Until Dawn – Review (PS4)

Until Dawn Main

Until Dawn has been floating around for a long time. First revealed back in 2012 as a Move focused game on PS3, it has been in the works for what seems like an age. Supermassive Games eventually scrapped plans for a last gen release and concentrated on getting the game onto PS4.

If you’re a fan of horror films then the setting of Until Dawn will feel warmly familiar. A group of teenagers head to an isolated lodge in the woods and find themselves stalked, having to survive through the night until help can get to them in the morning. But to dismiss Until Dawn as just another horror game is to do it a disservice.

While there is nothing here that revolutionizes the horror genre like Cabin In The Woods, Until Dawn does a good job of subverting some of the tropes that are even recognizable to non-horror fans (like me). There is some neat character based stuff in the game that, depending on the choices you make throughout, you get to see through interactions with the other teenagers.

Until Dawn 3

The game also does a nice job of playing with the mechanics of gaming, mixing them nicely with horror film expectations. At times my knowledge of horror films was telling me to do one thing but my gaming experience was screaming another. It made for an enjoyable game and that’s before we factor in the main reason to play Until Dawn – The Butterfly Effect.

Widely understood, and seen in the film of the same name, The Butterfly Effect is the theory that one small choice can lead to a huge change in fortune further down the road. In Until Dawn these choices stack up and can led to character deaths. This lends every choice and event a weight. Some of them might not even be direct choices, as failing quick time events could slow your character, meaning they simply aren’t there to save someone else.

This type of thing has been done in the past, most notably by Quantic Dream in titles like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, but I think this is the best implementation of it I have experienced. Having said that, while the paths diverge depending on your choices in Until Dawn, the ending remains largely the same. This differs from something like Heavy Rain where there was a huge amount of different endings. While the ending of Until Dawn doesn’t vary wildly, the way you get there can be very different indeed. In fact you can end the game with none of the characters left alive, or they can all be still alive – it depends on what you do.

Until Dawn 4

There is also a cool mechanic in the game that asks you not to move in a tense situation. The game is literally checking your controller for movement in sections that can last for up to 10 seconds. It’s a really nice touch that helps tie you to the characters, as they hold their breath and hide from an assailant so do you!

The characters are great, a real mix of personalities that you will love and hate, and then maybe love again. Some of the arcs the characters have are interesting, if you can keep them alive long enough to see them! Graphically the game is a powerhouse with some astounding lighting and facial capture. Of course Until Dawn is not an open world game and you are very limited in where you can go. That obviously helps with concentrating the graphical power into one space.

Until Dawn is a game that begs to be played more than once, with so many variables there will always be something you’ve missed or another character to save. There are also lots of clues to find that unlock information on the backstory, as well as shedding light on the characters current predicament. As you play you will also discover various ‘Totems’, each showing you a glimpse of a future event or offering some form of guidance. These add another layer to the game because they can influence your choices, which might be a good or a bad thing.

Until Dawn 5

I didn’t have many problems with Until Dawn, there were a few small things – occasionally controlling the character was a bit of a pain, usually when the camera angle shifts and you need to switch the direction of the analogue stick, ala the old Resident Evil games. A couple of times the tone of the conversation was out of whack with what had just happened. Really small stuff in terms of the scale of the game though.

My one major gripe (and I’m not alone judging by the online reaction) is with one specific late game choice. No spoilers here so I’ll try to explain as best I can – almost all the choices in the game give you an A or B scenario. The choices are clear, it’s this or that. One particular choice far into the game appears to give you a simple choice but doesn’t give you all the info you need to make the decision. Making the wrong choice has catastrophic consequences and I just felt I would never have made that choice if I’d had all the information to hand.

Until Dawn 2

Having said that I still thoroughly enjoyed Until Dawn and it was one of those rare titles that stays with you. After I’d finished it I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About my choices, about the backstory and about what others thought of the characters and story. Having looked through some of the story branches I feel like my version of the story was pretty good, barring that unfortunate late game choice – I still might go back and replay that section! I would recommend Until Dawn to anyone, even if you don’t much care for horror this is a really cool title that sets a new bar for this type of branching story/exploration game.

Rating: 8/10

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2013

GameAwards2013Main

Well what a year it’s been for gaming! With the arrival of new consoles in the Autumn we were left wondering whether the support would still be there for the PS3 and if you needed convincing you only had to look at The Last Of Us, Beyond: Two Souls and Gran Turismo 6 to see there is life in the old dog yet.

As the PS4 didn’t arrive until November 29th (and I didn’t receive mine until early December) nothing for that platform will be eligible for this year’s awards (as they run November to November). Also there were a few games I held off of so I could get the superior PS4 version, namely Assassin’s Creed IV and Battlefield 4, so they also won’t feature.

We start with a new award, that recognizes the fact that I simply can’t play every game within the year. The ‘Missed Gem’ award goes to a game from the previous year that I didn’t play until this year but feel would’ve warranted a mention last time out if I had played it in time.

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MISSED GEM OF 2012

GameAwards2013Gem

WINNER: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead (Season 1)

Everyone has rightfully raved about The Walking Dead. I’m one of them (check out my review) and I can safely say it was a fantastic experience. It’s a point and click adventure game, which wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea but the story here is soooo good. Highly recommended.

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

GameAwards2013Innovation

Winner: Grand Theft Auto V (Multi Character Selection)

GTA V was a trend setter in many ways but one of the most impressive aspects of the game was the way you could switch between the main characters at will. With a button press you would be pulled to an overhead view of the map, moved across to wherever the other character was and then plonked down to them. This in itself isn’t a completely original idea, Driver: San Francisco had a similar mechanic that allowed you to swap between vehicles. The difference here are the little character vignettes when you land with a new character; Franklin pulling his friend away from a fight, Michael finishing a coffee and tossing the cup away or Trevor… well God knows what Trevor will be doing! This small touch gives you a real feeling that the world of GTA V is continuing around you at all times. It’s a very nice mechanic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Crysis 3 (Multiplayer Highlights)
  • Bioshock Infinite (Skyhooks)
  • Metal Gear Rising (Precision Cutting)

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

GameAwards2013DLC

WINNER: Mass Effect 3: Citadel

The ending of Mass Effect 3 left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, even with the update Bioware released. If that was the case for you, or if you just loved the game/series then give the Citadel DLC a spin. This is the ‘Christmas Special’ of Mass Effect, a set of side missions that see you fighting off enemies, carrying out a heist and planning a party for your crew… Yes, that’s right organizing and hosting a party ๐Ÿ™‚ It. Is. Awesome. And great fan service. The Walking Dead: 400 Days also deserves a mention as it carried on with the hard choices of season 1 straight off the bat, even if the characters were new. Soul Sacrifice on Vita was supported with a ridiculous amount of free DLC post launch which was all really cool so make sure you check that out as well.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield 3 – End Game
  • The Walking Dead – 400 Days
  • Soul Sacrifice – Various Free DLC Packs

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BEST DOWNLOAD ONLY GAME

Hotline Miami 1

WINNER: Hotline Miami (Vita)

Enough people were raving about it on PC last year but 2013 was the year I finally got my hands on Hotline Miami – the super fast, super violent and super challenging top down kill fest. I absolutely loved this game and don’t know anyone who played it that didn’t get hooked. The Vita version looks super crisp and the soundtrack is awesome. Most of the games in this category I played on Vita (though all of these were on PS3 as well) with some great titles like Guacamelee, Thomas Was Alone and Lone Survivor. Another pleasant surprise was Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – it had Robocop’s gun in it! ROBOCOP’S GUN!! ๐Ÿ™‚

RUNNERS UP:

  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Guacamelee (Vita)
  • Thomas Was Alone (Vita)

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2014

GameAwards2013MostWanted

WINNER: Infamous: Second Son

Well, the clear winner for this in my eyes was Cyberpunk 2077 but it turns out that isn’t arriving until 2015 so I had to have a rethink! A new Uncharted has me interested but so little is known about it at this stage, same goes for Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. The Witcher 3 and The Order: 1886 are definitely on my radar and No Man’s Sky looked awesome at VGX earlier this month. For me, at the moment, it has to be Infamous: Second Son. The game looks so damn good up close (I wasn’t allowed to play it but watched a hands off level playthrough) I could barely believe it. I’m hyped for this one, roll on March.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Witcher 3
  • The Order: 1886
  • No Man’s Sky

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BEST GAME TRAILER

*Warning Contains Strong Language*

WINNER: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

I’m not sure I need many words here, as someone who grew up in the 1980’s… just watch the Blood Dragon trailer to see why it won ๐Ÿ™‚ GTA always has great trailers and the below is no exception, super use of music as well. Love this Last Of Us one, not always a fan of live action stuff but this is clever. And Killzone always looks amazing, Shadow Fall is no different.

RUNNERS UP:

GTA V

Last Of Us

Killzone Shadow Fall

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BEST PS VITA GAME

GameAwards2013VitaGame

WINNER: Persona 4 The Golden

If you’d told me a year ago that a Japanese RPG would win my Vita Game Of The Year in a year when a Killzone title came to Vita, I would’ve called you a liar. I haven’t really ever played a JRPG before but then again Persona 4: The Golden isn’t like other JRPG’s. Like The Walking Dead this is a game all about your relationships with characters (Oh Chie) and P4G grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. Don’t let the fact Killzone: Mercenary didn’t pick up GOTY deter you from grabbing it if you have a Vita – it’s the best handheld shooter ever made. Soul Sacrifice was another title I might not have played on a home console but it just seems like a great fit on Vita and it’s really fun in short bursts. Tearaway was a beautiful game that put you in a superbly realized papercraft world and utilised all of the best Vita features. A charming game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Soul Sacrifice
  • Tearaway
  • Killzone: Mercenary

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BEST GRAPHICS

GameAwards2013Graphics

WINNER: Beyond: Two Souls

It was a pretty close run race in this category with four superb looking games. The Last Of Us probably came closest to nabbing this with it’s fully realized, if grim, world and characters but while the animation of Beyond: Two Souls might’ve been off at times, graphically the game was stunning. Especially impressive considering they were using actors that people recognize and could more easily spot any faults. Also the fire/flame effects were majorly impressive. Los Santos in GTA V was such a wonder to look at sometimes I would just stop and admire the view – I can’t wait to see what Rockstar deliver on PS4. And while it was stylized, Bioshock Infinite created a beautiful world in Columbia and then filled it with dark, interesting people. Definitely a world to be explored and experienced.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA V
  • The Last Of Us

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BEST STORYLINE

GameAwards2013Story

WINNER: Bioshock Infinite

There have been some great stories to play through this year and again The Last Of Us came very close to taking this award but this year’s winner is Bioshock Infinite. A title that had me guessing throughout and while I thought I had the twist sussed it turned out to be one of many that, by the time the credits rolled, left me reeling. As I uncovered more and more clues while playing through it was satisfying to put the pieces together. I thought Crystal Dynamics did a great job with the Tomb Raider reboot but the story was strongest in those opening few hours and fell away a bit beyond that. Those few hours though… what a ride. DmC was one of my more pleasant surprises this year (all round in fact) and I enjoyed the game’s story of greed and corruption and thought the world they’d created was very fleshed out.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Last Of Us
  • Tomb Raider
  • DmC

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

GameAwards2013Score

WINNER: Persona 4: The Golden (Vita)

This was a really difficult category to decide on – all four of these are great scores that you should definitely check out. GTA V was the surprise for me as I didn’t expect the score to be so awesome and well suited to the heist aspect of the game. The Last Of Us and Bioshock Infinite were more subtle but packed a big punch when necessary. However the award goes to Persona 4: The Golden for it’s crazy, fun and memorable score, which includes a few songs written for the game that are used during battles. There were plenty of other great scores worth checking out from this year, I’d also recommend Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and Beyond: Two Souls.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • The Last Of Us

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

Hotline Miami 3

WINNER: Hotline Miami (Vita)

I mentioned Hotline Miami last year because I’d heard the soundtrack but hadn’t played the game. Nothing can quite prepare you for what is one of the most powerful collections of tracks in gaming. The songs here perfectly capture the feel of the game and lend a kind of hypnotic vibe to proceedings. Absolutely brilliant. The Grand Theft Auto games always have stellar licensed material and GTA V is no different, featuring great songs across lots of different radio stations. Bioshock Infinite‘s use of tears to play songs was inspired, especially as it also featured ‘Columbia’ versions of them all in game as well. And Far Cry 3, well that M.I.A use was brilliant and the Skrillex track fitted so well with the mission it was used on – just good solid choices.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Far Cry 3
  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite

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BEST VOICE ACTING

GameAwards2013Voice

WINNER: The Last Of Us

This was another tough category this year as so many games delivered massive performances in terms of acting. The Last Of Us though is a deserving winner, with Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson bringing most to the table with solid support from, among others, Nolan North. Baker delivered another fantastic performance as Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite alongside the excellent Courtnee Draper. Steven Ogg as Trevor gets GTA V a mention just on his own and alongside his other cast members helped to make our stay in Los Santos a memorable one. I suppose when you hire big name actors like Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe you expect big things but as we’ve seen in the past bringing Hollywood to games doesn’t always work out. Luckily for us with Beyond: Two Souls it did this time and Page’s delivery and commitment to the role added real depth to her character Jodie Holmes.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA V
  • Beyond: Two Souls

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

GameAwards2013Single

WINNER: The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us is one of those games that has to be played to be believed. Titles such as Uncharted 2 and Journey carry the same gravitas and The Last Of Us can be added to that list of games that anyone with a PS3 should play. The journey of Ellie and Joel during the game is astounding and the world is a brutal, beautiful place to (carefully) explore. The Clickers were hideous enemies and the fact they could kill you in one hit just made things worse. Everything works here – the scarcity of ammo/supplies, the confined spaces you’d find yourself in and also little touches like finding the after effects of horrific events and finding out the mini storylines contained within. While GTA V and Persona 4: The Golden are totally different styles of game I stuck almost 60 hours into each of their single player offerings this year, which is a testament to their quality. And while the combat did drag at times in Bioshock Infinite, overall it was just such a great game that you can’t do anything but recommend it.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Persona 4 The Golden (Vita)

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

GameAwards2013Online

WINNER: GTA Online

It says a lot about the opening 6 months of 2013 that during that time my most played online games were Killzone 3 (2011), Mass Effect 3 (2012) and Battlefield 3 (2011). The one new thing I played in this time was Far Cry 3, which had a nice co-op online mode and handled really well, in terms of feel of weapons etc. Then June hit and The Last Of Us arrived, with it’s new and fresh idea of what multiplayer could be. Run and gun was out, scavenge and hide was in. I had some very tense rounds of this immensely underrated online offering. Killzone: Mercenary offered Vita owners a glimpse of what an FPS title could do online and it was very fun, despite a few issues with spawn point locations. But the award this year goes to GTA Online. Finally released in October it was… well, broken to be honest. But now that it’s (mainly) fixed it is an absolute blast. Whether doing scripted missions or just messing about with friends it has been some of my most memorable online gaming in the last few years.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Last Of Us
  • Far Cry 3
  • Killzone Mercenary (Vita)

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GAME OF THE YEAR

TheLastOfUs 2

WINNER: The Last Of Us

The Last Of Us takes this year’s award – a combination of it’s superlative single player and fantastic online offering is more than enough to justify it’s win. All four nominees are outrageously great games and well worth playing. Bioshock Infinite‘s mix of bright, vibrant colours, stylised graphics and dark, sinister undercurrent make for a compelling game and while Persona 4: The Golden shares some characteristics with Irrational Game’s title it also has a wealth of depth that left me stunned. In GTA V Rockstar have created a living, breathing love/hate letter to L.A that will keep you gripped and amazed both online and offline.

RUNNERS UP:

  • GTA V
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Persona 4 The Golden (Vita)

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———————————————————————————–

So there you have it!

There were plenty of other decent games that didn’t get nominated but I’d still recommend. Titles like Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Rain and Puppeteer to name a few.

It’s also been a good year for Vita owners with titles like Retro City Rampage, Guacamelee, Hotline Miami, Thomas Was Alone, Stealth Inc., Lone Survivor and Spluenky making the jump over, along with exclusives like Persona 4 : The Golden, Soul Sacrifice, Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway. It was nice to see a Vita game crack the nominees list for Game Of The Year for the first time as well.

So what have you guys been playing? What have I missed? What was your favourite game this year?

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Beyond: Two Souls – Review (PS3)

BeyondMain

David Cage tends to have a polarising effect on people. Some hate his games and his constant talk of ’emotions’ while others think he is doing something different and interesting in the medium.

I tend to fall in the latter category, although I’d be the first to admit that he could probably do with someone working alongside him to reign him in a bit. Regardless of that I enjoyed Fahrenheit and found Heavy Rain to be a great experience, so I was looking forward to Beyond: Two Souls.

Aside from anything else the casting of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in the main roles had me intrigued and having seen from the trailers how good the motion capture looked, Beyond seemed like something I’d enjoy.

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And I did enjoy this game. Very much so but it definitely had a few issues that affected the overall experience.

Beyond: Two Souls tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a character who has always had an supernatural entity connected to her. During the game you will play as Jodie (and her entity) from when she is a child until she is a fully grown woman. The story doesn’t play out chronologically and so you’ll be jumping around Jodie’s timeline – which lends the game a ‘Memento‘ vibe. Because of her ability Jodie is placed into the care of scientists Nathan Dawkins (Dafoe) and Cole Freeman (Kadeem Hardison) who investigate her and, over time, become father figures for Jodie.

As things progress you are given various choices, both in terms of action and conversation which means it’s unlikely two playthroughs of the game will be exactly the same. You can also play the game in local co-op, with one player controlling Jodie and the other controlling Aiden (her entity).

Beyond2

My biggest gripe with Beyond came in the form of the controls, especially with regard to combat situations. At certain times during a fight or attempted escape the game will slow and you are required to push the right analogue stick in the direction of Jodie’s momentum. There is no on screen prompt, you just naturally follow her movement. Which works great with punching or kicking, where there is clear movement and you can judge the direction easily. Not so much for more complex movements such as ducking or rolling to one side – especially if the camera is positioned at an off angle etc.

The general controls are a little more refined than Heavy Rain, with a small white dot indicating something that you can interact with and button prompts for conversation options. Movement still feels clunky on occasion but the motion capture here is excellent – with character movement looking realistic for the majority of the time.

Overall the graphics are fantastic and there are even a few scenes that rival stuff I’ve seen on the PS4. Quantic Dream also manage to avoid the uncanny valley for the most part, which I think comes down to a mixture of improved graphics and the acting of the cast.

Beyond1

Ellen Page does a superb job here as Jodie Holmes, with her role stretching across Jodie’s entire adolescence. She brings believability to the character and along with Willem Dafoe does a sterling job of making their characters feel well rounded and fleshed out.

Like Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls is a game about choices. And a lot of the time you might not even realise your story has branched off – there are chunks of the game you won’t see if you choose one option over another. It’s handled fairly seamlessly and it’s refreshing to chat to others who have finished the game and compare notes. You will probably be quite surprised at how differently some parts played out!

My other issue with the game (which I’m hoping can be patched at some stage) is that for some unknown reason Beyond doesn’t save your option settings? Meaning that I had to go into the options menu and invert my y axis/turn down the sensitivity EVERY time I booted the game up. It was more infuriating than game breaking but I’m unsure how that slipped through the net on a game with such polish.

Beyond4

On the whole Beyond: Two Souls is a game I’d recommend to anyone – it does have a few problems and if you’re not a fan of Cage’s previous work you may find it follows too similar a pattern to his other titles but I feel it offers a different, engaging experience. Another fantastic title to add to the PS3’s impressive roster of exclusive titles.

Rating: 8/10

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2012

GOTYMain

So another fantastic year of gaming draws to a close and it’s time to look back to see what’s impressed in 2012:

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

GOTYInnovation

WINNER: Spec Ops ‘Degradation Of Characters’

It’s crazy to think that this has never been done before. In Spec Ops: The Line as well as physical changes, you and your squad also take a psychological beating. Later in the game as your character starts screaming his orders instead of calmly giving them it makes a huge difference. Even reloading calls are shouted through gritted teeth. It just makes the game feel incredibly visceral. Big shout outs to both Dishonored and Hitman: Absolution for bringing some new, inventive mechanics to the stealth genre. I expect both Blink and Instinct will turn up in other games at some stage.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Dishonored – Blink
  • Max Payne 3 – Bullet Time in Online Matches
  • Hitman: Absolution – Instinct

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

GOTYDLCCon

WINNER: Battlefield 3 – Close Quarters

While Borderlands 2 gave us a substantial chunk of gameplay with Captain Scarlett’s Booty and Uncharted 3 delivered some clever, new maps, for sheer awesomeness this award has to go to Battlefield 3 for Close Quarters. This map pack with two new game modes was a brilliant addition to the Battlefield package. The maps in here are some of my favourite in the entire game’s roster – Operation 925 and Ziba Tower are so well designed it hurts. Sure these maps slightly favour a shotgun but when has that ever been a problem ๐Ÿ™‚

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted 3 – Map Pack
  • Mass Effect 3 – From Ashes
  • Borderlands 2 – Captain Scarlett’s Booty

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BEST DOWNLOADABLE GAME

Journey 1

WINNER: Journey

Journey is unlike anything I’ve ever played – it truly is a game that needs to be experienced rather than discussed but if you’d like to read more, check out my review from earlier in the year. A truly stunning game. Also have to congratulate the guys at Evolution on Motorstorm RC – when I first saw the reveal I wasn’t hugely impressed but the game turned out to be fantastic.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Motorstorm RC
  • Sound Shapes
  • When Vikings Attack!

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2013

GOTYMostAnt

WINNER: Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar continue to deliver top quality games – since the last GTA we’ve had L.A Noire, Max Payne 3 and the superlative Red Dead Redemption. Grand Theft Auto V looks set to continue that (check out the trailer in the next section) and I can’t wait to see what advances have been made since the last game back in 2008.

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BEST GAME TRAILER

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WINNER: Borderlands 2

I love this trailer. It completely sums up the game and when Claptrap… well I won’t spoil it but check it out.

I’ve also included the runners up below so you can check them out as well.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Bioshock Infinite

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BEST PS VITA GAME

GOTYVita

WINNER: Motorstorm RC

There have been some fantastic games for the Vita in it’s first year and I certainly don’t think the console is lacking in titles. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation came close to making this list but was edged out by the excellent Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Sony Bend Studios delivered a great Uncharted game and Gravity Rush was a blast, despite some frustrating combat issues. However the award in 2012 goes to Motorstorm RC, a completely addictive racer that took up far too much of my time. Beating friend’s scores on the tracks gave everything a competitive edge and I enjoyed it so much I bought all the DLC to get more tracks. In my opinion a perfect title for the Vita.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Need For Speed: Most Wanted
  • Gravity Rush

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BEST GRAPHICS

GOTYGraphics

WINNER: Max Payne 3

Usually best graphics is one of those categories where you can immediately arrive at a shortlist and the tough part is narrowing that down to a winner. But this year we’ve had a number of games that shone in various different styles. It’s been extremely difficult and titles like The Darkness II, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Hitman Absolution and Gravity Rush have all failed to make the cut. For me, although it was a linear experience, Max Payne 3 really delivered a mix of great technical work and graphical style to create a fairly unique and stunning looking game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Journey
  • Assassin’s Creed III
  • Borderlands II

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BEST STORYLINE

GOTYStory

WINNER: Spec Ops: The Line

I had been keeping an eye on Spec Ops: The Line ever since it’s first reveal back at the Video Game Awards in 2009, so I was most pleased to see it finally get released in the summer. Promising tough moral choices, an interesting story and some good use of desert sand to trap enemies it looked like Spec Ops might dominate the barren Summer release schedule. It didn’t quite work out that way but Spec Ops: The Line tells one of the more engrossing stories in games of the last few years. The way things unfold is well choreographed and having seen some of the conversations with the writers of the game it seems almost everything in the game was planned that way from the beginning. It’s a slow start but well worth sticking with – one of the best storylines for a while.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Max Payne 3
  • The Darkness II
  • Dishonored

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (SCORE)

GOTYScore

WINNER: Max Payne 3 – Health

There have been some fantastic scores this year, from the usual military bombast of Call Of Duty: Black Ops II through to the quirky and lovable Sound Shapes on Vita. But most would be hard pressed to match Health‘s score for Max Payne 3, which fitted the game so well it was pretty much another aspect of Max’s character. Journey probably ran it closest, the sweeping joy and sorrow of Austin Wintory’s music really bringing a depth of emotion to the game. Big shout out as well to Hotline Miami, I haven’t even played that game but the soundtrack is fantastic in it’s own right.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Journey – Austin Wintory
  • Gravity Rush (Vita) –ย Kohei Tanaka
  • Sound Shapes (Vita) – Various

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BEST SOUNDTRACK (LICENSED)

GOTYLicensed

WINNER: The Darkness II

It’s also been a great year for licensed music uses in games – in fact it’s the first year I’ve truly struggled to get a shortlist, never mind a winner. FIFA continues to impress by delving into indie territory and Sleeping Dogs ‘Grand Theft Auto-esque’ radio station approach threw up some great tunes to cause carnage to. Eventually it was a two horse race for this award and despite a few excellent choices (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – “Nowhere to Run” and Deep Purple – “Hush” in particular) by Spec Ops: The Line, The Darkness II steals it with tracks like Ram Jam – “Black Betty”, Metallica “Some Kind Of Monster”, Stereo MCs – “Connected”, The Flamingos – “I Only Have Eyes for You”, Dean Martin – “In the Chapel in the Moonlight”, The Offspring – “Self-Esteem” and of course, Tone Loc – “Wild Thing”. Fantastic stuff.

RUNNERS UP:

  • FIFA 13
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Spec Ops: The Line

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BEST VOICE ACTING

SleepingDogs 3

WINNER: Sleeping Dogs

Square Enix assembled an all star cast including Hong Kong actor Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu and Emma Stone to bring the characters of Sleeping Dogs to life. They do a great job and really help to pull you into the world the game creates. Nolan North again pulls a Nate Drake performance out of the bag, this time on the small(er) screen of the Vita. He also took on the main role of Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line – you can see why he’s one of the most in demand, and best, voice actors in gaming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Max Payne 3
  • Spec Ops: The Line

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

Journey Main

WINNER: Journey

Journey is a gaming experience like no other. As you make your way across desolate, sandy dunes the game will run you through a gamut of emotions. It’s such a wonderful game, play it online and in one sitting (it’s 2-3 hours long) – you won’t regret it. While in some respects Mass Effect 3 was disappointing, overall I thought it was a solid, enjoyable game. There were some interesting missions and choices you could make that meant, while the ending might not have been different, how you got to the conclusion of the story varied depending on your actions. Sleeping Dogs was so much fun I think I played almost the entire thing with a smile on my face but the dark horse in this race, sneaking up on the others with a fibre wire, is Hitman: Absolution. After a mis-step with Kane and Lynch 2, IO Interactive really delivered with Hitman. Accessible and challenging – definitely one of the best single player games out there this year.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Sleeping Dogs

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

GOTYMulti

WINNER: Borderlands 2

It hasn’t really been a great year for online multiplayer in my opinion – too few new games grabbed our attention and it was far too easy to jump back into titles like Battlefield 3 or Uncharted 3. However Borderlands 2 would be a worthy winner any year. Getting online with 3 of your friends and blasting through madcap missions was insane fun and the dash for spilled loot only added to the comedy. Mass Effect 3 successfully introduced multiplayer, it was only a horde mode of sorts but most enjoyable and the added depth of different character races gives it some longevity. Call Of Duty: Black Ops II was the most accessible and flexible yet, with some really great maps to boot. Max Payne 3 adds something different with modes like ‘Payne Killer’ and ‘Gang Wars’ but stands up as a third person action shooter in standard modes like Team Deathmatch as well. I was quite impressed with Max Payne’s online, especially the way the developer factored in bullet time but it didn’t seem like that many people were playing it beyond the first couple of weeks of release.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Mass Effect 3
  • Max Payne 3
  • Call Of Duty: Black Ops II

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GAME OF THE YEAR

GOTYGame

WINNER: Borderlands 2

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog or following me on Twitter it’s probably not too hard to guess this year’s winner. For Borderlands 2, Gearbox Software ramped up the game and refined it to such an extent that it is genuinely hard to find fault with it. It’s fun on your own but truly comes to life in online co-op. Memorable characters compliment the game’s wicked sense of humour and an outrageous amount of classes, guns, shields, mods and relics just add to the chaos. Borderlands 2 is a huge game that you will love playing through.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Journey

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So there you have it, another great year for gaming and the above is only the tip of iceberg. There were some great titles that didn’t make the shortlists but are still worth checking out. Things like Syndicate, Binary Domain, X-Com: Enemy Unknown and Need For Speed: Most Wanted for a start. Or how about Unit 13, Everybody’s Golf and LittleBigPlanet for the Vita.

I never got around to playing a few of the big games from this year, most notably The Walking Dead and Resident Evil 6 but I’ll hopefully get a chance to experience those soon.

There’s been plenty to play this year and 2013 looks interesting, especially with new hardware on the horizon.

What is your game of the year? Let me know what you agree/disagree with in the above and what titles you would’ve had in there.

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