Here we are, heading into the top 10 picks in TSA’s 2013 line-up. Looking back, our choices seem more or less justified, although two games on today’s list ended their journey on a sour note. Sadly, foresight isn’t among the myriad of super powers our staff have at their disposable, but even if it were there would only be a few changes to our magnificent top 10.
Ah, SimCity. Announced in 2012 to a rapture of applause, EA’s latest city-building simulation is perhaps one of the most notorious games to launch this year. Equipped with an amalgam of refined mechanics, flashy graphics and social features, SimCity looked to be the publisher’s PC swansong, but that simply was not to be.
When the game launched back in March, reviews ranged from perfect to abysmal, with SimCity currently sitting on a so-so average of 64. When the first reviews broke all seemed well; Maxis had delivered an addictive, fully-customisable simulation with heaps of content. However, no matter how EA and the acclaimed developer dressed it up, there was an underlying issue that left all their hard work undone.
You see, to access SimCity in any sort of capacity, the game required a constant internet connection. Sure, it threw a spanner in the works for would-be pirates, but this also punished regular paying customers. Like Diablo III, the game spewed out error after error, forcing players to sit in online queues, waiting to play something they’d already paid for. As Aran pointed out in his critique, playing SimCity 4 is as simple as firing up the CD-Rom; my, how times have changed.
Eventually EA responded to the legion of upset fans, offering a free game via Origin. Frank Gibeau defended the need for an always-online connection, claiming that EA’s intention was to improve the multiplayer experience, citing DRM as a “failed, dead-end strategy.”
Stealth-action pioneer, Hideo Kojima, revels in pulling the wool over fans’ eyes. It came as no surprise then, when Kojima Productions unveiled Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. “Where does this leave Ground Zeroes?” fans were asking, unwittingly falling for the gaming icon’s ruse.
For those still not sure what the hell is going on, The Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes are one and the same. Kojima’s predictable deception may not have had a resounding effect, but we’re still pumped for Metal Gear Solid 5. Slated as a cross-gen title, Big Boss returns under the codename “Punished Snake”. Though some of the details of his mission are unclear, we know it’s set during the mid 80s and will feature a cast of new and returning characters.
E3 finally brought us some answers, with a fairly expansive gameplay reveal from Kojima himself. The Afghanistan demo introduce a number of the game’s refined mechanics while demonstrating just what the FOX Engine is capable of.
2011′s Rayman Origins continues to be a favourite, here at TSA. However, having spent a good few years away from the spotlight, there was a chance the armless icon would fail to deliver, especially with Ubisoft turning back the clock and returning him to his 2D roots.
Luckily that wasn’t the case. As good as some of Rayman’s three-dimensional outings were, Origins was real winner, a sidescrolling platformer with clout. You can imagine how excited we were to hear that a sequel was on its way. Well, some of us were, notably those who had their eyes set on the Wii U.
Legends’ days as a Nintendo exclusive were numbered, however. No doubt hedging its bets, Ubisoft confirmed that the sequel would also be coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Vita, and PC. An announcement which was met with anger from dedicated Nintendo fans.
Before revealing its multi-platform plan, Ubisoft had said that the Wii U version was already done and dusted. This slip of the tongue led to a petition, demanding the Wii U version be launched on its original date. Of course Ubisoft didn’t crack, trying to appease fans with an early demo, and keeping the game set to release later this month.
The ill-fated Star Wars 1313 was one of our first glimpses of next-gen gaming, and didn’t fail to impress during its E3 2012 debut. Showcasing state-of-the-art tech and fantastic visual effects, 1313 looked to be a proper, mature Star Wars game without a single LEGO brick in sight. As a bounty hunter, you and your companion would scour the underbelly of Coruscant for criminals.
It was not to be, however. After buying up LucasArts, Disney closed the door on the iconic studio, cancelling 1313 in the process. However, as we soon learned, EA had entered a licensing deal with Disney, promising gamers a slew of Star Wars titles to look forward to.
Currently, the only game confirmed in connection with this partnership is the long-awaited Star Wars: Battlefront III (whoop whoop, indeed). However, that’s not to say that EA won’t pick up 1313 somewhere down the line; after all, the premise and assets are already there. Still, it seems unlikely EA would use its licensing deal to produce two third person shooters, one after another.
Finally, we have a game on our list that I’ve actually had the chance to play!
Since slotting it in at number 6, Beyond: Two Souls has seen plenty of exposure, from PR stunts to a huge gameplay reveal at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. This time last year there were so many questions we had about the game and its intriguing narrative, some of which still remain unanswered.
What we do know is that Jodie (played by Elli.. err.. Ellen Page) is at the very core of the experience. Beyond will more or less tell her entire life story, the ballad of an unfortunate young girl blessed with almighty powers. Well, sort of.
Her power is vested in Aiden, a wisp-like spirit which players can control in order to perform a number of functions Jodie can’t. From my experience with the game, it feels like a more action-orientated take on Quantic’s Heavy Rain, giving players much more control this time around.
It still suffers from some inherent stiffness however, though the compelling narrative is what will draw punters in. Watching Jodie’s story unfold and her relationship with Aiden will make for compelling viewing/playing, as Beyond pushes the boundaries between cinema and video games.
Tune in tomorrow for Blair’s run down of the Final Five. No, not the Cylons, but what we voted our top 5 most wanted games of 2013.