7. Tomb Raider: The Reboot
For many of us Tomb Raider brings back fond memories of terrifying pixalted t-rex attacks and being ambushed by that stupid bear, you know the one I mean. Inevitably you would respond to these foes by picking up your pistols and double jumping all over the place like you were Shaquille O’Neal on steroids. Those of us who don’t have these memories will still recognise Lara Croft as the lead heroine who immortalised the Tomb Raider series with her Bikini model figure squeezed into brown shorts and a turquoise top. The sexual nature of Lara Croft’s image has often been a hot topic, especially when you consider the fact her garment choice is not that wise given the amount of spelunking she does. However, this years instalment simply entitled Tomb Raider gave Lara a makeover that ensured the female protagonist had a more gritty than glossy image. Bloody, beaten and vulnerable Lara was still ready to return to the centre of controversy when it was suggested in this year’s game that she was moments away from being the victim of sexual assault. While the debate about Lara’s near sexuality raged on it was important to note that the new dark rendition of the franchise was a great game full of new ideas and added interesting amount of depth to a video game. If you missed Tomb Raider the definitive edition is coming to next-gen at the end of this month but beyond that all we can do is remain hopeful we will see the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise spawn another equally successful game.
6. The Return Of 80s Themed Games
Through the course of 2013 we looked to the future of gaming with the release of new games and the next generation of console gaming. However, not every developer spent all their time living for the future as we saw them looking back to the past for our inspiration. Of course this has been do before as with the rise of the Noir gaming genre but what I was encourage to see was a successful return to the culture of a time period I love, the 80s. Power ballards, perms, Miami Vice, A Flock Of Seagulls and enough cocaine to get Eeyore raving, what more do you really need. This year saw the release of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Hotline Miami both heavily influenced by the 1980s with the former borrowing the imagery of the decade and the latter actually set in the metropolis of 80s Miami. The official trailer for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a parodic homage to the decade including animation in the seizure inducing style of Street Fighter and Transformers. In the actual game the classic hot pink and baby blue neon colour pallet add further reminiscent qualities to a game that feels like it was set in the Terminator flash forward sequences. Using endless pop culture references the game provides tongue-in-cheek thrills while retaining enough gravitas to be enjoyable throughout.
5. Halo Creators Announce They Are Making A New Game And It’s Not Halo
In the world of video games there have been many game franchises that have risen and fallen, but every so often we get one that keeps changing the landscape as us gamers look on in awe awaiting the next instalment. In 2001 Halo introduced itself to the world and kick started one of the most successful gaming series of all time having made over £2 Billion from just game sales alone. The franchise is actually so successful it is known as a killer app for Xbox consoles and has moved its fair share of units for Microsoft. The question is after making the highly acclaimed original trilogy, prequel, and expansion game where do you go? Well for developers Bungie they decided you leave the franchise in another developers hands and move on to pastures new. While most may think this a strange tactic to employ Bungie is no normal company; famed for their culture and work ethics, Bungies Audio Director, Marty O’Donnell, has referred to this culture as “a slightly irreverent attitude, and not corporate, bureaucratic or business-focused”. Eventually in 2007 the company became independent departing ways with Microsoft leading many to believe they were developing a new IP (intellectual property). Six long years later and we finally got our first glimpse of the new IP called Destiny, a RPG sci-fi shooter with MMO elements, which would sound overly complicated in the hands of a normal developer, but in the hands of Bungie exciting times lie ahead. Check out the video to see the gameplay footage released at E3.
4. Steam Annouce They Are To Launch A Console
When you look the last 15 years of console gaming three companies have dominated the market, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. If you then look at the more recent years and Nintendo’s power has waned leaving the other two to control the console market with their vast wealth and support helping to ensure their supremacy. It is a daunting thought for any company to now enter the console market and compete with these tyrants, but Valve announced in 2013 that they are launching their own consoles using their steam platform. These Steam Machines will be created by working with hardware developers and will vary in power and price range giving consumers more specific options to choose for their needs. All the machines will run Steam OS (operating system) that has been designed with the new consoles in mind and is primarily built for gaming purposes which should appeal to the hardcore gamer who might be less enthused by the multimedia focus of Sony and Microsoft’s machines. Some positive news for the console gamer about Valves foray into the console market is that we could see more PC gamers move to console gaming. This in turn would create a stronger market place at a time when the longevity and relevance of console gaming has been questioned. Further good news for console gamers is that steam are known for being a cheaper games platform due to their liberal pricing policy wherein they allow the game developer to set the price unlike Microsoft or Sony who control the price of the games released on their systems. If this pricing system comes into effect on steam machines then we can expect to see PlayStation and Xbox games reduce in price in order to stay in line with the competition. Should be an interesting development to watch as we come towards the release date in 2014.
3. The Majortiy Of Us Love The Last Of Us
When I think of games developer Naughty Dog I think of the first Crash Bandicoot game and in doing so all that PlayStation 1 nostalgia comes flooding back. For the more level headed gamer, who isn’t obsessed with orange crack addicts running through jungles, Naughty Dog are probably most recognisable from the highly popular Uncharted and Jak and Daxter series. As a Sony Computer Entertainment owned developer the standard of quality has been set high to ensure the PlayStation has some exclusives to contend with the likes of Halo and Super Mario. This being the case the team based in Santa Monica have certainly not let themselves down with The Last Of Us, a survival-horror game that centres around the story of main characters Joel and Ellie surviving in a post-apocalyptic United States 20 years after a zombie like infection has ravaged the world. While the concept of the game does not sound particularly ground-breaking the reason this game makes my list is its brilliance in striking a balance between gameplay and narrative. The game mechanics are well designed and leave you satisfied rather than trudging through an an abyss of mindless shooting that is buggy and more painful than listening to Denis Nedry’s laugh from Jurassic Park over and over again. Similarly at no point do you find yourself watching cut scenes bored awaiting the next moment you can shoot something in the head. Everything at work is a subtle blend that gives you the impression of exploring in a linear narrative and keeps you in fear of not only the monsters the lurk in the dark, but the monsters that lie within humanity. Watch the first 17 minutes of this video and I promise you will leave your house to go buy a PS3 and a copy of The Last Of Us without hesitation.
2. Grand Theft Awesome V:
Unsurprisingly any game that Rockstar release is going to make this kind of list and in 2013 we were treated to one of the biggest games the company has released, GTA V. Delayed by six months the game built up so much anticipation I was ready to go on a rampage that Trevor would be proud of. However, this rampage would have been unjust as the finished game was nothing short of perfection. By pushing the seventh generation of consoles to their absolute limit the team at Rockstar was able to show gamers what games could be. To start some elements of previous games have been expanded and now you have a laundry list of customizable options from clothing to cars that make each players play through unique to them as well as helping mould their GTA: Online character into their own image. If you add this amount of customization to a fully explorable world as expansive as the beautifully imagined ficitional city of Los Santos the game becomes mind-boggling in terms of depth. GTA V brings new meaning to the term sandbox game by giving you all the tools necessary to let you play how you want to in a living, breathing world with all the comedic satire that the series is well renowned for. But let’s face it, no one cares about any of the work that went into GTA V because all we do is get drunk with our friends and take it in turns to chase down a randomly selected pedestrian and punch him in the face and watch them fall down like a rag doll. Still brilliant though.
1. Next-Gen Becoming Current-Gen:
Probably the most obvious choice for the number 1 gaming moment of 2013 is the release of the Xbox One and PS4 as part of the eight generation of videogame consoles. It is important to note that the Wii U is also part of the eighth generation, but omitted from this list because it was released in 2012, approximately a year before Microsoft and Sony entered the next-gen scene, sorry Nintendo!
Back in February 2013 when Sony unveiled the Dualshock 4 controller it was difficult to imagine where we be come the end of the year with details hidden and very little released until the 2013 E3 event in June. The stage was set for PS4 and Xbox One to reveal themselves and start convincing gamers that they should part with their money. Microsoft had a tough time throughout E3 when the internet was set alight with outrage over the policies that were being announced for the next Xbox. On the other hand Sony had put their focus into being ‘for the gamers’ and by the end of the expo had won a slight edge over their main rival. Eventually Microsoft took note of the backlash and reversed the controversial policies and tried to get the playing field back to level pegging, helped in turn when it was revealed the hardware specs of both devices were pretty much identical. The fanboy debates, that amuse me so much, suddenly arose from the dens of keyboard warriors everywhere to take over the proceeding months until we finally got to the moustache month of November and judgement day itself. What gamers received was a big leap forward for console gaming. It may not have been revolutionary in terms of graphics or what content the launch games contained, but it showed us what the future of gaming (yes PC gamers I do mean all gaming as consoles is where the money is and developers need money) was going to look like. Graphics will improve, but what the game mechanics can do and how the content is delivered to us will undoubtedly change and improve drastically. So there you have it, the top gaming moment of 2013 is all about the future. What a cop out.
Thanks for reading,