2013: Gaming Year In Review

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        2013 was a hell of a year for gaming. It started off with quiet murmurs and rumors of what was to come, and then BAM! Sony announces a press conference, announces the PS4 at the press conference, announces some games, shows off the controller (but not the console), drops the proverbial mic (which was later made literal by Jack Tretton) and leaves the door open for Microsoft to make their move.

Meanwhile, gamers were blessed with the releases of Ninja Theory’s DmC in mid-January, as well as the critically acclaimed Ni No Kuni from Namco Bandai and Studio Ghibli, and Platinum Games Metal Gear Rising in February. February also saw the somewhat mixed reactions to EA’s much-hyped Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3, and the phenomenal failure that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. This was also the month Nintendo announced that 2013 would be the Year of Luigi, to celebrate Mario’s green capped, under-appreciated, taller brother.

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Not all was fun and games at the beginning of the year though. Longtime developer THQ closed their doors, with their subsidiaries and licenses to be auctioned off shortly after. Their Montreal studios were bought by the ever growing Ubisoft, and Vancouver based Relic Entertainment being sold to Sega.

March was where the industry hit us with its first wave of real heavy hitters, starting off the month with the well-received Tomb Raider reboot (which is getting a next-gen facelift, to be released by the end of this month). A couple weeks later the God of War prequel, Ascension was released, on the same day as Starcraft II: Heart of The Swarm (ballsy move on Sony’s part!). Microsoft responded with their own GoW, being Gears Of War: Judgment starring side character Baird as the lead. This was also the week Nintendo decided to drop Capcom’s Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for Wii U and 3DS as their way of saying “we mean business”, marking the beginning of the 3DS’ strongest year yet. On the 26th, Irrational Games finally released the much anticipated Bioshock Infinite, which was met with near perfect scores across the board, and rightfully so with a storyline (particularly the ending) that people will be talking about and picking apart for years to come. Nintendo ended the month by releasing a sequel to Luigi’s Mansion for the 3DS called Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.

March was also the month of the infamous SimCity disaster, where EA learned the hard way that with always-online DRM, nobody wins.

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April gave us the first couple weeks to recoup from March’s onslaught of amazing games, with the only major release being TV-show-tie-in Defiance on the 2nd. Nintendo came back for your wallet on the 19th though, with Fire Emblem: Awakening, as well as a Wii U (and PS3) release of DC hero fighting game Injustice: Gods among Men. Both were received exceptionally well.

The first of May brought us an Xbox 360 release of the aforementioned Injustice, along with the hilariously fun Blood Dragon add on for Far Cry 3, and somewhat-successful monster fighter game Soul Sacrifice for the PS Vita.

And then, for a week, there was silence. But also not silence. Also everyone talking about how Microsoft was going to respond to Sony’s PS4 announcement, and boy did they ever drop the ball, disappoint everyone, and basically, deliver Xbox gamers version of ruining Christmas. With very little promise in the way of games, and the focus being kept on the newly revealed Xbox One as a home entertainment hub (accentuated by enough uses of the word “sports” to kill the meaning), gamers were left feeling on Xbox’s backburner, and with good reason. The very much too little, too late “Games with Gold” feature announced at the conference (Microsoft’s attempt at competing with Sony’s amazing PlayStation Plus service), didn’t, and still isn’t really helping their case, with every game being put up for the service having been out for 2 or more years and can be easily found in any game retailers bargain bin. And of course, the main cause for hubbub surrounding Microsoft’s new “entertainment console”, was the company’s sly attempts at using double speak to make the console’s then “always online” functionality, seem like a thing gamers wanted. It wasn’t. Microsoft’s Facebook and twitter were flooded with angry gamers, bashing the company for their obviously poor decisions. The console reveal event ended with a countdown to E3, where the gloves were scheduled to truly come off.

May also saw the strong release of Metro: Last Light, one of the last games THQ worked on. Nintendo also released Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for the 3DS, as well as The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages/Seasons on the eShop.

June began with the release of Capcom’s Remember Me, which received mixed reviews, as well as Bethesda’s Skyrim: Legendary Edition, which features the full game and all of its downloadable content. The following week saw the release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, which basically consumed the lives of everyone who bought it for at least a good month.

In the midst of this, Konami held their pre-E3 show, showing off Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, a strange DDR Classroom program, and Hideo Kojima announced that Kiefer Sutherland would be the new voice of Snake (Big Boss/Punished Snake) in Metal Gear Solid 5. Speaking of which…

Microsoft kicked off E3 with an awkward punch, immediately beginning the show with a new trailer/demo for Metal Gear Solid 5, with Hideo Kojima himself announcing that the game would be coming to Xbox One. Shortly afterward, there was a demo of the new Killer Instinct where an awkward rape joke was accidentally made, and some people are still experiencing the secondhand awkwardness. There was also a very awkward reveal of Crimson Dragoon, the spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon, featuring gameplay footage with the sound cut out. Undoubtedly, the most awkward moment of the show was when an EA representative came out to show off a demo of Battlefield 4, only for it to freeze immediately, and need to be restarted, while the representative stood there confused, and tried to leave the stage. Eventually the Battlefield demo did start, but I sincerely hope that man can look back at that moment and laugh at it. There was also a mysterious announcement of a new Halo title (definitely to be titled Halo 5), as well as the impressive and wondrous-looking Project Spark. Microsoft capped off the awkward-frence by announcing a November release window for the Xbox One, and a price point of $499.

EA’s conference included more uses of the word “sports”, enough to rival the Xbox One reveal, and the first showing of Titanfall, whose existence had been leaked shortly before E3 began. There were also super random appearances by Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, and Drake. Aaron Paul’s appearance being less random due to his involvement in the Need for Speed movie.

Ubisoft wowed everyone again with the impressive looking The Crew, a racing game featuring an entirely drivable map of USA, and The Division, a new MMO title under the Tom Clancy name.

Sony stole the show with their infamous and almost constant berating of Microsoft’s policies, taking advantage of the hole the competition had dug themselves into and filling it with confetti. Sony showed off their impressive PS4 exclusives as well as announcing a slew of indie games that are also exclusive to their new console. Not to mention the announcements of Kingdom Hearts 3(which I seriously thought I would not be alive to see) and Final Fantasy Versus XIII making a comeback as Final Fantasy XV, complete with revamped combat system. They closed the show by showing off the actual PS4 console, and put to rest rumors of the console having the same restrictions as the Xbox One, which received a standing ovation from much of the audience. Almost immediately, Sony released an instructional video on how to share PS4 titles with friends, blatantly mocking Microsoft. Of course, the video went viral basically as soon as it had been posted. Not to mention Sony’s E3 “exclamation point” was the release of the greatly-anticipated, (in my honest opinion) most technically impressive game ever made so far, Game of the Year winner from just about every publication on the internet, The Last of Us.

Nintendo chose an alternative method to their E3 presentation this year, opting to take advantage of their Nintendo Direct service. The general consensus is that Nintendo played it too safe this year, showcasing titles everyone saw coming, but were still pleased with, the biggest surprise of the presentation being the announcement of Mega Man as the latest addition to the Super Smash Bros. roster, for the Wii U/3DS installment due later this year. Nintendo also announced Mario Kart 8, which everyone saw coming, and Super Mario World 3D, whose holiday season release was met with great approval from critics and audiences alike. Xenogears developer Monolith showed off their Wii U exclusive title X, which is expected to be part of the aforementioned Xenogears universe. As part of the continuation of the Year Of Luigi, Nintendo announced Super Luigi U, which was released shortly after E3 as a sort of expansion pack for Super Mario Bros. U.

The summer started off slowly, with the official release of DOTA 2 on PC in early July, as well as the Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection, which featured every main storyline Metal Gear Solid to date. This was also when Telltale Games released The Walking Dead: 400 Days, a multi-story episode bridging the events of Season 1 and Season 2 of the game series. Shortly afterwards, the cult hit Shin Megami Tensei IV landed on the 3DS, with top down shooter Halo: Spartan Assault coming to PC and Windows Phone a few days later. July ended with the release of smash Ubisoft downloadable title Cloudberry Kingdom on the XBLA and PSN, and began August with the Wii U release of the randomly generated platformer. Speaking of which, Nintendo released the long awaited Pikmin 3 on the Wii U a few days later. Another few days later, another hit downloadable title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons came to the XBLA, which has won multiple awards among “downloadable Game Of The Year” categories. Nintendo continued their Year Of Luigi celebration/wallet assault with the adorable and colorful Mario and Luigi: Dream Team. August also saw the releases of the creepy mystery title Gone Home, which has also been nominated for multiple “downloadable game of the year” awards (what a great year for indie titles!), Disney Infinity, which is Disney’s response to the Skylanders series, which was also followed up by Pokemon Rumble U, which was Nintendo’s response to both of the aforementioned. Whacky open world gangster-superhero-90s dance party simulator Saints Row IV was released on the 20th,with Grasshopper of No More Heroes fame releasing the super-weird, stylistic Killer Is Dead a week later, on which the same day Capcom released giant alien bug killer game, Lost Planet 3.

It’s also worth mentioning that the beginning of August marked this year’s Quakecon, as well as the month Square Enix released a revamp of Final Fantasy XIV, subtitled A Realm Reborn, an MMO that, if it had failed, would have bankrupted the company. Luckily, the game was successful and the company was quietly saved, but still somewhat in the red. Hopefully the big guns the developer pulled out during E3 (being Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV) will bring the company the financial success they need. I mean, what would the industry be without a new Final Fantasy every few years? Don’t you want your kids to be playing FFXX while you regale them with tales of turn based combat and complicated leveling and skill menus?

Sorry, that got really off topic.

 

September closed out pre-holiday season with a bang, obviously with the release of Grand Theft Auto 5, the most expensive, and most successful game in history, earning one billion US dollars in the first 3 days of its release. Square Enix released Kingdom Hearts 1.5, featuring a graphically updated version of the original Kingdom Hearts, as well as a feature length cutscene mashup explaining the events of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days, and an updated version of Chain Of Memories. Sony also released the cutesy side scrolling platformer Puppeteer in this month, while Nintendo fought hard for your hard earned money with the release of Platinum Games’ The Wonderful 101, and The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker HD Edition, accompanied by a beautiful special edition Wind Waker Wii U (try saying that ten times fast!).

 

This year’s holiday season began with the release of the online portion of Grand Theft Auto 5, as well as the release of Quantic Dream’s long awaited Beyond: Two Souls, featuring voice acting and motion capture from Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. Telltale Games launched their Fables comic series game The Wolf Among Us, and Nintendo came back for your dollars once more with the release of Pokemon X and Y, the first 3D Pokemon games in the main series. This was also the month Activision released Skylanders: Swap Force, Nintendo released exciting lawyer simulator Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies, Ubisoft released pirate/confusion simulator Assassin’s Creed IV, EA released military simulator Battlefield 4, and Warner Bros released the much anticipated, very pretty, Batman: Arkham Origins.

November was the month everyone had been waiting for. Everything this year had been culminating to. Sure, there was Call of Duty: Ghosts, and one of my personal favourite games of the year (and maybe ever), Tearaway, but what was coming was much, much bigger than that.

The PS4 and Xbox One were finally released. People lined up all over the world to get their hands on the next generation of gaming, and even though the launch lineups weren’t particularly exciting, it was exciting just knowing that a new generation of fantastic games and new features and new ways to play games was only beginning. These are the new consoles you’re going to be spending presumably a lot of your free time using for the next however long! You’re going to spend a considerable fraction of your life with these new controllers in your hands! You’re going to get attached and develop your own sort of relationship (in a non-weird way (please don’t put anything in them that shouldn’t go there)) with these consoles, and it’s awesome. So hold on to the excitement you felt when that brand new blue or black box full of your console of choice was placed into your hands. You’re gonna need it!

Along with these new consoles came exclusives. Knack, from console architect and Q*bert creator Mark Cerny, came to the PS4 as well as Killzone: Shadowfall. With the Xbox One came the awkwardly demoed Crimson Dragon, as well as Ryse: Son Of Rome from Crytek, and Dead Rising 3 from Capcom Vancouver.

This year in gaming came to a soft exit in December, with Minecraft finally coming to PSN, and the release of The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 1 – All That Remains which has been met with great reviews.

I’d say it’s been a pretty great year for gaming, with my personal favorites being The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite, Tearaway, and The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. It’s also been a pretty important year for gaming, because this was the year consumers really made themselves heard. With all these social networks and different ways to communicate with our favorite hardware and software developers, the people were actually able to sway the industry in their favor, at least a little bit. Companies like Microsoft and EA learned the hard way that being controlled is not what consumers want, but the freedom to do what they want with what they spend their money on. Crazy, right?

 

What were your favorite moments in gaming from the past year? Whether it be games, or moments, or moments in games, sound off in the comments below, and bid a fond farewell to 2013…

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