The Best Games of 20132: The Last of Us
The Last Of Us Review
DISCLAIMER: The Last of Us is the one game on this list I haven't personally played (I know, I know), so in order to explain why it's our number two game of the year, I refer you back to our review, where we said:
"The Last Of Us is a genuine masterpiece. It manages to be intensely cinematic but still benefit from being a video game. It offers an unparalleled sense of place and believability in characters who have arcs and dreams and goals, which don’t even necessarily correspond. It’s a fantastical setting that manages to still feel real enough. For its few flaws, it’s made up for in an experience that’s unlike much else. It’s an absolutely essential video game."
1: Half Life 2
"Rick, what are you doing? Half Life 2 was released in 2004. Are you trying to be funny or have you gone COMPLETELY insane?" The answer to that question is of course "Bananas!" but that's not why a nine year old game is occupying our top spot. Neither is it some snobbish slight on the games that were actually released this year, inferring that they were somehow generally of a lesser quality. All of the games on this list are excellent, as the previous fifteen hundred enthusiastically written words have hopefully conveyed.
It's because of this:
In the summer Half Life 2 had its code tweaked to enable support for the Oculus Rift - the PC virtual reality headset that enables full and responsive head-tracking and stereoscopic 3D. The Oculus Rift is an incredible bit of hardware, literally changing your perspective while playing a game. You're no longer looking at the game, you're placed inside it, and suddenly everything in the game is of a size to-scale with your own body, rendered in true 3D. Being able to intuitively relate your own body size and position to the virtual world enveloping you is a truly remarkable sensation that would probably be quite unsettling if it didn't feel so right, so absorbing.
The trouble was up to that point there hadn't really been a game to show it off other than Team Fortress 2, and competitive multiplayer isn't really the optimum environment to learn a whole new way of playing games. And ultimately, impressive as the Oculus Rift is, it is nothing without the right game to demonstrate that tech.
Half Life 2 changed all that. Despite being almost a decade old, Half Life 2 feels like it was made for the Rift. Its slow start gives you an opportunity to get acquainted with the headset as you wander around the train station of City 17, marvelling at the scale of the environment now it no longer has to be squeezed into a 20-odd inch monitor display.
But that's the least of it. When the game begins in earnest, the experience becomes even more astonishing. During the Route Kanal chapter, you literally dodge the Manhacks in your chair as they seem to fly right past your face. During Water Hazard, you can't help but cringe as a stray rocket destroys a chimney stack, and it collapses above you. At the end of "Follow Freeman", the vertical drops inside the caverns below the Citadel are dizzyingly high.
An awful lot has happened in gaming over the last twelve months, new consoles, revitalised franchises, astonishing indie innovations, but nothing quite edged the experience of playing Half Life 2 on the Oculus Rift. Not only did it highlight once again the masterful design of Valve's opus, but it also gave us enormous reason to be excited for the next twelve months of gaming, particularly PC gaming.