Top 5 best designed video games of the school year

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Playing as assassin Corvo Attano, gamers will use swords and special abilities to fiend off
multiple foes at a time. Photo courtesy of pcgamer.com

Although the current generation of consoles has posed a rather inhibiting technological limit on game developers, a number of innovative video games have taken this challenge in stride. Here are The Daily Texan’s top 5 best designed games of the school year thus far.

5. Halo 4 

Despite the saddening departure of Bungie, the original developer of the Halo universe, “Halo 4” takes a strikingly ambitious new approach to the series. Under the direction of Frank O’Connor, development studio 343 Industries uprooted everything from the art design to the music. The risk involved with this move paid off in record sales. As far as the story goes, the Forerunners now play a much larger role in the gameplay, since Master Chief is forced to battle Promethean enemies using Forerunner technology. When picked up, weapons like the Binary Rifle and Scattershot will assemble around Master Chief’s arm before they can be used. Once armed, however, a Forerunner weapon will disintegrate Prometheans and dominate the multiplayer arenas as well. This updated arsenal of weapons is exactly what brings “Halo 4” its acclaim and excitement. 

4. Far Cry 3

Considering that the game opens with the insane, human-trafficker Vaas laughing in your face, it’s easy admit that “Far Cry 3” creates a rather harrowing gameplay experience for its players from the onset. Although the story later disintegrates into a cliche backdrop, “Far Cry 3”’s impressive sandbox features compensate for this deficiency. Often, a sandbox environment will fall flat if it doesn’t offer a variety of engaging activities. “Far Cry 3”’s Rook Island is a massive locale that begs players to explore it. Filled with animals to hunt, treasure to seek and enemies to kill, simply traveling around the island can become an experience in and of itself. Main missions are the bare minimum requirement. Players who take the time to fully investigate the tropical landscapes will benefit from an amazingly dynamic gameplay experience that can include everything from swimming with sharks to hang gliding.   

3. Black Mesa

What do you get when you combine one of the greatest PC games of all time with millions of adoring fans? Well, you get the “Black Mesa” mod for “Half-Life,” which made a surprise debut in September of last year. Using the Source engine from the “Half-Life 2” series, “Black Mesa” is a fan-made
reproduction of the original game that features all of the familiar levels, characters and action-packed sequences. Even though the difficulty has been significantly ramped up and some of the crouch-jump puzzles will bring back a nostalgic level of frustration, “Black Mesa” is completely worth the free download on the Steam marketplace. 

2. FIFA Soccer 13

Producing a sports game on an annual basis is a rather difficult task to manage. Fans often demand noticeable improvements in graphics and realism with minimal changes to actual gameplay. Despite having to strike such a delicate balance between these two characteristics, EA succeeded in making “FIFA Soccer 13,” the most realistic video-game simulation of soccer to date. Although “FIFA 13” is by no means revolutionary with respect to earlier versions, there are still a couple of critical redesigns worth noting. Through the use of Match Day, a new mode in the game that can be switched on or off, virtual soccer teams and players will emulate their real-world counterparts. For example, if Manchester United happens to experience a losing streak in the English Premier League, player skills and team cohesion will drop off in “FIFA 13.” 

The physics engine that was pioneered by “FIFA 12” has also been tweaked and refined further. The player Impact Engine now features a level of unpredictability when it comes to first touches. Depending on the speed of a player, the spin on the ball and the weather conditions, a first touch can either be a feat or a flop.

1. Dishonored

Perks and powers are key in the nine sandbox missions that comprise the game “Dishonored.” While getting to objectives and completing levels is not especially difficult, what makes “Dishonored” the most memorable game of the school year is its skillful combination of stealth and open combat. Set in a strange distortion of Victorian England, “Dishonored” has players collect “bone charms” to enhance their abilities. Peering through keyholes and jumping to high ledges is only possible after purchasing specific upgrades, allowing for a great deal of creativity on the part of the player. Sword fighting, one of the mainstays in combat, requires players to time their lunges and parries with extreme accuracy. Reminiscent of games like “Bioshock” and “Half-Life,” “Dishonored” breaks away from genre stereotypes with an exciting assortment of combat opportunities.