A 2013 Retrospective – The Year in Review
Written Wednesday, January 08, 2014 By XBA Staff
2013 was largely dominated by one subject; Xbox One. Day after day, week after week, month after month, stories about the console emerged, announcements were made and speculation was rampant. From always-online, to used games, the power of the cloud, TV TV TV sports and eventually the launch itself, rarely did a day go past without the Xbox One making headlines, both good and bad, true and false.
But Xbox 360 wasn’t forgotten. This year saw the release of some of the system’s very best games, squeezing every last drop out of our trusty old last-gen consoles. Grand Theft Auto V and BioShock Infinite were both awarded top marks in our reviews and a flurry of quality titles helped give the Xbox 360 and a brilliant generation the send off it deserved.
Across both consoles we published 62 reviews this year, at an average score of 72.75%. That’s down from last year’s average of 76.85%, but when you consider we published seven reviews of 40% or less, that’s not a bad total, helped along by a whopping 19 games receiving 80% or more, with GTA V and BioShock Infinite both earning 100%. 2013 was a strong. Here’s some of the big talking points.
"Colonial Marines was scary for all the wrong reasons."
The year kicked off with the release of DmC: Devil May Cry and a rift between the opinion of fans and critics. While reviews celebrated Ninja Theory’s stylish spin on Capcom’s long-running series, many fans took exception with the new direction, filling comments threads and forums with their distaste. It got a bit messy there for while, the culmination of a campaign that saw Ninja Theory boss Tameem Antoniades receive death threats. But for all the controversy surrounding DmC, it was nothing compared to what awaited one of February’s big releases; Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Panned by critics for a litany of problems, it later transpired that Colonial Marines wasn’t developed primarily by Gearbox, as we had been lead to believe. Instead, most of the work had been done by the lesser talents of TimeGate Studios. And even worse, there were allegations that Gearbox repeatedly delayed the game in order to rinse publisher SEGA of money, which they could then pump into the development of Borderlands 2. Ouch.
Moving on into March, April and May and we say a mixed bag of releases. While BioShock Infinite lapped up endless praise, earning Irrational Games our first ever 100% review, other games didn’t fare so well. Indeed, come the end of the year Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel, The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, Star Trek and Defiance would be counted amongst 2013’s poorest and most disappointing releases. Still, there was always Tomb Raider, Gears of War: Judgment, Resident Evil: Revelations, GRID 2 and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon to keep us going, all of which received respectable scores.
"The veil on XBO was FINALLY lifted in May."
The real big news from May, however, was the long-awaited reveal of the Xbox One. With a glitzy conference that focused on the multimedia applications of the console, including a exclusive Steven Spielberg “TV” series adaptation of Halo, the reveal didn’t blow gamers away despite glimpses of Quantum Break, CoD: Ghosts and Forza 5. Microsoft assured concerned fans that June’s E3 2013 would deliver the gaming goods. Questions remained, however, about the console’s need to be connected to the internet and its policy with regards to used games, something that Microsoft did a poor job of explaining.
It wasn’t until early June that it was revealed that yes, Xbox One would need to connect to the internet once a day in order to function. The subject of always-online was already contentious, even costing Microsoft creative director Adam Orth his job following those ill-advised “deal with it’ comments. Partial confirmation sparked even more concern and the issue would continue to rumble on for weeks.
Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 kept chugging away. State of Decay exploded onto XBLA, shifting more copies over Xbox Live in 48 hours (275,000) than the entirety of UK game retail in seven days during the same week (250,000). Times were changing and that was no more clear than at E3 2013, where 72 new titles were announced for Xbox platforms, including eight exclusives for Xbox One. Microsoft was good on its word.
"The colourful Sunset Overdrive was among the E3 announcements."
Later in the month, the company also saw the light on its Xbox One DRM measures. In what had to to be one of the most dramatic u-turns in recent years, Microsoft removed the console’s controversial online requirement, enabled the sharing of disc-based games and arguably diverted a consumer crisis. With plenty of titles announced and the biggest source of contention out of the way, the road was clear for November’s launch, give or take a couple of minor speed bumps.
Meanwhile, the sequels kept coming on Xbox 360 into August and September. Saints Row IV emerged from the fall of THQ as an insanely enjoyable romp around a virtual Steelport; Rayman Legends built on Rayman Origins to offer this year’s best platforming experience; Diablo III satisfied console gamers’ clicky loot hunger; and Lost Planet 3 and Farming Simulator 2013… well they were a bit crap. But it didn’t matter, this year’s biggest release was on the horizon. GTA V.
The Grand Theft Auto series is the only property in games that can melt the internet with a single screenshot, and on the evidence of GTA V it was easy to see why. Smashing records left, right and centre, while amassing some massive review scores - including our own 100%, only the second we’ve ever awarded - Rockstar’s opus was fun, funny and utterly fantastic, staying glued in our disc trays for weeks. It was and remains an utterly astounding achievement.
"GTA V introduced Trevor, our favourite nutter of the year."
Less accomplished was the release of GTA Online, which spluttered into life in October. Its launch was a bit of a mess, as millions of gamers crushed Rockstar’s servers while attempting to join the action. After a couple of weeks and numerous patches the experience smoothed out and fans were rewarded with one of the most ambitious online experiences yet created. Best enjoyed with mates, GTA Online remains a blast and it’s only getting stronger.
Although October saw the release of quality titles like Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, as well as the wonky Batman: Arkham Origins and the brilliant but troubled Battlefield 4, in truth the whole gaming world was waiting for the release of the Xbox One. And then on November 22nd, we got it.
Boasting the strongest of the launch line-ups, Xbox One got off to a sure start. Dead Rising 3 satisfied our lust for zombie slaying, Ryse: Son of Rome saw us slicing our way through hordes of barbarians and FIFA 14 reinvented itself once again with a brand new engine. We reviewed every single new game, recorded a podcast and put together loads of videos and achievement lists in our Launch Hub to celebrate, ushering in the new generation in style. We provided more Xbox One coverage at launch than any other site on the internet – yes, we checked… we’re anal like that.Finally, after all the controversy, speculation and debate, we could all get back to what we do best: loving games. And with Xbox One selling 3 million units before the end of the year, we weren’t the only ones celebrating. So much for consoles being a dying market, eh?
"In May and October we returned to host the London Comic-con Games Stage."
It was a great year for the site and the network itself too, probably our best yet, chock full of some massive milestones. For starters, we kicked the year off in style with X360A and PS3T chalking up 4.3 million monthly unique users which is a network high, and then the awesome just kept on coming. Our GRID 2 achievement and trophy list finally hit the net and we then proceeded to knock our London Comic-Con stage shows (May and October) out of the park, packing the room on multiple occasions – that’s probably about 700-people just for one session!
For us though, 2013 was all about getting an infrastructure in place for the next-generation of consoles. That meant new servers – 4 dedicated servers instead of the usual 2 – and yes, new sites. It also meant new branding and a new vision for where we want to be in the future too. We were relative newbies coming into the last-generation of consoles – Dan was at uni studying law; Aleks was at uni studying programming; Rich was working at House of Fraser and Lee was running a recruitment consultancy. For the new generation we’re hitting the ground running with 7 years experience under our belts.
Let’s take a minute to thank you for your patience over the last few months too, what with the downtime, the switch over, and the bugs that arose from the new site. We’re still working through the latter, and as soon as that’s done we’ll be looking through your feedback to see how else we can improve the site. As for the mobile app, yes, it was put on hold, mainly to work on the new sites. It will be picked back up in 2014. This year’s going to be our best ever.