Thursday, January 2, 2014

Meta Fatale's Top 5 Best Games of 2013

I know I'm late with my year end post but being late made it worth it in my opinion. This list was complied based on all of the games that I had the opportunity to play and replay in 2013 and let's face it, there were a few that really stood out and made an impression on me as well as the industry and fans at large. While I couldn't fit all of them on this list, there are five that are really worthy of your attention and time and trust me, they are really worth it. Let's kick off the list then shall we?

5. Contrast (PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, PC)

While it is not one of the better in-store games that you purchase in the Playstation and Microsoft stores, it does have a fresh and interesting take on the puzzle game concept. The scenery and artwork is gorgeous and the music is fantasic. However, the environment lacks vitality and energy. Journey and Braid are better games but Contrast deserves a mention because it is a fresh take on solving puzzles by using shadows and the environment. The story is interesting and has heart as well and it is rare to see a game with two female protagonists. This game has a lot of potential to be great and challenging, if only the environment had more life to it. Even so, its worth checking out for the story, visuals and music alone.

4. Tomb Raider (PS3, XBOX 360, PC, OS X)

This series needed a reboot. Before this story came along, Lara Croft has become a sex symbol and object rather than a video game icon. This reboot resolidified her as one of the icons of gaming. It's an origin sotry and one that is gritty and brutal. The environment and graphics are impressive and the story is rich and detailed and dare I say it, empowering. This is the reboot that was desperately needed to revitalize the series and it worked beautifully. There are some problematic aspects of it, such as the torture porn aspect and the overused attempted rape plotline, but despite all of that, this reboot is worthy entry to the Tomb Raider series.

3. Beyond Two Souls (PS3)

This game was a wonderful surprise this year and one of the missed gems in my opinion. It is experimental in the same way that Heavy Rain was but its meant to look at the life of a young woman and the voice that she has a connection to. This game explores the life of Jodie Holmes whom has been connected to an entity named Aiden. It's an interactive action-drama on a whole new level as the player explores Jodie's life as a CIA agent turned fugitive. What makes this game stand out aside from the excellent cast and voice acting from Ellen Page, Willem Defoe and many others is that there are moments in the game that slow down considerably and show the more mundane moments in life and sometimes, players do need that in a game in order to take a breath and catch up and enjoy the calm before the storm. This game is not for everyone but it is worth checking out when you have the opportunity.

The top two choices were very difficult to decide upon due tot he fact that these games could easily be at number one. They both had strong characters, a great and complex story, and a lot of sociopolitical context and commentary in the mix. While these two games were fantastic in their own right and could easily be the top on many "Best of 2013" lists, the game at number one had something that the game in the second spot lacked and that is emotional intensity and power. Here are the top two games of 2013:

2. Bioshock: Infinite (PS3, XBOX 360, PC, OS X)

I am going to catch a lot of shit for placing Bioshcok: Infinite at number 2. Before the Internet decides to fling shit at me, let me justify why it is at the number 2 spot. This is a great game and definitely the best of the series by far. Whether there will be another game is yet to be determined but with the way the plot went, it opened the door for more games in the franchise and downloadable content to your heart's delight. Since this was the year for reboots and orgin stories, this game took the origin story to a whole new level. It seems that it would be likely dismissed as an origin story, but as you play further, the plot turns that idea on its head and shakes it. The graphics are gorgeous and beautiful while it rightfully mocks the Americana ideals and values of yesteryear and yet display its beauty in full. The music and voice acting are top notch with Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper as the leads and the relationship and bond between Booker and Elizabeth is something that is lovely to witness, unfortunately, with all of the great things this game has for it, including a rare political message about classism, racism, extremism, sexism and nationalism, the game lacks heart. It's hard to explain and put it into words, but there were times where the game lacked emotional connection to the characters. While Booker is an unlikeable asshole, he softens up near the end, but its not as emotionally moving as is the development in the game at the top spot. Nonetheless this game is a must have for your gaming library and it just so happens that I plan to do my Doctoral Dissertation on this game. It is that good.

1. The Last of Us (PS3)

This game destroyed me in a good way. This game looked at the human condition and the subtext of power politics more than any other game has dared to do. Developer Naughty Dog (of Uncharted series fame) was clearly taking a risk with this game and it really paid off. I can easily cite this game and Bioshock: Inifinte as two of the best games of the decade. The relationship and development of Joel and Ellie was powerful, heartfelt and beautiful and boy, I cried at many points of the game. It's a hard world they live in and the people that they meet along the way only have survival in mind. However, the game asks the question, what are we willing to do to survive at all costs? The power dynamics between Ellie and Joel are played out throughout the narrative and it is clear that Ellie is no Damsel in Distress and she takes care of herself. Think of her as Arya Stark in many senses of the character. She saves Joel several times at different points in the game and she has the best weapons in the game (I really needed her knife to take down those fucking clickers). This game is a huge step forward for gender equity as well as how women and girls are represented in video games. While there are some problematic aspects of this game, overall it exceeded expectations and took video games as an art form to a whole new level in terms of narrative and story-telling. This game is proof-positive that video games and the gaming community and industry can be mature and thought-provoking. This is the type of thinking that is sorely needed in order for the video game industry and culture to grow and evolve to something greater.

Honorable Mentions

These games were great but didn't quite make the list. Nevertheless, they are still worth checking out:

Batman: Arkham Origins (PS3, XBOX 360, Wii U, PC)

It was bound to happen sooner or later and it did. Considering that 2013 was the year for reboots and and origin stories, the Batman:Arkham series followed suit with Origins. This was also a big year for voice actor Troy Baker as well since he was attached to this project and to Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us. I would like to note that this game takes place years before Asylum does and it's a great setup for the events of Asylum. Many of the voice actors from the animated series and the previous installments as well have returned, save for Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil (he's retired the Joker character for good) but Baker's Joker is nearly identical to Hamil's, which is extremely impressive. Even though the gameplay and the story isn't as strong as it was in Asylum and City, it is a worthy entry in the Arkham series. I would recommend getting this game for the PC if you have the rquirements to run it because it looks so much better on PC than on the console. Rumor has it and according to Kevin Conroy, there is another Batman: Arkham game in the works and if Arkham City didn't provide enough of a teaser, then I don't know what will.

Remember Me (PS3, XBOX 360, PC)

(Here is a link to the review)

As mentioned in my review, it's a worthy effort and the game had more potential to be great. As is, its a decent game with great graphics, an awesome techno soundtrack and a decent story (it could have been improved though). The gameplay needs improvement and the camera is the worst that I have seen in any game. Nonetheless, it's great entry point to what could be a great series as long as they fix the bugs that I have mentioned.