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Top 5 Games of 2013

01 Feb

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Ah, I see you’re back. After listening to the Gospel of El Hanlo to help you decide which movies to watch, you’re returning to soak in my other opinions. Thankfully, 2013 was a year with 12 WHOLE months which means lots of things happened. Specifically, video games happened. In 2013, we saw the end of perhaps the greatest console generation ever. It was the year we bid our fond farewells to our Playstation 3s, Xbox 360s and…Wiis, I guess?

But there was no need to be sad. While nerds were feverishly masturbating over the new gaming technology that the PS4 and Xbox One would bring, developers were busy churning out some of the greatest games of this generation for the current consoles. Join me as I guide your unknowing mind into the land of knowing with my list of the top 5 games of 2013.

5. Tomb Raider

 tomb raider

When this game was first revealed, it brought about some controversy from a scene that was showed early on. The scene showed a younger, more innocent Lara Croft and her boobs being attacked by an unsavory character who had the desire to rape her. Everybody was up in arms that they would have an attempted rape scene in a game, and there was probably something about boobs too because man, Lara Croft has a set of boobs on her.

And then the game was released and oh man! It turns out this game isn’t under the genre of “Rape Avoidance Simulator” after all! Tomb Raider is, in fact, a smart, expertly crafted action adventure game that brings together some of the best tropes of the genre while making them seem fresh.

I will be honest, I was skeptical of this game at first. When I heard the name Tomb Raider, I wasn’t exactly thinking, “Oh sweet! A game in a series that hasn’t been fun since, literally, 1997! Yes, please, give me some of that!”

But the developers, Crystal Dynamics, knew what made those first two Tomb Raider games fun. Exploration, puzzle solving, the aforementioned boobs. They took those good things and took out all the bad things from the shitty Tomb Raiders (I would list them, but I don’t want to have to clear my schedule for the next week to do so) and voila! A great game was made.

If I had to describe Tomb Raider, I would say that the Uncharted series went over to the Batman: Arkham games’ house, they both got a little tipsy, Uncharted made a move on the Batman: Arkham games, they had sex, and nine months later, Tomb Raider is the handsome little baby that popped out. It takes queues from its father Uncharted (lots of exploring and platforming, mixed with tightly scripted action set pieces) and it takes queues from its second father, Batman: Arkham games (semi free roaming environments that beg to be re-explored after obtaining new gadgets, stealth sequences). The end result is the best baby since my parents got together and created me.

The game’s story is nothing special. Lara is on an expedition, her and her crew crash on an island where lots of weird shit is happening, Lara kills some wolves, more weird shit happens, and Lara finds herself fighting for her life to escape the island. The story is perhaps the weakest part of the game, particuarly the characters. The characters are defined not by complex motivations and interesting backstories, but their accents. When you tell someone your favorite character, they ask you why you like them, and you reply, “Because he was Scottish”, you know that your writing may be a little sub par.

Lara is a good character because her British accent was neat and that necklace is kinda cool too, I guess.

Lara is a good character because her British accent was neat and that necklace is kinda cool too, I guess.

But who needs story when you can shoot a wolf point blank in its wolf face with a shotgun? The most important part of any game is how it plays, and Tomb Raider plays beautifully. It effortlessly weaves together tense shootouts with exhilarating platforming with clever puzzles with boobs. The constant varying gameplay means you will rarely be bored, even in sections of the game where there is a distinct lack of wolf face murdering.

So yeah, this game is fun. If you’re looking for thoughtful, engrossing storytelling then you should probably go to a library, but if a fun game is what you care about when it comes to finding fun games, than you can do a whole lot worse.

Random takeaway: This game proves that completely rebooting a series and starting from scratch can indeed work. Other things I want to see rebooted and started over from scratch: Resident Evil, Crash Bandicoot, and Miley Cyrus.

4. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

 AC4BoxArt

If there is one time period I could make sweet, sweet love to, it would be the golden age of pirates. I’m sure that I would probably get a few diseases from that little fling and get some fame for my apparent space time continuum defying dick, but it would be so worth it. I love pirates. I love learning about them, I love watching movies with them, I even pretend to be one when I’m all by myself in my house and when my pirate outfit isn’t at the dry cleaner.

This is a good idea of how I spend my nights.

This is a good idea of how I spend my nights.

 

So imagine my dismay during my entire gaming career at the distinct lack of fun pirate games. I never understood why game developers never looked to the piracy age as I always figured it was a haven for fun game mechanic ideas. Swordfights? Yep. Exploring the sea on a pirate ship, wrecking fools with cannonballs? Oh God yes. Finding buried treasure and drinking rum and starting tavern fights? HOW IS THAT NOT EVERY GAME EVER??? No, instead of an awesome pirate game, let’s make “Call of Duty 17: Bullets”.

Luckily, Ubisoft was listening to my desperate pleas that I would make under the covers before bed every night, because they went and made a fucking pirate game. Granted, it’s not a straight up pirate game. It’s an Assassin’s Creed game that happens to be set in pirate times.

Beggars can’t be choosers, but I will admit I was a little disappointed by this. Perhaps the games greatest flaw is that its held back by the fact that its an Assassin’s Creed game. I like the AC series, don’t get me wrong. But the game’s story is held back by having to fit in a bunch of sci fi mumbo jumbo about assassins and Templars and an alien race that created Earth and fuuuuck, who cares, I just wanna go plunder some bitches, man!

The tropes of the Assassin’s Creed franchise can also get in the way. The series’ infamous “tail this guy to a destination as he uneventfully walks for ten minutes” is used so many times that I’m beginning to think that Ubisoft should be investigated for only hiring real life stalkers. And those evesdropping missions? You know, the ones where you have to stand in place for two minutes, listening to inane, boring conversation. Hey, Ubisoft, if I wanted to do that I would just plop myself on the couch and watch a marathon of The View.

If I sound like I’m being harsh, I don’t mean to be. I just wanted to get those bad things out of the way because holy shit, the rest of this game is incredible. It’s everything I wanted in a pirate game. You get in sword fights, you get in naval dogfights, you find treasure on deserted islands. The only thing missing is scurvy, and I’m not even sure about that because lately my gums have been bleeding and it looks like my limbs are about to start rotting off. Now that is immersion!

After the somewhat disappointing Assassin’s Creed III, which valued features like “boredom” and “exposition” over features like “fun” and “gameplay”, AC IV gets back to the series roots of fun, open world exploration mixed with a historical twist.

Random takeaway: The one little thing I love about this game is that one of the side missions you can do is collect floating song sheets that contain sea shanties for you crew to sing while sailing the seas. I love collectibles that actually have a practical use, rather than being a number on some stat screen that you show to your imaginary girlfriend.

3. Bioshock Infinite

bioshock-infinite-box-art

The first Bioshock took the world by storm. It was a video game version of an Ayn Rand novel, with the notable exception that it didn’t suck. It told the story of an insane entrepreneur building a city under the ocean, only to watch it crumble as it was torn apart by a civil war and its genetically mutated citizens. I know, I know, it’s a story that’s been done dozens of times but Bioshock did it right.

Bioshock Infinite is the pseudo sequel to Bioshock, taking game mechanics and similar plot points to create a game that feels new yet familiar. In Infinite, the setting is not a city under the ocean but a city in the MOTHERFUCKING SKY. The main character, Booker DeWitt, is sent on an errand to recover a girl named Elizabeth in Columbia, the aforementioned sky city. While he’s there, he doesn’t uncover the mystery of how Columbia deals with flocks of birds, violent thunderstorms, dangerously low temperatures, low oxygen levels or any other obstacle a city in the fucking sky would have to deal with BUT he does run into a lot of racists and alternate universes.

While Bioshock was a first person shooter with survival horror elements, Infinite is a first person shooter with first person shooter elements. It is definitely more action oriented than the original, featuring hordes of early 1900s mustaches with goons attached to them that need to be gunned down or dispensed with by Vigors, also known as ‘Plasmids’ in the first Bioshock, also known as ‘magic powers’ to every other piece of fiction.

If there is one complaint I have with Infinite, its that it does get a little repetitive and the gameplay can seem mindless when compared to its philosophical and brain bending storyline. I don’t understand why a game that features me hurling fireballs at a giant mechanical George Washington robot feels the need to weave a “mature” plot, but I still appreciate their storytelling efforts.

Yes, this is in a game that tackles themes like the moral cost of sin and the true nature of choice.

Yes, this is in a game that tackles themes like the moral cost of sin and the true nature of choice.

Overall, I think Infinite is a better game than the original. I found Columbia a more interesting city than Bioshock’s Rapture, the storyline is more interesting and engrossing, and the actual combat mechanics are much more refined than the original.

Random takeaway: I, for one, can’t wait for the next Bioshock where I’m sure they continue the trend of putting a city where human life is impossible. Maybe the next one will feature a city in outer space? Or near the earth’s core? Or Detroit?

2. Grand Theft Auto V

gta v

There are a few things in life that are absolutely certain in life. You’ve heard of these things: death, taxes, nachos being delicious, and a new Grand Theft Auto game every 3-6 years. GTA V marks the first time in 5 years since we’ve last had the joy of tossing ourselves out of a helicopter while firing rockets at taxis as we hurtled towards them on the ground and boy did I miss that. If I ever sign up for on a dating website, I’m listing that as one of my hobbies.

If you didn’t know GTA V came out, then I’m going to assume you are a dog that stumbled upon his owner’s computer while this web page was up and kindly ask you to bark bark roof roof bark (that is dog speak for “Stop fucking reading this and go play GTA V). If you are not a dog, then I’m sure you understand the magnitude of a new GTA game. It is practically a holiday, except it involves a lot less social contact and a lot more staying up till 4 in the morning while your mom bangs on your bedroom door, telling you to go to bed. Although that pretty much describes a typical Christmas for me, so who knows.

If you were one of those people who thought GTA IV was overrated or boring, then I’m just going to assume you are that pesky dog again. I thought I told you to bar bar roof roof bark. But assuming you are a human being who thought this, then take solace in the fact that GTA V does away with the gritty realism that defined GTA IV and brings back the more over the top, less serious tone that was seen in every other GTA.

GTA V tells the story of three criminals: Michael, Franklin and Trevor. Michael is a retired bank robber under witness protection, Trevor is his psychopathic, former partner in crime and Franklin is a black dude. I assume nobody at Rockstar Games has met a black person, because that’s about his only character dimension. Over the course of the story, we see these three characters start to work together to pull off heists and please some shady government officials because this is a GTA game and the developers think we need to have a reason/motivation for storming around a country town in a gigantic armored suit while mowing down assholes with a minigun.

The most interesting thing about this character dynamic is certainly not the dialogue that they rehash over and over, mission after mission (we get it Trevor, you’re pissed at Michael about something he did to you in the past, and yes, Franklin, we get it, you know how to say the n word), but rather the fact that you can switch between these three characters on the fly. Each character has their own stats, their own cars, their own special powers (because why not) and even their own side missions. The ability to switch between characters on the same mission is truly special, allowing you to see the mission from a whole different perspective. So while one character is doing something boring like “driving” and “not shooting things” you can switch to the character who is doing fun things like “not driving” and “shooting things.” Another benefit of this is that video gamers often wish they were different people, so they can finally play out this fantasy of magically switching bodies to someone who isn’t horrible.

There are a few things that keep GTA V from being my game of the year. First off is the storytelling. Rockstar Games has crafted some fine narratives and this isn’t one of them. I already glossed over the dialogue, but the actual plotline itself is so-so at best and the ending is all kinds of awful. Another issue is that Rockstar jam packed the game with tons of stuff to do but a lot of it just isn’t fun. I mean, I never once looked at some one doing yoga and thought, “Man, I can’t wait to do that in a video game some day”.

If you thought video games were an escape from boring, mundane, everyday life, this screenshot proves you are very wrong.

If you thought video games were an escape from boring, mundane, everyday life, this screenshot proves you are very wrong.

 

All in all, GTA V is the best in the series and is a great way to kill some time and ignore your family and friends. But it isn’t the best game of the year. What is? Why it’s…

 

 

1. The Last of Us

TheLastOfUs

The development company Naughty Dog already cemented its place as “Best Thing On Earth” with Uncharted 2 and 3, but apparently they weren’t content with those being the only displays of their insane talent. Nope, they had to go and rub it in our faces with The Last of Us, a game that isn’t just the best game of this year but could be argued for as the best game of this generation.

The Last of Us is about a gruff, middle aged guy named Joel who gets tasked with smuggling Ellen Page across the country in a post apocalyptic world with plant zombies. Okay, it’s not really Ellen Page, it’s a 14 year old girl named Ellie, and I guess it isn’t plant zombies because they technically aren’t zombies, just very violent, sick people who also happen to have mushrooms growing out of their faces. They’re called clickers because they click. The end of the world also meant the end of people’s imaginations, I guess.

In all seriousness, though, The Last of Us is really one of the best written games of all time. That may sound unimpressive since most video games make Sharknado look like Macbeth, but trust me, it’s great. The relationship between Joel and Ellen Page/Ellie is interesting and complex and you grow fond of both these characters despite some of the terrible things they’re forced to do. Spoiling any more about The Last of Us is probably a federal offense, so I will stop talking about the story but I will finish by saying it’s brutal, it’s emotional, and it doesn’t give a shit about you being happy.

Of course, there is the gameplay. In a gaming world where every other game involves shooting at moving things until they don’t move anymore for 6 straight hours, The Last of Us boldly takes us to a world where avoiding confrontations, not seeking them out, is the smart thing to do. Ammo is scarce, and therefore guns should only be used in emergencies. Can you believe that? The only time I ran out of ammo in a Call of Duty game was in the main menu. At one point in the game, I once found out I had nine whole bullets for my pistol and got an erection that lasted for a week.

This focus on strategy and resource management gives The Last of Us a bit of a survival horror feel, especially when you find yourself trying to navigate a room full of plant zombie monster things with nothing but a few bricks and a nail bomb to your name. It’s definitely a nerve wracking experience, and I imagine that playing The Last of Us is only a bit more stressful than an actual end of the world scenario.

Well. At least there aren't clickers.

Well. At least there aren’t clickers.

There’s this moment in the game that made me realize what a great job Naughty Dog did with executing a style of play that forces the player to be patient and use their wits rather than their trigger finger. There is a scene where a character sees another character (can you tell that I’m trying to be vague?), trying to pick up something they don’t need and the first character snaps at the second, asking them if they remember “the rule about taking stuff.” The 2nd character reluctantly says the rule, stating, “we only take what we need.” It’s a simple little scene, nothing groundbreaking. It just shows that in a harsh, unforgiving world where mushroom faced men try to bite your throats out, you need to rely on strict rules and guidelines to survive.

Then I reflected on how I had been playing the game up to that point, and it hit me: I had been doing the same thing. I had been playing the game using rules of my own. I would never craft an item unless I had the maximum amount of supplies needed for it. That way I never ran out in case of an emergency. I never used a molotov or nail bomb unless I was absolutely certain I could kill 3 enemies with it. Otherwise, I would just be wasting it, right? And under no circumstances did I allow myself to wast ammo by shooting dick shapes into the walls of run down buildings. I have to admit, I broke that rule a few times.

And this is just the single player. Turns out there is a multiplayer mode too. When I first heard of the game having multiplayer mode, I groaned. Story heavy games tend to have tacked on, mindless multiplayer that detract rather than add to the experience. I mean, why bother with multiplayer? So hardcore gamers can play with all 4 of their friends?

But then I fired up the multiplayer, and when I got the hang of it (it took me a few matches before I learned getting smacked in the face with a plank of wood with nails attached to it really hurts), I realized it was good. Like, really good. It’s a tense standoff between two teams of four, heavily relying on crafting weapons and picking your battles much like the single player. Teamwork is also important, so you may be forced to talk to people. I know, it sounds horrible, but if you write down a bunch of canned phrases that you can rotate with throughout the match I find that it makes the social anxiety and panic attacks a lot less frequent.

If it sounds like I’m gushing about this game, it’s because I am. When the game first came out and everyone started anointing it, I was skeptical and was not ready to buy into the hype. Then I played it, and that was the end of that. If you have a PS3 and you haven’t played this game, that would be like having a ten inch dong and never having sex. Buy it and play it.

The game, I mean, not a ten inch dong.

I mean, if you could buy a ten inch dong, that would be kinda weird.

And I definitely wouldn’t need it! Hahaha.

Because my dong is huge already. That was the joke.

i am so alone somebody help me

Random takeaway: One thing that disappoints me is the distinct lack of poop in this game. With no working plumbing, you think there would be at least ONE stray log of poop on the street or sitting on the floor of some room. Is everybody just wearing diapers now to avoid having to awkwardly squat and poop in random places? It’s called details, Naughty Dog. Maybe you should have put a little more effort into them.

 

 

 

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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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