by Matthew Thompson
2013 was an amazing year for games. One of my favorites in fact. And over the next few gaming blogs, I will be talking about the highlights and lowlights of the year. I’m kicking things off with the big ones today. Games of the Year and one… well not GotY. Here it goes.
Downloadable Game of the Year: Resogun
Near-perfect arcade action. Never before have I been so addicted to a game of this ilk. Zooming around Resogun’s cylindrical playfield, shooting everything in sight while trying to save those pesky humans was just a blast and kept me busy with my PlayStation 4 purchase since Killzone: Shadow Fall (my only retail purchase with the new console) left me a little cold. One of my favorite gaming moments of the year came in a brief sequence where me and a couple of friends were battling for the top spot on the game’s friend leaderboards. It wasn’t long before I lost my tolerance for keeping my multiplier going and my pals soon left me in their voxel-shaped dust, but it made for some hilarious social media interactions for a few days. That was just the cherry on top though. Resogun’s blistering action represents developer Housemarque’s best game and the prize gem of 2013’s downloadable crop.
Runner-up: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Handheld Game of the Year: Tearaway
I could try to break down the individual parts of Tearaway to describe why I like it so much. For instance, the artstyle is my favorite of the year in a year just loaded with great art direction in games. Or perhaps I could say how I like that it feels sort of like a throwback to platforming adventures of generations’ past. But I think more than anything, it’s just fun. It’s unique. It’s beautiful. It puts a smile on my face. It’s Tearaway and it’s my favorite handheld game of the year.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Disappointment of the Year: Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider’s 2013 reboot isn’t a bad game. I enjoyed it well enough. But it is a bad Tomb Raider game which is the biggest reason it was such a disappointment for me. The challenging platforming and puzzles that make this series so special to me were pretty much thrown out the window during Lara’s latest adventure. The series running away from its roots is made even worse since no other ongoing series delivers anything like typical TR outings. This change might have been easier to take if what replaced them were executed better. While the gunplay is the series’ best, the enemy AI and encounter design leave a lot to be desired. And the setpieces didn’t stick with me like the best in games do. So the focus on these elements didn’t work as well as it could have. It’s a shame because some of these new ideas melded with classic Tomb Raider design could have made for a hell of a game. Here’s to hoping that Crystal Dynamics looks to the past when crafting the sequel.
Overall Game of the Year: The Last of Us
Not only does The Last of Us totally deliver on both the story and gameplay side of things, but they compliment each other so well. The story’s strength comes from watching the growing bond between our two leads, Joel and Ellie. They are both such wonderful characters with very unique perspectives on the post-apocalyptic world that Naughty Dog has crafted and watching them interact and change over the course of their adventure is fascinating. It’s an emotionally impactful tale that also deserves kudos for its ending which managed to both surprise me and finish things up in the perfect way.
The gameplay packs a punch too with some of the most intense, fun combat encounters in all of gaming. It’s all put together in a way to make every bullet shot and every item found matter. Despite this, the game doesn’t handcuff you. Instead it gives you a myriad of options on how to approach the game’s varied combat scenarios with a fun risk/reward dynamic built-in. Do I try to conserve my items and sneak by, or do I clear the enemies and scour the area for supplies? Do I make a med pack or a Molotov? And I haven’t even mentioned the pure joy of throwing a brick at someone to stun them before running towards them and knocking them out with a pipe (that may seem sadistic… I’m okay with it, the guy had it coming).
And because of the intensity of these encounters, the quieter moments in between work. You’ll just walk around collecting supplies, talking to Ellie and the other colorful characters that tag along for portions of the game, or breathing in the details and storytelling that Naughty Dog has jam-packed into the game’s environments. These segments come as a welcome respite between packs of clickers and scavengers that have you sweating bullets on how you’ll survive.
Throw in some of the best graphics, sound and overall presentation around and you end up with a package that is as good as gaming gets. The Last of Us isn’t just the Game of the Year, but the Game of the Generation too and one of my very favorite games of all-time.
Runner-up: Rayman: Legends
While this hits the big awards, there are a ton of games I just didn’t get to touch on at all. So I will be back with a supplement of much sillier awards (read: an excuse for me to be an ass) about some of those games. I will probably find a way to further praise The Last of Us and complain some more about Tomb Raider too. Because why not!
You got Game of the Year picks? Biggest disappoint of the year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Thank you very much for reading!