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You will see games old and new, but they are all titles well worth playing.

Far Cry 3 by Tim Kennett

Far Cry 3 is a game about an island. It’s an island I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, but I’ve had to wait to take the trip until this Steam Winter Sale. The island is quite large and very beautiful, particularly at sunset when you zip along from bay to bay in your boat, rose-tinted sky refracted by the rolling sea, or when you climb climb climb out of the jungle as high as you can go and you break finally from the jungle’s overpowering tree line and you realise you’re at the top of a mountain and you gaze down at a living, exited topography.

The island, like most islands, can be dangerous as well as beautiful. Once I got eaten by a komodo dragon. Later, when I was trying to skin a shark, another shark bit me, and, despite flailing at it desperately, I drowned. Sometimes you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.

Also, the island is filled with crazy human-trafficking men who all wear red and occasionally throw molotov cocktails at you. It is this feature that least recommends it as a holiday destination. Except for the discerning tourist who enjoys sneaking in bushes and in mud for the patient opportunity to thrust a barbed wicked machete through another man’s trachea, to feel it lodge on cartilage and then to triumphantly rip it through, the bloody fountain of another life’s exhaustion a justification for your prolonged masculinity. This is the kind of tourist I am; I get tattoos to record and celebrate these small victories, cheated from the jungle.

Heavy Rain by Chadwick Harman

When was the last time you experienced a panic attack? I hope recently…. wait… this isn’t a good lead in. Let me try something else.

Often a game transcends being a game and becomes a part of life, its then you know you’ve found something special. Over the last year I’ve played several games that have drastically changed my view of the gaming landscape. This was a great year for gaming. However, the majority of the games I played had little to do with the 2013 scene. Enter….

Heavy Rain. It was developed for the Playstation 3 back in 2010 (that’s four years ago… crap) by a developer called Quantic Dream. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? I hadn’t. No, at that point in life my exposure to indie developers was Minecraft– if indie even describes Mojang anymore- and there wasn’t much I’d planned to do about that. One day I picked up three PS3 games, even though I didn’t even own PS3 and had to borrow one. They were ICO/Shadow of the Colossus (two for one) and Heavy Rain.

I put that blu-ray disk in and started playing what I’d later learn was a torture device the Allies probably developed while fighting the Axis. Forget chemical warfare, that’s kid’s stuff. And trench warfare? Please. If you can make it through Heavy Rain game without breaking into hives, I’m certain the government of whatever country you’re in recruits you to handle EVERY NUCLEAR SITUATION THAT WILL EVER ARISE FROM HERE ON OUT. Seriously, you have nerves of steal.

It’s not that the game is scary. It’s not that bad as far as jump-tactics go. No, it’s far more sinister than that. It’s psychological. It plants itself in your mind and convinces you that your choices have real life consequences. I’ve never felt more pressure from a game to solve a puzzle, answer a question or even pick up a plate that has zero-significance. This is amazing to me. How Quantic Dream did this as successfully as they did remains a mystery. A real testament to their talents.

That’s what makes Heavy Rain special. A treat even. It’s not just a game, it becomes a part of your life. Here’s to hoping they’ve done it again with BEYOND: Two Souls.

So I’ll ask re-ask and rephrase: When was the last time you experienced an in-game panic attack?

The Last of Us by Antonia Haynes

The Last of Us is one of the rare anomalies, a game that manages to exceed the expectations placed upon it. For me, the moment that truly stood out as something special was the ending. So, spoilers.

I loved the ending because I felt incredibly uncomfortable playing it. The final stage sees Joel fight his way through the Fireflies who intend to make a vaccine from the Cordyceps fungus in Ellie’s brain, a process that will kill her. Her immunity means that she is the only hope for a cure. I love Ellie’s character and hated the idea of her sacrifice, but the game made me start murdering everyone before I had the chance to think on it. I was killing people who were trying to do good, even though it could only be achieved through a child’s death. How can that be doing good? Is that worse than slaughtering the Fireflies to prevent that child’s death? Joel’s actions meant that the virus would continue to cause death. Is that worth one person’s life?

We don’t find out Ellie’s choice, she is unconscious and taken for surgery immediately, but we see Ellie mature to the point where it’s clear she would have willingly given her life. And I think Joel knows that too. But he just can’t let another little girl go. He is driven purely by his emotions with no consideration for the bigger picture. He makes Ellie’s decision for her. After all he has been through, the death of his daughter in particular, can we blame him for that?

Joel’s blatant lies to Ellie at the end initially had me disappointed. I felt it was anticlimactic, but I soon realised it was a perfect ending with staying power. It made me question the his morals, but also my own. Why was it so hard to kill the Fireflies, intent on killing a child, but so easy to kill bandits who may have passed me by had I not attacked? If we were in Joel’s position would we so readily give up the one person we care about? The game remains morally ambiguous and poses difficult questions, making it brilliantly real.

You can read Parts 1 and 3 of this series here and here. What are your best games and gaming moments of 2013?

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