The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

December 27, 2013

Joe Hadsall: 2013 a strong year for video games; "Bioshock Infinite" the best of them

JOPLIN, Mo. — This is a rough year to try and pick the year's best video game.

Three strong contenders were released: "Bioshock Infinite," "The Last of Us" and "Grand Theft Auto 5." Each one was groundbreaking in its own way, and each one is truly epic.

How can you pick between those three? I've been wondering how a lot of the video game sites do it. They have complicated ratings systems, of course, and they do this kind of thing for a living.

But really, I have no idea.

My vote would be for "Bioshock." The gameplay mechanics were incredible, the challenges were monumental, the weapons were engaging and the story -- that story was phenomenal. Such great writing: Elizabeth is portrayed so well (And she's the most intelligent, helpful AI character in any game ever. Lydia from "Skyrim" could learn a thing or two.), and her involvement with Booker is heartbreaking.

The game's environment, the floating city of Columbia, is also gorgeous, and one of the most fully fleshed-out worlds I've played. From beautiful vistas to perfectly placed flavor text, Columbia has all the detail of a real city.

But even though I haven't finished the other two yet, I've seen enough to know that both of them deserve the title of Year's Best Game.

"GTA5" has a vastness that makes "Skyrim" look like "Ratchet and Clank." There is so much to do in that game that boredom appears impossible. The gameplay is smooth as silk, and the ability to switch between characters makes the story interesting. Plus, Trevor gets my vote for craziest character in a video game ever.

"The Last of Us" redefines close-quarters combat in a video game. Battles require careful thought and cannot be won by plowing through with guns ablazin'. The story is also well done -- the intro alone almost brought tears to my eyes.

Any one of these could clean up in the major game awards programs, and I'd be just fine. It's indicative of a great year of gaming, from the release of next-gen consoles to the simplest touch-screen tablet games. Here's a short list of games that blew me away this year:

"Badland," developed by Frogmind Studios. "Badland" is a simple variation of the old helicopter game. Press the screen to fly, let go to drop. The obstacles in each level are challenging and require myriad skills, and the power-ups change strategies dramatically. Achievements for each level enhance replay value.

But the game's main strength is its simplistic design. All the main elements are cast in silhouettes, which makes the colorful backgrounds stand out. As the player progresses, the things revealed in those backgrounds start to become hints of a story -- enough to drive curiosity crazy.

"Beyond Two Souls." I haven't played it yet, but I want to badly.

"Batman: Arkham Origins." Another game I haven't played yet but desperately want to. Each of the "Arkham" games are solid.

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