News, Views, and Reviews
It seems like a lot of media sites like to do a “Best of..” article before the year is even over. Not only did I want to wait until the actual end of the year, as it so happens, I ended up moving during the last week of December, and I have been extremely busy at my new job ever since. With a record breaking snow storm keeping us all indoors, now is as good a time as any for My View Screen’s “Best of 2013” blog. Looking back on the blogs I wrote during 2013, it may appear that I didn’t even play that many video games. I did play a lot of games, I just chose to review only the few games that I really enjoyed. Conveniently, this means I’ve already narrowed down my choices and just have to pick from these few amazing games. Similarly, I watched a lot more movies and TV shows in 2013, more than my blog would show. But it’s the “Best of 2013” that matters, right? I will go in order from smallest screen to biggest; from TV shows, video games, and then movies, here is my “Best of 2013” list:
I love comedies, but there seems to be a depressing trend to make TV shows and movies more “dark” and “edgy” and “realistic” and ugh, I get it. Minute for minute, laugh for laugh, there is nothing funnier than Brooklyn 99. The pilot episode immediately warmed me over to every unique and hilarious character on the show, and they get funnier and more endearing with each episode.
Runners Up: One other new show, “Sean Saves the World” comes close to matching the warmth and non stop funniness of the B99, but it sometimes feels a little too much like an “ordinary”sitcom. I still have a warm place in my heart for older shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Parks and Recreation,” but I think both shows are ready to finish this season.
Maybe it’s not fair to include this on the list as there was only half a season in 2013, but it went out with such a bang! Everyone will be comparing shows to BB for years to come. In some ways, that might be a bad thing, as expectations might be TOO high, and some might pass on shows that are otherwise decent, just not AS good as BB.
Runners Up: “The Walking Dead” is another high quality show, and it continues to surprise with new scenarios and tougher choices. To me, it isn’t so much a show about surviving an apocalypse as it is about what to do AFTER you’ve survived? What kind of world will we recreate? What moral codes, if any, should we cling to? Other than these two AMC shows, I had high hopes for “The Blacklist” – and then I lost interest.
The pilot episode premiered weeks after the fall season started, so I hope people didn’t forget or miss this amazing show. The premise may sound simple: in the future, police officers are given android partners, and a reluctant detective is paired with a unique android that strives to become more human. Science fiction shows have presented this scenario in different formats throughout the years; was the android “Data” on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” a “real” person? What about the hologram doctor on “Star Trek: Voyager” or any other artificial life form? “Almost Human” brings up the subject from time to time, but most of the time, it’s just a fun “buddy cop” sci-fi/action TV show. I feel like I’m watching Star Trek again, and that’s awesome.
Runners Up: It seems like I have to defend these shows all the time, but I LIKE them, okay? Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” gets better and better (I feel like I’m watching Buffy or Angel again, and THAT is awesome!) as does “Revolution” on NBC. Also on my list is the campy, low-budget, video game tie-in SyFy original “Defiance.”
Most Favorite Overall TV Show: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
It might not be the best sci-fi, the best comedy, the best drama, or the best action show, but all of its parts add up to be greater than all other shows I watched last year. Sadly, ABC has recently decided to start charging for episodes even on their website, so I don’t know HOW I’m going to watch the second half of the first season!
Best Graphics: Crysis 3 This was a tough choice to make, and it’s almost not even fair. If my PC had slightly lower specs, and it was a fairer comparison between Crysis 3 and Ryse, I might have picked Ryse. But Crysis 3 runs away with the award when I bump my settings up to “Ultra” and remember that the moving grass and foliage matters in game play. My only other hesitation with Crysis 3 is that it all takes place in either a beautifully overgrown, half-destroyed New York City, inside some sort of broken building or alien ship corridor, or some combination of those settings. I like the variety of locations that Ryse presented, or the fantastic settings in Bioshock: Infinite, but overall, Crysis 3 has the highest graphic fidelity.
Runners Up: Ryse, also made by Crytek, is really the closest runner up. Battlefield 4 looks really pretty – during the first 15 minutes or so – but then it’s back to the battleship or back to some urban setting, back to the ship, etc. The destruction is really neat, but the buildings and streets themselves lack detail or anything that make them feel very familiar. Call of Duty: Ghosts, on the other hand, has a decent amount of destruction AND variety in its single player mode, and its locations feel more authentic and lived in. I also have to give honorable mention to the lush jungles and beautiful graphics in Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3, and the fantastic art direction of Bioshock: Infinite.
Minute for minute, start to finish, nothing beats the amount of FUN I had playing Dead Rising 3. Some of my most favorite games this year, games that I would even consider “Game of the Year” contenders, all seemed to have moments that were not fun. From Far Cry 3’s extra padding at the end to Bioshock’s arbitrary boss fights; from Tomb Raider’s constant back-tracking to Killzone’s awkward prison escape, almost every game I played had some “not fun” moments. Still great games overall, just not as fun to play ALL. THE. TIME. like Dead Rising 3!
Runners Up: The only other game I played this year that felt nearly as satisfying as DR3 was Call of Duty: Ghosts. It’s shorter, half as short as DR3, but at least there was never a dull or “not fun” moment. I played a lot of MMOs last year, too, and they all start out fun, and then suffer from the “MMO bloat” that I wrote a blog about: the parts at the “end game” that become too elaborate, confusing, and not fun anymore.
The perfect combination of sound effects, dialogue, and music, melding with the narrative and game play, elevated Bioshock’s fictional city in the sky high above its peers. Even the anachronistic music MEANT something to the story, and for that alone, I want to award Bioshock with the “Best Sound” award, but there is yet one other consideration: the easter-egg clip of a studio rehearsal that left me in tears while watching the end credits. Great stuff!
Runners Up: Tomb Raider deserves mention, especially for the bizarre instrument the sound team invented just for recording parts of the amazing soundtrack. The sound effects in Battlefield 4 were impressive, even if the soundtrack was not that memorable.
Even though it sometimes got a little muddled or over-complicated for its own good, the mind-bending tale from Bioshock Infinite definitely stands out as the Best of 2013. I don’t want to spoil anything by describing what makes it such an awesome story, it just has to be experienced.
Runners Up: The self-sacrificing themes of Crysis 3 made for a compelling narrative in that game, as did the loss of sanity and morality in Far Cry 3. By their nature, MMOs usually lack interesting stories, though I’ll give props to both Defiance and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn for at least trying. Dead Rising 3 was also amazing, even in it’s Resident Evil-like weirdness, so much, that it pulled me away from the funnest game play experience last year because I ALSO wanted to see how the story ended! But its the amazing story in Ryse: Son of Rome that comes in a close second to Bioshock. It’s not complicated, it’s not science fiction, it’s just a good old-fashioned – REALLY old fashioned – great Roman-tragedy/mythology story.
This one is hard to pick. I played some fantastic games last year, and any one of them would be worthy of the “GOTY” title. But, they also seem to have at least one caveat, one excuse for not adoring them for every little detail, and I don’t feel like playing any of them over and over again. I called Bioshock a “Masterpiece” in my review, and the quality is certainly high enough for it to win. But, surely, the “Best” video game should also be fun to play, and play over, right? I’d hardly credit Bioshock for having the best graphics, or even the best game play, but it does have a great story, fantastic art style, and really clever use of sound and music. So, for being greater than the sum of its parts, Bioshock Infinite wins Best Overall Video Game of the Year!
Runners Up: Just for being so much fun, I have to mention Dead Rising 3 again. Throw in some repeatable chapters and drop in/drop out co-op, and it’s a big contender. Call of Duty: Ghosts is also on the list, just for the sheer amount of content and fun packed on one disc. I also liked the island adventures of Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3. All in all, it was a GREAT year for video games!
Not only is it full of movie eye candy and amazing imagery, Gravity FEELS good. It’s full of meaning and inspiration for living, trying hard, rebirth, and then really trying to LIVE and enjoy life! There isn’t a lot of dialogue, and that gives it that much more of an artistic edge. It’s not every year that a movie can raise the bar so high in technical merits AND be an amazing and inspiring film to watch. I would break down my favorite movies by category like the rest of this blog, but with a movie like Gravity so far surpassing everything else, there doesn’t seem to be a point.
Runners Up: For epic 3D adventures, I have to appreciate movies like Pacific Rim and Thor: Dark World. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug was really fun to watch but felt a little too padded. But, beyond all the super hero, sci-fi, and action movies that I really enjoyed last year, and if Gravity hadn’t come out in 2013, I’d probably be giving the Best Movie of the Year award to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. That is one amazing film, also full of wonderful scenery and amazing imagery that leaves a lot of interpretation to the viewer, plus more inspiration for enjoying life!
What an amazing year! So much content and so little space and time to appreciate it all. I am so excited to see what 2014 will bring to My View Screen!