Top 5 Games of 2013, so far…

I must admit, when making a list of all the games I’ve played this year so far, I had no idea how difficult a task it would be to only pick 5. It’ll be interesting to see if any of these 5 games make it into the top 10 games list at the end of the year, with next-gen just around the corner. Some of the games listed, you may not have played yet and hopefully this list will encourage you to pick it up. To make it on this list, the games had to be memorable, an experience I wanted to go through again. As a package, everything had to be at least enjoyable, that includes any multiplayer or co-op mode. Finally, all games had to be worth the price of admission, every penny you spend on the game had to feel like it was well spent on a quality product.

1. The Last of Us – It really is this good, I promise you. The story was nothing short of one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with games. Characters I cared for, situations I cringed at, A.I. that was fun to play against and a conclusion that leaves me more than curious to see where Naughty Dog may go in the future with the franchise or DLC. Then there’s the multiplayer, and once again, it’s amazing. The focus on survival, crafting and limited ammo makes the multiplayer feel unlike anything you’ve ever played. Each life is just as precious as the next. After putting over 15 hours into it, I can’t wait to see it expand with more modes and maps through DLC.

2. Bioshock Infinite – I remember playing the original Bioshock like it was yesterday, I played through that game numerous times. Unfortunately, Bioshock Infinite didn’t capture the magic of Rapture for me. That’s not so say it’s a bad game however, quite the opposite actually. This game shown gamers that the main driving force of the game doesn’t have to be the playable character, but it can be a companion character. Elizabeth was the best friend we always wanted, come the end of the game, all we care about is the safety of her character. That’s great story telling and writing if I ever saw it.

3. Tomb Raider – Never talk about a game exceeding expectations until you’ve played Tomb Raider. This game shocked me with its brutality, yet drew me in with the development of Lara Croft as a character. A simple explorer, turned true survivalist. From her first kill, to losing some of her closest friends, we see a side of Lara Croft that I want to see more of. Multiplayer is perhaps a little more average in comparison to the single player, but when your setting traps, zip lining across maps and hunting down your friends, it can be a lot of fun.

4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – For the price of admission, you’ll find it hard to get better value than this. When most shooters seem to focus on the realism and Russian enemies, the idea of playing a cyber commando and dragons shooting lasers out their eyes is a pleasant one. As it turns out, it was. For a 1/4 of the price of a retail game, you got just as much content. Funny, over-the-top, great soundtrack, fantastic art style, it’s the game every fan of movies from the 80’s has to play. Now if only we could see a sequel or full a Far Cry game in this style, Ubisoft would be on to a winner.

5. Metro: Last Light – If you wanted to play a survival horror, first-person shooter with a captivating story, then Metro: Last Light has you covered. Graphics that will push your PC to its limits, stealth gameplay that feels satisfying yet violent, Metro as a franchise is heading to the right direction. Improving upon its predecessor in every way, I’m interested in where they may go with the series next. There’s always that rumoured cut multiplayer content they may want to expand into a game, or maybe try to tell some stories from different view points. Nether the less, with Deep Silver now own the publishing rights to Metro, we may see more, sooner than you think.

Honourable Mentions – Dead Space 3, God of War: Ascension, State of Decay, Crysis 3 and Injustice: God Among Us.

-ast

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State of Decay – Sandbox Mode and 500,000+ Downloads

It hit the spot.

It hit the spot.

Big congratulations are needed as Undead Labs have achieved over 500,000 downloads for their open-world, zombie survival game, State of Decay. If this is evident to anything, it’s that the zombie sub-genre of games is not overdone, just needing a new direction. That direction being a focus on survival and not mowing them down with enough ammo to sustain an army. With these kinds of sales, it’s no surprise that Undead Labs is hard at work on patches for the game to make it more stable, but more interesting, they’re also working on additional content.

We all know, including Undead Labs themselves that a co-op mode would do more than sweeten the deal. These kind of survival games crave he ability to have a friend accompany you as you walk, run and drive through the zombie infested map. Unfortunately, this is something that will take time and will not be coming to the game anytime soon, the developers themselves have confirmed that.

On the positive side though, they have confirmed something that will be coming to the game within the next couple of months. Sandbox Mode. In this mode the story quests are deactivated and your one and only objective is to survive for as long as you can. Also confirmed is that some additional mechanics will be introduced within this mode, however no light has been shed on what they may be. For me, maybe some additional activities to keep you busy around the map or the inclusion of being able to have your home base at any of the available destinations on the map.

Unfortunately, we’re still in the dark as to whether or not this Sandbox Mode will arrive as paid DLC, free DLC or in a free update. We do know that achievements will be attached to it, but usually that means it’s a form of DLC, and usually paid DLC at that. Drop the extra achievements and let everyone who has bought the game, experience the new mode, that’s what I say. Either way, well done Undead Labs, I look forward to future products from you.

-ast

State of Decay – First Impressions

The Zombie Game we've always wanted

The Zombie Game we’ve always wanted.

Version Played: Xbox 360

Back in 2006 when I was gearing up to buy my Xbox 360, I was buying it for one game. That game was Dead Rising. With zombie games, no matter how many we receive, I’ll play them all regardless of seeking out reviews. Dead Rising remains one of my favourite zombie game franchises, but it wasn’t the zombie game we have all wanted. The survival zombie game we all crave has only really just been introduced with Day Z, yet that is only on PC. State of Decay is the survival zombie we’ve all been waiting for. Available on Xbox 360 and later to be released on PC, State of Decay puts you in the middle of an open world ravaged by zombies, with your main goal, to survive day by day.

State of Decay is the first game from Undead Labs, and by god do they impress. From the first few hours with the game everything is looking very promising. Having an open world to explore and survive in is what we have always wanted in zombie games. The world feels lived in, yet torn apart by the apocalypse. You start the game by returning from a 2 week-long trip with your friend. Upon returning your attacked by zombies and from there you find survivors and slowly learn what has happened in the 2 weeks you’ve been away.

Imagine yourself holding off a horde attack from the house.

The game revolves around survival, gathering food, ammo, medical and building supplies to help grow and protect your community of survivors. Keeping them happy and healthy is the key to success from what I’ve seen so far. Fractures can develop between people and at times you’ll be task to take people out with you to talk to them about the problems they may be causing within the group. Everyone you encounter can become your friend, and the more friends you have the better. This is because when you die, your character is dead for good and you will switch to one of their friends. All that levelling up you’ve done with the character, the bond you’ve developed, all gone and ripped apart if they fall victim to the zombies. You will be switching between friends regards of you dying anyway as your characters will need rest, so when they do, you should switch and take someone else out.

You can also use these friends you gain and survivors you choose to save to help upgrade your home base. Improving the food, helping with training people or even just being a good shot helping guard the base from the watchtower. The people you meet are just as important to your survival as you are. When out in the world searching through abandoned homes for supplies, if you come across more than you can carry, then radio your base and send out someone to pick up the rest of the supplies. Of course this is all risk and reward, you could just drop off the supplies you have and come back, but then it’s much faster sending someone out to help but they run the risk of getting attacked by zombies on the way.

The zombies in the game shamble around at first, but once they have spotted you or heard you, then they run straight at you. Usually in zombie games, I would welcome a large group of zombies to tear through, but in State of Decay, taking on more than one is always a risk. Melee weapons and firearms are your main zombie killing tools. With melee, much less noise is made, but weapons can break and they’re horrible for crowd control. Firearms on the other hand can take out a small group with well placed headshots, but make a lot of noise, which can attract more zombies than you may have bullets for. Each gun in the game can take different types of ammo, so having the right kind of bullets for the gun you’ve just found is an intense feeling. Tip: Raid the gun shop as soon as possible!

In your inventory (upgradable by the size of the bag your carrying), you also have access to consumables, from painkillers to snacks, these will fill your health and stamina bar back up. You also can carry objects to distract zombies and even kill them with the likes of homemade Molotov Cocktails and mines. This being an open world game, there’s plenty of cars to drive around too. Cars can deteriorate over too much running over of the dead, as much fun as it is. Also, this seems like a truly consistent open world too. Houses I’ve fully emptied out don’t respawn more supplies and cars, once damaged, don’t heal or respawn either. Maybe this will change once you’re a far enough distance from the location it may reset when you revisit it later. So far though, that hasn’t happened and I hope it doesn’t, it adds to the survival aspect of the game.

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Driving is made more fun when your car is covered in zombies!

Even with being a few hours into the game, I’ve not touched the story very much. Not that it’s bad, in fact, learning more about the early days of the infection is very interesting and I can’t wait to see what’s in store later down the line. But with so much to do, so many people to save, so many houses to explore and raid, there’s always something for you to do. Early insight into the story though has me interested in what’s to come, and that can only be a good thing. The game is also quite good-looking too. Whilst not on par with a lot of major releases, it’s still nice to look at for a cheaper, smaller release.

State of Decay is a fantastic game so far, giving off every impression that it can only get better. The developers, Undead Labs have said this game is very much the foundation of an open world survival zombie MMO. Depending on the success of this game, we may get that game in the future. They do deserve every single sale this game receives, and if you have yourself an Xbox 360, I recommend picking this game up as soon as you get the chance. It does fall into the premium side of the Xbox Live Arcade price point, at 1600 Microsoft Points. But very much like Minecraft before it, it’s definitely deserving of the higher price point.

-ast