Originally I was going to a top ten gaming moments of the year award, but I eventually decided against it. There were several great games that didn’t really have any moments that made them special, but I felt they deserved mentioning regardless. And then I didn’t really feel that simply doing a top five list of the greatest games of the year really was exciting enough. So I came up with some individual awards and found the perfect games to fit into those categories.
Also, I feel compelled to explain why there is a massive black hole in this list. No Grand Theft Auto. I have not got around to playing it yet (although I might have by now, seeing as Christmas has passed – regardless any opinions would be a knee-jerk reaction and does not belong on a 2013 summary). I have no idea if it would have influenced my thoughts on this list, as I am very passionate about all of my choices here, but please don’t feel disheartened when it doesn’t show up below.
WORST GAME OF THE YEAR – WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT
No, not Telltale Games Walking Dead. There was actually another game released for the series, rather than the comics, very early this year. It features Merle and Daryl as the Walkers first attack and how they break away and go on a survival mission across Georgia. I never got around to reviewing it, because I didn’t last an hour before getting fed up and setting fire to the game with gasoline.
It is just awful. The zombie AI is useless and the combat system is something you would expect from a Playstation 1 game. The mechanics are so bad that it becomes needlessly difficult and is one of the first games I have experienced in a long while that totally messes up the checkpoint system. It sounds quite good on paper, when you hear about the whole ‘managed your group’. You have to figure out which members of your team to take on certain missions. That side of things isn’t fully explored and it feels like a waste of your time.
MOST OVERHYPED GAME OF THE YEAR – BEYOND: TWO SOULS
Don’t get me wrong, I do like this game, but it was nowhere near as satisfying as I had hoped it to be. I have already discussed how the gameplay is a little ropey, making it a little unenjoyable at times, but the story was also a little… unsatisfying. For a game, it was great and character-wise, it was terrific. But there was a sense that it had no idea what genre of game, it wanted to be. It jumped from a spy thriller, to a supernatural horror to some over-the-top Sci-Fi. The twist at the end about Aiden’s true identity cheapened their whole relationship and I was fairly unimpressed.
That sounded harsher than I wanted it to, but I am only listing the bad points here. It is a great game and I totally recommend playing it, at least to see how far gaming has come from the days of Space Invaders. But, it was very over-hyped. There were a lot of contenders for this place, which makes it even more impressive that this game made it to the top. I have heard it referred to as a work of art and a gaming masterpiece. When those terms are thrown into the ballpark, I expect it to feel more than an average experience, which, for me, sadly, it was.
MOST DIFFICULT TO REVIEW – TOMB RAIDER
Ever since I first completed this game, I have been umming and ahhing about how I truly feel about it. I fall in the category of stubborn Tomb Raider fans that have revolted against the reboot, because we love our old Lara. However, my stubborn attitude should not reflect on the game. The truth is this reboot breaks my heart, because it confirms a fear I have had for a long time now. The Tomb Raider fan base just isn’t big enough to make the series as powerful as it used to be. This is not for lack of trying, because I have spent some time with some Tomb Raider fans recently in the forums (check out WordPress’s very own Kelly M) and they are a very passionate bunch. The truth is that Tomb Raider needs to evolve from the game we remember it to be and we need to allow it to move forward.
As a game, it is a mixed bag. True, it is not as open world as we were all promised (it wouldn’t be a problem, but we were promised that) and when the game has been completed, there is very little to actually go back and do, other than shoot some dream-catchers. But the actual campaign is a breath-takingly good experience. It will have your heart racing and despite a slightly slow start (that most 2013 games had), by the time, it hit full speed we were treated to a game that very nearly got to game of the year. And for the record, this would have also won the gaming moment of the year. When Lara picks up those two handguns… Beautiful stuff.
MOST ORIGNAL GAME OF THE YEAR – OUTLAST
Outlast’s premise nearly put me off. There is no fighting your enemies. Your only option is to hide from them and let these creatures from your nightmares pass, turning it into a chilling stealth game. There isn’t even any picking them off one by one. You simply are not able to take anyone on in hand-to-hand combat. This sounded awful to me, as a game would really have to work hard to make such a system work, but thankfully Outlast truly did.
This is why this game easily wins Original Game of the Year, because the best thing about this game is the fact that it thought outside the box. Being one of the first next-gen consoles, it could have easily have just done a Dead Rising 3 and brought us nothing new, simply showed off its stunning visuals and kept us happy. But Outlast took a risk, combining a new stealth gameplay mode, combined with some found footage effects that made the game feel extraordinarily creepy and it paid off big time.
UNDERDOG OF THE YEAR – RAYMAN LEGENDS
Surprisingly Rayman Legends very nearly took the Game of the Year award. There is something so charming and simple about it, yet at the same time, it is far from a lazy game. Time has gone into creating the artistic layout of the levels and it also boasts enough originality to make it a strong runner-up for the award above. All of these elements make it such a fantastic game and that is why I came really close to giving it the crown and calling it quits.
But it had to be the Underdog of the Year simply because it came out of freaking nowhere. I thought I had Game of the Year pinned down. I think the actual award won’t really come as a surprise to anyone, as there are really only two candidates in the running at the moment. But when I had 2013 in gaming totally sussed out, this one was a real spanner in the works. It was a total impulse buy and I am really glad that I took a chance on this game. However, at the end of the day, in terms of pure beauty, enjoyment and action, the winner was always going to be…
BEST GAME – THE LAST OF US
Naughty Dog could have easily given us another Uncharted and called it quits. We would have all been happy with that. But they took a tired genre (the Zombie invasion), and spruced it up a bit with a terrific storyline and tense action. It takes everywhere most zombie games fall down and totally succeeds in those areas. The scary bits are actually scary. The characters break our heart when they actually die. The human opponents are just as prominent as the Infected. Every angle of this game worked.
And to reinforce that with the most interesting gaming partnership in a long time was a genius move. There is something very appealing about spending time with Joel and Ellie as they make their way through a world totally disfigured by the infection. This is why we don’t mind when the game takes a quieter moment to spend on these characters and their arc. We come to know these characters and we care where the game takes us. I was unsure about this new trend of story-heavy games, but if we continue to get games like the Last of Us, then I am totally on board with the genre.