1 January 2014

That was the year that was 2013

Game of the Year: Tomb Raider

 Lara, stripped off of her sex symbol status

Crystal Dynamics turned a franchise gone stale into a breathtaking survival adventure by rebooting it back to Lara's first true expedition. She starts it as an innocent, fresh and eager adventurer but in the end she stands covered in blood, full of bruises and cuts, both physical and mental, after having gone through a hell for her friends - and for herself. Tomb Raider does pretty much everything right. You don't need gazillion of buttons to control Lara. Everything feels so natural, from fluid movement punctuated with a true sense of weight to a smart, automatic seeking for covers in firefights, a clever AI routine which never fails. Yamatai island is beautiful to behold in all its rust and decay. Exploration and breathtaking action scenes are in a perfect balance and the unbelievably believable story penned by Rhianna Pratchett is conveyed through heart-pumping cut scenes. Simply put, Tomb Raider is not only the best game of 2013, it's the game of the 7th generation.

A modern friendship?
Action Game of the Year: DmC

Who's your daddy?

Ninja Theory's take on Capcom's popular franchise is brash, arrogant, loud, shameless, rude and points a middle finger at you. DmC is Hellblazer on acid, exploded into a phased out run through a surreal tangle of real world and limbo, the double existence which is both young Dante's blessing and curse. It's a game some certain net communities loves to hate in every imaginable way in their blatant ignorance but that too goes on to show DmC leaves a mark. In fact, it brands it on your skin with a poker and laughs while doing it. Fast, frantic and fantabulous combo system turns Dante into a total badass, of course depending on your skills at the end of the joypad. Big Arnie himself would grin at some of Dante's you-saw-them-coming one-liners but it's all deliberate. To me, Ninja Theory has the best track record of the generation. Heavenly Sword was a beautiful wushu epic, Enslaved a thought-provoking trip through a post-apocalyptic concrete jungle and now DmC. Well done, lads!

Kat is Ninja Theory's obligatory freckle-face in DmC, not that I complain!

RPG of the Year: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

A leap over other action RPG's!

If Dragon's Dogma raised the bar for fantasy action RPG's to come, the game itself topped it by raising the stakes with Dark Arisen. Not only it's a sort of a mini-sequel but it also enchances the first game, making a fantastic RPG even more, well, fantastic. You can read more in detail of Dragon's Dogma from the entry "That was the year that was 2012".

Fighting Game of the Year: Tekken Revolution

Asuka, my girl

What started as a bare bones and modest free-to-play beat'em-up has evolved into a full-fledged fighting game glory and is still free to play! Of course you can buy stuff but you don't have to because Tekken Revolution isn't your kid's pay-to-win crap. You can get everything unlockable by playing, playing and then playing some more. Well, except for the extra costumes which you need to buy from a PSN store but they are only cosmetics anyway and won't enhance the gameplay in any way. The best part of Tekken Revolution isn't the fact it's free as it actually improves Tekken's fighting mechanics and aesthetics. It plays, feels, moves and looks better than any other Tekken before it.

Conversion of the Year: Diablo III for consoles

Lots and lots of action and multi-player fun

Let's be honest. Diablo III works so much better on consoles than it does on PC. In fact, it feels almost like PC version was a just a rehearsal for things to come. Diablo III delivers everything you could hope for and then some when played on PS3 or Xbox 360. Clumsy mouse and keyboard combination can't hold a candle to the handy joypad configuration. It just feels so right, so tight and so natural to control you hero through the seven rings of hell the game has in store for you. There's no returning back to PC version when you have played Diablo III on consoles.

Outstanding Performance by an actor or actress in a video game: Ellen Page as Jodie Holmes in Beyond: Two Souls

 Oh, look who's in the mirror!
Quantic Dream's much anticipated Beyond: Two Souls got a lot of bad rep when it was released and divided players into two groups: those who love it and those who don't. Even the haters must admit one thing though. Ellen Page devotes her whole self to play Jodie Holmes, not only her voice but her face, her expressions and her movement. Page lives through the every emotion Jodie has to face in her turbulent life. Hollywood doesn't offer this good roles to actresses and if there's one actress who can be believable in David Cage's sometimes great, sometimes uneven and sometimes downright pathetically epic screenplay, it's Page.

 Achievement in audiovisual excellence: Beyond: Two Souls

Heavy rain?

Another "Academy Award" for Beyond: Two Souls. When playing it, sometimes you just forget it's a video game. In parts it looks uncanny lifelike, as if you were watching a movie. In a sense, it's more a movie than a game but that's missing the point here. No other game before has produced such a photorealistic characters without looking awkwardly plastic and fake. Thanks to the detailed modelling and lighting, Ellen Page and co. could just as well stare at you from a silver screen.

Achievement in stellar art design: Contrast

Dawn of the shadows

Shadow play is both Contrast's gameplay gimmick and visual trick and one can't exist without the other. 1920's Paris and its world of performing arts is stylized with a great taste and an eye to the design. Sometimes resembling the animation film Coraline, Contrast is not only a visual treat but a crafty and clever puzzle platformer to boot and comes highly recommended. It may be short but it's sweet and the recent patch fixed most of the bugs the game was initially, er, bugged with.

Achievement in visual excellence: The Wolf Among Us

It's so 80's!

Bill Willingham's award-winning comic book series Fables has turned into another Telltale Games' "we have the license and make something our very own out of it" triumph. Unlike the comic, The Wolf Among Us is set in 1980's and couldn't look any better. It's literally a comic book brought to life, with fantastic character art and animation and a play of lights and deep shadows creating the most stylish adventure game you'll ever play. And an 80's kid can't help but love how the game perfectly captures the infamous decade with its bleeding bright blues and reds, just like in old VHS tapes.