It’s been a fun holiday season (read: I’ve had the flu and it mostly sucked), but now it’s time for the work to begin: Picking our Game of the Year winners. 

You that know we’re not like the other sites out there, so our awards are different, too. Check the first post for the categories we’re considering and let us know who your winners are!

Thursday, 4:34 pm – matt

well you could prolly find yourself a gamecube and the original wind waker for less than a hundred bucks.

I know I can at least get the gamecube… 🙂

Thursday, 1:31 pm – Ricky

SO MUCH ZELDA, NOT ENOUGH ME PLAYING IT. A Link Between Worlds and Wind Waker – to play them both would require a ~$600 hardware investment, so it’s not likely in the cards for me, but boy do Nintendo know how to pull those nostalgia strings.

Blacklist looks to be high up on my backlog list, and OlliOlli looks great, though I’ll probably wait for a sale before grabbing it. For now, I’ll enjoy what I’ve been playing. We’ve got some PAYDAY 2 set-up for Friday night, so look for some more videos at twitch.tv/gamentary soon.

Ah, here it is. I knew I left it somewhere. You LOL for the day:

Thursday, 12:06 pm – matt

Wednesday, 10:36 am – Gavin

I feel shame over my backlog, but that shame is part of my greater place in the world.  Insofar as I have spent money on titles but haven’t played them, I feel guilty that I can drop money on something that ultimately won’t benefit me (a game doesn’t benefit me if I don’t play it), but there are others who aren’t in this position and would love to have a tenth of what I have.  That’s where my shame comes from.  I’m trying to fire through it, to the point that I don’t want people to buy me games anymore because I just have too much.

Over the break, I played a bunch of stuff!  I took on episode 1 of The Walking Dead, Season 2.  It doesn’t really accomplish much in terms of advancing a story; it’s more just setting the stage for the rest of the season, much like episode 1 of season 1.  The notion of controlling Clementine is different, but it works; you feel a close emotional connection to her, but I am less inclined to be protective of her the way I was in season 1.  That said, when bad things happen, I still very much need to take care of her.  She’s grown up a bit and her personality reflects that.  Definitely worth buying and playing.

I finished all of the bonus levels for Super Mario 3D World.  I’ve finally figured out where I stand on this game.  It’s amazing and fabulous and wonderful and I love it; just not as much as Super Mario Galaxy 1 or 2.  What sets 3D World apart is the insanely good level design.  It is a technical accomplishment the likes of which we haven’t seen from Nintendo in quite some time.  If you enjoy platforming, then you will enjoy 3D World.  Where it stumbles a bit is that Galaxy felt like it was part of a larger gaming universe.  There was context to the levels.  It felt richer.  If I can colloquialize it, World has the brains, but Galaxy has the heart.  I felt like I was on more of an adventure in Galaxy, whereas in World, it felt like I was holding a controller and playing a game.  An amazing game, but I wasn’t as immersed.  That said, World is an absolute triumph of design and variety, so I cannot recommend it enough.

I played more The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds as well.  This has quickly skyrocketed up my list of best games of the year.  It has all of the spirit and charm of Link to the Past, which you may recall is one of my favourite games of all time, with enough variety to make it a valid, different experience.  The principle conceit of the game, the ability to transform yourself into a 2D painting, works so well and isn’t gimmicky in the slightest.  It is implemented in so many different ways that I’m genuinely surprised.

I’ve also hit up Splinter Cell: Blacklist for a considerable amount of time.  To summarize it briefly, yes, it is a good game.  No, it’s not as good as the first three.  Yes, it is worth your time as a stealth game.  The game is effectively a combination of Conviction and Chaos Theory, avoiding the best parts of Chaos Theory and the worst parts of Conviction.  It’s back to being a stealth game, but lots of great side-mechanics from Chaos Theory are missing, like picking locks, interrogating enemies to learn passcodes, etc.  I’m not too far into the game so I don’t know what all will take place, but it also looks like they’ve ditched hacking as well.  You used to be able to take control of computers to view video cameras.  I haven’t come across that in the six missions I’ve played so far, but it may come up later.  But, you can be a stealthy ghost and knock out your enemies without killing them, so that’s a strong plus.  Meanwhile, it’s taken a lot of the good from Conviction – UI, visual presentation, sound design, and voice acting (I’ll talk about Fisher in a second), and ditched most of the bad – it’s back to being a stealth game.  Or rather, it gives you the option to play it as a stealth game.  You can be a killing machine if you want, but you will get killed very quickly if you try to be a hero.

So, voice acting.  I said previously that the voice acting in Conviction was by far the best, and it absolutely was.  They unlocked a new level of intensity in Ironside that we hadn’t seen to this point.  Blacklist, as you know, doesn’t have Ironside.  He’s been replaced by Canadian actor Eric Johnson.  Johnson decidedly does not have the extremely unique voice that Ironside does.  He sounds much more generic, like Nolan North minus the intense expression we saw in Spec Ops: The Line.  That said, as a generic voice actor, he does fine.  It’s disappointing because Ironside was Fisher, but it doesn’t break my immersion.  He still has great delivery, especially when you take an enemy as a human shield.  Unsurprisingly, Elias Toufexis (Adam Jensen from Deus Ex: Human Revolution), returning as arms dealer Andriy Kobin, is awesome.  He’s got fabulous delivery and his comedic timing is perfect for a game that really isn’t a comedy.

The missions are varied.  In addition to the main story, there are side missions from some of the side characters.  They include maximum stealth missions (i.e. get spotted and you fail the mission), optional path missions (kill everyone or knock them out, but deal with every enemy) and horde mode (survive waves of enemies).  The horde mode mission that I’ve played so far is really strange and I’m not sure if I like it because it doesn’t feel like it fits in with the game.  You can play it as a ghost, but it’s really really hard.  It’s easier just to murder everyone, but then, that was my principle complaint against Conviction.  I hate that it gives me the option because I’m going to want to ghost it every time!

All in all, Blacklist is a very good stealth game, and a very enjoyable game as a whole.  If you enjoyed Chaos Theory, you will enjoy Blacklist as well.  The rules that applied to Chaos Theory apply to Blacklist and it has been treated well.  I’ve already put in a very significant number of hours into the game and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  I’m playing it on the Wii U and the game pad integration is decent – inventory, camera control, remote control devices, etc.  Nothing unexpected, but it is integrated well.  I typically play with the classic controls because battery life is better that way, but it’s still fun.  It also has off-TV play, which is great.

My main complaint with Blacklist is the holyshitballsbad loading times.  You have no concept of bad loading times.  I will wait for a mission to load for upwards of 45 seconds.  Might not sound like much, but sit there and count it out.  Between pressing “Begin mission” and the mission actually beginning, 45 seconds feels like a lifetime.  This is where you really see the hardware limitations of the Wii U come into play.  Once you’re in the game, there isn’t a hint of lag or slowdown – it runs flawlessly – but getting to that point is beastly.

Wednesday, 8:35 am – Ricky

So, gaming. It’s a thing I did over the break! Here’s what I played:

  • The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 1: Colon
  • Payday 2
  • Starbound
  • Gone Home
  • Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
  • FIFA 14

That’s quite a lineup! I don’t need to share all the glorious details with you, but I will say this: Play all of these games.

Payday 2 and Starbound with gifts/bet payments from Albert, so we played a bit of each together. Payday 2 is a blast, and it’s the most co-op fun I’ve had in a video game in a while. I’d recommend picking this up for your system of choice, and convincing some buddies to do the same (4 player co-op FTW). Starbound is unlike any “crafting” game I’ve played before. It’s like Terraria, but I’m way, way more into it this time. Maybe it was the fact that, again, I played co-op with Albert and another buddy, or maybe it was the music, art, and sheer sense of discovery, but whatever it was, I want more.

Gone Home was an interesting experience. Unfortunately, I’d had a couple major plot-points and gameplay mechanics spoiled for me, so I played through waiting for those shoes to drop. Still, I really enjoyed the experience, and while I’d recommend avoiding anything about this game, I’d also recommend going out and playing it as soon as possible. It’s a great, short experience that is more interactive fiction than game, and it’s one that folks should try out if you’re into that kind of thing.

The Walking Dead: Season 2. Get it. Now.

FIFA 14 with matt and our other buddy on PS4 has been great. We played some 3 player drop-in matches last night, and it became apparent to me why this game is an international success: Anyone can learn to play it, and there’s so much content there that anyone can find something to love about it. I’ve dabbled in career mode, Ultimate Team, Be A Pro, co-op seasons and tons of skill mini-games – committing to one area of play would make sense, but I’m enjoying just jumping around in the game and experiencing everything.

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag on the PC is probably the best looking game I’ve ever played. It’s wonderful to look at and to play, and it’ll definitely be making an appearance on my GOTY list next week.

Tuesday, 11:00 am – matt

yesterday I found a wolverine statue for $2,000. it got me thinking of this amazing video game commercial, quite possibly the greatest videogame commercial ever made, for a game I completely despise:

Monday, 3:00 pm – matt

Its interesting to see others have the same concerns over un played games as ricky does, not only from Kuchera but the comments with the article as well. I find it odd to be so formal about it. I understand ricky was part of a challenge so record keeping was in order but looking back on things, how did you really fare over the course of 365 days? I know you were gifted a few games and had a three game limit, did your input of new games exceed the output? considering you were on a challenge and limited game buying it would be a shame to know you gained more games this year than you scratched off you list?

and what happens if gamers don’t finish games on their backlist? is it another failure on top of buying the game and wasting money now you don’t even appreciate what you were supposed to experience by playing the game? I know I have a few old games I would want to play, but honestly have forgotten about them for the next big game and I move accordingly. completing challenges also probably forces people to play games they might not even want to play but feel compelled to complete.

now im not saying old school gaming is lost or people should catch up on older titles if they choose, but placing a self imposed limit and forcing yourself to play older games to “cleanse” a glut of titles seems unnecessary.

will our resident backlogger change his ways for good or have you given up on such stringent limits?

not to say were cranky old men, but with girlfriend/wives, careers, friends, family events, life, etc… where does one find the time to not only play current titles, but catch up on ones that were missed? I have a small collection of games as it is, and finding time to even play them is difficult. games can be completed however, and finishing one opens up time for the next one waiting, so having a few titles lined up is important in maintaining a constant stream of video game playing. I would hate to be sitting on my couch wanting to play a brand new game and feel guilt over leaving older titles even longer, which would then be even harder to play, which would make the guilt grow…

Monday, 1:00 pm – Ricky

Still owe you folks a post about what I played, but over my lunchtime, I read this article from Polygon’s Ben Kuchera (yes, you read that right – Penny Arcade Report was shutdown apparently) about how you shouldn’t be ashamed of your backlog.

This has been the approach that I’ve taken to my backlog – he’s just articulated his thoughts much better than I could. The thing that pained me the most about the challenge last year was the fact that I felt like I wasn’t supporting the entertainment medium that I love. There were many smaller games and developers that I felt needed and deserved my support, but due to this self-imposed challenge, I wasn’t able to “do my part”.

Monday. 12:01 am – Ricky

Auto-post! Been a while since I’ve done one of these… I’m getting organized in 2014, apparently.

Here are our categories for GOTY 2013. I’ll chime in later today with some write-ups on the great games I played over the break.

  • Best indie game (smaller priced games that we loved)
  • Best game that’s available through early access (games that are not quite finished but are fun so far)
  • Most Interesting Gaming Moment
  • Best Character
  • Best Art Style/Graphics/Prettiest/Nicest Looking
  • Funniest Gaming Moment
  • Game I want to see a sequel to
  • Game I never want to see again
  • Best Audio
  • Biggest disappointment
  • Biggest surprise (in games in general or a specific game)
  • Game I’m most looking forward to in 2014
  • Best co-op game
  • Best multi-player game
  • Most addictive game
  • My dirty little secret game (which game were you most ashamed of liking?)
  • Best handheld / mobile game
  • The Inaugural Wall Punch Award (which game made you so frustrated that you wanted to throw a controller or punch a hole in a wall?)
  • Best Game I played this year (can be a game released from any year, but that you played this year)
  • Best 2013 Game
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