The Best and Worst Games of 2013

Well, 2013’s over and done with, but before we stumble fully into 2014 (we’re five days in so far- still time to back out) it’s time to look back on last year at the best and worst games that I played and reviewed. I really hoped “Outlast” would have a place on this list, but as I said a while ago, it won’t work on my laptop. Fortunately, the PS4 version is on the way, so I’ll be reviewing that one. One thing to mention first, however, is that unlike my best and worst games of 2012 list, this one will not be in any kind of order. It doesn’t seem fair to rank them numerically this time, and on top of that what is the real difference between the fourth and fifth best games of the year? I can’t think of one. So this is a list of a few games that I think stood out from the rest, either by being particularly good, or indeed particularly bad. Anyway, on to the list.

The Best:

Bioshock Infinite:

(The original review I wrote can be found here:

Originally highly praised but taking a lot of flack now for various reasons with varying legitimacy (the story and gameplay do NOT show signs of ludo-narrative dissonance- it’s a story about a violent, horrible man in a city built on violence, full of violence. Of course the gameplay is violent.), “Bioshock Infinite” is one of the best first person shooters I’ve ever played- right up there with the likes of “Timesplitters 2” and “Crysis 2”. The world of Columbia was brilliantly crafted and beautiful to look at, the characters all well rounded and interesting, and the story a real triumph both emotionally and intellectually. The gameplay was criticized but I really like it- solid, well-balanced shooting with well-implemented powers. Booker and Elizabeth were a great pairing and the ending… oh man the ending. An emotional sledgehammer to the guts that’s stayed right with me, and I imagine will do for a long time to come.

The Last of Us:

When I first reviewed this back in July, I enjoyed the game but didn’t buy into the immense hype it was receiving from other places. Everything from your basic “Game of the year so far” to “Console generation defining masterpiece” and “Gaming’s Citizen Kane moment” (Whatever that means. Presumably it means it’s now the default “Best game ever” for critics) was said about it, and I thought it was a good game but had one main problem in that its story just seemed like an excuse for main characters Joel and Ellie to go to various locations. Having completed the game three times now, I’ve changed my opinion a bit. Although I still don’t think it’s some generation-defining wonder-game, I would call it a masterpiece- the story is well told and has some real stand-out moments (particularly the ending, which I loved then and still love now- it ends the story perfectly), the characters are interesting and fit the tone of the game well, and the gameplay is absolutely superb- genuinely balancing melee combat, shooting, stealth, explosives and a crafting system, often encouraging you to switch between different strategies mid-fight. It’s definitely worth a look, and deserving of a place in this list.

DmC Devil May Cry:

This one caught a lot of flak from critics and fans of the original games alike, and I think this is entirely unfair. I love DMC1 and 3, but this really was a step up for me. I’m just going to say it: I love new Dante. His punk aesthetic, dickish attitude and violent tendencies all come from a genuinely horrible, tragic past that resulted in his mother being killed in front of him and his father being imprisoned and tortured forever- of course he’s going to be a bit of an arse. The story took established themes and presented them well (there’s more than a touch of “They Live” on display here, as well as “Futurama” of all things), was genuinely interesting to see play out, and although easier than before, the combat was great- punchy, extensive and above all, fun. I love “DmC Devil May Cry”, and really hope it gets a sequel. It probably won’t, but I can hope.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon:

REX. POWER. COLT! “Blood Dragon” was exactly what the trailers promised- a ridiculous, entertaining parody of 80s films and modern games alike. A great sense of humor, a fantastic aesthetic and a wonderful flair for the outlandish all draped over the solid foundation of “Far Cry 3″‘s gameplay made for one hell of a good time, and to top it off it’s a stand-alone downloadable game at a very reasonable price. The synth-heavy score by Power Glove was spot-on, and overall if you like things that both love and parody the 80s (and who doesn’t?) “Blood Dragon”‘s your game. Oh, and also: you get Robocop’s gun. Still unconvinced? Well look no further than this paraphrased quote from the first trailer for the game: “It is the near future. The apocalypse has had an apocalypse…From the toxic ashes of Vietnam War 2; a new breed of renegade soldier is born. Part man, part machine. All cyber commando.” MARK IV STYLE MUTHAFUCKA!

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag:

PIRATES! I was down for this ever since “Assassin’s Creed II”. The gameplay-style of this series really suits the setting, and for the most part Ubisoft pulled it off rather well- sailing and ship combat are properly integrated and are made an essential part of gameplay, and parts set on dry land were pleasingly tweaked from ACIII. There is, of course, one major problem with the story in that main character Edward Kenway never actually becomes an assassin. He helps them out, but never actually joins their ranks, despite what the blurb on the back cover says. Having said that, I still had great fun with the game, and am still enjoying it now, having recently picked up the PS4 version. If the series must continue, then I’m glad they’re taking it in different directions, and look forward to what they do next.

Papers, Please:

This is a strange one. Put simply, it’s a game about bureaucracy. Created by one man and released on steam, “Papers, Please” puts you in the role of a border guard in fictional communist country “Arstotzka”- you check people’s paperwork against various conditions determined by an ever-changing political climate, and at the end of the day divide your paycheck between food and warmth for your family members. The game is made unique by its paper-checking gameplay, and made special by the fact that moral choice is tightly woven into proceedings, with the minimalist graphics adding charm to the game. It’s not for everyone, but it’s totally unique.

The worst:

Ride to Hell: Retribution:

Now famous for utterly abhorrent it is, I feel the best way to sum up “Ride to Hell”, is that it has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. Not one. Playing it is torturous, to the point where I would get genuinely depressed and think “Seriously, why am I playing this?” I finished it though, and I have to live with that. Horribly misogynistic, awful to play and incredibly ugly, it has no business existing in this world, and everyone involved should be ashamed.

Beyond: Two Souls:

Don’t be fooled by what others may tell you, this is not a video game. David Cage does not make video games. He makes terrible interactive films with plots that are completely ridiculous, cringe-worthy and universally terrible apart from the bits he steals from other people. He can’t tell stories to save his life, and his continued popularity baffles me. The man needs to be stopped. I couldn’t even finish this one (I finished “Ride to Hell” though, so remember that) but saw the rest of the game in the “Super Best Friends” let’s play, so I know what I missed. Noble homeless people, Native Americans that practice spirit magic (of course they do), an underwater base with French-accented Chinese people and giant skeleton-ghost-snake things and a game that often just ignores your choices, often because the game is told out of chronological order and therefore can’t have particularly drastic choices. You’re a hack, David Cage. You’re a hack and the fact that you’re still allowed to make “video games” disgusts and depresses me.

Aliens: Colonial Marines:

Aliens: Colonial Marines:

What a shambles this was. Sega and Gearbox were shamelessly shifting the blame for this onto one of the umpteen other developers that worked on it while they could, but then apparently stand by the product when they were hit with a lawsuit for the gameplay video they demoed that was clearly built ad-hoc and not representative of the final game. Said final game was a boring, glitchy mess of a first person shooter that wiped its arse with the Aliens license. It’s not as bad as some of the other games on this list, but it’s still terrible. It was similarly in production for years and then rushed out like Gearbox’s travesty “Duke Nukem Forever”, and is indeed a lot like that game, minus the horrible misogyny.

The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct:

I’m inclined to be reasonably kind to the developers of “TWD: MERLE AND DERLE POTTER ABOUT IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE”, purely because they actually seemed to care. The main problem here was the insistence that the game be rushed out to co-inside with the ending of Season 3 of the often over-rated TV series, resulting in a game with muddy, ugly graphics, repetitve gameplay and a story that was rushed and with a terrible ending. There are good ideas here- the emphasis on survival does rear its head from time to time- and as I said, I do think that at least someone making the game cared, it’s just that it didn’t turn out the way it could have.

Crysis 3:

This was a disappointment. I love “Crysis 2”, and this looked like a cool idea- an interesting new city of New York trapped under a bio-dome and covered in vegetation, with a particularly interesting set-up for the player character (more on that in a minute), but was spoiled by two main things: it’s a boring slog for the majority of the game and it feels far too short and rushed- it essentially feels like the final third of a game. That character set-up is that you are actually playing as the Nanosuit itself, essentially- it contains the psyche of one character and the corpse of another: you’re the suit. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save the game.

Killer is Dead:

Honestly, for the most part I actually quite liked “Killer is Dead”- I love Suda 51 (for the most part), and I like the combat and art style here. The story is pretty weak, but overall it was a step in the right direction. The game is on here for one reason: Gigolo Mode. For those unaware, this mode involves protagonist Mondo Zappa (don’t ask, we’re right near the end here) wooing various women by staring at their chests and crotches when they aren’t looking at him, then presenting them gifts until they sleep with him. It’s creepy to say the least, and really holds the whole game back.

So, those are the games I really liked and really didn’t like last year. Some of the choices were hard, some of them were a lot easier, and there are a few games I didn’t include that were also worthy of praise. 2014’s looking pretty damn good for games, and I’m looking forward to it.

By James Lambert