It's nearly time to ring in the new year, and you know what that means! No, not excessive drinking, singing Auld Lang Syne and declaring New Years resolutions you'll never keep, but bit-tech's rundown of the best games of 2013. Yes, nothing gets us into the fresh-start spirit quite like getting into a massive argument over an ultimately arbitrary list of games.
This year we're counting down from eleven rather than ten, because we simply couldn't squeeze all the games we wanted to talk about into the traditional structure of such articles. So, without further ado, here are our picks for the top games of 2013.
While Grand Theft Auto might have stolen all the headlines by being the most expensive and biggest selling game ever, it was Volition's one-time cheap knock-off counterpart, the Tesco own-brand baked beans to Rockstar's Heinz 57 varieties, that stole our hearts. Where GTA V is cynical in its parody, Saint's Row IV is joyous, where GTA V has cars and planes, Saint's Row IV has super-powers, where GTA V has a rocket launcher, Saint's Row IV has a Dubstep Gun. AND a rocket launcher.
It is frequently crass and stupid, but it's also equally warm and smart. Most importantly though, Saint's Row IV is fun. Pure, distilled, blindingly intoxicating fun.
Also winning the award for "most polarising game of 2013", some critics viewed Bioshock Infinite as excellent, while others believed it to be absolutely dreadful. There's certainly a sense that Infinite didn't quite live up to expectations. But having also played disaster-games like X-Rebirth and DARK, to deride it as entirely without merit seems rather silly.
One thing is certain, Infinite was enormously ambitious. At its core it is fundamentally an FPS, even more so than the original Bioshock, and yet within that rather limited framework it attempts to explore themes ranging from religion to quantum mechanics, racism to working class representation. In this it was too clever for its own good, and had it targeted one of these ideas rather than all of them, it would have succeeded better. But it nevertheless remains a hugely impressive game to play, and the city of Colombia a wondrous creation.
Call of Juarez quite literally plays with the concept of storytelling in games. It lets you play through the memories of Bounty Hunter Silas Greaves, who according to himself has either fought alongside or duelled against every iconic figure of the Wild West, from Wild Bill to Jesse James.
Structurally it's a straightforward FPS, you run forward through a series of pretty, cartoonish environments, blasting the hats off every cowboy who steps in front of your guns, before partaking in tense standoffs which increase in difficulty as you progress. But what makes Gunslinger fascinating is that Silas' memory lies somewhere between unreliable to downright fanciful, and the game changes as Silas alters his recollections, and defends himself against accusations of lying from the people he's telling his tall tales to.
Some levels will rebuild themselves in front of you as Silas changes his story, while others will be played from several angles as the listeners pitch in with their own versions of events, be they their own eyewitness accounts or stories they've read in dime-novels. Gunslinger is an entertaining, amusing and surprisingly intelligent ride, and undoubtedly Techland's strongest game to date.