The end of 2013 approaches and it’s the usual time for everyone to reflect on the last 12 months, sifting through their memories for the highlights and lowlights experienced since New Years Eve 2012. We’re no different here at Codec Moments, and our team have looked back over their extensive gaming time from the past year and picked their single favourite Game of the Year 2013.
Roger – The Last of Us
I’m sitting here thinking about the events of the past year and listening to music. Sure enough “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce started playing and it got me thinking. There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them. Such fitting lyrics for the things that really matter in life, and to a lesser degree playing games. There has been so many wonderful games that I have not had the time or opportunity to play. Such is life, and taking that into consideration, my game of the year pick is based on what I have played and not every major blockbuster that was released.
From the crime-laden exploits of Grand Theft Auto V to the thoughtful drama of Beyond: Two Souls, it has been a rich year for gamers. We have had so many great experiences with new games that I am grateful that some of the big titles like Destiny and Watch Dogs were pushed till next year. Now I should actually have time to play them. Needless to say this GOTY choice is not an easy one for me to make. With lots of choices I was able to narrow it down to one prominent title. The Last of Us is the game that comes to the forefront of my mind. Video games are no longer the nerdy hobby that some people still associate them to be. Like it or not, games are art, and as our culture continues to grow and mature, so does the content that we make and play.
Video games are included in this growth and the stories that they tell, and the acting that is portrayed in them is up there with movies and plays. As the medium grows, games will become more prominent in people’s lives and will become more meaningful and impactful. While The Walking Dead won my vote last year for its wonderful tale, it was missing something that gaming is all about: game play. While I was more than willing to accept what it is given the genre, I was enthralled by its emotional story telling. This year Naughty Dog, the developers behind Uncharted and Jak and Daxter released a new benchmark in heart-tugging storytelling and thought provoking, meaningful game play. The Last of Us takes you on a journey across a post-pandemic United States. You play as Joel, a father with a scarred past that is tasked with protecting a young girl in a world laden with death and danger. The bond that grows between the two of them as they progress through their journey is strong, and as a player you are able to partake in the story that determines both of their fates and portrays what type of people they are. A father’s love for his children is one of the strongest things on the planet. What wouldn’t you do for your kids? While you are not able to make the choices, the story that is set by the developers is one that will ring true to anyone from any walk of life. The Last of Us is one of, if not the best stories told in gaming and is proof that the genre is ever changing and has much more to offer than what the last generation of adults has labeled it as being.
As we close this chapter and move in to 2014, I encourage everyone to think about the things that truly matter to them and dedicate more time to those goals. Whether it be your family, your faith, or your free time, pursue it to the fullest and remember to always have fun! Happy New Year!
Graham – Hotline Miami
When it comes to choosing the game of the year it is a very personal choice, like fine wine it comes down to what you like. I have tasted many expensive wines that for me didn’t really demonstrate much difference to an inexpensive Cotes du Rhone from Tesco. Likewise I have played several games this year that for many would be serious contenders for game of the year, but if they are not in my favoured genre they don’t even get a look in.
After much deliberation and arguments with myself I have gone for Hotline Miami from Dennaton Games on the PS Vita as my game of the year. For those who have not played it, Hotline Miami is a 2D top down action shooter where the lead character goes through a series of chapters to essentially kill whatever he comes up against. It is simple, but the attention to detail is very good, the story evolves well and although it leaves some a little at sea, for me there was enough left to the players imagination to add to the experience.
Most will think this is an odd choice with standout titles such as GTA V and The Last of Us up against it, but for me it is the ultimate blend of immersing gameplay and intriguing storyline mixed with bald inducing frustration that meant I couldn’t put it down. I lost count of how many times I died per chapter, sometimes it ran into 3 figures but this just made me more determined to complete the level. If I had died that many times in any other game it would have be destined for my pile of shame pretty quickly!
Yes The Last of Us has more of an emotional connection and GTA V is bigger and better that everything that has come before, but neither took over my life more than Hotline Miami did. Two other aspects that swung the decision in its favour is the cost – it was cheap and great value for money, and the fact it was available of the Vita. I didn’t play it on any other platforms; if it was only available on the PS3 I may not have even played it, but as I could have a quick blast late at night in bed then again first thing on the commute to work it had that accessibility that I wish GTA V could also have.
My last point is that Hotline Miami also took me back to my days of playing the original Grand Theft Auto. OK – it doesn’t offer the open world carnage but if we look at where we were with the Grand Theft Auto Series and where we are now I hope the guys behind Hotline Miami have a similar evolution planned, if they do the next few years could be very exciting indeed.
Andy – Grand Theft Auto V
Choosing my personal game of the year for 2013 was a real struggle. Personally, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Device 6 and Papers Please were all strong candidates as I attempted to be cool and not simply declare GTA V my GOTY. I still had some nagging doubts though. Blacklist was a great game but it left some incredibly loose threads which seemed to suggest DLC rather than simply setting up a sequel; the game was released in August and there’s still no sign of DLC which now seems unlikely as Ubisoft declared the game failed to meet expectations despite selling two million copies. Device 6 is brilliant and thought provoking, but with little replay value and a linear puzzle driven narrative, it’s not my game of the year. Finally Papers, Please is a really interesting experience and very different to any game I’ve ever played; sadly, I spend far too much time in real life cross referencing documents to identify discrepancies, to want to do it in a game!
Whilst talking to a COMO colleague the other day about music, I realised why GTA V was my game of the year – Soulwax FM. Okay, not just for Soulwax FM, but not since GTA: Vice City have I driven around a game world just to listen to the radio. I spent many hours in this game after completing the campaign, just driving around to see what I could do; the same is true of GTA: Online. This action packed and engaging world is a fabulous place to just spend time and every gaming session was different depending on what I fancied doing; rob a store using a stolen helicopter or compete in a triathlon – there aren’t many games which allow you to make that choice. The music, the missions, the mundane and the mayhem all merge to offer an incredible and eclectic mix.
In retrospect there have been some little niggles which could impact your enjoyment of the game. The launch of GTA: Online was less than smooth and I can appreciate the reasons, but the most frustrating thing was the loss of cloud based characters and having to repeat the introduction sections each time it happened. The inability to switch from a public lobby to a private one without quitting to the single player game was just strange. Our own reviewer of the game admitted that he nearly changed his review score, after the racially aggravated violence and murder he experienced out in the countryside whilst playing as Franklin started to interfere with his progress. Many people complained about the graphics ruining the immersion for them, despite the variety of activities available with little to no loading times. Finally, the lack of a next generation version is really disappointing as I took the decision to mothball my PS3; now I appreciate that this is perhaps a very personal criticism as GTA Online has great potential if well supported (I was still playing RDR online with friends until quite recently), but I wonder how many PS4 and Xbox One adopters will have the space and inclination to keep both old and new consoles connected when the big next gen titles start to appear over the next few months?
So why was Soulwax FM the eureka moment? I realised that on numerous occasions whilst playing, I would pull up at a destination during a mission just to sit in the car until the end of a song, as I do in real life. The next minute I would be chasing my friend on a dirt bike in a fighter jet, and I have not yet been able to do this in real life. It’s this fantastic blend of the insane and the inane that made GTA V a truly immersive experience for me and, without a shadow of a doubt, my Game of the Year!
Matt – Bioshock Infinite
My game of the year decision is based on one simple principle – what do I remember after finishing a game? We’ve all played a lot this year and some titles easily blend into another, particularly if it’s in the FPS genre. Bioshock Infinite stands out from the crowd in both it’s construction of an alternate reality and the story it’s trying to tell, and it’s one of those games that makes you want to play through it again to see how many clues to the finale you can spot, as well as deepening the immersion into the world because you’re paying more attention. Sure, it’s not perfect. I’d have liked it to be a bit longer, some of the boss battles are very simplistic, and the DLC is extremely slow at coming out and it’s questionable if it’s worth the price of the season pass (it’s good but short and at this rate it’ll have been a year since the game release before we get the second part of Burial at Sea).
It’s no surprise that quality story telling and game mechanics come from Irrational Games, they crafted the original Bioshock to give a completely new experience and have produced one of the greatest game memes in “Would you kindly?” (only beaten by “the cake is a lie”). Throughout Infinite you’re strongly reminded of the journey taken through the original game, they both start with lighthouses, there’s a confining capsule used to transport you to the technologically marvellous cities, and there’s a tyrant in control that needs overthrowing. Colombia might be a city in the clouds, but for all intents and purposes you could be back underwater in Rapture. That is up until you meet Elizabeth. Your AI companion isn’t your usual moving barrier, bullet catcher or enemy hoover, she’s the integral part of the story and the game, and because of this she’s fleshed out in more detail and given more character than most other protagonists in any other title. If you’re a fan of co-op gaming then Elizabeth is the perfect co-op partner: always in the right place, shares the loot found in the world, doesn’t hog the kills, and actively works to get you through the game. It’s an experience like no other I can think of and it can’t really be compared with other titles, The Last of Us was a different dynamic with a very different relationship and story to tell, Elizabeth is the story in Infinite, you’re just the mechanism used for moving that story along.
Infinite also does a great job of detailing the world around you and providing moments that really do make you stop and wonder. I spent several minutes early in the game listening to a barbershop quartet singing something I vaguely recognised, and when I did figure it out I was left wondering how a song from 50 years in the future of the game setting was being sung at that point. These questions were answered, but not immediately. As the player you’re left to figure things out for yourself, come up with the theories and suppositions, then end up being completely wrong when the real answer comes along. That scripting works right the way up to the final reveal where you’ve been led down a particular path of thought, have decided what’s going on behind the scenes, then get your mind blown in the last 5 minutes. For those of you reading this that have played it, how many of you sat there stunned in silence at the end, just allowing your brain to process what had happened, and what it all meant? This is the reason it’s my game of the year, nothing else has come close to giving me that feeling.
That wraps up our best of 2013, but what about our worst? What were those games that caused us to take the discs out of our machines and snap them in two? Or trade within 2 days of purchase? Read our Lame of the Year to find out!