New Feature Will Allow You To Share Your Steam Games With Closest Friends

RequestingAccess

Valve announced today that they are developing the beta for a new feature called Steam Family Sharing that will allow you to share your Steam library with close friends, just like you are lending them a physical game.

Though the full details are still unknown, the basic way the system appears to work is that up to 10 authorized friends can request to access your Steam account and download and play, through the cloud, most games you have available, and vice versa. To prevent abusing the system, if the user whose account you are borrowing from accesses their own account while you are using it, even if they are playing a different game than you are, you will be given a prompt that you have a few minutes to buy the game, or you will be kicked out.

Further details reveal that not every game will be available for sharing, though the specific games are unknown, and that purchased in-game items will not carry over to sharing, though it appears that DLC will. Also actions that can affect reputation in a game that are done by the player borrowing said game will carry over to the lender.

Though a few concerns and questions remain (Can a lender access his account when a game is installing to the borrower? If you’ve installed the game over the cloud and choose to buy it, does it have to be re-installed?) this is a tremendous idea that has been rumored for some time, but is still a welcome and exciting addition to Steam that provides a great opportunity to try out games that don’t usually have demos, as well as revive the borrowing concept, albeit in a slightly limited fashion.

Steam is accepting early beta applications now, while the release date for the full version is unknown.

Nintendo is Once Again Showing That Nothing Can be Old if it is Timeless

Between the hype, and controversy, around “Bioshock: Infinite”, big upcoming titles like “Grand Theft Auto V” and “The Last of Us,” and Sony and Microsoft’s next gen consoles drawing their initial buzz, there hasn’t been much press from Nintendo, especially considering the somewhat disappointing sales for the Wii U, and how badly they could use some good publicity right now.

However recently Nintendo has unleashed a plethora of news via their Nintendo direct service, that reveals that things have in fact been very busy at the mushroom kingdom.

Among quite a few announcements are a new “Yoshi’s Island,” a re-released “Donkey Kong Country,” a new “Mario Party,” a new “Mario and Luigi” RPG title, a new “Mario Golf,” a sequel to “A Link to the Past,” and, by far the biggest news at all, the long, long, long awaited US and European re-release of the cult classic “Earthbound,” which is now automatically the best game on the Wii U.

I’d say that’s quite a lot of new titles in a short span, but that’s not exactly true is it? Most of the big announcements are sequels, remakes, or re-releases, with nary a strictly new property in sight. For most companies this would be seen as lazy at the least, but Nintendo isn’t exactly most companies are they?

Instead this is not only a satisfying announcement for fans, but a smart one for Nintendo as well. It’s not a stretch to say that the Wii U and 3DS aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, so Nintendo is doing what they always do in times past when they need to spark a system sale or two, and that’s go to the franchise well. Sure they’re drawing deeper from the well than usual (an “Earthbound” re-release pretty much scrapes the bottom), but they’ve proven before that they have the ability to use these franchises to not only boost figures, but show other developers new and exciting ways to creatively explore their hardware (though the Wii U could still use some more Nintendo love).

Whether or not that ends up being case here, if you’re a Nintendo loyalist, you’re about to get a wave of highly anticipated titles that, if history stands true, will be of equally high quality. For everyone else, it’s a reminder that even at this point in the game, Nintendo’s big guns change the focus of any war.

Metal Gear Solid Returns, but David Hayter Will Not

In an age of 24 hour news coverage, it’s nearly impossible to pull a surprise game announcement off anymore, as leaks happen everywhere and many people have become jaded to the point of trying to actively guess surprises, lest they be accused of being caught off guard.

So when Hideo Kojima revealed that the mysterious upcoming release “The Phantom Pain” is in fact “Metal Gear Solid 5,” he pulled of one of the few genuinely surprising game announcements of recent memory, even though there will be a vocal contingent that suggests otherwise.

The real shock though would come later as famed video game voice actor David Hayter (who’s been the voice of Solid Snake since “Metal Gear Solid” for the Playstation) revealed he would not be reprising his famed role for the new title.

While seemingly of good spirits about the decision, when questioned if he was even asked to do the role, Hayter responded simply “nope.”

Now there are some possibilities of why this is. Without trying to break down the entire convoluted “Metal Gear” story to this point, there is a possibility that the Snake in this game does not chronologically sync with the Solid Snake Hayter famously portrayed (he could be younger). The only thing is, another character that is almost definitely in the game, Hayter also voiced in the series around the appropriate chronological time, adding some more “Huh?” to the confounding announcement.

Also the, possibly temporary, new Snake actor sounds kind of like a young gravely Christian Bale “Batman”, as opposed to the undisputed bad ass you get from Hayter.

Admittedly I was upset when I first heard this news. Traditionally video game voice actors do not upstage the characters they play, but Hayter became one of the few exceptions. His work is instantly iconic, and completely inseparable from the character to the point of becoming a large factor in many gamers preferring the English audio of the series to the original Japanese, which is a rare occurrence.

Ideally, animation (or computer programming) would give you the advantage of maintaining an iconic actor and not having to worry about the years ruining the physical attributes of the character they play. For instance James Bond needs new actors, while Homer Simpson does not.

Then again this may all be another Kojima ruse to rile the fanbase (if so, mission accomplished). Somehow though, it doesn’t feel like that, and instead sounds like a true goodbye to one of video gaming’s most important voices. Hayter’s work helped not only build one of gaming’s biggest franchises, but also helped show that cinematic video gaming was not only possible, it could excel.

Gaming’s Most Evil Religious Figures

With the pope announcing his surprising retirement, the Catholic church and its followers are abuzz not just about the incident, but about who will take the position next.

With a wealth of candidates available though, there shouldn’t be much problem finding a suitable replacement, which is more than can be said about the spiritual world in video games where paragons of holy virtue and guidance are few and far between. In fact it’s quite the opposite as some of gaming’s greatest villains derive from the world of religion.

To show you how bad the problem is, here are a few of gaming’s most despicable religious leaders.

Important Note: This is in no way shape or form a commentary on any real religion or religious figures including, but not limited to, the pope or the Catholic church. This is just for fun.

Oh and spoilers. Spoilers are ahead.

Allegro Rasputin of the First Church of LeChuck – “Escape From Monkey Island”

The exact doctrines, words, and many basic day to day functions of the First Church of LeChuck are a mystery to many. It’s origins, however, are very clear as priest Allegro Rasputin was murdered by the ghost pirate LeChuck, and even made to view his still beating pancreas prior to death, while out at sea. Initially upset, the priest came to respect LeChuck for his capabilities and founded a church in his honor.

And what a church it is. Built into a volcano, and resembling a skull castle, the church has a river of lava flowing through it used in weddings so couples can become ghosts, and live together eternally, at the end of the journey. The rest of the church is a none too subtle tribute to LeChuck himself, and Rasputin’s primary goal is stopping the enemy of his deity, Guybrush Threepwood.

While not gaming’s deepest religion, for sheer tenacity, dedication, and even style, the Church of LeChuck is one of gaming’s most memorable religious institutions, and Rasputin’s devoutness to stopping our hero is equal to his faith

The Prophet of Truth of the Covenant Religion – “Halo”

It was “Halo 2” where gamers discovered that the hard fighting and no-nonsense alien enemies known as the Covenant were actually a deeply religious society with a strong sense of organization and hierarchy.

Atop that hierarchy are a series of prophets, and amongst those prophets is the clear leader, the Prophet of Truth. His mission is to lead his people in seeking out and activating the halo installations of the ancient, yet far advanced, people known as the forerunners. They believe that once the rings are activated, they will achieve a form of ascension and become eternal. They are actually aware, that while they have a slim chance of elevation, that completing this mission will more or less result in the complete destruction of every known thing.

Being a real fanatic is both the reason behind the rise to power, and the fall of the Prophet of Truth. While many villains have promised the end of the world or universe, few did it with the smug sense of satisfaction, and feeling of purpose as the Prophet of Truth.

Craig Markoff of Unitology –“Dead Space”

While the Church of Unitology’s primary figure is Michael Altman, one of the true spearheads of the movement is military man Craig Markoff.

A cleverly veiled allusion to Scientology in many ways, the Church of Unitology plays an integral role in the “Dead Space” series, and revolves around the fabled markers, which are artifacts of mysterious power. Formed in a time of dwindling religious beliefs, the church promoted a message of harmony and peace which caught on quickly and turned them into a real power. One of their principle ideas is not burying the dead, and instead keeping their bodies on spaceships waiting to be re-born. In reality, they are aware of the limited power of the marker to grant new and eternal life, though it often results in creating unspeakable atrocities. These incidents were written off as anomalies with manageable spiritual factors contributing to them.

A true and horrible evil in every way, Markoff is one of gaming’s great villains. He cleverly used  Altman as a figurehead of virtue shielding him from the many, many atrocities he would commit, and his tenacity in refusing to waiver from his claims, is nearly unprecedented.

Morpheus of the Children of the Cathedral – “Fallout”

“Fallout” is full of religions, and while the nuclear bomb worshiping Children of the Atom get all of the attention, it is the leader of the Children of the Cathedral that gets my nod.

A servant of The Master (a downright terrifying mutant, human, computer hybrid), Morpheus is an old styled southern preacher who is clever, extremely charismatic, and downright volatile. Morpheus doesn’t believe The Master to be a god as others in the church do, but he has no qualms with using the influence of the church for his own means, and is a loyal servant of him all the same.

Much like Markoff, Morpheus is a pure evil as it gets, as his short temper and selfish ambitions only further his insatiable ego. It’s one thing to take advantage of people’s spiritual beliefs to further your own causes, but to do so at the end of world when all other hope has gone? Damn.

Sergius XVII of the Ormus Religion – “Xenosaga”

One of gaming’s greatest and most complex universes is that of the “Xenosaga” games. Fittingly, it also contains one of the deepest and most complex religions in all of gaming, the Ormus religion.

It would be impossible to sum up the religion entirely here, but it is spearheaded by the patriarch Sergius XVII and is actually an evolutionary offshoot of modern day Christianity. Their main objective is to recover the mysterious Zohar artifact, and use it to defeat the equally mysterious, and troublesome, Gnosis. Sergius XVII, also has personal ambitions to use this event to further the Ormus’s reach and influence, which is already considerable as the religion has power in nearly every meaningful aspect of society.

A victim of absolute power, it’s easy to write off Sergius XVII as simply “evil”, but his motives and intentions are instead a mix of the blindingly noble and the sadistically misguided. Because of this, he stands as one of the deepest, most influential, and in many ways the most realistically flawed of all of gaming’s evil religious figures, making him more memorable than the usual snarling types.

Sources Say to Look for “Killzone 4″ at the Playstation 4′s Launch…But is it Enough?

If so called anonymous sources are to be believed, you can expect “Killzone 4” to be releasing alongside the Playsation 4 later this year. Those same source goes on to say the unveiling of the game could coincide with the assumed Playstation 4 reveal that Sony has planned for February 20th.

Sony has no official response to the claim.

Though the development of the “Killzone” franchise is handled by Guerilla Games, and is nearly their sole project, the “Killzone” franchise was originally intended as Sony’s sponsored “Halo killer,” in a time when all other companies were looking for such a thing. The original installment was generally well received, though no one was confusing it with Microsoft’s flagship shooter, and the reaction was almost universally more of a whimper.

It was “Killzone 2” and it’s “is it live or Memorex?” trailer that brought the series into real prominence and, since that installment, the franchise has both evolved into a much superior shooter, and is often referred to as one of the premier Playstation exclusives, along with a title that, much like “Mario,” is often associated with the launch of new Sony hardware (though the PS3 had to settle for “Resistance”).

For all of its improvements though, the franchise is still not a world stopping launch title.

“Killzone” is a fun game to be sure, but it never managed to reach the heights of the “Halo” series, or truly separate itself in the over-saturated FPS market (despite a rabid fanbase). This puts Sony in an awkward position, as a lot of other big name franchises they have available either have a game most likely still releasing on the Playstation 3 (“God of War,” Quantic Dream’s “Beyond Two Souls,” “Demon’s Souls”) or have no assumed plans for a new installment (“Little Big Planet,” “Uncharted,” a true new “Metal Gear Solid”)

It looks like “Killzone 4” is set to be the premier launch game for the PS4 then and, unless Sony has some serious hardware lined up, or a real surprise title in store, all parties concerned should be taking that position very seriously as the franchise is going to have to be the one thing it never was before for this to work, and that is a true killer app.

The Greatest (Non-Licensed) Super Hero Games

Until very recently, the world of comic book video games have been an up and down realm of quality, as two mediums that you would think should work harmoniously, end up clashing when it comes to the final product.

The fields become even murkier when talking about comic book video games that aren’t based on existing properties, of which there are astonishingly few. Developers seem to be in no hurry to create super hero style games of their own design, making the sub-genre a near non-existent species. Don’t take that to mean there aren’t standouts in the field though as gamers have, on rare occasion, been granted some truly inspired comic book champions, based on no specific comic at all.

So true believers and gamers everywhere, here are the five best non-licensed super hero video games.

Comix Zone

Ok, so the hero of “Comix Zone” isn’t your traditional super hero, but I could never forgive myself if I didn’t take his opportunity to talk about this Sega Genesis gem.

“Comix Zone” puts you into the role of comic artist Sketch Turner as he jumps into one of his own creations, and attempts to save the day, side scrolling game style. “Comix Zone” had a lot of fun with the concept, as stages are broken into comic panels that you actively traverse. The first time you see your character jump to the next panel is a thrilling moment in smart gaming design, and the feeling never goes away as the game continuously explores the better uses of the idea, and never stops having fun with it. This is especially evident in moments like the artist intervening to finish a drawing, power ups that let you manipulate the stages for attacks, or the ability to become an unstoppable traditional hero momentarily, and the general straight from the comics graphics.

“Comix Zone” is brutally difficult and cruelly short, but even over the years it has remained noteworthy for all the original reasons, and remains a must play for fans of super hero games.

City of Heroes

In a massively multiplayer online world filled with raging medival fantasy style hordes, darkness and uncertainty reigned, as the people searched for a beacon of originality. A champion of a new day. Along came “City of Heroes”, a liberator from the same old, same old.

Like so many other MMO’s “City of Heroes” was rough around the edges when first released, but still immediately presented an alternative to the more traditional MMO, that was accessible, wildly entertaining, quicker paced, and so damn fun, as you created a super hero to patrol a thriving metropolis with others. The hero creation process maybe the game’s best feature, as it allowed you to truly play a role that was uniquely yours (the whole point of the genre remember) and create a perfect facsimile of your favorite super hero, or something entirely unique. From there you could form super groups, demolish massively underpowered muggers, or just generally live out your super hero fantasies with a level of depth never before granted.

It was a sad, sad day when NCsoft dropped “City of Heroes”, as we will probably never see a game like it again. It still stands tall though as perhaps gaming’s greatest tribute to the golden age of comics.

Freedom Force

Actually if “City of Heroes” isn’t gaming’s greatest comic tribute, it might be “Freedom Force”.

If you’ve never played it, think of it as “Baldur’s Gate” for super heroes. While not quite as grand and near flawless as that series, it does echo that franchise’s level of world depth as everything from character design to histories and motives are so detailed that it’s almost impossible to believe that it wasn’t based on one specific pre-existing long running comic series. It does, however, take cues from just about every single golden age comic, and the love for that source material is so glowing that it will make any comic fan uncontrollably grin while playing it. Comic game’s live and die by their sense of style, an “Freedom Force” thrives from it. Trying to summarize it all would be an insult to the work put into it.

“Freedom Force” took a novel concept and ran with it with such authority that it assured gamers no one could ever take a swing at the idea again, and certainly wouldn’t be able to do it with near the creative level of completeness that “Freedom Force” achieved.

Infamous

A first look at “Infamous” doesn’t make it scream “Super Hero Game”. The first time you play it though, you realize that it is one of gaming’s most original super hero creations.

You find yourself playing as Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger who, due to an accident, suddenly finds himself with the ability to manipulate electricity. Cole’s path from here is unclear as the player guides him on the path to becoming a great super hero or super villain, and watch his powers evolve and shape based on those decisions. It carried on the open world, task based super hero game idea that “Spider-Man 2” made popular, and, due in large part to some fascinating uses for the electrical manipulation powers of Cole, things rarely became stale as you were constantly uncovering new uses for the abilities and, thanks to the creative prowess of developer Sucker Punch (creators of the Sly Cooper series), constantly entertained by a strong plot and the comic book style story interludes that drove it.

“Infamous” was one of the first must have PS3 exclusives and, as proven by the eerily similar “Prototype” released around the same time, is a difficult to execute idea pulled off to near perfection here. It represents gaming’s most original stab at the idea of a modern super hero tale.

Viewtiful Joe

Taking its cues not just from comic books, but cartoons and film as well, “Viewtiful Joe” is an incredible sensory overload.

It was Capcom’s glorious big name return to the 2D action genre, and it paid tribute to just about everything the average gamer grew up loving, including video games itself. However, there is no doubt that “Viewtiful Joe” is a super hero, and his powers of time and distance manipulation are original, and uniquely used in ways like slowing down time to take out helicopters (their blades can spin fast enough). In any other developers hands, the amount of things “Viewtiful Joe” throws at you would become overwhelming, and may eventually lose the intended effect. In the skilled possession of one of the all time great developers in Capcom though, the game is a textbook example of how to properly implement the feeling of handling a super hero in a video game, and of the 2D action genre as well.

Considering it’s all time great pedigree, near flawless execution, and commitment to making every frame and moment an absolute and original blast of creative wonderment, I’m ready to call “Viewtiful Joe” gaming’s greatest original super hero creation.

Henshin-a-go-go, baby!

Massachusetts is Banning Light Gun Games…But I Can’t Forget Them

Recently, Massachusetts made the decision to ban light gun arcade shooters from its state operated rest stops, due in no small part to the Sandy Hook shootings, and the renewed attention they have brought to violent video games.

It’s a knee jerk, most likely ineffective, but sympathetically understandable move that is sure to inspire all kinds of debate. Not to make light of the move, or the situations surrounding it, but mostly what the initiative got me thinking about was how awesome light gun shooters were. Along with fighting games and side scrolling brawlers, the light gun shooter genre is one that is immediately associated with arcades, and is sure to unleash a torrent of memories when you invoke its name among the proper group

As that’s exactly what happened with me, I couldn’t resist and had to take the opportunity to highlight some of the greatest the genre has to offer.

House of the Dead 2

Believe it or not, there was a time the argument could be made that there weren’t enough zombie games on the market.

Even in that dark age, there was still “House of the Dead”. The zombie invasion light gun shooter was a breath of fresh air with its old school gothic atmosphere and intense horror chokepoints. The worlds of horror and light gun shooting didn’t clash very often, and while that’s a shame, it might just be because this series did it perfectly to begin with. The best entrant was “House of the Dead 2”, as its branching storyline, great boss fights, inspired overall design, and awesomely bad dialogue and story provided an all time classic that was so enjoyable it made a successful port to the Dreamcast, and inspired an unlikely, and incredible, keyboard skills based spin-off in “Typing of the Dead”.

Even in the now overcrowded zombie video game market, “House of the Dead 2” remains one of the best of all time.

Time Crisis 3

A staple of arcades, rest stops, and movie theaters everywhere, the “Time Crisis” series is the rockstar of the arcade light gun shooter market.

While its pedal based cover system was particularly innovative, at its most basic it did everything that every light gun shooter did well, but just better and more intense. “Time Crisis 2” may have been the most important of the series with its two player mode that would split the players along separate paths in a stage, it’s “Time Crisis 3’s” multi weapon system, and best of everything mentality, that gets the nod here.

“Time Crisis” is the poster child of everything great about light gun shooters, and to this day warrants dropping a quarter or two into when you pass one by.

Silent Scope

Konami’s light gun shooter series took an inspired approach to the genre by placing the player into the role of an elite sniper.

Sporting one of the most incredible light gun peripherals ever, players would move around the screen and use the LCD scope of the rifle controller to zoom into an area and eliminate the target. The sensation was exactly that of being an elite sniper, as you oversaw an area with extreme prejudice at your disposal, and the feeling of overwhelming power you enjoyed was only possible thanks to the arcade experience provided chiefly by the functionality of the  rifle controller. Thankfully, it also retained the over the top story and situations of traditional light gun shooters.

The console ports of this one just never worked without the rifle controller, but if you got the chance to try it in its native format, you were lucky indeed.
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“Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time” Just Became a Real Steal

If you ever hear someone drone on longingly about the “Sly Cooper” series, understand that it is because it’s one of “those games”. There wasn’t much hype around the first game, so anyone that played it usually did so under unique circumstances, and were met with a title that was simply charming. It may have been rough around the edges, but the mounds of charm that emitted from the title combined with some great stealth-lite gameplay to produce something that made you want to scream its praises to anyone within earshot

It’s that type of reaction that led to a continuation of the series, that will carry on with the upcoming “Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time”. Until recently, the only good reason you needed to be excited for Sly 4 was Sly 1-3. However, there’s now an even better reason to snatch up the game like a thieving raccoon, considering that it will now only cost $39.99 for the PS3 version and $29.99 for the PS Vita. We also know that the PS3 version will include a downloadable copy of the Vita version as part of Sony’s “Cross-Buy” initiative.

Clearly, that makes this a hell of a deal. In fact, considering that all we hear about is the rising costs of video game production, some are considering this usually joyful announcement of a cheaper AAA video game to be suspicious. The concerns are that this will somehow lead to a very short game, or one that the developers are somehow worried about going over well. This has led to a marketing manager at Sony assuring people that this is not a cover up or ploy, but rather a way to make sure as many people as possible get a chance to play the game.

Of course, even if it is somehow true that this price cut is a preemptive measure for something the developers know that we don’t, this is still a generous move that all PS3 gamers should take note of when Sly 4 is released on February 5th in North America.

Games to Avoid During a Hangover

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

*shhhh!!*

Oh, right…sorry. I almost forgot most of you are probably dying of hangovers today after the biggest drinking night of the year. Hopefully, you’ve managed to secure the day off to rest and recover, and maybe you’re even taking the time to catch up on some video games.

If so, that’s a great choice. However, not all video games are created equally, and some were most certainly not designed with a hangover in mind. That being the case, if you’re truly looking to recover from your misery, I would suggest avoiding the following games, in the way you couldn’t avoid that last shot of tequila.

Hotline Miami

I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about “Hotline Miami”, but it is one of the true hidden gems of 2012. It’s a no holds bar killing spree, that provides  a variety of tools of death for the player, and set them loose in an ultra stylish retro Miami to cause unchecked havoc while wearing a variety of power inducing masks. It’s flashy, intense, and full of the best kind of mayhem.

In other words, it’s exactly the type of game you should avoid today. Besides all of the flashing lights irritating your headache, you’ve also got to deal with a pretty serious challenge level that can frustrate you even in times of saintly levels of previous alcohol consumption. But by far the biggest reason you should stay away from “Hotline Miami” is the out of your mind storyline. “Hotline Miami” is designed to play with your sanity, and is not the kind of thing you want to wrap your head around when it’s busy swimming in a sea of jackhammers.

Definitely play “Hotline Miami”, just not today.

Fez

I’ll sing the praises of “Fez” to anyone who will listen. Not only does it carefully and casually re-invent the most classic of genres (the 2D platformer), it does it while still producing a very entertaining game. It’s one of the best of the year, and possibly beyond.

Avoid it like the plague with a hangover though. Fez’s multi-dimensional worlds require you to put some serious thought into the layout, and makes every movement, and decision a puzzle in its own right. Considering you might be having trouble getting your head around making a properly laid out sandwich at the moment, you probably don’t want to tackle such a mind, and level, bending journey today.

FTL

Much like “Hotline Miami”, I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about “FTL” yet, and hate to only do so here when telling you to avoid it.

However, as brilliant as “FTL’s” spaceship simulation gameplay is, it also requires a series of life and death micromanagement decisions. In its most intense moments, it’s like playing several games of chess at once, and can be unbelievably frustrating as you hopelessly try to salvage what remains of your mission around every turn. Considering you may currently be trying to re-build every aspect of your own life after a night of personal destruction, I wouldn’t try to take on intergalactic problems as well.

Borderlands 2

Everybody has hangover cures, but truthfully the best way to go is some vitamins, some liquids, maybe a couple of aspirin, and of course plenty of rest.

You’ll get none of this with “Borderlands 2”.It’s a game that begs you to devote hours and hours into exploring its unique and incredibly deep world filled with jokes, style, and weapons galore. Playing “Borderlands 2” is signing yourself up for another long night filled with misguided debauchery, and will only serve to making tomorrow just as miserable as today. It’s siren song is irresistible, so go nowhere near this time consuming temptress.

Spec Ops: The Line

In general, you should avoid shooters on a day of a hangover. They’re loud, big, intense, and don’t offer the kind of serene environment of recovery you could so desperately use right now.

A special mention must go to avoiding “Spec Ops” with a hangover though, as it’s storyline forces you to really face the atrocities of war head on as you dive into a plot that will see you, and everyone around you, grow in impactful ways as the horrors of the modern world re-shape them. Since you’re probably wrestling with some moral conundrums of your own after last night, you should probably not shoulder these burdens as well.

Five Reasons 2013 Will Be One of Gaming’s Greatest Years

While individual  game releases will always (deservedly) get most of the love, there is nothing like a truly great overall year of gaming. Even though it’s never an intended effect, it’s amazing when a group of independent properties come together to create an incredible 365, or 366 if we’re talking leap years, days of gaming. Years like 2001 (“Halo: CE,” “Grand Theft Auto III,” “Final Fantasy X”), 2007 (“Bioshock,” “Portal,” “Mass Effect”), and, of course, the greatest of them all, 1998 (featuring the holy trinity of “Metal Gear Solid,” “Half-Life,” and “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”) represent some of the best times ever to be a gamer.

And 2013 has the potential to join, or even exceed, all of them. Thanks to some fortunate timing, and a few delays, it’s looking to be a landmark year of video gaming that will be remembered for many, surely lesser, years to come. While there are many, many reasons for this, here are five that lead me to believe that 2013 in gaming will be one for the ages.

Mobile Gaming is Coming Into Its Own

“Serious” gamers may look down on the mobile gaming market, but it’s time that all gamers realize that we’ve come a long, long way from “Doodle Jump”. Now, instead of being an outlet for puzzlers, tower defense titles, and slightly lesser console ports, mobile gaming is producing intriguing and inventive titles at a rapid pace, due in large part to a sea of developers making use of the simpler programming on mobile devices, and the still interesting touch controls, to provide a constant, and often cheap, flow of amazing games on the go. Since the explosion in tablet sales over the last couple of years, we’re even starting to see more titles developed specifically with their larger sized screens and more powerful abilities in mind.

There hasn’t really been a truly noteworthy traditional handheld gaming system since the Nintendo DS, but thankfully an ever growing community has slowly turned a platform that was only used for brief sessions of “Snake” in your downtime, to one of the most exciting fields for surprising high quality video game releases. Expect this to continue in 2013.

The Next Generation Begins

As the Wii U is proving, a new console doesn’t have to blow minds to still produce some genuine excitement and huge sales numbers. While nothing from the other major gaming companies is official, it’s looking more and more likely that 2013 will bring gamers the next generation of Xbox and Playstation consoles (even if it is only a preview at the least). While that means that gamers will have to soon be plucking down some serious cash on new consoles, accessories and games (not to mention still trying to keep up with the releases still to come for the previous consoles), there is nothing more exciting than the promise of a new gaming generation.

Soon battle lines will be drawn once again as gamers choose their alliances, and new specs and features will again re-shape what we thought was possible in the medium. This has been a great console lifecycle, but it’s gone on for longer than usual, and it’s time for a new day to begin.

People Are Choosing the Games They Want, and What They Want in Games

One of the biggest changes to gaming over the last year or two has been the influence of sites like Kickstarter (or more recently Steam’s “Greenlight” program). Now, developers have open forums where they can present their ideas and let the community decide their interest in them, and even help by directly funding the titles. Even though the road to success is not guaranteed, it’s now easier than ever for a good idea to see life, and for gamers to help make sure the games they want get a chance.

But this isn’t just about sites like those. It’s also about events like “Mass Effect 3′s” optional new endings, or “Bioshock: Infinite’s” alternate cover. Now, more than ever, gamers have the ability to directly influence the decisions of major developers, and have a word about the final product. While this is a controversial move, the fact that the average gamer now has so much power to directly influence the titles available to them will have some major, and intriguing, implications in the coming year.

Influence of 2012’s Biggest Games

2012 was not one of those all-time great years of gaming I mentioned, but it did have some all-time great games. It’s natural to build off of what came before, and in the case of 2013, that could mean some exciting and sweeping changes across several genres.

Particularly, look for the success of “The Walking Dead” to lead to a revival of the traditional point and click genre, as well as a greater focus on the effect of storytelling in games. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the indie hit “Slender” put horror game developers back to the drawing board to come up with some fresh ideas for the genre (and veer it away slightly from the growing action elements), and if the praise that “Far Cry 3” is garnering expands the aging FPS market into more of the sandbox gaming territory.  Other less likely, but equally welcome innovations would be if more all-star developers got together on independent properties like in “Dishonored,” or if other long dead franchises get exciting resurrections like “XCOM,” or even if “Journey” inspires people to look towards developing with art, and not violence, more in mind.

Whatever the final influences may be, 2012 showed there are still some exciting places for gaming to go. 2013 might just take us to all of them.

That Lineup…

Oh sweet heaven, the amazing lineup of 2013. While you can never guarantee that any game will be great no matter how it may look, with 2013 set to deliver no less than “Grand Theft Auto V,” “Bioshock: Infinite,” “Last of Us,”  “Watch Dogs,” “Crysis 3,” “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time,” “Simcity,” “Command and Conquer Generals 2” and the new “Tomb Raider,” it’s very likely that we are going to get a host of instant classics.

Of course, that’s just some of the games that we actually know about. Many of the best games of this year came out of nowhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the best game of 2013 is one that no one is talking about yet. Even in an ever expanding industry, at the end of the day games are still king, and the games set for 2013 are some of the most exciting that I’ve seen in a long time.

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