It's Christmas as I write this, but I don't care. These last few days I've been banging my head against a wall trying to pick my Game of the Year. Yeah, that might sound weird- who cares what I choose. But for me picking a GotY has always been a big and fun challenge. Taking my whole year in gaming and smushing it down into a short top 5 list is a good way to get my brain working. So here we go.
5. Papers, Please
This game snuck up on me. At first I thought "Wow, this is a weird game about being a paper-pushing nobody", but quickly the game begins to turn you into a robot. You start making decisions based more on a clock or a rule, you start to ignore people and emotions. You start to hear the same sob stories again and again. Each time someone said they had forgotten their papers, I would just roll my eyes and with out thinking stamp their passport. DENIED. After it's all said and done you look back, and realize just how much of monster you became. And how easy it was to not even notice. Amazing.
Pixel art/ Retro looking games are starting to get a bit stale for me. So if a game has that type of look, well I tend to sort of ignore it. I really don't hate Pixel art, I just have started to lose interest in it due to how prevalent it is- it feels overused. But the moment I finally caved and played Rogue Legacy I was in love. Its fast and crazy but also tactical and highly addicting. Picking you heir was the perfect way to handle death in that game. The weird traits that some of them have, like being color blind or Tourettes, which causes your hero to cuss a lot or the ever changing castle, all of it was perfect. It felt like the great blend of old school ideas and more modern game design. I can't wait to play it again on PS4 and convince all my friends to pick it up.
3. Tomb Raider
Talk about surprise. I didn't expect much from this game, sure the trailers were nice and some of the gameplay they showed LOOKED pretty and exciting but it also looked...linear. But after seeing a bit more right as the game came out I decided to give it a whirl. I was amazed at what I found. Huge open spaces, metroidvania styled gameplay and gorgeous visuals. Hell I even enjoyed the story in the same way you enjoy a big, well done blockbuster film. Sometimes I play a game like Gone Home or Heavy Rain - games that focus more on story then gameplay. That try to build a non game-y feeling world. But then sometimes I just want to jump into a real game-y feeling video game. And Tomb Raider did this for me. It felt so good to get lost collecting random bits and bobs for no reason, or shooting barrels to blow up a bunch of dudes or using a piece of metal to make some bad-ass bow..somehow. But, let's just not talk about the multiplayer..
2. Bioshock Infinite
So, I guess its cool to hate this game now? To make fun of it's "ludonarriatve-look-at-the-big-words-Im-using-ness" or how it's "too violent". Or "how the combat was bad and like why do you even make games Ken Levine? WHY?!?!" You know what I say..screw that nonsense. Bioshock Infinite is one of my ALL time favorite games I have ever played. The world of Columbia is amazing and so rich, it felt like a real place. The story is just fantastic. I really cared about Elizabeth. I hated Comstock, I laughed at the Luteces, and I think Fink is one of the most overlooked characters of the year. Especially if you listen to some of the audio journals. And if you think Bioshock Infinite is filled with Ludo-narrative Dissonance, you're right. Almost every game is FILLED with it, so why single out this game? And about the game being too violent...yeah I forgot how peaceful 1912 was.. Also I really liked the combat, it felt good. Am I crazy?
Before I get to my Game of the Year I just want to mention 2 games that barely missed the cut. First up is Eldritch, a fantastic first person dungeon-mincraft -looking-rouge-ish thing. Its fun as hell, and has some of the best sound design this year. The other one is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. If you haven't played this game, its a western first person shooter but all of the game is played in stories being told by your older self at a bar. Which means sometimes you lie, and when the other people call you out, you change your story and watch the world change around you. Pretty cool, I really enjoyed it.
So finally my Game of the Year:
1. Grand Theft Auto V
When I claimed on Twitter that I thought Grand Theft Auto V would be my game of the year I had some people yell at me. Why? I don't know, some people don't understand what an opinion is.. Anyways, the point is that I saw how people reacted to VGX giving the GotY award to GTA V this year. For what ever reason when I ever I tell people I like this game Im given reasons why I shouldn't, which is strange. I'm not going to lie and say GTA V is perfect- its not. But the sheer size and amount of stuff to do is incredible. I still find stuff when I play that game. And sure GTA Online is kind of a broken mess of a thing, but with a few friends and some time I have had more fun screwing around in that world then in pretty much any game this year. Grabbing a Titan and flying over friends who are on Semi-trucks going up a mountain while police chase them is fun to watch and be a part of.
And with out the multiplayer I found GTAV to have the best single player story of any Rockstar game. Trevor is one of the best characters of this generation, the way he can be so funny and yet he is also this sick disgusting human being is incredible. Sure the combat is a bit weak and Franklin basically becomes a unnecessary bystander till the last part of the game, but none of that really brought the game down for me. Maybe some will call me a casual, some non hardcore gamer, some console peasant, a dumb mainstream gamer or whatever names we call each other these days. All I know is I will be wearing a monkey mask and racing jetskis while listening to "West End Girls". And that is a pretty damn fun thing to do.