It's been a good year for digital console downloads, with more and more publishers taking cues from the indie scene and gradually seeing the benefit in exploring mid-range titles that can still provide triple-A experiences at a significantly lower risk and cost. Hats of to Ubisoft, then, for having two games on this list, but so to will you find indie darlings, quirky niche titles, Defender's futuristic offspring, and loads and loads of zombies.
"Another gaming experience that demands to be played all in one sitting,Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons ends up being a triumph in storytelling through unconventional means. Conveying characters without words, co-operation without multiplayer, and daring to construct mechanically polarising game in the name of an emotional climax, Brothers shouldn't really work. But its final act stuns and satisfies and proves something to savour."
"Here’s a game that refuses to be tied down by a digital-only release. The Western setting is a breath of fresh air to the usual Generistan sandy hellholes or grey corridors. Sometimes the aiming feels a little untrue, but the story entertains over at least five hours and the score-chasing combo fun of the arcade mode was a much better idea than tacked on multiplayer."Click here to read more...
Top twenty, here we come! A minimalist marvel, multiplayer magnificence, Adam Jensen, and Rockstar's magnum opus await.
What we said: Borderlands 2's ultimate triumph lies with its personality. Its demented, crass, brash and brilliant personality. Like the best loot-driven games, you'll come for the loot and levels, but you'll stay because you're having so much damn fun. And because you'll want to kick Handsome Jack square in the Butt Stallion. We wanted more. We wanted bigger. We wanted better, brasher, bolder andbadasser. Borderlands 2 takes care of business. -9/10
What we said: Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a triumph of open-ended gameplay, impeccable level design and the realisation of a believable, authentic universe. Its scant flaws are thrown into sharp relief by the exceptional quality of the overall experience, and Human Revolution is as good as we could possibly want from a prequel to an epic series. We have no doubt that its successor has the potential to be the best game of all time.
Oh, wait. It already is. - 9/10
Hold on to your hats everybody, it's Best Yearly Sequel Award 2013 Edition! Yes, the sports category is filled with incremental sequels and evolution rather than revolution when it comes to innovation, but that doesn't mean it isn't stuffed with quality and value.
Especially, as it turns out, on next-gen systems.
EA Canada have pulled out all the stops once again to present a FIFA game that feels meaningfully different when compared to previous iterations, braving new ground with improved controls, expanded game modes (Career has never been better), and an emphasis on realism that has not been reached before. The impressive, addictive multiplayer offerings remain enticing, and on next-gen tech the game oozes aesthetic class.Click here to read more...
It's time for the award for the game that best allowed for a spot of face-smacking this year. Anarchy Reigns would have been in this list had we not been all over the import version last year and declared it the best fighting game of 2012. But it does at least give a few others a fighting chance (hurr!), and we finally got around to playing Persona 4 Arena -- don't worry wquach, it made the grade this year.
It's easy to write Divekick off as a parody of fighting games, too simple in form to be taken seriously. But, on the contrary, if you subscribe to the notion that the genre has become bloated by overly complex combo systems, and needlessly stacked, overwrought special bars and abilities (and there are plenty who would), Divekick presents itself as a perfectly balanced fighter that forces players to think strategically and make the most of their limited movesets in order to achieve victory. It might not seem to take itself too seriously on the surface, but underneath the humorous veneer lies a beating heart of fighting purity.Click here to read more...
Only thirty games to go, and today's countdown of quality sees us celebrating the exploits of everyone's favourite plumber, a masterclass from Valve, a zombie lick from an AI director, and The Best Game of the Generation.
What we said: If Lord of the Rings had a bucket of gore tipped over it, it'd probably look like this. Exciting, engaging and thoroughly entertaining, BioWare have done it again. Probably the best RPG since Mass Effect, which isn't surprising really. - 9/10
What we said: Valve turn a mini-project into a triple-A winner and show that big budgets and big ideas aren't mutually exclusive once again. Whether playing on your own or with a friend, the quality simply shines through unerringly. Funny, fiendish and fantastic, Portal 2 is an utter triumph. - 10/10Click here to read more...
Local co-op has been an ailing beast for some time, struck low by the sheer convenience of being able to beam one's virtual avatar across time and space thanks to the wonders of online gaming. It doesn't matter how small someone's couch is when you're gaming online.
But Christmas Day would be a sad time if we all just retreated to our own little pods and ignored the fact that some games out there still champion the glories of local co-op. Thankfully, we're here to save the day with five nods to some of the finest local multiplayer games of the year, along with a bonus shout for the Best Family Game Ever.
The most ambitious LEGO game to date, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes busts the world's greatest comics wide open, with an enormous range of playable characters (over 160), each with their own unique abilities and typical personalities, and plonks players down in a LEGO New York filled with Marvel landmarks.
It's a blast solo, but it really comes alive in local co-op, ferreting out the slew of hidden items, easter eggs, and in-jokes in each and every level, and saving Stan Lee more times than one can count until you unlock him and delight in the fact that not only does playable Stan Lee have almost every power in the game, but he can Hulk-out too.
It's really, really good.Click here to read more...
The racing games this year weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but quite frankly the line up below shows one thing very clearly indeed: Criterion, we love you, and we need you to be making Burnout games again. The industry needs you!
Also that Polyphony really ought to make the next-gen jump, and we need Mario Kart 8 like fish need water.
But as stated above, that doesn't mean this year's offerings were bad at all. In fact there was a decent variety of racing titles out there, especially if you owned more than one platform.
F1 2013 provides a very good formula one driving experience both to veterans and newcomers alike. Its gentle introduction, tweakable driving aids and different single and multiplayer modes mean there is something for everybody. However the similarity to its predecessor may mean that those having experience of F1 2012 won’t find enough here – despite the allure of classic cars and tracks – to tempt them away from what they know, and more importantly to part with their hard-earned cash.
This graphically exquisite and mechanically impeccable racer shows off the Xbox One to advantage, but ends up slightly hamstrung by a lack of tracks and inconsiderate progression system. The all-important cars are more beautiful than ever, handle better than ever, yet some of the series' magic and generosity of spirit is gone. Quality is a kind of value, though, and Forza 5 oozes it from every hyper-detailed, lustrously reflective, painstakingly-simulated pore. A brilliant launch title, then, but needs work to become a true successor to Forza 4.Click here to read more...
Into the top forty, and today we have some super-slick TPS gunplay for you, a zombie apocalypse, Death incarnate, and somehow...somehow... Nico Bellic.
What we said: Vanquish is a fantastically cool action game that is an absolute blast from start to finish that does what the great games do: make you feel like an absolute badass. I can forgive the grey/silver visuals, but marks have to be deducted for the short length. You should play this game as soon as possible though and hope for a sequel. - 9/10
What we said: Dishonored is, quite frankly, Bethesda's watercooler game of 2012 - the game that all should be talking about come the year's end, with no two narrative anecdotes the same. It does better than simply revive the stealth genre, it makes us wonder why the hell it went away in the first place. Arkane have delivered a blank canvas in Corvo Attano, with a commendably mature approach to player freedom that asks much of you, and delivers ultimate gameplay satisfaction in return. Nothing short of astonishing. - 9/10Click here to read more...
Chucking a friend into proceedings can help any game, but we were hardly bereft of choice when it came to some quality multiplayer offerings this year as the list below demonstrates.
"It hasn’t been a smooth launch for its multiplayer component, and the single player campaign still won’t win any awards, but the latest effort from DICE is certainly the best Battlefield experience we’ve seen for a quite a while. Thanks to a rather shiny Frostbite 3 engine, and an array of social features with Battlelog, Battlefield 4 on PC might well be one of the best multiplayer titles of the year." - 8/10
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Though something of a hot mess on last-gen console, Ghosts found its own on PS4 and Xbox One, delivering an impressively stacked content package, a ludicrously overblown singleplayer campaign (COD in spaaaace!), and a multiplayer component that fixed a number of prevailing issues, proved immediately accessible, and delivered more meaningful customisation options in terms of progression than ever before.Click here to read more...
It hasn't exactly been the best year for brand new IPs in the industry, though we rather suspect that the honeymoon period of next-gen will make for a host of new properties in the New Year. However, a paucity of fresh material doesn't mean that there was none to speak of. We'd take quality over quantity any day of the week, and in that sense, 2013 delivered rather nicely.
"One of the best JRPGs of the last decade, Ni No Kuni is in many ways a love letter to a genre slowly fading away into obscurity. Brimming with imaginative aesthetics, and packing a hefty emotional punch or two in spite of its rather clichéd story, Level-5 and Studio Ghibli have worked wonders to whisk us away to another world. An utter triumph in roleplaying escapism in a game that manages to stand on the shoulders of the genre's best to deliver a modern classic." - 9/10
Puppeteer is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, particularly when it comes to the striking visual design. The script could perhaps have done with a little more editing, and there are a few little pacing issues along the way, but Kutaro's journey is an utterly charming and gloriously imaginative affair, framed in superlative fashion. - 8/10Click here to read more...
What a year it's been! It's seems that every single day has brought with it a new surprising headline. But in amongst all of the PR gaffes, next-gen smack talk, overblown events, and the usual slew of industry gossip and controversy, some cracking games actually got released! Not only that, two new consoles also hit the shelves towards the year's end and blew us all away.
Anyway, as the release river turns into a dirt valley and we prepare for the festive season, it's time to dish out some awards. We've already published our Staff Picks and held court in our final podcast of the season to hand out some less mainstream awards (Beard of the Year, anyone?) and you can find those links below. But you'll also find the timetable for the next few days. The listings will all become linkified (yep, we're inventing new words) as the articles go live, and they'll all have category votes so you can get involved, culminating in the big community vote for the Readers' Choice Game of the Year 2013 as December shuts up shop.
LET'S DO THIS!
So there it is, ladies and gents. Time to dust off that soapbox, fill up on some double-barrelled rhetoric, prepare your throwing knives of razor sharp wit and cogent argument. The 2013 Thunderdome is open and it's time for an opinionated free for all. It's looking like a chilly winter, so let's warm ourselves up with some fiery debates and work ourselves up into a hot mess.
Yep, that's right. Thank you enormously to everyone who got involved with our Games of the Generation season, and thank you in particular to r3tract for suggesting a community list! The reception was so overwhelmingly awesome to our public vote that we figured we could run a Community Top 100 Games of Last-Gen rather than just fifty.
So here it is.
We kick off with the bottom 50, and there are definitely some surprises in here -- from both games I never thought would make a Top 100 to those that might have seemed a lock for the upper echelons of the chart.
But this is the glorious thing about democracy!
NB. Since most entrants ranked their lists, we decided to use those rankings to determine positioning. If your list wasn't ranked, then every game on it was given a score of 15 (the mean). Tiebreakers (those games with equal scores) were then positioned according to number of nominations.Click here to check out the Community Top 100 Games of Last-Gen #100-51 >>
Dungeon Of The Endless may only be in early access, but Amplitude Studios' genre hybrid already looks beautiful and plays beautifully.
Halfway between a roguelike and a dungeon defence game, you'll lead a team of heroes though procedurally-generated levels, exploring and gradually uncovering unpredictable environments full of traps and deadly creatures. However, you'll also have to defend a crystal to stay alive: a power generator that lets you transform the dungeon into a powerful fortification bristling with turrets and defences. Constantly changing pace and hitting you where you least expect, this is very much more than the sum of its already-impressive RPG, roguelike, strategy and defensive parts; including elements we'd only traditionally expect from 4X games. Well, they did develop Endless Space after all.
Not to put too fine a point on things, but Dungeon of The Endless also looks drop-dead gorgeous despite being v.0.1.3.
You don't have to take my word for it, since I've recorded some video impressions for your eager delectation. This is very much a first contact video recorded in effectively one take (including live voiceover), so more detailed intel will follow soon!
With the WildStar beta servers down for some maintenance, Carl decided to make a video for a game that, while he has only recently been granted access to, has become something of an addiction for him. So, in today's episode of Dealspwn Playthrough, Carl shows us Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming free to play virtual Trading Card Game Hearthstone.
Playing a quick round between the Mage and the Hunter, Carl provides commentary as he explains the basic rules of the game, discusses the potential for some rather deep tactics, and generally gushes about its presentation can sucker you in for just one more game. See it all for yourself right after the jump.Click here to read more...
I put down SimCity as my Disappointment of 2013, and that's a pretty good shout given EA's complete failure to be able to launch an online experience (see also the embarrassment Battlefield 4). But in truth I lied. Nintendo have once again been the biggest disappointment by somehow pissing twelve months of competition-free shelf space up the wall, not delivering an improved user experience, and blithely continuing on in a spirit of denial and delusion as their house crumbles.
If he was the head of any other company, Iwata might well have been kicked out of the door several times over by now.
I keep trying to get excited for the Wii U. Every time a new Nintendo Direct comes out, old loyalties kick start my Nintendo hype engine and for the space of five minutes I'm suddenly fervently in favour of buying a Wii U. But every time I've gone to find a bundle and slap down some cash for Nintendo's curvier little white fun box, my enthusiasm has faltered at the last moment thanks to a slap in the face by principle and pragmatism.
Anyone who's been following our podcast series Game Buzz will know that we've spent a lot of the last eighteen months ragging on Nintendo over the Wii U with good reason. But there's been a progressive series of benchmarks as announcements have been made and games unveiled where I've basically said, Yeah, I reckon I'll get one when this game comes out.
First it was LEGO City Undercover, then Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101, and now I find myself staring into the brightly-lit Christmas abyss having almost bought a Wii U in the Amazon flash sale last week. But I didn't. A year on from the Wii U's release and I still can't bring myself to buy one, mainly because of Nintendo's rampant idiocy.Click here to read more...
It’s been a great year for videogames – one that has given us a lot of surprises. We’ve seen great new IPs launch, some fantastic indie newcomers, some great sequels, HD remakes and reimagining of old favourites. We’ve also had the joy and excitement of a brand new console generation, as well as being treated to stellar title on current gen systems, giving us plenty of choice. There are lots I could talk about, but below are my own personal high (and low) points of the year that was 2013.
In a year full of new material, IPs, and even consoles, I may get scoffed at for recommending a decade old game, as my GOTY. But the fact of the matter is, Wind Waker HD is a lesson to the entire industry. In fact behind that cel-shaded exterior lies an entire lecture on how to do many things - note your strengths, accept your weakness, improve on greatness, and more importantly start to change people's perspectives on a company that's had a pretty shaky year in the console market (more later).
Wind Waker was fortunate in that it was a solid game to begin with - with a devout following of gamers back in the GameCube era. Back then it was a good game, but by no means the best game available on the system (I'll argue Metroid Prime with anyone). Not only did Nintendo do some careful analysis on the first installment, but, more importantly, they did something that is quite rare in this industry, and that was listening to feedback from it's fans. The shortcomings of the original were clear - too much sailing, too much faffing around at the end, and boy was it a simple game compared to others in the series.
So rather than just tarting the game up - a nice job of that they did too - Nintendo addressed each criticism in turn, giving us a quicker sail to be found, a more streamlined end game, and the deal-breaker that is Hero Mode. It sounds too simple, and almost a bit of a con, but what this ramp up in difficulty achieved was nothing short of a miracle. It didn't just succeed in making a 10 year old game relevant again, but it managed to make me feel 20 years younger. All of a sudden it was like playing my first Zelda game again, with all the challenge, minor tactics and side missions in full swing. Rather than the game simply being a checklist of the usual suspects from the Zelda universe - princess, tick, boomerang, tick, boss of dungeon with convenient yet over-elaborate weakness to dungeon item, tick - it made the journey mean something again. A Zelda game with real significant, something to be tackled, endured, challenged, and overall enjoyed.
As such the book on "How to do a HD remake" simply has a picture of Wind Waker HD on all it's pages, because not only did it put the game in HD - but it wasn't afraid of the "remake" part either. And it's a game that has started to get people's heads turning towards the Wii U - about a year later than would have been nice. It stands as a hopeful sign of things to come, serving as a long shot that one of gaming's most important developers are not quite out of this generation just yet.Click here to read more...
Looking back, 2013 has ended up being a weird year for me. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it has been a stop-gap in terms of my gaming experiences. Sure, there have been some entertaining releases over the last twelve months, but I struggle to think of many games I feel I will remember the year for. A large part of the blame is most likely down to the huge backlog of games I’m currently trawling through (I’ve only just got round to unwrapping Arkham City, and I haven’t even started Far Cry 3) but part of the issue has been that I wasn't genuinely taken in by some of the big hitters. For example, I considered BioShock Infinite to be a narrative hot mess (and I wasn’t that impressed with the AI companion if I’m honest), and to me Tomb Raider, while a good return to form for Lara Croft, wasn’t as outstanding as word of the interwebs suggested.
That said, I did manage to enjoy myself from time to time. Revengeance proved once again that Platinum Games are awesome, and Papers, Please blind-sided me with its simple presentation over a rather deep experience, but 2013 to me will be the year of preparation – the warm-up act to 2014. That’s when many of the next/current-gen big hitters will finally land, and it’s also when many of the crowd-funded projects I’ve thrown money at will come to fruition. On top of that, we’ll be getting Dragon Age III (I still remain hopeful), get a glimpse at the next Uncharted and Mass Effect games, finally have Titanfall in our hands and (in a fairly predictable move considering the noise I’ve been making about it) WildStar will go live with all its fast-paced MMO goodness.
But yes, enough about next year – it’s time to focus on what really stood out for me this year.
Yep, I’m going with a fairly popular and probably obvious nod this year.
As I stated earlier this year, I honestly felt that The Last Of Us was leagues ahead of many other games in terms of both its narrative and the intensity of its gameplay, and it’s an opinion that hasn’t changed some six months later. The post-apocalyptic world that Naughty Dog was both beautiful and terrifying, and its set pieces were, as usual from the studio that gave us Uncharted, some of the best in the business. Of course, the real strength of TLOU was its story, in which players followed the long and dangerous road taken by Joel and Ellie, transforming them from begrudging companions to an inseparable duo. In a similar way to how Telltale’s The Walking Dead did in 2012, Naughty Dog’s newest IP managed to bring “the feels” (as the cool internet-ers say) in a way I wasn’t quite expecting, and it made it a more memorable, and downright human, experience for it.
What cements its place as my top choice though was the inclusion of its multiplayer component, which managed to capture the essence of the brutality from the single player and transfer it into an online arena. Just like in the main story, the melee combat was hard hitting and sometimes downright disturbing, and it managed to make me feel as venerable and exposed as I did the first time I ventured into the DayZ mod. The term “nerve-wracking” doesn’t quite match up to the feeling I had trying to survive when the rest of my team had been wiped out, but it’s pretty close. Personally, I cannot wait for Naughty Dog to return to this series to explore new tales, perhaps adding a bit more freedom into the gameplay (I’m not expecting an open world, although that would be pretty awesome) because this truly was a highlight of the past twelve months, and frankly I want more.Click here to read more...
We're back with more coverage from inside the WildStar Winter Beta, as we continue to look at the various mechanics the game has to offer.
In today's episode of Dealspwn Playthrough, Carl provides commentary as he dives into the Player Housing of Carbine Studios' upcoming MMORPG. Watch as he investigates how plot plugs work, demonstrates the usefulness of mining nodes, attempts some mini-game challenges, before putting his redecoration skills to the test.
And then just ends up placing a giant banana. See it all by hitting the jump.Click here to read more...
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.
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.Click here to read more...
Well, to quote a wonderfully cheesy sci-fi theme tune, “it’s been a long road, getting from there to here,” (and no, I don’t apologise for putting that in your head) but we’ve reached our final instalment of the Class Drop Wrap-Ups, where I provide a casual take on the highlights from the last seven days of WildStar-related information. I know – you’re all sad to see it come to an end, but we’re going to get through this, I promise. That, or you can continue to get your fix by keeping an eye on our WildStar Hub page, which includes all of the gameplay videos we’ve taken from the Winter Beta. Yes, that’s right, you can actually see why WildStar is shaping up to be promising MMO instead of reading about it, all thanks to the magic of technology.
Need to catch up with the previous wrap-ups? We’ve got a lovely hub of info filled with wonders and joy, and joyness, just waiting for you to click on, plus you get to learn about the other five classes of WildStar. Go on, it’d be so easy – you could have those articles in the tabs of your browser in, like, a second.
In the world of MMOs, if you’re able to deal damage from afar, chances are you won’t be able to take more than a punch to the face – that’s the general rule that class designers have lived by, dating back to the beginnings of pen-and-paper role playing. While the Spellslinger and Esper follow this rule, Carbine Studios have been quite happy to try and mix things up with most other things up to this point, so if anyone was going to mess with the range = squishy rule, it’s them. The end result of their madness is the Engineer – a exo-suit-wearing sonuvabitch with the ability to have armed bots at their side, all of which it makes for a deadly combination. This isn’t some cheery fixer-upper with friendly AI companions, but a formidable war machine who, much like their Medic brethren, can get right up in the dangerzone.
To illustrate this, I have created the following image to clarify just how devastating a class they are. Click to embiggen.