Kat’s Top 3 Games of 2013
2013 has been a great year for gaming. While we saw the transition from one generation to the next, no doubt about it, what we’re seeing in the last throes of life for the Xbox 360 and PS3 has been incredible. And while I only had the opportunity to play all the way through three games released from this year, all of them were worth the price of admission.
Given the popularity and cultural impact of the original BioShock, any kind of a follow-up can be a heavy task. Especially given the similarities in basic gameplay mechanics, the out-of-this-world city, and first-person protagonist that seemingly stumbles into the madness of competing ideologies regarding the governing of people and an individual’s choices. Still, Ken Levine and Irrational Games are more than up to the task – and there’s no question BioShock Infinite stands as one of the most solid games to come out of 2013.
While the gameplay mechanics are nothing to get excited out (pretty standard FPS, with some reasonably exciting powers like being able to set crows on your enemies) it’s the setting and story that deservedly get all the attention. Unlike Jack Ryan, Booker DeWitt is fully voiced – and the developing relationship between him and Elizabeth becomes more fleshed out, and complicated, as the story progresses. The writing and acting for both characters is stellar.
The setting itself is a joy to explore, and it shows off the truly beautiful graphics that Irrational created for this game. Even from the opening moments when you first enter the city of Columbia, walk through the candle-lit baptismal area, listen to the music, and read all the Comstock quotes, already you are given a very powerful sense of what this game is all about.
Lara Croft serves the distinction of not only being arguably the most prolific female character in gaming history, but one of the most iconic characters period. But unfortunately, she’s just as well known for her exaggerated assets as she is for any aspect of her character. Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics decided to change that, giving us a gritty reboot, taking her all the way back to her origins – when she first made the transition from geeky archaeologist to hardened survivor – and accomplished the goal with truly pleasing results.
With writing from Rhianna Pratchett and voice acting from Camilla Luddington, Lara Croft has become one of the best video game characters not just for the year, but possibly ever in the industry. The development we watch her undergo, the amount of sympathy and complexity there is for the character, alone makes this an excellent game.
In addition, the developer did a bit of an overhaul in regards to exactly what kind of genre they decided to make Tomb Raider, moving further away from the traditional puzzle and exploration implied by its title, and more into a third-person shooter that was heavily inspired by Uncharted. While it doesn’t quite measure up when pitted against the likes of Among Thieves or Drake’s Deception, it’s still a wonderful game all its own.
Naughty Dog is one of the best developers currently working the industry. It can generally be well-agreed that when it comes to the craft, they have it down to an art form. The graphics, the music, the level design, the writing, the acting, the gameplay mechanics; all are well above par. Coming off their gamechanging, iconic Uncharted franchise, the developer went a somewhat different route, tackling a post-apocalypse zombie-like world in a rather different and distinct kind of way.
It’s the characters that lie at the heart of this game story, both of whom have great writing and great acting to back them up. There’s an implicit emotional connection formed between the characters of Joel and Ellie over the course of their story, and its vitality as the game progresses – especially in the closing moments – cannot be overstated.
The game deserves kudos both for personalizing a post-apocalypse world in such an unusual way, and for giving the gamestory such a willfully ambiguous ending. While everything else about the game is up-to-par – including the combination of level progression with the story itself, and the barely-surviving aspects of the third-person shooter combat – it’s the story, the characters, and the ending that still has everyone talking.