The Christmas Leftovers – Part One

Burrrrrrrrrp. And welcome to the first day of not-Christmas-for-aaaages. In the UK we call it Boxing Day, because it’s the day that we all traditionally climb into our hibernation boxes and sleep until New Years Eve. But not at RPS, where rest is for the weak, and healthy balanced work-lives are for saps. We’ve still got so many other favourite games of 2013 we need to talk about! Read on for our first batch of our favourite games that didn’t sneak into the Calendar.

The means by which we pick our 24 favourite games can’t be explained with human science. It’s an elaborate and mystical combination of arguing, compromising and giving up. And that means that there are games left over – some that some of us loved but didn’t successfully argue into the pre-Horacemas celebrations, and some that just deserve honourable mentions. That the pile is so big this year is further proof of what a splendid year 2013 was for PC gaming, and especially indie gaming. Here’s the first batch of leftovers – and don’t panic if the game you’re championing isn’t here yet – there’s more to come. They appear in no particular order.


Graham: I can’t write about Gunpoint, because I worked with Tom Francis at PC Gamer for eight years. You can’t possibly trust anything I’d have to say about the game, because Tom is the reason I got hired there in the first place. I’m probably entirely corrupt, because I’m thanked in the credits of the game.

If I could write about the game, I’d want to celebrate the methods by which it relates its funny, twisting crime story. If you could trust what I had to say, I’d emphasise that it allows you to express yourself through dialogue options, shaping spy-for-hire Conway into a sarcastic jerk or an empathetic friend. If I wasn’t entirely corrupt, I’d convince you that the best thing it does is give you in-game, plot-relevant ways of expressing your lack of interest in the story, should you not care at all.

If only I could write about the game.


Jim: There have been a long history of novelty comedy games, and I think Surgeon Simulator falls into those. Created as an experiment in a game jam, it evolved into a gore-spattered commercial exercise in slapstick body horror. Opening up someone’s skull to do brain surgery has never been such a light-hearted escapade, and the numb flailing of trying to control Surgeon Simulator’s disembodied arms has reduced many people to that state where you can’t help watching, but really want to look away.

Perhaps the weirdest moment with this game was watching people at Rezzed playing it with an Oculus Rift. They might have come to that expo expecting to have a go on the latest VR experiment, and find themselves in a haunted castle or a spaceship. Instead, they found themselves fumbling for a hammer with which to do heart surgery in an operating theatre. That’s a memory that’s going to stick.


Alec: A beautiful, fascinating failure. it’s hard to resist comparing the expensive excess and blinkered ambition of Irrational’s supremely glossy shooter to the city-follies it aims to document, but at the same time that does seem a fine legacy to leave were the series to end now. I always did and still do feel let down by quite how much it prided art over substance, how too much personality was sacrificed at the altar of what felt at times like fan-fiction of itself and how what messages it tried to have were drowned out by blood and thunder, but I couldn’t say I’d prefer a world in which I hadn’t played Infinite. Much as I wish it had more time for something far beyond mystery and glamour, and that it was a little less in awe of its own bottom-gas, I really do enjoy getting to see a game pushing as hard as it can in one direction. Whatever else it stumbled at, however much it felt like design by committee, there was none more lavish this year.

Jim: Ken Levine’s fever dream writ large. A hallucinogenic rollerocoaster of a game, and one that has enormous positive sentiment. There are a million things we can identify as wrong in this mix, but it has a good heart. It’s about many things, but it’s mostly about being human. There’s no denying the mad penetrating beauty of this game, and I even seem to have a cameo in the opening moments, with a Mr Rossignol trying to seduce a lady with oysters or something. It’s a carnival of deranged visual ideas, like a Gilliam movie with gunplay. Sadly, though, it’s the gunplay that truly lets it down. Despite all the flourish and imaginative magic, the game never really grips, and the experience feels one-sided. This is far more about the vision than the game, and as such it’s the player who gets let down.

Graham: Sometimes I think people hold supposedly “lofty” culture to higher standards than anything else. Was Binfinite the ingenius skewering of American exceptionalism and racism that we hoped it would be? Nope. Did it really have anything to say about religion? Not at all. As a story, it steered closer to incoherent mess than profound exegesis of American history.

What it did have was a beautiful, exciting world to explore, fantastically dramatic setpieces, and thrilling, vertical, sky-rollercoaster combat. There was no better spectacle or scripted first-person shooter released this year.


Alec: Sadly I’m not sure this quite managed to throw off the taint of its unwise if temporary Windows 8 exclusivity. It really is a terrible shame, as it was such a smart and characterful distillation of turn-based strategy. All but the barest essence cut away, and then those precious remnants polished into something fresh and clever, without drag.

Advance Wars through a microscope perhaps, though directly comparing it to anything else is an unfair disservice to a setup that felt familiar but wasn’t quite like anything else. It’s one of those games where nothing is even faintly redundant, where every unit is (in the right hands) as deadly as any other, and where devouring a downed foe’s skull is as much about trolling as it is the HP boost.

I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t ever try the more liberated Steam version as I was the one person in the known universe who completed it on Windows 8, but some lazy, impossible weekend I’m sure its quickfire, high stakes, high involvement multiplayer will drag me in.


John: If you’d asked me if I ever wanted to play another block-pushing puzzle game again, I’d have stabbed forks through your feet to pin you to the floor as I ran away. Also, Ittle Dew is so much more than that. It’s also a Metroidvania-meets-adventure-cum-RPG, with engaging characters, and splendid sarcasm. The puzzles occasionally get frustrating, and the pacing is a little off, but there’s so much to love in here.

Plus, blocks of rock that float an inch above the ground and freak out because they’re scared of heights are just funny. That’s science.


Jim: As my interest in Planetside 2 faded, I thought that I’d not find another multiplayer focus in 2013, but I did, and it was in a wonderful place: the top down spell-brawl of Wizard Wars. Magicka’s element-mixing spellcasting was always a brilliantly chaotic piece of game design, but it’s the constraint of bending it to a comprehensible multiplayer combat system that has really brought it to life for me. Wizard Wars’ team-based arena combat is pacey and tight, TIGHT, with a stupid crisis-avalanche sort of dynamic that sees talented players clawing back defeat from the edge. It’s a brilliantly conceived an executed piece of multiplayer design that hasn’t even left alpha. I can’t wait to see how it turns out once the Paradox team bring it to that inevitable final version.

Loads more games to come over the next couple of days.


  1. amateurviking says:

    The header image is one of the most disturbing things I have seen this year.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I know.

      Brussel sprouts. D:

      • Darloth says:

        Oh god, I hadn’t noticed them before. CANNOT UNSEE! *bglergh*

    • bookwormat says:

      I held my mouse cursor over it for minutes but it wouldn’t talk.
      Horace is dead. :(

    • Dave Tosser says:

      Horace is an endless bear. Endless. Without end. Has no point at which you can say, “Aye, that’s where ol’ Horace stops and something else begins. Right there. The end”.

      If one were to attempt to eat Horace whole, one would presumably be attempting to eat every inch of him. Every inch, that is, of endless bear. Does this mean it would be a meal without end? A few hundred thousand vertebrae in and you’re still at it, ripping at the poor bear’s flesh? If so, isn’t Horace therefore the cure to world hunger?

    • Fitzmogwai says:

      Don’t worry about Horace. No X-es for eyes = he’s fine.

  2. somnolentsurfer says:

    Oh my God. Horace.

    • Lambchops says:

      Poor Horace.


      • dogsolitude_uk says:

        Much to his dad and mum’s dismay
        Horace ate himself one day
        He didn’t stop to say his grace
        He just sat down and ate his face
        “We can’t have this!” his dad declared
        “If that lad’s ate he should be shared”
        But even as he spoke they saw
        Horace eating more and more:
        First his legs and then his thighs,
        His arms, his nose, his hair, his eyes
        “Stop him someone!” Mother cried
        “Those eyeballs would be better fried!”
        But all too late for they were gone,
        And he had started on his dong…
        “Oh foolish child!” the father mourned
        “You could have deep-fried those with prawns,
        Some parsely and some tartar sauce…”
        But H was on his second course;
        His liver and his lights and lung,
        His ears, his neck, his chin, his tongue
        “To think I raised himn from the cot
        And now he’s gone to scoff the lot!”
        His mother cried what shall we do?
        What’s left won’t even make a stew…”
        And as she wept her son was seen
        To eat his head his heart his spleen
        And there he lay, a boy no more
        Just a stomach on the floor…
        None the less since it was his
        They ate it – and that’s what haggis is

        The Haggis Poem, by Monty Python

      • Muzman says:


        • Phoibos Delphi says:

          Normally, I really appreciate that people can´t post pictures here. Everything nice and readable.

          But this time it leaves me with an unstillable urge to post a lifelike portrait of Mr. E.A. Poe right under your post, Sir!

  3. tossrStu says:

    Looking forward to having a traditional Boxing Day Horace curry later.

    Quick heads-up for anyone with an iPhone or iPad: Skulls of the Shogun for iOS is currently FREE. link to

  4. Anthile says:

    Did…did you eat Horace? :(

  5. bwion says:

    I’ll be curious to see if my own favorite game this year (which could also be described as “a beautiful, fascinating failure” if I’m looking at it objectively) warrants a mention.

    As for Bioshock Infinite, I found, in the end, that I was willing to forgive it the things it did poorly because of the things it did well. I also look at it as a game about the futility of violence and the high cost of redemption, and I think it handles those themes fairly well, as compared to the themes of racism, nationalism, and religiosity, which ended up being more setting elements than anything else. (I think the Vox were a huge missed opportunity; and the central “they’re all as bad as each other” conclusion could have done with some challenging, because I don’t think that’s either true or really supported by the game, but I do think it makes sense that both Booker and Elizabeth would have come to that conclusion).

    Not arguing that it should have been anyone’s Game Of The Year or anything, but for all its flaws, it’s better, narratively, than it gets credit for sometimes. (Also I like running at things with my chainsaw arm and then throwing birds at them so there.)

    • mouton says:

      I feel similarly. I can forgive a lot of flaws deemed by others as critical, as long as the game somehow enchants me otherwise.

      This one did.

    • TheIronSky says:

      Better than it’s credited for? I seem to remember pretty much every other reviews site lauding it to no end. I’d say it was the year’s most over-rated game.

      • bwion says:

        I meant recently :)

      • mouton says:

        I was of an impression that “mainstream gaming media” are irrelevant anyway.

      • subedii says:

        That was pretty much my take on it. It seemed like the reviews just outright refused to acknowledge the existence of any shortcomings in the game, they simply weren’t mentioned.

        I don’t mean this to say anything conspiratorial (well, except maybe in that first “exclusive” review that was allowed to hit the web before everyone else’s, from a site that shall remain nameless), more that I believe a lot of reviewers were simply sucked in by the hype and didn’t really give the game a proper look.

        • drewski says:

          Isn’t is vastly more likely they just, y’know, liked it?

          • The Random One says:

            I can recognize problems on things I like and imagine why one with different tastes might not like it, and I’m not even paid to do it.

          • drewski says:

            Do you really think games reviewers should write 7.1 billion different takes on a game in a review, to account for every single possible player’s tastes?

            They liked it. They wrote that they liked it.

            Why does games reviewing have to be more complicated than that?

          • AngelTear says:

            Well, it kinda needs to be more complicated than that, because as a consumer, I don’t care much if the journalist liked it, but why they liked it, and what are the shortcomings of the game that may put people off even if it didn’t put them off.

            It’s always personal and subjective, and the balance of good things vs. bad things may not work out the same for everyone, but you do need to be able to point out at least the big things that people may find fault with.

            E.g.: the Skyrim review praises the game, but it does so in such a way that it points out certain things that made me say: ok, this game is not for me. That’s a big part of a good review.

          • drewski says:

            Obviously the “why” is the critical part of any good review.

            I think you’re asking a lot for a review to contain comments about any possible aspect that could put any potential gamer off. You can’t expect reviewers to be omniscient. If a review describes what the reviewer liked (and didn’t) and why they enjoyed playing the game (or didn’t), that should really be enough to make you decide if it’s an experience you desire having, at least if you trust the writer.

            A reviewer failing to mention an aspect of a game you find to be a negative doesn’t mean there’s a grand conspiracy or games reviewers are lazy hacks – it probably just means they like different things to you. Which is fine.

          • subedii says:

            I don’t recall asking for reviews to mention “7.1 billion takes” on a game. I’m saying a review should cover a game’s obvious aspects, both good and bad.

            You’re the one who said Bioshock experienced a “backlash” once time had passed from its launch. But those issues mentioned were obvious from the start. They just weren’t covered.

          • drewski says:

            The 7.1m part wasa rejoinder to the person who replied to me initially, it wasn’t relevant to your comment.

            You seem to assume that everything you experience is obvious to everyone else. This is a fallacy. It is far more likely that most reviewers had a different experience to you and wrote in a way that reflected their experience than it is that the reviewers had a bad experience and chose not to write about it for vague, ill defined reasons.

            You finding an experience “obvious” does not make it universal – it just means you had a strong experience.

          • The Random One says:

            drewski, there is no need for 7.1 billion takes on the game. There is only need for one take that explains itself critically.

          • drewski says:

            A reviewer failing to encompass any one player’s perspective is not a failure of criticism.

          • The Random One says:

            No, but several reviewers collectively failing to acknowledge a perspective so prominent that it dominates discussion on the game after a few months might be such a failure.

          • drewski says:

            I think it would be a failure if they’d written about anything other than their experience, not failing to forsee whatever nits the internet wanted to pick 3 months later.

          • gwathdring says:

            I have to agree with Drewski.

            We’re getting into false averages territory. It might FEEL like this aspect or that aspect dominates discussion in this or that sphere of discussion; that doesn’t mean it dominates feelings about the game, let alone feelings among an already somewhat selected body of individuals who all chose to write about games for a living. They’re likely to have some things in common, you know? It’s not a *mistake* if a bunch of them tend to like similar things even if large contingents of the Internet disagree with them.

            Nor is it necessarily proof that mainstream game reviewers have opinions that do not adequately speak to mainstream gamers. Not everyone who plays games gets angry about them on the Internet.

            There are plenty of problems with games journalism. That every liked game X or everyone disliked game Y and persons Z were unhappy with their justifications for such should never, ever, ever be taken as one of those problems. They aren’t our government representatives funded by tax dollars. They’re people who play games and tell us what they think about them. We should criticize them when they write poorly, when they misrepresent a game through outright falsehood, when they temper their opinions due to pressure from superiors or from games companies, and when they write without any sort of analysis that might allow us to relate to their experience. But saying something like “They all loved it so much even though tons of people on the Internet were really disappointed about the same things they loved about it” just … well, that’s fine. But it’s not exactly evidence of bad journalist or bad criticism.

      • drewski says:

        The backlash has overwhelmed the positive reviews, I think.

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          That’s the funny thing about Bioshock games. They seem to get high reviews initially from reviewers keen to demonstrate how they understood its themes, and that Despite Its Problems I’m Glad It Exists (what?).

          And then shortly after it begins to dawn on everyone that the Bioshock games, mechanically, are among the worst big budget shooters ever made. We’ve now had three of them but this process keeps on repeating.

          • mouton says:

            I still don’t get it, how are Bioshock games mechanically “the worst shooters”? I have played plenty of FPS-es over the years, from Wolfenstein 3D, through Half-Lifes to Natural Selection 2 among others. While I don’t find Bioshock shooting very interesting, I just can’t see where all that “worstness” is.

          • Nogo says:


            The first two were just fine mechanically. The combat wasn’t amazing, but it was perfectly fine when you’re in a confined area with a small amount of enemies.

            Infinite was a complete mess because they apparently thought that drastically different level design wouldn’t require redesigning any core mechanics.

            (Yeesh, the more I think about it the more annoyed I get at how inept the whole thing was. et tu irrational?)

          • Phoibos Delphi says:

            Please put your finger precisely on one or two problems you see in the gameplay of Infinite, your description of its shortcomings are very vague. In fact, most of the people who don´t like the game just drop game development buzzwords like “the shooting felt wrong” or “it was clunky” or “not innovative” without ever giving real situational examples. To me the shooter-parts worked as good or bad as the shooter parts in any Unreal-Engine game.

          • Vandelay says:

            @Nogo – I have to disagree. The shooting in Binfinite had speed and momentum brought to the game that was seriously lacking in the first Bioshock and was a step up from the second. As with the second game, allowing dual wielding of weapon and abilities is a big improvement, as was the powerful melee attack. The inclusion of the sky rails made a massive difference though from both previous games though and allowed for those that wanted to play the game and full speed the ability to do so.

            I can see how those that enjoyed the slow pacing of the original and the ability to set traps and the like (although it was never really encouraged,) might be disappointed and the weapons were still clunky to use compared to some other shooters, but I personally thought it had the best shooting of any of the Bioshocks.

          • gwathdring says:

            I went back and played the first game after Infinite. I really don’t understand why someone would say the combat got WORSE over the course of the series. Especially side-by-side, the combat in Infinite is fantastic. It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had with a single-player linear shooter since Half-Life 2 and it’s episodes.

    • psepho says:

      I felt that Binfinite was less than the sum of its parts as a game. The story of it I found quite good and the central plot relating to parenthood, quantum mechanics and so forth could have made a strong science fiction short story. That story was then wrapped around a competent but fairly unimaginative shooter (although the skyrails were fun) which didn’t really do anything meaningful with the story. So the 15-hour shooter totally killed the impact of the story and the story failed to catalyse the shooter into a videogame classic. The whole thing felt uncomfortably distended — like a snake that had swallowed a brick.

      • gwathdring says:

        I think, based on what you said, that’d we’d agree on a LOT about the game, but that my overall assessment of how enjoyable the experience ends up being as a result of the things we agree on is more positive.

        It makes me sad that a lot of people miss just how cool and well thought out a lot of the sci-fi stuff in the game is in their disappointment with respect to the Big Ideas About Social Systems stuff that didn’t pan out.

        Also I’m so with you on the story while thinking about parenthood. If you set the politics aside and follow that thread … especially with how well acted and loaded with evocative set-pieces the game is … it can be quite moving and it does quite well for itself even if as you say it feels distended. Weighed down by trying and failing to fit it’s various elements together even though said elements mostly function quite well and a few of the more important ones function spectacularly.

  6. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Poor Horace :'(

    That image will haunt me until at least the new year. Please tell me he’s not bones :'(

    • mmiasmostati says:

      Funnily enough, despite him being mostly bones in that picture, the majority of Horace is still alive and well what with him being infinite and all.

      • dogsolitude_uk says:

        Yes, but what about the gap between his head and the non-eaten parts? even if that’s finite it will still do him some substantial damage. I mean, he doesn’t look very happy.

        Still, I guess they couldn’t have eaten him from the ‘other’ end, because there is no such thing.

        • The Random One says:

          So it has been said, that on the Horacemas Feast the followers of Horace were a tad peckish, and so they did eat Horace, yea, and Horace was tasty and good with a bit if mustard. And so it shall be, that on New Year’s Day, Horace returns from the eaten to mock us for our limited comprehension of time, and the followers that partook on his infinite feast again embrace his endless wisdom and it’s not awkward at all. Such is the mystery of Horace.

  7. Lambchops says:

    My Christmas leftover nomination was actually released in 2012 but being released at the tail end of 2012 (31st December!) it is very much a Christmas leftover and very much a 2013 game.

    It’s Counterfeit Monkey – link to

    The first parser based text adventure that I’ve ever actually managed to complete instead of giving up in frustration at either difficulty, confusion or irritation that I can’t solve a puzzle the way that seems obvious. This is down to the fantastic design; only the Stanley Parable matched it for “oh my, the developer thought of everything!” exclamations. Puzzles are based on the manipulation of words (I’ll stick with the Portal but with language descriptions some have given as the game does feel a bit like Portal with the gradual learning of new techniques to progress), with multiple solutions that never cease to make you feel like a right clever clogs. Not only that but the story is excellent and cleverly woven into the way the game is presented both mechanically and in terms of the well realised setting. I fell in love with this at the start of the year and have probably sufficiently forgotten solutions to make it the first game I play in 2014 (this time on the harder difficulty).

    Easily the best bit of interactive fiction I’ve played and definitely up at the top of my game of the year list.

    Oh and hoping to see the Sonic karting game mentioned too, it was ace.

    • Fenix says:

      Ohhhh, that game! Thank you for reminding me of it, I had made some progress in it back then and decided to play it properly later but I completely forgot.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Sonic Racing Transformed was probably my most pleasant surprise of the gaming year.

      • AngelTear says:

        As someone who
        a) has never played a sonic game;
        b) has never played a similar-looking game since that Crash Bandicoot cart game (Was it called CTR?), circa 2000;
        why is this game particularly good?

        • stahlwerk says:

          It has hassle free local multiplayer, the presentation is slick, the tracks, drivers and pickups are generally fun and well executed, controls are responsive, and the difficulty scales very smoothly. All this conspired to make this the most played game for the girlfriend and me.
          Some tracks are a bit slapped together, and some like to bug out particularly during jumps, but those are few and far in between. Some game mechanics like boosting and stunts could be explained better in game, because the load screens are too quickly gone when played from an ssd.

          8/10 hedgehogs

          Edit: I also haven’t played any sonic games, and my last kart game was Mario kart on the snes

          • LionsPhil says:

            What he said, except I’m not sure which tracks are glitchy since I’ve haven’t had problems, yet am up to ~180 stars now, so have played it quite a lot. And, likewise, despite no nostalgia for SEGA frachises since I’ve always been PC Master Race, which also means my last kart racer was…uh…does the demo of POD count?

            It’s been stupendously cheap in sales and had two free weekends. Might get another if you’re frugal and patient.

            (Shameless pimping of my Steam review if you want more words)

        • The Random One says:

          Also, it’s not a Sonic game (or a Sonic style game, like Crash). It’s a mascot kart racer.

  8. dE says:

    While I give up my gamer license: Skulls of the Shogun can be had for iPads for the total sum of absolutely nothing. Zero. Free.

    Looking at the list, I must say I really enjoyed gunpoint. It had me laughing throughout. Although I wouldn’t put it on a Goty pedestal either. Somehow I had thought what you can do with the wiring were so much more complex. More like setting up tiny rube goldsberg machines and less I just need to throw that breaker switch. Still great though.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Oh my, free? Yoink! Any reason for it to be so uhm.. competitively priced? If it’s good I’ll buy it for steam, I promise!

  9. DatonKallandor says:

    “There was no better spectacle or scripted first-person shooter released this year. ”
    You’re nuts. Shadow Warrior came out this year.

    • bill says:

      Haven’t played it. But I assumed that being old-school meant it wasn’t scripted?

      • DatonKallandor says:

        It’s an Arena Shooter like CoD. Walk through hallway, listen to NPC banter -> Shoot mans in arena to open up next hallway -> repeat. Shadow Warrior takes the age old formula and shows that it can be done right, by making the banter funny, the story meaningful and the gameplay deep.

        • Jad says:

          Hmm, I’m not sure if I would agree with that terminology. To me “arena shooter” calls to mind looping, closed-off open areas to fight in — arenas — usually with a multiplayer focus, like Unreal Tournament or Quake 3, you could argue that Painkiller sort fits in the definition as a single-player example.

          I never played the new Shadow Warrior, but it looked to me like it was trying for the old-school maze-like open layout but linear progression levels “corridor shooter” like Doom and Dark Forces and Duke 3D and of course the original Shadow Warrior. Did it do that or was it more linear clear-room-and-move-on-to-the-next like Painkiller and Serious Sam?

          COD I guess is a corridor shooter, but frankly those games are more of their own genre now, the end result of a FPS branch that Half-Life birthed, with a very tight, linear through-line and heavy scripting and a focus on in-game first-person yet ultimately non-interactive story-telling.

          Although if you’re calling COD’s multiplayer an “arena shooter” I guess I can get behind that — I always thought that COD continued the heritage of UT or Q3A in that way much more that than stuff like Battlefield, even if they are often lumped together because of similar look and subject matter.

          (Which might be why I still like COD MP while I can’t stand BF, even if the latter is the PC gaming hivemind’s “correct” game — I have no interest in classes or vehicles or hiding behind cover, destructible or not, or working in teams beyond just not shooting half of the players on the server — because those are not things that I cared about in Quake)

          Anyway that’s all complete asides — is there even multiplayer in the new Shadow Warrior? Is it old-school or new-school?

          • DatonKallandor says:

            Shadow Warrior is very much corridors (and that’s probably a better name for it than Arena, you’re right). It’s not like the old Shadow Warrior, or Duke 3D, where the level is basically completely open and only gated by the keys you’re looking for. It’s very much “do thing” (usually “fight dudes) to open door, progress to next area where you have to “do thing” (“fight dudes”). It does however allow extremely lenient backtracking to let you look for secrets, and the places where they break backtracking are heavily signposted (a drop to a lower level without a ladder is a good indicator that this’ll break backtracking).

            It has no multiplayer and is better for it – the entire focus is on making the singleplayer work and it shows. The weapons, the movement, the levels are perfect for singleplayer, but probably wouldn’t be for multiplayer.

            They did however recently add a free Survival Mode – Wave Based Hordes of enemies in a fixed Arena and fixed progression. That one is a beauty too – the fact there’s a mode where the devs take the kids gloves off and just throw stuff at you at rapid pace perfectly illustrates just how incredibly well balanced and honed the campaign is in comparison.

          • drewski says:

            The problem with CoD is the butt following and it’s determination to make you a spectator in anything cool that happens, not the corridors and arenas.

    • RedViv says:

      SW is not a spectacle shooter. Not at all.

      • Muzman says:

        This new appellation ‘Spectacle Shooter’ is both nauseating and a great idea. The endless cod CODs and their ilk need to be peeled off into the console-glossy sounding superficiality they deserve. I’m still kind of disappointed that we need such a term at all though.

        Sub-genre-ise to save the shooter.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I thought “spectacle fighter” was supposed to be for games that were all about going for fancy combos to kill things, though, like Devil May Cry?

          I personally quite like Yahtzee’s term for the CoD-likes: spunkgargleweewee. It has an appropriate level of maturity for them.

          • pepperfez says:

            I’ve always seen “stylish action” for DMC/Godhand/Bayonetta etc, which of course is just as silly.

          • Muzman says:

            Oh it is and not as pejorative in the initial usage, unless you’re me because I can’t stand games like that. But I think Spectacle Fighters have kind of disappeared up their own behinds trying to outdo one another on visual flare and absurd set pieces, while being essentially repetitive nonsense. So throwing the modern FPS in the same pile for its ‘convergent evolution’ seems appropriate.

            Yahtzee’s effort, while appropriate, is probably too much of a mouthful (erk) to catch on.

    • The Random One says:

      I’d argue that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the best linear spectacle shooter… if the hivemind hadn’t argued better than I could when they put it in the calendar.

      However, I find it worth pointing out that CoJ:G (corgi?) completely embraced its nature as a linear spectacle shooter, whereas Binf fought its own nature tooth and nail every step of the way. Corgi preempts your complaints while pointing out that it wouldn’t be so fun if it tried to outsmart its genre, while Binf tries to trick you and itself that it is outsmarting the genre simply because it appears to be about to do so every few moments and rarely pulls through.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Ooh, good call.

      • drewski says:

        I’m not quite sure how exactly Infinite is pretending to be outsmarting the genre.

        It’s a very loving homage to the Bioshock formula from start to finish. In fact, one of the very valid criticisms I would think you could make of it is that it’s less genre aware than the original.

        • The Random One says:

          “Pretending” is a bit of a harsh word. I said “trick you and itself” because Binf seems totally earnest about what it’s trying to do and failing.

          It sets itself up to be a smarter shooter that comments on several interesting topics, like exceptionalism, racial tension and parallel universes, but never delivers anything on any of those.
          It tries to be different than a kill everything shooter by having your stated main goal to escort another character, but said character is mechanically meaningless and it in fact locks you in areas until you’ve killed everything.
          It tries to be a shooter with different mechanics by giving you strange weapons that you have to learn to deal with, like the Heater, but since you also have limited weapon slots and limited ammo and far more reliable weapons there’s no reward to mastering those.
          It tries to be a shooter that lets you do something else other than shooting, but all of the non-shooty bits (other than the first) feel ham-fisted and segregated. Not only does it underline the rift between the gameplay bits and the story bits, it also makes the game’s ultraviolence stand out, which is why so many people went ‘gasp! so violent!’ at it.
          It even tries to pull the same bit Corgi pulled of preempting our reactions to the game by having Elizabeth go ‘gasp! You are so violent!’ but by having her shrug and throw ammo at you the very next moment it just makes that another of the failed set-ups.
          It also tries to have different level design by using the skyrails and movement vigors to give you different ways to move about the arenas and engage enemies… and succeeds, so there’s that. But even there it doesn’t suceed as much as the original Bioshock.

          Sorry I took so long to reply but I was at work and didn’t want to type this long post on my phone :-(

          • drewski says:

            That would be a bit of an epic post to make on a phone.

            I’m not really sure what you felt it had to deliver on exceptionalism, racism and universes? Why do they have to be the meat of the game, rather than the story? Donnie Darko isn’t a story about fractured timelines, it’s a story about alienation that happens to use fractured timelines as a device. Why can’t a game do the same thing? I don’t think it’s a flaw to not make a game about those things, and I think they were dealt with more with more nuance than you’re giving the game credit for.

            I don’t think it is trying to be something other than a kill everything shooter either – it’s trying to be a kill everything shooter in the protection of something other than yourself, that’s all. If that fails for you, that’s fine. I agree about the pointlessness of many of the guns, but I don’t know why that’s necessarily a problem? All shooters have better or worse weapons and personally I found a close/far combination of the sniper or carbine and one of the shotguns as a very, very effective loadout. To some degree it’s a matter of weapon progression and allowing the player the choice to use whatever tools s/he feels comfortable with.

            I think it uses the non-shooty bits to break up the tension of the firefights, in the same way Halo does with vistas. I personally loved wandering around a level knowing that I was scouting for the firefight that was coming – and even happier when the firefight turned out to be in another part of the level, and going back to the first part and finding it deserted as the civilians fled. I completely disagree that any of that felt hamfisted – it felt very natural to me and I loved being able to live in the world for a bit before I shot it up. I do think that the contrast between the wandering and the shooty is sharper because of this, but I also think this is the point – you are a profoundly, inherently violent and destructive force in the world. You break things. If you don’t want to play that guy…why are you playing that guy?

            I completely agree that the Liz bits where she goes from “you’re a monster” to “here have some ammo to be a better monster” is utterly jarring and completely misplayed, though. And the bit about the Skyrails.

            I just think a lot of the criticisms are really matter of interpretation – it’s fine that you felt the combat was clunky and that the weapon restrictions and pacing (and even the background themes) didn’t work for you, but that doesn’t make them objectively bad which is the way a lot of the criticism of the combat (and the game) is presented.

            And don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a place for adrenaline shooters like Painkiller, and a place for pretty exploration. But there’s a place for blended games like Bioshock too.

          • gwathdring says:

            Well done both of you–a very interesting read. :)

  10. bill says:

    I hadn’t realised gunpoint was funny or had a story. Might have to investigate…

    • iucounu says:

      It’s *mildly* funny and it has a story, but not one I particularly gave a damn about. Quite a good and interesting game, not a classic. I give it £5 (my new numerical rating system is based on what I would feel OK about having paid for it.)

  11. morningoil says:

    I see no-one’s gotten Bioshock:Infinite yet! Poor Ken Levine: he goes and makes the most intellectually intrepid, profound, and successful artwork of the year in any medium and it goes essentially unappreciated. Sure, the ludic balance is a little skewwith, but the spectacle and the violence is all part of the point.

    • RedViv says:

      Intrepid and profound? The game that goes like “Oh look how RACIST these people are, go shoot them now!” to “Oh the poor downtrodden victims of the RACISTS.” to “Oh no look they rise up and are no better, these savage idiots!”, that one?

      • mouton says:

        That’s a nice funny summary, I can make a similar one to any game you might like.

        • RedViv says:

          Sure, you’re welcome to do so. I just have to find one that claims to be so high-brow first!

          • mouton says:

            Oh don’t worry, subjective caricature is possible with any game that is not Tetris :)

          • The Random One says:

            Do it with Kentucky Route Zero. In the spirit of Horacemas, I double-dog-dare you.

            Then do it with The Sea Will Claim Everything. Not because I think it’ll be hard to do so, but because then you’ll see what a game that actually has a message looks like.

          • Baines says:

            Mouton, I’m pretty sure you could do the same for Tetris. Even the racism bits.

            Doesn’t mean Bioshock Infinite was particularly profound or amazing though.

      • fish99 says:

        It’s not a game about racism though, or a bloody revolution, that’s merely a cartoony backdrop. It’s not even really about quantum physics either, that’s just a plot mechanism. As bwion says above, it’s more about an attempt at redemption. That’s what I enjoyed most about it, that the theme shifted and surprised me several times.

        Anyway, let’s not get into spoiler talk for the people who haven’t played it.

        • RedViv says:

          That’s precisely the problem, right there: The “real” plot is about this, but you have to wade through a lake of manure to even get to catch a slight glimpse of the island of non-insulting meaning. Constantly asking why you have to do X, and the answer being “Because this is an AAA shooter!” for the most part, is absolutely detracting from that.

          • fish99 says:

            Absolutely, a lot of the game was a chore, but for me the last 4 hrs or so, and especially the last hour, more than made up for it.

            One thing I would say though, I never had a problem with the game being a shooter. Given Booker’s violent history and the revolution he’s in the midst of, I don’t think anything else would have made sense. Plus it was a Bioshock game, so I naturally went in expecting to shoot a lot of stuff.

          • subedii says:

            You see, for me the last hour was just a string of Deus Ex Machina that was trying to hand-wave away “why things were the way they were”, and it just didn’t work for me.

            *Mild spoilers*

            It worked on an emotional level in that it was trying to have impact, but for tying things they basically had a last minute rush of exposition to try and explain the entire rest of the story with things like “some things change, some things always remain the same” with nothing further said about it.

            The last hour I felt, was well directed (which is also why I say it works on an emotional level), but I didn’t think it answered for everything else the game was throwing around. So when all the reviews lauded it as some kind of masterpiece of game storytelling and similar, I just ended up feeling kind of ‘eh’ at the end.

            I think it’s just because in how well directed it was, I can see the potential of what the game could have been if they hadn’t been so intent on throwing in all these elements and characters that may not have actually needed to be in, and aren’t really supported by the story.


            All subjective etc. etc. Personally, I feel that games as a medium are still finding their way when it comes to storytelling, so when something “not terrible” comes along in that regard, it perhaps slightly gets lauded more than it should be.

            It actually reminds me a bit of the reviews of Half-Life 1. All the reviews gushed about what an amazing story it had. And I just thought “Did it?”. Not really no. Alien Invasion, fight bad aliens, fight military, you’d be hard pressed to flesh out the storyline events of HL1 beyond that. What it had was a great series of set pieces and pacing, and a great sense of place. But at the time, I don’t think people looking at games really had the vocabulary and ‘toolkit’ to disassemble and talk about those things properly.

          • gwathdring says:

            I wrote a long thingy about the ending. Short version:

            I loved the beats of the ending but the polish, acting, scene-setting, and writing that had carried so much of the game for me seemed to get lost and rushed at the end–quite a feat for a game that’s so long and slow and full of shooty-bangs to feel rushed when I’m let to just walk slowly while trying to take it all in. The surface-level execution and presentation fell apart for me at the end even as a lot of the other stuff that was bothering me earlier finally started coming together … I found this very disappointing. Even so, I loved the game.

        • Anthile says:

          That’s the problem with Binfinite. 90% of the plot threads are red herrings that don’t go anywhere and only serve as excuses for Booker to turn people into blood sausages.

        • stevethehare says:

          Isn’t that kind of a huge problem though? It seems pretty gross to use racism as a “cartoony background” and then say nothing more about it.

          I think RPS called this one correctly. A fun and exciting game, but too flawed to be up there with the rest of the amazing games that came out this year.

          • drewski says:

            I don’t think it does use racism as a “cartoony” background. It’s used as an illustration of the moral bankruptcy of Comstock’s regime.

          • stevethehare says:

            I was mainly quoting the previous poster, however, there are literally racist cartoons in the background all over Columbia. But that’s just me being silly with semantics. The real point I’m making is that using racism as a plot device feels gross to me when there isn’t more to be said beyond “look, isn’t racism bad???”. Especially when the game goes on to (again, literally) say that the deeds of the oppressed breaking free from bondage is equally as evil as the deeds of the oppressor putting them in bondage in the first place. Please keep in mind that I’ve received an immense amount of joy from playing Infinite, and I’ll likely continue to enjoy playing it in the future. This is just troublesome to me.

          • drewski says:

            The problem with the analysis is that we have countless examples from history of what happens when smart, determined, oppressed people turn the tables.

            The story of the Vox Populi is the story of Mao’s China, of the Russian revolution, of Che Guevara, of the Hutu in Rwanda, of the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats in the Balkans. It may not have been subtle, and it may not have been the shiny happy white knight result you thought you were getting (and Liz thought she was getting) but it was very, very real.

            Revolutions are terrible, terrible things the majority of the time. I don’t think it fair to criticise a game for reflecting that.

          • tormos says:

            this (the comment directly above this) is so wrong in general but i’m not going to bother covering it as a whole so here’s one specific way in which it was wrong: the Hutus in Rwanda were literally the opposite of a tragically failed rebellion. The government at that time subscribed to “Hutu Power” ideology (and was funding the radio stations that fanned the flames of racial hatred and eventually organized the actual slaughter). The Interahamwe militia that kicked off the killings was supported and armed by the government. (this may shock you, but most urban Rwandans did not own head chopping grade machetes prior to the genocide) Genocides kind of can’t be spontaneous, because they require too much organization and planning (even if, as in Rwanda, most of the action is carried out by people who are in loose contact at best with those running the show). I could go on at greater length about why this assertion is wrong but this seems sufficient for “PC game site comments grade”

          • drewski says:

            You’re right, this isn’t the place for this, but you need to take into account the 80 years before the genocide to understand the genocide.

            The Hutu didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to exterminate the Tutsi, it was a culmination of decades of perceived oppression. Anyway, the point was about two sides of a conflict being regrettable in their own ways, and about history rarely having good guys, and about the sort of subculture a sick, violent, exploitative dominant culture can create, not that the Hutu were literally the same as the Vox.

          • tormos says:

            I’m going to continue to assert that this is not the place for this but point out that if you want to take the 80 years view then you kind of have to assert that the Belgians were at fault for exacerbating what was essentially a class division into a “racial” one and inspiring hatred between the two groups so that they would have an easier time extracting value from colonial Rwanda.

          • drewski says:

            It was one loose example out many so no, I actually don’t think it required an in-depth look into the influence of colonial Belgium in the original post.

            Oppression often leads to overreaction. Human history shows this repeatedly. No, it doesn’t always happen. But that doesn’t mean it’s an unrealistic or inappropriate theme for a videogame to depict, and I don’t think it’s dealt with in a cartoony way in Infinite.

          • gwathdring says:

            I really dislike the idea that for a game to deal with a subject it has to deal with it particularly intricately. The game doesn’t take the anti-social views that racism is bad, sexism is overblown feminist nonsense or really any other stance that works to support the status quo by downplaying oppression. Where it is imprecise and exaggerated, it is not also anti-social and harmful. It never paints racism as an acceptable mistake, it never paints revolution as something to be undertaken casually and with full throat, and it never paints oppression as For the Greater Good.

            It doesn’t approach these topics in a way that supports anti-social ideology. So then … what error has it made by not approaching these topics with the delicacy, clarity of purpose, and nuance of a Master’s Thesis or a Toni Morrison novel? Where Bioshock Infinite is (supposedly) lazy, it is not lazily cruel or lazily dismissive or lazily oppressive. It is not lazily harmful, in my view. Lazily nihilistic, perhaps?

            There is a rich history of using black humor and exaggeration and, yes, even cartoons of horrible events and ideas and people for various purposes–discussion, dissent, expression of disgust, and as a backdrop for other things. Bioshock Infinite, in my view, did not commit some crime against it’s subject matter by failing to be Sula. There ARE problematic elements of Bioshock Infinite, but there are problematic elements in a great many works; there’s always room for improvement. I don’t feel like Bioshock Infinite did anything particularly anti-social or harmful and I think if anything it leans towards the pro-social side of things however hamfisted and exaggerated. I think, too, it’s aware of exactly how ham-shaped it’s fists were with respect to socio-political matters and came to the same conclusion that I did–that it’s ok to use that as window dressing as long as you aren’t casual about it. I don’t think we should assume Irrational was casual about it just because the RESULT is “cartoonish;” I think there’s plenty of evidence that they thought very very carefully about even their more exaggerated and seemingly lazy ideas.

            That’s not to say Bioshock Infinite doesn’t make mistakes. Far from it. But we should not assume that exaggeration without particularly far-reaching commentary comes from a place of carelessness. And how the hell do we come to the conclusion that saying “Racism Bad!” is a bad thing? I mean … it might not be super helpful, but I don’t see how you can spin that as *bad.* It’s not especially interesting I suppose, but honestly even a more nuanced statement might not be particularly interesting in this context! It’s not the focus of the game, after all.

          • drewski says:

            Very much this. There’s nothing inherently wrong with window dressing – it’s just a question of whether or not the window is dressed appropriately, to stretch a metaphor to breaking point.

            Bioshock doesn’t deeply explore those themes, but it never treats them casually and it never, ever endorses them. They are presented as is – ugly. And then it moves on because it’s not really about that.

      • basilisk says:

        But it is so very simple. BioShock, above everything else, was a story about parenthood. It was painted over a lavish background fleetingly touching on very diverse topics such as objectivism, gene modification, Art Deco and class revolt, but the heart of it is a very intimate, simple and quite moving tale of failed parents and orphaned children. (With some shooting laid on top to make the story flow better and because videogames.)

        I’m still not sure why Infinite was expected to be any different.

    • RobF says:

      Perhaps Ken could have released that game instead of Bioshock Infinite and we’d all be celebrating instead?

      • derbefrier says:

        Nah then you would find something else to complain about.

        Seriously though I liked it but not because of the story but because it was fun to play for a while, though I got broed and quit before I beat it. Something that seems to happen a lot when I play AAA games.

    • pepperfez says:

      Well played, morningoil, well played indeed.

    • iucounu says:

      I haven’t finished it because I find the fights simultaneously boring and stressful. This isn’t me just dropping the game 90% in like usual (I tend to leave games unfinished) but more like 50% in (I’m not having a good time.)

  12. catigator says:

    Good list! Though for a site that widely criticises PAX and is quick to point out misogyny in games, it’s a bit disappointing to see an ad for MALE GAMERS ONLY with a half naked big breasted “warrior” woman beneath the text. Shame on you RPS…

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      In fairness to RPS, what usually happens with adverts on websites is that the website owner will sell a space to an online ad agency (e.g. AdTech), who provide the website with a bit of code containing a unique ID that pulls in adverts off the agency’s server.

      The agency has an automated system that rotates the adverts that get ‘served’ when the page is viewed, and sometimes one gets somewhat inappropriate results. In this case, the ad agency involved may not have known about RPS’ stance on sexism in games, and not known to remove that advert from the list of ads that get served to pages with the RPS ID, and conversely the guys at RPS may not have known that that particular ad would have been in the rotation queue, and so (obviously) not asked for it to be removed from the queue.

    • Lambchops says:

      Email them, they’ll get it removed (probably a bit more slowly that normal it being the holiday season).

      • Fonzcorp says:


      • Baines says:

        It does look bad though that RPS at times (or with certain writers) is willing to jump on and castrate developers and publishers for negligence, complacency, silence, or even sometimes imaginary slights, but don’t find it important to police the ads that run on their own site. (Or find themselves unable to do so.)

        If the roles were reversed and it was Blizzard or Deep Silver or some other publisher news site or forum, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an RPS article about inappropriate ad content and the inattention that allowed them. And perhaps even more so if the response was to crowdsource the policing to the readers, as RPS itself did when readers complained about somewhat hypocritical ad placements appearing.

        (Even if a role reversal wouldn’t lead to such a result, that is the image that RPS has projected for the last year or so. And that image is important in how people perceive both the site and the messages that the site tries to send.)

        • dE says:

          But that’s what is happening? People point out the Ad and RPS tries to remove it ASAP. The Ads slip through the cracks of the system. Not out of neglience or desinterest, but because the people setting them up are explicitely looking for those cracks to sneak them past people.
          Online Advertisement isn’t as involved as you perhaps think it is. Sites aren’t shown these ads, prior to them showing up on the site. The Ads are shown, based on several paremeters. Things like Tags (“Gaming related content” for example) or location. You can ban certain sites from advertising so they don’t get picked in the completely automatic process, but that doesn’t help much if those actively try to sneak past those bans. Have you ever had the fun of banning a flaming Troll from a Forum? No matter how creative you get, they allways find a way back to cause more trouble. Think of it like this, only for Advertisement.

        • AngelTear says:

          Today I ended up on this page to delve deeper into SuperBunnyHop’s end of the year video, and by pure chance it does state their policy as far as ads go.

          RPS has partnered with Eurogamer to provide our advertising. This means that Eurogamer employees acquire and organise the advertising you see on this site, and we split the profits. It’s a fairly normal practice, but one RPS ensured would and could never have any impact on our editorial freedom. We are completely editorially independent, and at the same time have almost no involvement in what advertising appears on the site. The degree to which we are involved is to have laid down strict rules about what types of adverts we’re willing to have (as in, none that play sound, none that obscure the site content), and to complain when an advert is inappropriate (for instance, depicts naked people).

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          “It does look bad though that RPS at times (or with certain writers) is willing to jump on and castrate developers and publishers for negligence, complacency, silence, or even sometimes imaginary slights, but don’t find it important to police the ads that run on their own site.”

          On the contrary, I seem to be doing little else at the moment.

          • dE says:

            And it’s appreciated. Everyone that has worked with Advertisement Companies, knows what kind of nightmare this is. Thanks.

    • bill says:

      They have removed such ads in the past when people pointed them out.

      Although, in Japan almost every ad on the site (and every other site) has big breasted half-naked girls in it. I’m not sure there is much that RPS can do about that issue.

      PS/ I wish people would stop saying ‘shame on you’ for everything. I must have read it in about 50 comments over the last few days, and not one was about anything remotely important.

    • Obc says:

      tbh, all the adds are quite stupid. some more than others but still all bad.

    • John Walker says:

      I’m very sorry this ad is appearing again. We have killed it again and again, but the aresholes who sell it constantly change the code to slip it past our filters. As you can imagine, the people who can kill it aren’t working today.

      • kalirion says:

        Perhaps you should hire some of those captcha-bypass coders. They should be able to upgrade your filter to recognize any “Male Gamers Only” ad :)

      • catigator says:

        Yeah I should probably have assumed that you guys were going to delete ads like this and this one happened to slip through. As long as you guys are aware of the problem and try to fix it that’s good, I was more afraid of you just not caring about the ads.

        • Dozer says:

          Pretty sure that RPS care quite a lot about the adverts displayed here!

  13. bill says:

    And my dream of RPS mentioning Skulls of the Shogun without going on about windows 8 continues to be unfulfilled.

    • subedii says:

      Hard not to. IIRC even the devs themselves said they regretted that decision given how MS ended up treating the whole thing.

    • Nogo says:

      Well, it’s pretty much the only reason not to buy or play it, so it seems a bit important until rectified.

  14. Tomo says:

    You guys are sooo wrong about Bioshock Infinite! :P It was a glorious shooter with a Mobius rabbit hole of a plot to get sucked into.

  15. Jason Moyer says:

    BioShock Infinite is Mostly Harmless the game, both in the machinations of the plot and in its divisive reception. Personally, I think both are brilliant, but ymmv.

    My unmentioned additions to this year’s games list would be Remember Me and The Bureau. I would rate neither as highly as say BioShock Infinite or Dishonored or other amazing games from recent times, but they were both highly enjoyable and at no time did I feel like I was playing either simply to say I finished the game (which can’t be said about 75-80% of the games I find myself playing nowadays).

    Remember Me is a weird game, in that most of my complaints about it are that there simply isn’t enough of it. The customizable fighting system is great, but much of the combat is against mobs that don’t really require any sort of tactical use of your pressen abilities. But the fights that do require you to carefully work your combos and try different tactics are completely amazing – there just aren’t enough of them. The memory remixing is spectacular – but you do it maybe 4 times the entire game. The environments are amazing, please let me explore more of them. The platforming is fluid but never challenging, with the majority of it being on autopilot. The helicopter escape scene was probably the sole exception; why not have more sequences like that. The story is good, but it never feels fully fleshed out. Overall I’d rate it highly, because what’s there is mostly great, but I want more of it.

    The Bureau. I went into it expecting something like Mass Effect with less focus on the soap-opera-dating-sim-lite-RPG elements and more on the tactical combat, and that’s exactly what it delivered. The tech is awful (seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen lipsynching done that poorly since the late 90’s, and the way shadows appear 10 feet in front of you is a little odd), the first few hours are awful, and yet…the combat is almost really good. It feels like Mass Effect 2/3 with the difficulty cranked beyond what is possible in those games. The downside to that, is it exposes a failing that is common to both series – the friendly AI is atrocious. In Mass Effect, the combat is so easy you never need to micromanage them; in The Bureau they will die quickly if you don’t. Aside from the combat, the art design in the levels is varied and generally good, everything from a small 50’s town to a sleepy farmstead to the cold, angular interior of an alien base. While not particularly amazing, I enjoyed the story, especially the last third when things started getting REALLY WEIRD. And it does somehow manage to tie nicely into the narrative of Enemy Unknown. Anyway, I enjoyed the game more than I expected to and would not be surprised to find myself replaying it in the future, once it’s faded somewhat from memory. Most of the complaints I’ve seen about the game are also present in the ME games (particularly the “spending an hour walking around your home base after every mission seeing if there are any side missions or dialog options you haven’t seen yet” thing which, I believe, was mentioned in this site’s review)

    Final note: Someone should mention Sir, You Are Being Hunted. Yes, it’s not finished, and no, I haven’t spent as much time with it as I’d like to, but still…it more or less came out in 2013 and it is fantastic. In its unfinished state I’d rate it in my top 100 easily, possibly top 20 or top 50, and that’s a list that primarily consists of the Thiefs, Deus Exes, System Shocks, and Arx Fatalises/Dishonoreds of the world. It’s good.

    Edit: 2 other games I haven’t seen mentioned: Assetto Corsa (still pre-release, I guess), which has the most convincing car modelling I’ve yet to encounter, and Brütal Legend, which was finally given a PC release this year and was a slightly flawed gem.

    • bwion says:

      Remember Me was probably my favorite game this year, though I can see a whole host of ways in which it could have been improved, and I can’t really argue with anything you’re saying here.

    • fish99 says:

      I’ve hesitated to jump into Assetto Corsa yet because it’s early access and obviously there’s a lot of stuff not finished yet (AI, multiplayer etc), but the tech preview was great, and nkPro was as good as anything (maybe better than anything) in terms of physics. I just hope it can sell enough to make back the investment. I saw a tweet from Stefano saying it need to outsell nkPro 10:1 to break even, which may be difficult because the game never gets a mention on non-sim-racing sites (like here).

      • Jason Moyer says:

        On the plus side, I think it’s doing pretty well so far. I never bought nkPro, despite loving the early/free version of Netkar, because the fictional circuits didn’t appeal to me. Pretty much everyone I know who simraces has picked it up so far, and I think that’s the first time I could say that about a sim since iRacing and Nascar 2003 before that.

        Also, as far as I understand, the AI/multi/damage model/etc are all pretty much done and ready to go, but he’s rolling everything out one update at a time to give some time to test everything thoroughly. It’s really really slick so far.

        Also, he just announced that the first DLC late next year will include a laser-scanned Nordschleife, which is pretty much the holy grail of simracing (at least, circuit racing – I suppose a proper rally sim with real stages would be up there too). Considering iRacing has spent 5 years saying that it would be impossible to do such a thing, this is pretty big news.

        • fish99 says:

          As an ex-GPLer that’s awesome news about the Nordschleife. The obvious question is whether AC scans to the same detail level as iRacing, because the track I drove in the AC tech demo felt smoother to me than the iRacing tracks, but of course that Elise was a road car so it’s hard to compare (and maybe Magione is just a smooth track).

          Btw I will definitely get AC, and the Nordschleife.

      • alms says:

        If you’re taking Kunos/Casillo literally, you’re in for a disappointment. The guy has a habit of saying something, then changing his mind, then you ask him about it, and he says you’re a moron and out of your mind.

        Having talked to him on many occasions, there are only two possible explanations: he’s a total nutcase, or 100% asshole.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Here be Spoilers for The Bureau!
      Careful Spoilers!

      The Bureau is a mess of a game. It’s half-finished work in progress built on top of god knows how many scrapped attempts. It succeeds in certain areas despite that, but it is fundamentally flawed.
      It’s attempt to connect to XCOM Enemy Unknown are laughable, idiotic and impossible. What it does succeed at is being a sort of parallel universe story set in the same universe as XCOM.

      You know it’s the same universe because the alien species that appear are (in part) the same ones, but the organization that sends them against Earth is different.

      They’re Mutons yes, but they’re not a conquered people used as warrior-elite: They’re born Soldiers that hire themselves off as Mercenaries.
      They’re sectoids, yes, but they’re not the eugenically violated mute fodder they are in the Enemy Unknown Parallel Universe – they’re just a conquered race, used as slave labour.

      As an alternate reality XCOM universe game, it’s basic setting is excellent. Unfortunately the Dialogues are….a mess. Every other Dialogue people are going to spew lines that reference things that were never said. Every other story beat plays off of plot points that were clearly dropped during development but it wasn’t made clear. Even visuals often don’t mesh with other visuals – laser cannons firing plasma in one scene, then lasers in the next. Weapon FX being placed on the wrong places, etc-

      Technologically it’s outdated – and it’s implementation of directx 11 and physx is so terrible using it completely wrecks framerates for no reason. The basic graphical tools being used are nowhere near groundbreaking. But their consistent art style, and incredible use of shadows and reflective surfaces bumps their overall look up to something that can not only compete with big budget games-they-clearly-ripping-off-1:1 (Mass Effect) but handily beat them.

      The gameplay is brilliant-to-decent, depending entirely on how dumb your AI partners are on any given mission. It’s another situation in which the rushed then scrapped, then rushed again development cycle rears its ugly head. Had this been the game they had been making from the start, they’d have tested every mission’s (and there are only very few missions) AI pathfinding logic so it’d always work .

      What makes all of the mess and occasional brilliance worth playing anyway however, is the final twist of the game.
      Spoiler Warning Again!

      The realization that the whole game was a First Person Shooter the whole time was incredible. Having your main characters characterization as an asshole who redeems himself when the world is in jeopardy undermined, by him going to back to being an asshole as soon as the actual player character – the Ethereal Alien – leaves him was brilliant.

      They also blatantly take War of the Worlds imagery (from the book) and audio (from the famous Radio Adaption). The latter especially is incredibly obvious, but nonetheless effective. The ending of the Radio version is one of the most haunting and affecting pieces of sci-fi ever made, and it hits hard even when used in an effects heavy overt video game.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        Oh yeah and I should also add that The Bureau is basically Mass Effects good combat system (from ME1, before they ruined it with global cooldowns), but without having to wade through hours of Bioware’s atrocious writing.

        And optional Permadeath for the non-main character Agents.

    • welverin says:

      The problem with Sir, is it’s Jim’s game, and while he does post news about it (always with a disclaimer), I don’t see them added it even to the leftovers.

      • iainl says:

        The other problem with Sir is that it’s still in (open) beta. Surely it’s a game of 2014?

  16. Dozer says:

    WHERE’S the console games and DOTA2 you hipster poser HACKS

    • LionsPhil says:

      big indie publishers paid them off i bet

    • RedViv says:

      Now that Surgeon Simulator has been praised, we are ALMOST there. The IGN-o-meter reads four point nine percent now!

      • Dozer says:

        Call me when the RPS community in-jokes are 5% as funny as at Neogaffe.

        • dE says:

          It’s okay, NeoGAF Forum warrior, you’ll get over the omission of The Last of Us in time. It wasn’t really a good game to begin with.

          • Dozer says:

            I’m so cross that The Last Of Us has been COMPLETELY IGNORED by this site since 1873 that I have actually turned into a hot cross bun. A very nice one, with plenty of raisins.

          • welverin says:

            “It wasn’t really a good game to begin with.”


        • Hillbert says:


  17. BreadBitten says:

    BioShock: Infinite – “Not the game I was hoping it to be, but at least the setting was great!”

    Grand Theft Auto V – “Not the game I was wishing it would be, but at least the world was fabulously realized!”

    Yes, even games criticism falls into a pattern folks.

    • RobF says:

      Yup, assuming you ignore every other word about those and other videogames put to the page, that’s bang on.

      • BreadBitten says:

        Oh no, where’s the fun in that? Of course I follow through all the other words, all the arbitrary description and painstakingly laid out little anecdotes that ensure the reader doesn’t doubt that the reviewer actually spent a considerable amount of time playing that game.

        • Nogo says:

          I feel you’re bringing some personal baggage into this…

          Maybe if you share it with us your posts will start making sense.

          • BreadBitten says:

            It’s nothing personal really, well maybe it is but not “personal” personal. I just feel like game criticism in general these days is slowly devolving into wishful thinking rather than a proper critique of what the game is for itself and what it does and doesn’t do well.

            Also, having experienced the process of reviewing a game myself (with deadlines and everything) I think game criticism needs a serious boot to the ass in terms of how it’s done, that is to say with more time. Games are incredibly multlayered, moreso than any other form of media, and requires some degree of commitment to fully comprehend what makes them tick; which is contrary to the trend of “reviewing” a game like it’s just some product–which they are most of the time, but that mindset sadly also applies to the games that you can tell right off the bat requires to be experienced to the fullest.

            Just to be clear, I am NOT calling out RPS as being one of those flippant critics, the fine folks of this site are one of the few group of chaps who do the whole “critique” thing right.

          • The Random One says:

            Have you considered the idea that Binf and GTAV are receiving similar criticism because they committed similar errors, namely that they set themselves up to talk about Serious Issues You Guys but ultimately had nothing insightful to say about those issues?

          • BreadBitten says:

            @The Random One I only chose these two to prove a point.

            While I haven’t played BioShock: Infinite yet, I can’t ever see how someone can expect to take any Grand Theft Auto game seriously, this is a series about people getting into random bouts of criminal activity and getting away scot free moments later. To me, Grand Theft Auto V felt like the most self-aware entry in the series’ history, which itself begets a more lighthearted tone than it’s over serious predecessor. The closest thing the game comes to grazing solemnity is the torture scene, which felt so out-of-place that it was comically brilliant, and those tiny moments you get when switching characters (Michael smoking a cigar by himself down a marina, Franklin’s lonely existence in his opulent residence, etc.), other than these brief instances the game thankfully embraces the series’ more outlandish older entries.

            I guess people were expecting the game to uphold Rockstar’s newfound sense of seriousness after the the ludonarrative nightmare that was Grand Theft Auto IV and the infinitely better Red Dead Redemption, but that still doesn’t excuse them from bringing up heights the game never even aspired to reach and call it criticism.

          • The Random One says:

            Conversely, I haven’t played GTAV yet, but from the comments I’ve read it seems the ones who are pushing the most for the idea that it is a Serious Game that treats Serious Issues through its Wild Honest Humour are Rockstar themselves. The GTA essence is a relic from a time when a game could be considered brave for merely approaching the themes GTA approaches, but the medium has evolved quite a lot since then, so they need to sell it as a Serious Thing or this time, compared to the other games that can actually tackle these themes seriously and succesfully, their frivolousness will become painfully apparent.

            …But since I haven’t played it, maybe I’m completely wrong and have been tricked by the bad critiques you’re calling out. Who knows? I’ll tell you when it’s out on PC and for sale at 75% off somewhere that is not Steam.

          • drewski says:

            GTA V deals with “serious issues” in that it’s about family, identity, roots and betraying/reconciling your past, but it never for a moment forgets that it’s a game where you do, for the most part, absurdly silly things.

            Even when it’s dealing with it’s “serious issues” it’s doing them in a way that acknowledges how silly GTA tropes are, for the most part.

          • BreadBitten says:

            @drewski In that essence, literally any game can be said to be tackling a serious issue, one can even assert that Saints Row: The Third was about the gross level of celebrity idolization and worship plaguing society; but I digress, that was rather well put, and I agree that the game is clearly very aware of itself, and indeed the franchise’s position within the medium.

          • gwathdring says:

            I think this would be an appropriate point to point out how meaningless the phrase “serious issues” is when talking to someone who’s worldview is not well understood to you.

            What’s so strange about finding something “serious” and worthwhile amid the ridiculous and worhwhile elements of Saints Row: The Third? What’s wrong with finding meaning and poignancy in a super hero comic despite the sexism and the general lunacy and the continuity clusterfuck?

            Serious is as serious does. I’m not on board with the author being dead, but your personal experience of an author’s work is certainly no less valid a thing to discuss than the personal experience the author intended you to have. What a game is “about” is not a particularly straightforward concept. Though, again, I don’t believe in saying that authorship is now meaningless–that’s throwing out all of the furniture in the house with the bathwater. But do let’s toss out that bath-water and accept that the reader has some sovereignty here and that silly and seemingly un-serious things can have serious meaning to us and bring serious ideas into our heads.

          • BreadBitten says:

            @gwathdring I feel like we got off on the wrong foot here. I agree with everything you just said, “serious issues” really are (to use that tired old phrase) in the eye of the beholder, which is why I always take reviews/write-ups that criticize a game’s themes and messages with a big, heaping helping of salt.

          • drewski says:

            @BreadBitten – I have to admit I’ve not got around to the Saints’ Row series yet (it’s on the list) but yeah, the vast majority of games can (and should) be explored to find underlying themes. Perhaps only really purely systems driven games aren’t in some way explorations of the human experience.

  18. Fonzcorp says:


  19. CookPassBabtridge says:


  20. Treebard says:

    As The Calendar trundled along, I’d been hoping Gunpoint (my personal favorite of the year) was somehow going to take the #1 spot…and all it got was an honorable mention! :(

  21. DirtyDivinity says:

    “2013 was an amazing year for so many fascinating, superb games – certainly more than 24 of them” and subjectivity and “We encourage to disagree with us”, yes, I know (and agree with) this stuff, but, at least for the next part of Leftovers, p-p-p-p-please :
    – Guacamelee! Because this game has double jump, aaaand the second jump is also a powerful kick, so no discussion.
    – Metro : Last Light! Wake up, RPS! (and show me your papers, please). Are you sure to not disagree with yourself? This game has so much what YOU love and defend and fight until the last drop of your very holy blood for! Nightmarishly beautiful, realistic-in-some-crazy-way world, full of details telling sad tales, and so on. 2033 already did? What? Is Last Light not much more than 2033,5? I… I’m confused (but still love you).

  22. daphne says:

    Bioshock Infinite not making the list — a call that I completely agree with — is an indicator of not so much the game’s own qualites, but the expectations and hype the game carried with it, and not living up to them, and in the worst way — a strong, succulent flavor promising much food for thought, followed by an abrupt falloff in the next few weeks and a fade into oblivion soon after. I mean, I remember Alec’s “NGJ-lite” interview with Levine. Compare and contrast with “a beautiful, fascinating failure.”

    In another universe where a game called Bioshock Infinite was unassumingly developed and released, it won great acclaim and awards. But in this one, it’s the most lavish bubblegum of 2013.

    • gwathdring says:

      People say things like that. But then there are those games/films/whatevers no less disappointing to many discerning audience members that were super-hyped that still get praise and award. And then there are the unassuming games that do super well but never quite get too much acclaim because they aren’t quite shiny enough. And then there are the unassuming games that knock it out of the park and get SOME reward but yield space at the awards table to some smash-hits that, while not that amazing, were super hyped and popular.

      Turns out aggregate popular opinion is really complicated!

      In an alternate universe where Bioshock was unassumingly developed, it most likely wouldn’t have the budget to have been as beautiful and well polished as it was.

  23. Frank says:

    For me, Gunpoint, FEZ, Swords of the Shogun and Ittle Dew were all ahead of the 24 games RPS liked… though, of course, I haven’t actually played them all.

    Guacamelee also sounds good. I just bought it at the tail end (20 min left) of it’s Steam discount.

    • derbefrier says:

      Guacamelee is great.

      Looks like I will have to check out Ittle Dew myself. I missed that one. I got some gift cards to spend anyway!

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Guacamelee truly is incredible. It’s well made, fun, rewards skill and funny as hell. Tons of old videogame references, without being on the nose obnoxious about it.
      And it’s got coop without requiring coop. The only potential downside is that the jumping puzzles kind of except one coop partner to tap out, go incorporeal and let one player do the jumping puzzle.

    • BreadBitten says:

      Guacamelee is the most fun I’ve had in my PC all year!

  24. Zekiel says:

    I do find Binfinite not making the list surprising. It felt like such a significant gaming event this year. But I guess the Calendar isn’t about Significant Gaming Events, its about what the hivemind enjoyed most.

    I’ve been trying to compare it to Gunslinger (an FPS that I also played and thoroughly enjoyed this year) and I find it very difficult. Gunslinger’s scope is so much less than Bioshock’s that I find it very hard to say its a better game. Yet it achieves what it attempts almost perfectly (aside from some silly frustrating gunpowder-throwing sequences) while many pages of ink have been spilled on Binfinite’s failings.

    Well, I still enjoyed Bioshock and lot, and I am still looking forward to replaying it. On the next Leftovers!

  25. Niko says:

    Unskeletonize Horace at once!

  26. drewski says:

    Having read a lot of the criticisms of Bioshock, I get some and get others less.

    But I really don’t understand the “why is this a shooter?” criticism.

    I agree with Graham – no game has done spectacle and shiny as delightfully as Bioshock Infinite this year. And I rather liked the combat – just the right balance of popping weenies and having to be a little bit more strategic about the tanks.

    • Nogo says:

      Because, considering it’s state compared to the resources they had, it seems like Irrational didn’t want it in there either.

      • drewski says:

        I’ve played every major shooter since Wolf3D and many of the minor ones, and I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • BreadBitten says:

      “But I really don’t understand the “why is this a shooter?” criticism.”

      Exactly. That’s not even criticism, it’s just plain ol’ fashioned disagreement.

  27. RiffRaff says:

    I liked gunpoint, but after assembling a team of experts to transfer the game to CD and look at it under a microscope, we came to the conclusion that there were two major deal breaking problems with it.

    1. we have no idea how the rating system works.
    2. there is nowhere near enough of it.
    3. we want more of it, and there isn’t more of it.

    I disliked bioshock because, well for all of the reasons other people have said, the gunplay is sluggish, the story is haphazard, blah blah blah. But my real problem with bioshock was that at one point I sat back and said to myself, you know what, I have spent at least 70% of this game rummaging through rubbish bins for food. Thanks a lot Ken, gg.

    • The Random One says:

      That’s why they call it Binfinite.

      *Joke stolen from Twitter

  28. PopeRatzo says:

    C’mon Shadow Warrior. Daddy needs a new pair of video cards.

  29. pilouuuu says:

    Bioshock Infinite: disappointment of the year.

    • Phoibos Delphi says:

      Convincing web of thoughts you spun there! I think you´re right…

      A log of wood (Esq.)

  30. Felixader says:

    Ittle Dew is what the latest Adventure Time Game should have been like.

  31. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Cum RPG? I’m sold!

  32. Jackablade says:

    I imagine Horace is rather like the Magic Pudding – You can eat as much as you like and there’ll always be more to go around. One wonders whether Horace tastes like whatever meat the eater desires.