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This blog series is all about the best games of the last 20 years. George and Matt from the Monitor Audio team take a look at each year and pick their favourites. In this post, we’ll be going back to the year 2013.
With several swan songs for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V swept the industry awards before the release of the next generation consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Reboots were the name of the game this year with several established franchises receiving a breath of fresh air including gaming’s leading lady in Tomb Raider, the move from under the ocean to the skies in Bioshock Infinite and the incredibly disappointing SimCity remake.
Rockstar North | Rockstar Games | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
After a five-year hiatus, Rockstar came back with a bang, using a multiple character formula, controlling Michael, Trevor and Franklin in the busy state of San Andreas.
In a flashback to 2004, we see two of the protagonists; Michael and Trevor, along with their partner Brad, botch a heist in Ludendorff, with all three presumed dead. Now in 2013, in the city of Los Santos, Michael along with his wife Amanda and two kids, Tracey and Jimmy, all live under witness protection. The third protagonist, Franklin, befriends Michael when carrying out a job for his corrupt boss.
Michael finds himself in trouble with Madrazo, a Mexican drug lord, after destroying his property. He enlists Franklin’s help to pay him back. Lester, an old friend of Michael, helps them to plan a jewellery store heist, which attracts the attention of Trevor. Now living in a trailer park, he hears of the heist and realises it has all the ingredients of a job planned by Michael. Believing he had died back in Ludendorff, he tracks him down and with little choice, Michael keeps him around. Michael’s family leave him, due to him reverting to his old ways, as he clashes with billionaire venture capitalist Devin and Franklin and Lamar fend off former friend Harold, a rival gangster. The private security firm Merryweather Security, along with Triad kingpin Wei Cheng and The Lost Motorcycle Club all encounter an out of control Trevor, as he slowly gains control of Blaine County. After hearing of their operation, the corrupt Federal Investigation Bureau undermine the International Affairs Agency by using Michael, Trevor and Franklin to steal their funds and a chemical weapon. Michael soon finds an opportunity to get the FIB off their backs, with Lester’s help, erasing his previous criminal activity, removing leverage over him.
The trio target the Union Depository's gold bullion reserve, as Trevor discovers that Brad was killed back in Ludendorff, he and Michael’s relationship reaches boiling point. After a standoff between the group, the FIB, IAA, and Merryweather, they put their differences aside and move forward with the job. After pulling off their ambitious heist, they steal two hundred million dollars, but Michael is faced with the choice to kill Trevor, kill Michael, or attempt to save both in a suicide mission. Each choice offers a different path, all with consequences of varying degrees.
After the success of its previous titles Vice City and San Andreas, Rockstar managed to deliver an even more interactive experience, with an abundance of activities and tremendous freedom to explore. The online features were so popular that it effectively ended hopes of any offline DLC, which was probably the only disappointing thing to mention. With a gigantic map, exciting heists, an incredible online campaign and an extremely ambitious story, it’s a gaming environment like no other, leaving expectations so high, it could be ten years until we see its successor.
Naughty Dog | Sony Interactive Entertainment | PlayStation 3
On the back of the success of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Naughty Dog gave us a post-apocalyptic gem, as two people journey across a dangerous landscape.
As a parasitic fungus, known as Cordyceps, mutates and devastates the United States, those infected began to turn overly aggressive. As their brain cells become infected, their memories are erased and their only instinct is to spread spores to those unaffected, violently attacking them. During the pandemonium, you play as Joel, as he and his 12-year-old daughter Sarah flee their home, alongside his brother Tommy. As soldiers fight back the hordes of infected, Sarah is fatally shot.
As most of civilisation has been wiped out, twenty years on, Joel lives on a small settlement with a group of survivors, working as a smuggler in the quarantine zone. As Joel’s partner Jess kills a black-market dealer, they find out that he traded weapons with the Fireflies, a group who revolted against military oppression in numerous Quarantine Zones. They meet their leader, Marlene, who promises to provide their group with more weapons, in return for a young girl called Ellie. After finding Ellie, she reveals to them that she has been infected for three weeks, so is immune from the fungus, as it usually takes two days to mutate. After being chased by hordes of the infected, Tess sacrifices herself, allowing Joel and Ellie to escape. They set in search of a former Firefly called Tommy, who they hope can take them to the Fireflies, as Ellie believes she may provide answers to a cure. After travelling through Pennsylvania, they finally make their way to Wyoming, where Tommy and his wife Maria have set up a home, on a hydroelectric dam. When Ellie talks to Joel about his daughter Sarah, Joel decides to take Ellie directly to the Fireflies in Utah. After an encounter with a group of bandits, Ellie nurses Joel back to health, after being wounded, as they shelter in the mountains. Ellie soon finds herself in a cannibal camp, after attempting to trade with a couple of scavengers, but manages to kill them, as Joel catches up to her. As they reach the hospital, the Fireflies capture them and Marlene preps Ellie for surgery. To Joel’s horror, he learns that they must cut out the infected potion of her brain, killing her, in order to produce a vaccine.
As Joel fights the Fireflies, he kills the surgeons and saves Ellie, killing Marlene in the process. As he drivers her away, they reach Tommy, but as Ellie wakes, Joel lies to her, telling her that the Fireflies were unable to construct a cure.
Taking inspiration from The Road, you fight or run, in a world full of hunters, cannibals and the infected. You navigate the harsh terrain; looking for any resources you can get your hands on. Fighting off the Stalkers and Clickers through dark tunnels was terrifying, thanks to the unbelievable sound and visual design. Although grim, The Last of Us is truly memorable and the best survival horror since Silent Hill 2, with wonderful attention to detail across a hopeless environment.
Crystal Dynamics | Square Enix | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 & PC
The tenth title in the series, this time by Crystal Dynamics, working with Square Enix, was a refreshing reboot, that revitalised Lara Croft; in this exciting action adventure.
Aboard the ship Endurance, a large group consisting of a Marine named Conrad, celebrity archaeologist Dr. Whitman and Sam Nishimura, a representative of the Nishimura family, accompanies Lara. The Nishimura family are descendants from the people of Yamatai themselves; so fund the expedition to find the lost island of Yamatai. As they approach the island, in the Dragon's Triangle, off the coast of Japan, they are soon shipwrecked, when caught in a storm. As the Endurance sinks, Lara is separated and realises the island is inhabited, when fighting off a savage.
Lara finds Sam and another passenger called Mathias, before losing consciousness. She awakes to find them gone, then reunites with other survivors, but as Lara and Dr. Whitman venture deeper into the island, they are captured. As Lara breaks free and sets off to the top of the mountain, where a communications relay sits, she calls for aid. After a storm destroys a plane searching for the Endurance, the islanders kill the pilot. The Solarri Brotherhood, the murderous cult who worship Himiko, a queen who once ruled Yamatai, kidnap Sam. Lara fails to rescue Sam, when Mathias, the leader of the cult stops her. The Solarii begin to choose the Sun Queen's successor, by performing a fire ritual on Sam, but she survives, becoming the rightful successor. As Sam escapes, Mathias then kills Conrad, after the helicopter sent to rescue them crashes, after a further storm is magically deployed, to stop them leaving the island. Lara manages to acquire the tools needed to repair the Endurance, as the Solarri kills other survivors. After discovering an ancient tomb, she finds the remains of a general samurai who died defending the monastery. His final message told the story that Himiko's successor did not want the power of the Sun Queen, so decided to instead commit suicide. This resulted in her being trapped in her body after death. Mathias plans to offer Sam as a new host, which would allow Himiko's spirit to escape. The group rush to the monastery, after learning that Whitmore betrayed them by giving Sam to Mathias. However, Whitmore’s fate is sealed, when Oni, the samurai who had previously helped Lara, kills him.
Lara kills Mathias and destroys Himiko's remains to save Sam, before the ritual can be completed. With the storm over, a cargo ship picks up the surviving members, but Lara decides that she has more mysteries to uncover.
This authentic and slightly different look at Lara Croft’s origins was a masterful decision from Crystal Dynamics. Although the one thing missing from the original was the puzzle solving elements, the epic action sequences, that certainly took inspiration from Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, were more than impressive. With a wonderful story and terrific production, it’s a truly memorable ride.
Irrational Games | 2K | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 & PC
Developers Irrational Games decided to move Bioshock in a new direction, moving away from Rapture to focus on the captivating airborne city of Columbia.
In an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine, you first control former Pinkerton security agent Booker DeWitt, who has been escorted by Robert and Rosalind Lutece under mysterious circumstances. The lighthouse is a rocket silo, which transports Booker to the advanced city-state of Columbia, in order to bring back a girl, to pay back debt owed to the Luteces.
Booker must rescue Elizabeth, who has been imprisoned for many years and has the ability to manipulate "Tears" in the space-time continuum. Authorities soon find out about the special mission, but Booker avoids The Songbird, a robotic creature who has kept her confined. When Elizabeth enters his airship, she knocks Booker unconscious when she realises his plan to take her back to Pinkerton. The Vox Populi, led by Daisy Fitzroy, oppose The Founders, a cult who run Columbia. She requests for Booker to help her in order to keep his airship. Soon Elizabeth’s’ “Tears” take them into an alternate reality where there is open war between the factions. Daisy opposes Booker, but Elizabeth helps him defeat her. After The Songbird foils a second attempt to escape, Elizabeth is again captured. After Booker sees a vision of an elderly Elizabeth and devastation of the city, Elizabeth provides Booker with information on how to go back to 1912 and change their fate. Back in time, Booker rescues Elizabeth and she finds out about her past, as they use The Songbird to fight the Vox Populi and destroy the Siphon that is used by the Luteces to inhibit Elizabeth’s powers. When Elizabeth uses her “Tears” again, they find themselves in the underwater city of Rapture. On the surface, the lighthouse is revealed to have infinite possible realities with multiple versions of Booker and Elizabeth. Many visions of these realities are presented to Booker, showing the origins of why he was approached to find Elizabeth and that she was originally named Anna DeWitt, Bookers daughter. She had been given to the leader of The Founders, Zachary Comstock, who is in fact an alternative version of Booker.
Booker had been expelled from the agency around the time of Anna's birth for his use of extreme brutality during the workers' strikes. As the numerous universes continue to cycle, Booker drowns himself, to prevent Comstock’s existence, as each Elizabeth slowly disappears.
With more dynamic combat than the original Bioshock, using Columbia’s huge environment across the magnificent skyline, Irrational Games exceeded our expectations. This remarkable experience kept me hooked (pun intended) throughout, mixing the familiar formula of high tempo chases and new style inter-dimensional tears, providing a more polished and richer story.
Nintendo EAD Tokyo | Nintendo | Wii U
The sequel to Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo brought us a Wii U exclusive, as Mario goes on yet another journey, battling Bowser to rescue the Sprixie Princesses.
In Mushroom Kingdom, whilst fitting a glass pipe, Mario is approached by a Sprixie Princess who asks for his help to rescue the other Sprixie Princesses, who have been kidnapped in their land. Before she can finish, Bowser appears and traps her in a jar, leaving in a nearby pipe, as Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad go in pursuit.
When the group enter The Sprixie Kingdom, they begin to look for the fairies. Each character has their own unique abilities and are all needed to unlock various stages of The Sprixie Kingdom, whilst Rosalina is available as an unlockable fifth character. Free-roaming each level provides the opportunity to find hidden areas, coins and three Green Stars, which allow you to progress. The Super Bell allows you to power up, run faster and perform scratch attacks, against all the familiar enemies, such as Magikoopa, Koopa Troopa and Bullet Bills, amongst many more. In order to survive huge waves of attacks, the Double Cherries allow you to clone yourself, multiple times.
As you solve various puzzles, using Piranha Plants, you meat other non-playable characters such as Plessie, who help to guide you. Along the way, you must find a way to defeat bosses, such as Pom Pom, Queen and King Hisstocrat, among more, using the various power-ups, such as Lucky Bell and Cannon Box, which allows you to shoot cannonballs. Just as they save the last Sprixie, Bowser appears and recaptures them, as he heads for The Great Tower of Bowser Land, his amusement park fortress. Bowser uses a power-up, called the Super Bell, to transform into a cat-like version of him, called Meowser, allowing him to climb walls. After the group defeat Meowser, they travel home, after saying goodbye to the fairies.
This game was so much fun and so unique to others in the series, for both the story and the fantastic co-op gameplay. With its incredible detail and quirky quests, the formula was perfect. Even more so than Super Smash Bros, this was my favourite Mario title for the Wii U and possibly my most popular game on the console.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Nintendo EAD | Nintendo | Nintendo DS
EA DICE | EA | PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One & Xbox 360
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