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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your shopping list will love.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Sony PlayStation 4

Sony’s already broken launch day sales records with the PS4, meaning that getting one for the holidays won’t be easy. That’s a shame, too, as by all indications, it is one incredible piece of hardware that has developers across the industry whistling in wonder. Sony really went out of their way to address many of the complaints people had with the PS3, and the PS4 not only fixes them, but adds exciting new features like built-in live streaming capabilities and a much more versatile and comfortable controller. If you do manage to get your hands on one, be sure to download the addictive and intense shooter “Resogun” to go with it. While it may not look like much, and isn’t that long, it’s the “Geometry Wars” of the new generation, meaning you’ll be playing it over and over again and long after bigger games have begun gathering dust on your shelf. It’s the unlikely can’t-miss game of the PS4’s launch.

Microsoft Xbox One

Is the Xbox One the system for you? Well, to answer that, you first must ask yourself if its $100 increase in price over the PS4 fits your budget. If so, then buying one means getting a gaming console that has both an intense interest in becoming the centerpiece of your home theater and the capabilities to do so. The Xbox One’s ability to work harmoniously with your TV and other devices through a native interface as sleek and capable as we’ve ever seen is so incredible that you would be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that it’s also quite a gaming system. Of course, the phenomenal Day One lineup of games available for the Xbox One should go a long way to reminding you. It’s hard to choose just one to spotlight, but if you haven’t yet got your fill of zombie killing, then be sure to consider “Dead Rising 3” and its own particular over-the-top brand of undead apocalypse. Much like the PS4, though, all of this is assuming you can somehow find one. Going by the pre-order numbers, that won’t be easy.

The Last of Us

“The Last of Us” has been referred to by some in the past as the greatest “Resident Evil” game ever made, and it’s been taken as an insult. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though, as it’s a statement only meant to convey the absolutely unbelievable mix of horror, survival, plot and atmosphere you get from this game. Purchasing “The Last of Us” is like giving a toddler on a sugar rush access to all your emotional buttons. Its world of despair and terror where survival is the only reward left is the perfect setting for its cross-country journey in search of hope. There’s nothing quite like “The Last of Us” in the history of gaming and, as much as fun as the game is to play, it’s an even better experience.

Grand Theft Auto V

With “GTA IV,” Rockstar showed us that the next generation of video games was capable of creating a world that truly felt alive. However, the further you went in it, the more you realized it was a hollow world that offered little once the original “Wow!” factor went away. “GTA V” makes up for that particular shortcoming in a big way. The sheer amount of stuff available to do here is simply mind boggling, ensuring that you can easily put a hundred hours into the game without ever touching the story mode missions, which still rank among the series’ best. Of course, even if all you want to do is drive around and cause havoc, you’ll find that the game’s driving and shooting mechanics are better than ever, making the simple pleasures of the game the best they’ve ever been. Oh, and it has one of the most extensive online modes in all of gaming. If for some reason you don’t own this already, this is the only game you need this year.

FIFA 14

The “FIFA” series is one of the few franchises under the EA Sports banner that actually feels like it’s constantly trying to innovate with every installment, and “FIFA 14” delivers a number of really big changes to the experience that are mostly for the better. Fueled by the new IGNITE engine, a lot of those modifications are geared towards the smaller details like improved AI, run-time physics and animation, as well as more realistic environments. Now the competition thinks, moves and behaves with human-like reactions and instincts, even if you’re playing against the computer, and the game flows more like an actual soccer match thanks to the attention placed on build-up play and protecting the ball. While the current-gen versions are solid upgrades for any “FIFA” fan, they pale in comparison to what the Xbox One and PS4 editions offer. It truly feels like next-gen, from the polished visuals to the smoother gameplay. And for Xbox One users specifically, the ability to control the game using Kinect voice commands makes “FIFA 14” an even more dynamic experience.

Need for Speed Rivals

Xbox One owners have two choices when it comes to racing games this holiday season – “Forza Motorsport 5” and “Need for Speed Rivals” – and it ultimately comes down to preference. The “Forza” games are great if you want a realistic racing experience, but Electronic Arts’ latest installment in the long-running “Need for Speed” series is much more enjoyable thanks to some cool new features. The ability to play as both a cop and a racer in separate career modes (each with different progression systems and cars) means that you essentially get two games in one, but the biggest selling point of “Rivals” is the new AllDrive system. Instead of choosing between single player, co-op and multiplayer, all of the action in the game takes place within one seamless racing world for you and up to six of your friends. With AllDrive, you can be in the middle of a racer challenge, only for some player-controlled cop cars to suddenly start chasing after you with sirens blaring. It adds a whole other dynamic to the gameplay that’s more exciting and challenging, living up to the promise of next-gen gaming.

BioShock Infinite

As good as the original “BioShock” was (by which I mean all-time great), the argument that “Infinite” is better is not a hard one to make. While a more involved and fluid combat system and better graphics are some of the more obvious improvements, the real selling point here is the very lively world of Columbia you have to explore, and the morally grey story it houses. As much as storytelling in gaming has improved, it’s not often that you can justify buying a game just for its plot, but “Infinite” is the shining example of those rare occurrences. From the moment you hear a barbershop quartet break out into a rendition of “God Only Knows,” you won’t be able to put down the controller until the tale is done. “Infinite” may be a sequel, but it’s truly one of a kind.

Batman: Arkham Origins

Set several years before the events of the critically acclaimed “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and “Batman: Arkham City,” “Origins” is a prequel story that takes place during the Dark Knight’s early career as he faces off against many of the supervillians in his rogues gallery for the first time, including Killer Croc, Deathstroke and Bane. WB Montreal has taken over the reins from Rocksteady for this installment, and for the most part, they’ve done a commendable job of maintaining the spirit of the series. There’s not a whole of innovation on display apart from the new Detective Mode, where players use Batman’s cowl and Bat Computer to recreate crime scenes and look for hidden clues, but the features that made the first two games so much fun – like the free-flow combat and open-world exploration – still work really well. And though it may not have received as favorable reviews as its predecessors, “Batman: Arkham Origins” is a solid addition to the franchise that also serves as a hearty reminder that current-gen gaming has plenty left to offer.

Diablo III

Way back in 1996, developer Blizzard had the idea that it might be fun to mash your way through mobs of demonic mythical beings while building yourself into a war machine and acquiring more and more epic loot. They were right then, and 17 years later, they still are. While any platform is a good one to play “Diablo III” on, the nod here goes to the surprisingly good console versions. By the time they were released, Blizzard ironed out many of the shortcomings initially present in the PC version of the game, making the Xbox 360 and PS3 editions the leanest ones available. The real deciding factor in going with the console versions, though, has to be the available local co-op mode, which provides the rare opportunity in gaming these days to share a couch with your buddies and backhand the legions of evil together. It’s the kind of good time you don’t want to miss out on.

  

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