January 25, 2013

~ PART 1 ~

What a year 2013 has been. We are no longer waiting for next-gen consoles (well some are due to stock shortages, but the systems are out), the aging PS3 still managed several impressive releases while the PSVita limped along for another year before a major boost (at least in terms of functionality if not sales) at the end thanks to connectivity to the Playstation 4. So this year there are plenty of contenders in all categories which cover all systems - with the exception being the "Best Graphics" and "Best Sound" in Part 2 in which each console is considered seperately.

There are a couple of rules for games to be entered into consideration. Firstly, the games must have been released in Australia during the 2013 calendar year, so no 2012 or 2014 titles are in consideration (even if they were released in Japan or America in 2013). Also, all these awards have been considered by those here at Future Gamez, and not the public. While we give scores for reviews throughout the year, the highest score may not be the winner in these awards, as long term appeal, post-release support and a lot of hindsight is taken into consideration. Finally, all gaming categories are for PS4, PS3 and PSVita titles, except for graphics and sound where PS3 and PS4 are seperated. So let's get to it...

Biggest Disappointments of 2013
3. Battlefield 4
Let's face it DICE's Battlefield 4 was one of the most hyped shooters released in 2013, and for good reason. The last game was a cracker, had brilliant multiplayer and sold by the truckload. Battlefield 4 includes 64-player multiplayer on PS4, and with the next-gen console came next-gen visuals to astound gamers. The problem was that the game was rushed to market - severely. The single player campaign was dull and buggy, while the multiplayer component was effectively broken - being kicked out of games, or even entire lobbies. It was a mess and EA confirmed this with the announcement that DICE's development teams have moved off other projects (including Star Wars and BF4 DLC) to work on fixing the game. Patches have been released - including one this week - that dramatically improves the situation but for us, too little, too late.

2. THQ Closure
Sure there have been plenty of studio and development team closures over the last 12 months but the biggest was the closure of THQ and the subsequent auctioning off of their remaining studios and properties on January 23rd 2013. THQ had been around since 1989 and had a long list of development studios and franchises under their belt, but not even successful franchises such as WWE, Saint's Row, Company of Heroes or Metro in recent years could keep the company afloat.

1.Delays to PS4 launch titles
The PS4 launch line-up is decent, but just lacking that little something extra. Those extras would have been a racing game and modern open-world title - two genres that would have been filled with Sony's Driveclub and Ubisoft's Watch Dogs. Those two games would have likely been among the top-sellers on the system but gamers have to look for alternatives only weeks before launch. The upside is that these games look fantastic so more time to polish them off to be brilliant isn't such a bad thing.

Biggest Surprise of 2013
3. PS4 Doesn't launch in Japan in 2013
Sony is a Japanese Company. Japan is the center of the video game world - or at least was. In fact, it now seems that companies see America and Europe as more important then Japan to the success of a console and that is evident with the Playstation 4 not seeing a release in that territory until February 2014 - with the XBox One not even having a specific Japanese release date other then 2014. Still, with the PS4 a complete sellout in America, Europe and Australia pre-Christmas Sony couldn't do much to bring the release forward.

2. EA gets a decade of Star Wars
In what has to be one of the biggest coups in video game history Electronic Arts confirmed they secured the rights to Star Wars for a decade - and during this decade we are likely to see up to half a dozen new films in the franchise since LucasFilm was sold to Disney. This could be a mega profitable deal for Electronic Arts and they already have their top studios, including DICE and Bioware, working on games. But what could be a bigger surprise in 2013?

1. Microsoft stuff up XBox One Reveal
There's no doubt that the XBox 360 has given the PS3 a run for it's money over the last generation - and indeed sales are nigh on identical. But when it came to unveiling the next-gen console Microsoft completely stuffed up. Not only did they focus on the system being a media center with "TV, TV, TV" (you can see the hilarious summary here) but they they announced some of the most draconian DRM and "always on" requirements. If that wasn't surprising enough, it was the massive backlash and then subsequent backflip a few months later that shocked the gaming world, but the damage was already done with the mainstream press having picked up on the negatives.

Best Australian Distributor of 2013
Winner: Namco Bandai
Namco Bandai have had a pretty big 2013 with some big triple-A hits, but also plenty of smaller releases to keep hardcore gamers happy. Many of us would be aware of Tomb Raider which rebooted and reinvigorated a near-dead franchise, while the company also wheeled out GRID 2 - a supremely fun racing title - and Square-Enix's MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Then there were the HD remixes and compilations with Kingdom Hearts and Hitman among others, and the more obscure titles such as Dragon's Crown, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and Tales of Xillia. Oh, the company just confirmed a name change to Bandai Namco in case you are confused who they are now.

Best Publisher of 2013
Winner: Sony
Sony had a big 2013 - not only did the company have a new console to launch, but the company had to spread their publishing duties across three platforms, each of which had some great titles. While the PSVita saw a smattering of titles from Sony - the highlight being Killzone Mercenary the aging PS3 saw some great titles including Beyond: Two Souls, Gran Turismo 6, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Rain and Puppeteer. The Playstation 4 was surprisingly light for Sony for games, but both Killzone and Resogun are great launch titles - the latter being free to Playstation Plus subscribers too.

Best Developer of 2013
Winner: Naughty Dog
We all know that Naughty Dog are a brilliant development team. But what surprised the most was the in 2013 they released a game by their newly formed second team which was one of, if not the, best game of the year. The Last of Us is a brilliant new IP proving that the developer really can do no wrong, and is more then a one-franchise company.

Best Hardware
Winner: Playstation 4
Oh c'mon did you really expect anything different as the winner in this category? Sony's next-generation hardware is phenomenal on almost every level with the system pushing some gorgeous next-gen visuals which gamers have been wanting for quite some time. The system is still in it's infancy and there have been a few mistakes including no MP3 support, but much like the PS3 system updates will keep this system improving for years to come.

BLU-RAY AWARDS NOTE: As you would be aware we only review a fraction of the Blu-Ray's released as this isn't the sites primary focus, having said that I have viewed hundreds of discs over the year and have used those viewings, as well as official reviews, to provide what we think are the standout releases. In previous years we have split up Video Quality, Audio Quality, Extras, and Best Overall Disc however due to the massive number of stunning discs in the audio visual department we have reduced this to a list of our favourite releases - some for technical reasons, some for the actual movie, and some just for overall greatness. So here's our list of the best Blu-Rays for 2013...

Best Blu-Ray
Winner: Pacific Rim (Warner Bros)
Pacific Rim is one of the most jaw-dropping movies we have ever seen. In short, the film is like Godzilla Vs Transformers but with more style then all of those films put together despite some wooden dialogue at times and some terrible Australian accents. Still the transfer to Blu-Ray is nigh on perfect, and if you have a 3DTV this is one of the few essential 3D viewing experiences and one which adds to the spectacle rather then cause distraction. Throw in some decent extras and this is the disc that stands out above all others in 2013.
Runners Up (Alphabetical Order): Epic, Game of Thrones: Season Two, Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Wolverine Unleashed Extended Edition.

Best Download-only Game
Winner: Resogun (PS4, Housemarque)
If you own a Playstation 4 then this is the game to get as a technical showcase for the system - best of all, it is/was free for Playstation Plus subscribers and is an essential title. Flashy visuals only enhance what is a very solid shooter underneath the gloss.
Runners Up: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (PS3, Ubisoft Montreal), Guacamelee! (PS3, Drinkbox Studios).

Best Game Based On Pre-Existing Property (Print or Film)
Winner: Lego Marvel Super Heroes (PS3, TT Games)
2013 wasn't the strongest year for games based on pre-existing properties as many developers are preferring to create their own IP's these days. Fortunately this Lego based game (which seems with every release to be moving away from just Lego in the game world) is probably the best yet - and it's on both current and next-gen platforms. We have to say too, the voicework is often a hilarious highlight.
Runners Up: Batman Arkham Origins (PS3, WB Montral), The Walking Dead: 400 Days (PS3, Telltale Games).

Most Original Title
Winner: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PS3, Starbreeze)
We can't really say that this is the most original gameplay ever, but controller two characters at once from a single controller and needing to use both to solve puzzles makes this game a joy. Gorgeous visuals, interesting characters, and an emotional journey makes this worth checking out.
Runners Up: Contrast (PS4, Compulsion Games), Remember Me (PS3, DONTNOD).

Best Offline Multiplayer Game
Winner: Beyond: Two Souls (PS3, Quantic Dream)
Not too many people would have picked this as the best offline multiplayer but we loved they way in which two players can control each of the main characters - Jodie and Aiden. Making this even more impressive is the fact that one player can even use a Smartphone.
Runners Up: FIFA 14 (PS3, EA Canada), Rayman Legends (PS3, Ubisoft Montreal).

Best Online Multiplayer Game
Winner: Battlefield 4 (PS3/PS4, DICE)
Battlefield 4 isn't the perfect game - there are far too many bugs for our liking despite gradual improvements - however there's no denying that DICE know how to create a wonderful multiplayer experience and while the PS3 game impresses with 24-players online, the next-gen console (read: PS4) version bumps this up to a phenomenally entertaining 64-players. Oh, now you may also ask how this can be mist Disappointing and Best Online Multiplayer - well despite the masses of bugs, when you get into a game, there is nothing like it. It's a phenomenal achievement.
Runners Up: The Last Of Us (PS3, Naughty Dog), Call Of Duty: Ghosts (PS3, Infinity Ward).

Continue to Part 2 of the 2013 FutureGamez Awards
Continue to Part 3 of the 2013 FutureGamez Awards

I hope you enjoyed reading the 2013 FutureGamez Awards. If you have any comments feel free to e-mail me at the usual address: admin@futuregamez.net.