Most Anticipated 2013: Jeff's Picks

There's a lot to be excited for in 2013, and the Shacknews staff each have five games on their radar. The editorial team at Shacknews outlines their most anticipated games of 2013 individually, starting with staff writer and indie expert Jeff Mattas.

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Grand Theft Auto 5

Two trailers, a handful of screenshots, a so-Cal setting, and multiple playable protagonists are just some of the top reasons that Grand Theft Auto 5 is one of my most anticipated games of 2013. Rockstar is still one of the kings of open-world mayhem, and it's really looking like the developer is poised to give the size and scope of GTA: San Andreas a run for its money. With any luck, Rockstar will also fold in some important improvements—both presentational and mechanical—from some of its more recent games like Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3.

The fact that the game is set in Los Santos--a fictional recreation of Los Angeles--is a huge draw for me, and based on the early trailers, the facsimiles of my neighborhood landmarks really capture the look and feel of the area (often with startling accuracy). Despite being very familiar with the series to-date, I'm also excited about the as-yet-unrevealed info about GTA V, which will undoubtedly trickle out to torture us in the months leading up to its release at the end of Q1.

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BioShock: Infinite

Failed utopias, FTW! Irrational Games is forsaking the oceanic depths in its next entry in the BioShock canon, and I simply can't wait to experience all that the floating city of Columbia has to offer in BioShock: Infinite. Part of why I loved the original BioShock was its thematic underpinnings which explored what happens to an underwater utopia when Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy is played out to its logical conclusion. (Spoiler: Things get ugly and violent.) In Infinite, the developer is settings its sights on the arguably more controversial tropes of racism and religion—topics that rarely rear their heads in mainstream games. That's an automatic plus, in my book.

Even if the idea of a game honing in on complex issues of morality leaves you a bit cold, have no fear. There will still be plenty of shooting to go along with the story, bolstered by Vigors (Infinite's treatment of the powers in the previous BioShock games, called Tonics), and the classic-American themed artwork is sure to tickle your fancy if you're into alternate-future fiction. Plus, you get to shoot dudes while zipping around on the city's rollercoaster-like travel system, which sounds like all kinds of awesome.

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Watch Dogs

Other than what was shown in the nine-plus minutes of footage revealed at E3 2012, not a whole lot is known about Watch Dogs, a new game set in an open-world city that employs some really cool-looking hacking-based gameplay. It turns out that the trailer was also being used as a recruiting tool to attract developers interested in helping the game come to fruition in 2013. The game seems like a high-concept and intentionally-poignant take on where the modern Digital Age might take us. I'm personally very optimistic about the new type of stealth-based gameplay that's promised by a device which allows players to manipulate just about any electronic item in the world—from stoplights to cell phones.

Ubisoft has recently upped its game as a rival of Rockstar when it comes to open-world fare. Assassin's Creed 3 and Far Cry 3 were both very impressive in this regard, which also plays into why Watch Dogs is one of my most anticipated games of 2013.

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The Last of Us

My excitement for Naughty Dog's The Last of Us goes beyond the gorgeous trailers and gameplay footage that have been revealed since the game's first trailer was shown at the 2011 VGAs. Rather than just making another iteration of Uncharted (an excellent series, in its own right), The Last of Us takes a decidedly darker tone to go along with its setting in post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh. The game promises plenty of action, but the developer has promised that the game will be much more focused on survival than gunplay. Very limited ammunition and plenty of opportunities for stealth are bound to encourage a gameplay style that differs from Nathan Drake's exploits in a number of significant ways.

I'm also a big fan of the dynamic between the two main characters, Ellie and Joel, which sort of reminds me of another great character duo from 2012's The Walking Dead—Clementine and Lee. I'm expecting an emotionally-charged, tense experience that will hopefully provide some interesting thematic commentary about the human condition. A little less Hollywood bombast and a bit more subtlety. I just hope the fungal-zombie tie-in isn't too ridiculous.

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Beyond: Two Souls

Say what you will about Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, but I thought took some pretty interesting risks when it came to narrative delivery and failure-based consequences. The next game from David Cage's studio, called Beyond: Two Souls, looks like it's going to learn some important gameplay lessons from its predecessor, while improving upon the near-photo-real actors and performance capturing technology. Sure, now that games like Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire are titles of the past, the technology doesn't have the same "Wow!" factor as it did when Heavy Rain first hit the scene. However, Beyond: Two Souls looks like it's going to be a pretty tense experience that's bound to play with players' heartstrings.

It makes sense that such a story-driven experience has to be careful of too many spoilers, but based on some gameplay footage we've seen, the female protagonist (played by Ellen Page) is battling with some pretty intense telekinetic powers that I'm sure will be a blast to use. HOW you use them, however, will likely change your in-game experience, as that's part of Quantic Dream's modus operandi as well. I for one, welcome such another cinematic gaming experience.