Taking a dabble with Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

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There's a special sort of creativity when it comes to the Assassins Creed franchise. Instead of focusing on ground-breaking elements such as a revolutionized gameplay system year after year, or pushing the boundaries of graphical prowess, the titans behind Ubisoft instead choose to highlight the beautiful re-imaginations of historical rich settings. These worlds that Ubisoft manages to capture and breathe life into are downright incredible. There's an inescapable aura to it, one that cannot be so quickly absorbed and ignored. It becomes apparently clear how much detail and how much care is addressed and considering the short developmental times, it very well leaves you in awe.

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Despite the mixed reception of the previous installment, Assassins Creed 3, Ubisoft decided to press forward and stronger than ever before. This time though, the setting was quite a surprise and takes a jab at the franchise's strict chronological order. Now, I'll gladly admit that I am not finished with Assassin's Creed IV, nor am I even close. Roughly 28 hours in and I'm about halfway through the main story. Although before I continue any further, let me point out that Black Flag didn't draw me in within the opening sequences as I would've liked it to. With regards to my adoration of the franchise, this felt like the most alienated piece of the puzzle. There was a certain abruptness to the pacing of the story, a relatively disjointed lack of initial motivation to care for protagonist Edward Kenway. But as with all brilliant pieces of art, a single short-handed forray does it very little justice.

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Black Flag decides to strip itself from the norm, disregarding the importance of the Assassin/Templar feud, both from the view of Kenway and the gamer. Instead, you're taken on a journey of self-importance, one that abolishes that which was previously seen as the pinnacle of direction. Edward Kenway is a pirate and yet, an oddly honourable and charismatic man among the devious figures he allies himself with. There's a certain attribute to his character that makes him feel so familiar but refreshingly capable as a leading man. His motives are not one of selflessness yet you cannot help but care for his mission and while bordering that line, you're given a remarkable second glance at an unseen nature of pirates. Some ring terrifyingly true with the stereotypes given but it may come as a surprise as to how the true nature of these "famed" pirates pales in comparison to what can be seen as "atrocities" produced by the British and Spanish armies.

Now, we've seen how Assassins Creed 3 took the time to dabble a little in the world of naval combat but sadly, to a limited extent. Black Flag takes this to an entirely different level, emphasizing greatly on "true" open world exploration and freedom, which it does so tremendously. Your ship is not just another means of travel, but an extension of yourself and the crew considered your family. Shanties ring true as you ride the waves of the ocean, plundering various naval ships, scouring uncharted lands for loot and diving to the depths of the sea to discover long forgotten wrecks of old. There's an outstanding level of care, detail and passion that is seen with representing the true nature of the open seas and it's represented to such a level that you find yourself lost among the wonders of its world.

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As such, Black is not without faults although in this case, it could be purely subjective. There's an unrelenting amount of atrocious escort and eavesdrop missions that left me groaning audibly under my breath. It serves little purpose to the story and pacing, only managing to worsen the overall experience due to the occasional sticky free-running controls. Retrospectively, the Assassin's franchise has been well known for recreating some of the most gorgeous locations in all of gaming. This time around, despite having the most choice at hand, Black Flag lacks any sort of true draw or recognizable landmarks that will leave you in awe as did the wonders of Rome and the multitude of cities from the adventures of Ezio in Renaissance Italy.

On top of that, there's a modern setting to the game which plays a largely miniscule part in the entire story of things (at least from what I've experienced so far). Thankfully for those who care little for the modern events that the franchise has attempted to push towards, there isn't much time spent with the nameless protagonist of that era and the objectives given to perform are actually some of the most entertaining and creative puzzles the series has come to offer. Pushing to the realm of combat, Black Flag remains relatively consistent as it has since it's earliest entries, if not more simple this time around. What really caught my attention though was the sheer depth of possibilities with how to approach combat. While the other games technically boasted about "stealth", you were never given much aside from hiding within crowds for the right moment. Now, with the fantastic addition of a crafting system and an enormous collection of tools, I was left stunned at the countless possibilities I was given considering how dull a straight up approach to combat has become.

From what I've experienced so far, I only really became engrossed with the latest entry into the series after two dozen hours or so but it'd be a crime in saying that it so wasn't worth the wait. Edward is a powerfully addictive lead despite his mediocre supporting cast. The open seas, naval battles and exploration will drain your life away and the combat has taken a newly ingenious direction. Black Flag represents a stepping stone for the franchise, a shining symbol that the series if far from dried out and you'd be crazy to let this one pass out of your grasp. There has never been a better time to stretch your sea legs.

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Deranged's Top Ten of 2013

Waitaminute, waitaminute, waitaminute!

WHERE THE HECK DID 2013 GO!? Well damn, I missed everything didn't I!? I guess all that's left now is to make some list about my favourite games of the year or something right? Yeah, that sounds familiar, I'll go with that. AND GO!

(SIDE NOTE): I did not finish every game this year nor am I including next-gen because I simply have not had the time to complete the games I do have and it just wouldn't do any justice to toss them up without fully experiencing what they have to offer!

10. State of Decay

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It wouldn't be much of a stretch to clarify that I may have a hilariously awkward obsession with anything relatable to post-apocalyptic worst case scenarios. It's an odd fixation that centres around my need for observing how we fantasize over the collapse of modern human society and how the survivors manage to cope and adapt to these new worlds. With State of Decay, developer Undead Labs pushes that boundary even further by giving you those EXACT tools for true survival aspects with managing a community, providing for your people and taking risks that affect either those you care about or selfishly looking out for yourself.

There's isn't a clear cut sense of right and wrong with SoD and that's what I love about it. The game manages to perform at its best when it forces the player to second guess themselves and their decisions, whether it be for the betterment of their community or not. It's a game that keeps you on edge, a world that doesn't hold your hand out in the wild and it becomes terrifyingly evident when you realize that you ARE NOT invincible against the endless waves of the undead. You struggle to find supplies to keep your community adrift and just when you think it's time to lay low, SoD allows you to believe that you are safe and comfortable until you get swamped in the middle of the night by more powerful, mutated versions of the monstrosities aching for your flesh.

For an arcade title, the game boasts quite a production value. It won't be the itch you're looking for when comparing it to top profile titles but that's not where Undead Labs laid their focus on and that's the beauty of it. The game is more than competent when it comes to acknowledging the diverse playstyles of gamers and gives you the option, and a satisfyingly enormous world, to engage with whatever you come across in any which way you please. This is why State of Decay kicks of my list with a bang.

9. Dead Space 3

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Largely considered one of the last titles on the market that truly boasts the survival horror aspect of old, Dead Space 3 manages to yet again craft a brilliant, dark, mind-numbingly thrill ride of an experience. Following Issac Clarke yet again but this time around, our protagonist is borderline insane after the trauma's experienced throughout the first two titles. The game changer this time around? Tossing up against human enemies and having the ability to do so with a friend.

Now, Dead Space 3 follows the same route that Resident Evil 5 went after both games were highly acclaimed for being revolutionary amongst their genres. In this case, I feel co-op only helps enhance the experience and in no way does the game become any easier by doing so. There's also further improvements with the fantastic weapon crafting in addition to a wide selection of goodies in terms of chilling audio collectibles and a creative degree of unlockable outfits to utilize, some even allowing for beneficial boosts to the player's gameplay.

While Dead Space 3 lacks the initial "oomph" that the former titles provided, co-op manages to provide a reinvigorating motivation to continue on and a new set of absolutely stunning locales just keep things fresh throughout the lengthy experience. Dead Space 3 is sadly a largely overlooked and underappreciated experience in 2013 but despite that, I couldn't help but drain dozens of hours into the latest installment of Visceral's top notch shooter.

8. Tomb Raider

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Re-imagining of a cult icon? Check. Extremely gorgeous and accessible world? Check. Wonderfully engaging story and expertly crafted gameplay? Check and check. Despite some of the initial negative feedback when first hearing about the news for a Tomb Raider reboot, Crystal Dynamics still managed to conquer through the pessimism and succeed in recreating one of the best third-person action/adventure titles on the market that originally went on to inspire modern titans such as Uncharted.

On top of being one of the few IP's to not only pull off the impossible of breathing new life in an all but exhausted franchise, it jumps an extra step in improving and adapting the changes that modern titles have since revolutionized since Tomb Raider's dawn over a decade ago. This new outlook on Lara Croft is engaging as instead of jumping straight into the shoes of an experienced warrior, we struggle with our protagonist every step of the way. Every injury, every achievement, every heartbreaking loss. It's a touching and even stressful experience that you just cannot help but become engrossed within.

7. Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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Just when you thought a franchise was inadvertently headed in the completely wrong direction, it manages to pull the most abrupt U-turn in the history of gaming and rush head on and completely surprise almost everyone who once doubted its existence. Ubisoft Toronto has crafted an experience for everytype of gamer and that's not even an exaggeration. Ok well, maybe it is but trust me, Blacklist manages to appeal to almost any style that has come across the "stealth/action" genre in the past decade.

Yeah ok, one of the aspects of the game that truly disappointed or even isolated a group of fans was the dismissal of veteran Sam Fisher voice actor: Michael Ironside. This time around, they chose to go with a fresh take on the character, a younger take if you will, and if anyone is familiar with Smallville's Eric Johnson, they'll feel relatively at home. He lacks the general experience and gruff that Ironside brought to the table but he still manages to bring an interesting take and even a relatable one.

Alongside a gritty story with some incredible options for co-op, Blacklist knocks it out of the park by reintroducing the critically acclaimed Spies vs Mercs multiplayer portion, long since abandoned by the past few titles in the series. A truly unique experience that pushes players to tactically cooperate with their teammates to succeed in a multiplayer component completely focused on objective based gameplay. It's almost a call-back to the days of old, a time where it took more than a itchy trigger finger to keep you alive and it's a wonderful experience that helps complete and already fantastic package.

6. Grand Theft Auto V

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Well, I'm pretty sure that this is the only title on this list that won't need an introduction. GTA V, arguably the most popular title of the year, manages to comfortably ease its way into my top ten list without any hassle whatsoever. Ok hold up, can we maybe take a second to acknowledge how ridiculously MASSIVE this game is. I don't mean in the sense of the game world, just in terms of how much content Rockstar Games has managed to stuff into one title, crafting what could be the final hoorah of the seventh generation of gaming.

Interestingly enough, with boasting three main protagonists rather than just one, GTA V juggles the intertwining stories with remarkable awe but at the same time, it almost becomes an intimidating or even overwhelming experience, one that you cannot even help but fathom or even applaud the developers for taking genuine time and appreciation with. Rockstar, with their unmatched experience in the sandbox genre, further continues to improve upon not only their storytelling, but finally tweak their previously sluggish and buggy control system to near perfection this time around. This allows for an overall increased enjoyment in nearly every sector that the game provides, INCLUDING the driving.

It'd be an understatement in saying that GTA V wasn't a pretty gem. It becomes clear from the get-go how incredibly detailed everything is in the game, and you find yourself just taking the time to appreciate the scenery. Sadly, the only thing that keeps GTA V from rising higher on my list is my ever continuing poor experience with the multiplayer side of things. At times it manages to function and when it does, it's quite the thrill ride. Yet, it's still largely inconsistent and a lot of the promises made have yet to be provided for. Despite that being said, this is an experience that cannot be missed.

5. DmC: Devil May Cry

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There's a certain authenticity that comes with approaching the Devil May Cry reboot, which even to this day is disregarded merely on the approach to the reimagining of another video game icon; Dante. Sadly, I find those claims to be a tad bit overbearing as with experiencing everything Ninja Theory's reboot offers, I have no shame in claiming that this entry in the (new?) series is arguably one of its most refined and focused. The revered combat makes a triumphant return and for the better If I were to be so bold. There's a more focused approach this time around, with fluidity between powers and weapons being the focus, making it both accessible to new players and those who have spent years with the series.

On top of refining an already near perfect combat experience, Ninja Theory takes a gamble of tackling a similar but fresh take on Dante's origin which manages to only further impact both the story and combat in a more positive way. There's an impactful experience to be found with Dante's tragic and hidden past and despite being largely crude at many points throughout its rather lengthy playtime, the jumps taken into more mature territory administer surprising results. With mentioning a DmC title, you can't help but applaud the gorgeous art styles that follow. While being a little buggy at times, the game carries an artistic style that is to be envied and perfectly blends the diverse themes addressed in the wild ride that Ninja Theory thankfully managed to recreate.

4. BioShock Infinite

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So yeah, BioShock Infinite am I right? See now, we've reached in my list where everything I say just becomes incoherent babble and I just end up rambling on about how these games even manage to exist. Bear with me, it's about to get messy. I'm going to kick things off with stating that Irrational Games manages to make the absolute BEST introductions that just drag you in every time, despite how you feel going into the game. In my case, I waited several months before jumping in and truthfully, I totally tried going all hipster with this one. The end result, just nope. I cannot express how much I loved this game, a triumph that borders the creative brilliance of the original back in 2007.

Infinite is only linear in its combat and honestly, while they have improved the shooting aspect, I feel like it just left the Vigors (Infinite's version of Plasmids) completely obsolete in a lot of situations considering the sheer power of some of the weapons, and how generally uninteresting a large majority of the Vigors were. Now we jump into the the mess that is explaining how ridiculously amazing the story is. It cannot be put into words, it just can't or I'm just too limited in my vocabulary to do so. Every time you may think you know where the story is headed, Infinite just rears up and slaps you in the face, as if the developers are laughing at your expectations.

And then we have the locale and the visuals. Holy moley is this game jaw-dropping. There are moments where you find yourself forced to put down the controller and just gaze upon the creativity behind these expertly imagined worlds. Despite being held back at times with a relatively general combat system, the story more than makes up for it and helps push the overall package into stardom.

3. Injustice: Gods Among Us

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Say whaaaat?! A fighting game made my top ten list?! And it's NOT Mortal Kombat? Blasphemy! Hey, I'm with you guys. When I initially heard about Injustice, I had every right to believe this would fail considering the track record of the superhero genre, and despite my best hopes that it would surpass everyone's expectations. Thankfully, NetherRealm Studios has a fantastic history with the fighting genre by being the creators of the massively lauded Mortal Kombat series and man, does their expertise ever feel so present with Injustice.

So, on top of having arguably the best and most accessible gameplay systems out there for fighting games, Injustice also manages to craft the best storyline as well, which comes as no surprise considering the sheer quality and quantity that comes with the DC brand. While it's a tad bit short, it remains all the more engaging and helps quicken the removal of your training wheels before really tackling the tough stuff, which can get extremely aggravating at times. Brilliantly enough, NetherRealm takes a twist by utilizing a alternate reality in which Superman and co. (with a few exceptions) absolutely lose their minds and enslave the Earth. It's an interesting take on the mythos and one that translates quite well on screen thanks to the easy transition into the fighting genre.

Now, the creme of the crop lies with the roster and the online play. I mean, everyone knows that's where all the fun truly sticks with fighting games since it is the last remaining challenging that remains ever present despite how much you play. Boasting a rather impressive roster, split down the middle with a side of heroes and one for villains, each character is unique enough that the game forces you to spend time in mastering their massive array of combo's, strengths and weaknesses. It's an invigorating experience, one which I spent dozens upon dozens of hours of getting smacked around and yet, I just kept coming back for more.

2. The Last of Us

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"Can you survive?" There lies the one, simplistic question that The Last of Us rests upon those who gracefully approach this masterpiece of a game. It's here where Naughty Dog excels the most. Not with the graphics, not with the gameplay, but with one simple theme that haunts you through the entire duration of your experience. The Last of Us is simply remarkable because of its tone, because of its setting and because of its characters.

Before I continue praising the game, I'll get some of the negative aspects out of the way. Probably my single complaint with The Last of Us is its gameplay, which is borderline atrocious at times but at others, immensely engrossing. There are times where you just cannot get enough of how stressfully giddy the combat makes you feel, always on edge and watching your back. Comfortability is a feeling that is very rare and transparent throughout the entire experience and the developers take note of this, completely ripping away at your safety at every opportunity. In other cases, it can just be utterly frustrating with how poorly some of the mechanics function, especially at a close distance, where you'll spend a large portion of your time stuck in. However, the brilliance of the story is the single aspect pushing you forward through some poor mission design at times and you'll be thankful for it.

I cannot praise The Last of Us more than just for simply recognizing that gamers are not stupid. We do not need a constant reminder as to what the objective is, nor where we need to go next. In almost any case, it takes away from the the thrill of discovery and the fear of the unknown. Naughty Dog corrects that and appreciates the fact that gamers are smart, edgy and persistent. They give you free reign of controlling where and when you proceed, highlighting only for utmost importance but not intrusively. Just as a final surprising and welcomed addition, Naughty Dog introduces a creative and refreshing multiplayer very much akin to that of Gears of War where it pushes for tactical dependency with your teammates and that's where I was drawn in. There's a moderate survival dependency reminiscent of the story but it centres around the crafting to later improve your weaponry and such.

Now while The Last of Us boasts some of the most alluring visuals I've ever seen, it's not without faults. The game tends to having an odd blurring effect whenever moving and it tends to be oddly jagged as well. However, almost everything about this post-apocalyptic world screams out at me and leaves me drooling for more.

1. Metro: Last Light

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Where does bravery surface from where there rests no hope? This was the single most endearing aspect that Last Light provided me with. A complete sense of hopelessness, a mission continued simply to provide hope for the survivors of a devastated world, one which they could never dream of returning to. It's a frightening thought, one that leaves you contemplating your decisions and every single action you take.Last Light, more than any other game I've played, forces you to second guess yourself every chance it gets and it's painfully rewarding on top of engaging.

Last Light follows a world in which Russia fell into nuclear war, rendering the surface world completely uninhabitable and slaughtering the vast majority of the population. The survivors now live within the countries vast Metro system, some in a welcoming tone, others so treacherous that you are left wondering who the true enemy is. It's a tone that appeals greatly to me as it leaves the gamer questioning how youwould react in a similar situation and man, does the game ever give you the opportunity to do so.

The gameplay is refined to the point where in any given situation where you encounter enemies, you arefreely given the option to engage in either a hostile or one of complete avoidance. While you can engage your enemies, you gain even more options by choosing to be either lethal or non-lethal. Each action you take affects a morality system, one that will help dictate a specific ending and here's where the brilliance comes in. You have absolutely no idea whether the actions you perform are "good or bad". Yes that's right, you are completely left in the dark with only your own morality to dictate your actions. It's an incredibly innovating mechanic that helps thrust you into the world and hits you hard when you discover the impacts of your choices.

Last Light makes my list almost solely because of those aspects on top of being arguably one of the most jaw droppingly exquisite games I've ever laid eyes on. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the most engrossing experiences I've ever played in the past few years and sadly, one of the most underrated and overshadowed of the year.

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McDerby's Top Ten games of the year!

With 2012 finally over with, I can put together my top ten games of the year and boy, was it hard nailing it down to simply ten. A quick note before continuing on with the list, I have yet to complete the last few chapters of Telltale's The Walking Dead and currently in the process of playing through Far Cry 3, so I didn't find it fair to include either of those in my list since I'm far from completion. Alright, down to business!

10. Resident Evil 6

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Alright, it's fair to note right off the bat that Resident Evil 6 wasn't the best game in the series, nor was it exceptional among it's competition either, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the game as a whole. Yes, the controls took a little getting used to and perhaps some of the changes or lack thereof might have been infuriating, but Resident Evil 6 did succeed in crafting some exciting moments throughout it's three (or four) separate campaigns even if it never came close to living up to series standard that Resident Evil 4 had established.

The changes made to the combat actually worked for the better, allowing for movement while aiming, which was a first for the series and while some disliked this change, I found it to be one of the more appealing aspects that RE6 provided and hope to see it pass onto future installments. While the story fails to provide any true survival horror that the series had once been known for, it boasts some fun, yet ridiculous boss battles, a few interesting new characters and some overall fun co-op moments.

9. Sniper Elite V2

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A mostly overlooked and underrated game, Sniper Elite V2 is a remake of 2005's Sniper Elite released by the same developer; Rebellion. A simplistic third person shooter taking place in 1945 near the end of second World War, the player is thrown into the shoes of an OSS Sniper operative who makes his way through war-torn Europe tracking down and eliminating any scientist involved in the German V2 program.

Despite the simplicity that the game provides, the gameplay is top notch, throwing in some of the most gruesome and exciting shoot-outs that I've experienced from either a WW2 shooter or any shooter regardless. This is all due to the fantastic sniper combat and basically re-invents the "X-Ray" kill cam that the original so well established. Sniper Elite V2 allows you to play the game whichever way you please but awards the player for taking stealthier precautions and even allowing moments of synchronization with elements in the world such as thunder or artillery strikes to mask Sniper shots to best emphasize a stealthy approach.

While it's severely lacking on the story front, the constantly amusing and gruesome Kill-cam provides never grows tiresome and kept me entertained for hours on end.

8. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

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It's no surprise that I throughly and genuinely enjoyed the latest installment in High Moon Studio's Cybertron series. Considering the poor treatment that the Transformers have endured on the video game front in the past decade, it was a relieving breath of fresh air when High Moon took the reigns and brought the franchise back to it's roots. While still taking partial inspiration from Michael Bay's films, the series evidently pays massive homage to the G1 era in both character design and story.

I can't stress enough how impressed I was with the entire package that Fall of Cybertron provided. Fantastic and nearly flawless gameplay, an intriguing story that separates it from those that came before it and don't even get me started on the multiplayer. Sadly, this is where the game was mostly overlooked. Lacking a cult hit that big hitters such as Call of Duty, Gears of War and Halo have all achieved, FoC doesn't manage to draw in a massive crowd in the same regard but that doesn't mean that it doesn't succeed either. In fact, the multiplayer is easily where the game shines most and I've wasted a dozen hours taking the fight of Cybertron online.

Alongside all of this, Fall of Cybertron boasts a fantastic voice cast that even borrows some of the talent from previous shows and even the Bay films. Here's hoping that the next game in the series builds upon and finally receives it's recognition.

7. The Witcher 2

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Before I continue on with my thoughts on why I so enjoyed The WItcher 2, I'd like to point out that I despise RPG's for the most part. Don't ask me why, it takes a special kind of RPG to draw my attention and The Witcher 2 succeeded effortlessly. Yes, I know, The Witcher 2 originally came out in 2011, but the Xbox 360 version came out back in May so I can throw this on my list.

Back to my praise. CD Projekt absolutely nails every aspect in this game from the story, wonderful cast of characters and fantastically difficult combat -- the works. Not to mention that it also might be the best looking game on the 360 to date and it's just throwing more fuel to the fire. I, for one, hate most combat systems that are introduced by your standard RPG. But thankfully, the combat in Witcher 2 throws away with that and despite being more difficult than most average "hack and slash" titles, it's appeal lies in it's strategic outlook. It's something that most games, if not all seemingly don't even bother to attempt and it only helps benefit The Witcher 2 here.

6. Max Payne 3

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I'll be completely blunt here, I was never a fan of the Max Payne games prior to the release of the third installment. I was completely aware of them but I never gave them a second thought. Perhaps it was because third person shooters weren't my cup of tea at the time being or perhaps because I just simply hated the entire concept of the games, I don't know. I can say that with Max Payne 3, everything changed.

With Rockstar taking over for Remedy, many people were skeptical at how they would handle a more linear shooter in comparison to all the open-world crime shooters they have become so accustomed to brilliantly crafting. Let me tell you, I never expected Rockstar to pull this off and I am ecstatic to say that I was completely proven wrong. Rockstar not only knocks it out of the park but re-creates and utilizes some of the most basic yet thrilling gameplay elements and throws Max through hell as he tries to forget his past.

So yes, I'm going to go there and say that Max Payne 3 outdoes it's predecessors in every-way and proves that story-telling through cutscenes is still as effective as ever.

5. Borderlands 2

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There can be no other way to describe Borderlands 2 than chaos, absolute chaos. To be completely frank, few games have ever succeeded in achieving such a level of enjoyment that you constantly lose track in what you are actually doing and instead, you find yourself instinctively looting, killing, exploring and looting some more. It's safe to say that Borderlands is the closest thing to the perfect coupling of RPG elements with nearly flawless FPS mechanics.

While it doesn't really live up to the claims of a greater story, everyone already knows that this isn't the appeal in Borderlands 2. Yes, it would've been nice to have a more fleshed out story, building on the new characters introduced, but instead you find yourself so engulfed in the sheer insanity of the game that you end up not even caring. So many games aim for that and fewer even begin to succeed.

4. Assassins Creed 3

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It will come as no surprise that I am a massive Assassins Creed fanboy and that the franchise has landed itself as one of my favourite of all time, boasting some of the best and most interesting settings ever graced in gaming. Despite all of this, I have to say that through all of Assassins Creed 3's accomplishments, it also had it's fair share of short-coming that kept it from being higher on the list.

Disregarding that fact, I still enjoyed every single moment of the game and even considering my completionist OSD, I found myself so engulfed in the story that I didn't even bother jumping into the side missions until I finished the main story, which is an absolute first for me. Although Connor's character never connected as greatly with me in the way that Ezio's did, his story was still an interesting one to see unfold and his personality helped completely differentiate him from his predecessors.

Easily the most impressive and successful aspect about the third installation and any other in that matter is the setting. Taking place in Colonial America on the brink of revolution, it's simply a treat to see how events unfolded and how Conner's behind-the-scenes interaction helped "shape" the direction that America's greatest leaders took as they fought for independence from the British and the Templars, who are constantly pulling the strings.

3. Darksiders II

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Here we go again, another RPG Hack and slash making it on my list for Top games of the year and the third spot no less?! Trust me, I was as surprised as you are. While I enjoyed the first game a decent amount, I never expected for a second that I would have so greatly appreciated it's sequel which succeeds it's predecessor in almost every category.

Following the Horseman known as Death this time around, you fight your way to try to free his brother War and clear his name despite the claims that he began the apocalypse that wiped out humanity and re-ignited the war between Heaven and Hell. One of the most interesting and satisfying additions to Darksiders II that drew me in so well was the exceptional combat system which was fluid beyond belieft and the introduction of greater RPG elements such as better fleshed out skill tree's and even loot drops!

The world is massive, and although it is a little empty and dry, the gorgeous art style makes it a gem to look at. Death's character is different from his brother in every-way possible. Where War was honorable and fought for Justice, Death is cocky, arrogant and feared by all. It's a massive change of pace and it's a joy to see how far and deep into the Universe Death's reputation is heard and how he interacts with those he has never even heard of before despite their knowledge of him.

2. Mass Effect 3

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Words cannot describe how much I adore this franchise. I know that this final game had received a hefty amount of hate due to it's original ending but honestly, how fair is it to disregard everything else that the game and the series as a whole was able to accomplish. The journey that my Shepard has taken throughout the past three games and the decisions he has made finally come to fruition here and the final battle to save the Galaxy comes to a close with what I personally thought was an entirely satisfying and touching ending coupled with some of the most brilliant music ever to grace video games orchestrating the entire event.

Yeah, Mass Effect 3 doesn't really do much in regards to it's visuals but it was already a gorgeous game two years ago and it with some final touches, the game holds up alongside the best in the pack and leaves you staring in awe at some of the locales you visit and realize that this is why the Galaxy is worth fighting for. BioWare also manages to also tweak the combat system to it's finest, creating one of the best experiences I've experienced in a third-person shooter and almost perfectly meshes some of the most brilliant story-telling with an equal amount of enticing action sequences.

To top it all of, Mass Effect 3 adds in a multiplayer component which really is a survival mode that is far more fleshed out than one would originally come to believe. it is here that players are given their first opportunity to play as almost any warring race in the Mass Effect universe from the brutal Krogans to nimble and deadly Drell. As in the single player campaign, there are 6 classes to choose from and a handful amount of races to select as well, each with their own unique abilities.

I have yet to experience a franchise or trilogy that so brilliantly and coherently crafts it's entire story into one and can be played all at once without skipping a beat. It truly is a gem among video games and deserves a special spot in history.

1. Halo 4

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Surprise, surprise! Halo 4 tops off my list as my favourite game of the year and yes I can admit that most of the reason falls upon my biased fanboy love for the franchise as a whole but that's far from the only reason as to why I was so impressed by the most recent installment in the Haloverse! While it matter very little, Halo 4 was a massive graphical achievement over it's predecessors in every-way possible, both artistically and technically. The cinematics alone are so beautifully rendered that it almost appears life-like at first glance. it's truly an accomplishment, especially when it's realized that jump between games was only two years.

Everyone is absolutely familiar with how popular the Halo franchise is in terms of it's multiplayer and to be honest, it has been the only reason that Halo has remained such an adored franchise -- up until now. 343 Studio's manages to do what Bungie could never do; craft one of the best stories ever told in a Halo game to date and one that can help establish Halo as not only a magnificent multiplayer shooter, but one with a thrilling story as well. One of the biggest changes comes from the incredible character development and interaction between the two lead characters; Master Chief and Cortana. This time around, John has been given more lines in this single game than he has spoken in the entirety of the past trilogy. You are given reason to care for what he is trying to accomplish and the performance given by Cortana's voice actresses is chilling and will give you goose-bumps on more than one occasion.

As for the multiplayer, Halo 4 accomplishes what every other installment in the franchise has managed to establish and continues to prove why Halo is one of the best shooters around. The combat is incredibly and unbelievably fluid, the game modes engaging and the maps so wonderfully crafted that you'll have a blast playing through them and creating new strategies with every different game mode played.

Despite the love and loyalty that most fans have for Bungie, which is understandable due to the brilliant work they've done with the franchise over the past decade, 343 proves and effortlessly manages to carry on the torch by showcasing their utmost loyalty to the source material and understanding the love that so many have for the beloved franchise and hold true to the best wishes by creating what might be the best Halo experience yet.

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Studying techniques/habits

Ah college, quite the pain in my arse you have become. As a student in high school, I rarely studied other than exams and major tests. I had a piss-poor average until I actually started paying attention in grade 11. Since then I have been an A-student but since starting college, I have slowly been crawling back to my old, procrastinating ways. I have a total of 6 mid-terms this week, 3 of which I've already completed. I have two tomorrow and I have studied slightly the night before. Now I got off school at noon today and have done nothing at all. I would like to know what helps you study better, what setting you study in? I just got in the habit of listening to music without lyrics which helps me study. I find it easier because there are no lyrics which could cause you to be carried away. i would like to know your studying habits.

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