2013: Game of the Year
You know I used to think that games evolve at an alarming rate. In that respect, things seemed to have slowed down this year. Progress is, once again, hindered by mountains of generic crappiness. However, we still manage to retain a shred of optimism thanks to those who are brave enough to experiment and get new ideas out the door. Shaking up mainstream gaming this year are massively successful titles like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V and Naughty Dog’s PS3-exclusive, The Last of Us. Both games generated heaps of cash, which is always good because it means the franchise can grow (and the developers can finally build bathrooms out of marble), but more importantly they have pushed the boundaries a bit further and that’s what makes brilliant gaming experiences.
There’s a new category this year – Best Next-Gen game. It may seem obsolete, but we decided to keep it in there anyway, simply to serve as a reminder of how screwed we all were and how pitiful the launch line-ups were (for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4).
Naturally, that doesn’t mean 2014 won’t be different. Perhaps the true next-gen games are only a few months away. We can’t wait to find out, but before we move on let us take the time to salute some of the best games we’ve seen in 2013.
Special thanks to this year’s GoTY contributors: Anthony Severino (GameRev & PlayStationLifeStyle) and our old buddy Ranko 'Arjuna' Trifkovic.
Game of the Year 2013 - PEOPLE'S CHOICE
Coming in early 2014. In the meantime, please vote away.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Grand Theft Auto 5
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Games
It wasn’t a difficult choice this year and I’ll tell you why. We're not just saying this because it's a GTA game. In the action adventure genre, GTA pretty much dominates the scene and rightfully so. The crux of the game remains largely the same as in previous installments. It seems though that with each GTA game, Rockstar delivers something new and fresh. Grand Theft Auto 5 made me realize one crucial thing. It's really more than just a game. GTA is once again accompanied by an immaculate soundtrack that introduces us to some of the best samples of music, from jazz, funk, hip-hop, R'n'B and many other genres. So, in addition to the game itself, you get a fine choice of albums from various artists to listen to while dashing through the city streets at high speed. Also, no matter how unrealistic the characters seem, they end up being likable. Each new GTA game is followed by waves of user-generated videos and content. GTA launches, it feels like a new chapter in gaming history has started.
Runners-up: The Last of Us, BioShock Infinite, Assassin' Creed 4: Black Flag
BEST ACTION GAME
The Last of Us
Developer: Naughty Dog
One of the greatest surprises this year. It’s one of those games you’ll definitely remember a long time after you’ve played it. We’ll let Anthony explain why:
“A game like The Last of Us only comes along once a generation, breaking down boundaries between various forms of media. Sure it’s a video game, but rarely do you find an experience that makes you believe in the characters, their relationships, feel their hardships and struggles, and be genuinely moved by the story. Despite its depth, it’s also a joy to play, combining stealth, shooting, and frantic action in the face of life-threatening situations—against other broken humans or the hideous infected that roam what’s left of the world. Endure and survive... if you can.”
Runners-up: BioShock Infinite, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Metro: Last Light
BEST NEXT-GEN GAME
None of the above
It’s not really an award. It’s more like an appeal to Sony and Microsoft for giving us so little on that front. Killzone: Shadow Fall, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dear Rising 3, Forza 5 and other similar titles exhibit significant steps forward in terms of technology and visual splendor.
However, on the gameplay front none of these releases has brought us the innovation we were promised. As it turns out, what we’ve been expecting from next-generation gaming is still months, maybe even years, away and we’re still waiting on teams like Bungie, BioWare and other studios to deliver their own stuff – Destiny, the new Mass Effect game, etc.
Runners-up: Nothingness, Emptiness, Vacuum, Naught (it would be great if all these words were actually real games)
Avadon 2: The Corruption
Publisher: Spiderweb Software
Developer: Spiderweb Software
In what seems like a rather dark year for RPGs, what gamers are left with is nothing but a handful of Final Fantasy clones from the Japanese market and rather flimsy offerings from the Western part of the world. Indie enthusiasts on the other hand, are the ones who are turning towards fantasy and role-playing. The year 2013 didn't bring any noteworthy triple-A RPGs. Mainstream gaming has become a cesspool of generic free-to-play titles and online-only MMOGs.
There was one nice surprise called Avadon 2: The Corruption, which offers all you'd normally expect from a good RPG. While this is an indie game, we decided to include it here, as no other RPG really caught our attention this year. Anyway, the huge and engaging story with over 100 hours of solid gameplay and proper moral choices to make. The game features interesting characters, which will shine and then gradually disappear into a deliciously complex tale as the 2nd installment of the Avadon trilogy unfolds. Spells, special skills, and perks are on offer, in addition to a variety of different weapons, diverse enemies to fight and kick-ass villains. There's an imaginative tale to be had here, along with epic battles and a rich environment to explore with tons of secrets to discover.
Runners-up: Sword of the Stars: The Pit, Tales of Xillia
None of the above
The MMOG scene in 2013 was a letdown, with but a few releases none of which managed to connect with gamers. Trion’s Defiance launched with a tie-in to a TV show on cable’s Syfy channel. Costing millions to develop, the story featured a slightly apocalyptic romp across the U.S. West Coast with the player shooting it out with aliens, monsters and mutants while scavenging for technology and gear. The gameplay and setting were different from the typical fantasy trappings and the lack of a monthly subscription was appealing, but Defiance failed to hold our interest for long. In the end players looking for a fire fight were more likely to find what they were looking for with Planetside 2 following its rocky start in 2012. Free-to-Play continued to grow in popularity in 2013 with games like Dungeons and Dragons Neverwinter promising to give gamers their fantasy fix.
Based on the newer rule set that Wizards of the Coast developed after taking over the franchise players took on the role of the familiar Fighter, Wizard or Cleric and set off to complete quests on their own or in groups. Offering a large world, dungeons and a variety of loot, Neverwinter continues to put out updates but the gameplay is somewhat lacking, enough so that we found ourselves going back to Guild Wars 2 to fill our action based fantasy RPG cravings. The good news for MMOGs is 2014 looks to be somewhat more promising with titles like Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next and (my personal favorite) Wildstar slated to launch. We can only hope these titles have done their homework and deliver what takes to connect with gamers.
BEST RACING GAME
Need for Speed: Rivals
Developer: Criterion Games
Oddly enough, we expected Forza 5 to win, but in all honesty it falls short on so many levels. Although its style and incredible graphics are worthy of anyone's attention, there just doesn't seem to be enough here to entangle players for long. Need for Speed: Rivals, on the other hand, was a lot more fun. While it too can get a bit repetitive, we just enjoyed the hell out of those frantic cop chases through the streets. High-speed, adrenaline-pumped fun!
Runners-up: Gran Turismo 6, Forza Motorsport 5
BEST FIGHTING GAME
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Publisher: WarnerBros Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Finally, after so many years of generic bullcrap, we get one proper beam-em-up with almost all the superheroes you can think of (well, most of them anyway). Somehow NetherRealm pinpointed exactly what makes a good fighting game, both for single-player and multiplayer fans. Primarily, of course, you should really play this game against friends, because that's when the real fun starts. Although the story is mostly confusing to say the least, the game itself reaffirms the classic formula of an honest-to-God fighting game. Seriously, there's no better brawler on the market right now.
BEST STRATEGY GAME
XCOM: Enemy Within
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis Games
It was an odd choice this year I must admit. We don’t normally give any awards to expansion packs, but we were prepared to make an exception this year. Firaxis chose to reiterate everything that was awesome about the original and to incorporate some pretty welcome changes, including a variety of new maps, so you’ll rarely feel like you’re visiting the same locations and some great new units. Yes, we are XCOM fanboys. Deal with it. Our hopes of seeing a brilliant turn-based strategy every year would have diminished if it weren't for this game. Also, Total War: Rome 2 is a technical shambles and generally nowhere near some of the previous games in the Total War series; hence, we decided to let Enemy Within take all the honors this year.
Also, I miss Heroes of Might and Magic III and even King's Bounty. Just thought I'd mention that.
Runners-up: StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, DotA 2, not Total War: Rome 2
BEST INDIE GAME
The Stanely Parable
Developer: Davey Wreden
Developer: Galactic Cafe
Outlast and Antichamber got really close this year. While the original The Stanley Parable mod was out in July 2011, the high-res Windows PC edition hit Steam this year in October. Yes, The Stanley Parable gets to be in the spotlight this year for one very simple, yet extremely important reason. It’s more than a video game. It carries the banner of innovation. Something that should (and probably does) encourage ambitious new developers to try out new ideas, to push the boundaries of entertainment even further. Weird, funny, odd; those words only partially describe what this game is about. The story is unpredictable and may take you down several different paths depending on how you play. All in all, it’s a unique experience. We really can’t go into much beyond that. You really should try it out.
Runners-up: Rogue Legacy, Gone Home, Outlast, Antichamber
BABE OF THE YEAR
This year’s winner of our BotY award, needs no introduction or additional explanation. Well, suffice it to say, Googling her name led me to rather uncanny material. Something along the lines of 'Keisha Grey’s Latin Yoga Booty.' So, I’d rather not get into the sheer madness of that experience. The dazzling photo up there speaks for itself.
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