Game of the Year: Bioshock Infinite
With combat as fluent as ever, and a story that could easily be in the running for the Best Video Game Story Of All Time (Yeah, I said it), Irrational’s masterpiece easily takes GOTY for me. From exploring the gorgeous/warped world of Columbia, to the final moments at the hull of a ship, Bioshock Infinite’s story, world, combat, and music (both the score and the modern retellings…) sucked me in and just couldn’t let me go. I don’t know if there will be another Infinite, or even another Bioshock game, but if Infinite is the last of its kind, I’ll be alright with that.
Most Underrated Game: Metro: Last Light
I never got around to play Metro 2033 when it came out three years ago, so jumping into Last Light was a bit jarring. But once the story untangled itself for me relatively early, Last Light became a sci-fi experience akin to E.T. set in a post apocalyptic Russia. For as much death and plague this game shows the player, it’s the small amounts of light that makes Metro really shine. Each underground city you visit is full of life; whether it be little kids sailing small boats to strip shows, the game makes you think for a couple of minutes that people can actually like living in sewers while the surface is full of deadly creatures and poisonous air. For a year strong in narratives, Metro: Last Light shines along with every best seller.
Independent Game of the Year: Papers, Please
A game about paper work shouldn’t be fun – nor should it actually be a thing. But the morally awkward enjoyment I got from Papers, Please showed that it could be done. Each choice you make affects someone – including yourself. Would you let a man and wife reunite over your border for a pay deduction for your own family? Or would you help ignite a revolution for a large sum of money to keep your family warm and healthy? Papers, Please is so much more than a paper pushing game – its an overall good time. Glory to Arstotzka!
Character(s) of the Year: Michael, Trevor, and Franklin from Grand Theft Auto V
This is the kind of thing where without (a), (b) would not be as good. In this case, (a) are the leads to Grand Theft Auto V – the moral compass Franklin, the angry retiree Michael, and everyone’s favorite psychopath Trevor. If Rockstar stuck to their single protagonist format for GTAV, the story/dialog would not even hold a candle to what it is now. Can you even imagine this game without Trevor?
Most Anticipated for 2014: TellTale Games’ Game of Thrones and Borderlands, plus the continuation of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us
The new kings of video game stories now have four projects I’m looking forward to playing. The Walking Dead already has me locked in for season two (Clem is a BAMF), and The Wolf Among Us is settling into its own, and with the announcement of Game of Thrones and Borderlands both becoming Telltale series as well, there is a lot to be excited for in 2014. If only the episodes came out sooner rather than later.
Favorite Game: The Last of Us
I might have actually had more fun playing Splinter Cell: Blacklist overall, especially when you consider replayability value, but The Last of Us is one of the fullest and most affecting experiences I have had with my gaming controller in my hands all my life. The Last of Us doesn’t try to impress with high levels of zombie/survival elements to the game, but rather it grabs you with this story between a guy who was destroyed by the end of the world and a young girl who greatly contrasts this bleak landscape. Like these two, when the game is over you will not be the same person you were when you pressed New Game.
Honorable mentions: Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Tomb Raider
Best Opening: The Last of Us
The beginning of The Last of Us actually takes place 20 years before the main body of the story, in the world we’re used to. After your father comes home late from work, you wake up as a little girl in an eerily calm house, alone. As you walk around the house looking for the comforting presence of your father, the news on the TV is talking about some disaster occurring when outside an explosion is seen in the distance, with a soundtrack of passing emergency vehicles racing by on the street right outside. Eventually we switch to playing this little girl’s father as he runs through the chaotic streets of their hometown as zombie-like creatures attack everyone they can, and we experience what creates the man that we spend the rest of the game with.
Favorite Character: Ellie from The Last of Us
If it had not been for Ellie, I would have easily fallen into a deep depression following the completion of the game because it is a rough story of survival. But this teen girl represents the hope for a brighter tomorrow, and she is the one bright spot throughout the entirety of the game. Her emotional state was my emotional state, so thank goodness she was almost always good for a smile, whether it be with her entertaining dialogue or the small acts of simply being a young girl occurring in the background (like obliviously whistling while turning a curb into a balance beam). Best of all, she helped me experience the beauty of the majestic giraffe.
Favorite DLC: Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
Speaking of favorite characters, Tiny Tina ran away with this award last year, being this hilarious, and often hilariously disturbing, little girl who has grown up in this wasteland. I was hardly the only one who felt this way about her, so it’s no surprise that one of Borderland 2’s (often superior) campaign DLC packs focuses on her and the inner workings of her mind as she plays the Dungeon Master to Pandora’s version of Dungeons and Dragons. In other words, she is an omnipotent and all powerful higher being as her voice plays over the loudspeaker of this fantasy influenced version of the gameworld as your vault hunter fights to rescue a damsel in distress. I could play the whole game like this.
Still to Play: Beyond: Two Souls, Bioshock Infinite, Crysis 3, DMC: Devil May Cry, God of War: Ascension, Grand Theft Auto V, Lego Marvel Super Heroes