Published Nov 22, 2013Finishing off this year's Holiday Gift Guide are a few of our top choices for this year's best videogames and videogame systems. Whether you like gaming on your commute, playing against thousands on massive multiplayers or Arkham action, read below for Exclaim!'s favourite gamer gear.
The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide: Games and Consoles:
● The Next Next-Gen (like the PS4, pictured above)
Oh, what a long strange trip the current game generation has been. Unlike computers, past consoles have been locked boxes that can make their tech seem outdated long before a new one finally comes out. But seven years after launching, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are barely recognizable thanks to regular firmware upgrades adding new functionality. This has kept next next-gen excitement to a rumble compared to the last one's roar into high-definition. This time the graphics look only nominally better so far — though launch games are never representative of a new console's actual capabilities — but the machines are reportedly about ten times more powerful.
That upgraded processing power, more than anything, will help determine how gaming evolves over the next few years. But it will take a while for developers to access that juice. In the meantime, both Sony and Microsoft are boasting about their exclusives, promising more indie outreach and touting their machine's improved social skills.
Other refinements are relatively minor: you can use your PS Vita as a Wii U-like controller or second screen; every Xbox One comes with a vastly improved motion-sensing Kinect 2.0 camera and acts as a multimedia hub; PS4 is cheaper and reportedly more powerful; and both offer play-as-you-download, cross-game chat, cloud computing, 500GB hard drives and 4K support for next-gen TV. Microsoft had planned some extreme DRM measures intended to quash the used-game market, but abandoned them after an E3 backlash. Neither is backwards-compatible.
PS4 is going into launch with more momentum, but ultimately both are pretty neck-and-neck — with Wii U again carving out it's own (albeit now smaller) space. Deciding between the two really should be based on your preference for their announced first-party games and what your friends are buying so you can all play together online.
If you liked LittleBigPlanet…
Then try Tearaway
LittleBigPlanet was a hit as much for its adorably stylized aesthetic as its DIY substance — and portable follow-up Tearaway takes a similar whimsical path. It's a happy-go-lucky, fourth-wall breaking adventure game that includes using your "god-like powers" — as seen by sticking your actual fingers inside the game — to assist a character constructed out of an envelope.
If you liked Ratchet and Clank…
Then try Knack
Knack is a Pixar-inspired action platformer aimed at the whole family amidst a launch barrage of action games. You control an ever-growing robot that can be comprised of between 70 and 5000 parts, growing to be as tall as 30 virtual feet, while you fight off an invasion of evil goblins.
Xbox One players:
If you liked Rome: Total War…
Then try Ryse: Son of Rome
This violent realm of ancient Rome features plenty of fighting, including hand-to-hand combat and voice-commanded infantry units, as you follow Roman general Marius Titus's "epic tale of revenge" from childhood to military commander. Of course there's a gladiator arena for co-op multiplayer battles. And while the setting will be largely accurate, it's an alternate-reality Rome so you won't be held back by history.
Wii U players:
If you liked Super Mario Galaxy…
Then try Super Mario 3D World
This high-def sequel to the 3DS's Super Mario 3D Land is a lush-looking platformer that Shigeru Miyamoto says will "bridge the gap" between the 3D Galaxy and 2D New Super Mario Bros games. What's new is the full four-player co-op, but otherwise it looks like another exercise in the company's always-impressive game design balancing form, familiarity and fun.
Superhero game players:
If you liked Arkham City…
Then try Arkham Origins
The Arkham games gave superhero gaming respect and credibility after years of disappointments. For part three, they switched developers but the game engine and gameplay are proven, and the new twist is a Batman: Year Two-inspired story set a half-decade before Arkham Asylum so we can control younger, less-experienced Dark Knight.