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D+PAD’s Games of the Year 2013

20:2020/12/2013Posted by D+PAD Staff3 Comments

Zoheir Beig’s Game of the Year 2013: Resogun (Playstation 4)

A tribute to classic 1980’s side-scrolling shooter Defender, built on the sort of twin-stick mechanics that felt revelatory back in 2005 with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (which also, appropriately, was also it’s host console’s best launch title) Resogun is a game of familiar foundations dragged into contemporary relevance with a mastery of next-gen technology and game design of quite deft balance.

With Resogun, Housemarque have approached the twin-stick shooter with a sensibility closer to that of a ‘sandbox’ developer than one whose sole remit is “shoot everything”. Humans, multipliers, bonuses and high scores are four of the key strands open to the player; it’s mastering which approach to take and when that drives you further into the game, as the game’s striking initial aesthetic appeal gives way to a deeper than anticipated structure. Maintaining the multiplier drives your score up at a faster rate, but if saving every last human is your aim then your focus needs to shift quickly to locating the ‘keepers’, special enemies who release one human per successive wave cleared. Each saved human bestows a bonus, such as points or, more crucially, an extra life or bomb. It’s in balancing the two factors that the real high scores start to emerge, while this is without taking into account the five-stage arc replete with end-of-level bosses.

How you choose to play Resogun is up to you, but it’s the manner in which it supports each of these tactics, whilst never being anything less than a brutally addictive, enjoyably intense experience, that is the game’s brilliance. Developers Housemarque established their reputation with the magnificent twin-stick double of Super Stardust Delta and Dead Nation, but it’s Resogun that is their masterpiece.

Raymond Webster’s Game of the Year 2013: Rayman Legends (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Nintendo WiiU, Playstation Vita)

Rayman Legends was a textbook example of how to provide a sequel to the apparently impossible to top. Its predecessor, Rayman Origins, was a spectacular revival of the 2D platformer on home consoles, using the full capacities of then current-gen hardware to create an expansive and rewarding game. Legends built on this by, much as fan favourite Sonic & Knuckles did for Sonic 3, allowing players to play both the original and the new game with all the mechanical and visual updates the sequel brought.

Effectively two full games integrated neatly together, players could access the redesigned Origins levels as rewards for mastering Legends – ensuring that no repetition was needed to see the new game while building up a library of post-game content a little at a time. User-friendliness, rather than simplified accessibility, was the chief design goal – players were given significant freedom to explore levels in an order they chose – allowing the player to experience the game how they wanted without ever compromising the core design and progression.

Furthermore, it was a platform game built with significant understanding of what makes the genre good – levels introduced mechanics then built on them in increasingly stressed situations without the need for extensive stopping and starting, and the boss fights – often a source of frustration in lesser games – followed a similar pattern of adding complexity.

Ultimately, Legends is a game which encompasses everything good about video games – it is straightforward enough mechanically for anyone to attempt, colourful and fantastical and designed with an attention to detail that means even when it is difficult, the correct way to succeed is always clear. If video games are an evolving medium, games like Legends should serve as a textbook for designers in how to revitalise an old and saturated genre without needing to compromise what defines it.

Chris Braithwaite’s Game of the Year 2013: The Last of Us (Playstation 3)

Given that I’d already picked it as my favourite game of the last console generation when the D+PAD staff got together, picking my Game of the Year for 2013 was simple: The Last of Us. It just blew everything else away, so much so that it moved me to write a review on my own blog because I wasn’t allowed to write one here!

Everything about it was great: the story was top notch; the characters and acting were as good as any game I can recall; the overall post-apocalyptic aesthetic far surpassed the attempts of other games that have tried it (in part by making scrounging for meagre supplies an intrinsic part of gameplay); the gameplay switched from exploration to stealth to combat with ease and assurance; and if all that wasn’t enough, the multiplayer was a hugely addictive cherry on top.

On reflection, I could find a couple of criticisms if I absolutely had to. Would 95% of surviving human really become bloodthirsty bandits? As much as dystopian fiction would like us to believe that, I’m not buying it. And while the game did a good job of subtly preparing you for forced combat sequences, these did cause pretty significant difficulty spikes, especially early on. But even those sections were good fun to try (and fail miserably at).

I think it says a lot that I happily gave Grand Theft Auto 5 a five-star review, but didn’t even consider it for Game of the Year; The Last of Us was an absolute no-brainer, slam dunk. Hopefully every year will be this easy.

So there you have it. Seven writers, and six games that can proudly display the tag “D+PAD Magazine Game of the Year 2013″ should they wish. Let us know which of us is right or wrong in the comments!

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