Game of the year 2013

A Slight change to the format this year. Previously, this category only involved games that were released in the calendar year in question, instead I am changing it to games I was introduced to during the past year as some of the games played over the last year should get recognition.

It was also helped by my only playing seven games that came out in 2013, this was the year that I finally got a PS3 and so I have a whole juicy library to catch up on.

5. Far Cry 3 – PC – 2012
Far Cry 3 was the game that I sunk the most time into this year. I loved the exploration of the island and while the story didn’t really hold my attention, the gameplay was great and made for a fantastic experience. I had less fun on the PS3 version due to annoying controller glitches that reared their ugly heads during combat and often led to my demise.

4. Bioshock Infinite – PC – 2013
The most beautiful game I have ever played and I really enjoyed the storyline, the combat just felt tagged on and ruined the experience for me.

3. Xcom Enemy Unknown – PS3 – 2012
This is second only to Far Cry in the number of hours I have sunk into it and I suspect it will eventually eclipse the Ubisoft game over time. The ability to create my friends as an alien killing super team and then have them wiped out just after the point in the storyline I got to in the previous playthrough always  gets me reloading and beginning again. The turn based controls work wonderfully with a controller and the experience is superbly put together.

2. Splinter Cell Blacklist – Xbox 360 – 2013
Purists can keep bleating about how this and the preceding Conviction are not real Splinter Cell games. While that may be true, I don’t care, this is much more fun. I love being able to sneak through levels unseen but at the same time, I love that the game allows you options if you do get spotted. Or if you are in a bad mood, you have the chance just to go in guns blazing without dying immediately.

1. Grand Theft Auto V – PS3 – 2013
Considering the size of the game space it is impressive how good GTA5 looks. The gameplay is tight and the driving controls are sooo much better than GTA4. The story may be poor and often trying too hard to be controversial, but I have such a good time just driving around exploring the island that I can ignore it. Rockstar have taken great elements from their other games of the past few years and created a masterpiece. They have created my game of the year for the second year in a row.

 

Past winners:

2012 – Max Payne
2011 – Portal 2
2010 – Mass Effect 2
2009 – Colin McRae: Dirt 2
2008 – Mass Effect
2007 – Super Mario Galaxy

Game of the Year 2012

While it was a great year for movies in 2012 it seemed to be a fairly lackluster year for games. I am also finding myself with gradually less time to play the big releases when they came out. It seemed to be a year when small games could shine though. In a year when I played just 12 new games the bottom of my top 10 may not exude quality but the top games were all ones I have greatly enjoyed.

10. Worms Revolution – PC

9. Catherine – XBOX360

8. Fez – XBOX360

7. Mark of the Ninja – PC

6. Mass Effect 3 – XBOX360
The first two Mass Effect games were my Games of the Year and the first game was my game of the last decade. Mass Effect 3 was therefore a bit of a letdown. It wasn’t just the terrible ending, it just felt dull compared the supreme second entry. The series went further away from its RPG roots as the series progressed and ended up mainly as a Shooter. This diluted what made the series interesting in the first place.

5. Thomas Was Alone – PC
A nice little Indie game that makes you care about little blocks with its charming narrative and fun puzzle gameplay

4. Trials Evolution – XBOX360
I loved Trials 2, the only problem was that it was single player, Trials Evolution added an exciting multiplayer that had my friends and I chuckling away. The user made multiplayer tracks just added to a great experience.

3. Spec Ops the Line – PC
A great narrative makes some for some occasionally iffy shooter mechanics, you want to keep playing to find out what happens next.

2. F1 2012 – PC
The third time is a charm for Codemasters’ F1 series, the first game was good because it was the first entry for years. The second didn’t really hold my interest as it largely fixed the bugs from the first game while confusing with an odd menu system. The third game does away with the menus altogether and seeks to just get you racing quicker. The controls take a little getting used to but once you do they feel pretty tight. I am enjoying this game.

1. Max Payne – PC
After LA Noire lost me with its narrative and repetitive gameplay Max Payne did a great job of building my trust in Rockstar again. The controls are tight and exciting, the narrative is interesting and keeps you playing and the bullet time effects are great fun. All that plus it is a great game to look at and has a lot to offer. It is my game of 2012.

image from Rockstargames.com

Best of the Decade – Games

This has been a decade when gaming technology has come on leaps and bounds. While the 1990’s were the decade of the third dimension the 2000’s have been about innovative control and high definition. That being said, a lot of the best games I have played came out towards the beginning of the decade. This list is largely comprising the games into which I have sunk and will continue to sink a large amount of my time due to their excellence in either single or multiplayer.

Top Ten games of the 2000’s:
10. Burnout 2 – Gamecube – 2003
The original burnout was a hard game especially in multiplayer as the amount of traffic and the lack of boosts made it tricky to finish a race before running out of time (especially when playing with your feet). Burnout 2 addressed this and made it more casual friendly by making it near impossible to fail the checkpoints while incorporating tracks that work brilliantly and are more varied. The multiplayer is mainly what gets this game here, I have spent days playing this game in multiplayer. While the single player mode gets a little dull in an hour or so with a lot of repetition there is much to be done with a friend round. The strong crash junctions provide something for casual gamers (like my wife) to enjoy the game and this is the only game to which I can add that a blind friend of mine managed to beat me… nuff said.

9. Advance Wars – DS – 2005
Turn based strategy you can take with you. This is my favourite war sim. I still enjoy this series of games from its official start on the game boy advance to the latest Days of Ruin reboot. It is addictive and has made many train journeys seem to take no time at all. If they keep making these I will keep buying. The premise being its a little like rock paper scissors with certain units effective against one thing but useless against something else (helicopters vs AA guns anyone). The level design is varied and the story throws up super weapons to make life harder. The perfect travel companion.

8. Timesplitters 2 – Gamecube – 2002
Of all the games with which I have spent time, this is the one that has sucked the most of it. Timesplitters 2 is bar none the best first person shooter I have ever played with its bizarre story mode, humour, many many challenges and create your own level mode. The multiplayer is also very strong with four players running around blowing merry hell out of eachother. College lunchbreaks would not be the same without timesplitters and I will be still playing at the end of the next decade.

7. Dirt 2 – XBox 360 – 2009
While not perfect this game has a lot of variety in its racing, beautiful graphics, spot on controls and a good damage system. It is therefore the best racing game I have played. It is unfortunate that I had to say racing there as the rallying side is a little underwhelming. Lots of fun to be had here though with a rush coming from knowing you are so close to losing everything around the next bend as you fly towards a wall. Exhilarating and good fun at 2am the day after Thanksgiving…

6. Professor Layton – DS – 2008
Professor Layton was a little slow in finding its way to the UK (it came out in the US in 2007) but it did very well for itself last christmas selling out across the country. The mix between brainteasers and a strong story was what caused it to sell so well. With more games Layton coming there will be much more for the public to sink their teeth into. Whats more its a game my wife finishes before I do and anything that encourages her to play games is fine by me.

5. Boom Blox – Wii – 2008
Another game my wife finishes before I do is Boom Blox which is from Steven Spielberg apparently. To my recollection there has been no better party game. I have never had anyone say that they have not enjoyed this game. Its unique style, perfect use of the wii remote (this really could not be on another console) and physics engine that never gets it wrong place this game in here.

4. GTA San Andreas – PS2 – 2004
It might be odd that this is the version of Grand Theft Auto that finds its way into this list after GTA 4 stole the headlines last year but GTA 4 just isn’t fun for me. The PS2 games had a slightly arcadey feel to them especially in their driving mechanic and this is unfortunately missing in the newer game. The story is fun and the game world is more varied than the cityscape of games past. The variety of things you can do in this open world are limited largely by your imagination. The fun to be had in driving a sports car to the top of the games mountain and flying it off the ramp to be found there at high speed is not to be underestimated. This is also the game where the controls were tightest and the missions the least frustrating.

3. Half Life 2 + The Orange Box – PC – 2007
Half Life 2 would probably have been my number one but for a big frustration… Ant Lions, my word do those things make me annoyed, those buggers are also the reason I am not a big fan of HL2: episode 1 which I am sure I will come back to and finish at some point. The story of Half Life 2 is one of the best with a dystopian world where the citizens are oppressed by the combine. Gordon Freeman ends up in the middle of this and has to first stay alive before eventually trying to free humankind. The orange box represents the best value in video game history with Half Life 2 and its two episode packs plus portal (which is by itself one of the best games ever made taking a simple concept and making it addictive) and team fortress 2 (a crazy multiplayer game)… if only it weren’t for the ruddy ant lions…

2. Mario Galaxy – Wii – 2007
I grew up with sega systems therefore I preferred Sonic, I still do not like Nintendo’s flagship series in 2d form. I keep trying but I also keep failing. In 3d though Mario is more interesting while Sonic is a bit crap with endless gimicks ruining what Sonic should be while Nintendo have struck gold with mario keeping to what made it work. This game is the best platformer ever with graphics that while cartoony are also impressive, a control system that is almost perfect and a physics engine that works superbly to make platforming fun again. Sure the story is the same we have played a thousand times and the game can be a bit easy but these things do not cloud such mastery by Nintendo.

1. Mass Effect – PC – 2008
Having now played the start of the Xbox version this game would not be number 1 if it had been played on that platform. The controls are iffy at best while the PC version flowed beautifully. I fully enjoyed my 12 hour experience with this game. The story worked well, I felt emotionally attached to the characters and this is the first RPG since Final Fantasy 8 I have truly enjoyed. This is also the best sci-fi game on the market. The story sees you as one of the unliked human race struggling to make your name in the galaxy. As things start to go awry you go investigating with your team levelling up as you go. The game is set across an epic scale and for those 12 hours I was hooked. I am very much looking forward to the continuation of this series next year, the problem is I need to complete the xbox version of the game first…
The pc game is my game of the decade because it hooked me into its world, showed me that not all rpg games are rubbish and that there is hope for space travel in games.

Here are the games that nearly made the cut:
Race Driver 3, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Fallout 3, Fifa 10, Star wars battlefront, Madden 09, Grid, Wii Sports, Pikmin, F1 ’06

Come back tomorrow for my review of the year.

Images from microsoft.com, niceskybox.files.wordpress.com, ign and the guardian

Mass Effect Review


Mass Effect on XBOX360 was one of the big releases of 2007. In May 2008 the game was released on PC with better graphics and bugs from the original fixed. The game see’s you traversing the galaxy as Commander Shephard of the Alliance military. Being an RPG he/she can look how you want them to look and have a set of attibutes you can work towards. The game hinges on choices made in dialogue and in battle and can often provide quite a challenge as you seek to take out the threat to the galaxy.

The games does very well with the depth given to most characters and the sheer number of people you can talk to who give you things to do. You lead a team of three on missions around different planets in what is a large galaxy of around 50 planets. The problem with this is that the main quest only uses about six of these planets and some of the others you are unable to land on. If the number of missions was larger then you can be sure that the game would take longer than 13 hours to complete. 13 hours is not a bad length for a game but in Mass Effect this basically is just 5 missions. You start off with 3 missions which then funnel into the other two which makes it feel like the game is far too short. While I understand the need to stick to a plot it would be nice if there were other leads to follow up instead of it being a relatively straight forward romp.

The game also features a good and evil section to it although for the life of me I cannot work out the point of this, possibly this is done my usual do gooder self not wanting to cap someone I have gotten to know in the face.

The seemingly shortness of the main story and the slightly pointless feature are about the only bad points I can give for Mass effect, the squad controls are the best I have played. The combat is 95% of the time spot on. The worlds you visit (although there are not many) are different and varied like its characters. Another thing I would have liked is the ability to travel the galaxy after the main quest is complete, just so you can go and explore the areas you didn’t see. Basically they have completed a brilliant and immersive world which you just don’t want to leave so it is a shame when the credits role and you are chucked out to the loading screen.

In conclusion then Mass Effect presents a deep and involving world which just doesn’t prove long enough to satisfy, when you realise you are nearing the end it hurts because you feel like you are just getting into it. The graphics and characters are brilliant. The controls work with all the bugs fixed from the 360 game and really I don’t have a single complaint outside of the games short running time. The difficulty is good, often very challenging and Bioware can be pleased with this game. I just can’t wait now for the sequel which is hopefully coming.

9/10

Half Life 2 Review


The joys of having your own website include the ability to rate games which are quite old. The fact then that Half Life 2 is still the best looking game I have played despite releasing 4 years ago shows testament to the work that Valve did on the game. The graphics really are something special with this game allowing you to get completely immersed in this world from the moment you start the thing up until the moment when you finish a good 15 hours later (albeit not in one sitting).

You play Gordon Freeman a physicist turned hired hand who has to help a rebel force destroy an evil empire, so far so everything else. What this game does differently is have perfect controls, a realistic believable environment and a story that will make you weep at times as your team are destroyed around you. They live and die depending on how well you do, if you do badly they will fight for you but don’t expect them to survive for a long time on their own.

The game is divided into episodes and is very linear, but it is linear in a way where you still feel like you are exploring. The world is huge and luckily the vehicle controls are tight. The game also features some very hard battles against foes, no boss battles as such just realistic numbers games as you take on 20 foes at a time or three of the horrifying striders pictured below. You want to win the battles because you feel like you are making a difference to the war effort. You want your team mates to survive so they can bail you out of a tight spot. But as is always the case team AI is not so good I might go so far as to say awful. Certainly they can fight alongside you but they also constantly get in your way. By the time you have heard “Sorry Mr Freeman” thirty times you will want to shoot them… but you can’t because there is no friendly fire in the game. Also some of the puzzles are tricky because it is solely down to finding some tiny and insignificant looking ledge which you can jump on to to get over an object. You can spend half an hour walking around looking for an exit when it’s been staring you in the face the whole time.

Overall though half life 2 is one of the best games I have ever played, the personalities of the characters and the story are enough to make this game worthwhile but chuck in the best first person shooter controls I have used and the best weapons ever designed and you have more than enough for your money’s worth. A few minor foibles do not detract from the brilliance on display here, doesn’t quite beat Metal Gear Solid for me though.

9.5/10