Monday, 3 February 2014

Best of 2013 [Games, Music, Films, TV]


Building on the strength of 2012, I think that 2013 has been another amazing year in gaming for both AAA and indie. And even though I have not had a chance to get hands on with any next-gen kit, I am now glad that I didn't have the money to get a new console due to what I have heard and read about what they can currently do, and the range of software avilable. However, I am excited to get a PS4 at some point in the near future and the potential it (and the Xbox One) holds.

Although I was a very busy this year while completing my Master's degree (and at times I wasn't sure that I would get to play 10 game for this list), I found time towards the end of year to pick up and play some of the games that I wanted to play earlier in the year. So here we go...

2013 Game of the Year

Grand Theft Auto V

Maybe not the game that I had the most fun with this year, but as an aspiring Environment Artist, I was just blown away with the amazing world of GTAV. Although I do not think that this game was a massive step up in terms of gameplay from GTA4, the addition of the heist and other missions which utilises the mechanic of swapping characters were really fun. And even in the year of continued fails of launching games with a large online component, this is another Rockstar game, as with Max Payne 3 last year, which the multiplayer aspects sunk its hooks in for a decent period of time.


2. Spelunky

I waited and waited and finally we got Spelunky on the pc this year! Along with it's highly-tuned mechanics and super awesome design, Spelunky was the definitely the game that got the most emotional reaction (mostly anger and frustration) from me this year which earned it's spot so high on the list. Spelunky has also built such awesome online communities, and as much as I loved playing the game (126 hours Steam tells me), I've spent even longer watching Twitch streams and YouTube Let's Plays of the game. The daily challenge is a really interesting mode which I expect to see in many games in the future.

3. Metal Gear Rising: Revengence

It's great that Platinum were allowed to have some fun with the Metal Gear franchise and making a game that is not so self-serious, while at the same time putting their own stamp and produce a game which has a lot of 'dumb fun'. Although the tone of the game changes quite drastically half way through, all in all I think Platinum pulled off the game they wanted to make. The enemies are well designed and produced some unique and really fun combat experiences, even making QTEs mean something by mirroring actions of regular gameplay.

4. Tomb Raider
Surprise of the Year

This was almost a game that nearly slipped from getting on this year's list as I wasn't that excited to play it at release, but after talking to a friend who had played through it, I was convinced to give it a go. From the opening cinematic (which was definitely one of the most visually stunning accomplishments I've seen come from a video game) right through to the ending, I was fully engaged in what was happening which I feel is very rare for me. I do think that some of the early level design feels constrictive, but the later areas in the game feel open and offer some really fun exploration, and I for sure learnt something about how to create environments for games.

5. Bit Trip Presents: Runner 2 The Future of Rhythm Alien

I had a lot of fun with Runner 2 at the start of the year and was quite sure it would make my top 10 even then. Runner 2 is very much an iteration on the first game, which personally I thought had too steep of a learning and difficulty curve, but even though Runner 2 adds more combinations of actions, overall the game is easier as the difficulty curve is spread across more levels. The only thing that I would like to have seen is a level editor tying into the Steam Workshop as I think this is a game which user generated content would work well and would have kept me playing the game for much longer.

6. Prison Architect

After a certain other game from the genre previously disappointed me this year, Prison Architect restored my faith in simulation games, and saw my first venture into one of this year's biggest trend in video games, early access games. I met a few of the developers whole helping to promote my Master's degree at Rezzed in June and they seemed like a real nice bunch of guys. With monthly videos showing the new features as they are added to the game giving a view into the development of the game, I think IV Software are doing a great job at keeping the community involved in the development of the game, which is what I think early access is suppose to be all about.

7. Grid 2

With Grid 2 it was so hard to get out of the mind set of having to win every race because, as is typical with racing games, you get more money to upgrade cars etc. However, Grid 2 has done away with having to worry about saving up for a new car or an upgrade which gets you into that loop of winning races to earn more cash to win more races. Instead you earn fans to unlock cars and upgrades. At first this number seems arbitrary, but it does give an a good sense of progression without the worry of hoarding money, and lets you enjoy the content of the game. The only reason Grid 2 didn't get higher up the list is because I feel that, however detailed they may be, there is not a wide enough selection of cars and tracks, a common trait in Codemasters games, which is not typical of other racing titles available for the same price.

8. Rocksmith 2014 Edition 

Although only a slight iteration on the original game, I still think that Rocksmith 2014 is a great way to get into and learn songs on guitar or bass. Having gone back to the original after getting it cheap in a Steam sale, the UI for 2014 Edition has seen major improvements, including the main highway, which I think makes it easier to read the notes while you play. After first booting up 2014 Edition, I initially missed the career progression of the original, but it is nice to have more control over your progression speed. It would just be nice to still have a set of XP levels to work though to feel like you are progressing somewhere as you play more songs, getting higher scores, improving mastery of songs etc.

9. Beyond: Two Souls

I very rarely get the chance to play games that are not designed primarily as single player experiences, but I really enjoyed playing Beyond with Petra as the first game we've played together. The concept of playing the game in smaller chunks in a non-linear fashion is interesting and each section tells an compelling part of Jodie and Aiden's story, but as a whole I came away from the game not convinced it all fit together as well as it could if each section was played in chronological order. What did pull the game up, is that by splitting the game into these chunks, a lot more focus could be given to the environment for each level, resulting in some really good looking and detailed levels. I was (for the most part) also really impressed with the movement of, and the way that characters feel when moving around the environments because they felt as if they had some real wieght to them.

10. Neptune's Pride II

Neptune's Pride... It has the ability to give a lot at the same time as taking just much. During the 3 months that myself and my friends at uni played Neptune's Pride we went through so much. I had so much fun playing the 3 games we got through in that time, setting up and discussing strategies to defeat people who you wasn't even sure if it was who you thought it was. All that fun had it's costs though. I lost quite a few hours sleep and productivity checking the game at all hours night and day, making sure that nobody had tricked me and all of my strategies were playing out as I expected. It also almost cost a friendship when one game caused some controversy over changes to discussed strategies which were not upheld! Look it up. Just finishing this write up a few months after last playing the game, makes me want to go back to see what's new and play another game.

Honourable mentions:

Cook, Serve, Delicious
Rogue Legacy
Game Dev Tycoon

A few other games that Steam and Humble Bundle tempted me to that I should have played

Papers, Please
Dead Space 3
Brutal Legend
Poker Night 2

...and a few other games that I wanted to pick up if I had the money/time (potential 2014's 2013 Game of the Year).

The Last of Us
God of War: Ascension
Gears of War: Judgement
Assassins Creed 4: Blackflag
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Batman: Arkham Origins
Need for Speed Rivals

2013's 2012 Game of the Year

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs missed out on last year's list for one reason alone, I played it after publishing the list. This was probably the first game I played this year, and I'm quite sure it would have placed high on last year's list as I had a lot of fun playing through it. The combat in Sleeping Dogs is really enjoyable, and even though it can be difficult to get to grips with at first, it is really well executed and feels smooth, offering some really rewarding gameplay. I did put the game down for a month or so, but I was able to pick it up and get straight back into it, even considering the combat system is quite complex. Something that I don't normally pick up on as been good in a game is the dialogue, but during cut scenes and in between missions with other NPCs, there is some really funny dialogue. 

Honourable mentions:

The Walking Dead

I missed the emotional roller coaster of Telltale's The Walking Dead when the game first came out, and after playing through it I purchased Season 2 as soon as possible as I couldn't wait. Although some of the early episodes suffered from a few technical issues, by the end of Season 1, I did not experience anything that frustrated me. One thing that episodic games are good for is been able to fix things while still in production, and Telltale made the most of this. Even after only playing the first episode of Season 2, updates to certain aspects such as the UI promise a good start for the rest of the season. I think this year will be very interesting for Telltale and I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Game of Thrones and Borderlands games.

Hotline Miami

Although I didn't end up playing for too long, I really did enjoy my time with Hotline Miami. It's one of those games that is hard, but like with Super Meat Boy, it's a quick re-spawn, so it's not frustrating to die over and over. The soundtrack is amazing, and I'm sure this is one I will go back to at some point (probably as Wrong Number gets closer to release).


Super Hexagon

This was a really close category this year, but Super Hexagon won based on its addiction level. I spent many mornings on the train to uni for a few months playing only the first set of levels and even though I didn't get good enough to make much progress at the hyper levels, I enjoyed the game throughout. This, along with wondering what people must have thought when they looked over my shoulder and hear the soundtrack through my headphones, kept me playing for as long as I did. I did also actually think that it was a good way to start the day to get my brain working, just like some people would do a puzzle, which I think is a really cool thing for a game.


2. 10,000,000
3. Cubes vs Spheres
4. Ridiculous Fishing
5. Kingdom Rush

Honourable mentions:

Earn To Die
Extreme road trip 2

Achievement of the Year

Forever Remembered from Cook, Serve, Delicious
Served a Ryan Davis burger, named after the greatest man of our time.

Not something that I did last year, or intend to do in the future, but I really like that the guys from Vertigo Gaming included this as a tribute to Ryan Davis who tragically passed away this year, which really shocked and moved myself and the Giant Bomb community.

Disappointment of the year


Even though I sank more time into SimCity than some of those which did make it into my top 10, overall I just stopped playing the game feeling that it didn't deliver on the promise it showed in the run up to launch. Because of the floored launch, the ridiculous prices for DLC and the removal of key game mechanics, the game eventually became a giant mess and I just gave up wanting to play. Given that we are now getting an offline mode which was outlined as an impossibility at launch, I just feel lied to. While certain things such as the online gameplay were interesting, it was a gamble to include when so many games have had failed launches due to always connected requirements. The reboot of the franchise should have been something to celebrate, but I just don't think it played out in the end.


Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent


2. The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is the Killer
3. Evile - Skull
4. Soil - Whole
5. Devildriver - Winter Kills
6. Bill Kiley - Your Soundtrack for Becoming Invisible in a Crowd of Strange People
7. Trivium - Vengence Falls
8. Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose
9. Powerglove - Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon OST
10. Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King

Honourable mentions:

A Day To Remember -  Common Courtesy
Alter Bridge - Fortress
Biffy Clyro - Opposites
Bullet For My Valentine - Temper Temper
Chimaira - Crown of Phantoms
Clutch - Earth Rocker
Filter - The Sun Comes out Tonight
Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell
Funeral for a friend - Conduit
Jimmy Eat World - Damage
Megadeth - Super Colider
Stone Sour  - House Of Gold And Bones


Sound City


2. Rush
3. Pacific Rim
4. White House Down
5. Now You See Me

Honourable mentions:

100 Yen
End of Watch
Iron Man 3
Robot & Frank
The Place Beyond The Pines
World War Z


Breaking Bad Series 5.5


2. Game Of Thrones Series 3
3. Homeland Series 3
4. Black Mirror Series 2
5. Elementary Series 2

Honourable mentions:

The Apprentice Series 9
Walking Dead Series 2.5/3
Under The Dome Series 1

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