Looking back on launches in 2013 is almost staggering. With the introduction of a new generation of consoles, further advancements in PC tech and hundreds of new games, 2013 may very well be one of the best years in gaming. However, not everything introduced into the market is a worthy, quality purchase; for every great title, there's an awful one that barely functions (looking at you, Ride to Hell). But for all of the crap tossed out this year, there was so much good stuff that it's pretty hard to complain. Here are ten titles that most definitely deserve your time and money.
The Last of Us
What hasn't been said about The Last of Us yet? The narrative is emotionally-gripping, well written, explosive and packed with human tragedy. It's the best material Naughty Dog's ever drummed up, putting a great twist on the stagnant zombie genre. The presentation is equally masterful, presenting a brilliant depiction of post fungal-apocalypse America. And then there's the creative multiplayer mode that seamlessly integrates campaign mechanics and addictive survivor group mechanics. With the excellent survival-horror gameplay and improvisation, The Last of Us is the definitive swan song of the PS3.
Prepare to crap your pants at least ten times within the first few minutes of Outlast. Developed by ex-Ubisoft veterans, Outlast tells the tale of a journalist investigating the mysterious MK ULTRA experiments at a seemingly abandoned asylum. Players can only run from the psychological and physical horrors within, relying on brains over brawn. Outlast is truly terrifying and shows true passion for a genre long since dormant.
State of Decay
If you've had the fortune of experiencing State of Decay, you'd know it's the best approximation of what it's like to live in The Walking Dead universe. Players will take on the role of a group of survivors as they attempt to eke out an existence. While central missions do pop up, it's up to you to decide when to make supply runs and build up fortifications. Zombies are deadly and will easily kill the hardiest of your survivors. State of Decay, flawed and buggy as it can be, is one of the best zombie survival RPGs in years.
No More Room in Hell
I know, it's yet another zombie game that looks like a hack-job of Left 4 Dead. But NMRiH's genius is in the details, stripping players of powerful guns and seemingly endless health. Servers consist of 1-8 survivors holding out against waves of zombies or completing difficult objectives. Ammo is unbelievably scarce, any contact with the undead can mean infection and melee weapons are blessings in disguise. Even a flashlight is precious when survivors can't see what they're shooting at. At the bargain price of free, NMRiH's long-coming release on Steam means you have no excuse not to play it.
If you told me that the racially-insensitive Shadow Warrior from the '90s would be resurrected into a modern 3D shooter, I'd have called you a cotton-headed ninny muggins. What should be a train-wreck in glorious hi-def is actually one of the year's most entertainingly gory shooters. With protagonist Lo Wang, players will decimate waves of demons and gangsters on the path to glory. The game certainly isn't hurt by the gorgeous, colorful environments and decent writing either. While the action can get repetitive, it's hard to get mad at a game that wants you to listen to "Eye of the Tiger" while on your way to cutting people in half.
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death
I really can't describe Marlow Briggs in tangible words. The best I can say is that it's a shockingly self-aware God of War-clone that indulges in poking fun at itself and gaming culture. While the action is just competent, the in-jokes and witty humor really sell the experience. There's very little on the market quite like Marlow Briggs and that makes it a worthy purchase at the meager asking price (which regularly goes on sale, mind you).
Company of Heroes 2
War is hell, something the Company of Heroes franchise has never forgotten. Every entry has been brutal, bloody, and painfully difficult at times. Company of Heroes 2 makes subtle visual improvements and tweaks to the gameplay while keeping the fantastic core intact. While very little has changed, nothing needed to. The result is a polished RTS that cinematically captures the Eastern Front in horrific detail. If you're a war buff or strategy fan, this game practically begs your hard-earned scrip.
War sims are pretty rare these days as the market is sadly niche. Confined to PCs, the genre hasn't had a solid entry since the earlier Flashpoint entries and ArmA II. With ArmA III, developers Bohemia Interactive have vowed to make the experience more accessible, visceral, beautiful and life-like than ever before. The game is still in beta but ArmA III already shows signs of hitting each and every objective marker. In a year or two, this could be the definitive mil-sim that PC owners point to as a Master Race game.
Assassin's Creed IV
Pirates are the best thing to happen to the Assassin's Creed series since forever. While I thought Ezio was a great character, AC IV finally starts to shed some of the annoying gameplay conceits the series has always had. While the aggravating tailing and surveillance missions persist, AC IV is the biggest, best and most improved game in the franchise. Excellent naval combat and atmosphere help to make this the best Assassin's Creed game yet. I can't wait to see where this series heads next!
Sports games are largely iterative releases, and FIFA 14 is hardly an exception. But with such a great core experience and the addition of deeper animations on next-gen, FIFA 14 is a shining example of what the sports genre can accomplish. It's deep, complex, thrilling, and just as intense as any exhibition match-up and penalty shootout. Even the mobile version is well-done.
Need for Speed: Rivals
NFS: Rivals is pure car porn. It's all about balls-to-the-wall speed runs between cops and racers in chaotic maelstroms of metal and rubber. While the DNA of Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted is apparent, the results are hard to argue with. The action is tight and the production values are top-notch. AutoLog is great as ever and makes sure other players are ready to unseat your records at the drop of a flag. NFS: Rivals is pure adrenaline distilled into car-on-car violence.