Following my little Hobbit rant I feel like it’s time to talk about what I enjoyed last year, so here are my top 5 games from 2013 that I played in 2013. If there are any suspicious absences that’s probably because I haven’t had a chance to play everything yet, like Tomb Raider, or Grand Theft Auto V which I’m only about a third of the way through.
So, in no particular order (because if I tried to think of an order, it would probably change every few minutes)...
The long awaited sequel deserves credit for its incredible attention to detail. The gunplay is chaotic and overdone, perhaps, but despite forcing you down a linear path like so many of today’s single player shooters, Infinite provides perhaps the most spine-tinglingly well realised setting of any game to date. The first half-hour alone does more to generate intrigue than any number of other so called ‘narrative-driven’ shooters combined. Irrational took the first BioShock’s philosophical approach and decided to dance all over it with a smattering of inter-dimensional craziness. Whether you enjoy the universe-twisting shenanigans or consider them a step too far for the series, there’s no doubt that Infinite leaves an impression.
The Last of Us
Gaming’s equivalent of Oscar-bait. Impressively designed, technically pristine and sporting a very well constructed narrative. It’s very nice to see a big budget game that cares more about character development than showcasing the latest explosion rendering techniques. Certainly a step in the right direction from Naughty Dog, who I feel used to fall victim to the ‘set piece first, narrative later’ approach. You won’t find any ‘Nathan Drake gets captured by pirates’ interludes here, although I do feel that the game occasionally risks wringing out a few too-many repetitive scenarios. There’s only so many times you can be forced to prop a ladder up against a wall before you start losing interest. But that’s just nitpicking. The Last of Us is a clever, bold, effective masterpiece.
The Wonderful 101
Niche, oddball and wonderfully over-the-top. This is why Platinum are possibly my favourite developers - you just won’t find this sort of madness elsewhere. It’s like someone threw Pikmin and director Shinji Mikami’s own Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta into a blender with, of all things, Power Rangers. The learning curve is steep thanks to ridiculously convoluted mechanics, but as you get stuck in and figure things out for yourself, everything just clicks. The game even dares to properly-legitimise the Wii U Gamepad screen with some amusing multi-tasking sections. The final boss battle lasts almost 2 hours, upping the spectacle to ridiculous proportions without even becoming a drag. It’s a genuinely bonkers action game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up as the struggling Nintendo console’s biggest cult classic.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
I’m just so glad this exists - I wouldn’t have imagined this sort of project ever actually coming to fruition. For the uninitiated, Blood Dragon is a totally standalone spin-off from the also-excellent Far Cry 3 that pays tribute to every cheesy 80s sci-fi action movie… by playing like a cheesy 80s sci-fi action movie. It’s a loveable parody in the same vein as the recent Grindhouse films. A little on the easy side, perhaps, but you can’t go wrong when your game has Kyle Reese himself, Michael Biehn on voiceover duties. Or the excellent soundtrack that does an uncannily great job of recreating the synthesisers used back in the day. Or, most importantly, glowing neon dragons that shoot laser beams out of their eyes.
There’s been some good platformers this year - everyone’s been talking up Mario 3D World recently, but I’m going to give this round to the limbless whatever-he-is. This former Nintendo exclusive controversially ended up on a whole bunch of other consoles, yet having played through the entirety of this insanely gorgeous side-scroller with the touch-screen aided co-op, I can’t imagine anything comparing to the fluidity of the original Wii U version. Michel Ancel’s team outdid themselves with the level of creativity and variety on offer here, with a more balanced difficulty level than Origins and, somehow, even more beautiful visuals.
Super Mario 3D World, Metal Gear Rising, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 2 and I have to mention Pikmin 3 somewhere or my brother will moan.
I’ll probably do a similar blog post with 2013 movies eventually, but I feel like I’ve got to catch up on a lot of the big hits first.