Games I Have Played In 2013

It was always bound to happen, wasn't it? After the lists of games I played in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the emergence of a list of Games I Have Played In 2013 was inevitable. From January 1st right through to December 31st, if I beat a game in 2013, it will appear on this list. Certain games that have no discernible end will qualify for inclusion if I spend a significant amount of time with them over the course of the year.

Last year I finished a respectable (but by no means extraordinary) twenty-eight games. My personal best since joining Giant Bomb is thirty, a feat I managed back in 2010. Will I exceed that this year? Only time will tell...

List items

  • Completion Date: Finished on January 13th

    In Brief: Sleeping Dogs may be derivative, but it succeeds because everything it does, it does well. The Arkham-esque combat makes for some of the greatest melee fighting in any open-world game ever, and the vehicle handling and clever gunplay elevate chase sequences to the same level. The story may not be its most original asset, but it's solid and conveyed through some pretty great characters that I won't soon forget. It wasn't perfect, but if a potential sequel could retain what's great about it while polishing up its shortcomings, that's a sequel I'd definitely want to play.

  • Completion Date: Finished 'The Signal' DLC pack on January 20th, finished 'The Writer' DLC pack on January 21st

    In Brief: Alan Wake rocketed its way to becoming one of my favourite games of this generation when I played it last year, so getting around to the DLC was a no-brainer. Both 'The Signal' and 'The Writer' proved to be enjoyable extensions of the main game, offering up more of the same tense third-person combat, unrivalled atmosphere and out-there storytelling. My sole complaint is that by the end of the DLC, nothing about Wake's situation has really changed, but that's a minor gripe when the bulk of the experience was so memorable.

  • Completion Date: Finished on January 23rd

    In Brief: Hungry for more Alan Wake after wrapping up the DLC, I leaped straight into American Nightmare. I enjoyed the new setting and the new atmosphere it managed to conjure up, and I thought the narrative was great as well. The unexpected plot twist that hits about a third of the way through was a touch of genius (although the second time was probably overkill), and the revelation thrown up by its closing credits almost compelled me to stand up and applaud the game. The gameplay itself was solid, although it seemed far more geared to action than it was to tension this time around - a side-effect of much-reduced battery recharge time and the introduction of automatic weapons, I'd guess. I really enjoyed my time in Night Springs, Arizona, and I'm eager to see where Remedy take this franchise from here.

  • Completion Date: Finished on January 27th

  • Completion Date: Finished on February 26th

    In Brief: After failing to reach the end of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and then leaping into another huge RPG in the shape of Borderlands 2, February was looking like a month in which nothing would get finished. For the sake of trying to keep wiping titles off my Pile of Shame more than anything, I decided to clear VVVVVV. I beat this masocore indie platformer in two sittings in the same day, and came away having enjoyed the experience overall. The Metroid-esque semi-open world was its biggest highlight, giving me open space to explore and the freedom to tackle objectives as I found them, rather than in a pre-determined order. The platforming is certainly unforgiving, but respawning is quick and the checkpoint system is generous enough to remove at least some of the frustration. VVVVVV didn't set my world on fire, but I'm glad I played it.

  • Completion Date: Finished on March 2nd

    In Brief: Borderland 2 has been touted by many as 'more Borderlands', but not by nearly enough people as 'better Borderlands'. The story, the characters and the quests they give are all much better fleshed out this time around, giving me more motivation to explore Pandora than simply the promise of bigger and better guns. The improvements to loot (most notably the shields) only served to increase the compulsive hoarding instinct that the original game bestowed upon me. All this is built upon the same engine, which means the shooting and role-playing aspects are just as strong as they were last time around. The writing may fall flat at times, and I longed for the added depth of a loot-crafting system of some kind (please, Gearbox, make it happen in Borderlands 3!). But overall, Borderlands 2 is a fantastic game that I'd recommend unreservedly to any fan of the original. I just wish it hadn't taken me this long to be able to say that.

  • Completion Date: Finished on March 10th

    In Brief: Tomb Raider is a masterpiece. It's a brilliantly realised amalgamation of so many ideas, I don't even know where to start heaping praise on it. The combination of Uncharted-style action, an Arkham Asylum-style gear and upgrade system, and Crystal Dynamics' now-trademark environmental puzzles helps breathe new life into the franchise without ever straying from what makes the series so enjoyable for me - that core trinity of exploration, puzzle-solving and combat. The island of Yamatai is as beautiful to admire as it is thrilling to explore, and the narrative is one of the series' best, eschewing the wild poetic licence of Legend and Underworld in favour of a much more isolated snd cohesive plot. Tomb Raider is without a doubt the best game I've played so far this year, and arguably one of the best I've played this generation.

  • Completion Date: Finished on March 12th

    In Brief: I'm not sure what possessed me to sit down and spend an afternoon revisiting this childhood memory. I'm even less certain what made me decide to persevere with it right through to the game's end. Crash's first outing is solid, with none of the frills of its successors (and noticeably harder than the later games, too). It took some time to get a feel for the platforming, but once I did I discovered a nice flow to the gameplay that ensures Crash never stands still for long. The level design can feel fiendishly against you at times, but I enjoyed my afternoon with Crash, and have downloaded Crash 2 and 3 from the PlayStation Store with a view to spending more time with him soon.

  • Completion Date: Finished on March 19th

    In Brief: Playing through Uncharted straight off the back of a quick run through Crash Bandicoot, I couldn't help but notice similarities between the games. They both feel like attempts by Naughty Dog to get to grips with the respective hardware. Uncharted is solid in every respect and an enjoyable game. The shooting is functional, the environments are gorgeous and rewarding to explore, and Nathan Drake is an eminently likeable protagonist. But throughout, the game feels more like a foundation than it does a complete structure. With a foundation this good, though, I can't wait to see how Naughty Dog built on it for Uncharted 2.

  • Completion Dates:

    - Finished Episode One: 'A New Day' on March 29th

    - Finished Episode Two: 'Starved for Help' on March 30th

    - Finished Episode Three: 'Long Road Ahead' on March 31st

    - Finished Episode Four: 'Around Every Corner' on April 1st

    - Finished Episode Five: 'No Time Left' on April 3rd

    In Brief: I spent just short of a week playing The Walking Dead, at a rate of an episode a day. Twelve hours later I came away from what is undoubtedly the best adventure game I've ever played. The whole series is masterfully written, and its characters are well fleshed out and feel like real people. But it's the game's implementation of player choice I'll remember most - rather than letting the player's choices dictate the direction of the game's story, Telltale instead placed the focus on determining what kind of person Lee Everett was in the eyes of the player. Add one of the most touching and memorable character relationships in gaming history, and you have The Walking Dead - a bona fide masterpiece of adventure gaming.

  • Completion Date: Finished on March 31st

    In Brief: Needing something light-hearted and fun to bring me down off The Walking Dead's emotional rollercoaster, I ended up turning to Crash's second adventure. It didn't take me long to see it through, but even the brief time I took to complete it made it apparent that Crash 2 is a much more polished game than the first. The introduction of hub worlds, a clearer narrative, a better save/load system, and a difficulty level set a few tones below masochistic, all serve to make Crash 2 more playable than its predecessor.

  • Completion Date: Finished on April 13th

    In Brief: I think BioShock Infinite might be the most revolutionary first-person shooter since the original BioShock. Maybe even since Half-Life 2. That probably sounds hyperbolic, but I genuinely feel that way about this game. The combat takes the tried-and-true mechanics of the original BioShock and augments them with additional strategic elements like Tears and riding the Skylines. I'm still at a loss for words to describe the game's story, which gripped me from beginning to end and has left me thinking about it long after my playthrough reached its conclusion. Elizabeth also stands out as one of the most memorable (and least annoying) AI companions in video game history. To put it in the simplest terms I can muster, BioShock Infinite is a game everybody should play. To say any more would risk ruining your experience with it.

  • Completion Date: Finished on April 24th

    In Brief: After finishing BioShock Infinite, I felt compelled to return to the original BioShock and re-experience Rapture. That proved awkward, however, due to the more cumbersome gameplay mechanics of the original. Enter BioShock 2 - the 'missing link' that marries the aesthetic of Rapture with the slicker gameplay of Infinite. The story didn't quite reach the highs of its predecessor, but BioShock 2 more than sated my desire to revisit the city under the sea.

  • Completion Date: Finished on May 4th

    In Brief: For a game released in 1987, I can appreciate Metal Gear must have seemed revolutionary at the time. A game that encouraged stealth over shooting, and combined established Metroidvania gameplay with a pretty detailed narrative. It shares a lot of tropes with its 3D successors, and it's clear to see how the series evolved from this foundation into what it is today. Unfortunately, actually playing Metal Gear wasn't much fun - the game's attempts at direction aren't great, which leads to a lot of trial-and-error gameplay when trying to hunt down all of Snake's inventory items. The boss fights are easily the game's strongest suit from a gameplay standpoint, being varied and complex enough to add a bit of variety to the otherwise lacklustre gameplay.

  • Completion Date: Finished on May 9th

    In Brief: If Metal Gear was the game that established the stealth genre, then Metal Gear 2 was the game that shaped the Metal Gear franchise into what we now know and love. More sophisticated stealth gameplay and a much more expansive narrative serve to augment the foundations laid by its predecessor, providing an experience that, while primitive at times, is still undoubtedly a Metal Gear game. It's also easily one of the best-looking 8-bit games I've ever played.

  • Completion Date: Finished on May 12th

    In Brief: As an isolated gaming experience, there's no doubt that Metal Gear Solid is peerless among its contemporaries. Nothing else on the original PlayStation offered an experience quite so cinematic or sophisticated. Picking it up directly after Metal Gear 2, though, it becomes apparent just how much of the game's apparent originality is straight-up ripped from its predecessor, and while the visual leap to 3D graphics is huge, the gameplay didn't really follow suit. It's still a fantastic game, it's just a shame that one of my favourite things about it (namely its perceived originality) turned out to be the exact opposite.

  • Completion Date: Finished on May 20th

    In Brief: Some ten or eleven years ago, this game was my stepping stone into the Metal Gear franchise. The depth and variety offered by the stealth gameplay here is astounding, and when combined with the gorgeous presentation, it made the game truly feel like a next-gen experience back when I made the leap from PS1 to PS2. The story was absolutely mind-blowing, and despite the end-game craziness being turned up to 11, I still feel like it's one of the game's strongest aspects. It's a shame the environments don't really lend themselves to the experimentation encouraged by the new gameplay mechanics, but on the whole MGS2 is a great continuation and progression for the series.

  • Completion Date: Finished on May 29th

    In Brief: It's been eight years since I first played Snake Eater, but in that time it doesn't feel like it's aged at all. Augmenting the series' solid stealth gameplay with a ton of new survival-based features, I still think it's the most fun game to play in the Metal Gear series. The jungle setting is equally inspired, with the wide range of environments finally giving the player a reason to experiment with different stealth tactics. The characters (both on Naked Snake's side and against him) are some of my favourites from the series, and it doesn't hurt that the story scales back a little on the levels of crazy seen in MGS2. It may be eight years old, but this is still my favourite Metal Gear game. In fact, it probably wouldn't be an exaggeration to call it one of my favourite games of all time.

  • Completion Date: Finished on June 11th

    In Brief: As an attempt to squeeze everything great about the console Metal Gear games onto a handheld, Portable Ops can be considered a surprising success. There's a huge amount of depth and variety here, which is supported by a pretty interesting connecting story in the Metal Gear canon and some rather addictive unit management stuff. Unfortunately, the limitations of the PSP make Portable Ops cumbersome to play, and that hampered a lot of the enjoyment I could have got out of it. It's a solid Metal Gear game, and definitely worth playing for completists if only to experience the story.

  • Completion Date: Finished on June 24th

    In Brief: MGS4 is both a brilliant modernisation of the series' stealth formula and a fitting coda to Solid Snake's tumultuous story arc. The improvements to controls and other mechanics make the game more comfortable to play than it's ever been. The story is equally engaging, picking up where MGS2 left off and proceeding to run even further into Batshit-ville. It's full of fan service, breaks the fourth wall in some really awesome ways, and even in spite of *that* post-Epilogue cutscene, it still feels like a great end to Snake's story. I'm an MGS fan, and I bloody loved it.

  • (LeafGreen Version)

    Completion Date: Beat the Elite Four on July 22nd

    In Brief: I sank a total of eighty-seven hours into my latest return visit to Kanto, a figure that even I'm little surprised with, because it definitely didn't feel that long. LeafGreen manages to retain the magic of the original games while giving the whole thing a new lick of paint to make it substantially easier on the eyes and ears. I managed to catch a total of 97 different kinds of Pokémon during my time with the game, a figure I'm more than happy with. Next on my agenda is SoulSilver, so I'll be hoping to have just as fruitful a time in Johto.

  • Completion Date: Finished on July 28th

    In Brief: I ended up returning to the unfinished Saints Row 2 after some problems with my PS3 prevented me from playing Saints Row: The Third. It took a while to settle into the game's chaotic take on the GTA formula, but I ended up really enjoying it. It's fun to play, it controls well, and it offers some incredibly memorable moments, both in the course of its story missions and through the diversions scattered around Stilwater. It may not look all that hot, but it's very easy to overlook that shortcoming when one has as much fun with a game as I did with SR2.

  • Completion Date: Finished on August 4th

    In Brief: Playing Halo: Reach is the most fun I've had with a Halo game since re-playing the original late in 2011. That might be because it's been quite a while since I last played a Halo game, but I'm more inclined to believe it's because Reach is just a straight-up fantastic shooter. The levels are brilliantly designed, making for some really intense firefights through a perfectly-paced campaign punctuated with some of the series' most memorable set pieces. The story of Reach's fall is an interesting one to follow, and I really liked the way the game's closing moments tied themselves to the opening of the original Halo. As far as the series' campaigns go, Reach definitely stands up there as one of my favourites.

  • Completion Date: Finished on August 10th

    In Brief: If the original Grand Theft Auto laid the gameplay foundations for the series, then this expansion pack set in '60s London starts to establish the structural formula that defines how these games play out. Its four scenarios all combine into a fairly simple but coherent narrative that results in this supplemental pack feeling more like a complete package than the core game that preceded it. The missions place less emphasis on combat, a welcome change that recognises the weakest aspect of the original's gameplay. It still suffers from a lot of the same problems (awkward controls and an absent save system among them), but London 1969 is definitely an improvement over its source material.

  • (SoulSilver Version)

    Completion Date: Beat the Elite Four on August 17th, beat Red on August 25th.

    In Brief: Continuing with my efforts to make it through a Pokémon game set in every region, I picked up SoulSilver almost immediately after finishing LeafGreen. The old adventure definitely benefits from the fresh coat of paint and improved mechanics of Diamond and Pearl, modernising it while still retaining enough of the classic infrastructure to get the nostaglia centres of my brain pulsating. The wealth of brand new post-game content included kept me playing for a LOT longer than I thought I would be. If all that doesn't indicate that this Gen II remake is probably my favourite game in the Pokémon franchise, then the 140+ hours I spent with it and 255 different types of Pokémon in my Pokédex hopefully will.

  • Completion Date: Beat the Elite Four on September 11th

    In Brief: The third leg of my epic Pokémon journey took me to Hoenn and back to the slightly simpler presentation and mechanics of the Game Boy Advance generation. Maybe it's because I found it rather jarring to back-pedal a generation, or perhaps it's because I don't have any nostalgic ties to the region, but whatever the reason, I found Emerald to be the least enjoyable Pokémon game I've played so far this year. That's not to say it's a bad game, because it definitely isn't - it just didn't captivate me in quite the same way that LeafGreen and SoulSilver did. The next step on my journey should theoretically be Sinnoh with Pokémon Platinum, but with Grand Theft Auto V on the way and Pokémon X & Y coming out not long after, I may have to postpone my visit to the Sinnoh region for a while.

  • Completion Date: Finished on September 28th

    In Brief: It's difficult for me to articulate my opinion of GTA V in such a small space. I loved its story and its trio of lead characters, undoubtedly the best the series has presented to date. The gameplay additions piled on since GTA IV are mostly for the better, particularly the heist missions which I wish there had been more of. The city of Los Santos and surrounding Blaine County are brilliantly realised and detailed, another example of the high quality of world-building I've come to expect from Rockstar. Unfortunately, a lot of what I loved about the game is countered by its comparatively puerile sense of humour. Whether they've grown tired or I've simply grown tired of them I can't say, but the joke brands and satirical talk radio just didn't do it for me this time around. In spite of this, though, I had an absolute blast with GTA V, and it will definitely go down as one of my favourite games of 2013.

  • (Y version)

    Completion Date: Beat the Elite Four on October 22nd

    In Brief: Pokémon Y is the most fun I've had with a Pokémon game this year, and trust me, that's a pretty big statement to make - I've played four of the damn things. The series has never looked better, and the new 3D graphics engine adds a lot of character to Pokémon both old and new. The game's default roster is a seriously impressive combination of 450 monsters, with both classic and current creatures being represented, encouraging players to really mix up their teams and try new things. The online features are surprisingly robust and comprehensive, and have seriously impressed me. Sure, it's a bit on the easy side, but that's easily forgiven when there's so much content on offer. Even though I poured countless hours into LeafGreen, SoulSilver and Emerald earlier in the year, it's Y that has left its mark on my 2013 as the best Pokémon game I've played this year. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some more critters to catch...

  • Completion Dates: First ending reached on October 27th. True ending reached on November 2nd.

    In Brief: I played Peace Walker for the first time back in 2010 on my PSP, and had a lot of fun with its mission-based structure and Mother Base micro-management. Three years on I can confirm that most of what I originally said still stands. The HD re-release for PS3 takes care of a couple of the problems I had with the handheld version, boasting a smoother frame rate and much more comfortable and intuitive controls. The story is 100% Kojima's patented brand of crazy, but to be honest, I'd probably have been more disappointed if it wasn't. Definitely glad I re-visited this one.

  • Completion Date: First playthrough finished on November 5th.

    In Brief: I knew I was going to like Crimson Shroud before I even hit New Game on the start menu. As a Yasumi Matsuno game, it ticked all the boxes I expected it to - deep and rewarding strategic combat, interesting characters, and a politically-charged story served by a richly fleshed-out fantasy world. It's a short game, more akin to Vagrant Story than Final Fantasy Tactics, but it packs so much into its shorter lifespan that it feels a lot more expansive than it actually is. Here's hoping we see more of this kind of project from Matsuno in the near future.

  • Completion Date: Beat the Elite Four on November 22nd.

    In Brief: The Sinnoh region represents the start (and end) of my second love affair with Pokémon, when I played through Diamond all the way back in 2006 or so. This was my first time revisiting the region since then, and I was surprised by how much I remembered about the particulars of the fourth generation. Platinum expands on what Diamond (and I presume Pearl) presented back in the day, turning Giratina into the story's focus and tinkering with a few of the minor aspects of gameplay to deliver a fuller all-round experience. With a crap-ton of post-game content (most of it being legends to catch), Platinum cements fourth-gen's position as one of my favourite eras of Pokémon, and I definitely won't be leaving it another eight years before I return to Sinnoh for a third go round.

  • Completion Date: Finished on December 24th

    In Brief: Ladies and gentlemen, it finally happened. After thirty-five episodes across almost four years, Enduring Final Fantasy VII reached its conclusion. I won't go into a huge amount of detail here, as you can read it all in the final blog (http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/dankempster/blog/enduring-final-fantasy-vii-episode-thirty-five/104155/). What I will say is that Enduring Final Fantasy VII has been an unforgettable experience - a journey that has taught me it's okay to like Final Fantasy VII, and reminded me precisely why I do. Is it still my favourite game of all time? Damn straight it is.

  • (White Version)

    Completion Date: First ending reached on December 27th

    In Brief: I passed a slightly unfair judgement on Pokémon White when I played it for the first time back in 2011. With the benefit of hindsight and a greater appreciation of the series, my return to it was a much more positive experience. The series' standard gameplay is refined to a point of near-perfection, accompanied with a lot of presentational improvements such as animated sprites and a slick online interface. The bevy of new critters are pretty great on the whole, too, especially the new legendary mascots. If I had to criticise the game in any way, I'd say that the Unova region is a pretty bland place to explore, especially coming into it straight off the back of Sinnoh and Kalos. That minor quibble aside though, Pokémon White is a great game, and I am excited to see how Game Freak expanded on its foundations with White 2 in the new year.

  • Completion Date: Finished on December 30th

    In Brief: