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My Top 10 Games of 2013

2013 was a crazy year; new consoles were introduced, countless sequels were released, and developers experienced massive shakeups. During this strange year, I managed to play many games, some of which were fantastic, others that were not so fantastic (I’m looking at you and your campaign, Battlefield 4). More to the point, I played some games that were extremely stupid, but they were stupid in that way that made me laugh during some depressing times. The following games are my personal top 10 games of 2013, but they may not be the highest quality. Instead, I chose the games that I had the most fun with during the past year.

10. Deadpool – Deadpool was a game that I was extremely excited for but was also worried about after the development team was laid off pre-release. Thankfully, Deadpool was still enjoyable. It may have not been the most polished or philosophical game of the year, but I still loved it. Nolan North played all three voices in Deadpool’s head beautifully, and he delivered some downright insane quotes.

Certain parts of Deadpool were extremely frustrating because of the spike in difficulty or unbeatable enemies, but I couldn’t stop smiling while murdering hundreds of enemies with shotguns and gigantic hammers. Deadpool may not be perfect—or even close to it—but I can’t take it out of the top 10 games I played this year.

9. The Wolf Among Us: Episode 1 – I didn’t enjoy The Walking Dead game that Telltale made. I know it’s heresy to insult this game that won so many awards, but I really don’t care about zombie outbreaks. The game was very well made and well written, but I just wanted some different source material. Thankfully, Telltale Games released episode one of The Wolf Among Us, based on the Fables series of comic books.

The Wolf Among Us focuses on the fairy tale characters that have formed a community in New York City, called Fabletown. Sheriff Bigby Wolf (the big bad wolf) has reformed and become the law of Fabletown. During episode one, Bigby is tasked with solving the murder of a mysterious young woman who he rescued from the Woodsman.

Telltale took their point-and-click gameplay style and paired it with a subject that I actually care about, and I actually want to continue playing the rest of the season. Telltale has only released one episode of The Wolf Among Us so far, but I enjoyed that one episode more than many other games I played this year.

8. Gears of War: Judgment – I loved the three main Gears of War games, so I was pretty excited about Gears of War: Judgment. Sure, the main development team wasn’t working on this particular release, but it was in the trusted hands of People Can Fly, the same team that made Bulletstorm. The resulting game was similar to the original trilogy, but differed in storytelling, main characters, and level layout.

Judgment may not have been a popular release, but I enjoyed playing as different characters while following an entirely different storyline. The flashback storyline and level modifiers were just bonuses during an enjoyable game. Most importantly, I was still able to tear hundreds of grubs in half using my lancer. Judgment wasn’t fantastic, but I completely enjoyed my time with it.

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7. Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel – Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel had no chance of being any good, and to be honest, it isn’t that great of a game. I don’t care because I still love it. My wife and I went on vacation and spent an entire weekend in a hotel room playing through The Devil’s Cartel. We came home from our vacation and immediately played through it a second time.

Yes, the characters are terrible, the plot is stupid, and there are some technical problems, but I don’t care. I view Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel as a secret, video game version of Bad Boys. You could replace the Army of Two characters with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and have the perfect foundation for Bad Boys III.

I am not ashamed of the fact that I love Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel. I have a soft spot in my heart for big, dumb action games, especially if they have couch co-op, and The Devil’s Cartel is just that.

6. Tomb Raider – I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games, but I never had a chance to play them because I didn’t have a Playstation One. I had no previous experience with this franchise, and I was very happy about that fact. I was able to start exploring Tomb Raider’s island with pure enjoyment instead of searching for reasons why it wasn’t as good as previous games.

Exploration was a fantastic part of Tomb Raider. The optional tombs were entertaining little puzzles that could only be solved with the proper tools. Once I unlocked the rope arrows, exploration became a whole new monster. These arrows opened up new pathways into the tombs and enemy camps.

The best part of Tomb Raider—at least for me—was climbing the tallest building or mountain and slowly spinning in circles while viewing the world. Crystal Dynamics somehow made a gorgeous game with fantastic weather effects that ran really well on the current consoles. Tomb Raider also had great action sequences, fantastic exploration, and it reminded me of the tv show, Arrow, which is also great. Tomb Raider was unexpected, and I loved it.

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5. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist – To me, Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a movie starring Harrison Ford; the main character is too old for the task at hand, but he is going to do whatever it takes to stop the enemies and save the world. Also, he stops terrorists from taking over his plane. Sound familiar? This is exactly what happens to Sam Fisher. He is running his own counter-terrorism agency but is forced out into the field to stop the terrorists from destroying all of America. Fisher can only achieve this goal by sneaking around hostile areas, subduing terrorists, and hiding their bodies. I honestly don’t know how Sam Fisher can even crouch or sneak around like that at his age, and I don’t care. What matters is that Blacklist is a lot of fun.

Ubisoft replaced the most essential feature of Splinter Cell that Conviction had removed in the ability to carry and hide bodies. They also added some fancy, new toys and sidekicks (although the computer tech looks like a guy from Dexter). I’m not very good at stealth games, but I had so much fun sneaking through a Chicago mall at Christmas time, trying to knock out terrorists while listening to Christmas music. To be honest, I loved Splinter Cell: Blacklist because it made me feel like an unstoppable agent.

4. Bioshock Infinite – The first moments in Bioshock Infinite were my first moments in any universe created by Ken Levine and Irrational Entertainment. This is weird, but I had never played System Shock or the previous Bioshock games. I had no idea what to expect going into Bioshock Infinite, but I couldn’t have been more impressed. The opening sequences leading into Columbia and through the carnival were truly jaw dropping because I hadn’t seen anything remotely similar. The amount of detail and sheer craziness was astounding, and Bioshock Infinite just got better from that point.

I quickly fell in love with the different characters, even Lord Comstock. Something about their personalities and dialogue was appealing to me. Combining those characters with the interesting world made Bioshock Infinite even better. I didn’t want to rush through areas for fear of missing secret songs or events. The moment when Booker started to play guitar, and Elisabeth sang “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” made me tear up. It was freaking beautiful.

I didn’t care about the Bioshock universe until I played Infinite. Now, I have played all three games, and I love them.

3. Lego Marvel Super Heroes – I had grown very tired of Lego games until the release of Lego Marvel Super Heroes. The licenses and formulas were just making me bored, and I was almost to the point where I didn’t want any more Lego games. Thankfully, Traveller’s Tales made a Lego game just for me by improving the open world aspects of Lego Batman 2 and adding Marvel characters that I loved.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes plays like Marvel Ultimate Alliance (only with more characters), and that’s exactly what I wanted. I love the ability to cause utter destruction in New York with Black Bolt, the Incredible Hulk, and tons of other characters. TT Games even created a great original story that felt like it belonged in the Marvel universe. Simply put, Lego Marvel Super Heroes was fantastic, goofy fun.

2. Grand Theft Auto V – Rockstar Games had one of the toughest tasks around when they released Grand Theft Auto V; they had to prove that releasing a high-budget game with no issues is more important than hitting a yearly schedule. Rockstar also had to deal with returning to a city that was beloved by fans without destroying any of the memories that were created during Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In my opinion, they nailed it.

GTA V was a wonderful experience full of multiple characters, awesome heist missions, and a crazy world to explore. The new version of Los Santos is full of reprobates, douche bags, and assorted crazy gang members. Walking through downtown Los Santos often led to weird run-ins with cops or civilians.

Rockstar took a pretty big chance when they introduced the multiple main characters and the switching mechanics, but this one of the best aspects of GTA V. I never grew tired of switching between characters to see the different entrance scenarios, and I absolutely loved roaming the open world to discover the character-specific missions like the paparazzi missions. Some of these missions were absolutely insane, but they were all worth playing to see the end results. After 50 hours, I still haven’t come close to finding all the collectables or seeing the sights.

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1. Assassin’s Creed IV – I had absolutely no interest in Assassin’s Creed IV after the disappointment that was AC III. The promise of sailing and pirate adventures wasn’t even enough to pique my interest. Luckily, I still decided to try it out. I was wary at first, but the opening moments convinced me that this would be a much different game. In the first weekend alone, I spent over 20 hours sailing around looking for buried treasure and living a pirate’s life.

After that initial weekend, I have spent way too much time fulfilling that childhood fantasy of being a pirate. The pirate coves are so much fun to explore, and the main character, Edward Kenway, is a much better version of Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean mixed with Charlie Hunnam. Edward’s friends were all fantastic, and I tried to hang out with Blackbeard as much as possible. Most importantly, Ubisoft introduced collectable sea shanties for my pirate crew. What is better than listening to your crew singing “Drunken Sailor” while searching for treasure and infamy? NOTHING!

Well, there you have it. The list doesn’t feature the prettiest or highest rated games, but it does feature a lot of fun and Nolan North. Happy 2014.

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What Ryan Davis Meant to Me

“Ryan Davis passed away on July 3rd. He was 34.”

These are the words that greeted me as I sat in my normal lunch spot getting ready to watch videos on Giant Bomb. The first thought that went through my mind was that the article was obviously fake. How could Ryan be gone? He had just gotten married, and was due back in the office. The main reason I even went to was to see if they had posted the latest “I Love Mondays”. I wanted to hear about his honeymoon and the crazy stuff that probably happened on it. Instead, I was greeted by the worst news that I have seen in a long time.

I’ve never actually met Ryan, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like he is one of my friends. I’ve spent thousands of hours listening to episodes of the Giant Bombcast and watching the crazy videos that the GB crew posts, so I feel like a long-distance friend or relative. Ryan could also be considered the face of Giant Bomb because he is the host of everything that is posted—podcasts, Unprofessional Fridays, I Love Mondays, and various other videos. He is the first thing that you see when visiting Giant Bomb.

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that Ryan’s friends and coworkers are feeling right now. Even more so, I can’t imagine the pain that his wife is feeling. They literally celebrated their wedding five days before Ryan passed away. This is truly the worst thing that could have happened, and I only wish the best for her.

As a fan of Ryan and Giant Bomb, I can only offer my sincerest condolences. I hope that the pain will ease with time, but the happy memories of Ryan will live on. My favorite Ryan Davis memory is the story he told about accidentally being a narc at California Extreme. This simple story caused me to pull my car over because I was laughing so hard. That’s only one example of the laughter and joy that Ryan brought to those that didn’t know him on a personal level, and that’s what I want to remember.

I raise my glass in honor of Ryan Davis, and I hope that you will too.

So long, buddy.

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