Deranged Midget

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DM's Year End Awards: Top Ten Games of 2013

Waitamunute, waitaminute, waitaminute!

WHERE THE HECK DID 2013 GO!? Well damn, I missed everything didn't I!? I guess all that's left now is to make some list about my favourite games of the year or something right? Yeah, that sounds familiar, I'll go with that. AND GO!

(SIDE NOTE): I did not finish every game this year nor am I including next-gen because I simply have not had the time to complete the games I do have and it just wouldn't do any justice to toss them up without fully experiencing what they have to offer!

10. State of Decay

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It wouldn't be much of a stretch to clarify that I may have a hilariously awkward obsession with anything relatable to post-apocalyptic worst case scenarios. It's an odd fixation that centres around my need for observing how we fantasize over the collapse of modern human society and how the survivors manage to cope and adapt to these new worlds. With State of Decay, developer Undead Labs pushes that boundary even further by giving you those EXACT tools for true survival aspects with managing a community, providing for your people and taking risks that affect either those you care about or selfishly looking out for yourself.

There's isn't a clear cut sense of right and wrong with SoD and that's what I love about it. The game manages to perform at its best when it forces the player to second guess themselves and their decisions, whether it be for the betterment of their community or not. It's a game that keeps you on edge, a world that doesn't hold your hand out in the wild and it becomes terrifyingly evident when you realize that you ARE NOT invincible against the endless waves of the undead. You struggle to find supplies to keep your community adrift and just when you think it's time to lay low, SoD allows you to believe that you are safe and comfortable until you get swamped in the middle of the night by more powerful, mutated versions of the monstrosities aching for your flesh.

For an arcade title, the game boasts quite a production value. It won't be the itch you're looking for when comparing it to top profile titles but that's not where Undead Labs laid their focus on and that's the beauty of it. The game is more than competent when it comes to acknowledging the diverse playstyles of gamers and gives you the option, and a satisfyingly enormous world, to engage with whatever you come across in any which way you please. This is why State of Decay kicks of my list with a bang.

9. Dead Space 3

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Largely considered one of the last titles on the market that truly boasts the survival horror aspect of old, Dead Space 3 manages to yet again craft a brilliant, dark, mind-numbingly thrill ride of an experience. Following Issac Clarke yet again but this time around, our protagonist is borderline insane after the trauma's experienced throughout the first two titles. The game changer this time around? Tossing up against human enemies and having the ability to do so with a friend.

Now, Dead Space 3 follows the same route that Resident Evil 5 went after both games were highly acclaimed for being revolutionary amongst their genres. In this case, I feel co-op only helps enhance the experience and in no way does the game become any easier by doing so. There's also further improvements with the fantastic weapon crafting in addition to a wide selection of goodies in terms of chilling audio collectibles and a creative degree of unlockable outfits to utilize, some even allowing for beneficial boosts to the player's gameplay.

While Dead Space 3 lacks the initial "oomph" that the former titles provided, co-op manages to provide a reinvigorating motivation to continue on and a new set of absolutely stunning locales just keep things fresh throughout the lengthy experience. Dead Space 3 is sadly a largely overlooked and underappreciated experience in 2013 but despite that, I couldn't help but drain dozens of hours into the latest installment of Visceral's top notch shooter.

8. Tomb Raider

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Re-imagining of a cult icon? Check. Extremely gorgeous and accessible world? Check. Wonderfully engaging story and expertly crafted gameplay? Check and check. Despite some of the initial negative feedback when first hearing about the news for a Tomb Raider reboot, Crystal Dynamics still managed to conquer through the pessimism and succeed in recreating one of the best third-person action/adventure titles on the market that originally went on to inspire modern titans such as Uncharted.

On top of being one of the few IP's to not only pull off the impossible of breathing new life in an all but exhausted franchise, it jumps an extra step in improving and adapting the changes that modern titles have since revolutionized since Tomb Raider's dawn over a decade ago. This new outlook on Lara Croft is engaging as instead of jumping straight into the shoes of an experienced warrior, we struggle with our protagonist every step of the way. Every injury, every achievement, every heartbreaking loss. It's a touching and even stressful experience that you just cannot help but become engrossed within.

7. Splinter Cell: Blacklist

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Just when you thought a franchise was inadvertently headed in the completely wrong direction, it manages to pull the most abrupt U-turn in the history of gaming and rush head on and completely surprise almost everyone who once doubted its existence. Ubisoft Toronto has crafted an experience for every type of gamer and that's not even an exaggeration. Ok well, maybe it is but trust me, Blacklist manages to appeal to almost any style that has come across the "stealth/action" genre in the past decade.

Yeah ok, one of the aspects of the game that truly disappointed or even isolated a group of fans was the dismissal of veteran Sam Fisher voice actor: Michael Ironside. This time around, they chose to go with a fresh take on the character, a younger take if you will, and if anyone is familiar with Smallville's Eric Johnson, they'll feel relatively at home. He lacks the general experience and gruff that Ironside brought to the table but he still manages to bring an interesting take and even a relatable one.

Alongside a gritty story with some incredible options for co-op, Blacklist knocks it out of the park by reintroducing the critically acclaimed Spies vs Mercs multiplayer portion, long since abandoned by the past few titles in the series. A truly unique experience that pushes players to tactically cooperate with their teammates to succeed in a multiplayer component completely focused on objective based gameplay. It's almost a call-back to the days of old, a time where it took more than a itchy trigger finger to keep you alive and it's a wonderful experience that helps complete and already fantastic package.

6. Grand Theft Auto V

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Well, I'm pretty sure that this is the only title on this list that won't need an introduction. GTA V, arguably the most popular title of the year, manages to comfortably ease its way into my top ten list without any hassle whatsoever. Ok hold up, can we maybe take a second to acknowledge how ridiculously MASSIVE this game is. I don't mean in the sense of the game world, just in terms of how much content Rockstar Games has managed to stuff into one title, crafting what could be the final hoorah of the seventh generation of gaming.

Interestingly enough, with boasting three main protagonists rather than just one, GTA V juggles the intertwining stories with remarkable awe but at the same time, it almost becomes an intimidating or even overwhelming experience, one that you cannot even help but fathom or even applaud the developers for taking genuine time and appreciation with. Rockstar, with their unmatched experience in the sandbox genre, further continues to improve upon not only their storytelling, but finally tweak their previously sluggish and buggy control system to near perfection this time around. This allows for an overall increased enjoyment in nearly every sector that the game provides, INCLUDING the driving.

It'd be an understatement in saying that GTA V wasn't a pretty gem. It becomes clear from the get-go how incredibly detailed everything is in the game, and you find yourself just taking the time to appreciate the scenery. Sadly, the only thing that keeps GTA V from rising higher on my list is my ever continuing poor experience with the multiplayer side of things. At times it manages to function and when it does, it's quite the thrill ride. Yet, it's still largely inconsistent and a lot of the promises made have yet to be provided for. Despite that being said, this is an experience that cannot be missed.

5. DmC: Devil May Cry

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There's a certain authenticity that comes with approaching the Devil May Cry reboot, which even to this day is disregarded merely on the approach to the reimagining of another video game icon; Dante. Sadly, I find those claims to be a tad bit overbearing as with experiencing everything Ninja Theory's reboot offers, I have no shame in claiming that this entry in the (new?) series is arguably one of its most refined and focused. The revered combat makes a triumphant return and for the better If I were to be so bold. There's a more focused approach this time around, with fluidity between powers and weapons being the focus, making it both accessible to new players and those who have spent years with the series.

On top of refining an already near perfect combat experience, Ninja Theory takes a gamble of tackling a similar but fresh take on Dante's origin which manages to only further impact both the story and combat in a more positive way. There's an impactful experience to be found with Dante's tragic and hidden past and despite being largely crude at many points throughout its rather lengthy playtime, the jumps taken into more mature territory administer surprising results. With mentioning a DmC title, you can't help but applaud the gorgeous art styles that follow. While being a little buggy at times, the game carries an artistic style that is to be envied and perfectly blends the diverse themes addressed in the wild ride that Ninja Theory thankfully managed to recreate.

4. BioShock Infinite

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So yeah, BioShock Infinite am I right? See now, we've reached in my list where everything I say just becomes incoherent babble and I just end up rambling on about how these games even manage to exist. Bear with me, it's about to get messy. I'm going to kick things off with stating that Irrational Games manages to make the absolute BEST introductions that just drag you in every time, despite how you feel going into the game. In my case, I waited several months before jumping in and truthfully, I totally tried going all hipster with this one. The end result, just nope. I cannot express how much I loved this game, a triumph that borders the creative brilliance of the original back in 2007.

Infinite is only linear in its combat and honestly, while they have improved the shooting aspect, I feel like it just left the Vigors (Infinite's version of Plasmids) completely obsolete in a lot of situations considering the sheer power of some of the weapons, and how generally uninteresting a large majority of the Vigors were. Now we jump into the the mess that is explaining how ridiculously amazing the story is. It cannot be put into words, it just can't or I'm just too limited in my vocabulary to do so. Every time you may think you know where the story is headed, Infinite just rears up and slaps you in the face, as if the developers are laughing at your expectations.

And then we have the locale and the visuals. Holy moley is this game jaw-dropping. There are moments where you find yourself forced to put down the controller and just gaze upon the creativity behind these expertly imagined worlds. Despite being held back at times with a relatively general combat system, the story more than makes up for it and helps push the overall package into stardom.

3. Injustice: Gods Among Us

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Say whaaaat?! A fighting game made my top ten list?! And it's NOT Mortal Kombat? Blasphemy! Hey, I'm with you guys. When I initially heard about Injustice, I had every right to believe this would fail considering the track record of the superhero genre, and despite my best hopes that it would surpass everyone's expectations. Thankfully, NetherRealm Studios has a fantastic history with the fighting genre by being the creators of the massively lauded Mortal Kombat series and man, does their expertise ever feel so present with Injustice.

So, on top of having arguably the best and most accessible gameplay systems out there for fighting games, Injustice also manages to craft the best storyline as well, which comes as no surprise considering the sheer quality and quantity that comes with the DC brand. While it's a tad bit short, it remains all the more engaging and helps quicken the removal of your training wheels before really tackling the tough stuff, which can get extremely aggravating at times. Brilliantly enough, NetherRealm takes a twist by utilizing a alternate reality in which Superman and co. (with a few exceptions) absolutely lose their minds and enslave the Earth. It's an interesting take on the mythos and one that translates quite well on screen thanks to the easy transition into the fighting genre.

Now, the creme of the crop lies with the roster and the online play. I mean, everyone knows that's where all the fun truly sticks with fighting games since it is the last remaining challenging that remains ever present despite how much you play. Boasting a rather impressive roster, split down the middle with a side of heroes and one for villains, each character is unique enough that the game forces you to spend time in mastering their massive array of combo's, strengths and weaknesses. It's an invigorating experience, one which I spent dozens upon dozens of hours of getting smacked around and yet, I just kept coming back for more.

2. The Last of Us

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"Can you survive?" There lies the one, simplistic question that The Last of Us rests upon those who gracefully approach this masterpiece of a game. It's here where Naughty Dog excels the most. Not with the graphics, not with the gameplay, but with one simple theme that haunts you through the entire duration of your experience. The Last of Us is simply remarkable because of its tone, because of its setting and because of its characters.

Before I continue praising the game, I'll get some of the negative aspects out of the way. Probably my single complaint with The Last of Us is its gameplay, which is borderline atrocious at times but at others, immensely engrossing. There are times where you just cannot get enough of how stressfully giddy the combat makes you feel, always on edge and watching your back. Comfortability is a feeling that is very rare and transparent throughout the entire experience and the developers take note of this, completely ripping away at your safety at every opportunity. In other cases, it can just be utterly frustrating with how poorly some of the mechanics function, especially at a close distance, where you'll spend a large portion of your time stuck in. However, the brilliance of the story is the single aspect pushing you forward through some poor mission design at times and you'll be thankful for it.

I cannot praise The Last of Us more than just for simply recognizing that gamers are not stupid. We do not need a constant reminder as to what the objective is, nor where we need to go next. In almost any case, it takes away from the the thrill of discovery and the fear of the unknown. Naughty Dog corrects that and appreciates the fact that gamers are smart, edgy and persistent. They give you free reign of controlling where and when you proceed, highlighting only for utmost importance but not intrusively. Just as a final surprising and welcomed addition, Naughty Dog introduces a creative and refreshing multiplayer very much akin to that of Gears of War where it pushes for tactical dependency with your teammates and that's where I was drawn in. There's a moderate survival dependency reminiscent of the story but it centres around the crafting to later improve your weaponry and such.

Now while The Last of Us boasts some of the most alluring visuals I've ever seen, it's not without faults. The game tends to having an odd blurring effect whenever moving and it tends to be oddly jagged as well. However, almost everything about this post-apocalyptic world screams out at me and leaves me drooling for more.

1. Metro: Last Light

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Where does bravery surface from where there rests no hope? This was the single most endearing aspect that Last Light provided me with. A complete sense of hopelessness, a mission continued simply to provide hope for the survivors of a devastated world, one which they could never dream of returning to. It's a frightening thought, one that leaves you contemplating your decisions and every single action you take. Last Light, more than any other game I've played, forces you to second guess yourself every chance it gets and it's painfully rewarding on top of engaging.

Last Light follows a world in which Russia fell into nuclear war, rendering the surface world completely uninhabitable and slaughtering the vast majority of the population. The survivors now live within the countries vast Metro system, some in a welcoming tone, others so treacherous that you are left wondering who the true enemy is. It's a tone that appeals greatly to me as it leaves the gamer questioning how you would react in a similar situation and man, does the game ever give you the opportunity to do so.

The gameplay is refined to the point where in any given situation where you encounter enemies, you are freely given the option to engage in either a hostile or one of complete avoidance. While you can engage your enemies, you gain even more options by choosing to be either lethal or non-lethal. Each action you take affects a morality system, one that will help dictate a specific ending and here's where the brilliance comes in. You have absolutely no idea whether the actions you perform are "good or bad". Yes that's right, you are completely left in the dark with only your own morality to dictate your actions. It's an incredibly innovating mechanic that helps thrust you into the world and hits you hard when you discover the impacts of your choices.

Last Light makes my list almost solely because of those aspects on top of being arguably one of the most jaw droppingly exquisite games I've ever laid eyes on. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the most engrossing experiences I've ever played in the past few years and sadly, one of the most underrated and overshadowed of the year.