Game Front Staff’s 2013 Game of the Year
- The Last of Us
- Tomb Raider
- Payday 2
- Bioshock Infinite
- Dead Rising 3
I’ve heard many of my gaming journo friends and colleagues describe 2013 as a year without a clear cut GOTY. I couldn’t disagree more. For me, The Last of Us is as deserving as any other GOTY in recent memory and rightly takes its place among some of the finest interactive adventures ever created. The overall narrative has been told many times, there’s an odd, nearly unforgivable plot hole, and some of the core gameplay mechanics, namely the third-person shooting, are obtuse. None of those things could pull me out of my complete immersion in The Last of Us’ horrifyingly beautiful, character-driven world.
When Crystal Dynamics unveiled the rebooted Lara Croft – one without boobs big enough to be legally classified as flotation devices – and I immediately took notice. I’m glad I did, because CD not only resuscitated the moribund character, they made a fantastic adventure game in the process. I’m still not sure what the hell is going on in Yamatai, the fantastical fictional island where Lara’s origin story unfolds. Thankfully, CD put the gameplay focus on finding tools and putting them to use to figure out the many “get from point A to point B waaay over there” puzzles. Doing so is immensely rewarding, and by the end of my adventure, I marveled at the number of skills Lara had learned. I felt like a bonafide Tomb Raider.
The idea Overkill introduced with 2011’s Payday: The Heist — horde mode blended into a bank robbery — is fully fleshed out in this fantastic sequel. You’re no longer simply taking a few jobs, you’re setting out on a full-blown career in crime. Playing with an AI crew is futile and numerous launch bugs added a ton of frustration, but when a friend and I use our particular skills and abilities to bust in, survive the swarming SWAT, and get away with the loot, there is no finer co-op shooter experience. Payday 2 is a horde-heist dream.
When I think of BioShock Infinite, I go back to a rowboat ride with Robert and Rosalind Lutece and their promise: “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.” Those who have played through the entire time-bending adventure know that phrase carries infinite weight. In some ways, BioShock Infinite is a floating city of dreams not fully realized, particularly in what should have been its biggest gameplay addition, your AI partner Elizabeth. We were promised an AI revolution, instead we got a pretty damsel in distress adept at tossing you coins and ammo. But for all of its problems, BioShock Infinite delivers a thought-provoking experience that gamers will be talking about (string theory, classism, segregation) for years to come.
The storyline is so over the top I didn’t blink when I was forced to fight a morbidly obese woman whose main weapons were her rascal scooter and her vomit, and it all looks great on Microsoft’s new console. But it’s the scope of Dead Rising 3 that sets it apart from its predecessors and kept me coming back for more. When I climbed atop an overturned bus at the outset of Dead Rising 3, I saw a highway stretch into the distance – a four-lane road absolutely jam-packed with the undead. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of the buggers. That’s how big Dead Rising 3 is. It’s huge and ridiculous, and it’s not only the best thing you can play on the Xbox One right now, it’s one of my favorite games on any platform this year.