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

Games I’m looking forward to the 1st half of 2011

De Blob 2 – Wii – 25 February
The first de blob game was brilliant. It had a very unique style, the graphical style was great for wii and the sound design was fitting as well. I played through the first game with a rental copy, this time barring any huge issues in the reviews I will buy it on day 1.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Wii – 25 February
I put Kirby down in my last list… turns out it only got a 2010 release date in the US and Japan. We schmucks in Europe have to wait till the end of February. Oh well, reviews have been good for this latest kirby game which to me makes it a must buy… Kirby is awesome!

Homefront – Xbox 360 – 11 March
I saw a preview for this game over a year ago, I immediately liked the idea behind the game and the visual style (reminding me of the brilliant Half Life 2). The story revolves around America being invaded by Korea (of all countries) and sees you taking on a role in a resistance of guerilla fighters to win back the country. Heres hoping they pull off a decent storyline to supplement the action.

Shift 2 – Xbox 360 – 25 March
I played the first Shift game for precisely one weekend and while I enjoyed it I wasn’t drawn to play it again. Everything I have seen of this second game looks like an improvement though and so I am optimistic that it could be a good sim racing game… If it has Brands Hatch again like the first did then I am even more likely to be buying it. I won’t make my father try this one though… Who would have thought he was slower at racing games that my mother and my wife… I think I know where I got my racing gaming ability from, my mother is pretty darn good at them.

Portal 2 – Xbox 360 – 22 April
The first portal was fairly well hidden away, it came as an anonymous looking puzzle game in a compilation called ‘the orange box’ which contained the half life 2 episodes. It turns out that this fairly short game could be counted as one of the best games of all time. You are given a portal gun with which you are able to define two portals. Walk through one and you come out of the other. The physics engine made the thing what it was andthe whole thing was beautifully framed by the idea that you are working through a testing facility run by a computer called GLADOS who may well be insane… The sequel promises to be a full length version of this game adding a more fleshed out storyline and some adjustments to the formula. This is the must buy game on this list and will be coming on PS3 and PC as well.

Dirt 3 – Xbox 360 – Q2
Dirt 2 was an odd racing game, in 2009 I gave it my Game of the Year awards. When I say odd I mean so stylistically. The graphics were slightly sepia while the menu system was trying to be perhaps a little too hip and occasionally got in the way but the driving was sublime. The AI was good to drive against and the stages created for the game were great. It also tried to add variety basing itself around the X games. This time out they are going back to their roots a little more. This sounds good to me, improved graphics, improved physics and more of what makes a rally game work? I’ll sign up for that… another day one buy for me.

L.A Noire – Xbox 360 – 20 May
Last year I was very happy to find a decent western game come out (though I have yet to buy/play it). The Leone Spaghetti Western’s are some of my favourite films and the genre had been dying for a decent game to represent it. Another poorly service genre of choice for me is crime. There are not many decent games out there where you play the cop, more often than not you are against the law. This is easier to portray and being the right side of the law in games where its done badly gets boring very fast. The indications are though that LA Noire is a game done right. I really hope so.

The 3DS and its games do not yet make this list. For me the announcement of the console was brilliant. It seemed like such a neat idea but in the 6 months since its unveiling each piece of news has only lessened the hype for me.
First came the news that the 3d can damage your eyes. Sounds to me like the virtual boy all over again. Granted they only mentioned it for children but the effect would be the same for anyone with an extended play.
Then more recently they announced the battery life. The best thing for me about my DS Lite is I do not feel tethered to a charging point, I can happily forget about charging my current DS for months and it will still have juice thanks to a meaty 15 hour battery. The 3DS… is a third of this, which is poor. That wouldn’t even sustain me for a flight to the US thus making it worthless.
Now the price, announced yesterday at $250, while I understand that Nintendo likes to make a profit on every hardware unit they sell this is too much. This is more than their home console and at a time when handheld gaming outside of the mobile phone market has gotten a little tenuous. So what if the 3D is cool, it is still a gimmick and is likely to be turned off fairly quickly by the majority of users.
So I will, as I did with the DS, be waiting for the inevitable lite version. It may take a few years but the updated looks and likely improved battery will make it worth the wait. DS rant over…

I hope that you have enjoyed this list, if there are any games you are looking forward to in the next six months let me know below.

To round out this blog post, you want to watch this video:

As you can see most of my images were taken from ign. Ign rocks yo! De Blob from gamezone

Just a little notice as well… this was my 1000 published blog post… Maybe I should do a celebration post next week.

Vanquish – Xbox 360 review

Some demos do a great job of selling their game. The demo for vanquish showed a tricky and busy shooter with very strong controls and some interesting mechanics. I was sold and was excited to get it after christmas. I managed to pick it up in the post-christmas sales for £13.

The game harks back to America’s love of Russia. Russia have used a big ole space station to destroy San Francisco. They have threatened the destruction of New York next unless the US bow down to their demands. Your job is to stop this threat and destroy the pesky Russians. The Russians are not embodied in human form but are comprised of a series of mechs that are rather overpowered especially in boss form. This game has easily the best boss battles I have played in years possibly ever. That said in a very Japanese way the enemies’ weak points are easily highlighted with nice red lights but their size and strength makes them very formidable. The other enemies are largely similar to the geth from Mass Effect and they do a good job of keeping you on your toes largely by their strength of numbers.

I would say the graphics are pretty but that is something of a given on next gen consoles these days and the sound design does a great job of building the pressure. Both do their job and the space station seems feasible as a future place for civilisation although you never get a proper idea of its layout due to moving from battlefield to battlefield. The best thing about this game and the thing that makes it great is the controls. They are tight and perfect. You always have the ability to win with quick weapon changes, strong agility and a very good bullet time effect. It is usually possible to escape from enemies attacks if your reactions are there and the cover based fighting system is very well implemented. That said the odds are often against you as the missions go on and this game is hard as nails at times.

With little time to play through games these days I appreciate controls that work. Often seeing a game described as having a good story but bad controls is enough to stop me playing even if it is promising. I just don’t have time to fight a control scheme. That is what made me love vanquish, the odds may be against you but you feel you can get it done. The story may be daft and a little unimaginative but it is largely just a vehicle for the fighting and that is where the game excels. Mammoth boss fights seal the deal and I hope that the open storyline does lead to a sequel.

Rating: 8.5/10

Games I am looking forward to in 1st half of 2010

This is a list of the games that have already been announced that I am excited about in the next five months. The fact is that it appears that most of the good games coming out this year are coming in this period due to the Modern Warfare 2 effect experienced at the end of last year.

In relative chronological order then:

Mass Effect 2 – Xbox 360 – 29th January 2010

The first game on PC was ranked as my favourite game of the last decade. The second game is supposed to be even better fixing all the issues that I am currently fighting with in trying to complete the first game again… which I have to do before getting this one as it continues on keeping the same save file and being affected by your decisions in the original. The big problem with the original is combat, too often you end up dying for seemingly no reason… that is just not fun, this has been fixed and I am very excited to continue the best gaming story I have had the chance to enjoy.

mass effect 2

Just Cause 2 – Xbox 360 – 26 March 2010

I never got to play the first Just Cause game on the PS2, it looked promising but I have since heard otherwise. This game looks like it can fulfil the promise of the first game largely due to the idea of screwing around with a grappling hook (the image below showing a car having been attached to a fighter jet by grappling hook). That said a recent video has made the controls look a little bit weak so while I think this game could be amazing poor controls could render all the fine work pointless. That said the environments in the game look wonderful and with 10000 km2 to explore there will be hours of fun to be had… fingers crossed for the controls then.

Red Steel 2 – Wii – 26 March 2010

The first red steel game sucked. It was the first fps experience for so many wii gamers and the first with motion controls but it was awful. The controls were horrible, the story was simple and dull and the graphics showed the wii to be lacking. That all said though, there was promise. It remains the best game to feature true sword fighting and so along comes the sequel with the wii peripheral ‘motion plus’ that allows you to get closer to 1-1 motion. The team have also added a stylised cel shaded graphics system that makes up for the lack of power in the wii and it just looks like an improvement all round. A heavier slant towards sword fighting is also evident with the gun fighting now playing second fiddle which makes it immediately cooler. This is the first wii game I have been excited about since last summer so it has a lot to live up for in needing to reinvigorate the wii’s recently weak software lineup. Also don’t worry I am out of sequels now…

Red Dead Redemption – Xbox 360 – 30 April 2010

An open world western game is something I have been wanting to play for years. Back in 2005 a game called Gun came out on the PS2 but it had iffy controls and quickly got annoying. Red Dead Redemption looks to give the genre the GTA treatment thanks to it being developed by Rockstar the team behind that game. If any team can pull off a cool western game you have to believe it can be them.

Split/Second – Xbox 360 – 31 May 2010

This game seems to be a mix between Burnout 2 and Excite Truck in that it is insanely fast frantic racing and the scenery explodes around you. Therefore this game should be epic. That said it also sounds like it could be largely down to luck as to where you finish what with the environmental obstacles causing havoc. Still that should make it very good multiplayer. The other slight issue is its made by Disney… which makes it sound weak. Oh well, I am game, where do I sign up?

So other than the fact that I can’t buy Mass Effect 2 until I have recompleted the first game and then have a gap until the 26 March 2010 when two of these games come out I have a pretty good and spaced out lineup for the next six months.

Other games I can look forward to:

  • Trackmania – wii
  • Backbreaker – Xbox 360: something needs to give Madden some competition and force it to improve its game

All images courtesy of ign.com

Batman: Arkham Asylum Review

This is a game that leading up to its release I could not have been less excited about playing. this is partly because before August I was not paying any attention to 360 games due to not owning the console myself but partly because super hero movies tend to be daft. The one exception I have played to this rule being Spiderman 2 which was fun for web-swinging aimlessly around New York city.

Then the game came out though and I got to watch more footage of the game, the way it controlled and the cut scenes and I changed my mind.

Having now played through this game it is in fact one of the best games I have played. If I had had more time with it before deciding the game of the year then it would have certainly been higher and possibly challenged Dirt2 for the win. The game starts with you escorting the captured Joker through Arkham Asylum (Gotham City’s mental asylum). The joker escapes custody and takes over. Your job obviously is to stop him. The game sees you fighting a number of batman villains including Poison Ivy and Scarecrow along with hundreds of standard inmates and the combat is remarkably simple with one button for attacks and one button for counters. How you fair in a particular battle is largely down to your timing and it is immensely satisfying to take out a room full of goons without taking a hit. It would sound like this system though would get awfully repetitive but it does not largely down to the variety of animations on screen keeping you interested. Certainly it is easier than some other games but I don’t see why that should necessarily be a problem… The game environments contain gargoyles and other creations that allow you to perform stealthy kills as well. It is also satisfying to take out a room full of gunmen individually without being seen.

This game is also one of the best looking that I have played with the asylum coming to life through the environments. Coupled with some of the best voice work and music in gaming you will be immersed into this world. It is also an open world so although you are able to follow it in a linear way you are able to go where you like and do what you like. In fact this is encouraged thanks to the Riddler trophies dotted around the island. There are over 200 of these in total and through following the main story I only managed to find 50 or so of them but moving about the island is so fun that I intend to go hunting for the rest.

Once the main storyline is completed after about 10 hours (I completed it in a week… although I did play it a lot more frequently than Modern Warfare 2… because shock, this is better) you continue to have free reign over the island, alternatively there is the option of completing a challenge mode which gives you a task to do in a specific amount of time. This is a good way of extending the life of the game and I look forward to finishing it. The main story itself is also of a good length. You will not get any Mass Effect or Modern Warfare style annoyances when the game seems to end a couple of hours south of proper this game goes the distance and does not outstay its welcome either. A very good job then by all involved.

In conclusion I thoroughly enjoyed playing through Arkham Asylum, it is far and away the best superhero game I have ever played and its success has led Activision to announce that their spiderman games have been rubbish and that they need to try harder. This film does for superhero games what the first spiderman movie did for superhero films. It has moved the posts of what is available for the genre. A wonderful storyline, perfect controls and a relatively simple fighting mechanic are what make this game great. It flows wonderfully and lasts exactly the right amount of time. Well done to Rocksteady for making one of the few games that I could happily play again and again.

9/10

(images lovingly pinched from ign.com)