Another year with too many games to play. Not that having too much of a good thing is a bad thing in this case, but when it comes to putting some semblance of a list together at the end of the year it’s hard to see just how many great games I missed out on. It is a shame when games like Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, the Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds, Puppeteer and Metro: Last Light don’t make a list of my favourite games of the year. But time is limited and time for games even more so. So with that in mind here are my Most Agreeable games of the year (that I actually got the time to play).
I am as surprised by how excellent the Tomb Raider reboot turned out as anyone. Developer Crystal Dynamics has done a stellar job keeping Lara’s adventures fresh and modern this generation, but in recognising that the series simply just needed an overhaul they have made a game that doesn’t just hold up in the modern era, but stands toe-to-toe with the best games of the generation. The focus on combat was a smart one and Tomb Raider’s cover based shooting is amongst the best around, with weapons feeling suitably powerful and enemies intelligently moving around the battlefield. But as with Tomb Raider of old its the excellent puzzle-filled traversal and exploration that makes Tomb Raider such an addictive joy. Thanks to this brilliant effort Lara Croft has never been more relevant and I for one can’t wait to see what they do with the storied adventurer next.
Bioshock Infinite has its problems but for the most part I didn’t notice them until people with greater axes to grind pointed them out. I’m sure the narrative is a variation of something that’s come before (what’s not, after all) and I have no doubt that first person shooting has been done better a million times before; but none of that detracts from the amazing yarn Irrational Games have woven in Bioshock Infinite. Companion Elizabeth is a delight, the player character Booker DeWitt an Enigma and their common enemy, Zachary Commstock an egregious example of humanity, and together with the amazingly realised floating world of Columbia, Bioshock Infinite manages to create one of the most interesting and complex worlds of the generation. It may not be perfect but Bioshock Infinite is a one of a kind game that simply must be played.
Rayman Legends is the best Don’t Kill Yourself Book ever made. The game is so gleeful it practically grabs the sides of your mouth and hoists them up with meat hooks to make sure there is no trace of a frown on your face. It is bright, it is colourful, it is absolutely stunning to look at, but most importantly it is the best 2D platformer I’ve played this generation. Rayman takes the best bits of 2D Sonic and Mario games to make a game that is as much about precise platforming as it is lightning fast speed and reflexes. Most impressively Ubisoft Montpellier had the audacity to coat it all in a very European, dare I say French, art style and still managed to pull off what is one of the best looking games ever made. It would be a travesty for you to not play Rayman Legends because whether you’re sad or not, it will make your day just that little bit brighter.
Even with all of its problems Forza 5 is an outstanding racing game. It may have taken a step back in almost every other area, and the asynchronous multiplayer could use some work, but the driving in Forza 5 is still as brilliant as ever. The way the cars behave on the road is second to none helped in large part by a physics engine that captures everything from the grip of the tyres to the way the weight of the car shifts as you fly at high speed around the game’s tracks. There is certainly less game here both terms of cars and tracks, and it may not be the progressive racing game it deserved to be following on from the pedigree of Forza 4 but when you’re behind the wheel of any one of the beautifully realised super cars in the game you’ll hardly notice.
I find it absolutely amazing what Codemasters have become. The transformation from a jack-of-all-trades developer to one with a sole focus on the racing genre must’ve made business sense, but rarely do you see a shift in focus from a developer or publisher pulled off quite so well. Codemasters are the masters of the racing genre and you don’t have to look far beyond what they’ve done with the Formula One license to see that, and F1 2013 is the best entry in the series yet. It still looks and plays beautifully but the inclusion of classic cars and tracks from the 80’s and 90’s was the killer blow that the series needed to make it into one of my favourite games of the year. Codemasters’ love for the sport shines through and players can take a 2013 Ferrari F138 around the new and exciting Yas Marina, or if you prefer, the iconic Lotus 100T around the Brands Hatch. Its this passion for the sport that makes F1 one of the only annualised franchises I buy into and one that I cannot wait to see what the team do with the next generation of hardware.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us made it to number two on our Most Agreeable games of the generation list, but I have a feeling if Lucius had’ve played it it would’ve easily made number one. I haven’t got enough digits on my body to count how many times I sat staring at the screen in shock throughout the course of The Last of Us. The narrative beats that pound as the game’s story plays out will hit so hard you’ll have a headache by the end, as the developer takes you through an incredibly well crafted story of the human condition and spirit. The characters are brilliantly realised and the world suitably bleak, punctuated by incredibly violent moments that have the player engaging in high stakes kill or be killed combat, with ridiculously violent hand to hand combat and satisfying and precise gunplay. But its all in service of the creation of a very real world and characters, making for a landmark title that will come to define Naughty Dog as a developer, but also redefine what gaming narratives can be if a little bit of heart is put into them.
Almost there…. With so many deserving games that it is simple mathematics that something has to miss out on first class honours. So while they didn’t quite make it to the top congratulations to Lego City Undercover, Killzone Mercenary, Disney Infinity , Dead Rising 3 and Zoo Tycoon for helping to make 2013 a great year to play games.
I’m cheating a little but…
Hotline Miami (Ps3/PSVita)
In July of last year I wrote that Hotline Miami for the Vita was “Bloody, bright and brutal, Hotline Miami is a loving homage to 80′s culture and pixel art that takes old school game design and injects it with the blood-lust and maturity of a modern title“, lumping praise on it for its fast action, gratuitous violence and eye melting visuals. Although the game was released on the PC in 2012, as someone who doesn’t play PC games the Vita and PS3 versions were my first opportunity to experience the sheer insanity that is Hotline Miami, and the wait was well worth it. The old adage easy to learn hard to master applies here almost better than anywhere and underneath what appears to be a simple arcade romp is a deep and rewarding action game with enough meat in it to keep you slashing your way through 1980’s Miami for hours upon hours