While 2013 has not been as jam-packed as years gone by, a number of truly excellent gaming titles foound their way to store shelves. With the release of new gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft, a new era of console gaming has emerged – one bound to make next year’s release cycle one of the most interesting. To wrap up this year’s release calendar, IT News Africa examines the best console games for 2013.
1. The Last Of Us
There has been many post-apocalyptic video games this year, and it almost seems as if the genre has been revitalised with new gusto – which is a good thing, as Naughty Dog’s title taught us that there is actually only one contender for the post-apocalyptic crown. The Last of Us is a carefully-crafted and beautifully curated masterpiece that encompasses pretty much everything that an excellent game should: stunningly beautiful graphics, a plot that would make for an excellent film, enemies that will scare and frighten the pants off anyone, and character development that is worthy of an Oscar.
2. BioShock Infinite
Irrational Games has been at the helm of many releases over the last few years, but one of their more successful franchises is BioShock. Starting out in 2007, they crafted a world ruled by Big Daddies and Little Sisters, tucked firmly under the ocean in the city of Rapture. The company returned this year to deliver the visually-breathtaking first-person shooter BioShock Infinite, an incredible prequel to the previous games in the franchise. The visuals are absolutely stunning, the combat is fast-paced and often very chaotic and the plot is one of the best gamers have seen in a very long time. The character development, and even the personal connection between DeWitt and Elizabeth is beautifully explored, and draws the player further into the narrative. Gamers who are fans of the BioShock franchise will absolutely love Infinite.
3. Tomb Raider
When the reboot of the much-loved Tomb Raider was announced, fans were divided in their opinion on whether it was necessary to redo the franchise or just continue with the current series. Developer Crystal Dynamics eventually opted to reboot British explorer Lara Croft – and they did a fantastic job in doing so. In this updated version of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is seen as more headstrong than previous titles. While she is only 21-years-old in the game, she has the ability to make tough decisions that drive the plot forward. However, players will also see a slight transformation in Lara as she evolves through the game from a soft-natured person to one who would have no problems putting a bullet in an enemy’s head. This version of Tomb Raider is every inch a true Tomb Raider game, and while there is less raiding of actual tombs (instead of being compulsory, they are now optional) it squarely belongs in the franchise.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V was released five years after Grand Theft Auto IV, and the title has sold so well that it recently became the fastest-selling video game in history by racking up over $1-billion in sales in the first few days. The open world action-adventure has once again proven why it is the best sandbox game franchise on the market and includes a number of elements not yet seen in a GTA title. For starters, players will take control of three main characters, all with their own unique backgrounds and stories that will mesh into one big plot as they cause chaos in the fictional city of Los Santos in San Andreas. GTA V is without a doubt the best GTA title that has been developed in the history of the franchise. The characters walk properly compared to GTA IV, the vehicles are of much wider variety and handle better, and the citizens of San Andreas will have no problem with ‘flipping you the bird’.
5. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
The Assassin’s Creed franchise needs no introduction – it has been one of the most successful gaming enterprises in the last couple of years. The Series has taken gamers on a whirl-wind journey through different time periods in history in search of answers and the elusive Templars. It might seem a bit harsh, but Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is your typical Assassin’s Creed title, with no real innovation or changes – except for the open-sea missions with the Jackdaw (which is by far the highlight of the title). But that is what players like about the title – they know exactly what they are going to get, even if it is only a change in scenery and plot. Black Flag is incredibly enjoyable to dig into, despite a few awkward level designs and cheesy Abstergo Entertainment missions incorporating the Animus. The star of the title is definitely the open-sea battles and the new pirate theme – everybody loves pirates!
6. Splinter Cell Blacklist
The sixth instalment of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series had stealth enthusiasts eagerly awaiting its arrival, as it promised to deliver a completely new playing experience – and Splinter Cell: Blacklist has not disappointed. Blacklist is a highly addictive title, and while the single player campaign can be very tough in certain parts, players will find themselves pushing on until they complete the next step to drive the story along. Lovers of the franchise will most certainly not be disappointed with Blacklist, as it provides for many action-packed hours, as well as an extensive multiplayer aspect. Newcomers can also benefit from picking it up first, as it is really a testament as to just how far the franchise has progressed.
7. Beyond: Two Souls
Developer Quantic Dream rose to prominence with its near-perfect interpretation of the interactive film Heavy Rain. Director David Cage recreated a modern version of story-telling, again this year ventured into the interactive film-game genre, and this time Beyond: Two Souls has players experience the world through the eyes of Jodie, a girl who has an entity tethered to her soul. Two Souls is an entertaining title, but players should not look at it as an interactive film, but rather as a highly-detailed and immersive video game – which is exactly what it is. In terms of controls, it handles perfectly and the game does provide a tutorial through some interesting missions. Beyond does start out rather slowly, slower than Heavy Rain at least, but it does pick up the pace somewhat once the plot unfolds and Jodie realises that things are heading downhill. Fans of Heavy Rain will no doubt enjoy Beyond: Two Souls.
8. Rayman Legends
Rayman is the loveable character with no arms (only hands) that players got to love even more through the Raving Rabbids franchise of casual games. Well, Rayman came back for another edition and this time things have gone a bit pear-shaped. Legends made for an entertaining experience, packed with a lot of action and hilarious moments. A number of elements could have been tweaked a bit, but the overall gameplay is enjoyable. In terms of graphics, the UbiArt Framework engine provides the title with beautifully rendered visuals, while the controls are pretty simple to grasp. Other than some miscalculations in the jumping mechanic, Rayman Legends is a solid, fun offering from Ubisoft which should provide players with many hours of fun.
9. State of Decay
What would one get if games like Grand Theft Auto and Dead Rising were meshed into one title? Well, the result would most likely closely resemble State of Decay, a game that catapults the player into a third-person, free-roaming, apocalyptic, zombie-infested surrounding. In the Xbox Live game, Players are free to roam as they see fit, visit any building or steal any car – while punching as many zombies in the head as they wish. As a first title for Undead Labs, they should be applauded for their efforts and it just goes to show that they have what it takes to make a successful title. State of Decay has actually been so successful, that it has sold more than 550 000 copies since release. With great graphics, easy controls, tons of fun and a highly-interactive free roam elements, players will experience hours of enjoyment exploring the incredibly vast map.
10. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Another Xbox Live title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons tells the tale of two sons who embark on a journey to save a life, but things do not always go according to plans. Brothers is a heart-warming and somewhat sad title, and while the plot is not very complex and the title is not very long (about 2 – 3 hours of playtime), it is very entertaining. The graphics are fantastic and some cool elements have been worked into the gameplay, so it should keep gamers busy for a number of hours. When all is said and done, and players have figured out a way to focus on two things at once, it is actually a charming tale of hope, desperation and the prospect of a better life.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor