Top 10 Games of 2013

What a weird year. I traveled to Vegas for CES, San Francisco for WWDC. Our company was bought. I really didn't have much time to play games, and I missed some incredible ones. I have tons of games installed on my PC and just haven't been able to play them (Metro: Last Light, I'm looking at you).

I'm so ready for 2013 to be over. Is it 2014 yet?

1. The Last of UsThe absolute best game of the year. I really did not enjoy playing this game. I could only play a few hours at most per session, and I'd feel tense for an hour after finishing. I'm pretty sure I nearly cracked the controller a few times from gripping it so hard. What an incredible ride. The realization that (mild spoiler) you're playing as a psychopath who's projecting his dead daughter into this miracle child. You don't play as a good man; really, you play as a monster. That ending is a rush of feelings that I wasn't quite able to define. This game left me disturbed for days. Play this game. Buy a PS3 to play it. Whatever you have to do.
2. Saints Row IVMan, what a fun game. I'm pretty sure Volition said, "if this doesn't make the player smile, cut it". It's just so, so, so stupid. In the best possible way.
3. Tomb RaiderThis is what AC in the modern day should look like. A truly special stealth action game. The time I spent in this world was massively enjoyable. Some good characters, a pretty good (if somewhat forgettable) story, and some fun open world collectable finding action.
4. BioShock InfiniteI really enjoyed this cerebral, but coherent story about a man struggling to figure out if he's defined by his past. I really enjoyed the combat puzzles (until the last fight) but it's the characters and dialogue that really makes this game. It's disappointing that it's so linear, but it's still a fantastic experience. Also, the Luteces.
5. Brothers: A Tale of Two SonsA short, incredibly well-told story with some fun mechanics. Pick it up and play it.
6. Assassin's Creed IV: Black FlagThis game is odd. In so many ways it's the exact opposite of AC3. While AC3 had a pretty good throughline story, everything around that story was rough. It had a bland world, and I just ended up rushing through the story. AC4 has an incredibly enjoyable world, full of cool things to do and fun mechanics that work well for the tens of hours that this game runs. In contrast to AC3, the through-line story is forgettable, and in many cases, simply bad. Far too many characters are introduced with no, uh, introduction, you kill them and they spout some philosophy without you the player having any idea who they are or why they were there. Meanwhile other characters show up 3 or 4 times and are discarded in an "emotional" moment that has no impact because you never spent much time with them. The story missions themselves range from dull to frustrating. So why is it 6? The stuff that works, really really works, and what doesn't...well that's why it's not higher.
7. Call of Juarez: GunslingerA simply fantastic arcade FPS. A surprisingly enjoyable story with some fun hooks, well-done shooting and fun environments. Any longer and it would have gotten drawn-out, this game defines the word "solid".
8. Battlefield 4I'm well aware this is broken. Very fun, when I can play it. You know that "Only in Battlefield" marketing? It's incredibly true. There are not many games where you can fire a stinger a helicopter that someone else is flying have it start falling toward you, and as you slowly back away it hits a tree and explodes 5 feet from you.
9. XCOM: Enemy WithinI haven't gotten nearly enough time with this, but the improvements to the XCOM formula are well integrated and it's interesting to be forced around maps rather than crawling forward slowly.
10. Powerstar GolfPerhaps the most oddball on the list, I haven't played too many golf games, but this is a very well made, very fun golf games with some interesting asynchronous multiplayer hooks.
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(Spoilers) Why I love Mass Effect 3, but hate video game fans

(Note this post is rife with Mass Effect, Hunger Games, and Bastion spoilers)

The characters and story. I could end this blog post right here, but I'm guessing that isn't enough. I avoided every possible spoiler on my journey through Mass Effect 3, just as I did in Mass Effect 2, and probably more through luck, Mass Effect 1. I was not, however, immune to the heated seemingly one-sided debate that has pervaded the internet thoroughly. I kept waiting for a moment to hit me at the end of ME3 where I would hate it. I didn't hit that point. These are my reasons why.

I'm going to back up. I entered Mass Effect 1 wide-eyed and wonderstruck. Here was a universe, a galaxy, realized in a way I hadn't seen in video game form. Star Trek and Star Wars had a universe, a Song of Ice and Fire had a universe, Ender's game had a universe. But a video game? Many have tried, and some have done well, like (opinions, people) Halo, but nothing like this. It wasn't until I was halfway or more through Mass Effect 1 that that reason for loving the game waned, not because it wasn't still as good, but because something else took it's place: Commander Shepard and the Normandy crew. I have beaten ME1 numerous times, but that first Shepard will always be my Shepard. He made difficult decisions. Lieutenant Kaiden Alenko died because of it. He saw the galaxy teeter to destruction and stopped it, a classic hero's tale.

He moved on in Mass Effect 2, resurrecting from death. He made new friends, new enemies, some died (mainly his enemies), but he emerged. Another hero's tale. He saved humanity from a gruesome death. He saved much of his crew. He met a best friend and lover. He made it through, scarred, but through. He held it together, still the hero. He saw death again, and defeated it, not completely unscathed, but it was defeated before it could wreak havoc. It was a darker, yet still classic hero's tale. He won.

My Shepard, through Mass Effect 3, has watched the galaxy teeter closer to the edge of death, and his ability to save everyone wanes. He is a man who has been in control, but now he faces an enemy so powerful, that he has no control, no ability to save those around him. When he reaches that final room, he is presented with a choice. The options are not of his making, because the powers at play are so beyond him, they may as well be gods. So he made his choice, doing whatever he could to stop the death, not only for those he loved, but for the future, and he died with that choice. There is no happy ending, no win condition. Not this time. My Shepard has fought and fought and killed, and enslaved, and murdered to try and make the galaxy a place of peace. Shepard is willing to die to accomplish that goal, and he proved it.

Mass Effect as a series has moved me in ways that very few other art forms have. I have been destroyed emotionally by very few books, very few movies, very few TV shows (dammit Chuck), and even fewer video games. Letting Commander Shepard die wasn't something I couldn't do without tears and sorrow. I'm a grown man dammit, and I'm so extraordinarily happy that Mass Effect 3 has left me in a somber, melancholy, emotionally fragile state. Why? Because that's what art is meant to do. It affects you. Maybe you don't play games for anything but the fun and the gameplay (and if the number of death threats to that Bioware writer are any indication, there are a significant number of you) and that's fine. Perfectly fine. Just don't complain that not all games fit that mold. Some books are pulp. Some movies are Die Hard. To think that fans of that genre would trash a movie that isn't Die Hard for not being Die Hard-like enough is mind-boggling, yet that's what's happened here.

When the Hunger Games' third book (Mockingjay) ended, I felt empty inside. You know why? Because the author tried to knot up everything in a pretty bow. The author tried to tell me that after everything that girl went through, she was okay in the end. The murder, the lies, she lives happily ever after? Bull shit. She's an emotionally wrecked husk of a human being, and she got over it? Like hell she did. Yet this is exactly what people want from Mass Effect 3. You say that's not your Shepard? You're wrong. Your Shepard may be a bad-ass, but Bioware set up the story of a hero, how that hero accomplishes his goal is up to you, but his goal is not. He may have been a harder man than Katniss Everdeen, but he's a hero, and even a hero accustomed to ordering death has a breaking point, or he is no longer a hero, but a murderer. Perhaps Bioware/EA didn't communicate clearly enough what kind of video game this is. Fine, I'll buy that, they want sales like Call of Duty (pulp if there ever was any). That still doesn't give you the right to demand a different type of game, period. Mass Effect 3 ended the way it did because it's a story and for it to end any other way wouldn't be a credit to everything Bioware has built in this series.

Now that Bioware has come out and said they're providing more closure I'm terrified. I'm scared of what this means. Will Bioware destroy the piece of art they created for some fans (who will still complain about this) who don't understand what they made, or don't care? This is so unbelievably dangerous. Bastion ended in a melancholy, perfect way for what it was. It, like Mass Effect, was wrapped in fun gameplay. It, like Mass Effect ended in a gut-wrenching way. Do you forget everything you've done, the friends you've made in order to save the world? Or do you let it die and keep your friendships intact? I don't understand why the Mass Effect response wasn't formulated against Bastion, it's a similar situation. Is it because it was indie, or because the time investment was smaller? In any case, what this is telling publishers is "We only want pulp out of our big-budget games, leave the emotion to the indies", which is not only steps back for Video Games, but it could very well destroy it as a storytelling medium if unchecked.

Hate me if you like, I'm only telling it how I see it.

Quick edit: I'm not saying the game or ending is perfect. It has some plot holes and oddities, however, the ending is still right in my opinion. The people mad about the plot-holes have a right to be, it's very strange, but that's not what Bioware is addressing, they're "adding closure", which I think is ridiculous.

For a more in-depth point-counterpoint of Mass Effect 3's ending, Ben Kuchera's post on the matter over at the Penny Arcade report is great: http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/why-the-ending-of-mass-effect-3-was-satifying-and-worthy-of-the-series-mass

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My most anticipated games of 2011

Now, realize that I don't have a PS3, which means that Uncharted: Drake's Deception isn't on this list, which it definitely would be if I had one. Hopefully I'll get one this coming up year. We'll see. If I do, Uncharted would probably be sitting pretty at #5.
 
Now to the picks.  
 
 

Most Anticipated Games of 2011

1. Mass Effect 3

The sequel to my favorite game of 2010. Hmmm...yeah I'll take one of those.

2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Despite the fact that not tons about this game is out there, dear God I need this game. It looks...so beautiful.

3. Portal 2

Valve. Portal. Glados. /done

4. Batman: Arkham City

Batman: AA was one of my favorite game of the '09 season, and it still holds up very well against games similar to it like Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood, made by bigger teams, everything known about this game looks great.

5. Crysis 2

Looks fantastic, never did get a computer capable of the first. But, since this one's on 360, I get to try it out. Looks to have good multiplayer (even though the last time a dev took over the multi of a game it didn't build the single player of *Bioshock 2*, it didn't turn out so well), this looks to have a better base underneath and an interesting suit mechanic. We'll see how it goes.

6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I never finished Oblivion, or even the MAJORITY of the main campaign, yet I spend 65 hours in the game. That tells you something about these games. Even though I actually did finish Fallout 3 I spent more time in Oblivion, and...I want this game to swallow me just like Oblivion did.

7. Dragon Age II

Loved the first one, hope this one will be just as good. The trailers certainly look pretty, and have copious amounts of blood. Pretty blood...if you know what I mean.

8. Rage

Id's return to form? Again, not a ton known, but what we do know? Fantastic. Multiple discs with fantastically gorgeous slightly cel-shaded graphics and a solid shooter base make it seem like Borderlands, but this looks to have a stronger story and less grind. And they haven't even talked multiplayer yet.

9. Homefront

Kaos knows what they're doing, even if not many people know who they are. Creator's of the Battlefield style Frontlines: Fuel of War, this game looks better every time I see it. I'm hoping they can pull an upset on the Battlefield's and CoD's of the world because they are definitely the underdogs.

10. Star Wars: The Old Republic

If this game ends up being everything I think it could be, it will 1. Be the first MMO I pay for 2. Make 2011 the year of Bioware.


 

Also, a crapton of honorable mentions. Before the VGAs, these were on my list too:
L.A. Noire (Old-school mystery solving adventure gameplay updated with 2011 technology? Sure.)
Brink  (Could be the biggest underselling game of the year, unique single-player/multiplayer objective gameplay)
 
And these are the rest of my honorable mentions in no particular order:
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes HD (XBLA, PSN) (Favorite DS game of the past year with HD graphics, online multiplayer and game balances)
Dead Space 2 (Loved the first, multiplayer looks hokey though)
Bulletstorm  (Epic Games wouldn't release it without it being good, but might not be quite my style)
Red Faction: Armageddon (Liked Gorilla and the older FPS RF1 and 2. I trust Volition to make good games)
Duke Nukem: Forever (Had to put it on here)
 
Not announced games that will probably come out in 2011 that I want: 
Halo for 2011 
Call of Duty for 2011  
Assassin's Creed for 2011
 
Thanks for reading! Feel free to list your own!
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Best of 2009 in 2010

  So, I decided to do something a little different before I do the obligatory top 10 of 2010 and top 10 looking forward to 2011. I'm doing a  look back on my top 10 of 2009 and re-ranking them compared to how much I still like them and how much they stuck with me.   Hey, it's different right?

Best of 2009 REDUX!


1. Modern Warfare 2

Old Rank: 1 Still #1, I sunk more time into this than anything else. If I didn't have friends that played it alot i probably wouldn't have, but even still I had more fun out of this game than any other. Don't be hatin'

2. Assassin's Creed II

Old Rank: 6 After playing Brotherhood, I appreciate AC II even more. I love this game. Great story, unique mechanics.

3. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Old Rank: 7 The single player experiences are what I remember most it seems from 2009. Fantastic story and mechanics. Best super hero game in a long time.

4. Shadow Complex

Old Rank: 5 Best Arcade Game Ever. The End.

5. Left 4 Dead 2

Old Rank: 4 Great game, but I ended up trading it in because I didn't want to pay to play on 360

6. Plants vs. Zombies

Old Rank: 9 Fun, funny, but quite short, I'm replaying this game again now.

7. Halo 3: ODST

Old Rank: 3 Halo is still my first multiplayer love. Okay game, but I rank it still this high because of the multiplayer, even though its the same as H3's.

8. Battlefield 1943

Old Rank: 8 Great multiplayer but I didn't end up playing it like I thought I would.

9. DiRT 2

Old Rank: 10 Racing games are fun, and this is one of the better ones. Overall, fun game, but I ended up not playing it that much.

10. Borderlands

Old Rank: 2 After most of my friends finished the game, I tried playing it by myself. I hated it.

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Top 10 Most Wanted 2010 (That we know about)

Top 10 Most Wanted 2010

 
You'll notice a distinct lack of some games. No God of War 3. No COD 7. That's because this is MY list, not yours. Plus, Treyarch  sucks. Yeah, I said it. Feel free to comment on your own anticipated though.
 
1. Mass Effect 2

Quite possibly my most anticipated game of all time. I want this game. Now. It's a disappointment to me if it becomes my #2 game of all time, behind KOTOR. Luckily its not too far away.

2. Halo: Reach

For the last time, it's not another ODST. I personally enjoyed ODST, but can understand how some did not. That game was made by a small team, in the Halo 3 engine, over 1 year. Halo: Reach has a new engine, by a large team, over 3 years. Totally different thing. Plus if the leaks are right, they're really changing up the gameplay. I'll know more when the beta releases this spring.

3. Golden Sun DS

I love Golden Sun. Quite possibly my favorite game story. I cannot wait to get my hands on this.

4. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

I have a confession to make. I have never finished a splinter cell game. In fact, I have never played 3 of the 4, and I didn't make it past the second level (edit) of the 1st one (/edit). What I've seen of this game excites me though. It looks to be faster paced and could be one of the best games of the year.

5. Final Fantasy XIII

Another confession. I have never played a final fantasy game for more than 15 minutes. And that was FF IV DS. However, I have been greatly enjoying Lost Odyssey, so I'm looking forward to trying my hand at another JRPG.

6. Fable III

Fable I was a disappointment, so I'm not too sad I never played it. Fable II was fun, but not engrossing. It pulled you out of the world to interact with it with gestures. I'm looking forward to the touch mechanic and being a king. Very interesting concept.

7. Heavy Rain

An evolution of the adventure genre? Or something more? A movie-game? I don't know, and that's why this is so intriguing. It's an unknown quantity.

8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2

I want this to be a COD killer pretty bad, if only to show up Kotick (I have nothing against IW). I love 1943, and this looks pretty good.

9. MAG

This is intriguing. If it works. I can see a 9 year old being my commander because he's played more than I have. I'm a strategist but I don't have the time to rank up into the leader roles. A sucky commander could ruin this game. However, it does have potential, so its #9.

10. Crackdown 2

Crackdown 1 was fantastic, the majority of the team is making 2. Good enough for me. More than 2 player co-op? Yes, please. Competitive multiplayer? Yes, please.

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