The PS4 is finally here and frankly, I need to get back to it thanks to my first winner below. This time next year, I expect Sony’s new console to dominate my lists of winners and highlights, but most of this year’s winners do of course belong on the PS3. And what a year it’s had with the likes of The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, Bioshock, Tales of Xillia, Saints Row IV, Puppeteer and many more. Greatness truly awaits in 2014, but before that, I have a huge backlog of games to finish, mainly because of the obscenely generous PS Plus freebies.
Game of the Year - Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Black Flag has swooped in right at the end and swiped the award from my other favourites this year including Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Dragon's Crown, Bioshock Infinite and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Ubisoft's pirate epic has rarely left my PS4 since launch and is easily the best game in what I've always found to be a slightly underachieving series.
I'm a big fan of open worlds packed with activities and Ubisoft did it better than GTA V with Far Cry 3 and they've done it again with this Caribbean-based adventure. In terms of gameplay, I'm loving the open approach to most missions and haven't enjoyed stealth this much since -you guessed it- Far Cry 3.
There's just so much to do here. If you're going to buy one game at Christmas, make sure it's this one, as it'll last you well into next year. This is the perfect title to show off the power of the PS4 too. Yes, Killzone has fancy lighting effects and immense detail, but look at the bloody sunshine and vibrant colours all the way to that horizon.
It finally seems like Ubisoft have found the right approach to linking the story to a modern day setting after ditching the Desmond Miles angle and putting you in the first-person shoes of an Abstergo employee. The ties linking the world with Watch Dogs is definitely something I'm convinced is going to be more than an Easter egg too.
Favourite Game – Dragon’s Crown
One of the games that has kept me coming back this year has been the mighty Dragon’s Crown on the Vita and PS3. As a huge fan of Streets of Rage 2 on the Mega Drive, I’ve been waiting years for a decent side-scrolling beat ‘em up. And even better, there are deep RPG elements here to keep things feeling fresh too.
The multiplayer has been the key ingredient for me though as it’s something even my girlfriend has enjoyed playing. So much so, that she kept on playing it without me and her character has reached double the level of mine and she’s effectively lapped me on the higher difficulty (like a new game+ mode). I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
With excellent local and online co-op options available, it’s such a great game for pulling you in for hours on end and it has the most compelling loot system I’ve ever seen in a fantasy-style action RPG. Although, it’s not cool that the game seems to like my girlfriend more than me as she gets all the shiny things nowadays. Maybe it’s about time I catch up.
Highlight of 2013 – Mirror’s Edge Sequel Announcement
It’s been a year packed with highlights in the industry. Sony have run rampart throughout 2013, by nailing down policies early on by confirming the PS4 would play pre-owned games and releasing the console at a very attractive price.
I won’t lie, it’s been hilarious watching Microsoft shoot themselves in the foot throughout most of the year too, although I’m glad they’ve got their shit together as healthy competition is always good for making the two rivals strive to give us the best products and services.
But for me, the best news was that after years of asking, we’re finally getting a new Mirror’s Edge game.
I’ve been desperately awaiting a new Mirror’s Edge for years and I’m still reeling that EA and DICE have started work on it. With DICE being so busy with the Battlefield series and the new Star Wars: Battlefront, I was surprised to see that they even have time for Mirror’s Edge.
I’m really stoked to see that it’s going to be developed in the Stockholm studio rather than the unproven US branch, as I want this to shine. Sure, EA are taking a bit of a gamble with such a niche title, but I’m glad that the early footage shown at E3 shows a game sticking to its guns (by also not having guns so far) with a squeaky-clean aesthetic design and first-person perspective.
If DICE can tighten up the controls this time and give us less linear levels (or an open world) then this could be one of the most-innovative next-gen titles around, hopefully leading to a more open approach to player movement in the first person genre in general – I probably said this last time too. As long as it inspires something better than Brink, we’re on to a winner.
Disappointment of the Year – Bioshock Infinite*
*Note: “Disappointment’ doesn’t mean ‘worse’
I'd like to say Aliens: Colonial Marines, but as time went by, the game was repeatedly delayed and hands-on opportunities were denied across the board, so it wasn't a big surprise that the game stank in the end.
Much was made of how the staged demos didn't resemble the finished product -and rightly so-, but almost zero scorn was shown to another game that bullshitted its way through numerous expo stage demos, Bioshock Infinite. Before you storm off to the comments section, I don't think Infinite is a bad game, it's pretty damn great, but where is the game I was shown?
Think back to being drawn in with those scenes of Elizabeth trying to heal a horse through a tear, or when Booker was going to able to choose to save a postman from an angry mob, or just keep his head down and move on. And what about using Elizabeth's powers having a detrimental effect on her? We were led to believe this could have an impact on the story.
All Aliens did was jazz up some lighting effect and animations, not cut entire scenes or concepts. Hell, Bioshock is missing so much I almost nominated it for Most Anticipated Game of 2014.
Most Anticipated for 2014 – Infamous: Second Son
Ubisoft have been nailing it recently with Assassin's Creed, Rayman, Splinter Cell and Far Cry all proving to be Best in Class, but something's not quite there yet for me with Watch Dogs, although I am of course immensely intrigued by it.
So, when I look at what else lies ahead, especially on the PS4, the cheeky self-satisfied smile of one Delsin Rowe tells us that we know damn well that Infamous: Second Son is going to be a belter and the first next-gen exclusive action game that has the potential to deliver a jaw-dropping experience. Sorry, Ryse.
Infamous 2 was a huge improvement over the original and if Sucker Punch's history is anything to go by (they made the awesome Sly Cooper trilogy on PS2), the third game will see them knock the socks off the genre.
Cole was a bit of a bore on PS3, but his replacement on PS4 looks set to add a bit of attitude to the lead character, as he actually seems to enjoy having superpowers, making him much more identifiable. Being voiced by current voice-over favourite Troy Baker (Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us etc) won't hurt either.
Delsin's ability to borrow other Conduits’ abilities has huge potential and hopefully won't just be limited to fire, ice and electricity. Travelling around the city via the use of superpowers has always been cool in the Infamous series and if half of them are as slick as shooting through vents as an ash cloud then I'll be a happy gamer.