Last week I made a couple lists of games that I thought may not be top ten contenders, but still deserved some words at the end of the year. Now the gloves are off and it is time to dismiss the good games and get to the great games. Here are the must-plays of 2013.
Launch lineups are quagmires of unused technology and tight development schedules, they rarely deliver and often disappoint. Looking back on the litany of games that have accompanied new systems, you are sure to find majority are underwhelming. The launch lineup for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were equally disappointing, from the bigger titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall to smaller games like Lococycle. The only game to really break away from these criticisms, and currently the highest ranked exclusive launch title on Metacritic, was Resogun.
Resogun is easy to write off due to its simple premise. There’s no plot, there’s no set-pieces, there’s none of the sexy next-gen-y-ness that you shelled out your $400-$500 for. The game is short, it is repetitive, these are qualms one can raise. However, if you accept Resogun for what it is, if you stop thinking about games as photorealistic cinema-clones and start thinking about core gameplay, Resogun is one helluva game.
When I show off the next-gen consoles to my friends, they get bored watching–or even playing–the majority of the lineup. The next-generation has filed out games that highlight a checklist of modern day features, but very few have tried to actually get to the heart of the player. Resogun shines in this light, you don’t need hours of time with Resogun to understand why its easy to get yourself hooked. Passing a controller and watching friends zip between enemies and wreck space-age shop is the most connected experience that you can find on next-gen platforms. Resogun is fun for everyone and anyone, people get excited about their scores, and confident that they are just one more try from their best. Resogun can capture this magic in a bottle because of its intensely sharp focus on the mechanics. The game plays so tight and is so specific that you never find yourself frustrated at wonky controls or the unclear objectives, the game’s simplicity can be viewed as a fault, but I find it a compliment.
The graphics might not blow you away but the dark hues, accented by neon lights is a striking esthetic. Resogun is a game where you have to acknowledge the little things, the grandiose horn theme at the beginning, the ruthless level design that provides a real challenge, the quick match-makinging that makes online co-op simple to hop into. It is easy to dismiss so much of what makes Resogun addictively fascinating, but it is also terribly unfair. Resogun is video game comfort food, it brings players back to why games were great, before high powered graphics and superstar voice work.
In an age where arcade games are scoffed at and forgotten, Resogun fires a flare to remind us why these games are a treasure. Gameplay and level design are the two most important aspect to a game, without them you have nothing but a spotty CGI movie, and few games have demonstrated mechanics and design to match Resogun. It is one of the finest games that this year had to offer and if you skipped on it, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Grand Theft Auto V
It is cliche to say, but Grand Theft Auto V is more than a game. It is hard to find these franchises that have risen to greater significance than their coded innards, but GTA V reestablished what its brand means to video games and pop culture. You can walk into a bar in any city, take a seat, start talking about Grand Theft Auto, and chances are good you will find someone who has played it. While most games that sell like Rockstar’s action-crime series would be churned out in a vicious annualized production-cycle, Rockstar continues to sit on their games until they are comfortable releasing them. This denial of content concludes in a fever-pitch response, that moves copies off of shelves like no one’s business.
While it is impossible to talk about the importance of the series without mentioning it’s greater iconic merits, it is also important to acknowledge what makes Grand Theft Auto V an impressive game. Few games have ever been able to bottle modern-day metropolises and culture the way the GTA series has done, and the fifth numerical installment does it even better than its predecessors. GTA V reaches beyond its urban domination to try and explore the true layout of American cities, toying with the idea of suburbs and rural populations. Not only does GTAV create these worlds, but it populates them with a bevy of addicting things to do. Everything from triathlons to base jumping have been packed into this sandbox, its overwhelming for some, but deliciously deep for those who crave these open-world titles.
Improved Grand Theft Auto V are the shooting mechanics that have long plagued the series, as well as the driving which made certain sequences of GTA IV unbearable. The best addition to GTA V is the checkpointing, which sounds like bizarre praise, but was a first for the core of the GTA series. Grand Theft Auto V continued to shake up its formula with gameplay changes that markedly improved the experience. Setting up heists and seamlessly swapping between three great characters created opportunities for Rockster to explore more characters and storylines. There are still elements of choice to the series, still little additions here and there to keep the world feeling fresh, and that is what is best about Grand Theft Auto, while it is more of the same, it is indisputably reinvigorated a franchise where more and different content was desired.
Grand Theft Auto continues to simulate the sprawling urban world of Americana in a way that no other game can–more accurately, no other game even tries. It finds a way to take the mundane, the everyday aspects of modern life and make it interesting and fun. How many games can make cheating the stock market so enjoyable for so many people, how many games can get you to spend hours walking through the wilderness? Grand Theft Auto offers the bizarre and flashy, no doubt. But the game is at its best when it is allowing you to take in the world, without expectation or directions. There are reasons to roll your eyes at the long lauded, sometimes overrated series, but even those who dislike the open-world crime dramas have to appreciate what these games mean to video game and pop culture.