Well holy hell. It’s the end of 2013. This is New England Gamer’s FOURTH game of the year article. Thinking back to 2010 when all this started, it’s crazy to think just how far we’ve come. There’s not a whole lot to say besides well, thank you. Here’s to another year of NEG and another year of awesome games.
PC | OSX
Using the Haxe programming language and the NME framework, developer Lucas Pope wanted to make a game that could successfully master the feeling of working as an immigrations inspector while mixing in social commentary. Needless to say, he pulled it off pretty well. Papers, Please was submitted to Steam Greenlight and accepted days later. Working the border for the fictional communist country of Arstotzka, your job is to make sure only people who possess the right paperwork get into the country. If you don’t, you lose money, which you need to provide for your family. There are also bigger consequences. Maybe you overlooked that this particular individual’s birthday doesn’t match on all four of their forms, or maybe you missed that this particular city isn’t in the country it says its in. This happened to me multiple times. In one instance, the person I let through on accident had a bomb strapped to them, blowing up the border checkpoint after getting through. As more and more terrorist attacks become rampant, people need more forms of identification, making the game more difficult. On top of this, morality comes into play. You have reviewed this person’s documents and it all checks out. However, you’ve learned once they get into the country, they will be running a human trafficking operation. What do you do? It’s the right mix of strategy, thrill, and morality that comes together to make the Papers, Please formula just so damn addicting. Next!
Xbox 360| PlayStation 3| PC
Towards the end of 2012, Ubisoft brought us the surprise hit Far Cry 3. The open world game brought us all kinds of adventure and surprise on a beautiful, lush island. (PS- Try playing the game with no UI. It’s magical) Early on in 2013, a teaser was released that was meant to mock the video games and action movies of the 1980s. The end revealed a title for a game called “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” I thought it was a joke. Nope! Instead, we were given what is arguably one of the most daring DLCs ever attempted by a AAA publisher. Taking place in the futuristic year 2007, you play as Sergeant Rex Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando, as you help take down Colonel Sloan and his Omega Force. Like its big brother, the game is open world. However, everything is all cyber’d out with bright colors and grids. As you punch your way through cyber sharks and bears while collecting VHS tapes, the game features a really great 80s soundtrack and more cheesy one-liners than you’ll ever know what to do with. With arguably hours upon hours of stuff to do for a stand alone game that costs just $15, it’s hard to have a bad time with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
PC| OSX| Linux | Our Review
After designing games such as Bioshock 2 at 2K Marin and Bioshock Infinite at Irrational Games, Steve Gaynor plucked some fellow 2K Marin talent and formed his own indie studio called The Fullbright Company. Their first game would be called Gone Home. This game definitely can be paralleled to Bioshock. It is a first person game, it’s very atmospheric, and there’s a story to piece together. The big difference? No combat. You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a young girl returning to her family in Oregon from Europe in June, 1995. Once you arrive at the door of your family’s inherited mansion, you notice nobody is home. As you navigate through the house, you try to piece together just where the hell everybody is. Using voice cues and notes you find, you slowly piece together the story. While the “puzzles” are finding combinations to locks, you’re always eager to find the next big clue. On top of all this, the game is absolutely loaded with nostalgic references if you were a 90s kid like myself. Lasting only about an hour, the ending of the game is a bit depressing, yet beautiful. It will also leave you wanting more. The Fullbright Company hit it out of the park with their first release and hopefully there’s plenty more to come. With the video-games-as-art war raging on, Gone Home is a whole new army.
Xbox 360| PlayStation 3| PC| Xbox One| PlayStation 4 | Our Review
Say what you will about Assassin’s Creed III (I personally enjoyed it), but Ubisoft had pretty big boots to fill for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. You play as daring swashbuckler Edward Kenway, the Grandfather of Connor from AC3, who stumbles upon the Templar fiasco amongst his high seas hijinks. The top mordern layer (that nobody ever seems to care about it) takes place in a new division of Abstergo that is focusing on making a video game. It takes place in Montreal (heh) and provides some clever, new insight to that side of the franchise after Desmond Miles had more than run his course. Back in the historic side of the game, Edward can sail on the high seas with his ship and crew, as well as swim to land and take on all sorts of objectives. This is the first Assassin’s Creed game to truly feel like an open world experience. There’s plenty of hunting, treasure seeking, assassinating (duh) and general tomfoolery to be had. By making the game more simple, yet fun and throwing in insanely beautiful graphics, a beefed up game engine, and all the sea shanties you can handle, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag might just be the best one so far.
Coming out just a mere 21 years after the first game, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds brought us back into the same land from the Super Nintendo classic. However, this one takes place six generations later. On top of this, it takes place in an alternate version of Hyrule called “Lorule,” which must have been decided on a Friday at 4:55pm. Returning to the wonderful Zelda world of top-down gameplay, much of the land looks exactly the same from A Link to the Past, however, all the dungeons are completely new. Not to mention everything looks beautiful running on a Nintendo 3DS. Another gameplay function (or lack thereof) praised is the game does not require any sort of stylus integration. This Zelda game is unique in the sense that dungeons can be visited in any order, along with the ability to “rent” items that one would usually need to obtain. Be careful, however, if you die, you will need to buy the items again from the man who is presumably looting them from your corpse (kinda fucked up, huh?). With Nintendo masterfully incorporating 3D elements and addicting gameplay into their newest title as usual, the wait was a long time coming, but ended up being totally worth it.
Xbox 360| PlayStation 3| PC
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a heist? This is the question Overkill Software and Starbreeze Studios attempted not too long ago with Payday: The Heist. It was…pretty good. But it could’ve been better, and they knew that. Payday 2 solved literally all of those problems. This is the absolute definitive heist game. Building on the first game and incorporating RPG elements, you build up your reputation jumping into online heists with friends or strangers to try and get the most money possible. Some of the missions involve anything robbing banks to armored cars to entire streets. Every missin starts with you and your team scoping out the area. Eventually, you hold a button to put your mask on and the heist is under way. Everything you imagined you would need to take care of in a heist has to be accomplished in this game. Make sure to keep screaming at your hostages to keep them scared. Don’t forget to tie a few up to use as bargaining chips in case one of your teammates gets arrested. Keep working that drill currently attached to the safe. Get in, get as much money as you can carry, and get out. Keep in mind there will be entire cities of police officers coming at you. The game features thrilling moments again and again. Unloading a machine gun with two others back to back while the fourth man cleaned out an armored truck in the middle of a busy intersection was definitely one of the coolest gaming moments I had this year. After each mission, plop new points into your skill tree, customize your mask, and add attachments to your weapons. Every mission will go differently no matter how many times you do it. Borrowing on the four player teamwork equation started with Left 4 Dead, Payday 2 is a game that you can play for hours and hours without being bored of. Just make sure at least one person equips ammo bags, because you’ll need ‘em.
Xbox 360| PlayStation 3| PC| Coming soon to Xbox One| PlayStation 4
After much needed time off, developers Crystal Dynamics brought back our beloved Lara Croft, and in turn, one of the surprise smash hits of the year. Completely revamping what we know of the franchise, the game features a younger Lara Croft as she battles both the elements, characters, and other surprises on a harsh, unforgiving island. Combining gritty combat with almost parkour-like controls, it became very difficult to put this one down. On top of all this, the game is downright beautiful. From shipwrecked shores to snowy mountains, you become very sucked into this world. As you venture further into the story, the game’s difficulty dramatically increases. Your enemies are very high in variety and require different tactics and weapons to take them down. The island itself is an enemy as you battle the sides of cliffs, leaping from rock to rock over enormous drops, and various tons of century-old traps via quick time moments. Tomb Raider is the definition of an adventure game. With the immense popularity and a next gen native 1080p release coming, a sequel is definitely on the horizon. Hopefully it involves dinosaurs.
Xbox 360| PlayStation 3| PC| OSX | Our Review
Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt. These words, now infamous, helped shape what would be one of the best single player experiences of 2013. Our hometown fellows over at Quincy, MA’s Irrational Games first game since the original Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite was well worth the wait. Switching from the dark, depressing underworld of Rapture, the player journeys from a lighthouse to high above the clouds in the city of Columbia. You play as Booker DeWitt, a man who owes a gambling debt and is sent to Columbia to bring back a girl named Elizabeth. “Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt.” Upon arriving at Columbia, you realize things aren’t all they appear to be. Just because the game is bright and colorful in the daylight, it doesn’t make the setting any less terrifyingly creepy. The game plays out similar to the structure of the original Bioshock. There’s an awesome world to explore, tons of backstory, and overll solid combat. Once you find Elizabeth early in the game, she accompanies you throughout the rest. Fear not that Elizabeth is a mere “escort mission,” because this is easily some of the better AI I have seen in any video game. Vigors are forms of essentially magic that fill in for plasmids from the first game. These let Booker do anything from shoot fire to swarm enemies with murderous crows. As you venture through the world of Columbia, you notice a war is brewing. On top of this, Elizabeth has some strange powers of her own. Combining everything and concluding with an ending that is just as special as the original Bioshock, Infinite was well worth the 6 year wait. It is truly a special game that even the most casual gamer can really appreciate.
Xbox 360| PlayStation 3 | Our Review
2008 brought us Grand Theft Auto IV, the first game for the 360 and PS3 lifespan. It rebooted Liberty City and had some great ideas. 5 years go by and it’s only appropriate these consoles go out with what is (so far) the best Grand Theft Auto of all time. This time, we were plopped into Los Santos, AKA a rebooted version of San Andreas. Another new element is you play as more than one character this time. Michael is a retired thief who is trying to deal with his crumbling marriage and spoiled, bratty kids. Franklin is an up and coming criminal living in the ‘hood who is trying to find his place in the world. Trevor is a redneck maniac serial killer/drug dealer who is about to get his big sale when everything goes to shit. In my opinion, they’re the best characters Rockstar has ever written. Also in my opinion, they represent the three “original” Grand Theft Auto games. Trevor is GTA3, where all the crazy chaos started. Michael is Vice City, trying to settle down in a world full of maniacs. Franklin is San Andreas, a young man trapped in the gangsta lifestyle. Allowing for you to swap between the three at any time made for some of the better gaming moments this year. The missions are fantastic and making a bunch of heists (the best mission from GTA IV) the main quests was a genius move. On top of this, this is the biggest game world that Rockstar has ever created. Before launch, they said it was as big as Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption, and Grand Theft Auto San Andreas combined. Not only were they telling the truth, every single part of it looks absolutely stunning. For a game running on 8 year old hardware, it’s almost impossible to believe. The combat mechanics are fantastic, borrowing elements from last year’s Max Payne 3. The driving mechanics are phenomenal and you never feel like it’s impossible or too easy to drive anything. One could simply spend hours and hours just exploring through land, sea, and air. On top of all this, GTA Online, despite bugs at first, is an incredible online experience. Allowing you and your friends to cause all kinds of free roaming chaos together. Once you finally finish the enormous campaign, the only question left to ask is how will Rockstar Games possibly top this one? Frankly, it’s going to be hard.
PlayStation 3 | Our Review
At the 2011 Video Game Awards, developer Naughty Dog showed off a trailer for their new IP. After much success on the unbelieveable Uncharted series, it turned out to be a survival horror adventure game called The Last of Us. Secretly in development with a secret team since the release of Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog wanted to create a totally believable world set in a post apocalyptic United States. The game is based on a real fungus called Cordyceps. The developers saw how this fungus takes over ants and controls them. From here, they developed a story in which a mutated strain of Cordyceps completely consumes humanity, causing it to crumble. Drawing influences from such movies as Children of Men and I Am Legend, the world is incredibly believable and depressing. The intro of the game introduces Joel, and is absolutely heart racing. After the intro, we’re given full control over Joel, a man who, like the few that remain, is trying to survive in 2033 (20 years later). He is living on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts (aw yeah) doing supply runs while sneaking outside a harsh, government controlled town. After some exploring, we meet Ellie, a young girl who only knows this torn apart world. Joel is then tasked with transporting her across the country to get to a resistance group known as the Fireflies. From here, you’re constantly battling enemies, both human and zombie-like creatures who were once human, on a quest to keep her safe. The graphics in this game are absolutely unbelievable. Despite being set in a completely destroyed world with barely any hope, you can’t help but appreciate the beauty in each and every scene. Building on the fantastic controls and gameplay Naughty Dog has always provided, you fight and scrap your way through amazing scenery all over our country. The combat is unmatched. While incredibly brutal, it is presented in a very cinematic format. As the game and story progresses, Joel and you as a player start to develop a real connection with Ellie. You want to protect this girl, you know what’s at stake, and you’ll do it at all cost. There are many moments in this game where she’s in grave danger due to groups of humans and I found myself not holding back. One such instance takes place upon arriving in the city of Pittsburgh. Two men went after her and before they could touch her, I had shoved one’s neck through pointed glass from a broken window with the other begging on his knees for me not to blow him away with a shotgun I had pointed at him. I did anyways. His face blew into a million pieces as Joel fired point blank. Not because I was a “gamer,” but because they were trying to interfere with her and the mission. By the end of the game, I realized how many people I had murdered throughout that I didn’t need to at all. There were some that weren’t even armed, but they still jeopardized Ellie’s life. It’s (un)intentional moments like these that truly stand out a video game from the rest. The campaign is incredibly long and challenging. Not once did I ever feel safe in the probably 14 hours it took me to beat it. It’s almost hard to determine which enemies are more dangerous: the ones who are living, or the ones consumed by disease. Incorporating heavy stealth elements into a game where you are almost exclusively followed by AI was a real challenge for the team, but they pulled it off without a second thought. All of this is capped off with a truly moving ending. For an original IP, Naughty Dog absolutely hit it out of the park. Crazy to see how far they’ve come since Crash Bandicoot, huh? After the credits, I felt bad. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I realized it will be a long time before we (hopefully) get a sequel. The Last of Us is New England Gamer’s 2013 Game of the Year and if you have not played it, you’re missing out on something incredibly special.