Category Archives: Best/Worst of 2013

Brut Awards 2013: Just the Worst

I’ve put my heart and soul into my ‘Best of the Year’, and now I put all my ‘Why Am I Talking About This?’ Feelings toward the ‘Worst of the Year’. Let me be the first to say that if you expect games like Dark and Ride to Hell: Retribution to be on this list, well, get out. This isn’t about you, this is about convenience, and also I needed some games to fill in the gaps between major releases. That’s how I roll.

Actually I’m gonna do you a favor, if you want what I consider to be one of the most detailed and intricate articles depicting some of the best games this year, then here you go. Both part’s 1 & 2 are here for your curious eyes, hell there may be a few surprises you may not expect. So check that out, then come back to this article.

Okay, now that’s done, do you still want to go on with the ‘Wost of the Year’? Have you even read the ‘Best of the Year’ – ah, screw it. Here you goddamn go.

Dishonorable Mentions –

Ascension Contender

God of War: Ascension:

There’s a reason why Gears of War Judgement is not on the list, and the reason why is that I don’t need an online pass to play the multiplayer. Well, okay I actually liked Judgement, whereas with this is so much of a step backward that it became even lesser than the original God of War. I don’t know how you can take one of the most thrilling hack & slash series, and make it boring. Santa Monica Studios, you have some explaining to do!

In case you don’t know, God of War: Ascension is a prequel. So do we get to see how Kratos becomes the monstrosity that he is, the servant of Ares, how he gradually becomes the ‘God of War’ himself? Surprisingly no, instead in this game you’ll be fighting against the Furies who are servants of Aries that are sent to annihilate Kratos for breaking the blood-oath. If you’re right now saying to yourself, “Hey, didn’t they make a prequel to God of War on the PSP already?” The answer is a definite, “Yes,” and, “Why was this needed?”

What makes Ascension even more of a disappointment is that after the first half hour, which consists of one of the coolest boss fights ever, the game reaches its peaking point right there. Afterward the game just reverts to God of War 1, except without the cool shit you attained in that game. I mean it makes sense considering it’s a prequel, but for the most part the abilities you gain in here are the same abilities I believe you use in the multiplayer, which is lame. Plus the upgrades are fairly minimal for each ability, and the puzzles are more of a nuisance this time.
While God of War isn’t known for its complicated stories, Ascension feels more like leftover DLC content that was tossed into the Sony recycle bin. The way the story is told here is through splicing certain parts from the ending, the middle, and just forcing them into the beginning act. It’s unnecessarily experimental, and worse is that you get barely any character moments from Kratos, who just feels like an automaton with one expression. In fact the way this game is marketed it seems like we were going to see more of the back-story behind Kratos’s wife and kid before the incident, instead all we got was goddamn ‘furies’!

It’s not up to the quality of God of War 3 or 2, hell it’s not even as robust as the first God of War. This is at its core a cash grab, and the thing is you can make decent cash-grab, but this is just bland. That’s what the game should be called, “God of War: Blandness.” Kratos’ blades might as well have been cheese knives stringed together by yarn, it was that bland.

Ghosts Contender

Call of Duty: Ghosts:

Ghosts was the straw that broke the camels back for me, and man did it break the shit out of that back. I’m not going to take too long here since this is mostly centered around the campaign, Activision, but everything else I was just dandy with.

So Call of Duty: Ghosts is about this secret force called the Ghosts who prevent terrorist attacks from happening. In this alternate universe, because we couldn’t possibly fit this within the Modern Warfare universe, there’s a new enemy brewing called The Federation. A group of South American oil-mongers who quickly have become a superpower and have started attacking the United States. In the game you’ll be playing as one of two sons of this veteran named Elias. Also there’s a dog named Riley in the game, and he’s the best part about it.
Everything that could have made the campaign for Ghosts interesting is immediately skewered by the same old bullshit we’ve seen before in the Modern Warfare series. It’s even made worse by the fact that Black Ops 2 was trying to make inclusions that benefited the campaign, while this completely avoids those inclusions. It’s age has finally caught up on this series, and man it does not look pretty. The health regenerating system, the linear levels, the same over-the-top cliches are reminiscent to that of a series that influenced a generation in the worst way possible. Everything that is wrong with certain games today in terms of level design, health systems, and other repetitive gameplay mechanics is all because of this series annual existence.

Activision really has turned what was once a series that grabbed a lot of attention for its impressive presentation, and never stopped reminding us about it. It’s gotten so bad that they’ve devoted a good chunk of their resources to exploiting this series, and turned Treyarch and Infinity Ward into their studio puppets. Here’s hoping this cash-train stops soon, otherwise I think I may have to choke a Kotick.

Remember Me Contender

Remember Me:

Looks like Nilin was too big for her jeans, but I don’t know how that’s possible since those were some very tight jeans. Like I’ve seen some videogame protagonists with tight clothing, but that right there was just ridiculous.

So Remember Me is a story about a weird girl who wakes up in a fortress and is about to have her memory wiped out. When all of  a sudden a mysterious voice named Edge helps break her out of memory prison and gets enlisted with the Erroists, an underground resistance.  Now she must find out who she is and must put a stop to Memorize. She must ‘Remember Me‘! Or her, whatever!
In case you couldn’t tell by the obviously made up names, this game is stupid. Our main character is a walking soap opera who we’re suppose to sympathize with, except the problem is she’s just not that well written. The villains are even worse, they’re over-the-top with their evil domination plans and have some of the cheesiest dialogue I’ve ever heard. The plot’s also a convoluted mess as we’re suppose to be fascinated with unraveling what happened to Nilin, but by the end you’re so captivated by the stupidity of what’s currently going on that you forget there’s a mystery here.

Not even the combat can make up for the poor plotting here. It’s basically a rhythm fighting game, except you can create your own combo’s to fight enemies. Sounds really cool, right? Well sadly as it turns out, the layout for dishing out these combos feels clunky and a hassle to figure out. Throughout most of the game I just found myself just button-mashing, and I’ve rarely had an incentive to really experiment with the Pressens I was given.
Also once again, it really would have benefited if they just stuck with simple names rather than these obviously made-up ones that sound really forced.

Its combat is repetitive, the story is stupid, the main character is forgettable, but at least it looks pretty. That’s about the only good thing I can say, it’s just unfortunate that everything else is just kind of crap. So yeah, definitely won’t be remembering this game again.

Beyond Contender

Beyond: Two Souls:

Oh David Cage, will we ever stop these conflicts between us? I was afraid you’d say, “Quick-time events! We need more quick-time events!” Well, guess we should get into this one last time, hopefully.

Beyond: Two Souls is a ‘game’ made by Quantic Dreams and famous movie producer, I mean, videogame producer David Cage. The story is about a troubled girl named Jodie who has a psychic link to a spirit named Aiden. We chronicle through their adventures as we see Jodie start out as a confused (and kind of schlubby) girl, and become a psi-ops commando. It’s a dramatic and intense story that features many of David Cage’s wonderful tropes,  almost-rape scenarios, wacky homeless people, ancient conspiracies, and a lot of QTE’s.
It’s hard to really take this into account as a game, because the sense of challenge in this game is halted by the inability to die. Jodie apparently can never die in this game, despite the fact that it’s a fucking videogame. Each part of the game that could possibly lead up to a gameplay segment is easily foiled once you figure out that there’s no way you can lose. And no, the choices in this game barely even matter and are so minimal I completely forgot about them.

A good majority of the game’s story is a convoluted wreck, mostly for the fact that it’s told out of sequence. Each chapter in Jodie’s life is randomly scattered, and because of that it’s hard to really feel a sense of sympathy or care for these characters. It’s interesting on the basis that’s it’s Ellen Page and William Dafoe in these roles, but aside from that there’s not much else positive I could say. I originally thought that this game was a step up from Heavy Rain, but in many ways it’s a step back because Cage isn’t juggling as many characters.

It’s just boring, and by the end you’re left with this feeling of, “Did I just watch a ten hour movie?” Here’s hoping that sequel doesn’t happen, Beyond-er: Three Souls!

The Main Trash –

Colonial Marines Contender

Aliens: Colonial Marines:

Here we come to the ‘coup de grace’ of the Alien series, Aliens: Colonial Marines. A game some would consider to be one of their most anticipated games of the year, which is hard to believe if you’ve never followed the promotional stuff for this game. On the other hand maybe the impact of this game’s release would have been less attentive if the E3 footage showed what the game actually looked like. The things that happened behind the scenes over at Gearbox and Sega is really fascinating, but for right now let’s just focus on the game.

Set after the events of Aliens, Colonial Marines is about a search and rescue team trying to discover what happened to the crew on the Sulaco. Along the way they encounter more Xenomorphs, and Weyland-Yutani troops who apparently want something from the wreckage.
In the review I’ve described it as a Universal theme park ride, and I think that rings definitely true here. Each set-piece you visit in the game is all taken from Aliens. So I hope you like revisiting the Sulaco  and planet LV-426 because that’s all you’ll be doing in the game.

The control layout feels awfully similar to Call of Duty, which would be fine if it weren’t for everything else that was wrong. The A.I. in this game is really goofy, Xenomorphs will clip into walls, Yutani Troops scatter like crazy across certain levels, and of course every enemy doesn’t mesh well with these open levels. Weapons feel inconsistent and some times it’s difficult to tell what you’re shooting at times. There’s also weapon upgrades, but even that is pretty buggy too.
Multiplayer can be fun though if it weren’t suffering from the same issues that single player was having. This mostly has to do with the Xenomorph classes and how they control, which is pretty badly. Sometimes you’ll get stuck on walls, but most of the time it’s trying to figure out where you’re suppose to go.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is just filled to the brim with disappointment. It was a shame considering the potential that was there, but I guess we’ll just have to do with Alien 3 & 4 now. Prometheus on the other hand didn’t happen, I’m sure of it.

Walking Dead Contender

Walking Dead: Survival Instincts:

I have no clue what happened in this game aside from that it was pretty shit and it had squirrel trophies in it. So I’m just gonna say check out my review instead since it’ll be way more descriptive than what I have to say now. Hey man, some things are hard to forget, and some things are Walking Dead: Survival Instincts.

Worst Game of the year-

Showdown Winner

Fast & Furious Showdown:

Remember when I said that some games are hard to forget? This is one of those, and not in a good way.

Fast & Furious Showdown is about, uh, Gina Carano trying to find more information about Vin Diesel and his crew? It’s hard to know what the plot is when all you’re seeing on screen is cars doing ballerina moves and other weird shit. In fact I’m not sure there was a plot at all, it was just levels that repeated the same moments from the movies. Like remember the bank vault chase scene in Fast Five? That’s in the game alright!

This game should never have existed, not on consoles, not on handhelds, not on tablets, not even on phones! This is a game in which a small studio began developing, but never finished.
It’s a generic racing game that never attempts to be more than what is is, and fails miserably because of its laziness. In most racing games you can easily say that the vehicles looks great because, well, how hard is it to develop a freaking motor vehicle? In here the vehicles looks like shit, and they drive like shit.
Despite the options you get as to who you want to play as, every vehicle drives like a busted tractor. And don’t worry about winning, because chances are you’ll easily get screwed over by the shitty road mapping and the lousy AI. Some of the stunts you have to perform in the game also feel frustrating, especially when it comes to climbing on top of vehicles.

This game was so terrible that I never was able to fully finish it, not because of random difficulty spikes, but because the controls were that terrible. I do think this deserves the top spot, and I hope people won’t even give this game a second glance at. This year I was going to try and focus more on some of the lesser titles, but this was so bad that I’m just going to stop doing that. I’ll just live in my little naive world where bad games don’t exist, and the only game I play is XCOM.

***

That’s it for my ‘Worst of the Year’ and in general all my lists for this year. No lie, I think I may be sick to my stomach with all these lists. On the plus side though, that means I get to focus on other articles that I’m sure will be much more fascinating. So keep an eye out on ‘The Brutlounge’ in 2014, because I may end up surprising you…or disappointing you pending on where you stand so far with my opinions.

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Brut Awards 2013, PART 1: Honorable Mentions and Cool Indie Stuff

Boy, what a year 2013 was. We’ve learned a lot this year, and because of that this industry grew…along with Activision’s bank of endless greed. However let’s not dwell too much on the negativity here, plus Infinity Ward and Treyarch do have plenty of opportunities to break out of those gold shackles. By the way those shackles are also exclusively melded by Kotick himself.

Bobby Kotick

Courtesy of all the money spent on Call of Duty DLC.

There were  several predictions I made this year, and in the most humble way I can say it, I was fucking right. First off, there would be more sharks in videogames and I would hate the living shit out of their existence even more because of it. Second, Ellen Page would clone herself just to confuse Brutuxan’s arousal meter. Third and most importantly, some of the best developers in this business would utilize the strength of the current-gen consoles just to make something beautiful. Or in other cases, they would just make God of War: Ascension and Gears of War: Judgement.

But this isn’t the worst of the year, dammit! This is the best of the year!

Before I start, let me give out the rules here for those who are unaware how I do this.

  1. This isn’t a ‘Top 10’ list.
  2. This isn’t a list in any sort of numerical order.
  3. I usually try to deliver some poignant message or some shit at the end.
  4. Every game is a winner!
  5. I’m separating my ‘Best of’ list into two parts.
  6. I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!

Now with that said, let’s move on into…

Honorable Mentions –

Splinter Cell Blacklist Award

Splinter Cell Blacklist:

While the writing isn’t anything fresh here, hell it might as well be called NCIS: Splinter Cell, the game does surprisingly shape up very well. Not that I probably should even reference the story for these games anymore, hell how many times has Fisher’s daughter been kidnapped? Like 5 times?

The reason why Blacklist is considered a valid entry in this series is that while it isn’t as formulaic as Conviction and not as slow-winding as Chaos Theory, the game does find a solid middle ground. Even better is that you’re given multiple play-styles to tangle with, such as going the panther, ghost, or full-out ‘murderous psychopath’ route (Pssst…I couldn’t remember what the last one was called.) Regardless of which way you want to play, the game accommodates whichever chosen playtsyle by giving you cover, pipes to climb on, and wait for it…non-linear paths! Wow, its almost like the game got better because you weren’t forced to go down a singular path, how shocking.

There’s also a lot of other content on the side as well such as spies versus mercs, co-op missions, challenge missions, and horde mode type missions. All of this is accessible through the control center of this stealth unit called the ‘Fourth Echelon’, which added a really neat element to the campaign. For example all of the missions are accessible through a single map menu, however this layout is in the middle of an interactive aircraft where you can talk to your teammates, attain upgrades, and even talk to your daughter through a speaker. Who surprisingly never gets kidnapped in this game. I was seriously waiting for that moment to happen.

Even without Michael Ironside and the switch to a much more action oriented experience, the game is still pretty damn solid. Though seriously, how many times are we going to have the annoying computer hacker who wears a silly sweater? That needs to stop, at least wear a jacket!

Deadpool Award

Deadpool The Videogame:

I remember a lot of the critics being pretty harsh on this one. Saying that the gameplay is repetitive, the mechanics are clunky, and the writing is just…’stupid’. Granted, I am quite a huge fan of this potty-mouthed vigilante and his wacky antics, so maybe that’s why I wound up digging this game. In fact while some of the mechanics were a bit iffy, most of it was actually not that bad.

Let me explain,  Deadpool the Videogame is essentially about the merc-with-a-mouth trying to create a script for his first ever videogame. That’s pretty much it, that’s what you’re getting.
This could either be the best or the worst thing imaginable pending on where you sit with this character. I for one, loved the living hell out of it because High Moon Studios does so much with an idea that sounds like it was processed through a board of lazy videogame business-men. The jokes are more often hit than they are miss, and not to mention Nolan North does a great job with this character (but then again, anything’s a step-up when you’re voicing Desmond.) While the fighting mechanics do get frustrating at times and the camera is a bit ‘wonky’, the overall experience you’re getting here is pretty good.

I do have some main issues though with some of the complaints railed against this game. First off I heard somewhere that the game’s a bit hypocritical because while it is satirizing modern videogame tropes, the gameplay itself dismisses the legitimacy of that element. My main problem with this complaint is that the game itself was never going to be a ground-breaker, even more-so is that what it is satirizing/making fun of are mostly games outside its genre. You never see one jab at Devil May Cry or God of War despite those games being in the same genre as this one (which I’m sure I just pissed off a lot of hardcore hack & slash fans by merely mentioning Deadpool in the same realm as Devil May Cry, too late it happened fuckers!) Plus, personal preference here, the gameplay isn’t a complete shit-fest like I was expecting it to be, it isn’t perfect, but it’s suitable for the character’s given chaotic nature.

The other common complaint I heard was that some critics really did not care for the writing, Again, this goes back to whether or not you’re a fan of this character, but I still feel like I should mention this since we’re living in an age where apparently all videogames should be taken seriously and can never be ‘silly’ again. That’s not the type of lunacy that goes on in this industry! No sir!
When you’re writing a character whose main abilities involves being able to regenerate health, is known for saying crazy shit, and has a sensational appetite for burritos then go nuts. The only restriction here is that you have to find a flow within all this mayhem that this character is doing or saying, and once again Deadpool nails this. Unfortunately I feel like some critics don’t take that into consideration and thus decide that the game was made specifically for morons or people who are fans of this character. I happen to be both, so that fits perfectly within my spectrumzzz dawg!

Injustice Gods Among Us

Injustice: Gods Among Us:

Hey, you got my Mortal Kombat into your DC superheroes! No wait, you got my DC superheroes into your Mortal Kombat! Guy’s, regardless if you’re a fan of people in dumb costumes or a fan of people in dumb costumes, Injustice is a game for everyone! Well, not really, but still it is a lot of fun. This was essentially the game that Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe should have been, except without the Mortal Kombat part because DC ain’t quite a fan of having Scorpion decapitate Superman. Or let alone let anyone outside of the DC even combat Superman!

The good news about Injustice is that the logic behind having someone like Batman being able to beat the crap out of Superman makes sense, even when the explanation behind that aspect of the story is a bit flimsy. In fact let’s get this over with, the story mode for Injustice is actually not as bad as to be expected from these sort of games. It works mostly because first off, it’s written by people who are fans of DC comics, and secondly it’s told through the perspective of each character that progresses the story along. It definitely has its plot-holes and idiocies when it comes to certain characters, for sure, but NetherRealm Studios still manages to execute this mode properly. That is all I will say about the story, because considering this is a fighting game I think it’s more important to highlight what makes Injustice so much fun.

Each hero/villain in this game has a meter that allows you to perform special moves, and if you max that meter to its fullest you can perform a ‘super special move’. Doesn’t sound too enthralling considering you can do this in mostly every other arcade fighting game, however what makes it so cool is the cinematic that follows afterward. Like, I don’t know, Superman essentially performing a piledriver from space or Doomsday clobberin’ some poor fool into the center of the earth, Dig Dug style!
Although the main highlight of the game is the level interactions. Each level has a certain set of transitions that allow your fighter or your opponent to land some serious hits. And what occurs in some of these transitions is pretty insane, like being thrown out into space near the Watchtower or getting smashed to pieces by the inmates of Arkham Asylum. Plus depending on which character you play as, you can either pick up vehicles and throw them or dodge enemies projectile attacks by utilizing the environment to jump out-of-the-way.

To put it bluntly, it’s fucking over-the-top and I love it.

While I can’t quite put it in my best of the year list, it isn’t because it doesn’t deserve a spot. It’s just because with every fighting games comes a lot of work and practice, and unfortunately that’s something I don’t have the time for these days when it comes to fighting games. But don’t let that discourage you, this is a competent game worth getting if you’re a fan of DC superheroes, fighting games, and causing large amounts of mayhem in general. And there’s even a ton of neat DLC that’s already out for the game, still no sign of a Mister Mxyzptlk challenge mode though. Really miss that ‘Great Gazoo’ looking bastard.

Crysis 3 Award

Crysis 3:

This series has always seemed to me as just one continuous demo to show off the prowess of what modern PC’s can do. It’s also one of those games that’s seems to be begging me to put my current PC out of its misery in order to buy a new and better one to play this game. Sorry Crysis 3, but I ain’t performing an Old Yeller this year! I will say this however, the game does still manage to look pretty good on a console.

If you don’t know what’s happening in Crysis 3, here’s the gist of it. Cut to 24 years later after the events of Crysis 2, New York has been encapsulated in a nanodome where the entire city has been turned into a luscious jungle. Prophet has awaken to not only realized that the city has changed, but that CELL has become fairly dominant. So now it’s up to Prophet to find out how this happened, but to also eliminate CELL and the rest of the Ceph forces.
Here’s the truth, reading that description almost put me to sleep, it’s that generic of a plot. Although after playing the game I do have to give kudos to James Vincent Meredith for doing a pretty good job as Prophet, and to some of the writers who managed to also inject a bit of humanity into what could have been another boring sci-fi story. You actually do kind of feel something for these characters, including from a side character named Psycho who is going through some pretty tough times.

What caught me off guard with this installment though was the fact that you got to choose how you wanted to play. Did you want to be stealthy, a melee fighter, or did you want to shoot at every living thing in sight? Well it’s all there through a special perk system that works right on the spot, literally, like you can just go through a quick menu and select which set of perks you want to use. The perks aren’t just restricted to class though, you can also choose which three you want to use at any time as well.
Another thing that I was happily surprised about was how these levels felt open, but also in the sense that they support your own playstyle. It really sounds like I’m repeating what I just said for Splinter Cell: Blacklist, but it is the truth. Both of these series managed to avoid falling into the trap that so many other shooters do, which is linear level design and repetitive gameplay. That’s why playing Crysis 3 was a breath of fresh air, because it wasn’t restrictive nor dull at any point to play.

If there is any downside to this game, the campaign is fairly short and the multiplayer, while solid, isn’t doing anything new. Hence why I didn’t put it on my ‘Best of the Year’ list, but as it stands it’s still a fairly solid shooter. I still don’t like the design of the nanosuits in this game though, it just looks like the Michelin Man except on steroids.

Indie Stuff –

Gone Home award

Gone Home:

The less said about Gone Home, the better. If only for the fact that the mystery behind this empty, yet mysteriously trashed house is so fascinating that I personally think it would harm the experience. So let me say this if you want to remain spoiler-free. Gone Home is an experiment that manages to excel beyond expectations and leaves behind a message that I think will resonate with a lot of people.

There, now for those who want to know…

SPOILER TIME! Gone Home is about a woman named Kaitlin Greenbriar who has returned home after a year-long trip. When she enters this luscious abode, she  realizes that not only is the house empty, but that a lot has happened since her departure. Throughout the entirety of the game you’ll be spending your time investigating what has happened to her parents, and especially what’s been going on with her sister. Although you’re playing as Kaitlin, the game is mostly centralized around her sister, Samantha Greenbriar.
Gone Home has accomplished several things that some prolific videogame personalities like David Cage could never seem to accomplish. It tells a well done coming-of-age story that doesn’t steer off track with ridiculous QTE’s, and even more impressive is that it tells its story through notes and tape recordings. It’s really a testament to how brilliant the writing is, and how much attention to detail that The Fullbright Company has put into this game. And because of its short length, the experience is actually that much more memorable since its allowed the developers to really flesh out each key moment. It’s not the most lavish game, but considering its low production qualities it sure does manage to achieve more than most of the schlock that’s out there now.

Still, it would have been cooler if Slender-Man was there…as the housekeeper!

Papers Please Award

Papers, Please:

Who would have thought that running a border inspection post in a country run by communists would be so much fun? I couldn’t tell if the developers of this game wanted to strictly deliver a message about immigration and the harshness behind the policies that go with it, or make a time attack mode with a European aesthetic to it. Whatever the case may be, Papers, Please is worth the coin that was pitifully given to you by a dying mother. Sorry, I’m energetically grim right now and it’s really showing.

As I stated, the game is about an immigration officer working in a border post on the Eastern side of Arstozka. A made up fictional country that in no way bears any resemblance to another European country that existed, ever. The game starts out fairly simple as you’re given the task of either denying or allowing these feeble peasants to tremble their way into Artstozka. However as the days go by, the game becomes more complex as you’ll be asked to check documents for false identification, do body searches for explosives, and more tricky objectives. Luckily the game gives you the tools in order to thoroughly check each person, the problem is that you’re also on the clock here.
So less reading, more telling poor families to fuck off and jump off a mountain! Whoa, that was very un-Artstozkian of me. I do apologize, they should jump off a tower instead.

As dark as this game can be, it is something I strongly recommend people to play it. Regardless of whether you’re a big gamer or not, this one easily sucks the time right out of your day and you even learn something! It’s a perfect way to teach kids about how measly immigrants are and why they should always bring in their goddamn passports! Oh boy, that one just slipped right out like a  greasy  Kolechian…oh Jesus, I should probably stop here. Go play the game dammit!

Kentucky Route Zero Award

Kentucky Route Zero:

In terms of indie games, Kentucky Route Zero is about as indie as they come. Though don’t mistake that as, “We didn’t make anything profound here, but we’re going to pretend that it is.” This game is actually an old school text adventure, but done with modern pixelated visuals. There’s also no facial features on these characters, and no dialogue as well. So why should this game interest you at the very least?

Well let me explain, Kentucky Route Zero follows the story of several people. The main one being a truck driver named Conway who is followed around by a silly dog in a straw hat. Conway’s goal is to make a delivery to 5 Dogwood Street, and in order to do that he has to go through a mysterious route called Kentucky Route Zero. Along the way he meets other characters, including a woman named Shannon Marquez who you do get to control as well.

The game is very strange, and the story is told through acts rather than episodes (because, I don’t know, indie.) However its strangeness and its minimal time-consuming structure is what I really like about Kentucky Route Zero. There’s a lot of text to read in this game, no mistake about that, but they give you enough fascinating imagery to where it feels like you’re reading an interactive novel at points. Plus the break in between acts allows you to digest more information, rather than cram a ton of exposition into your noggin in order to understand the story.
What caught me off guard the most with this game though is how it pushes forward and experiments a lot in interactive narrative. As I mention, you control different characters in this game, but you also get to choose what dialogue they can say. It sounds confusing, but they do this in a way where if there are two characters that are both playable, they’ll just have one character choose what to say. I’m also not sure where they’re going with the choices in this game, but I’m instantly hooked with the game’s presentation. Who knows, maybe by act 5 I’ll think this entire thing was complete garbage and I’ll be plagued with why I put this game on my best of the year list.

For right now though, if you’re type of person who loves old school text adventure games and don’t mind pixelated art-styles, then by all means give this one a shot. However if you do not like to read, want everything explained to you right away, and want Crysis 3 level graphics then stay as far away from this as you can.

The Stanley Parable Award

The Stanley Parable:

I’ve played this game for almost three hours, and now I smell like a sitcom pilot for the BBC. I never even knew what those smelled like! From the outside, you would assume that The Stanley Parable would be one of those games that aimed to rip off Douglas Adams writing. Although as it turns out its more in the same vein as something like Portal, and luckily it never tries to recreate the same hilarious moments from those games. In fact you’ll probably be taking away a couple pretty humorous moments from The Stanley Parable itself.

At its barest, the game is about a simple man named Stanley who works in a bland office building. Everything goes normal as usual, until one day he realizes that everyone had disappeared inside the building. So it’s up to Stanley to figure out what happened to everyone, well, that’s if you choose to. Because on the other side of this story is a narrator constantly breaking the fourth wall, multiple endings that play a part in the game, and a strange fixation with arrows. I should probably mention that this game’s plot sounds fairly complex, and should require another playthrough in order to fully understand it.
Just like Gone Home, the less said about the game, the better the experience will be. Or in my case, the less you know, the more you’ll be hearing ‘WTF” over and over inside your head.

The Stanley Parable deals mainly on the idea of choices and what they mean to the player. Though if you’re just not in the mood for very in-depth discussions about modern videogame tropes, then the quirky and witty dialogue should at least appease you. You insignificant and feeble-minded fool!

Alright, that’s it for the honorable mentions and the indie category. Check in about a week or two to see my opinion on some of the best DLC and finally the best games of this year, along with my GOTY pick. Also coming soon is my ‘Worst of the Year’ list, which I’m sure will make readers wonder, “What’s Brutuxan’s worst game of the year?” I’ll give you a hint, it’s Fast & Furious: Showdown.

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Brut Awards 2013, PART 2: DLC & Main Grub

I sure hope you enjoyed part 1 of the Brut Awards. If you didn’t enjoy part 1 of the Brut Awards, well allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine named, “Ramirez the Psycho Badger.” Say hi Ramirez!

Badger!

I’ll fucking gut your eyes out!

Oh Ramirez, you wacky badger! So if  you haven’t read part 1 yet, I suggest you do. Otherwise you would get a visit from Ramirez. And nobody wants to be visited by Ramirez.
As you can tell, we’re getting close to the end here. Except we still have a few more unrelated titles to touch on before we transition. So without further ado, I give you the best DLC and the best games of this year. Enjoy, because I certainly had fun while I randomly began plucking scales from the back on my head for this one. I can literally create a billion necklaces for my local knickknack store now, it’s ridiculous.

DLC Awards –

Mass Effect 3 DLC Contender

Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC:

The last piece of Mass Effect 3 DLC turns out to be the best one. In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, you’re sent on shore leave to a private bachelor pad (it’s a captain’s cabin, but we all know it’s a fancy as shit bachelor pad) on the Citadel. The reason for this? Shepard just needs to get some down time, and maybe some space tail on the side.
All goes well, until a mysterious terrorist group attacks Shepard at a sushi restaurant. With as little information as to who was behind this attack, Shepard and his crew (and Wrex) must find out who did this and put an end to the terrorism. While along the way probably downing a couple drinks, and maybe some illegal gambling on the side.

Right off the bat you can tell that this was written by the core writing staff based on the strong interaction between the characters. It’s also the one that made me realize how much this series was missing Drew Karpyshyn’s sharp writing. If you aren’t aware, Drew Karpyshyn was one of the original main writers for the Mass Effect series, but departed right before the release of 2. While I think the current writer in charge of the series Mac Walters did a solid job, with some missteps here and there, the third installment was missing that light-hearted touch that Drew gave to the series. It makes considering the context of Mass Effect 3, but for the most part it was a missing certain element that I think was present in the previous installments, until you get to this DLC.
The immediate first reaction for those who play the game may be that the package is entirely nothing but fan-service, in actuality it’s more of a love letter to the fans. A good majority of every Mass Effect squad-member, yes including you Vega fans, has a shining moment. It’s also some of the funniest writing I’ve seen in a while. Where you have moments involving certain members of your team giving you shit for ruining one of the best sushi restaurants in the galaxy, or ordering pizza before a major mission. It’s not going to be another Leviathan or Omega DLC that’s going to add anything to the lore, however it’s a sweet finishing touch that really sends the game out on the right note rather than a convoluted one.

It won’t make me forget the ending, that’s for sure, but at least it leaves me feeling relieved and slightly teary-eyed. And that’s all this humble dinosaur can ask for.

Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon Contender

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon:

Every impulse in my body is telling me to make this my game of the year. But unfortunately whatever shred of sanity I have left is telling me there are other games that deserve the spot. Oh well, twas was nice thinking that I could make Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon game of the year even though ‘Best of the Year’ lists don’t goddamn matter. But who am I to say what numbers and bullshit are legitimate to put on a list anyway?

So…Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is awesome!

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes place around the far-away year of 2007, where the U.S. and Russia are still suffering under a nuclear fallout from the war. In the game you’ll be playing as Sergeant Rex Power Colt, a super cyborg solider who has to investigate this island and a rogue agent named Colonel Sloan. Unfortunately when you arrive on the island things don’t go as planned, and even worse, the island is native to giant neon lizards that shoot lasers! I don’t now if that’s the most scariest thing ever or the greatest!

Right from the beginning, the game is extremely self-aware of all the menial tasks you go through in most modern action games. Including the notorious long-winding tutorial, which they manage to turn it into one of the funniest highlights of the game. Despite some moments of forced jokes, which are very minimal to be fair, the game manages to keep throwing more hilarious jabs and 80’s references at you. What’s great is that not only will you find some of the best jokes in the game’s cutscenes, which are formatted in a vintage sort of way, but you can also find them in the game’s world. Such as on crates or the descriptions for the side quests you can unlock.

The gameplay itself is straight up Far Cry 3, but layered over with an 80’s aesthetic to it. Meaning make sure to expect colorful lasers and cheap Casio keyboard noises to be around every corner. Hell, even the weapons are references to 80’s sci-fi or action films! There are upgrades for your weapons, forts you can take over, and savage animals to hunt! It all adds up to a nostalgia ride that’s fun even on its own, plus it has one of the best end-credits songs I’ve ever heard.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I wish I knew how to quit you!

The Main Contenders –

Assassins Creed 4 Black Flag Contender

Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag:

If there’s one thing I’m getting tired of, it’s the Assassins Creed series. And honestly I shouldn’t be considering that, this should be one of my all time favorite videogame series. I mean it does have some great characters, some cool gameplay mechanics, and apparently a good multiplayer mode. But when you keep releasing installments, year after year, no matter how much side content you put in, it’s still going to get stale. And yet Black Flag is on this list, which does says a lot for this latest entry.

Black Flag follows one of Desmond’s great assassin ancestors, Edward Kenway. A swash buckling pirate who aims to be the best pirate he can be, but struggles to be a true assassin. Edward’s goal in life is to become wealthy, and return to his wife with plenty of riches. Cause you know, maybe Kenway wants to gets his future children into pirate boarding school. However just like with most pirates, you start to realize that they’re kind of flawed.
That’s ultimately why I dug Edward, he’s not a good person, but he aims to try to be one. His character arc isn’t anything new we’ve seen in pirate movies or literature, but the writers still manage to inject a lot of great character moments in this installment. By the beginning he’s just some pirate scum, but by the end he’s become a matured adult who tries to correct the wrongs of his past. He’s not as suave as Haytham, but Edward does make up for it with some great character development.

As you can guess, the main thing Black Flag has going for it is that it’s an open world pirate game. Thus you get to board enemy ships, plunge for treasure, and hijack cargo from plantation farmers. It’s Black Beard’s wet dream, and hell he’s even in the game too!
What the gameplay does right is that you’re never always on foot in this game, and that you’ll be spending half the time in a ship. Granted while it’s not the most biggest ship in the world, with enough upgrades you can beef that baby up. Plus you also have plenty of neat side content based around the ship combat in the game. Including battling these legendary ships that just made me want to tear my scales out! Seriously, I think the hulls on those ships were made out of adamantium!

There’s plenty of other neat stuff you can do too, that’s  if you’re getting tired of sailing on a ship for several hours. As I mentioned there are deep-sea troves you can explore to get more treasure, and get attacked by sharks. Then there are harpooning objectives that you allow you to kill whales, and also get attacked by sharks.
Can I just say fuck sharks in general? Seriously, why are sharks so obsessed with gold and Edwards glistening half-naked body? I swear the next game better allow me to barbecue sharks on a ten to twenty-foot wide grill. At least that would give me the illusion of devouring my worst enemy. Please make that happen Ubisoft.

Now where was I at with Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag? Oh yeah, the game itself would have been just decent if it weren’t for the emphasis on ship combat. However because it manages to smooth out the gaps between missions with different objectives, along with a really fascinating story, I think the game still manages to be very entertaining. It could have possibly been even up with there with my pick for game of the year, but I still can’t discredit the fun I had from this pirate adventure that also oddly enough happened to feature not as many burning huts and villagers being raped as possible. Now that’s non-traditional for pirates.

Enemy Within  Contender

XCOM: Enemy Within:

I’m not gonna lie, I had no idea where to put this in terms of category. It’s an expansion pack, but I can’t label the game as DLC or put it in the indie category. It would especially be funny to see the reactions if I were to put it in the indie category, or hell even make up the description:

XCOM: Enemy Within is about a romantic relationship between a man and an alien. But one day their relationship gets caught in the middle of a firestorm as the leaders of the alien empire demand that the humans stop expressing love! Now its up to the wacky couple to save humanity, and protect the true meaning of love! Also it’s turn-based.

Put that on the back of the box!

But at some point you just have to say, “fuck it”, and go on talking about one of the greatest things ever. Sorry, I meant the most perfect thing ever!
For those don’t know, XCOM: Enemy Unknown was my favorite game of last year. The premise behind  Enemy Unknown was that aliens were invading the earth, and it was up to the XCOM division to prevent the invasion. It was a fairly complex turn based strategy game, but still managed to put you on the edge of your seat at most times. You never knew who was going to die on your team, and when they were going to die. It was an unforgiving game, but goddamn was it fun.

With that said, there were some issues with Enemy Unknown. Some maps became repetitive and didn’t offer as many tactical positions for certain classes. When leveling up characters, it became easy to choose which perks you wanted for your soldiers. There were other issues too, I think. It’s very hard to pick out problems when it came to Enemy Unknown. But boy did Firaxis correct the shit out of those issues and gave you more toys to play with!

For starters, you have a new class at your disposal which is the MEC trooper. A hulking mass of metal with titanium punching gloves, and a boner for dead aliens!  Or depending on where you stand with close combat, you can either stick with the metal fists or attach a wicked flamethrower. Then you have the new modifications that allow you to give your soldiers super abilities. These abilities can range from jumping on tall buildings, enhanced envisioning, and utilizing a stealth cloak.

What’s great is that Firaxis has found a way to not make these new additions not undermine the games overall difficulty. It’s more options for the players, and they don’t make the game feel less like an XCOM game because of it. Plus the AI has been improved as well, each previous existing alien has been given more refined stats. Along with a couple new aliens to fight, you’ll also be fighting some of your human brethren known as EXALT. Expect a lot of challenges in your way, and let me just say it gets even more difficult than Enemy Unknown.

The new maps feel great, and have a lot of strategic opportunities that are just lingering in all of them. The visuals haven’t been vastly improved, but you can tell that Firaxis has sharpened them quite a bit.
In some ways the game has been slightly accommodating toward new players, but in other ways there are more opportunities for the game to screw you over with the council missions. I cannot praise this game enough, once again if I had my way this would also be game of the year. Although being sensible to other contenders is a bitch.

I should just have two categories, the ‘Not XCOM‘ category, and the ‘XCOM category’. There, now I can die happily!

GTA V Contender

Grand Theft Auto V:

I life to refer this game as, “Ten reasons why Trevor is awesome.” However there is a game here to discuss, so I guess I can hold that off for a little bit. At least until I get to the very end.

So from first glance, GTA V looks like the same ol’ thing except with really polished graphics. I was like that too for a while until I saw some footage for the game, then I actually played the game and was like, “What the hell is this shit?” Kidding of course, the game is really great and manages to feel fresh again by adding a couple new things.
The first major change here is that you’ll be controlling three characters: Michael Townley, Franklin Clinton, and Trevor Phillips. Throughout the game you’ll be switching between them constantly, unless you prefer to play as one character. As a matter of fact if that’s the case, how the hell were you able to progress in the game?

Since it’s GTA, of course you won’t be playing as heroes here. Michael Townley is a retired bank robber who now is living under witness protection along with the rest of his family. Franklin Clinton is a repo man who works alongside his trusty ol’ sidekick Lamar. Then Trevor is a psychopath who was once a cohort in Michael’s bank schemes, and now lives in a trailer park. Eventually all these characters come together, but in a way that makes a car crash look less eye-catching by comparison.
For a game that tries to put a bad light on all the central characters, there are some pretty endearing moments in the game. Michael constantly throws tempers tantrums, but wants to try and be a better person. Franklin is stuck in the hood, but no matter how much he tries to move up, he still gets dragged down to the bottom. And then Trevor, well, let’s just say Trevor can be really generous toward women. You can’t completely define them as assholes, because that would inquire that they’re just one-dimensional characters. Also I should note, has Rockstar really been known for writing one-dimensional characters?

The gameplay itself is more tightened than with previous entries. Shooting feels more precise, and the camera doesn’t feel as pulled out as with other Rockstar games. So you now have more of a focus on all the murder and mayhem! It’s slightly easier to ride vehicles, but only slightly. The character models are more detailed, and when they aren’t looking funky, they can mesh really well with the world.
Speaking of which, Los Santos looks gorgeous and the amount of detail work here is incredible. At points it forget that I was playing the game on my Xbox 360 and not on an Xbox One. There’s also a lot of stuff you can do in Los Santos like partake in triathlons, golf, tennis, and take random strangers on crazy rides. Rockstar has done a great job on making Los Santos feel alive by not only the aesthetics, but with what you can do whenever you’re not being chased by cops.
However the biggest takeaway for me, aside from the perspective switching, is the bank heists. Most of the bank heists in the game involve choosing how you want to approach them. Either through some sort of secretive way, or a full-out assault that’s sure to catch the attention of every cop in the city. Regardless of your choice, you’ll also get to choose who you want on your team (aside from the three main characters). These factors add up to what is one of the game’s biggest strength, and why it’s on this list.

If you manage to pick up the game now, you’ll be seeing GTA Online at its least buggiest. If you’re not familiar with GTA Online, think of a scaled-back MMO except by Rockstar. You can either cause mayhem with friends in Los Santos, or do one of the other multiplayer modes. The only bummer about this though is every time you die, a good portion of your videogame wallet gets emptier. It’s got disadvantages when in comparison to the Red Dead Redemption online mode, but it is still a ton of fun.

Last but certainly not least, this game has perhaps one of the best characters of this year. That character is Trevor Phillips, a lovable psychopath with a heart of gold and at most times made out of pure rage. What makes Trevor such a delight to listen to is the way his dialogue is written, which is like what if a mental patient from an insane asylum escaped into the real world and would drink like an eight-pack of beer every 30 minutes. The description’s a little exaggerated, but so is Trevor in all the right ways.
Across the board, the character of Trevor has garnered a lot of attention from people who’ve played the game. Regardless if its good or bad attention, he leaves a lasting impression on you even more than the other two knuckle-heads. At times he can be scary, at other times he’s just crazy, but at rare moments he can be seen as gentlemen. Usually whenever this type of character is written, he’s just a blatant asshole that no one likes, but with Trevor he’s written very carefully to where you feel a mixture of emotions from him. I could keep going on about Trevor, but I will say that he actually may be my favorite videogame character of this year.

GTA V manages to be a huge hit, not only among the fans, but also among the children of said fans who should really know better than to let their child play this game. For shame.

Bioshock Infinite Contender

Bioshock Infinite:

One of the most anticipated games of this year was definitely one of the most memorable. Bioshock Infinite managed to not only undo the ‘lameness’ that Bioshock 2 was, but it also injected some really inventive ideas. Also it reminded me that even up in the sky, racism is still very popular. In general, I just see large cities in the sky as nothing but KKK rallies just filled with members who do nothing but play Bioshock 2. Okay that last part I added on, but it’s still fucked up!

Bioshock Infinite follows Booker DeWitt, a hard-boiled detective looking to find a girl and to “Wipe away the…obligation that was given to him”. I think that’s the right quote.
From the get-go you realize that this is indeed a Bioshock game. The button prompts are similar, the audio cues are pretty much the same, and I think I saw some reused sewage piped from Rapture as well. However beyond that, what you’ll find is a unique world up in the sky that’s just brimming with very artistic designs. It wasn’t quite as eye-catching as Rapture, but Columbia does definitely have some great sights to see. And when I mean ‘sights’, I mean Elizabeth’s…necklace.

Elizabeth is this mysterious girl who you’re sent to find, and once you find her the game becomes more fascinating. Not only in terms of story does she offer some good banter between her and Booker, but her role as an AI partner is surprisingly not that annoying. She doesn’t get in the way during combat, and while she can’t pistol-whip those Handy-Men into oblivion, she does offer a lot of assistance. Maybe too much assistance at times, like I do appreciate the hundreds of bottles of vigor you’re throwing at me, but…how the fuck did you find all this stuff? Is Ken Levine insinuating that Elizabeth is also a dumpster diver?

The shooting part itself, from what I can remember, was actually the least interesting aspect of the game. If I were to say though what the coolest weapon of the game is though, it would have to be the hook blade, er, the grappling hook. It’s a two-in-one accessory, not only can you climb onto magnetic rails, but you can also decapitate your foes! Even though it’s primarily used in sparse moments, it’s a lot of fun just to slice up enemies and watch them fall off the city. So why need firearms, when you have that?
Speaking of magnetic rails, there are brief moments in the game where you’ll be on a Six Flags roller coaster ride, except with racist (or is that a common thing at Six Flags?) There’s even integral moments where you’ll be facing off against large waves of enemies and carriers while dangling from these rails, so you’re literally playing the game ON-rails! Despite how little they’re used in the overall game and the lack potential that was seized there, those moments in the game were definitely the most fun.

Though I bet everyone is waiting for that moment where I talk about the ending. Sadly it’s been a long time since I last played the game, so I may just be spouting a lot of details that seem fairly inaccurate. So instead of describing what exactly happened in the ending, I’ll just go ahead and say my feelings on the ending. Alright, also…

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD*

The ending to Bioshock Infinite is a perfect example of how to do a twist ending without harming the integral structure of the story. Furthermore, there are clues in the story that lend itself to the justification of that conclusion. Because of that, the game instantly becomes far better than it should have. Throughout the game you’re uncovering secrets of what makes the colorful city of Columbia such a twisted and rotten place to also be at. Elizabeth herself is also affected by the violence and treachery that plagues the city, and arrives to the conclusion that she is kind of like her father (Comstock).
Booker himself also has given into the city by having to be baptized in order to proceed past the entrance. What happens to Booker, Elizabeth, and the city winds up making sense at the end. It doesn’t pretend to be smarter than it is, because it already had set-up everything in advance to make the conclusion feel like a gut-punch. And boy does it punch hard, and even better is that it cuts off at a perfect moment to where you have no choice but to let it fester inside your head. That’s what makes Bioshock Infinite one of the best games of this year, and one of the best written ones within the past generation.

*END POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

I wasn’t exactly as fanatical about Bioshock Infinite as some people were, but if one were to remove expectations after playing the first Bioshock, then the game becomes a lot of fun. There’s a lot for your eyes to gander at, and then there’s moments where you’ll feel something for Booker and Elizabeth. Irrational Games and Ken Levine really hit it out of the park on this one, and for that it deserves a spot on this list. It also is one of the few games that has a Cyndi Lauper song in it, so it’s even better than expected!

Tomb Raider Contender

Tomb Raider:

Laura finally hit it big this year with the reboot to Tomb Raider. A game that said, ‘fuck the blue tank top and booty shorts, we’re going down a brutal path with this reboot!’ Also missing in that made-up statement are the gore-y death sequences and the wide assortment of uses for a bow & arrow. Needless to say, this wound up being an incredibly solid experience.

The story here begins with Laura on an expedition to the mysterious island of Yamatai, a very ominous destination located within the Dragon’s Triangle. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle, except with samurai’s and possible near-rape scenarios. As you can tell from the trailers, the ship breaks apart in the middle of an erupting thunderstorm, and the crew washes up on a mysterious island. The crew isn’t having a good time, Laura isn’t having a good time, not even the savage islanders are having a good time! It’s the worst vacation ever!
With the entire crew missing and stranded on this ‘unknown’ island, it’s up to Laura to figure out how to save everyone and get off this rock!

Plot-wise it isn’t too complex, it’s a template that has been applied before to heroes of Laura’s type, but I’d say its done very well here. This mostly has to do with Laura’s well written character arc and the voice actress behind her, Camilla Luddington. What makes Laura one of the most memorable videogame characters of this year is that unlike other female characters in the medium, she’s not bogged down by boyfriend problems or idiotic nonsense that only businessmen would assume that women are into. Her goal is simple and straightforward, rescue her friends and get off the island, that’s it. No bullshit, no punches being withheld, it’s a story of survival with a female protagonist.
Unlike most other videogame protagonists in general, Laura grows more formidable as the plot progresses. To a point where she truly becomes a badass, and actually earns it.

In my review earlier in the year, I compared this game to Uncharted mostly due to similar themes of survival and treasure hunting. For me what makes Tomb Raider more of an entertaining experience than Uncharted is its non-linearity and how it rewards you for it. The game manages to pull this off through mapping out its levels to where if you decide to go off path, chances are you’ll be rewarded. Those rewards can range from finding salvage or upgrade blueprints.
Speaking of which, you’ll also have a host of weapons in your arsenal. Ranging from the game’s iconic bow & arrow to an amazing shotgun that I never wanted to stop using. Each of these weapons have upgrades to which you can acquire by having enough salvage, and even cooler is that each weapon looks noticeably different each time you upgrade it. For the most part I never had a problem with the weapons, each of them felt balanced and had their own unique uses. Some weapons like the bow & arrow can be used to reach across rivers, and the shotgun can break down barricades.
The rest of the gameplay itself is really tight, and well focused. Cover can be accessed by simply walking up to it, which makes the transition to the gun-fights very smooth. Stealth has also been nicely integrated into the game thanks to the bow & arrow and the option to equip silencers to some of your weapons. There’s plenty of ways to take out enemies, and despite which way you feel like duking it out, you’re going to have a great time.

Visually speaking, the game is gorgeous and has a lot of great scenery.The attention to detail not only with the island, but with Laura herself is pretty amazing. Small details such as the cultural findings and remnants of previous stranded islanders are what make this game so immersive.
The games presentation, the gameplay, and the revitalization to one of the most iconic videogames characters ever (for some reason, can’t imagine why) is why this game is on my list. Oh and there’s a decent multiplayer mode there, but who really cares? Go play this game now!

However I’m a bit weary of traveling on a ship now, maybe its the whole I don’t want to get eaten by a group of cannibals vibe I’ve gotten from this game.

Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance:

Revengeance isn’t the most complex game, no it certainly is not. However what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with crazy over-the-top-action that will keep your eyes on the screen. Trust me, I tried this. I never was able to finish playing Bioshock Infinite on time, but was lucky enough to avoid the Star Trek videogame. Thank you epilepsy!

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance tells the story of Raiden, the naked cart-wheeling dude from MGS2. These days Raiden is doing less silly stunts while in the nude, and is more of a cyber-samurai guy who protects prime ministers from evil terrorist acts. However one day some Desperado operatives show up and ruin all the fun by killing the prime minister. I don’t know if you could make Raiden anymore angst-y, but boy was I proven wrong.
It’s a Saturday morning cartoon, except with a lot of insane stuff thrown in. Although in a way it’s also kind of charming because of how the game thinks its making philosophical points. In actuality though, as laughable as those moments are, it creates sort of this well-formed air space between all the chaos that ensues on-screen. The combination between its saturated violence and its honest intentions at trying to make a deeper story is what actually makes this work, despite the latter half not working at all.

The game’s main attraction here is its maniacal, yet very challenging, gameplay. You have your basic hack & slash moves, which of course you later get the hang of, or not if you’re the type who really has never laid hands on a hack & slash game before. Although while combat moves fine just the way it is, one of the best things I may have seen in quite some time is the ‘blade mode’. A frenetic slow-motion action that allows you to slice enemies into a million pieces as a reward for your good/skilled behavior. It’s the epitome of getting a delicious cookie for all the hard work you did in grade school, except with cutting up cyborgs with a katana.
I also mentioned that the game can definitely be challenging, and it really is, but in the best way. Each of the enemies have their own weaknesses and advantages over each other, and sometimes the game will put you in a spot where you’ll face-off against a mix of annoying-as-fuck enemies. However this is great, because unlike other games where they’ll flat-out tell you every single mechanic from the get-go, this game forces you to experiment and disfigure each enemies strategy. This especially applies to the boss fights, which can range from somewhat challenging to incredibly challenging. Oh, and it gets way worse with the final boss fight.

It sounds like what I’m telling you is no different from what you see in other hack & slash games, but in all honesty Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of the best experiences I had this year. I may hate having to pronounce its name, but I can definitely forgive it for all the bloody fun it gave me. All the cyborg-samurai slicing fun!

Best Game of the Year –

The Last of Us Contender 2

The Last of Us:

Wow, you mean to tell me a game made by Naughty Dog was game of the year? Color me shocked, yet slightly aroused for some reason. I don’t know, I can’t register how every person reading this might feel about my decision. So I’m gonna say it was a mixture of excitement, disappointment, anger, and being aroused.

In all seriousness though, I do feel like this game does merit ‘game of the year’ on pretty much all accounts (except multiplayer, cause who gives a shit.) Visually its super impressive, gameplay-wise it manages to outdo Uncharted, and as for the writing, well, do I need to say? Just to briefly summarize the game, the story is about Joel and Ellie, a duo of survivors who must course their way past the infected and ruthless bandits to pursue their goal. I’m just going to leave it at that for right now since the game has a lot of tense moments that I prefer not to spoil for any who decide to play the game.

For a super in-depth analysis of the plot along with my feelings on the ending however…

*SPOILERS BEGIN HERE*

At the beginning of the game you’re controlling Joel’s daughter, Sarah, who waits for her father to come home. Once Joel puts her to bed, she suddenly wakes up and realizes that Joel had gone missing. Even more disturbing are the alarming news report and the loud explosion that happens outside which sets the tone from here on out. However once Sarah finds Joel, things become more dire as she finds him being attacked by her neighbor. The two then decide to dip-out and escape the house via motor vehicle while also being accompanied by Joel’s brother, Tommy.
Once they reach the city, they see people fleeing and being attacked by the infected. After failing to pass through the city, Joel, Sarah, and Tommy wind up being chased by a mob of infected and have no option but to run. By the end things take a turn for the ridiculously grim as Sarah gets shot by a soldier, and dies in Joel’s arms.

Cut to a couple of decades later, we see Joel hanging out with a woman named Tess. The two realize that their weapons had been stolen and need to retrieve them back. So they hunt down the man responsible and realize that they were given to a cult known as the Fireflies. Although in order to get back these weapons, they must escort a young girl by the name of Ellie outside of the quarantine zone. More-so, it’s revealed that Ellie is immune to the disease and may wind up having the cure.

Sadly, the party gets a little thin due to the death of Tess, but luckily her message about keeping Ellie alive manages to stick with Joel. So Joel and Ellie go on a long depressing journey to find a Firefly research camp, and along the way encounter some interesting folk.
These people range from survivors trying to cope things through, friends who’ve changed for the worse, or travelers who are more ominous than they look.

By the time Joel and Ellie arrive, the Fireflies take Ellie to a hospital, but also knock-out Joel. Later Joel finds out how they can extract the cure from Ellie, but it’s at the cost of her own life. This upsets Joel immensely, and he pursues to find Ellie by tearing through Firefly guards. Luckily Joel finds Ellie before the operation had started, and attempts to escape.
The ending gets interesting as it turns out Joel had not only killed Ellie’s care-taker, had ruin the opportunity for the Fireflies to obtain a cure, and lied to Ellie about the whole mess he had gotten into just to save her.

What makes the ending so impacting is not only Joel’s action and what he tells Ellie, but where it cuts off. It climaxes at the right moment to where it lingers in your mind, and asks you the same question. Do you sacrifice Ellie for the greater good, or keep the only thing that matters to you in the entire world? Although the biggest takeaway may be the way you think about Joel, do you sympathize with him for what he did or say what he did was a grave mistake?
This is what make The Last of Us not just a typical zombie game, and propels it something greater. It leaves you with questions and troubling thoughts, rather than giving you an all tied-up story. The writers at Naughty Dog knew what to tie-up, and what to leave loose. Plus the journey to get there was just as memorable.

*END OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

What really makes The Last of Us work so well is how naturally the story flows together with the gameplay. Rather than constantly letting you know how things operate or where to go, the game will instead leave as much information as possible outside of the HUD in order for you to be sucked into this world. It’s a lush post-apocalyptic world that doesn’t suck up too much grit, but instead just leaves it hanging like the way the doctor said it was supposed to be. Wow, well that got dirty and kind of specific.
Anyway, the writing here is top-notch along with the performances by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. Aside from feeling like these are real characters, they are also certainly not without their flaws. The subtle interactions in the world also add some depth to these characters in certain ways, and makes you want to play the game again just to see what you missed out on. And with this being a Naughty Dog game, you’ll rarely notice a whole lot of awkward character model moments. The writing, acting, character interactions, and amazing detail work on the character models are what truly makes one-half of this game brilliant.

The other half of this game is a third-person action game, and yeah it’s just as great. You’ll be spending most of your time either constructing strategies as to how to move past enemies or blowing them up into chunks of melting flesh. It’s similar in a lot of ways to Tomb Raider, except where Tomb Raider’s focus was on the action, The Last of Us‘s focus is on the suspense. However that mostly depends on what enemies you’ll be facing.
There are three enemy types in this game, and each group have their own unique ways of trying to eliminate you. First off are the infected, which is composed of sprinting zombies and a one-hit kill enemy known as the Clicker. Second are bandits, who are vicious and will try to weed you out by spreading out across levels. Third are the soldiers, who operate like SWAT teams and will not be afraid to bust out in the middle of an open area with a shotgun. While not too original on the concepts here, infected aside, all three of these groups have really sharp AI to them (except when it comes to noticing your partner) and will do whatever they can to hurt you!
So in order to prevent yourself from dying, you’ll need some weapons. Another thing that makes The Last of Us work as not only an action game, but a survival-horror game is how they balance the weapons. Each weapon automatically starts out like a piece of shit, as it probably should be since you’re not a sharpshooter, but throughout the course of the game you’re given upgrades to better them. And no, don’t expect ‘damage’ to be one of the things you can upgrade on your shotgun or rifle. Like I said, it’s the perfect balance for this type of game without making any dumb decisions that hinder your character, and even without the upgrades these weapons can still function decently.
My favorite aspect about this game though, and this is no surprise, non-linear levels! Most of these levels feel open and offer quiet moments in between the tensity. If you decide to explore some houses or maybe that small area behind the mini-store, you’ll wind up be reaping some serious rewards. Or maybe a bum filled to the brim with syphilis, that right there isn’t a reward.

I could keep going on and on about this game, but ultimately to me this is a near perfect game. Yes I know the enemies apparently don’t notice the AI partners in this game, yes I know it’s something that’s been done before last year with The Walking Dead, and lastly yes I know I have a thing for Ellen Page! Leave me alone, you don’t know how much her…uh…performances mean to me!
The Last of Us truly is a magnificent game that perfectly captures the essence of what the Playstation 3 is capable of, but continues to push forward. It brings back old mechanics we missed, while reminding us that we have come a long way since the days of Crash Bandicoot. It’s not some tech demo, it’s not a mindless shooter, it’s a great game that really is innovative. So you can shove that artsy speech I made down your throat, and not even chew on it before you swallow!

Final Word –

Dammit, I knew I was forgetting something. I’ve spent so much time writing this list that I forgot what exactly I was going to say at the end! Maybe if I just whack myself with this hammer…nah, hammers can’t cure memory loss, but drills can! Actually I take that back, I think I remember now.

If 2012 was the year in which games can be proven to have smartly written stories, 2013 was the year that proved how far we’ve come since the launch days of the PS3 and Xbox 360. It’s also the year that’s about to usher in a new age, but I’ll get to that soon, maybe.
With games like The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, and Tomb Raider we’ve really seen just how much the last generation evolved. Trust me, it did, if you were to compare footage of Call of Duty 3 to Call of Duty: Ghosts there would be no competition between which one looked better. It’s crazy though, because we already had seen games that looked amazing back when they first launched on previous consoles. However now it seems like they would be perfectly suited on either an Xbox One or a PS4. Unless you own a high-powered PC and haven’t been paying attention regardless, because everything already automatically plays better on there.

I guess the bigger question is, have we reached the apex of visuals in gaming? No, but I’d say we’re getting really damn close. I’d say actually that the games I’ve already played like GTA V and The Last of Us look almost just as good as the current-gen games, which goes to show how these publishers were able to push the limits of the previous generation of consoles. Now imagine what Rockstar and Naughty Dog were able to do for this previous generation, and how much things can drastically change once they really get to work on current-gen? It’s mind-boggling to imagine how games can look even better than what they look like already, but it is indeed possible.

Visual aren’t everything however, in fact while I’ve spent time talking about how the visuals could be improved, there is so much innovation that lies elsewhere. But only if the publishers would get their shit straightened, and would allow developers to move onto something ‘new’. I’m willing to forgive Sony for green-lighting another Killzone and inFamous game, but we’re at the point now where there should be less sequels to previous gen-games and more original content. It’s what harmed a good portion of the last generations software, and it could plague this generation as well.
A good example of how the game industry should flourish creatively is what happened during the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era. Where you had many different and unique games coming out, but for the most part you didn’t see certain genres dwindle into obscurity like you do now. And how you prevent genres like shooters from over-saturating the market is by letting the developers do what they passionately want to do. It’s what will make more people drawn into the medium, and it’s what will keep the market going.

For example, I love Shigeru Miyamoto, I really do. He’s one of my favorites developers of all time, maybe even my most favorite. But you can tell that even his work has suffered due to publishers wanting to go the safe-route, rather than let him work on some vastly innovative and creative project.
Games like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy were all made with the insight of Miyamoto. However games like Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario World 3D World felt like products that were banked on fans nostalgia rather than creative originality. They’re definitely fun games, but it’s not that same original creativity I can easily expect from Miyamoto. Hence why its part of the reason Nintendo has been falling behind, and why his work within the past 5 years summarizes perfectly what’s wrong with the videogame industry today.

Like I said, let the developers do what they want to do. It’s at the point now where you have to take risks, because going the safe route will just hurt franchises like Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, and others even more. Take breaks, look at Crystal Dynamics did with Tomb Raider and what Naughty Dog was able to do with The Last of Us. Trust your developers and, as bluntly as I’m putting this, you’ll earn a shit-ton of cash!
But seriously, now is a great opportunity for a gaming renaissance. Don’t lose it.

***

That’s it for my list! Phew, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Oh wait, is that the ‘Worst of the Year’? No, no, NO!

COMING SOON – WORST OF THE YEAR!

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