BJ “Bunneh3000″‘s Top Five Games of 2013
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and we’re all looking back on 2013 to see the best of the best! Oddly enough, as I look back at the long list of gaming delights this year, I didn’t really manage to delve into a lot of the more popular games that have managed to dominate the rest of the gaming world. As a result, my Top 5 for the year may seem a bit, well, tame. Nevertheless, you like what you like and with that said, let’s get into it!
Irrational Games and Ken Levine hold a special place in my heart after the epic that was the original Bioshock so you could easily say that I was a bit biased from the jump about this pick. I love a story or universe that does a great job trying to pull you in to the experience and Columbia is already a legendary gaming locale. I spent almost an hour walking about before the action really started in this game and I was instantly hooked. The one moment that is and will forever be iconic about this game was The Raffle. For some gamers, this was just an excuse to start shooting but for myself, it was a bit of a shock. I suppose I’m a bit sensitive to matters of racism but I think it bold and engaging that Irrational Games was fearless to even integrate those elements into the game. Many games will broach the subject using other alien races and such but rarely is it tied to reality in such a blunt way as Bioshock Infinite. The beautiful thing was that it wasn’t even the focus of the story or conflict within the story.
I could go on and on about how the story explores American exceptionalism but it is best explored with an open mind and a dedication to learn the meaning behind the various metaphors, images, symbolism, and subjects. This is more than just a violent fictional shooter. This is a Red Bull filled look at a tumultuous time in America’s past that could have gone in a completely different direction (especially if we had Vigors!).
I have an unashamed affinity for zombie games. I’m not certain why but if it relates to surviving the zombie apocalypse, I’m instantly interested. With that said, I managed to bypass the release of Dead Island Riptide simply because I heard it wasn’t much more than an expansion of the original (which I did enjoy but got bored with). Then, all of the sudden, came a little known release by Undead Labs that made its way to XBLA called State of Decay. I was scanning articles on IGN.com and stumbled upon their review of the game. At first I skeptically saw their high score for the game showing that they were tremendously impressed with the game, but as I read through the review, my interest piqued. Thankfully, I took the $14.99 leap and bought the surprise hit of the season!
State of Decay is without a doubt probably the best zombie game I’ve ever played. Playing the game brought back a bit of nostalgia from playing games like Red Faction and Mercenaries in its third person perspective. It wove the vulnerability of fighting off scores of zombies (by integrating stamina into all combat actions) and the strategy of managing a survival camp by scavenging resources. While the storyline really didn’t pull you in, the gameplay and premise was solid enough to not even make a difference. Thankfully, they released DLC that provided a kind of open ended horde mode to the game that simply wants to see how long you can survive knowing that there is no true ‘end’. ..unless you die of course. Its inclusion provides the necessary difficulty that the main game seems to leave out. Still, the addictive nature of finding just the right resources and building up your camp until you can move on to bigger better digs is a formula that managed steal 40+ hours from my life that were more fun than I ever thought they’d be.
The original Rocksmith game is basically the premise that Harmonix wanted to bring to Rock Band fans but ultimately couldn’t execute. Ubisoft managed to pull off a true guitar instructional game that put instruction in the forefront and game in the background. The only issue it had back then was that it always took too long to load various parts as well as navigate about the game.
Rocksmith 2014 essentially took all of the original game’s issues and improved upon them without losing the core focus of the game which was to teach. The game takes all skill levels into account and does one thing extraordinarily well which is teach you to play individual songs. It shows you how to play each song at varying levels and then progressively reveals more and more of the actual tabs until you are playing the entire song from memory. Once you finish a session, the game even recommends skill building exercises (in the form of games called the Guitarcade) that help you improve on areas of the song you may have stumbled through.
It’s a game that teaches and in my book, that is HUGE plus… especially since it is fun.
Now I know that there are those that would groan and grumble at yet another first person shooter making the ‘Best of’ listing on ANY gaming site but Battlefield has and always will have a special place in this gamer’s heart. Battlefield 1942 was an epic entry into my gaming life because it allowed me to integrated vehicular combat along with infantry in ways that gave power to both modes of play. Learning how to play the game as both went a long way towards getting high scores as well as winning the battle.
Battlefield 4 simply takes this epic formula and increases the chaos. Finally, next gen consoles are given the map sizes that PC gamers have always salivated over. Since I haven’t had a gaming PC since the days of Battlefield 2, this was a particularly special moment for myself. That battlefield moment when you see 20+ arrows on your map all bunched together in a heap of explosions, gunfire, debris, smoke, and military jargon is simply beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in a great many online FPS games.
Of course, being able to level a skyscraper in game kind of helps as well!
Vulgar. Violent. Satirical. Funny.
Honestly, I had given up on the Grand Theft Auto franchise for quite some time. I never played San Andreas or Vice City and I only managed a few hours of GTA IV before I become bored and lost. Somewhere in between GTA IV and V, Rockstar Games managed a string of impressive titles that renewed my faith in them as a developer. Red Dead Redemption was epic in that it improved upon the Social Club network as well as combat and more. Max Payne 3 was a pro at presentation so their method of storytelling improved by leaps and bounds in my eyes. Finally, the time came for GTA V came around and the idea of centering the story around 3 thieves and giving them real reasons to make money really set the stage. As I delved into the gorgeous and massive city and the regions around it, I was blown away by the attention to detail, the funny and entertaining voice acting, the satirical ties to America’s current culture, the improved vehicular navigation, and the light but relevant RPG elements added to each of the characters you control. Even the customization of the cars goes beyond simple visual improvements to actually improving the performance of cars from the economy grade on up to the high performance sports cars.
This amazing open world formula pushes it to GOTY level when you tie in an ever evolving GTA Online experience that now allows you to create your own thief and join in ‘gangs’. Doing so places you in the same open world environment in the single player game coupled with jobs and heists (which is the highlight job of the game) where all of your thievery skills come into play with and against other players online. The results are chaotic and ridiculously fun for anyone.