Game Front’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Table of Contents


Games
This section authored by Ben Richardson

Games: the meat in this gift guide sandwich. With so many titles out every year, making a comprehensive list can be hard — you’ll have to wait until our end-of-the-year awards for that. In the meantime, read on for an abbreviated list of favorites. While it’s not possible to list something for absolutely everyone, we tried for a mix of different genres and styles — and recent and not-as-recent releases — that will please the many different people on your gift list.


The Last of Us

Price: $59.99
Buy It On: PS3
Buy It For: Adult gamers who prize story and character, Horror movie fans
Buy It From: Amazon
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Genre: Third-person Action
ESRB: M
Release Date: 6/12/2013
Read our Review: The Last of Us Review


Naughty Dog is best known for the Uncharted series, a trilogy of globe-trotting Indiana Jones homages that combine spectacular scenery with witty writing and voice acting. With The Last of Us, the Santa Monica studio sticks to these strengths in the pursuit of a very different goal. The game’s post-apocalyptic levels are still lovingly designed, and the writing, acting, and characterization remain excellent, but the tone is a somber, thoughtful contrast to Uncharted’s technicolor excess. Players follow Joel — a smuggler haunted by his past — and Ellie — a precocious teen who’s good with a bow — as they pick their way across a country ruined by fungal infestation. Though the game is impressive on a technical level, it’s the human element — the relationship between Joel and Ellie — that you’ll remember long after finishing the final level.


Battlefield 4

Price: $59.99
Buy It On: PC
Buy It For: Shooter fans, Armchair tacticians
Buy It From: Origin
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Genre: First-person Shooter
ESRB: M
Release Date: 10/29/2013
Read our Review: Battlefield 4 Review


Best enjoyed on the PC to take advantage of its grandiose technology, Battlefield 4 is the latest in a long line of shooter games from Swedish developer DICE. The modern warfare gameplay is hardly groundbreaking, though massive 64v64 matches full of tanks, helicopters, and other esoteric military hardware are still as fun as ever. This time around, it’s the hyperbolic scale that really impresses, as new “levelution” technology enables players to destroy massive skyscrapers or fight through a gradually flooding Chinese exurb. A wealth of unlockables and customizations provides plenty of replay value, and veteran players will welcome the return of “Commander Mode,” which enables one player to trade his rifle for a map and direct the efforts of other combatants. Though the game also features a single-player story (starring The Wire’s Michael K. Williams), multiplayer is the star of the show here.


Grand Theft Auto V

Price: $59.99
Buy It On: Xbox 360
Buy It For: Amateur felons, Car nuts, People who like having fun
Buy It From: Amazon
Publisher: Rockstar
Developer: Rockstar North
Genre: Third-person Open World Action
ESRB: M
Release Date: 9/17/2013
Read our Review: Grand Theft Auto 5 Review


Always controversial and never boring, Rockstar’s latest Grand Theft Auto title arrived this fall and promptly sewed up $1 billion in sales. Though the series’ sarcastic humor and hard-boiled storytelling don’t have their finest outings here, it’s the sheer variety in GTA V that makes it so worth buying. With three playable characters and a giant swath of Southern California to explore, there’s always something to do, whether it’s driving, diving, robbing banks, or simply mountain biking through beautiful scenery. Players who have completed the narrative and grown tired of playing the in-game stock market can still look forward to Grand Theft Auto Online, a mammoth, free multiplayer mode. Not, it must be said, a good choice for kids, although women who are pregnant or nursing should be fine.


Saints Row 4

Price: $49.99
Buy It On: PC
Buy It For: People who think Borderlands 2 was too subtle and lacked enough sex; Civics teachers
Buy It From: Steam
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Volition
Genre: Action
ESRB: M
Release Date: 8/20/2013
Read our Review: Saints Row 4 Review

Saints Row IV is all at once puerile, profane and touching, but mainly, it’s too busy being awesome for you to ever get bored. It’s a hybrid of linear(ish) story missions and a plethora of side activities that mostly works. You’ll complete side missions to unlock more powers and enable the ability to access new allies, who in turn unlock critical story missions that take you everywhere from the first Saints Row to a parody of Metroid. You also get to play what feels like 10 games in one. Like text-based adventures? You get two of them. Fighting games? You get several opportunities. RPGs? Trust me, this might be the closest an action crime game will ever get. And, no joke, Mass Effect fans still angry about Mass Effect 3 can consider their honor defended. (I’m not going to spoil it, but it happens twice.)


The Wolf Among Us

Price: $24.99
Buy It On: PC
Buy It For: Comic book fans, Indie enthusiasts, People who enjoyed last year’s The Walking Dead
Buy It From: Steam
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Ubisoft
Genre: Adventure
ESRB: M
Release Date: 10/11/2013
Read our Review: The Wolf Among Us Review


Indie studio Telltale Games had the sleeper hit of 2012 with The Walking Dead, and it’s now busy adapting another comic book, Bill Willingham’s Fables. Like Willingham’s cult favorite, the five-episode game is set in a universe where fairy tales are real, and familiar fairy tale characters — many of them deeply flawed, or downright despicable — live in Fabletown, somewhere in New York City. The game follows Fabletown sheriff “Bigby,” aka the Big Bad Wolf, who polices these mythological miscreants while also battling his own demons. Boasting the same smart writing, dense plotting, and gorgeous art that made The Walking Dead such a treat, The Wolf Among Us is a bargain at $24.99


Europa Universalis IV

Price: $39.99
Buy It On: PC
Buy It For: History buffs, Strategy Fans, Whoever you tend to lose to in Risk
Buy It From: Steam
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Development Studio
Genre: Grand Strategy
ESRB: T
Release Date: 8/13/2013


They don’t have sexy graphics or big-name voice actors, but the grand strategy titles from Swedish studio Paradox are more engrossing than most big-budget competitors. Though the learning curve can be a little intimidating, players will learn to appreciate the attention to detail and the useful information lurking in all those tiny menus. History buffs and strategy fans — even veterans of other, more accessible series’ like Civilization or Total War — owe it to themselves to try this sprawling simulator. Europa Universalis IV covers the years 1444 to 1821, which should provide enough war, exploration, and technological change to satiate anyone.


Tomb Raider

Price: $49.99
Buy It On: PC
Buy It For: Action game fans, People who like torture porn
Buy It From: Steam
Publisher: Square Enix, Eidos Interactive
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Genre: Action
ESRB: M
Release Date: 3/5/2013
Read our Review: Tomb Raider Review

Tomb Raider is a phenomenal experience, with only a few missteps over the course of a lengthy, beautiful game. Tomb Raider is stunning, and cranking up the settings on Lara’s hair adds another layer of graphical excellence. It seems the game can handle really high settings as well as really low ones, but with a decent card under the hood, I found myself snapping screenshots of vast shipwrecks and smoky landscapes quite often.

I’m sad that Tomb Raider is over. It’s a game I wish I could go back and start over again fresh to experience for the first time all over again. It’s guilty of keeping me up late and monopolizing quite a bit of my time (around 15 hours with doing a lot of searching for extraneous junk). More than that, though, it’s a powerful step forward for the character of Lara Croft and maybe for game heroes in a broader sense. Lara feels like a hero much more than most other protagonists do, because she earns it. And the great part of playing through Tomb Raider is that I felt like I earned it, too.

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1 Comment on Game Front’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

AxΣtwin

On November 16, 2013 at 10:44 am

I just want to say, your PC components section is the whole reason why people think PC’s are several hundreds of dollars more expensive than they need to be.