The gaming year has come and gone, and we've had some fun this year so we've naturally tried to replicate that good humour in list form. There are indies and even some sports game representation (that's Mark's fault) but this list remains subjective run down of our favourite gaming experiences of the year.
Here are the results of the jury composed of Daniel Anderson, Jack McGlynn and Mark O'Beirne.
10. Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV is unique, though not in an obvious way.
Gameplay remains explosive and shallow. Presentation is still striking yet sketchy.
Value, then, can be found in its depiction of women, of minorities, of romance of friendship. Saints Row IV takes a reductive approach to inclusivism, to equality. And it works wonders.
The President can be male or female, young or old, fat or thin, lanky or squat, white, black, brown, yellow, blue, green or red. Be it a duet on a long car drive or getting down and dirty, your crew, YOUR FRIENDS treat you the exact same either way.
Also, it's an honest-to-god Comedy Game. That's got to count for something!
9. Papers, Please
Have you ever put yourself in the position of someone whose job it is to meticulously check passports for inconsistencies? Papers, Please puts you in the shoes of a border control worker in the Soviet-esque country of Arstotzka. It's not as straightforward as simply checking passports. Some characters will come to you with sob stories; you can let them through without the adequate papers, but you will be reprimanded. With a family to house and provide for, you are caught between helping your fellow man and doing what is expected of you. Papers, Please is a fascinating experience with interesting characters and complex choices to be made quickly along the way.
The PS Vita's killer app is finally here, and who cares if it's taken almost two years to arrive.
Tearaway is the perfect showcase for Sony's handheld because it uses every aspect of the device, from the dual cameras to that ever unwieldy rear touchpad, in ways that enhance your enjoyment of the game rather than feeling gimmicky and frustrating.
And on top of that, it's also a cracker of a game in its own right. The setting is magical, literally putting the player into this paper craft world, and the delightfully unusual story and style makes every new level feel like a precious discovery. Absolutely worth picking up the system for.
7. State of Decay
It's fitting State of Decay is a zombie game - It's got all the brainzzz.
Undead Labs didn't need million dollar cut-scenes or explosive set pieces to woo players. Hell, they don't even need a good looking game. All they needed was the bravery to let players do whatever the hell they wanted. Scavanging. Exploration. Gunplay. Melee. Driving. Community Building. Tower Defence. Stealth. Resource Management. Perma-death.
This one's got ambition coming out the wazoo!
6. FIFA 14 (Next-gen)
Much was said about the Ignite Engine before the release of FIFA 14 on the next-generation systems, but the skeptical wondered how much would actually change. Thankfully the Ignite Engine fulfils its promise of bringing match days to life with a more realistic crowd and a more true-to-life broadcast experience. But, under the hood, EA tinkered with its formula and FIFA 14's gameplay feels more natural, the AI is competitive but fair, and chances can be created in more ways than ever. FIFA 14 makes it feel truly rewarding to build-up the play and use the ball physics to produce a sensational goal.
5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
I did battle for a higher position for Sweet Revengeance. But Mark and Daniel are bullies.
I keep hammering the following point home. There's a reason for that...
With its consistent focus on counter-attacking, tying both resource replenishment and Blade Mode to a central parry mechanic, Platinum Games have single-handedly made traditional Hack/Slash OBSOLETE. Gone are the days of memorizing specific command inputs. Just get your timing down and let the mayhem unfold!
4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3 brought the gameplay, Blood Dragon brought the awesome.
From Michael Biehn's distinctive voice to the neon infused graphics (clearly a mere reskin of Far Cry's) and the over the top action, there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy Blood Dragon. But the fact it was also one of the best First Person Whatever's of the year with a cheese factor of 11 made it an absolute winner.
It's chock full of gameplay, fun and has cybernetic emus. Whats not to love?
3. BioShock Infinite
With BioShock Infinite, Irrational Games left the confines of Rapture behind and brought us to the glorious, scenic world of Columbia. But it mirrored the underwater paradise in many ways with its own social issues, which looked likely to bring about its own downfall. Elizabeth will surely go down in history as one of the best sidekicks thanks to her ability to dig you out of a tight spot with her tears ability and the fact that she didn't have to be minded every step of the journey. And, like the first BioShock, Infinite had an intriguing story that had people theorizing, talking, and always pushing forward.
2. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Assassin's Creed with Pirates is what Black Flag promised. And boy did it deliver.
The scope of the world is massive and more compelling to navigate then ever before, there are literally hundreds of people to murder and there's a bloody great naval warfare simulation to dip into whenever you see fit.
And it's all tied together by a batty sci-fi plot (which you can mostly avoid), wickedly brutal combat and one of the most generously appointed maps I've ever experienced in a game. Go whaling, build up your crib, invest in a town, pillage wrecks or just sail around sinking mo-fo's.
It's all good.
1. Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider seems an unlikely contender for the hot spot. But on closer analysis, there could be none other! Lara's origin acts as the definitive blueprint of Triple A gaming - Open levels. Linear tales. Collectibles. Upgrades. Progression. Spectacle. Drama. CHOICE. And each element seamlessly coupled by a wonderfully realized young heroine.
Though it tries nothing new, it also does everything exceptionally well.
Tomb Raider is complete.
The 2013 release of Tomb Raider was the reboot that the classic series had been crying out for. We know the ass-kicking, tomb raiding side of Lara Croft all too well, but the reboot allowed Crystal Dynamics to explore the character more, show different sides of her, and showcase events that moulded her into one of the most iconic female video game characters of all time.
There's a touch of Uncharted about the reboot, but you could emulate worse games. Tomb Raider has a compelling story, an interesting and well-rounded leading lady, and a harsh-but-beautiful environment.
Crystal Dynamics LATEST reboot of lady Lara crafts a new origin and a more human side to the character making for a video game story that's actually engaging. And they backed it up with fabulously formed and primal combat in a vast and dangerous playground with enjoyable traversal.
It's a must play, I just wish there were a few more tombs to raid...