Just a few more hours left in the old year (at least where I live) and then 2013 will be in the books. It’s been a fairly good year for all types of entertainment media, from gaming to movies to television to comic books. Gaming has seen the birth of a new generation of consoles with the PS4 and Xbox One (though Nintendo got the jump on both Sony and Microsoft by releasing the Wii U in 2012), while the current (now previous?) gen is still going strong. A lot of quality games were released over the past twelve months, giving gamers plenty of choices when it came to picking the personal GOTY. Sequels were still the mainstay, with games like Bioshock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V being received well by players and critics alike. The iconic Lara Croft got a makeover, and new IPs like Ni no Kuni and The Last of Us proved to be outstanding additions to our gaming libraries. On the big screen, comic book films continued their strong showing with the likes of Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel. Television had its share of quality viewing as well, with The Walking Dead being as popular as ever and coming on strong in its fourth season with new showrunner Scott Gimple. The DC based comic book show Arrow also started off well in its second season. For those who enjoy reading comics, top writers like Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, and Ed Brubaker all began some great new series.
The year has seen its share of loss in the entertainment world, both in the fictional creations in television and in real life. Paul Walker, the popular star of the Fast and Furious movies, perished in a car crash after attending a charity function. Techno-thriller author Tom Clancy passed away, as did special effects master Ray Harryhausen. The great Peter O’Toole, star of the Oscar winning Lawrence of Arabia, also departed the Earth. On the small screen, the list was just as notable. The motorcycle gang show Sons of Anarchy saw the demise of two main characters in Clay Morrow and Tara Teller. The Governor met his bloody end during the incredible mid-season finale on The Walking Dead. Family Guy dealt with an emotional episode when Brian died as the result of injuries after being hit by a car (though two episodes later he was brought back, thanks to Stewie’s time machine). And all manner of blood was spilled when Rob Stark, his wife, and his mother Catelyn all met their end courtesy of the treachery of Walder Frey in the penultimate episode of the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. And while the main characters didn’t die, Nikita finished its run on the CW with an abbreviated six episode run, capping off one of the best action series on television.
Gaming gave us some great new characters during 2013, and story telling seemed to be especially strong in games throughout the year. We got to go to some new locales, like the floating city of Columbia, as well as visiting familiar climes from past outings like San Andreas. Studio Ghibli and Level 5 combined to give us a charming interactive animated film to play through in Ni no Kuni. We witnessed some emotional moments, like Joel losing his daughter in the beginning of The Last of Us and the death of Songbird in Bioshock Infinite. Telltale Games returned with the opening episodes of the new series The Wolf Among Us and Season Two of The Walking Dead, giving us two great games where choice really does matter. There were some ups and downs for gamers, hitting highs like the endings of both Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, the open worlds of GTA V and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and the wonderful indie games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Spelunky, Hotline Miami, and Stealth, Inc.
The low points were present in a variety of ways. Ride to Hell: Retribution, was definitely an exercise in how not to make a videogame, with gameplay, graphics, and voice acting that wouldn’t have fared well on the PSOne. The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct couldn’t hold a candle to Telltale Games Walking Dead, even with Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker voicing the Dixon brothers. The laughable first person shooter mechanics and ugly graphics just gave the game the feeling of being rushed to market to cash in on the franchise’s success. Another attempt to cash in on a popular franchise also failed miserably with Gearbox botching Aliens: Colonial Marines, which would have gotten my Worst Game of the Year award had it known been for the sad existence of Ride to Hell: Retribution.
In between the highs and lows were those very different moments. Puppeteer is an absolute charming platformer as you follow Kutaro on his adventures after the Moon King has stolen his head. Presented like a stage play complete with a narrator and a live audience that cheers and gasps with the events in the game, Puppeteer had a number of great moments, ranging from some excellent boss battles to hilarious musical numbers. Not quite as charming but most definitely different was Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut on the PS3. The game is basically a survival horror murder mystery following FBI agent Morgan tracking a killer in the small town of Greenvale. Graphically, the game looks more like it would have been at home on the last generation of consoles, but despite its looks it is one of the more oddly compelling games that I’ve played over the past year. By turns creepy, absurd, funny, and utterly ridiculous, Deadly Premonitions is a perfect homage to the David Lynch TV show Twin Peaks, right down to its agent ‘s obsession with a good cup of coffee. It won’t be for everyone, but those looking for a different gaming experience may want to check it out.
The big screen gave us plenty of great moments as well, giving us a movie worthy of the iconic character of Superman with Man of Steel, treating us to some awesome giant monster on giant robot action in Pacific Rim, chilling us with the very creepy main character in the thriller Stoker, and taking us back to Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. We got some decent sci-fi along the way (Oblivion, Elysium), had some sequels that fared better than their predecessors (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World) and some that were decidedly less in quality ( A Good Day to Die Hard, The Hangover III). We got to see the White House wrecked twice (Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down) and saw an iconic Western hero fall flat on his face (The Lone Ranger). Low budget horror films may not have provided much in the way of scares (The Purge, The Conjuring), but they did well enough at the box office to make their production costs back and then some. Overall, Hollywood enjoyed a lucrative year at the movies, taking in an estimated 11 billion in box office receipts.
And 2014 looks to continue the trend for quality entertainment. The two new kids on the console block will be getting more games, some of which are looking very good in what the developers have shown so far. Respawn’s Titanfall looks like it will be a huge hit on the Xbox One, and Bungie looks to have a winner in its multiplatform Destiny. The PS4 looks to have some excellent adventure titles coming in Second Son and The Order: 1886. Both generations will share the next outing in the Metal Gear Solid saga, Ground Zeroes, as well as the ambitious looking sequel Dragon Age: Inquisition. Thief is set to return in a new outing across the consoles in February, along with a Castlevania sequel. Those who enjoy dying can do so again when Dark Souls II releases in March. HD versions of Tales of Symphonia, Final Fantasy X/X-2, and Kingdom Hearts 2 will all be released in 2014. Two other entries from the Tales franchise, Tales of Xillia 2 and Tales of Zestiria, will also be making their appearance on Sony’s console. And we’ll get to do some parkour running through zombies in Dying Light.
The movies have plenty to offer too. Comic book films once again will dominate, beginning with Captain America: Winter Soldier in April and continuing with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past in May, and introducing us to Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and the rest in Guardians of the Galaxy in August. The biggest, baddest giant monster of them all returns in Godzilla in May, from Monsters director Gareth Edwards. The iconic Disney villain Maleficent gets her own live action flick starring Angeline Jolie in the title role. The Spartans get to lay waste to their foes again in 300: Rise of an Empire. And we get one more trip to Middle-Earth, courtesy of Peter Jackson in the third Hobbit movie, There and Back Again. On the small screen, we have the return of series like Arrow and The Walking Dead, as well as the new surprise hit Sleepy Hollow. Justified begins its new season in January, and Game of Thrones returns to HBO at the end of March. And on Starz, Black Sails makes its debut, giving us what looks to be a pirate series that could be as fun as AC IV: Black Flag was as a pirate game.
All in all, 2013 was a great year for the stuff that entertains us, and 2014 looks to be bringing us even more goodies to enjoy. What did you like about 2013? Did its movies, games, and shows live up to your expectations? What are you looking forward to in the new year? Let us know in the comments below, and on behalf of the writers and staff here at leetgamers.asia, I wish you all a healthy and Happy New Year.
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