We said it last year, but we’re saying it again: although 2013 had some pretty good games, it didn’t have too many of them. This is one of the toughest lists we’ve had to do (which is partly why it’s late), but this year the team have pooled together to work out which games are PCGMedia’s Top 10 Games of 2013. We don’t really believe a Top 10 list needs to be a list of the most poignant titles, and we’re not really into the idea that they’re necessarily the most hyped games of the year either – no. This is our list, and we’ve picked each game because every single one made our year in gaming.
This is not the Top 13 rated games, and this isn’t supposed to be your Top 13 list. We’re a PC magazine, so these are all PC releases (but not necessarily exclusives).
It might look like a kids game, and it might not seem as serious a franchise as something like The Last of Us, but none can claim that All-Stars Racing Transformed isn’t an awesome title. The PC port is beautiful, and it didn’t need to be. Games in the genre rarely have competent ports. Not only that, but they rarely have many players logged on. Make no mistake, All-Stars Racing Transformed isn’t really a kiddies game, and many hours have been spent with and without our team screaming over Skype. This is a highly competitive racer, and although you can strap in to Forza and pretend you’re a race-car driver, no other racing game is going to give you an equal sense of competition. The point is that everyone can play it, and everyone can play it well. It might not have gore, blood, realism, violence, or a gruff whitey-McDude male protagonist, but it’s a solid game, and easily the one we’ve had the most fun with as a team this year.
Assassin’s Creed 4 is a great game. There’s no two ways about it. However, pooling our thoughts, some of us noted that the biggest issue with AC4 was that sometimes it forces you to play Assassin’s Creed. When you think about it, AC4 was best when it wasn’t an Assassin’s game. While the lead character was strong, the supporting cast were forgettable, and the Abstergo missions were reduced to walking around an office searching for concept art. Much of the allure of Assassin’s Creed was missing here, and those who loved it, loved it for the piracy.
All being said, once I got to the end of the game, I felt like the Assassin’s side of things were slowly picking up. However, it ended… abruptly. Although I enjoyed the piracy as any sane person would, I did not appreciate – spoiler incoming – the fact that it was all for nothing. Denouncing his ways, our lead protagonist sailed off into the sunset giving a giant middle finger to the past 30 hours of gaming. Ubisoft need to figure out if they’re making an Assassin’s Creed game, or a piracy RPG. As it stands, the franchise is loosing a lot of love from our team. It’s still our number 9, but it remains to be seen whether the next iteration will make that years list…
Have you ever seen so many apologies from a developer? Final Fantasy XIV was one of the most dramatic failures in gaming, and its rise to re-release was equally dramatic, although somewhat under-the-radar here in the west. Square-Enix brought in fame from Final Fantasy XI to fix the game up, and after a long, long, long period of waiting, a realm was literally reborn, and then named after.
Final Fantasy XIV had whacky, misplaced music – even though it was composed by the venerable Nobuo Uematsu – and the levels were linear, with almost nothing to do other than grind. If you didn’t want a profession, you were screwed, because there were only around 3 ways to crawl up the levels: a capped amount of Leve quests, professions, and grinding. That’s no way to make an MMO, so Square-Enix went back to the drawing board. Yes, as you’d expect, Final Fantasy XIV now resembles a medley of World of Warcraft, Rift, and Guild Wars 2 - and that’s no bad thing.
Having learned from their mistakes, Square-Enix have created a feature full MMO with tonnes of content, great dungeons and end-game content, and plenty to do under the much preferred traditional subscription model. Admittedly it looks a little dated, even if the visuals have been updated, and it’s a little hard on the old sweet-tooth, but it’s still the most promising MMO that we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s well worth playing, and we’re loving it.
Have you ever seen Batman backflip over the Bat-Car into your enemy’s chest? No? Then you don’t own Injustice: God’s Among Us, and that makes you stupid. We rarely get a good fighter on PC, and when we do, we get a port. This may have come late, but it looks absolutely stunning, and with 60FPS on the PC-master-race machines-of-smug, the experience is unquestionably better on PC.
Injustice has everything a good fighting game needs: spectacle, character specific moves, tactile controls, and a well balanced character roster. It brings all your favorite DC characters into one place, offers a pretty cool if a little lazy story, and gives plenty of opportunity to learn new skills and compete online. The character super-moves are absolutely awesome, and to the casual player there’s enough – as in Mortal Kombat - to keep you going. Truth is, Injustice isn’t just good as a fighting game, it’s a genuinely good game in its own right. We’re thankful to have it on the PC, because it belongs on our superior hardware. Suck it, 30fps.
Machine for Pigs didn’t go down too well in the press, and more importantly, on YouTube. You can read this for what I think about all that. The fact of the matter remains that I’m a fan of all the avant-garde things The Chinese Room are doing. For an entire night, I crawled around an atmospheric, nuanced, and mysterious haunted-house unraveling what little exposition I could find, before delving deeper and deeper into a world hinted through small audio snippets, drawings, and the frightened ramblings of a faceless protagonist. Sure, the pigs looked a little silly, but that’s not what scared me. My own imagination got the better of me, and although what I had in my head was far more terrifying than what I saw in the game, I was terrified for the entire journey – and that’s sort of neat. Nothing had to pop out for me to be afraid, and that’s why it’s so clever.
What’s more, Jessica Curry’s music is consistently brilliant, and although you might call the whole package pretentious or poncey, I dug it, because it worked. It’s not good enough to call something unoriginal, or stupid, and then try and wrangle your way into a new genre for it. “It’s not a game, it’s an interactive haunted house!” they exclaim. It’s either been done before, or it hasn’t. Pick one. One thing I’m certain of is that A Machine for Pigs is certainly a game. I played it. On my PC, with my gamepad. At least, I think I did…
Outlast is one of the first truly horrifying survival horror games of the last 5 years or so. They picked up where Penumbra left off, and added a bit of spit and polish. It has it all. No weapons, heavy breathing, a scary location to peruse, and some neat effects to top it all off. Using a mini DV camera as night vision was truly genius game design, and whilst the game isn’t really all that original, and the ending is a bit mad, Outlast is both a loving homage to Penumbra, and a well paced, cleverly designed horror romp in its own right. Unlike Amnesia, this is about things popping up in front of you – but it’s more than that.
Moments of free exploration when you knew you’d be relatively safe were spruced up with creepy, emaciated in-mates, and as you attempt to get a handle on what’s going on, the game does a full 180 and blows you away with a finale that very much brings it all to an end. If you haven’t, play it.
#4 Payday 2
Shooters are all becoming a little samey, aren’t they? With microtransactions breaking into gameplay, we’re being fed intense, shiny action at the same time as publishers sweetly whisper into our ears “not doing well enough? Spend more money and you’ll be better!” It’s becoming rarer and rarer that an FPS with integrity will make it into the big-leagues, and last year we picked Natural Selection 2. This time, things are a little PVE.
Payday 2 does a lot of very clever things, and a lot of rare things. It improved upon almost every aspect of the first, whilst resisting the urge to steer away from things that may have not worked in the first. They fixed issues, they didn’t ignore them, or create more (however, balancing and patching has been an issue throughout release). The fact is, Payday 2 is a highly polished FPS offering people the rare privilege of a decent PVE experience. They’re all going F2P, or cell shaded, or whacky in their design. Not here, however, and that’s why we’ve chosen to salute them. It may still have problems left over from the first, but with new dynamic missions, victory states, and upgrade systems, it’s fun to enjoy Payday 2′s smart game design, let alone play it.
Arma III might be our number 3, but I’m not a fan of being spoon-fed content. I understand that most of the campaign was restarted right before release, removing most of the RPG elements, but with a lack of support for Warfare style multiplayer missions, and only one part of the campaign released, there’s not much Arma here for me… at least, there wasn’t. I was forced to dig deeper, install mods, Workshop items, and play on servers that we didn’t set up internally, and then a whole new world unfolded.
With the most detailed map (Altis) in any game of the genre, Arma III offers large-scale, realistic combat to anyone who can be bothered to take a little time to invest in it. It has a learning curve, and that’s a good thing. If you know your Alpha’s from your Lemur’s, your T-90′s from your Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, Arma III will reward you in new ways every time you play it. Whether or not it’s evacuating a friend under fire from his given coordinates in a helicopter you just learnt to fly, or making your way across the map in a tank filled with your nearest and dearest, Arma III is true PC gaming.
It is fun. Just because you don’t know how to play it, or how to pick up the pace, doesn’t mean it isn’t. You can go back to Battlefield 4 if you want. That’s fine with us. The best things in life require a little understanding.
#2 Damned (Alpha) <- No, we don’t care.
You shouldn’t feel bad for not knowing about Damned. Created by 9 Heads Games, Damned is a horror game with a twist: one of you plays the monster. In this truly unique setup, Damned offers a strange mix of genuine terror and camaraderie. On Skype with a few of your friends, prepare the match in the lobby, then kick the monster out of the conversation. The survivors start in a room, and the monster has to hunt them. The survivors need to search the derelict hotel for all the keys required to escape, without being spotted by the monster.
There are twists and turns along the way that make this a truly brilliant multiplayer experience. The monster can set traps on inanimate objects, which are then triggered by players moving close to them. That’ll give the monster some indication of where you are. Run too fast, and he can hear your footsteps. Talk to eachother when he’s close, and he’ll hear you over the in-game chat. With a pretty scary model, the monster is able to spawn for a short amount of time, but is otherwise invisible and unable to interact. That makes playing as the monster a uniquely tactical experience, and team-working as the players a uniquely terrifying one. This game will ruin friendships, and scare your balls off. It might be in alpha, but we’ve had more fun with this title than almost any other AAA release this year. It doesn’t take much to make a decent, original game.
We’ve talked about why The Wolf Among Us is so good in our review, but to give you a short recap, the whimsically satirical world of The Wolf Among Us is a refreshing foray into the day-to-day lives of a motley crew of fairytale characters. For people like me who loathe Disney movies, this cynical portrayal plays like a stoned rant from Doug Stanhope. It’s masterfully written by Telltale Games, and superbly voiced and acted. There’s a whole lot of juxtaposition here, and it chimes well with the moody, urban atmosphere.
It’s crude, ultra-violent, nuanced, and sometimes hilariously funny, and it’s one of those games that just seems like a huge risk to make. How do you follow up on The Walking Dead? Well, a talking frog, a headless princess, a pig that drinks Vodka and domestic abuse. How did that ever work? I’m not trying to be a bit kitsch here. It’s not good because of the violence and swearing, it’s good because everything horrible is wonderfully contrasted with how it should be. Life isn’t a fairy-tale, and even this fairy-tale isn’t a fairy-tale. The Wolf Among Us is wonderfully designed, and plays in some ways an homage to films like Return to Oz, and games like Alice. There’s something inherently comforting about an alternatively twisted tale when everything should be coming up roses, and at a time when the games industry is obsessed with rights issues, portrayals, and sensitivity issues, it’s nice to play something that doesn’t seem to be a part of that conversation.
It might not be complete, but episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us is easily the most vividly entertaining gaming experience of the year, for us.