For some reason, every time I've finished the last couple of games I've bought, my end thought was "This is good, but it won't take Portal 2's place as my Game of the Year". I've never, ever thought about what my personal game of any particular year would be. But this got me thinking what they would be for each of the last few years (ie the PlayStation 3 era, the one I know).Here are my listings so far for 2007-2013.20071. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion2. Uncharted: Drake's Fortune3. Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction20081. Grand Theft Auto IV2. LittleBigPlanet3. Burnout Paradise20091. Brutal Legend2. Skate 23. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves20101. Skate 32. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City3. Dead Rising 220111. Deus Ex: Human Revolution2. Portal 23. LA Noire20121. Sleeping Dogs2. Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition3. Professor Layton and the Miracle MaskHere's some explanations now.2007 was easily the weakest year of gaming PlayStation 3 had. Along with the price, the console was initially ripped apart for it. It did have some goodness though. Brilliant exclusives Uncharted, like a better version of Tomb Raider, and Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, strong sequel to the PS2 series (and the first "proper" R&C game for four years), were followed by ports of other successful games like Elder Scrolls IV and Tony Hawk's Project 8 (which missed the top three despite how much I played it - it was pre-Skate so I'd not moved series at that point). There were other exclusives I enjoyed as well; MotorStorm, the game I got along with the PS3 on its launch, was good fun but mainly just a filler for the space between Burnout Revenge and Burnout Paradise, and Resistance: Fall of Man, a decent enough FPS and perhaps one of the last FPSes I've cared enough about to do that with.Following 2007 was 2008, which was really, really strong in releases. It kills me to put Burnout Paradise as third favourite since I loved it so much, but it unfortunately was released in the same year as the near-perfect Grand Theft Auto IV, and the vastly-community-expanded sandbox-lover's-wet-dream LittleBigPlanet. Had it been released in 2009 it would have been first place. GTAIV tops the list with absolute ease; one of the best game storylines I've ever witnessed (if anyone ever made a Grand Theft Auto TV show I would not remotely complain if they just shoved some real actors into GTAIV's cutscenes and filled the gameplay bits with filler content), along with the best-crafted gaming city I know. Seriously, San Andreas may have been bigger and Vice City glitzier, but IV's rendition of Liberty City is a beautiful, memorable, fun-to-explore take on New York. With a great physics engine that means you can now push people down flights of stairs or trip them up over kerbs, a shooting/covering system I only wish could be transplanted into the PS2-era GTA trilogy (I can't enjoy them as much now I know what IV had), and two expansion packs that only upped its excellence (see 2010) GTAIV has won a permanent place in my heart.2009 was okay at best. Brutal Legend was a stunning game, if not quite as interesting as Double Fine's earlier outing Psychonauts. The only big detractors for me of Brutal Legend were the strategy segments. I cannot stand strategy games, so despite it being difficult I spent most of them in the action style (you can stay omniscient and manage your troops and/or hop down as Eddie Riggs and take them on yourself). Skate 2 ate a ton of my free time, just wandering around the universe. The walking, while present (in Skate you could only skate), was dodgy, and because the entire level was on a hill I always seemed to end up at the bottom of it. But it was an excellent time sink. And Uncharted 2 was pretty fun. I'd have put it higher but, while I find the games very fun, there are others I prefer and that hold the memories better for me. With Uncharted, I play it a ton, finish it in a week, and ignore it forever.Then 2010 came along, and somehow it was worse for me. I enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto IV expansions (I got my Xbox 360 this year), Skate 3 was a fantastic improvement on Skate 2 and once again ate hundreds of hours of my time. There weren't many other games I was truly into in 2010 so I put Dead Rising 2 third, which was fun in short doses and in spite of the ridiculous lack of a "sandbox" mode (you HAVE to do the story, and you HAVE to do certain quests which are far less fun than just killing zombies).2011 was stunning. Best game lineup I've ever seen, and the first year where I had to fight multiple games. Honourable mentions would be Pokémon Black, LittleBigPlanet 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, and Saints Row The Third, all of which I adored. But the best three are headed by Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I was enamoured with it from start to finish (ignoring the bosses). It's one of those games that just let me play it however I damn wanted to. My mate would take a turn and do things all-guns blazing, I got to hide in pipes like a wimp and stealth-kill people. The missions were endearing, the side missions interesting enough, the game was sexy (though very black and orange) - it was just excellent. Narrowly second (I swore this would be first until I touched Deus Ex) was Portal 2. Portal 2 did the odd thing of making me nostalgic for it just days after completing it. While short, it was flat-out hilarious, memorable, stupidly clever - stunning stuff. And third goes to LA Noire, yet another memorable and unique experience. The facial motion tech it displayed was stellar, the game was interesting and long, it was set in a period not often seen in games and... yes, I just loved it.2012 was, for me, the year of the sandbox (weird given GTA didn't get a release that year). As well as finishing Saints Row The Third in 2012, I bought and played through Sleeping Dogs and Batman: Arkham City (the Wii U edition, so it was technically a 2012 release for me). Sleeping Dogs was another great sandbox game, though part of me kept dreaming about GTA V while playing it. Batman was fantastic, I'm surprised I hadn't bought the original version on impulse but it did mean I had a launch game on Wii U that wasn't the meh-tastic ZombiU. Speaking of the WiiU, it had a pretty good launch lineup! Ignoring ZombiU, I enjoyed four of its launch titles a ton - Batman, NintendoLand, New Super Mario Bros U and Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing Transformed. Best launch lineup I've seen for a console in recent memory (hi, PS3!). I put Professor Layton third because I fucking loved that too. I've loved all the Professor Layton games, but Miracle Mask was the best one I've seen since the first one.I predict for 2013 that GTA V will win it (GTA IV remains my favourite 7th Gen game to date), followed by Watch Dogs for PS4 and then... well, I don't know! Let's say Far Cry 3 or Tomb Raider's reboot for now.
Seven pence says you thought I was referring to "Minecraft". Wrong! I'll start my story with it though.Back in August-September 2010, all I ever saw was Minecraft. Minecraft, Minecraft, bloody Minecraft. So I bought it. Four or so months and what I wouldn't be surprised to be upwards of 500 accumulated play hours (~21 days), LittleBigPlanet 2 finally came along and wrenched the diamond pickaxes and 64-cobblestone stacks out of my mitts, replacing them with cute faces and versatile level editors.To my strong annoyance, I lost "something" halfway through the storymode and one published level into LBP2. I don't know what it was I lost. I'm not tired of the game, I'm not disappointed by it. I just can't quite pump up the energy needed to play it. My interest has dwindled.Cue Tombi, the £65 preowned PlayStation 1 game. Amazing, amazing game. I got a bit stuck in it, and plan to finish it. But, while it completely knocked LBP2 out of my schedule, I then got a little craving. A craving I'm all too familiar with. A game which just keeps on coming back into my life, demanding more and more attention. A game I've probably played more than any other (I've certainly sunk hundreds of hours into the entire series), of which I just cannot get enough of.Skate 3.I just don't know why, but the realistic physics, the freeform gameplay, the ability to hit grannies around the face with a skateboard and watch as they taser you for revenge. The ability to video silly clips and upload them to YouTube. The L2+R2+L3+R3 command that makes your skater fall off their board, and the ability to subsequently, or after a running jump, do moves that let you roll around the ground, do headstands or dropkick people. The observatory with a big dam/sewer/deep-rampy-pipe thing that gives you enough momentum to cross the entire goddamn island, hitting the low point, a sports area great for tricks, without actually kicking off once (I love doing this run holding L2+R2 to make the skater hold onto their board with both hands and squat).It's just... argh. Grand Theft Auto IV can do this too - freeform, completely replayable, physics engine that allows for some cracking things (pushing people down stairs or over kerbs or fences and seeing them fall over comically). But I don't know why, but Skate 3 always seems to be "the one". I guess it's the ability to pillock about without fear of death. Hit by a car? Respawn immediately at the same point. Fall off a cliff? *Whack bam smack!* *gets back up*It's a cracking game, and has given me a level of fun Tony Hawk hasn't achieved since Pro Skater 2 - and I'm pretty sure that's just nostalgia, now. It's cheap as hell to buy (I often see brand new copies of Skate 3 going for £10-£15, and nearly-as-good-and-just-as-addictive Skate 2 is even less), and I would whole-heartedly recommend it. The story mode is cack, but you get the entire world to play in and never HAVE to do any missions or tasks. That's where the fun lies.I bet you seven pence I'll preorder Skate 4. You lose.
I've been playing Dead Rising 2 for around half an hour now. I always stick it in when I have a lust for creative, violent bloody mass deaths - baseball bats with nails through, fast slamming sledgehammer shots, or just throwing a chair at zombies' heads and watching them recoil angrily. But I currently can't do that. I have to wait until the in-game time hits between 10 and 11am so I can do a mission. If I don't do this mission, the game kicks me back to the Load Game menu. If I do anything else and lose track of time, I don't get to the mission in time - I have to start it by 11am in-game. One hour in-game is four minutes of real time (nowhere near enough to finish a sidequest or get from a further-away area of the mall to the trigger).And you know what the worst bit of all is? The missions are frequently balls. One a while ago saw me riding a motorbike, chasing down and trying to jump on a train so I could fight my way across the carriages and to the game's main antagonist. It was executed awfully. The motorbike feels like a hoverbike - it floats around and isn't nice to ride. Enemies trying to bomb the bike look naff. Dodging the bombs is a matter of luck - there's no time to react, you're either hit or you're not (though a pipe bomb to the face is only worth one hit point of damage, apparently). The train is clearly in a loop, as the corpses of zombies you haphazardly kill are then passed again a minute later. And the carriage section is pathetic. At one point you have no choice but to walk into enemy fire for several seconds (which again does next to no damage) so you can somehow attack an enemy.But while all this is happening it really makes me wonder why more people don't include a sandbox mode in their games. In some cases it's worse than others. Dead Rising 2 is a bad example - as far as I know there is no way, unlockable or otherwise, to just be able to go around and kill zombies. Whether it's a time limit, the game's constant need to push you in a direction you don't want to go for a mission you don't want to do, the killing of zombies is almost always limited to "en route" - when you have to walk from one destination to another. Grand Theft Auto is a lighter example, but still one nonetheless - you only have to do one or two introductory missions before you are actually free to wander, but then to unlock three quarters of the map and all the fun minigames, weapons, cars etc, you need to progress further through the story. This is hours of your time - unlocking the full map can take 10-20 hours, while actually finishing the game, getting rid of all the little mission blips and things, is more like 30-50.You know what I'd like in GTA? A true sandbox mode. It doesn't have to be connected to the "main game" at all. I want something where I get the whole map instantly. I want a bunch of options that can do things like alter my health (normal health, infinite health, one hit and I'm dead, etc) and ammo (normal, infinite, normal but infinite clip, infinite clip and ammo). I'd love a load of modifiers resembling GTA: San Andreas' and Saints Row 2's cheat lists (if you own either game but haven't played with the cheats, look them up on the internet and go and play with them ASAP - they're amazing) - silly things like superpunch, crashing into other cars making them float away comically, having it rain pedestrians then having dead pedestrians immediately float up to the heavens. Useful/fun things like spawning any vehicle infront of you, or destroying them all, or turning them all bright pink, or turning them all into Smart cars. Stuff like that, for me and I'm sure countless others, would make the game incredibly more fun, while still keeping the normal game 100% intact.Dead Rising 2 would benefit from modifiers I'm sure, but the lack of a mode in which you can just kill zombies is baffling to me. I can only imagine the meetings of the developers, in which nobody even suggested a freeform mode, or the one or two that did were scoffed at by the rest - a group of pretentious pricks deciding none of the game's fans knew what they wanted (I saw tons of requests for such a mode after the original Dead Rising was just as awkward to play).The only way to have any kind of fun like this is to play on PC, but even then nothing official offers anything remotely similar to this. You have to rely on unofficial modifications to bring about sandbox modes (if you've ever played Gmod, aka "Garry's Mod", or seen videos of things made in it on YouTube, you'll know how remarkably fun it is).You can pick any game with "sandbox" gameplay and immediately come up with ideas that could have been implemented was a "sandbox mode" included. A couple of other examples I can come up with spontaneously as I type this:Burnout Paradise: "Invincible traffic checking" - in Revenge, if you rammed a car smaller than yours from behind, it would send them flying and your car would continue unhurt. Imagine how fun it'd be if you could play around, hitting ANY other vehicle, destroying it spectacularly but not throwing you into a multiple-second crash animation. Or what about a simple key press crashing YOU? When it's not part of a race, slow-motion detailed crashes can be fun to watch. You could also have sliders for damage levels, perhaps with a cheeky "Gran Turismo" mode in which no cars ever took any physical damage.Skate 3: To some extent this actually does have a sandbox mode - there's a Free mode in which you can change the density of traffic and pedestrians (no pedestrians = gorgeous), and in any mode you can spawn skating equipment or mode existing equipment/other skatable items like benches and ramps. Could have the ability to spawn pedestrians/traffic wherever desired at will, play with your own physics to allow super-low gravity, slow motion etc (akin to the cheats/tweaks found in the likes of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and 3 - 3 also had a badly executed but fascinating nonetheless "First Person" mode).All my opinion though. I'll still go nuts when the next Grand Theft Auto comes out. It's just that a sandbox mode as suggested above would make me go Marmite Cashews, not regular, bog-standard nuts.