Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Most Notable Something-or-other Awards of 2013ish (Part the First)

 Yeah, so I'm a few weeks late for a proper "Best of 2013" entry, and not all of these were actually released in 2013, but I played (most of them) in 2013, and these were some of the more notable entries of the year(ish). I've been told that time is an illusion, End Of The Year Best Of lists doubly so, and nowhere else does this hold true than in dealing with someone as grossly irresponsible with their time as I am.

I'm a proper gamez jurnalist, guys. Really.

The What GTA Should Have Been award: Sleeping Dogs

I have fond memories of playing Grand Theft Auto Vice City and San Andreas. These were games that had wildly different subject matters (80s excess vs 90s gangsta culture), but concentrated on making an immersive world that never took itself too seriously and were never afraid to go over-the-top bonkers to entertain. GTA IV became more and more painfully dull and grim the more I played it, to the point that I never finished it. Sleeping Dogs was the first "serious" Sandbox Crime game (Saints Row doesn't count) that I felt compelled to see through since my negative experience with GTA IV.

Hong Kong was such a beautifully fleshed-out city, that was graphically more impressive than GTA's Liberty City, and Dogs was one of a string of Square-Enix titles (like Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Hitman: Absolution) that were lovingly ported to the PC, going so far even to include a free HD texture pack. The combat also benefits from being more melee-focused than firearms. I think the only complaint that I can make is that some of the DLC maxes out certain stats and dumps money on you, thus breaking the otherwise well-done progression system.

The Maximum Bro-Mode award: Lego Batman 2
Honorable Mention: Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Before I left the world I knew behind and moved to the mountainous deserts of New Mexico, I spent a week with a dear friend of mine, playing Lego Batman 2 to 100% completion, and nearly completing the first one afterwards. The Lego games are the pinnacle of couch co-op. Teamwork, frustration, and moments of sheer hilarity in a bonding experience for gamers of any kind.

33 hours in less than a week.
When my dear friend came to visit me recently, we played through the story campaign of Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and, while it wasn't *quite* as entertaining an experience as Lego Batman 2, it was still worth the time we put into it, and I felt that bond again, especially every time he blew my Jean Grey into pieces with his Repulsor Rays and said "I'M HELPING!"

The I Like This Game Way More Than I Should award: Resident Evil 6
Honorable Mention: The Bureau:X-Com Declassified

Resident Evil 4 was, while silly at times, a masterwork in horror gaming. Resident Evil 5 was an absolute mess. I don't like Chris Redfield. The controls felt half-assed, like they wanted to make something more action-oriented, but were afraid to break the mold. The inventory system was terrible. The story made even less sense it ever had. Resident Evil 6 was terribly received by both the hardcore fans and critics alike, but I rolled the dice on a Steam sale and picked it up for a third of its retail price. I finished the entire game, all 4 campaigns, on normal, then proceeded to play them again on Hard. Then I played it with a friend. I clocked up nearly a hundred hours on a game that was a critical flop. That said, the game is gorgeous looking, the story makes sense (possibly moreso than 4's), and the final step towards action-oriented controls benefits the series greatly, at least in my opinion.

An entire 6 hour campaign being super-cool super-spy Ada Wong? Yes, please.

X-Com Declassified is a case of internet fury gone mad. There were two games in the works, one of them quite faithful to the old tactical strategy games, and the other a third-person shooter. Guess which one the internet was raging against. What really came to surprise me about this one was that it was essentially Cold-War era Mass Effect, with a hostile alien first contact. Having played through the game in the first week since I purchased it on sale, I can only complain that it was frustratingly shorter than I found myself hoping it would be.

The Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey award: Bioshock Infinite

As a game, Bioshock Infinite is dull as dishwater. The shooting is adequate. The gameplay is adequate. The enemies are.. well.. there. This is not a game that hinges on its gameplay, by any means. The things that it excels at are worldbuilding and storytelling, and the dissonance caused by a (sometimes too) shiny and clean world covered in both socio-political and physical human gore. Creating a bond between the player and a character that was so well-crafted that you genuinely cared about them like another human being by the end. And by weaving together an ending that, by all rights, should not even work, let alone justify and explain such a stultifying title as "Infinite." I think the only thing that prepared me for that ending was a lifetime of watching, reading, and listening to Doctor Who.

My heart broke an Irrational number of times during this game.
The First Game In Years to achieve 100% award: Tomb Raider
Honorable Mention: Assassins Creed Liberation HD

Sometimes, I play a game just once through and enjoy the story. Sometimes, if I really liked a game's story or gameplay, I'll play it through twice. If I find a game really outstanding, I'll play the story twice, and find a lot of the collectible items and hidden sidequests. The recent Tomb Raider, which I reviewed for another site, was quite a surprise for me. I think, before this game, the last time I'd gotten a 100% savegame was when playing GTA Vice City. When I get this new video card from my tax returns, I'll play it again, this time on properly high settings. Maybe even turn on Lara's special hair settings. The best part of this? I've never completed a Tomb Raider game before, let alone come near 100%. I usually get frustrated a few hours in and give up when I've spent 30 minutes repeating the same jump only to see Lara ragdoll to her death. Channeling everything between The Descent to the Uncharted series, this is how I feel Lara Croft should always have been portrayed.

The things this woman went through.. I felt tired just playing the game.
Assassins Creed, as a series, holds a special place in my heart. When I heard there was one released exclusively on the PS Vita, I was tempted to buy one for that game alone. An interminable wait later, Ubisoft delivers by releasing a polished version for PC. It's got its flaws, but it's definitely a worthy addition to the family, if a much smaller addition. 100% clocked at right about 20 hours. It'd take me that long just to finish the story in Assassins Creed II.

The This Is Terrible but So Much Fun to Laugh At award: Aliens: Colonial Marines

This was such a serious train wreck of a game. Years in development, more studios than I can count, a hugely popular license, accusations of re-directed funds (if not outright embezzlement), and legions of angry Alien fans. It is literally impossible to be objective about this game, so I'm not even going to try. This is a bad game. A very bad game. If it were released 4 years ago, it would have merely been a mediocre game. Its only real saving grace is that it's not a boring game, and that it has a cooperative campaign mode. I've played the game several times through with friends, and we've been in hysterics from everything from terrible clipping issues, blurred textures, the physics engine going mad, the game randomly deciding to teleport players a foot or two from their current location, and the infamous constipated Xenomorphs.

Part II coming soon!


  1. Was Sleeping Dogs a sandbox game? I dropped it like a hot potato when it made me load from save after I decided I wanted to see what was to the left instead of taking the shortest route to the mission.

  2. It was definitely a sandbox game. I spent hours just ignoring the sidequests in favor of picking up tiny collectibles, side missions, eating noodles, etc. Now, once you've *accepted* a mission, it's usually best to proceed to where the little blinking thing says to go. I've learned this the hard way in a lot of games.

  3. Yeah. Sleeping Dogs is IMHO the clone that surpasses the master, being possibly the best GTA game ever.
    Exciting locale, superb story and it has managed what no other GTA game has done before it, keep the mid-/endgame fresh by keeping firearms something special. Also, simple, but wildly entertaining (and brutal) melee combat (Leg breaker!), very entertaining driving combat and superb radiostations.

    It also has good incentives to be both a skilled driver when necessary (Cop reputation which you get by avoiding vandalism in missions) and to be as brutal as possible (Triad reputation, which you get by stunts and being as brutal as possible). Cop and Triad are two of the means by which you gain new moves and such in the game. The other two being Face (which you get by doing side missions) and by collecting Kung Fu statues.


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