Now that MiddleEasy is a multifaceted site, our end of year awards must include another element aside from MMA — and with the crew here, it’s only right that we dive into the gaming industry.
The MiddleEasy Awards for 2013 Games of the Year is here and we have a pretty eclectic selection for you. Without further ado, check out our new digital award show.
Yeah that’s right, a launch title, a free one if you have PS+ at that. It might just in fact be my favorite launch title of all-time. Resogun ranks up there with Power Stone (another one of my favorite launch titles of all-time) and Halo 1. I’ve gone on record before that my favorite arcade game is Robotron 2084, so it should come to no one’s surprise that I adore Resogun. The gameplay is extremely similar to Robotron 2084, the major difference is instead of playing in a square, you’re playing on a sphere. You still move on a 2D plane, you have to collect humans, much like in Robotron it’s completely optional, but if you’re a Billy Mitchell wannabe, you’re going to collect those humans. The graphics are incredible, all the particle effects are impressive without getting in the way of the actual gameplay, which is important. Some games of this type have huge particle effects that make it hard to tell what you’re actually doing. The most important aspect of these types of games is the replayability, and I can confidently say that there are few games I’ve ever played that has the “Okay, just one more game.” effect on me as much as this one does. It makes you strive for perfection, even though it’s unobtainable, the way it blends the difficulty is nothing short of masterful. It’s intense and hard, yet it never feels unfair, when you die, it’s your fault. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up staying up far too late just so I can beat my highscore, this game is everything I wanted in an arcade shoot ‘em up as a Gary Jr. growing up in the arcades, and it’s everything I want now as an old Gary Jr. in a basement.
What can I say about Bioshock Infinite? Well I can say that Ken Levine is a better human being than you are and can ever hope to be. I can’t even talk about the story, I just can’t, I’m not going to do it justice and I’d be doing whoever is reading this a disservice to even attempt to delve into the story. What I can say is that the art direction is some of the best I’ve ever seen in all of video games. The way Ken Levine and his staff portrayed Columbia as a 1912 alternate American is a feat that is astonishing in every way. They’ve somehow created such a beautiful world yet have made it feel so disgusting and dirty with its themes and the issues it decides to tackle. The way the game makes you feel uncomfortable while you’re in such a beautiful and on the surface light hearted environment is rare in video games. Normally in the medium that is video games, everything is at face value, they don’t treat the player as if they are smart, they beat them over the head with information so they know exactly what’s going on, that isn’t the case here and it’s wonderful. There are subtle moments that not everyone will notice, the way the story is told, the way the world is created, it’s not beating you over the head with information the developer feels that you need to know. They feel as if you’re intelligent enough to figure it out on your own at times. Speaking of treating the player as if they are intelligent, the pacing of this game might just be the best part of it. It has moments with absolutely nothing going on and you can just rush to the next sequence, but you don’t. You explore every last inch of this world, you read every poster, you listen to every conversation that the people who inhabit the world have because the world is just that interesting. This in contrast with the fast paced action melds together so perfectly, making those moments of silence and peace that much more enjoyable. I know after the game was released and received so much universal praise, a bunch of people pushed back and said that the game isn’t as good as the reviews are saying it is, citing the combat as the main reason why. The combat is fun, the vigors, upgrading your weapon, the skyhook sequences, it’s all fun. It’s not Half Life 2 in that respect, but it’s still incredibly fun, chaining up vigors, escaping death is just an absolute blast. Oh also, the story, THE STORY! Seriously, go play this game right now.
The Last Of Us
The Last Of Us. This is my favorite game of the year bar none and there are few games that evoke the kind of emotion out of a player of that game did. It’s not just the story either, it’s the brutal nature of the combat that evokes such an unsettling emotion out of the player. When forced to fight your way through a wave of humans, the violence is so brutal it becomes unsettling at times, not necessarily in a bad way either, it feels attune to the nature of the world inside The Last of Us. The music from composer Gustavo Santaolalla is the best in recent memory, it’s simplistic in nature but still manages to perfectly describe the scene. After defeating TLOU, I was at work listening to the soundtrack and as each song played, I was replaying the scene in my head and it’d actually make me relive those moments in my head. The gameplay itself is beyond harrowing, when approaching a group of clickers, knowing that detection would mean instant death makes your skin crawl. Coupled with the the fact that your ammo and supplies are so limited, getting detected is so nerve wracking, it’s something that I haven’t felt before in video games. Then there is the story, I won’t get too deep into it, just because spoiling this would be an awful thing to do. While it does have some cliches, the way it deals with them and the characters that are involved in the story makes you forget all about it. Today in video games, especially with games that deal with moral choices, often times it’s either angelic good and a near comedic level of evil. The way that every character and Joel in particular isn’t good nor evil is refreshing, even later on in the game when you’re aware that you aren’t necessarily doing the right thing, you still feel compelled to do so. It gets to the root of humans, the desire to do what’s best for them when all is said and done. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s good, really really really good.
My God, we loved WW2 games around the turn of the century, didn’t we? Then about eight or so years ago, the general public lashed out violently against any and all simulations of the bloodiest war known to mankind. It was the right thing to do. At the peak of WW2 games releases, each title became increasingly derivative, and WW2 was used as the go-to environment for a shooter. Naturally, WW2 fatigue weighed heavy on us all, but the main point was that the shooter genre in general became weak with few innovations. We’re seeing the same basic issues with the shooters released in 2013 as the ones released in 2006. There’s just nothing new or interesting happening out there.
So Red Orchestra 2, a first person shooter based on WW2’s Eastern Front launched shakily in 2011 with a host of problems, but it’s authentic squad-based gameplay and and realistic weapon mechanics were eventually refined into this 2013 expansion that sends you to the Pacific, Rising Storm. You rush up the sands of Iwo Jima, do battle like the kid from Jurassic Park, as palm trees sway and the guts of your comrade collect around your ankles. The gameplay is fantastic, and the feeling you get when you work as a team to take a point is truly magnificent. You haven’t played an FPS until you’ve had a great commander lead a perfect banzai charge.
Ni No Kuni
Japanese RPGs have been in kind of a lull for the last decade or so. Sure, you get the odd Tales game or something, maybe a few random other properties, but Level-5, with Rogue Galaxy, Professor Layton and now Ni No Kuni, are clearly the Japanese RPG superpower, usurping Square Enix sometime in the night. Helping Level-5 bring Ni No Kuni to life is Studio Ghibli who created Spirited away and Princess Mononoke (to name a few), and it’s nothing short of magical. You follow Oliver, a denizen of Motortown, after his mother dies and he’s left with a stuffed toy turned magical guide as his only friend. Naturally, a globe-spanning adventure ensues.
Ni No Kuni plays like a real-time Pokemon that’s stuck halfway in a turn-based system. I think that may be totally accurate while not really explaining anything. I’m so sorry. Just feel assured that the gameplay is super fun, and the animation is breathtaking. The writing and directing are top-notch and this is one of those magical Ghibli/Japanese RPG experiences that will stick with you for years. My personal Game of the Year.
Civ 5: Brave New World
Ugh, just one. More. Turn. Civ 5’s Brave New World expansion took that famous phrase to a whole new level when they introduced caravans, shipping routes and new ways to beat the game using a World Congress or the usual methods. I already adore the Civ series as a whole, and I feel like the addition of the World Congress was one of the best things to happen to the game in years. Political intrigue, lobbying and paying off neighboring countries all to crush your enemies under the weight of your mighty pen.
It’s a wonderful thing, this expansion. It can add hundreds of more hours and make a great experience even better.
Have you heard of Outlast?
It’s the most terrifying gaming experience I’ve ever had. I bought it during the Autumn sale right in time for Halloween and have logged probably twenty minutes on the game. So yeah, one of my Game of the Year nominees I’ve barely played, but I’ve barely played it because it’s so damn scary. The game is so good at what it does, I can’t play it. Thus, it’s one of the best at what it does.
I highly recommend not playing it, but still buying it. Yeah.
I began the year a relative football newb, but now I’m completely addicted to FIFA 14 on the Xbox One.
FIFA was already a great experience on the current generation of consoles, but once you go next-gen, well, it’s nice to know that you are playing the best possible version of a title. It’s one of those rare snapshots in time that has to be appreciated, you know? Everything about FIFA 14 screams quality when you play it, from the physics to the player AI.
There are countless nuances that make the game feel truly next generation, even if you can’t see them at first glance. FIFA 14 is pretty damn close to perfect.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite game of the year. Not for one second did I have to shoot a zombie or alien, never did I have to run a saw through someone and I didn’t have to worry about how bad the online portion would be. This is a game that is not for everyone, but for those who would appreciate a game like Gone Home it is a work of art. Gone Home pushes that storytelling can be a driving force in a game and that not every game has to revolve around classic game play mechanics for it to be worthy of our time. Gone Home will emotionally move you and most of the time you’ll be pretty damned scared while playing it, because it is very clear that there is something very wrong.
Oh my god it’s make using Game Maker, how can this be considered a real game, never mind one of the games of the year? Because it is brilliant, creative and most importantly — it is so incredibly fun. Surveying a scene before you decide the best course of action is one of the most fun parts of the game and playing through a level while following your plan was one of the most rewarding things in all games this year. There is also something to be said about flying by the seat of your pants, just running in, punching a guard out and then figuring out what’s next one step at a time. This is just another example of games not needing to have billion dollar budgets and huge marketing campaigns to be worth your money and time.
Beyond: Two Souls
David Cage and Quantic Dream have a vision for gaming, much like Ken Levine and Irrational have a vision for gaming, but I gotta say that I love that Quantic’s vision doesn’t involve wave after wave of bad guy. No, you can’t die in Beyond: Two Souls and no, it’s not a difficult game, but with that being said, while you are immersed in the story it will feel just as tense as other games because the story is so engaging. Unlike past Quantic Dream games this game doesn’t all of a sudden have a ridiculous twist that ruins the rest of the game for you. The tale of Jodie and Aiden is some of the most powerful and best-presented storytelling in any game, ever. You also can’t help but marvel at the graphics for a PS3 game, it is, much like The Last of Us, a testament to late-generation games using every ounce of power of a system to create something beautiful.
Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior
CDW is an expansion pack for Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and honestly does a lot of the same while changing a few parts of the core gameplay of the original. I’m including this because while it is an expansion, it costs about the same as the core game does and it does enough to feel like a different game. The timing for blocks and strikes are different, the balance feels better than the original game does, nothing feels “broke” like in the original and while there are some glaring omissions in modes (TEAM OBJECTIVE, C’MON), the multi-team death matches and Last Team Standing modes feel like they involve their own unique strategies to them, as does the newly-added Hold the Banner.
Grand Theft Auto V
This will probably be on everyone’s list and that is an important thing to note, because I feel like GTA IV was a bit more divisive than that. It wasn’t that Niko’s darker story was bad, it was that he felt flat, things felt preachy and that the city just didn’t feel fun to explore, especially with the given missions. GTA V’s choice of using three main characters, allowing you to switch between them while just messing around, or doing their own unique side quests is a lot of fun. Then their missions where they work together and you have to switch between them just worked perfectly. In fact, I kind of feel like we didn’t get enough of that, just like we didn’t get enough of the very, very excellent heists. They could have built an entire game around those heists and instead they just scratched the surface. You don’t have real options when it comes to picking a crew and there aren’t enough to really level up your lesser crew members, which is kind of weak. GTA Online, on the other hand, had so much promise and has been such a giant failure. Even so, the main GTA V is a really fun 30+ hours of game.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
My God, Phoenix Wright is back! It’s weird to consider that only one Phoenix Wright game was developed for the DS in mind and that there hasn’t been a Phoenix Wright game since then, making this the first Phoenix Wright on 3DS. Sure, there were spin-off titles, games focused on Edgeworth or Wright’s new employee, Apollo Justice, but this one is supposed to be the next one in the main story. A few of the characters that we knew and loved from the first few games are just not mentioned at all, which kind of sucks, but having a bunch of new characters as witnesses, persons of interest and a new prosecutor is great. This game is the right mix of new features in with the tried-and-true gameplay and storytelling.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
This one is a late addition for me, as I played it in 2014 after purchasing it on Steam during a sale. It’s a game that I knew that I’d want to play, but for some reason I never got around to it. Brothers is a lesson in interactive storytelling without much by the way of communication. Subtle visual cues push you forward and only at the very beginning does the game tell you what you should be pressing, from there on it is up to you to find your own way. The twin sticks controls, one for each character, might feel a bit unwieldy at first, but learning to be comfortable with it goes along with being comfortable with both brothers and working together. It’s a wonderful gameplay mechanic, as is the only language in the game being gibberish, it makes you feel like you are playing ICO or Journey, which is a great thing. The puzzles don’t hurt, either.