world.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is just Far Cry 3 re-skinned; throw in a new story and there you go. The game has some humorous moments with the tutorial teaching the player to look around, walk, run, jump and to use 12 sided dice (aka nerd rocks) to distract enemies. The island also undergoes some changes with each outpost being turned into a defensible bunker. The islands wild life consist of cybernetic creatures and the extremely dangerous Blood Dragon that shoots lasers from its eyes.
The game offers futuristic weapons that can be upgraded to do more damage. Sgt Colt also has the ability to remove the heart of dead enemies to get a Blood Dragon’s attention. The game has a fair amount of dialogue mostly used during cut scenes that are set at 640×480 resolution. The game has its moments, especially at the end of the game when Sgt Colt climbs onto the back of a cybernetic talking dinosaur and shoots everything in his way. I have to say, I really like the idea of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon taking all the assets from one game and creating another in half the time, and making it just as good is amazing.
3. The Last of Us
There hasn’t been a good survival horror game out in a long time. Fortunately, The Last of Us fills that void by creating one of the best story driven games around. Players take on the role of lead protagonist Joel as he must escort a young girl named Ellie across country to meet with a group calling themselves the fireflies. The story is written in a way that Joel doesn’t really care for Ellie at the beginning but by the end of the game, his attitude and the way he talks to her has changed. The game goes out of its way to put Joel and Ellie in some desperate situation as they survive the onslaught of bandits and infected. Later in the game, Ellie gets a weapon and will help Joel fight, though she is never in enough real danger to disrupt the gameplay. This is also the case when trying to sneak past enemies; Ellie will never be spotted.
I really liked the design of the infected as players can see the different levels of fungal growth on infected individuals and the environment. Alone, the infected are easy to defeat. Unfortunately, the infected are almost never alone. If you see one, there’s always more you can’t see around the corner. Although the game lets Joel fight hand to hand with bandits, he’ll need a weapon against certain infected. In the game, it has been at least 20 years since the outbreak and players can see how nature is retaking the environment. The game offers a set path to follow as the two travel from city to city. Along the way, the two encounter numerous obstacles that require the use of weapons to get past.
The game gives the player a limited amount of ammo and supplies, though I never really had a problem with running out. The game may not offer a lot, but it does offer enough.
2. Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus
I’ve been waiting for this game for some time now. Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus picks up some time after A Crack in Time, as the duo are escorting a dangerous Vendra Prog to the Vartax Detention Center when they come under attack from her brother Neftin Prog. Vendra and Neftin are out for revenge as they are trying to find their species by opening up nether rifts to help a giant nether beast escape.
Into the Nexus isn’t just your typical 3D platformer. Gameplay changes to a 2D platformer as Clank learns to open rifts into the netherverse. Once there, Clank must traverse the verse by shifting gravity in order to pass certain areas. These trips through the nexus are short and to the point as the story progresses and the duo must move from planet to planet to capture the Prog twins. The weapons in Into the Nexus are the standard with some new varients like the nether beast gun that summons a nether beast that devours enemies and the winterizer that plays Christmas music as it turns enemies into snowmen. The game offers side objectives like taking on the thugs-for-hire at the coliseum and finding schematics for a new weapon. The game is unfortunately only five hours long, but it’s worth it in my opinion. The game only has four worlds to visit and the final stage begins rather quickly when the last planet is reached but it was a fun journey getting there.
1. Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I haven’t played a Legend of Zelda game in a long time so you can understand how I felt when I started to play A Link Between Worlds. A Link Between Worlds isn’t the same as A Link to the Past. Nintendo went out of their way to change the plot of the game. While delivering a sword, Link comes across a new villain, Yuga, who is turning the descendants of the sages into paintings. As Link must work to free the sages from the paintings he must also gather weapons, some of which are needed to enter dungeons. Along his journey, Link will meet and rescue a merchant who sets up shop in Link’s house. The merchant gives Link a trinket allowing Link to turn into a painting, and then offers to rent him every weapon in the game.
This is where A Link Between Worlds takes a major departure from its processor. Renting the weapons is relatively cheap where as buying them is really expensive. If Link dies, all of the rented weapons are returned to the merchant. Gameplay doesn’t change but certain events do, like how Link acquires the Zora flippers and Pegasus Boots. The layout of the two worlds are relatively the same as the game offers minor changes for this new title, including how Link moves between the two.
The dungeons on the other hand are completely different with new or upgraded bosses from the original. I went into this expecting the original game and was pleasantly surprised to find new gameplay mechanics, new weapons, and a new storyline.