Calum's Game of the Year 2013 List

Posted by Calum 18 January 2014

This year was an interesting one. Many video games were certainly played, as they always are. It`s different now. Now I get to have my opinion on the industry heard on a bi-weekly basis. My thoughts about games themselves are readable by the entire world in my reviews and writings. It`s strange having so much on show all at once. I don`t want to stop now though. I`m having way too much fun. So, on with the list.

The Top Five

5 – Gunpoint

My indie selection for the year is this fantastic, wholly British, puzzle platformer, Gunpoint. This game is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend two hours I think I have ever had.

This surprise release came out with very little fanfare, but quickly gathered steam as people realised how well-written and hilariously funny the dialogue is, and how devilishly clever the puzzle each building presents you with is.

The perfect balance of unique character and charm, and exacting execution of mechanics, Gunpoint should not be missed by anyone.

I can convince you by telling you two things about this game. Rocket trousers and the best punching noise in a video game ever. Bar none. If you think that sounds interesting, play it right now.

4 – Fire Emblem: Awakening

It is no secret that I am a fan of a good tactical RPG. As I said on the podcast, I think one of the best levelling and class systems in an RPG ever was that of Final Fantasy Tactics. Fire Emblem Awakening is the most polished example of this genre I have seen in years.

Yes its very standard tactical RPG, with planning maneuvers carefully for optimum survival and attack, and different characters with different classes that accomplish the satisfying chess-like combat that make these games so interesting to play.  Where this game adds to the formula is with the support and relationship systems, where characters will bond and grow relationships as they fight together and maybe have children. This only adds to the layer of tactical decisions.

The advice I can give about this game is if you played XCOM, you will adore this game. Play with permadeath on, and it is every bit as tense and tactical as the finest missions in XCOM, but with real, surprisingly well written characters, developing real relationships. Fire Emblem is my number 1 reason to own a 3DS right now, and it deserves a place on a game of the year list. Tactical planning that goes into the combat, as you struggle to keep couples together so that they fight as one unit.

3 – Bioshock Infinite

What Ken Levine and Irrational Games have done with Bioshock Infinite is created nothing short of the most full, realised video game universe I think I have ever seen. The entire first hour of this game oozes with style, and tone and terrifying insights into the world of Columbia that is so immersive that you will find yourself unable to escape until you see the saga of Booker and Elizabeth to the end.

This incredible world set an amazing story of metaphysics and political philosophy, as Bioshock is often to do, but also, one of the most free form combat systems I have ever seen in a shooter. Every fight is a case of being out manned and out gunned, and quickly thinking of how you get out of this situation. Is that with the Skyrails? The Tears that open up new areas in alternate universes? Or do you just fight as best you can? All of these are both viable and incredibly fun options for you to solve the great combat puzzles in Bioshock Infinite.

The game also has one of the most thought provoking endings for a while. It took both me and Euan about one and a half hours to piece together what we just saw towards the end of the game. I have heard talk that people are taking this away from the game, saying that the ending is confusing for not laying everything out infront of you. I disagree. I loved having to think and interpret the message and meaning of the last few sections. I believe it’s a real testament to how the universe is built. Nothing is simple. There are always multiple factors affecting every choice and situation. For that, I applaud it.

2 – DmC: Devil May Cry

I am a huge fan of the Devil May Cry series.  I was therefore skeptical with the announcement of a re-boot of the series. At the time I didn`t really see the need. After playing the finished product, I am astounded at how wrong I am.  This game is the perfect blend of the old and the new. The classic and the modern. DmC has a combat system that is both easy to use for the newer players to the series, using controller triggers to swap between weapons, but also deeply complex if you are a veteran. On my first go with both sword and one of each of the angel and demon weapons, I easily hit SSS combos consistently. It also has the added benefit of feeling awesome while doing it.

It also has the greatest level design I think I have ever seen in a video game. The transition between the human and demon world is accompanied by such a dramatic change in environment and ambiance, it provides the perfect setting for bizarre situations. The game fills this setting with demonic discos, complete with neon colours and dubstep, and boss fights against the disembodied virtual head of a spin-news anchor, including mini fights from the perspective of a new chopper.   It is so amazingly impressive, I want to give someone some sort of award, or large amount of money for their work. It is astounding

This game is the reboot I didn`t even know the series I love needed. And so much more.

1 – The Last of Us

I said that Bioshock Infinite was the most complete video game universe I had seen. The Last of Us, however, competes with it so closely that it is probably just as good as one another.  The Last of Us, however, pairs this with fantastic gameplay, deep and interesting characters and graphics that will make you believe you are playing a PS4.

The Last of Us is the definition of a complete package of a video game. There are no major flaws, and every piece is made with such high precision and craft, and comes together to create a universe that flows perfectly, and paints the most realistic vision of the post apocalypse.  In this world also lives the clicker, the one hit kill fear-generators that are one of the few enemies in video games that made me feel genuine dread. You can`t fight them. If you make so much as a whisper, they`ll hunt you down, and it`s game over. You won’t understand how  scary this situation is until you play the game.

The strongest tool that The Last of Us uses is the character interactions and development.  Without spoiling anything,  I have not done such a complete reverse of opinion like the one I felt with Joel since Knights of the Old Republic, with its grand plot twist. Seeing the interaction between him and the naïve, yet fiercely adult, Ellie is an amazing journey to behold, only strengthened by the incredible acting performance for each character.

I honestly can`t do this game justice with words on a page.  You just have to trust me. This game is worth your time. It is important that you play it.

 Special Awards

“You Should Play This” Award- Binary Domain

Everyone should play this game. It`s just amazing. On a dark, dreary day, when you want to, say, watch a film by Micheal Bay for explosions and gun fights. Buy this game instead, and thank me later.

This Character Needs More Work- Cain: Binary Domain

See above, now add a wise cracking french robot ninja with a jetpack and a grappling hook in his arm. IT`S SO AWESOME! Platinum Games, if you are listening. Give me the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance expansion in the Binary  Domain universe as Cain, and I will give you all of my money. And my first born. And Euan`s arm, if that is what you want.

Best Soundtrack- Gunpoint

An astounding mix of chiptune future music for the crosslink hacking, to smokey jazz club goodness for the real life moments. It does what a good soundtrack should do for a videogame. It perfectly portrays the tone and environments the game is trying to portray, but is also just good to listen to at any time.

Calum`s Award for Batshit Craziness in Video Games 2013: Project x Zone

A game where Ryu teams up with Frank West to beat up robots, while getting assisted by several characters from JRPGs you will have never heard of. All in service of a story about dimension hopping and time travel. If that doesn`t sound insane enough, the gameplay devolves into flashy, timing based combat, that usually ends  in a special move that rivals Dragonball Z or Asura`s Wrath in sheer anime craziness. Sound good? Cool, then we can be friends.

Look at this! Do you know what is going on? Cause I sure don’t. Looks awesome though right?!