2013 Game of the Year Awards

► Well here it is. The past week and a half has been leading up to this here article. Beginning last week we have featured our contributors personal Top 5 lists on the front page and allowed our readers to get inside the heads of us here at CA! and to also possibly discover a new game or two that you may have missed over the last year. But now it is time to let you in on the final secrets and to discover which games we believe should be recognized as the best that 2013 delivered. Which games should be immortalized and which should be forgotten. 2013 was a pretty great year for gaming and some of the best of the bunch are just below. First, each category below features five games that we as a group believe to be some of the best fitting that description. They demonstrate the given awards title and ideas perfectly and deserve to be played by as many gamers as possible. Just because a game is nominated for a category but doesn’t come away victorious does not discount that title from its deserved spot among the other contenders. Each game within a list is damn impressive and deserves to be played by gamers everywhere. Second, there were several games that were among the finalists that, for whatever reason, were changed during final deliberations.

The entire process of whittling down each category and playing as many games as possible lasted a couple of months and the final process of choosing winners for each category lasted an entire evening. This wasn’t a process that was rushed but one we took time and respect towards. In fact, the final three judges, Chuck, Randy and Chris, actually recorded their evening of finalizing the winners and losers for people to listen to and enjoy. We recorded over six hours of audio that has been edited, touched up, and thankfully, shortened. The process has been split between two CA! Radio Game of the Year 2013 episodes and each can be found below. If you would like to discover the reasons the winners were chosen or if you are curious as to which games were chopped at the last possible second, all can be heard below as you work, walk, or just lounge about playing games.

CA! Radio Game of the Year 2013 Part One
CA! Radio Game of the Year 2013 Part Two

Thank you for reading and supporting us at CA! throughout the exciting year that was 2013. We look forward to another thrilling year of memorable experiences and great interactions with you all. Now onto those end of year awards…

“Counter Attack’s 2013 Game of the Year Awards”

Awards 2013


 Best New Feature of 2013 ——————————————————————————

  • Freeform Narrative  (Stanley Parable)
  • Limbo City  (Devil May Cry)
  • Chalk Shift  (Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds)
  • Skyhook  (Bioshock Infinite)
  • Sea Shanties  (Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag)

Winner: Limbo City (Devil May Cry)

  • DmC’s Limbo City is a gorgeous environment that not only allows the developers to create fresh interesting settings, but to also allow the environment itself to be a real danger to both Dante and the player. Buildings crash into themselves, platforms escape your grasp and boss battles become inspiring affairs as the settings take center stage. Ninja Theory allowed their imagination to run wild and it took this game and the player to another level.
Runner-up: Freeform Narrative (Stanley Parable)
  • With the Stanley Parable Davey Wreden and William Pugh gave gamers something new, a game that played out like an interactive choose your own adventure book. There is no right or wrong choice in this game and players are able to do as they are told, disobey, or even stand around making no choice at all and all the while the games unique narrator will be commenting on their actions. With multiple conclusions and shifting elements players are free to experience Stanley Parable in as many creative ways as they wish.

 Best Soundtrack of 2013  ——————————————————————————–

  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • Device 6
  • Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
  • Devil May Cry
  • Rayman Legends

Winner: Rayman Legends

  • When art and music come together as well as this, its no wonder that it will take the proverbial audio cake. Rayman Legends musical tracks are hypnotically good, with joyous infectious harmonies lovingly crafted with a wide range of instruments. The variety of musical tracks and the manner in which they perfectly sync with a stages unique obstacles and art create a perfect relationship. We haven’t even mentioned the games brilliant musical stages that see the player barreling forward to reworked licensed tracks such as Black Betty and Eye of the Tiger. The work that went into the audio of Rayman Legends easily puts the title as the best audible experience of 2013.
Runner-up: Devil May Cry
  • A game as fast and chaotic as DmC deserves a collection of tracks that can match it beat for beat and Ninja Theory made sure to deliver on that front. Featuring an original score mixing furious rock with electronic beats along with official licensed offerings from bands such as Noise and CombiChrist, DmC presented a unique but cohesive package that provided players with the energy they needed to see this adventure to the end.

 Best Art Style of 2013  —————————————————————————————

  • Rayman Legends
  • Battleblock Theater
  • The Wolf Among Us
  • Kentucky Route Zero
  • Tearaway

Winner: Tearaway

  • Media Molecule knows how to turn heads, they did it with their flagship PS3 franchise Little Big Planet and they are doing it again with the Vita’s big holiday title, Tearaway. Visually Tearaway is unlike anything else on the market. Featuring a papercraft presentation Tearaway displays worlds that gamers have never experienced before in a videogame and brings them to life with incredible color, detail and passion. The crafted worlds on display and the ways in which they are utilized are almost enough to make grabbing a Vita seem enticing, and if that’s not impressive to you we don’t know what else to say.
Runner-up: Kentucky Route Zero
  • This categories winners turned out perfectly, as Kentucky Route Zero couldn’t be any more the opposite of what Tearaway represents. We go from the bright and cheerful aesthetics of papercraft into a dark and foreboding world of regrets and sorrow. From its long abandoned homes and mines to its hours of empty highway, the world of Kentucky Route Zero is built to make you feel a sense of dread and unease as well as a possible glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel and it is all brought to life with a beautifully simplistic abstract art style. The environments and the use of perspective are sure to leave you remembering Kentucky long after you have completed it.

 Best Graphics of 2013 —————————————————————————————

  • Battlefield 4
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • The Last of Us

Winner: The Last of Us

  • There are many people behind the presentation of The Last of Us and all of them deserve special kudos and a very long and comfortable vacation. Whether its the painstakingly realistic faces, the dozens of buildings and interiors with a story to tell or the various environments and seasons that players find themselves in; The Last of Us is a game with a staggering amount of art assets that are as terrific as they are varied. From footprints in the snow to waves crashing onto the shore, even the special effects of TLOU deliver. Oh, and while you’re taking in this terrific looking package just remember, Naughty Dog did this on hardware that released way back in 2006. Yeah, impressive that.
Runner-up: Battlefield 4
  • DICE’s Frostbite Engine is on its third major revision with Battlefield 4 and it still reigns supreme as one of the most impressive gaming engines around. Battlefields warzones feature unparalleled scale, impressive detail and fantastic physics as tall skyscrapers crash with terrible beauty and entire regions flood underneath a storms vicious attack. The amount of particle effects and soldiers on screen amazes the player, just as long as they have a powerful enough rig to run it.

 Best New Character of 2013 ————————————————————————

  • Trevor Philips  (GTAV)
  • Narrator  (Battleblock Theater)
  • Bigby Wolf  (The Wolf Among Us)
  • Ellie  (The Last of Us)
  • Dante  (Devil May Cry)

Winner: Narrator  (Battleblock Theater)

  • Comedy in games is hard, as so much of comedy is about timing and, of course, perfect writing and execution. The folks at The Behemoth got lucky then that they were not only providing great lines for Theater’s Narrator but that they also got comedian and audio guy Will Stamper to bring the character to life. Battleblock Theater is a fun game but it is definitely bolstered by the hilarious and always present Narrator. From its terrific opening to its bizarre close, the game is driven forward by the Narrators ridiculous lines about spitting into Poseidon’s mouth and to how jail is just as bad as prison. If there is a gamer out there that didn’t crack a smile while listening to this guy, then they have no soul.
Runner-up: Ellie  (The Last of Us)
  • Naughty Dog and Ashley Johnson have brought gaming one of its best portrayals of young adulthood with Ellie. Adventurous, comical, assertive, naive, kind and far too innocent to be dealing with the hardships of a post apocalyptic world, Ellie is not just your virtual companion, but also a character you grow to care about. There are plenty of moments where Ellie will cause you to laugh, worry, get angry and possibly cry and that’s exactly how its supposed to be. Naughty Dog have created a fully realized character and its one that you naturally fall in love with as the story moves on. Without Ellie, there is no The Last of Us.

 Best Performance of 2013 —————————————————————————

  • Camilla Luddington (Lara Croft)
  • Stephen Ogg  (Trevor)
  • Troy Baker  (Joel)
  • Ashley Johnson  (Ellie)
  • Sarah Grayson  (Sam)

Winner: Troy Baker  (Joel)

  • Troy Baker is the new Nolan North, seemingly in every game that you play and one of the best at what he does. 2013 was a particularly busy year for him as he was Booker DeWitt, The Joker, the leader of the Saints and, of course, Joel from The Last of Us. In each of these games Troy was able to change his performance and channel each individual character so that they never overlapped, but none was more honest and powerful as that of Joel. Once just an every day working man trying to get by, Joel’s world was turned upside down after the infection began to spread and civilization began to fall apart. Now, years later, his humanity has left him and it is all about survival, that is, until a certain young girl shows up. Baker shows all of Joel’s range, from worry and regret to terrifying vengeance as you make your way through the story. Every time Joel speaks he commands your attention and not once does it feel forced or halfhearted and of course he motion captured Joel’s movements as well, so it practically is Baker you are controlling.
Runner-up: Camilla Luddington  (Lara Croft)
  • When Crystal Dynamics began work on rebooting the long running franchise Tomb Raider, they had a vision for a younger more down to earth Lara Croft. Camilla Luddington brought that idea to life like never before, making players the world over actually care about the young adventurer for the first time. Lara is a young woman still trying to find herself and you get that sense throughout the entire game. Although most of the story involves Luddington channeling a frightened state, she still delivers her lines naturally and eventually begins to show us a more bold depiction of the heroine as she does everything in her power to save her friends and get off the island alive.

Best Story of the Year ———————————————————————————

  • The Last of Us
  • Gone Home
  • Gunpoint
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Year Walk

Winner: The Last of Us

  • While the gaming industry is continuing to grow and find its voice, there are several limitations and perceptions that are holding back its growth. The industry heads, the ones that don’t roll up their sleeves and craft the products they sell, they believe gamers only want violence and a means in which to kill each other online. There is a small group that fights back at this narrow minded viewpoint, and that is the many and fantastic indie developers creating passion projects on the PC space. It is impressive then that the folks at Naughty Dog were able to create and get backing on a product such as The Last of Us. Now make no mistake, there is still plenty of killing within the game, to its detriment to some players, but the love and care that is woven around that combat is mighty impressive. Neil Druckmann and the rest of the team at Naughty Dog delivered a powerful and resonating story of survival and family. A story that is, when laid bare, about crossing a country, but yet is so much more than that. This is a story about finding yourself and learning to love again, a story that is bolstered by its presentation and by its performances. While there is plenty of death dealing within TLOU, the game truly shines when the characters are interacting and when the developers allow themselves to defy expectations and slow things down, allowing the gamer to soak it all in. There is joy, sorrow, loss, anger, betrayal and hope all on display within the story of Joel and Ellie, and it is at all times amazing.
Runner-up: Gone Home
  • Those indie titles that are trying to push the envelope forward? One of them is the new studio The Fullbright Company which made a splash earlier this year with their indie darling, Gone Home. The small but committed team at Fullbright  have provided gamers an experience that is quite unlike any other, telling a story that is unlike any other game out there. Gameplay and narrative are one in the same in Gone Home as the environment itself is the experience. Pieces of story are strewn about the environment and players are free to navigate and absorb it naturally. The story of the Greenbriar’s is one that many can relate to, even if they don’t share the one big fundamental “issue” that the central character is facing. This is a home with history and a family with drama that is familiar to anyone. Elevating the story further is the performance from Sarah Grayson who plays Sam. Grayson delivers her lines with such earnest power that it cuts right to the heart of you. You care for Sam, a character you never meet in person, and truly hope for the best for her. Gone Home is a unique tale that every gamer should experience.

Best Multiplayer of the Year ————————————————————————

  • Payday 2DotA
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • Battlefield 4
  • Dota 2
  • The Last of Us

Winner: Dota 2

  • When Valve revealed they were creating an official sequel to the original Dota mod for Warcraft 3, many were confused. Eventually however legal battles between Blizzard and Valve subsided and the team continued to show off the roster and began to invite users to participate in the games beta. When the game finally released in 2013 the popular title welcomed hundreds of new players and then brutally beat them over the head with its deep systems and long learning curve. Those who pressed on however were treated to one of the years most tactical and thrilling multiplayer arena’s. With an ever growing roster of heroes, a rabid fanbase that is able to create their own gear, tournaments that are watched by millions and a development team that is committed to tweaking and balancing the title; Valve’s Dota 2 is a certified success and a phenomenon that can be accessed for the impressive price of zero dollars.
Runner-up: Payday 2
  • The first Payday was a fun but flawed title. Overkill’s second attempt however is what the first release should have been. Payday 2 offers gamers the chance at partnering up and participating in dozens of unique heists. Whether you prefer to play as the Mastermind, Technician, Ghost or Enforcer; you will no doubt play an important role in your teams success or failure. Each heist offers a new experience and teamwork is a must in this land of crime and violence. If your team isn’t prepared with the proper tools or you fail to communicate and move as a unit, your mission will end in everyone going out in a blaze of glory. But if you are a team and watch each others backs, then you will reap the benefits and see your bankroll skyrocket. Who hasn’t dreamed of pulling off the perfect heist? Well now you can.

Best Platformer of the Year ——————————————————————————

  • Super Mario 3D World
  • Rayman Legends
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
  • Battleblock Theater
  • Bit Trip Runner 2

Winner: Rayman Legends

  • Rayman Origins was a terrific little platformer that released at the tail end of 2011, unfortunately it was also a terrific little platformer that nobody played. Fast forward to 2013 and Ubisoft Montpellier released the sequel to an audience that seemed indifferent once more. Unfortunately for gamers everywhere, they don’t know what they’re missing. Raymen Legends is one of the bests platformers in years and it is absolutely bursting at the seams with content. Rayman is pure joy etched onto a disc with an incredible presentation, ingenious level designs, fantastic music and extremely fun multiplayer. The game isn’t nearly as difficult as its predecessor (a good thing) and features enough levels, characters and imagination for multiple games. If you have any interest at all in platformers then you owe it to yourself to pick up Rayman, the music stages alone are worth the price of admission!
Runner-up: Battleblock Theater
  • The folks at The Behemoth only put together two games before releasing Battleblock Theater but they were both excellent titles in their respective genre’s, so of course Theater was going to be an excellent platformer! Featuring the same undeniable charm as their previous work Battleblock is a platforming showcase with hundreds of levels and hours of humorous multiplayer fun. We praised Rayman for the amount of bang for your buck but Battleblock easily triples that with its low entry fee in relation to the amount of whacky features it provides players. Whether you are progressing through its story, running through its daily challenges, unlocking new character parts and weapons or even creating your own stages; Battleblock Theater is one of the best deals 2013 provided. The fact that every aspect of this game is better with friends only adds to its greatness. Every section can be completed either cooperatively or competitively and there are eight diverse multiplayer match types for even more exciting diversity.

Best Adventure Game of 2013 ————————————————————————

  • The Last of Us
  • Dead Space 3
  • Tomb Raider
  • Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Winner: The Last of Us

  • The Last of Us is everything an adventure title should be, long and memorable. Its unrelenting in its depiction of a world gone wrong, with cunning enemies and terrifying creatures. It features a story that see’s you traveling the country on a last ditch effort of hope. And it showcases moments of true brilliance that rival some of Hollywoods best. Fast paced gunfights are interspersed with frightening moments of stealth and through it all you are fighting to survive as you scavenge for supplies to make a last grenade to see you out of your current predicament. The enjoyable multiplayer is just an extra cherry on top of an already great sundae.
Runner-up: Tomb Raider
  • The folks at Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix successfully brought back a gaming relic and made it relevant again in 2013. Borrowing heavily from the Uncharted series while also implementing its own ideas and mechanics Tomb Raider gave gamers a rollicking adventure on a mysterious island full of exciting history and toys. Whether you were ziplining hundreds of feet in the air or dodging debris from a fallen aircraft Tomb Raider made sure there were few dull moments in this harrowing adventure. Glad you came back Lara.

Best Action Game of 2013 —————————————————————————–

  • Devil May Cry
  • Ryse: Son of Rome
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • Rogue Legacy

Winner: Devil May Cry

  • Trying to bring a franchise back to relevancy after slowly falling out of favor (no matter how much die hard fans may be in denial) is a difficult task to be handed. The folks at Ninja Theory were lambasted from the word Go’ and the unwarranted and volatile hate followed this games development and press events up until the day of the games release. While there are still “die hard” DMC fans that to this day haven’t given this new incarnation a chance, many fans and newcomers alike were treated with a game that wasn’t trying to destroy their favorite franchise, but instead give it new life. DmC is a reboot that shows respect to the previous series while still blazing its own trail. From its unique Limbo City to its thrilling boss battles, DmC is a fresh and exciting entry in the stale hack & slash genre. The art and bright colors also help to make DmC look like nothing else on the market. If you haven’t yet, give Ninja Theory the chance to surprise you.
Runner-up: Rogue Legacy
  • Roguelike games such as FTL can be intimidating affairs, offering players brutal difficulty and the ever present danger of losing all of your progress. The folks at Cellar Door Games have crafted the perfect “rogue-light” game that is the perfect chance for those that have stayed away from such titles in the past. Rogue Legacy is a game that features permanent death, an ever changing castle and brutal difficulty. So how is it the perfect entry point into this genre then? Well simple, it features a system that is consistently rewarding the player with outside growth. When you die, and you will die, your next of kin inherits your estate and wealth while featuring their own specific movesets and abilities. This system of making progress while still losing your favorite character allows Rogue Legacy to be challenging but not frustrating. Seeing your Tower grow in size and bolstering your heroes with new Skills while also working around their own individual penalties is a fun adventure in itself but the games unique humor helps to further spice it all up.

Best Open World Game of 2013 ———————————————————————–

  • Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
  • Dead Rising 3
  • Saints Row IV
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • State of Decay

Winner: Grand Theft Auto V

  • It took years for Rockstar North to bring the world the next iteration of its popular Grand Theft Auto series and while some might have been underwhelmed by its familiar mission structure, none can fault the games great sense of scale and immersion. The world of GTAV is absolutely massive and beautiful in every sense of the word. Los Santos provides players with a realistic interpretation of Los Angeles that they can freely explore. From clothing stores to watching short films at the local theater, Los Santos is a playground like no other game before it. When you are not taking in the beauty of the world, you can play through the games long story as Franklin, Michael or Trevor. Each character has their own style and missions available to them, giving the game even more diversity. On top of all of this content is the games large suite of Online features. GTA Online allows you to make your own avatar and cause chaos in the world with 15 other players. You are free to create your own areas, gangs, and purchase your own real estate as you boost your bank account and player rank. Rockstar may not have reinvented the wheel with GTAV, but they damn near perfected it.
Runner-up: Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
  • A series that is in dire need of a restructure, Assassins Creed didn’t get the overhaul that it so desperately needs in 2013, but it did get an entry that was different just enough to help keep the franchise relevant. After the disappointment that was AC3, Black Flag was under the radar for the majority of gamers, and that may have ultimately helped the game. Coming out of left field, Black Flag was enough of a pirate game that it gave fans a new way to experience the series. Sailing the massive world of the Caribbean players are able to simply explore and plunder as new Assassin Edward Kenway at their leisure. This opportunity to take your time and explore a beautiful world is where much of the fun and joy comes from in Black Flag, as the games main story structure consists of the same objectives gamers have been dealing with since Assassins Creed 2. Black Flag was a nice surprise for fans of AC, but the next entry in the series better be a complete overhaul, or it may be time to put the Assassins to rest.

Best Strategy Game of 2013 —————————————————————————–

  • Civilization V: Brave New World
  • XCOM: Enemy Within
  • Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening
  • Dota 2

Winner: XCOM: Enemy Within

  • Last year Firaxis games brought strategy fans something they never expected, a great XCOM revival with XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The beloved franchise was brought back to gamers with great turn based tactical action and terrific base management simulation; it was seemingly the perfect package. This year however, with the Enemy Within expansion, Firaxis has delivered to fans outstanding new features that not only build upon the great foundation of the base game, but have implemented exciting new strategic elements that allow gamers to spend another hundred hours in its long campaign and multiplayer modes. While gamers may not have been begging for mechanized suits of destruction and psychic augmentations, no one can deny the sheer greatness and variety that they provide the player. The dozens of new battlegrounds and new enemy types help to round out an excellent strategic package. Bring on another expansion Firaxis.
Runner-up: Fire Emblem Awakening
  • Fire Emblem is a franchise that has been around for quite some time, but nobody can deny that 2013’s sequel, Fire Emblem: Awakening, was a breakout success for the franchise and its developer Intelligent Systems. Seemingly coming out of nowhere it was not just the right time for the struggling Nintendo 3DS but also the right genre. Long role playing games have always benefitted from the go anywhere freedom handhelds allow but when you are also a strong tactical strategy title? Well then you have the best of both worlds. Gamers were introduced to a world full of political intrigue, blossoming romance, exciting action and heartbreaking loss. The turn based action not only forced gamers to take into consideration their units strengths and surroundings, but also their relationships with fellow warriors. The stronger the bonds of your soldiers the better they reacted when on the field. Gamers grew to love their companions in Awakening, making their possible fall in battle that much harder to swallow.

Best Role-Playing Game of 2013 ——————————————————————

  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV
  • Pokemon X&Y
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
  • Path of Exile

Winner: Shin Megami Tensei IV

  • Atlus are no strangers to the roleplaying genre. The numerous Shin Megami Tensei titles, whether through the popular Persona series or Devil Survivor, have kept RPG fans busy over the years, but the main series entry has unfortunately been absent since Nocturne’s 2003 release. Earlier this year Shin Megami Tensei IV finally released to eagerly awaiting fans the world over and it seems to have been worth the wait. While we here at CA! haven’t been able to play past entries in the series, as newcomers to this franchise we loved our time in this exciting world full of unexpected surprises and manipulative demons. As a Samurai players are given the task of protecting the world from the demons that lurk in the shadows, to do this you not only use your courage and wits, but demons themselves. While you navigate the world and do battle with the diverse selection of enemies you have the opportunity to have the creatures align themselves to your cause, adding them to your growing roster and providing yourself with additional depth during combat. The games Fusion system rests atop this already exciting feature and allows gamers to Fuse multiple demons together to create even stronger new breeds of monster, carrying over past skills while learning new ones. With an exciting story, likable characters and innovative combat that never ceases to impress, Shin Megami Tensei IV has proven itself to be not only another excellent entry in the series, but one of the best 3DS games currently available.
Runner-up: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • Fans of the hero in the green tunic are going to be very hard pressed to not thoroughly enjoy his latest adventure on the Nintendo handheld. A Link Between Worlds is not only a fantastic entry in the long running franchise, but an excellent tribute to the classic A Link to the Past. From its remixes of classic tunes to a homeworld that is both familiar and fresh; the newest Zelda not only marks itself as a great adventure but one of the finest in the series. While maintaining many of the elements of past titles, this latest outing also mixes up some of the series core mechanics. Fans will notice right away that the game starts off faster than past games, with the plodding pace of the last few entries being completely done away with. Players do not have to wait long before they are completing dungeons and slaying enemies both new and old. Also making its debut is a new freeform mechanic to the games world traversal. Link may obtain every tool he needs fairly quickly and as long as players do not fall in combat, a relatively hard thing to do, they will never have to worry about gear or rupees for the rest of the adventure. While the difficulty could have been ratcheted up, there is no reason that gamers everywhere shouldn’t be absolutely thrilled with Links latest story and its many homages to past games.

Best First Person Shooter of 2013 ———————————————————————

  • Call of Duty Ghosts
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Shadow Warrior
  • Battlefield 4
  • Payday 2

Winner: Bioshock Infinite

  • Irrational Games helped to show gamers everywhere just what the last gen hardware was capable of when they released the original Bioshock in 2007. A spiritual successor to System Shock gamers were transported deep below the ocean’s surface to a wonderful but terrifying image of Utopia. While the original Bioshock was a monumental success and pushed immersion and story forward for games, it would take until 2013 for Irrational Games to release another title. Bioshock Infinite would again transport gamers to a wonderfully realized world, this time high above the clouds, as they experienced another visionaries failed world dream. The passion that the folks at Irrational show for world building is apparent in every area of Infinite, from a shop’s shelves to the music and the way in which it is used in-game. That same passion can be found in the story as characters and motivations are slowly built up until the games shocking conclusion. It is a shame then that the team couldn’t find a way to move the genre forward more in terms of combat, but Bioshock is still a fun and exciting experience allowing players the freedom to mix both firearms and spells in a way few games do. The implementation of the new Skyhook and the games Tears also allow the developers to sprinkle in some appreciated variety, even if those two features aren’t as fleshed out as some would like. Bioshock Infinite may not have had the same impact as the teams previous release, but when all of its features coalesce it makes for one thrilling experience.
Runner-up: Payday 2
  • Overkill Software’s first attempt at recreating Hollywood level bank heists was a mixed bag of great ideas and shoddy execution. Fast forward a couple of years and add the support from the folks at Starbreeze Studios and voila! the small studio has been able to finally strike gold, even if the drill sometimes still breaks. Payday 2 is everything the first game should have been. The heists have become more intricate and varied, the feel of the guns has become tighter, the leveling system more refined and the rewards for pulling off the perfect heist greater. While at first glance the game may not appear as massive a leap as it should be, it is when you have a few jobs under your belt that you begin to see the bigger picture. When all of the small improvements become something greater that makes it impossible to return to the original game you know the team did something right. Players now have more options when performing a job and it is possible to go in undetected and make off with a vaults entire inventory without dealing with a single officer. The single player has also been improved allowing the player to execute missions without having to wait for their friends to come online. While the game is still meant to be played with a full group of four, if you do decide to go it alone it doesn’t automatically mean failure as it did in the first game. Payday 2 is a continually rewarding experience and provides gamers with a unique experience in the videogame space.

Biggest Disappointment of 2013 ——————————————————————SimCity

  • Aliens: Colonial Marines
  • SimCity
  • Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX
  • Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
  • WarZ (Infestation: Survivor Stories)

Winner: SimCity

  • This was by far the easiest category when creating these awards. The entire Counter Attack! crew knew the winner without even speaking to one another about it. Was there a game with bigger hype and fondness before release than this one? Sure 2013 saw the release of Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us, but this was Sim freaking City! This is a series that every gamer can and practically does love. A series for both the casual and hardcore player base and one that gamers hadn’t seen a proper release in since SimCity 4’s 2003 launch. Gamers had been waiting for ten years and finally a proper full fledged release was being crafted from the folks at Maxis. Every preview event and video released gave gamers everything that they had wanted to see. From new tools to build your city with to the great looking sewer and water views. The inclusion of multiplayer seemed like a decent addition as well as who wouldn’t want to link their exciting metropolises with friends cities and trade unique local goods? The graphical upgrades looked solid as well and everything on paper seemed to indicate SimCity would be one of the best titles to come out of 2013. Now look at where we are and how things have shaped up. It makes us sad. Every gamer knows about SimCity, even if they didn’t have any interest in the title. The games launch was a complete disaster with the “Always Online” infrastructure being just the beginning. Gamers the world over couldn’t get into the game and if they did, they more than likely lost all of their progress after exiting their session. EA’s servers were butchered as eager fans tried to play the game. But server issues weren’t the half of it. Fundamental aspects of the SimCity experience were made hollow with this reboot. Gamers were discovering that they could fill an entire city lot within minutes and there was no way in which to increase its size. Player trading was a mess and features such as game speed would be turned off by Maxis themselves, then turned on…only to be turned off yet again shortly thereafter. Patch after patch would only serve to frustrate players more as they discovered this wasn’t the SimCity experience they had been asking for, but one that was forced onto them. Now SimCity itself, when you take it as what it is, isn’t a bad game. In fact its a perfectly serviceable title that gamers can have fun with, but you have to keep your expectations and hopes out of the equation. SimCity should have been a monumental success and the CA! gang definitely wanted it to be, but as it is, it unfortunately turned out to be one of the biggest dream crushers of 2013.
Runner-up: (Tie) Kingdom Hearts HD, Ni No Kuni and Warz
  • As mentioned above, this category doesn’t necessarily mean a bad game, but an underwhelming experience from what we as gamers had wanted or expected from these products. That is why when it came to nailing down the two “winners” of this award, we just didn’t see a point in trying to persuade and get one another to our side of thinking for the runner-up. The three judges each had a different runner-up on their minds, and rightly so, and it seemed unnecessary and impossible for them to try to argue for others to agree to their points. The three runners-up: Kingdom Hearts HD, Ni No Kuni and WarZ (now Survivor Stories) each failed in a number of ways to push the right buttons for our judges. Kingdom Hearts had failed to live up to the hype it has built over the years and even failed to deliver as just a decent game in Chucks opinion. Ni No Kuni, while a decent game, didn’t deliver the lovable and exciting experience that Randy had hoped it would. And WarZ was just a massive pile of junk that it caused Steam to remove it from its store and through a lawsuit change its name altogether. Why pick just one when all three broke hearts? Aliens, you get away with one here as none of the team expected much from you!

Biggest Surprise of 2013 ——————————————————————————–

  • Disney Infinity
  • FarCry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Tearaway
  • Rise: Son of Rome
  • NBA 2K14

Winner: Ryse: Son of Rome

  • Ryse: Son of Rome has had a long and rough road leading up to its release. From its announcement way back in 2010 as a Kinect only title for the Xbox 360 to its eventual reveal as an Xbox One launch game with limited Kinect functionality, Ryse has had an identity complex. Crytek’s hack and slash darling was finally shown off to gamers everywhere at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo where it was revealed that the majority of the combat seemed to consist of simple quick time events. While the graphics impressed, this lackluster approach to game design left most to tune out the game entirely – including us at CA! Color us surprised then that the response after the games launch on Twitter and message boards was that the game wasn’t nearly as bad as originally perceived and even critical reviews had led gamers to believe. After getting our own hands on the game and slicing our way through the campaign and multiplayer we have to agree. Ryse isn’t a genre defining title nor is it a Game of the Year contender, but it is definitely not a bottom of the barrel release. With fantastic graphics, terrific audio and combat that is more than just mindless quick time events; Ryse has risen above its poor performance in previous battles and shown itself to be a fine action game that gamers should give a second look at. Its not the top Gladiator in the arena, but its no slouch either.
Runner-up: Disney Infinity
  • Avalanche Software surprised critics and gamers when they released a licensed game for Disney/Pixars Toy Story 3 that was surprisingly good. Games based on films aren’t the highest of quality for a number of reasons, some being critical time restraints on developers and a lack of support from the film studio. Toy Story 3 however had a decent enough single player campaign but it was the surprising freedom that the new Toy Box mode offered gamers that made people take notice. Players were able to free roam a large environment while taking up side objectives, customizing the world and doing it all with a friend in local co-op. This idea of player freedom and customization would become the heart of the two studios next partnership; Disney Infinity. The Infinity project would grow and eventually take the best elements of Skylanders, Little Big Planet and Minecraft and combine them all into an exciting package that both kids and adults could enjoy. While Activision’s Skylanders series has been doing it for a couple of years now, the idea of purchasing physical figures and carrying them into a digital world is still novel and fun. The story focused Play Sets are a nice feature rich experience while the sandbox Toy Box mode allows for the creative types to create entire mini games and realized worlds for others to experience. The game features a distinct art style that is easy to enjoy and the diverse range of items, locations and characters that populate the game are sure to have Disney fans smiling the entire time. The developers commitment of adding to the game and Disneys strong advertising push in both stores and in their parks point to this franchise going strong well into the new year. Some of us here at CA! were intrigued by the initial unveiling of Disney Infinity, but none of us expected to see such a high degree of polish and craftsmanship when the product finally released, nor for the game to be as fun as it is.

Most Overlooked Game of 2013 ————————————————————————

  • Deadpool
  • Battleblock Theater
  • Deadly Premonition: Directors Cut
  • Rogue Legacy
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Winner: Battleblock Theater

  • The small team at The Behemoth have only released three games since its inception in 2003, not counting some small releases on iOS devices. Alien Hominid was a more fully featured iteration of Fulps and Paladins collaborative effort for the website Newgrounds while Castle Crashers was one of the original benchmarks of digital releases on the Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade service. Since Castle Crashers 2008 release however the team had been quietly chugging away on the secret project Battleblock Theater. At press events editors for sites such as IGN and Gamespot would get their hands on the game, and while enjoying themselves, weren’t entirely sure what the finished product would actually be. Fast forward to April of 2013 and The Behemoth fans everywhere were finally able to get their own hands on the finished product, only the game wouldn’t make the same splash as the teams previous effort, Castle Crashers. While Battleblock Theater did fairly well in terms of overall sales in 2013, the game definitely deserved to see the same kind of excitement and word of mouth as its predecessor. The folks at The Behemoth took over four years of their time working on this one and while that may be a whee bit excessive, the amount of content within the game itself shows it. With hundreds of levels and characters and a mentality of never growing stale, Battleblock Theater is a steal at $15. The teams continued updates and daily challenges with in game rewards also shows their appreciation to their fanbase.
Runner-up: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
  • Techland is a developer that has had its share of ups and downs. Releasing mostly lower quality titles until the studios 2006 FPS, Call of Juarez, Techland isn’t exactly a household name. Nor is its Call of Juarez series actually. Although the franchise now has four games under its moniker, each has been wildly different in terms of story and character, and all except one have actually been decent games. Following the abysmal The Cartel, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger returns the series to solid ground with an FPS that provides players an interesting setting, story and characters – much like its original incarnations. While the gunplay is some of the best the series has seen, and Techland has even provided players with three unique skill trees to develop over multiple playthroughs, it is still the games style that allows it to excel. Playing as outlaw Silas Greaves, players are taken on a journey in the old west as Greaves recounts events throughout his life to willing patrons at a saloon. The story fluctuates as gamers play the game, making room for alterations as Greaves “remembers” events from his past. Enemies change positions or disappear altogether and dangerous encounters with famous outlaws can play out differently a second time as the listeners begin to question Greaves on the accuracy of his tales. The games visual style complements the over the top adventure nicely as the bold colors of its cel shaded look allow the environments to pop in a way they otherwise wouldn’t have in a more toned down realistic representation. Gunslinger is fine arcade action that allows gamers to just sit down and relax while exploring the old west and its a strong accomplishment after the series absolutely awful predecessor.

Best Studio of the Year ————————————————————————–

  • Rockstar North
  • Simogo
  • Telltale Games
  • Naughty Dog
  • Overkill Software

Winner: Overkill Software

  • Some of you may be scratching your head at this one, wondering how some smaller studio could overpower industry juggernauts, but hear us out. Overkill Software was established in 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden and soon began production on a new style of cooperative first-person action. After releasing Payday: The Heist in 2011 on both the PS3 and PC the team spent the next year releasing both free and paid downloadable content as well as making the Steam forums for the game the official meeting place for any Payday fans. Overkill Software employees regularly visit the Steam forums to answer fan questions and to keep the community in the loop on upcoming additions and changes to the game. This openness has only expanded since the release of the games sequel, Payday 2, in August of this year. Since release Overkill have fervently delivered patches and general improvements almost daily as well as given fans appreciation events such as double-xp and holiday events. Only five months since launch and Payday 2 has seen new bank heists made available for free, new masks and guns added to the game as well as additional paid DLC such as the Armored Transport expansion (free for those who pre-ordered) and the Gage Weapon Pack which added much requested grenades to the game. There are plenty of great studio’s out there as well as awful ones, but it is particularly special when developers are active within their community and frequently give back to their player base as much as Overkill has. The team did it for the original Payday and they are doubling their efforts for the sequel. The studio have recently stated they are committed to continuing Payday 2’s growth well into 2014 with additional free content updates such as the recently announced Female protagonist as well as larger paid DLC expansions. The future looks bright for the still growing Overkill Software and their loyal fans.
Runner-up: Naughty Dog
  • What more can be said about the amazing developers at Naughty Dog? The studio has only continued to grow in both size and skill over the years and they have released some of the best games of the last generation with Uncharted 2 and 3 and their latest release, The Last of Us. In 2013 Naughty Dog fought against preconceived notions about what gamers want and expect when they continued forward with their vision for The Last of Us, against scrutiny from those within the industry. Many couldn’t see a game selling when a young female was front and center on the packaging. A magazine publication disregarded Naughty Dog’s wishes and removed Ellie completely from their marketing material without the studios consent. But Naughty Dog pressed on, an easier task when you are as big as this studio, and released the last great title for the PlayStation 3. This is aging hardware that these talented folks continue to push to the limits, creating one of the best looking and sounding games in years. Writer and director Neil Druckmann stood strong and told the story he wished to tell with The Last of Us, giving the game the freedom to take its time and slowly develop one of the best and most complicated relationships in gaming. The Last of Us doesn’t pull any punches, and in an industry where focus groups are leaned on too heavily and where story often falls to the wayside to make room for big guns and even bigger explosions, Naughty Dog showed their commitment to their craft and flexed their talents to create one of the most important games of 2013.

Best Indie Game of the Year ————————————————————————–

  • Year Walk
  • Don’t Starve
  • Gone Home
  • Papers, Please
  • Gunpoint

Winner: Gone Home

  • Indie developers and their smaller projects have been one of the best outcomes of the last generation of consoles. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 didn’t invent indie-development, but it was undoubtedly a huge surge of growth for the indie scene. XBLA and PSN allowed console gamers a new form of entertainment in these smaller releases, games that the PC community were familiar with but that have also benefitted greatly from the larger audience and the passion that has flown from it. Nowadays platforms such as Steam are flooded daily with new passionate developers and their small but powerful releases. Games such as Minecraft have changed gaming forever and the future continues to look bright for such projects. In 2013 a tiny four man studio known as The Fullbright Company released Gone Home to critical acclaim, and of course, some gamer hatred. Only lasting a few hours Gone Home is an interactive exploration game in the same vein as Dear Esther, but one that develops a world and story that, if given the chance, will grab hold of your heart and never let go. The house you explore within Gone Home could be a replica of yours from the 90’s, complete with family photo’s, VHS recordings of the X-Files and failed hopes and dreams littering the closets. The stories you uncover in your exploration are grounded in reality and realized with an eye for detail and passion rarely seen in gaming. For such a small group to bring to life such a detailed replica of a family and their troubles is incredible and it makes it easy for gamers to connect to the story being told. On top of this Gone Home features one of the best performances ever seen (or rather heard) in gaming partnered with a beautiful score that captures the emotion of the story. Sarah Graysons performance as the troubled teen, Sam, is so earnest and vulnerable and beautiful that if you don’t feel for this character you have to take a deep look within yourself. From its incredible story to its fantastic audio design, Gone Home is an experience that every gamer should allow themselves. Gone Home has been a nice success for the young studio, selling over 230 thousand copies, but that means there are still millions of gamers out there who haven’t yet given Gone Home a chance, its time to change that.
Runner-up: Gunpoint
  • Games journalists write about games for a living, oftentimes critiquing them and applying a score to a group’s hard work. I’m sure there have been many times when developers, after receiving a less than perfect score, have wanted to tell those journalists to just go make a game themselves if its so easy and see how well it turns out. Well Tom Francis, an editor for PC Gamer, took up that challenge and with no previous development experience and began work on what would eventually become Gunpoint. After putting together a prototype Francis began asking for some assistance in the art and audio departments, the small partnerships he formed would eventually lead to one of the most imaginative and fun games of 2013 being completed. Gunpoint centers on a freelance spy/detective Richard Conway, a man who finds himself becoming involved with an intricate battle between two corporations and police officials. The game centers around the player using their unmatched agility and spy equipment to infiltrate guarded buildings by either force or stealth. The game leaves the options open to the player as to which tools they would like to use and which enemies to engage. You will be tasked to steal private information, plant evidence and form alliances as the story, a surprisingly involved tale, unravels before you. With multiple paths and endings, Gunpoint turned out to be one of the most engaging games of the year and its a shame that it only lasts a few hours. Hmm, seems some games journalists can put their money where their mouth is. More Gunpoint please!

Best Game of the Year 2013 —————

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Dota 2
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • The Last of Us
  • Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag

Winner: The Last of Us

  • Was there any doubt? The only thing now is to find something new to say about this incredibly impressive achievement from the team at Naughty Dog. To be able to split your studio into two teams, one group working on Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception and the other on The Last of Us, and have both games be some of the best on the PlayStation 3 is unbelievable. Naughty Dog have acquired some of the best talent in the business and it shows with every new release. Everyone has their own opinions, and some gamers weren’t too keen on the combat scenarios presented within The Last of Us, but almost everyone can agree that every other aspect of the game, from its visuals to its audio and its story, is head and shoulders above most videogame releases today, and not just of this year. The majority of us here at Counter Attack! couldn’t get enough of Joel and Ellie’s story, from its beautiful highs to its unbearable lows, the story of TLOU took us on a journey we will never forget and gave us yet another glimpse of gamings bright future. A future where film and game can stand side by side and be judged equally as both excellent forms of visual storytelling.
Runner-up: Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
  • For a yearly franchise with enough hands in the pot as Assassins Creed, its a wonder a working game gets released at all. It is even more impressive when one comes along and makes you forget how much you disliked the previous years release. Assassins Creed 3 was one of my personal biggest disappointments of 2012, and it didn’t fare much better on other gamers lists. It has been evident for years that the folks at Ubisoft don’t exactly know where to go with the story of Assassins Creed, but being aware of that fact didn’t make the terrible execution of Desmond’s story in AC3 any less infuriating. Some of the CA! crew still enjoyed exploring the world and completing the various activities within the games, but for me? I wasn’t too sure if I would even pick up a controller and play the next entry in the series. Then Ubisoft did the only thing they could do to lure fans back in, and that was release a game based around the one redeeming feature of Assassins Creed 3, the ship sailing. Taking to the ocean to do battle with various ships was the one truly exciting aspect of AC3 and of Connors story. To see it get fleshed out into its own game was an enticing prospect, but we would still have to deal with the same BS Assassins Creed fans have been dealing with since Brotherhood! Would the pirate theme be enough to justify another trip into the Animus? The answer is a resounding yes! While Black Flag isn’t the big leap forward the series so desperately needs, it is without question the best Assassins Creed game since Brotherhood and it owes that praise entirely to its tone and theme. Gone is the rather somber and bland tale of Connor (and the butchered story of Desmond) and in their place are the far more exciting Edward Kenway and you as an Abstergo developer. In Black Flag both timelines are again intriguing and for entirely different reasons. Who wouldn’t enjoy sailing a vessel on the open sea’s and plundering loot from ships you just downed? How is it not exciting to be inside an Abstergo business and slowly unraveling secrets and putting together clues as to their goals? Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag managed to make gamers forget about the lousy feelings they had on the franchise and remind us why we loved it in the first place. Few franchises have the ability to travel in time allowing us the opportunities to explore exotic locations, deal with historical events and have a blast while doing so. Make no mistake the series still needs an overhaul to its core systems, but Black Flag is a step in the right direction and one that you can spend dozens of hours gleefully exploring.

3 thoughts on “2013 Game of the Year Awards


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