DM's Year End Awards: 2013's Best Comic's

Alright, I'm going to take a jab at trying to isolate my favourite comic book's this year and the series that they centre around. I wouldn't say there is any particular order, just the ones I enjoyed the most.

Green Lantern (New 52)

Oddly enough, Geoff Johns' Green Lantern series is arguably the most unaffected title through the New 52 reboot. Essentially kicking off right where War of the Lanterns, we see a bold move by the Guardians in reinstating Sinestro as Hal's replacement in the GL corps. One heck of a way to kick off the reboot of the series, especially when we have Hal left in the dark and Sinestro reluctantly seeking his aid. Despite all the chaos, this unexpected alliance turns into one of the most refreshing concepts that the series has taken in a while. It gives us a unique insight of how these arch enemies truly feel towards one another and how far they are willing to in order to "one-up" each in entertaining ways.

Retrospectively, I loved the heck out of the Green Lantern series because it had a consistent representation of the characters throughout while outside of this main series, Hal was written almost as a completely different character. On the flip side though, the art was fantastic, constantly keeping up a balance of emotional storytelling and immense action sequences that felt believable with every panel. Doug Mahnke truly is the ideal Green Lantern artist and he's more than proven himself time and again. Thankfully, after Johns' departure, the series still holds strong and manages to carry on with the legacy created by the former while managing to craft its own identity. Here's to many more years to a fantastic series!

Favourite issue: Green Lantern #20

Well, I think it's safe to say that this has to be the single best send-off to any series, despite the series not actually ending), but it just as well have ended. With every panel, you can see the emotion Johns pours into his work and how much he truly cared in re-imagining one of the most expansive settings in the DC Universe.

While some of the additional artists who paid tribute to the issue did a decent job, it didn't end up translating all too well or, fluidly for that matter. Of course, Mahnke's work shines the brightest here and the final send-off to the entire "crew" was heart-breaking. THAT FINAL INTERACTION BETWEEN HAL AND SINESTRO!

Aquaman (New 52)

Yup, another Geoff Johns title and another which happens to be one of the most underrated titles headed into the New 52. Now, a little over two years into the reboot, Aquaman holds strong with some of the best stories showcasing how absolutely epic the King of Atlantis really is and how truly ridiculous it can be when doubting his little corner of the universe. Disregarding the absolutely fantastic Throne of Atlantis arc which spanned the DCU, Johns managed to flesh out and intricately revolutionize Arthur's character for a new audience whilst remaining void of any cameo's for that matter from his teammates.

There was just a distinctive feel to Aquaman that really drew me in from the get-go. Many it's that I like rooting for the underdog and you can't get any more underappreciated than Aquaman in this day and age. With that said, the series has ALWAYS held the biggest and best names in the comics industry in terms of the artistic duties. Ivan Reis, and more recently Paul Pelletier, beautifully illustrate Arthur's world from the depths of the ocean, to the King of Atlantis' former "getaway" home on the surface. Each page is sprawling with detail, exuding emotion and intensity at every turn. That final arc focusing on Arthur's ancestry and reestablishing his place as King after Orm's betrayal was a touching one as despite the mixed feelings from both his people and that of the surface, he strives to find peace and balance between the two worlds and it exposes his vulnerabilities, even if only temporarily.

Favourite Issue: Aquaman #25

Another send off issue which helps wrap up all the work Johns has done in revolutionizing Aquaman's character and putting him back on the map once again. Best moment of the entire issue? DAT BEARD! Seriously, who else was disappointed when he shaved that badboy off? There were many key moments in this issue that just made me hilariously anxious to re-read the issue again, just to recapture everything and anything I missed the first time around. From accepting his heritage to the EPIC final showdown, this issue had it all. It's just a shame it all had to end.

Thor: God of Thunder (Marvel NOW)

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a big Thor fan outside of Straczynski's run several years back. I enjoyed the character but never enough to stick to an ongoing. With Marvel NOW "rebooting" its characters in a sense, I decided to give God of Thunder a whirl since I largely enjoyed Jason Aaron's work in the past and man, what a decision that was. For the entire first arc, we are almost completely devoid of any guest appearances from Avengers and instead, we are taken on a beautifully illustrated mythological journey through Thor's past, present and future. It's just something you cannot experience with any other character in Marvel considering the depth of Asgard's reach in the universe and the impact Thor seem and his kinsmen seem to have.

Amidst a new series comes a new villain and he definitely delivers as he becomes a threat not even Thor can face alone. It registers almost as a horror story for all Gods alike as they're slowly picked apart, one by one and it's a gripping tale throughout watching Thor (re)discover the purpose of such murders. All of this is even better portrayed through the ridiculously stunning art of Esad Ribic. His splash pages are jaw-dropping, his action electric and while he draws some goofy faces, there's no denying that he's soon to be a titan amongst artists.

Favourite Issue: Thor: God of Thunder #12

Some may see this as an odd choice as compared to the massive eleven issue story arc before it, the twelve issue is a rather slow and actionless issue. But to me, that's the beauty of it. After the non-stop chaos, the atrocities witnessed by Thor, Jas Aaron allows for the Thunder God to take a little breather and it is one that is extremely heart warming.

Thor rekindles a friendship with his old flame Jane Foster, a sad situation in which he learns she has cancer. Despite the grim circumstances, there are plenty of laughs to be had and even tears to be shed (for those with a heart of course). It was quite honestly the most impactful issue I've read in the series thus far and arguably, the most touching of any comic by extension. Stop reading and go pick it up if you haven't... I mean right now.

... Why are you still here!?

Scarlet Spider (Marvel NOW)

Well well, here we have the best Spider title on the market and what happens? It gets CANCELLED! GASP! Yeah, I have nothing to say to that and it's honestly the most disappointing news of the year in my opinion considering that Christopher Yost was killing it by breathing new life into Kaine's character in addition to pulling up one of the most diverse supporting casts in comics. There's not too much I can complain about in regards to Scarlet Spider. Yost pens a largely consistent story coupled with some of the best fight sequences I've ever seen in a Spider-book. Even so, I adore how Yost manages to so excellently attempt to distant Kaine from his "brothers" life and influence but no matter how hard he tries, you can see both glimpses of the hero he strives to be, and the monster he so desperately attempts to run from.

All of this is supported to a superior degree (hehe) due to the fantastic art teams that constantly switched over. While I would have preferred if the artist was locked down, I can't complain too much as the art remained consistent and gorgeous nonetheless through the multiple transitions. On top of that, I loved that Scarlet Spider seemed to lack the typical predictability or "happy ending" of most superhero comics. Kaine's luck may seem positive in one aspect, but lying just around the corner is a new challenge ready to rip his new life apart and the people he loves.

Favourite Issue: Scarlet Spider #12

Getting a little seasonal here I know, but issue twelve of the series is still by far my favourite. It rests in a period of self doubt for Kaine as he attempts to figure out his next move. He feels like he could have a new life and possibly a new home with the friends he's made, but he fears that his past is constantly catching up to him and he's constantly trying to run away. (Un)fortuantely for Kaine, a heist crew attempt to rob the hotel that Kaine's frequenting and take the employee's, including Annabelle, hostage. After some comfort from the good ol' Doc, Kaine decides to relieve some stress by pounding in the head of some jolly old miscreants and in magnificent fashion. What follows is arguably one of the best action pages I've ever seen and could be considered hilarious all together.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW)

hOk, forget everything I said earlier about Aquaman being the most underrated and underappreciated title... of any publisher. TMNT is by far one of the most fantastic comics on the market and it's sickening when you realize how ignorant people are to its existence. This is a title completely riddled with life in every aspect. So much so that the fantastic coupling of art and writing just scream out at you. The story arcs are intricately written, each title playing into each other and functioning like a well tuned engine.

By far though, this could be the single title that continually manages to surprise me with each issue. One that leaves me impressed and aching for more, something I'd argue isn't seen all too often anymore with some of the more mainstream titles. TMNT has the benefit of claiming that it is one of the sole titles that can flow effortlessly from peaceful, down-to-earth moments and ramp the action back up to the maximum within the blink of an eye. There's a little bit of everything here that will appeal to the biggest fans of the franchise and enough to attract brand new readers just looking to find somewhere to jump in. If I could recommend ONE title to someone, this is the first one that would come to mind in a heartbeat.

Favourite Issue: City Fall Part Six

Oh noes, he chooses the epic finale to one of the best story arcs of the year! SAY IT AIN'T SO! Yeah that's right, the finale to City Fall was brilliant and delivered in tying up loose ends, bringing the pain in terms of a long anticipated fight and pushing one of its main characters in a new direction. This is an emotional roller coaster of an issue duders/dudettes! The Turtles and co. do their best in rallying up their forces in attempts to stop the Shredder from causing all out destruction on the city and struggle to free their brother Leo from his grasp.

The real kicker though is how the conclusion leaves an ever-changing impact on the Turtles dynamic as we know it. Without diving into spoilers, it really hits hard on a specific character and you cannot help but feel their pain but also wish they weren't so stubborn in refusing help. It's a stunning conclusion to a stunning story arc that tossed around twists and turns at every corner.

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DM's Peek of the Week: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

There's a special sort of creativity when it comes to the Assassins Creed franchise. Instead of focusing on ground-breaking elements such as a revolutionized gameplay system year after year, or pushing the boundaries of graphical prowess, the titans behind Ubisoft instead choose to highlight the beautiful re-imaginations of historical rich settings. These worlds that Ubisoft manages to capture and breathe life into are downright incredible. There's an inescapable aura to it, one that cannot be so quickly absorbed and ignored. It becomes apparently clear how much detail and how much care is addressed and considering the short developmental times, it very well leaves you in awe.

Despite the mixed reception of the previous installment, Assassins Creed 3, Ubisoft decided to press forward and stronger than ever before. This time though, the setting was quite a surprise and takes a jab at the franchise's strict chronological order. Now, I'll gladly admit that I am not finished with Assassin's Creed IV, nor am I even close. Roughly 28 hours in and I'm about halfway through the main story. Although before I continue any further, let me point out that Black Flag didn't draw me in within the opening sequences as I would've liked it to. With regards to my adoration of the franchise, this felt like the most alienated piece of the puzzle. There was a certain abruptness to the pacing of the story, a relatively disjointed lack of initial motivation to care for protagonist Edward Kenway. But as with all brilliant pieces of art, a single short-handed forray does it very little justice.

Black Flag decides to strip itself from the norm, disregarding the importance of the Assassin/Templar feud, both from the view of Kenway and the gamer. Instead, you're taken on a journey of self-importance, one that abolishes that which was previously seen as the pinnacle of direction. Edward Kenway is a pirate and yet, an oddly honourable and charismatic man among the devious figures he allies himself with. There's a certain attribute to his character that makes him feel so familiar but refreshingly capable as a leading man. His motives are not one of selflessness yet you cannot help but care for his mission and while bordering that line, you're given a remarkable second glance at an unseen nature of pirates. Some ring terrifyingly true with the stereotypes given but it may come as a surprise as to how the true nature of these "famed" pirates pales in comparison to what can be seen as "atrocities" produced by the British and Spanish armies.

Now, we've seen how Assassins Creed 3 took the time to dabble a little in the world of naval combat but sadly, to a limited extent. Black Flag takes this to an entirely different level, emphasizing greatly on "true" open world exploration and freedom, which it does so tremendously. Your ship is not just another means of travel, but an extension of yourself and the crew considered your family. Shanties ring true as you ride the waves of the ocean, plundering various naval ships, scouring uncharted lands for loot and diving to the depths of the sea to discover long forgotten wrecks of old. There's an outstanding level of care, detail and passion that is seen with representing the true nature of the open seas and it's represented to such a level that you find yourself lost among the wonders of its world.

As such, Black is not without faults although in this case, it could be purely subjective. There's an unrelenting amount of atrocious escort and eavesdrop missions that left me groaning audibly under my breath. It serves little purpose to the story and pacing, only managing to worsen the overall experience due to the occasional sticky free-running controls. Retrospectively, the Assassin's franchise has been well known for recreating some of the most gorgeous locations in all of gaming. This time around, despite having the most choice at hand, Black Flag lacks any sort of true draw or recognizable landmarks that will leave you in awe as did the wonders of Rome and the multitude of cities from the adventures of Ezio in Renaissance Italy.

On top of that, there's a modern setting to the game which plays a largely miniscule part in the entire story of things (at least from what I've experienced so far). Thankfully for those who care little for the modern events that the franchise has attempted to push towards, there isn't much time spent with the nameless protagonist of that era and the objectives given to perform are actually some of the most entertaining and creative puzzles the series has come to offer. Pushing to the realm of combat, Black Flag remains relatively consistent as it has since it's earliest entries, if not more simple this time around. What really caught my attention though was the sheer depth of possibilities with how to approach combat. While the other games technically boasted about "stealth", you were never given much aside from hiding within crowds for the right moment. Now, with the fantastic addition of a crafting system and an enormous collection of tools, I was left stunned at the countless possibilities I was given considering how dull a straight up approach to combat has become.

From what I've experienced so far, I only really became engrossed with the latest entry into the series after two dozen hours or so but it'd be a crime in saying that it so wasn't worth the wait. Edward is a powerfully addictive lead despite his mediocre supporting cast. The open seas, naval battles and exploration will drain your life away and the combat has taken a newly ingenious direction. Black Flag represents a stepping stone for the franchise, a shining symbol that the series if far from dried out and you'd be crazy to let this one pass out of your grasp. There has never been a better time to stretch your sea legs.

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DM's Year End Awards: Top Ten Games of 2013

Waitamunute, waitaminute, waitaminute!

WHERE THE HECK DID 2013 GO!? Well damn, I missed everything didn't I!? I guess all that's left now is to make some list about my favourite games of the year or something right? Yeah, that sounds familiar, I'll go with that. AND GO!

(SIDE NOTE): I did not finish every game this year nor am I including next-gen because I simply have not had the time to complete the games I do have and it just wouldn't do any justice to toss them up without fully experiencing what they have to offer!

10. State of Decay

It wouldn't be much of a stretch to clarify that I may have a hilariously awkward obsession with anything relatable to post-apocalyptic worst case scenarios. It's an odd fixation that centres around my need for observing how we fantasize over the collapse of modern human society and how the survivors manage to cope and adapt to these new worlds. With State of Decay, developer Undead Labs pushes that boundary even further by giving you those EXACT tools for true survival aspects with managing a community, providing for your people and taking risks that affect either those you care about or selfishly looking out for yourself.

There's isn't a clear cut sense of right and wrong with SoD and that's what I love about it. The game manages to perform at its best when it forces the player to second guess themselves and their decisions, whether it be for the betterment of their community or not. It's a game that keeps you on edge, a world that doesn't hold your hand out in the wild and it becomes terrifyingly evident when you realize that you ARE NOT invincible against the endless waves of the undead. You struggle to find supplies to keep your community adrift and just when you think it's time to lay low, SoD allows you to believe that you are safe and comfortable until you get swamped in the middle of the night by more powerful, mutated versions of the monstrosities aching for your flesh.

For an arcade title, the game boasts quite a production value. It won't be the itch you're looking for when comparing it to top profile titles but that's not where Undead Labs laid their focus on and that's the beauty of it. The game is more than competent when it comes to acknowledging the diverse playstyles of gamers and gives you the option, and a satisfyingly enormous world, to engage with whatever you come across in any which way you please. This is why State of Decay kicks of my list with a bang.

9. Dead Space 3

Largely considered one of the last titles on the market that truly boasts the survival horror aspect of old, Dead Space 3 manages to yet again craft a brilliant, dark, mind-numbingly thrill ride of an experience. Following Issac Clarke yet again but this time around, our protagonist is borderline insane after the trauma's experienced throughout the first two titles. The game changer this time around? Tossing up against human enemies and having the ability to do so with a friend.

Now, Dead Space 3 follows the same route that Resident Evil 5 went after both games were highly acclaimed for being revolutionary amongst their genres. In this case, I feel co-op only helps enhance the experience and in no way does the game become any easier by doing so. There's also further improvements with the fantastic weapon crafting in addition to a wide selection of goodies in terms of chilling audio collectibles and a creative degree of unlockable outfits to utilize, some even allowing for beneficial boosts to the player's gameplay.

While Dead Space 3 lacks the initial "oomph" that the former titles provided, co-op manages to provide a reinvigorating motivation to continue on and a new set of absolutely stunning locales just keep things fresh throughout the lengthy experience. Dead Space 3 is sadly a largely overlooked and underappreciated experience in 2013 but despite that, I couldn't help but drain dozens of hours into the latest installment of Visceral's top notch shooter.

8. Tomb Raider

Re-imagining of a cult icon? Check. Extremely gorgeous and accessible world? Check. Wonderfully engaging story and expertly crafted gameplay? Check and check. Despite some of the initial negative feedback when first hearing about the news for a Tomb Raider reboot, Crystal Dynamics still managed to conquer through the pessimism and succeed in recreating one of the best third-person action/adventure titles on the market that originally went on to inspire modern titans such as Uncharted.

On top of being one of the few IP's to not only pull off the impossible of breathing new life in an all but exhausted franchise, it jumps an extra step in improving and adapting the changes that modern titles have since revolutionized since Tomb Raider's dawn over a decade ago. This new outlook on Lara Croft is engaging as instead of jumping straight into the shoes of an experienced warrior, we struggle with our protagonist every step of the way. Every injury, every achievement, every heartbreaking loss. It's a touching and even stressful experience that you just cannot help but become engrossed within.

7. Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Just when you thought a franchise was inadvertently headed in the completely wrong direction, it manages to pull the most abrupt U-turn in the history of gaming and rush head on and completely surprise almost everyone who once doubted its existence. Ubisoft Toronto has crafted an experience for every type of gamer and that's not even an exaggeration. Ok well, maybe it is but trust me, Blacklist manages to appeal to almost any style that has come across the "stealth/action" genre in the past decade.

Yeah ok, one of the aspects of the game that truly disappointed or even isolated a group of fans was the dismissal of veteran Sam Fisher voice actor: Michael Ironside. This time around, they chose to go with a fresh take on the character, a younger take if you will, and if anyone is familiar with Smallville's Eric Johnson, they'll feel relatively at home. He lacks the general experience and gruff that Ironside brought to the table but he still manages to bring an interesting take and even a relatable one.

Alongside a gritty story with some incredible options for co-op, Blacklist knocks it out of the park by reintroducing the critically acclaimed Spies vs Mercs multiplayer portion, long since abandoned by the past few titles in the series. A truly unique experience that pushes players to tactically cooperate with their teammates to succeed in a multiplayer component completely focused on objective based gameplay. It's almost a call-back to the days of old, a time where it took more than a itchy trigger finger to keep you alive and it's a wonderful experience that helps complete and already fantastic package.

6. Grand Theft Auto V

Well, I'm pretty sure that this is the only title on this list that won't need an introduction. GTA V, arguably the most popular title of the year, manages to comfortably ease its way into my top ten list without any hassle whatsoever. Ok hold up, can we maybe take a second to acknowledge how ridiculously MASSIVE this game is. I don't mean in the sense of the game world, just in terms of how much content Rockstar Games has managed to stuff into one title, crafting what could be the final hoorah of the seventh generation of gaming.

Interestingly enough, with boasting three main protagonists rather than just one, GTA V juggles the intertwining stories with remarkable awe but at the same time, it almost becomes an intimidating or even overwhelming experience, one that you cannot even help but fathom or even applaud the developers for taking genuine time and appreciation with. Rockstar, with their unmatched experience in the sandbox genre, further continues to improve upon not only their storytelling, but finally tweak their previously sluggish and buggy control system to near perfection this time around. This allows for an overall increased enjoyment in nearly every sector that the game provides, INCLUDING the driving.

It'd be an understatement in saying that GTA V wasn't a pretty gem. It becomes clear from the get-go how incredibly detailed everything is in the game, and you find yourself just taking the time to appreciate the scenery. Sadly, the only thing that keeps GTA V from rising higher on my list is my ever continuing poor experience with the multiplayer side of things. At times it manages to function and when it does, it's quite the thrill ride. Yet, it's still largely inconsistent and a lot of the promises made have yet to be provided for. Despite that being said, this is an experience that cannot be missed.

5. DmC: Devil May Cry

There's a certain authenticity that comes with approaching the Devil May Cry reboot, which even to this day is disregarded merely on the approach to the reimagining of another video game icon; Dante. Sadly, I find those claims to be a tad bit overbearing as with experiencing everything Ninja Theory's reboot offers, I have no shame in claiming that this entry in the (new?) series is arguably one of its most refined and focused. The revered combat makes a triumphant return and for the better If I were to be so bold. There's a more focused approach this time around, with fluidity between powers and weapons being the focus, making it both accessible to new players and those who have spent years with the series.

On top of refining an already near perfect combat experience, Ninja Theory takes a gamble of tackling a similar but fresh take on Dante's origin which manages to only further impact both the story and combat in a more positive way. There's an impactful experience to be found with Dante's tragic and hidden past and despite being largely crude at many points throughout its rather lengthy playtime, the jumps taken into more mature territory administer surprising results. With mentioning a DmC title, you can't help but applaud the gorgeous art styles that follow. While being a little buggy at times, the game carries an artistic style that is to be envied and perfectly blends the diverse themes addressed in the wild ride that Ninja Theory thankfully managed to recreate.

4. BioShock Infinite

So yeah, BioShock Infinite am I right? See now, we've reached in my list where everything I say just becomes incoherent babble and I just end up rambling on about how these games even manage to exist. Bear with me, it's about to get messy. I'm going to kick things off with stating that Irrational Games manages to make the absolute BEST introductions that just drag you in every time, despite how you feel going into the game. In my case, I waited several months before jumping in and truthfully, I totally tried going all hipster with this one. The end result, just nope. I cannot express how much I loved this game, a triumph that borders the creative brilliance of the original back in 2007.

Infinite is only linear in its combat and honestly, while they have improved the shooting aspect, I feel like it just left the Vigors (Infinite's version of Plasmids) completely obsolete in a lot of situations considering the sheer power of some of the weapons, and how generally uninteresting a large majority of the Vigors were. Now we jump into the the mess that is explaining how ridiculously amazing the story is. It cannot be put into words, it just can't or I'm just too limited in my vocabulary to do so. Every time you may think you know where the story is headed, Infinite just rears up and slaps you in the face, as if the developers are laughing at your expectations.

And then we have the locale and the visuals. Holy moley is this game jaw-dropping. There are moments where you find yourself forced to put down the controller and just gaze upon the creativity behind these expertly imagined worlds. Despite being held back at times with a relatively general combat system, the story more than makes up for it and helps push the overall package into stardom.

3. Injustice: Gods Among Us

Say whaaaat?! A fighting game made my top ten list?! And it's NOT Mortal Kombat? Blasphemy! Hey, I'm with you guys. When I initially heard about Injustice, I had every right to believe this would fail considering the track record of the superhero genre, and despite my best hopes that it would surpass everyone's expectations. Thankfully, NetherRealm Studios has a fantastic history with the fighting genre by being the creators of the massively lauded Mortal Kombat series and man, does their expertise ever feel so present with Injustice.

So, on top of having arguably the best and most accessible gameplay systems out there for fighting games, Injustice also manages to craft the best storyline as well, which comes as no surprise considering the sheer quality and quantity that comes with the DC brand. While it's a tad bit short, it remains all the more engaging and helps quicken the removal of your training wheels before really tackling the tough stuff, which can get extremely aggravating at times. Brilliantly enough, NetherRealm takes a twist by utilizing a alternate reality in which Superman and co. (with a few exceptions) absolutely lose their minds and enslave the Earth. It's an interesting take on the mythos and one that translates quite well on screen thanks to the easy transition into the fighting genre.

Now, the creme of the crop lies with the roster and the online play. I mean, everyone knows that's where all the fun truly sticks with fighting games since it is the last remaining challenging that remains ever present despite how much you play. Boasting a rather impressive roster, split down the middle with a side of heroes and one for villains, each character is unique enough that the game forces you to spend time in mastering their massive array of combo's, strengths and weaknesses. It's an invigorating experience, one which I spent dozens upon dozens of hours of getting smacked around and yet, I just kept coming back for more.

2. The Last of Us

"Can you survive?" There lies the one, simplistic question that The Last of Us rests upon those who gracefully approach this masterpiece of a game. It's here where Naughty Dog excels the most. Not with the graphics, not with the gameplay, but with one simple theme that haunts you through the entire duration of your experience. The Last of Us is simply remarkable because of its tone, because of its setting and because of its characters.

Before I continue praising the game, I'll get some of the negative aspects out of the way. Probably my single complaint with The Last of Us is its gameplay, which is borderline atrocious at times but at others, immensely engrossing. There are times where you just cannot get enough of how stressfully giddy the combat makes you feel, always on edge and watching your back. Comfortability is a feeling that is very rare and transparent throughout the entire experience and the developers take note of this, completely ripping away at your safety at every opportunity. In other cases, it can just be utterly frustrating with how poorly some of the mechanics function, especially at a close distance, where you'll spend a large portion of your time stuck in. However, the brilliance of the story is the single aspect pushing you forward through some poor mission design at times and you'll be thankful for it.

I cannot praise The Last of Us more than just for simply recognizing that gamers are not stupid. We do not need a constant reminder as to what the objective is, nor where we need to go next. In almost any case, it takes away from the the thrill of discovery and the fear of the unknown. Naughty Dog corrects that and appreciates the fact that gamers are smart, edgy and persistent. They give you free reign of controlling where and when you proceed, highlighting only for utmost importance but not intrusively. Just as a final surprising and welcomed addition, Naughty Dog introduces a creative and refreshing multiplayer very much akin to that of Gears of War where it pushes for tactical dependency with your teammates and that's where I was drawn in. There's a moderate survival dependency reminiscent of the story but it centres around the crafting to later improve your weaponry and such.

Now while The Last of Us boasts some of the most alluring visuals I've ever seen, it's not without faults. The game tends to having an odd blurring effect whenever moving and it tends to be oddly jagged as well. However, almost everything about this post-apocalyptic world screams out at me and leaves me drooling for more.

1. Metro: Last Light

Where does bravery surface from where there rests no hope? This was the single most endearing aspect that Last Light provided me with. A complete sense of hopelessness, a mission continued simply to provide hope for the survivors of a devastated world, one which they could never dream of returning to. It's a frightening thought, one that leaves you contemplating your decisions and every single action you take. Last Light, more than any other game I've played, forces you to second guess yourself every chance it gets and it's painfully rewarding on top of engaging.

Last Light follows a world in which Russia fell into nuclear war, rendering the surface world completely uninhabitable and slaughtering the vast majority of the population. The survivors now live within the countries vast Metro system, some in a welcoming tone, others so treacherous that you are left wondering who the true enemy is. It's a tone that appeals greatly to me as it leaves the gamer questioning how you would react in a similar situation and man, does the game ever give you the opportunity to do so.

The gameplay is refined to the point where in any given situation where you encounter enemies, you are freely given the option to engage in either a hostile or one of complete avoidance. While you can engage your enemies, you gain even more options by choosing to be either lethal or non-lethal. Each action you take affects a morality system, one that will help dictate a specific ending and here's where the brilliance comes in. You have absolutely no idea whether the actions you perform are "good or bad". Yes that's right, you are completely left in the dark with only your own morality to dictate your actions. It's an incredibly innovating mechanic that helps thrust you into the world and hits you hard when you discover the impacts of your choices.

Last Light makes my list almost solely because of those aspects on top of being arguably one of the most jaw droppingly exquisite games I've ever laid eyes on. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the most engrossing experiences I've ever played in the past few years and sadly, one of the most underrated and overshadowed of the year.

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DM's Peek of the Week: Korra premiere with Special Guest laflux!

Hey-o! Another week, another blog everyone! Although this time around, I have something special in store just for all you Airbender fans! I decided to not only check out the premiere and toss in my thoughts, but my brother in arms @laflux has joined me as well! I hope you all give him a warm welcome! Now let's get down to it!

DM's Thoughts:

At last, the long awaited return of The Legend of Korra. As many of you know, I hold Avatar the Last Airbender very, very dearly to my heart. It is quite honestly one of my favourite shows of all time alongside Spectacular Spider-Man and I cannot express the happiness, joy, love, sadness and regret that emulated from this series and the hardships that affected me personally, more so than it should have really. Truthfully though, that's what makes this series so special to me and one that will be remembered for as long as I can remember. The characters, the setting, the unique aspect of connectivity, family, and spiritual elements made this a stand-out show and I cannot thank the creators more for sharing their vision with us. Well, enough of that little dose of nonsense, on to my thoughts!

The Legend of Korra returns! We left off last season with Korra reconnecting with the Avatar State and her bending after a surprise visit from none other than Aang himself! Where we continue off is a familiar yet relaxed tone, showing how the daily lives of our heroes have changed and adapted since Amon's defeat. Korra has spent the majority of that time training with Tenzin and perfecting her airbending skills. Mako took a more responsible approach and become an officer of the law with ambitions to selflessly help others. Asami is left with the task of trying to rebuild her father's company after his treacherous acts of supporting the Equalists left a bad taste with the large majority of past partners. And Bolin? What can I say about Bolin that you don't already know?

I took interest in seeing how improvement on Korra and Mako's relationship has advanced. Despite some forced moments and cheesy lines, there seems to be slight adjustments over the last season, albeit positive ones. Clearly, there is a lot of tension that stems from Tenzin and Korra in regards to her Avatar training and lack of ambition and focus. Despite her previous success, she still acts a tad bit arrogant, headstrong and poor tempered. Although, you can't really blame her considering what she's gone through and how events have changed in her life, you would think she might've humbled a little and perhaps offered some appreciation to the obvious dedication and care that her friends and family give her on a daily basis. Yet, she easily disregards them at many turns and becomes easily angered if her side isn't chosen. It is refreshing to see that despite being the Avatar, she is still just a teenager trying to find her place in the world while carrying such a heavy burden.

It was a nice treat to see a more in-depth reintroduction of Korra's parents and especially her father, with the notable addition of his brother and Korra's uncle. It's here that it seems the season will primarily take focus around as Korra's Uncle takes large interest in his desire to train Korra on the importance of spiritual respect and knowledge in regards to how it affects their world through the Avatar State. There are some scenes that may have provided a little bit of obvious foreshadowing but from a different perspective, it could also be seen as purposeful misdirection. Nonetheless, it's exciting to realize that Korra has still much to learn and that her foes will take more than brute force to conquer.

As always, the voice acting is absolutely pitch perfect and the animation is a delightful and jaw dropping sight to behold. While there wasn't much to be shown here in terms of bending, it's rather clear that there will definitely be a different tone taken this season and hopefully a far more personal one to better flesh out the cast. Regardless, I was gleefully satisfied and smiling from ear-to-ear from this premiere showing and aching to see more!

Thoughts from laflux:

Thanks Bro. Avatar has always been up there as one of the best animated shows around, and the first two episodes are a brilliant example of why. One of my few major gripes of the original series was that the original series started off rather slowly, but the same cannot be said of the first two episodes.

As you mentioned, we get a great overview of what's happened between the events of the first season and now. I've always been a big fan of the 1920's style of announcing previous events, and it was mixed in well with live action segments showing what the gang (intentional :P) have been up to. Early in the episode, it becomes clear that some characters are not going to be featured as prominently such as Ling Bei Fong or Asami's Dad, but one of Avatar's strongest suits is a strong sense of continuity and its nice to know that they are not forgotten. Speaking of Asami, I think it was a great call to have her father's company get into financial trouble because of his equalist links and it made for a great way for her and Bolin to spend some together in order to garner some financial support from Varrick. The whole segment was humorously done, and makes a possible ship between them feel less forced and more organic.

Bolin of course is always going to be a source of comic relief for the show and while he will struggle to reach the heights of Sokka before him, his interactions with Desna and Eska were amusing (and one of the most subtle version of the anime styled "traps" I've seen so far). However, unlike in the Last Airbender when Sokka would often be the sole source of comic relief, there are also humorous pieces from Tenzin and his siblings and even the usually humor shy Mako made me chuckle with his forced tough guy cop one-liners. All of this was just enough to detract from the relatively anonymous role Meelo had. Let's hope he comes on strong in the later episodes.

I think its nice to see that Korra still has a lot to learn spiritually and in regards to airbending too- and the way she abused her powers to win an air scooter race was a great way to highlight that. Speaking of which, I don't think she's a fully realized avatar yet, and when she goes into The Avatar State, her eyes continue to glow. The conflict of Tenzin and Korra's father (Tonraq) vs her uncle (Unalaq) in regards to Korra following the best spiritual path is interesting. Korra taking her uncle's side was expected but I like how this has freed Tenzin, at least for the time being, to have to go on his own adventures and as you said, I think there is some foreshadowing concerning the origins of the Avatar, and having Jinora, at least for the time being, at the forefront of this is different, but I think it can work.

Overall, this was a strong opener. The episodes were a bit light on action, but this was at the expense of solid storytelling and characterization. The ending in particular was a great way of indicating that Unalaq's intentions were not as benevolent as we suspected, and the notion of him dragging his southern water tribe cousins, kicking and screaming into an age of spiritual enlightenment, bears a strong resemblance to Sozin. It's a good recipe for a possible villain and the resemblance makes snarks (and you) like me feel remembered.

And there you have it folks, another edition of Peek of the Week and one graced honourably by my dear friend laflux! See you next time folks!

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DM's Peek of the Week: Diablo 3 Console Edition

Hey folks, DM here! Hope you don't mind but I've gone about trying a new blog feature I like to call "Peek of the Week". While I would love to get back into reviewing on a constant basis, whether it be games, film or comics, I may be short-handed in regards to the time I have available to me. BUT, I definitely didn't want to come out empty handed for anyone who has enjoyed the nonsense I've written in the past so I've decided to at least once a week spotlight something of interest to me. It may be a popular video game I'm playing or a movie I just watched! Generally, if I write a comic review I'll toss it up as an official review but any general thoughts I have on this issue will be directed towards this blog feature...thing... So without further ado! DIABLO 3!

I'll start things off simple and what I think may address any thoughts regarding PC or recurring players. I have never played a Diablo game in my life so please forgive me if I sound like a complete fool over here trying to dissect this game. As a simple explanation for those unaware, Diablo 3 is an Action-Role playing game or "RPG" for short. It takes a top-down perspective but slightly more focused on the character in a similar vein to games like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. A main difference here for those who have played the PC version is the direct control of the character via the thumbstick as opposed to point and click control through mouse controls. As I've never played any of the previous games, I can't touch on the subject of comparisons and I feel it would be unwise and an ignorant act on my part as well.

In regards to RPG's, the gameplay and combat is relatively simplified and easy to jump into. The game offers the choice of five different classes to choose from: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Witch Doctor, Monk and Wizard. Most of the classes are self explanatory and are all relatively unique in terms of play style. The Barbarian is your standard melee class, rushing in with large, two handed weapons and shields as well as being damage soakers. Demon Hunters are your standard recon or hunter class, relying specifically on ranged weaponry such as bows and even single or dual handed crossbows. Witch Doctors and Wizards are basically two sides of the same coin. One relies on darker magic such as Necromancy and utilizing plagues to defeat their enemies while Wizards manipulate more traditional magics such as primal nature forces, arcane magic and time manipulation to their advantage. Monks are the spiritual warriors of the Light utilizing martial arts and Holy energy and weaponry to aid them.

As with every RPG, loot and gear drops are the most gratifying part of the experience. While you can purchase new armour or weapons from local store merchants, nothing ever beats the drops you get from epic dungeon crawls or defeating more powerful foes. Each class has their own unique gear and while you may pick up something you cannot equip, you can just as easily sell it to a merchant to rack up the gold and save for some better gear yourself. Alongside an epic loot system is a fine-tooled skill system. On the console versions, as you level up and unlock new skill trees, you can map a specific skill to a face button on the gamepad. The adaption from a more robust system on PC's onto consoles works brilliantly and is simplified but still deep enough to not seem like a tossed off experience. The skills are specified by categories or action slots: Primary, Secondary and 1 through 4( change dependant on the class you choose). Alongside a set of skills, you can unlock subset upgrades that help improve those skills as you utilize them more often to help you become more prominent with your character. An example may be a primary attack for my Demon Hunter is launching a barrage of rapid fire arrows and my subset skill allows me to recover Hatred(energy utilized for action attacks) at a larger rate per every kill. This extends differently to the different skills and classes of course and provides plenty of replay value and discovery.

Now as I've mentioned, I have never played a Diablo game prior the third so I have absolutely no idea what the main story is about or if it intertwines with previous games. With that said though, despite digging occasionally into past lore, it feels like a fresh start and an easy way for newcomers to jump on without feeling largely intimidated. From what I've played so far, the story largely focuses around an ancient power reawakening and summoning the undead and demons to plague the world of Sanctuary. At the beginning of the game, a mysterious blue star falls into a church, absolutely scorching everything around it and falling deep into the foundations. As the games hero, you show in up in the town of New Tristram and from there on try to discover the cause of the recent events. I would love to dive deeper into the story but I haven't played enough to properly assess the plot nor am I really knowledgeable with the franchise's lore.

A subject I'd really rather avoid but I guess I'll touch on slightly regardless of my thoughts that it carries very little importance is the visual and audio design. Artistically, the game is impressive with finely illustrated cutscenes that unfortunately don't appear too often and the game instead depends on casual in-game conversations from the standard gameplay view to detail minor events. Technically, the game seems to be on-par with current gen RPG's of a similar stature. The framerate is quite easily the most impressive part of the technical design. There is rarely, if ever, a hiccup in the frame rate and it remains smooth almost throughout my entire experience. The audio design on the other hand left more to be desired. The soundtrack really isn't anything impressive and you won't hear anyone boasting about a specific track anytime soon. The voice acting is acceptable but there really aren't any stand-out performances and honestly, the dialogue is the last thing you'll care about considering it's rather dull and so far, only remains to push the story and quests further along.

You won't really see yourself caring for any one character in particular but another interesting addition of Diablo 3 is the choice to ally yourself with a companion. So far, I've only two different characters that I could choose between to aid me on my quests. A templar and a thief. From what I've seen, you kind of just meet them along the main quests and have the option to ally yourself with them or send them back to the main town and switch between companions if you ever wish to. These allies will never permanently die in battle though. They may go down briefly but are reviewed after a short period of time after the fighting is over. You have the choice of customizing these characters weapons if you so choose to, but it is a limited process in comparison to your own character.

All in all, I'm enjoying Diablo 3 a lot more than I thought I would. Despite some troubles with the audio design and a lack of ambition on the story front, the gameplay is the stand-out as are the addictive dungeon crawls and plentiful weapon drops! If anyone is craving a rich combat experience, then I can't recommend Diablo 3 more! Give it a shot!

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DM's Top Ten Games of the Year!

With 2012 finally over with, I can put together my top ten games of the year and boy, was it hard nailing it down to simply ten. A quick note before continuing on with the list, I have yet to complete the last few chapters of Telltale's The Walking Dead and currently in the process of playing throughFar Cry 3, so I didn't find it fair to include either of those in my list since I'm far from completion. Alright, down to business!

10. Resident Evil 6

Alright, it's fair to note right off the bat that Resident Evil 6 wasn't the best game in the series, nor was it exceptional among it's competition either, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the game as a whole. Yes, the controls took a little getting used to and perhaps some of the changes or lack thereof might have been infuriating, but Resident Evil 6 did succeed in crafting some exciting moments throughout it's three (or four) separate campaigns even if it never came close to living up to series standard that Resident Evil 4 had established.

The changes made to the combat actually worked for the better, allowing for movement while aiming, which was a first for the series and while some disliked this change, I found it to be one of the more appealing aspects that RE6 provided and hope to see it pass onto future installments. While the story fails to provide any true survival horror that the series had once been known for, it boasts some fun, yet ridiculous boss battles, a few interesting new characters and some overall fun co-op moments.

9. Sniper Elite V2

A mostly overlooked and underrated game, Sniper Elite V2 is a remake of 2005's Sniper Elite released by the same developer; Rebellion. A simplistic third person shooter taking place in 1945 near the end of second World War, the player is thrown into the shoes of an OSS Sniper operative who makes his way through war-torn Europe tracking down and eliminating any scientist involved in the German V2 program.

Despite the simplicity that the game provides, the gameplay is top notch, throwing in some of the most gruesome and exciting shoot-outs that I've experienced from either a WW2 shooter or any shooter regardless. This is all due to the fantastic sniper combat and basically re-invents the "X-Ray" kill cam that the original so well established. Sniper Elite V2 allows you to play the game whichever way you please but awards the player for taking stealthier precautions and even allowing moments of synchronization with elements in the world such as thunder or artillery strikes to mask Sniper shots to best emphasize a stealthy approach.

While it's severely lacking on the story front, the constantly amusing and gruesome Kill-cam provides never grows tiresome and kept me entertained for hours on end.

8. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

It's no surprise that I thoroughly and genuinely enjoyed the latest installment in High Moon Studio's Cybertron series. Considering the poor treatment that the Transformers have endured on the video game front in the past decade, it was a relieving breath of fresh air when High Moon took the reigns and brought the franchise back to it's roots. While still taking partial inspiration from Michael Bay's films, the series evidently pays massive homage to the G1 era in both character design and story.

I can't stress enough how impressed I was with the entire package that Fall of Cybertron provided. Fantastic and nearly flawless gameplay, an intriguing story that separates it from those that came before it and don't even get me started on the multiplayer. Sadly, this is where the game was mostly overlooked. Lacking a cult hit that big hitters such as Call of Duty, Gears of War and Halo have all achieved, FoC doesn't manage to draw in a massive crowd in the same regard but that doesn't mean that it doesn't succeed either. In fact, the multiplayer is easily where the game shines most and I've wasted a dozen hours taking the fight of Cybertron online.

Alongside all of this, Fall of Cybertron boasts a fantastic voice cast that even borrows some of the talent from previous shows and even the Bay films. Here's hoping that the next game in the series builds upon and finally receives the recognition it deserves.

7. The Witcher 2

Before I continue on with my thoughts on why I so enjoyed The WItcher 2, I'd like to point out that I despise RPG's for the most part. Don't ask me why, but it takes a special kind of RPG to draw my attention and The Witcher 2 succeeded effortlessly. Yes, I know, The Witcher 2 originally came out in 2011, but the Xbox 360 version came out back in May so I can throw this on my list.

Back to my praise. CD Projekt absolutely nails every aspect in this game from the story, wonderful cast of characters and fantastically difficult combat -- the works. Not to mention that it also might be the best looking game on the 360 to date and that's just throwing more fuel to the fire. I, for one, hate most combat systems that are introduced by your standard RPG. But thankfully, the combat in Witcher 2 throws away with that and despite being more difficult than most average "hack and slash" titles, it's appeal lies in it's strategic outlook. It's something that most games, if not all seemingly don't even bother to attempt and it only helps benefit The Witcher 2 here.

Following the character of Geralt, he gets caught between a murder conspiracy with the blame completely landed on him by another Witcher. He makes it his mission to track down this impostor and his adventures lead you to gorgeous locales that will leave your jaw dropping far more often that you'd like. The brilliance of the story-telling revolves all around choice and these choices come back later on in the story and could either benefit you or become your utmost downfall. It's an enticing aspect that will keep you constantly second guessing your decisions and that only helps better the experience as a whole.

6. Max Payne 3

I'll be completely blunt here, I was never a fan of the Max Payne games prior to the release of the third installment. I was completely aware of them but I never gave them a second thought. Perhaps it was because third person shooters weren't my cup of tea at the time being or perhaps because I just simply hated the entire concept of the games, I don't know. I can say that with Max Payne 3, everything changed.

With Rockstar taking over for Remedy, many people were skeptical at how they would handle a more linear shooter in comparison to all the open-world crime shooters they have become so accustomed to excellently crafting. Let me tell you, I never expected Rockstar to pull this off and I am ecstatic to say that I was completely proven wrong. Rockstar not only knocks it out of the park but re-creates and utilizes some of the most basic yet thrilling gameplay elements and throws Max through hell as he tries to forget his past and push into the future. It's a dark and daring story that will leave you sympathizing with Max at every turn as he sacrifices whatever freedom he originally had to hunt down and protect those who hired him.

So yes, I'm going to go there and say that Max Payne 3 outdoes it's predecessors in every-way and proves that story-telling through cutscenes is still as effective as ever.

5. Borderlands 2

There can be no other way to describe Borderlands 2 than chaos, absolute chaos. To be completely frank, few games have ever succeeded in achieving such a level of enjoyment that you constantly lose track in what you are actually doing and instead, you find yourself instinctively looting, killing, exploring and looting some more. It's safe to say that Borderlands is the closest thing to the perfect coupling of RPG elements with nearly flawless FPS mechanics.

While it doesn't really live up to the claims of a greater story, everyone already knows that this isn't the appeal in Borderlands 2. Yes, it would've been nice to have a more fleshed out story, building on the new characters introduced, but instead you find yourself so engulfed in the sheer insanity of the game that you end up not even caring. So many games aim for that and fewer even begin to succeed. Continuing on the trend that the original established, Borderlands 2 is every bit as hilarious and will keep you laughing constantly at how completely insane each one of the supporting characters are.

The gameplay and visuals have remained almost completely the same since the original Borderlands three years back, but it matters very little as the art style has always been easy and charming to look at. The biggest change is the new cast of characters and the interaction with the original four. It's intriguing to see what roles each of the original characters play this time around as they fight against a completely delusional Dictator type character known as "Handsome" Jack whose only goal is to destroy all resistance and steal all of Pandora's endless resources.

4. Assassins Creed 3

It will come as no surprise that I am a massive Assassins Creed fanboy and that the franchise has landed itself as one of my favourite of all time, boasting some of the best and most interesting settings ever graced in gaming. Despite all of this, I have to say that through all of Assassins Creed 3's accomplishments, it also had it's fair share of short-coming that kept it from being higher on the list.

Disregarding that fact, I still enjoyed every single moment of the game and even considering my completionist OSD, I found myself so engulfed in the story that I didn't even bother jumping into the side missions until I finished the main story, which is an absolute first for me. Although Connor's character never connected as greatly with me in the way that Ezio's did, his story was still an interesting one to see unfold and his personality helped completely differentiate him from his predecessors.

Easily the most impressive and successful aspect about the third installation and any other for that matter is the setting. Taking place in Colonial America on the brink of revolution, it's simply a treat to see how events unfolded and how Conner's behind-the-scenes interaction helped "shape" the direction that America's greatest leaders took as they fought for independence from the British and the Templars, who are constantly pulling the strings. Ubisoft brilliantly utilizes this setting and succeeds in creating one of the most enjoyable experiences in gaming this year.

3. Darksiders II

Here we go again, another RPG Hack and slash making it on my list for Top games of the year and the third spot no less?! Trust me, I was as surprised as you are. While I enjoyed the first game a decent amount, I never expected for a second that I would have so greatly appreciated it's sequel which succeeds it's predecessor in almost every category.

Following the Horseman known as Death this time around, you fight your way to try to free his brother War and clear his name despite the claims that he began the apocalypse that wiped out humanity and re-ignited the war between Heaven and Hell. One of the most interesting and satisfying additions to Darksiders II that drew me in so well was the exceptional combat system which was fluid beyond belief and the introduction of greater RPG elements such as a better fleshed out skill tree and the game's generous loot system.

The world is massive, and although it is a little empty and dry, the gorgeous art style makes it a wonder to look at. Death's character is different from his brother in every-way possible. Where War was honorable and fought for Justice, Death is cocky, arrogant and feared by all. It's a massive change of pace and it's a joy to see how far and deep into the Universe Death's reputation is heard and how he interacts with those he has absolutely no knowledge of despite their knowledge of him.

2. Mass Effect 3

Words cannot describe how much I adore this franchise. I know that this final game had received a hefty amount of hate due to it's original ending but honestly, how fair is it to disregard everything else that the game and the series as a whole was able to accomplish. The journey that my Shepard has taken throughout the past three games and the decisions he has made finally come to fruition here and the final battle to save the Galaxy comes to a close with what I personally thought was an entirely satisfying and touching ending coupled with some of the most brilliant music ever to grace video games orchestrating the entire event.

Yeah, Mass Effect 3 doesn't really do much in regards to it's visuals but it was already a gorgeous game two years ago and with some final touches, the game holds up alongside the best in the pack and leaves you staring in awe at some of the locales you visit and realize that this is why the Galaxy is worth fighting for. BioWare also manages to also tweak the combat system to it's finest, creating one of the best experiences I've had in a third-person shooter and almost perfectly meshes some of the most brilliant story-telling with an equal amount of enticing action sequences.

To top it all of, Mass Effect 3 adds in a multiplayer component which really is a survival mode that is far more fleshed out than one would originally come to believe. It is here that players are given their first opportunity to play as almost any warring race in the Mass Effect universe from the brutal Krogans to the nimble and deadly Drell. As in the single player campaign, there are 6 classes to choose from and a handful amount of races to select as well, each with their own unique abilities. I can't express how much time I have wasted here, even more so than I did with the game's campaign, which is unusual for me but speaks levels on how successful the multiplayer component turned out to be.

I have yet to experience a franchise or trilogy that so brilliantly and coherently crafts it's entire story into one and can be played all at once without skipping a beat. It truly is a gem among video games and deserves a special spot in history.

1. Halo 4

Surprise, surprise! Halo 4 tops off my list as my favourite game of the year and yes, I can admit that most of the reason falls upon my biased fanboy love for the franchise as a whole but that's far from the only reason as to why I was so impressed by the most recent installment in the Haloverse. While it matters very little, Halo 4 was a massive graphical achievement over it's predecessors in every-way possible, both artistically and technically. The cinematics alone are so beautifully rendered that it almost appears life-like at first glance. It's truly an accomplishment, especially when it's realized that jump between games was only two years.

Everyone is absolutely familiar with how popular the Halo franchise is in terms of it's multiplayer and to be honest, it has been the only reason that Halo has remained such an adored franchise -- up until now. 343 Industries manages to do what Bungie could never do; craft one of the best stories ever told in a Halo game to date and one that can help establish Halo as not only a magnificent multiplayer shooter, but one with a thrilling story as well. One of the biggest changes comes from the incredible character development and interaction between the two lead characters; Master Chief and Cortana. This time around, John has been given more lines in this single game than he has spoken in the entirety of the past trilogy. You are given reason to care for what he is trying to accomplish and the performance given by Cortana's voice actresses is chilling and will give you goose-bumps on more than one occasion.

As for the multiplayer, Halo 4 accomplishes what every other installment in the franchise has managed to establish and continues to prove why Halo is one of the best shooters around. The combat is incredibly and unbelievably fluid, the game modes engaging and the maps so wonderfully crafted that you'll have a blast playing through them and creating new strategies with every different game mode played.

Despite the love and loyalty that most fans have for Bungie, which is understandable due to the brilliant work they've done with the franchise over the past decade, 343 proves and effortlessly manages to carry on the torch by showcasing their utmost loyalty to the source material and understanding the love that so many have for the beloved franchise and hold true to the best wishes by creating what might be the best Halo experience yet.

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DM's Spec Ops: The Line Review!

One of the biggest problems most developers possess when trying to break into the industry is how to differentiate themselves from what has become the norm. How does one hope to compete with Triple A games such as Gears of War or Uncharted that have indisputably perfected and forever changed how third-person shooters are played. Instead of trying to re-invent the core mechanics, YAGER Development directs it's focus entirely on story-telling and the results are well deserving of recognition. But how does the game fair as a whole?

At first glance, Spec Ops: The Line appears to be just another generic military shooter boasting a slightly different setting and the more than familiar macho military men capable of taking out entire armies by their lonesome. While part of that remark rings true, thankfully the other doesn't. Spec Ops manages to differentiate itself from other shooters in the same genre by focusing on story progression and character development, constantly treading the line between morality or the lack thereof. It begins on a sane note, strictly adhering to a military code of locating survivors and safely evacuating whoever is left alive, but it quickly becomes a story about discovery and vengeance. You'll constantly find yourself intrigued in regards to what may have happened in the worn down ruins of the once great city of Dubai and the pacing of the story will keep you hooked in until the controversial finale.

Although the story does flow around a levelled amount of pacing, the fashion in which it follows this might become slightly repetitive. For one, the game is strictly a linear with very little to no exploration given. There might some extra corridors or open fighting grounds to explore after a battle in hopes of scrounging up some of the game's bone-chilling collectibles which boast voice narration from the game's main cast, but besides that, don't expect to truck through the sand engulfed skyline of Dubai. It's becomes clear very early on that the developers may have lost out on a valuable opportunity to showcase the strength of the engine they're working with and better utilize their resources for a more enriched world begging to be examined.

As stated before, Spec Ops does very little to differentiate itself from the pack in regards to it's base experience as a cover-based shooter. Sadly, it's here that the game truly does drop in quality. While you won't have too much trouble adhering to the controls, it's still the weakest part that the game provides and one that should arguably be it's strongest suit as a standard third-person shooter. Weapons rarely ever provide a powerful punch when in use and it's hard to tell whenever you land any meaningful shots. On the plus side, YAGER does introduce an interesting and cool feature that slows down time to indicate whenever you land a headshot. Besides that, the weapons are your standard fair that you always see in modern military shooters and nothing here will be engaging outside some missions in the game where you take control of a mounted gun on a helicopter or ride the side of a truck while wielding a grenade launcher.

Spec Ops does make up for it's losses with it's absolutely spectacular visuals and stellar voice acting. Nolan North himself voices the game's lead character; Captain Walker and he provides a fantastic outlook on a man bridging the line between right, wrong and who truly is in possession of sanity. The rest of the voice cast provides the same as friendships are tested and the morality of decisions is constantly questioned in the midst of a devastated warzone with no hope in sight.

One of the most and disappointing additions to the game is it's multiplayer. Not all games require a multiplayer component and it's a fact that becomes painfully evident here with Spec Ops: The Line. It's something that feels unbearably rushed, with little adjustments done to actually make things flow well in regards to the online stability and the same bland gameplay seen in the single-player makes it's way here. It's a mostly infuriating experience as you struggle more often than not to conquer the poor controls than actually defeating your enemies.

Delivering an interesting twist in story-telling with a different setting to boot, Spec Ops: The Line becomes something interesting and easier to recommend to those desiring a fun romp in single player rather than multiplayer. Despite the fact that the multiplayer was a wasted opportunity, the pacing of the story coupled with the brilliant voice work makes Spec Ops worth checking out.

Final Score: 7.0

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DM's Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Review!

In the past decade or so, fans of the treasured Transformers series haven't had the most noble of adaptations in regards to video games. Despite the massive popularity that Michael Bay's Transformers trilogy has garnered, the video game spin-off's have done little to pay homage to the beloved characters that they are based on. Not until High Moon Studios took control of the franchise and brought it back to it's roots with 2010's War for Cybertron. It was received with a relatively positive reaction from both critics and fans alike, both appreciating the return to Cybertron instead of Bay's setting. High Moon has now decided to step it up another level with Fall of Cybertron -- a direct sequel to War for Cybertron. The results? Let's find out!

Having basically picked up right where War left off, Cybetron is still stuck in a civil war splitting the planet into two factions; the Autobots and Decepticons. Now, as the planet is dying and running out of Energon, a desperate plan to escape both the conflict and find a new home is hatched and it soon becomes a race to the finish so to speak. On one hand, the Decepticon leader Megatron merely wants to destroy every single Autobot while Optimus plans for the survival of their species while locked in a death battle with his nemesis. Surprisingly enough, the story jumps to various perspectives from both factions, even glancing upon the famed DInobots!

The most evident difference between the two games comes with it's mission structure. Rather than being able to choose which side of the story to begin with and which character to select, you follow the path you are given this time around and are not given the choice of playing as a specific Autobot or Decepticon. It's a little disappointing but it's fantastic to see the other less appreciated characters take a spotlight for once and you quickly come to forgive this change. Another disheartening difference comes in the lack of any sort of cooperative campaign options, which might be infuriating to the co-op lovers out there, myself included - but as you play through the campaign, you may find that an addition of co-op may distract from the pacing of the story that developers wished to tell.

A new addition to the series this time around is the Teletraan I upgrade system, which pays a homage to fans but also changes and makes up for the lack of ability to choose a specific character to play as for each mission. These upgrade stations allow you to select a specific weapon to choose from; light or heavy, specific perks which carry on to every character, and further upgrade each weapon. These stations appear every so often in each mission and specific blueprints scattered around each level allow you obtain new weapons quicker rather than waiting to unlock them through story progression.

What easily might be the most distinguishable aspect of the High Moon Cybertron series thus far is the simple, yet elaborate third-person gameplay. Taking a massive inspiration from Gears of War, the movement and shooting mechanics are instantly recognizable with one major exception; the lack of a proper cover system. While you can still hide behind objects, you can't truly take cover but you are given the option to switch your shooting hand at any given time to better take advantage of your position when under fire. Herein lies what could be both a praise or a gripe towards the game - the difficulty. Recklessly stand out in the open for too long and you'll be picked off in seconds. On top of that, the game takes notice of "health cubes" rather than a regenerative system, which leads you to be careful with your actions. Nonetheless, the shooting mechanics are nearly flawless and the fluidity in which you control your character is worthy of the highest of praise. Each shot you land, each pull of the trigger is felt when lander upon your foe and it's extremely satisfying.

Adding more fuel to the fire is the game's fantastic visuals and admirable voice work. While stylistically taking inspiration from Bay's films, the setting is all it's own. It's a stunning sight to see a planet such as Cybertron in such despair and broken and one is left to imagine how beautiful it must have been before all the chaos. An all-star voice cast makes it's return and plants it's feet as one of the best attributes that Fall of Cybertron has to offer. Each voice actor brings their A-game and helps to further expand the character's story and personality. It's one aspect that should be rightfully recognized.

Now to make up for the lack of any proper cooperative options in the game's main campaign, High Moon decides to repay it's fanbase by returning the ever-popular Escalation game mode -- a wave based survival mode. Four players can team up and choose from four characters in attempt to survive 15 relentless waves of enemies. Map selection is given in the pre-game lobby and your team either plays as the Autobots or the Decepticons, although the choice is not given to select between the two. Each level has certain sections which can be unlocked further when enough credits are amassed, which expands the playing ground. Escalation is an enjoyable co-op addition to Fall of Cybertron and is best enjoyed with a group of friends rather than by your lonesome.

Making it's return is the ever enticing multiplayer portion of the Cybertron series. Allowing you to fully customize your Autobot or Decepticon of choice from the colour to the specific armour set and weapon loadout through the game's ranking system. There are four classes to choose from; Scientist, Infiltrator, Destroyer, and Titan. Each holds their own benefits as specific perks set each class apart and plays a specific role on the battlefield. Infiltrators for one are quick, Bumblebee fashioned characters that are coupled with camouflage and are best utilized in short range combat. Titan's on the other hand are the "tank" class of the competitive multiplayer. Slower and more adept with heavier weaponry, they provide mass amounts of fire and push enemies back with ease.

The game types given are your standard fare as Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag make their return, joined by newcomer Headhunter. Each mode is equally as thrilling and the map design is brilliantly crafted for each specific mode to keep things balanced. Any fan of the series will be ecstatic when they encounter the multiplayer options and the experience itself is enough to keep you occupied for days on end.

Boasting a story riddled with fan service and a top notch voice cast, and despite the lack of any cooperative options in the campaign being a slight downfall -- the intriguing story, adored cast of characters and magnificent multiplayer options makeFall of Cybertron a worthy sequel and and welcomed entry into High Moon's series.

Final Score: 8.5

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Clark Kent's Love life- Lois vs Diana

Alright, alright I'm back and I know as much as you guys hate my rants regarding the distate I carry for the largely unbearable Clark and Diana relationship that Geoff Johns is so eager to force feed down everyone's mouths, the latest issue of Superman -- number 14 to be exact -- left me curious about what DC is truly trying to sell.

It's no surprise to anyone that with the "rebooting" of the New 52, changes were to be made and separating Clark and Lois was the hardest hitting one of them all in regards to Superman. Now, I know some people appreciate the change, some cried out for the chance to allow Superman to stretch his legs, expand his horizons, etc -- but as of so far, little has been done to actually hold true to what they promised. For the majority of Superman's namesake title, we saw him sulking over Lois and her new "boy toy". Instead of trying to distance him from Lane as most fans would've assumed, they refused to do so and even hinted at a possible relationship between Clark and Lois' younger sister Lucy Lane. Great job at trying to distance the two characters DC and even if you tried to give them points for effort, the proposition of anything beyond friendship didn't even last beyond that last panel in Superman #12. It's kind of sad really, Clark really lacks any sort of chemistry with ALL the women that DC is trying to set him up with and the lack of build-up is quite disheartening.

Let me bring up the "relationship" that Diana and Clark have restrictively been sharing in the pages of Justice League. Besides putting aside the fact that in both Superman and Wonder Woman's main titles, each writer refuses to acknowledge the existence of said interaction between the two characters for the most part, little has been done to solidify the impact of what happened, nor does anyone really know about it. Selfishly enough and for reasons I'd rather not bring up again, it seems that Geoff Johns is eagerly trying to create this new "status quo" that he stated the two would be creating for the NewDCU and the example that everyone would apparently follow. Listen, I have nothing against Diana as a character. She's fantastically written by Azzarello in her namesake title and I'd like to keep it that way, but what Johns has been demonstrating in his Justice League title is hilariously annoying. But my distaste for John's work on team books is a story for another time.

Jumping back to Diana and Clark. Not once, in the entire series until the most recent issues (12-14), has there been any notable interaction between the two characters. A seemingly large amount of creepy stares emanating from Superman coupled with some apologetic moments and we're supposed to believe that these two can build together one of the most influential relationships in the New 52? Sorry, I'm not buying it.

And then we have the icing on top of the cake. In issue 12 -- after Steve's dismissal as the League's liaison -- Diana takes his reaction and the entire situation poorly. Clark does what he does best and attempts to comfort her with "relatable" words. And in turn, out of the blue, with absolutely no build up or chemistry shown, a kiss is produced. The kiss that has had everyone talking since it's debut. Things were pulled back a little in following issues with Diana referencing the kiss as just a "spur of the moment" type deal and most recently in Justice League #14, we have Clark trying to comfort Diana once again and push the boundaries of their relationship by giving her a tour of his hometown and showing her the inspiration for his heroics. Unfortunately, that built up moment was short-lived again and another forced kiss was produced, this time with the always acceptable creeping from Batman.

Enough of that and finally moving onto Lois. As of so far in the New 52, even when regarding Action Comics -- which takes place five years in the past for the most part -- Lois has never looked at Clark as more than a friend but for him, it's much more than that. He's tried to win her affections and he's made it clear on several occasions. Sadly, Lois has only ever shown interest in Superman, despite having been Clark's partner for over five years at the Daily Planet before it's overtaking by Morgan Edge. In the last two issues of Superman (13 and 14), it has been clearly shown that Lois has decided to make things serious with her boyfriend; Jonathan Carroll. Obviously, this bothers Clark greatly and more than likely influenced his departure from the Daily Planet.

With Superman #14, we finally see Clark admit his feelings for Lois (to himself of course), dictating that even with the shared kiss he had with Diana, his true feelings for Lois never faltered nor weakened.

It's interesting to note this because it seems that not every writer that will be penning Superman is interested in making the relationship between Clark and Diana a priority and it's clearly evident with this most recent issue. On top of that, future writers Andy Diggle and Scott Snyder have both expressed great interest in Lois Lane as a character and a focus on her and Clark will be prominent. Of course, Diana is brought up, but it seems not everyone is exactly on board with what Johns is planning.

Anyways, back to Lois and Clark. We see some fun banter between the two characters in this issue. Lois remarking that her relationship with Clark is strictly friendship, albeit a strong one according to her. Clark calls her out on this in regards to not informing him about the move with Jonathan. Some more banter is thrown back, accusing Clark for being naggy, etc. The point I'm trying to make here is that -- in this single issue alone, several pages at best -- there is more chemistry shown between Lois and Clark than there has been in the entire series of Justice League up to this point with Clark and Diana. That's a sad fact to point out and should be a warning sign to the Editorial team at DC. Lois' feelings might try to be prevalent here, but it seems more just like a cover for something that she refuses to accept about Clark, true feelings that she might be keeping well hidden. Oh and one more thing, Rocafort draws one absolutely gorgeous Lois Lane.

But hey, these are just my useless thoughts. Everyone has their own opinions and are free to speak them. I know I'm not the only one who dislikes the forced relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman, but there also might be plenty of you who hate the idea that Lois might be returning into Clark's life as more than just a friend. Whatever the case may be, I hope DC decides to stop pulling marketing stunts and appeal to the fans once again.

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DM's Halo 4 Review

Since it's explosive introduction back in 2001 that helped revolutionize console shooters for years to come, Halo has become recognized as one of the most innovative and adored franchises to hit the genre. What was once thought insane, Bungie was able to craft a first-person shooter on a console and not only have it succeed, but do so in ways that no one could ever imagine. In a market once dominated completely by PC's, consoles became relevant and many give credit to Bungie and Halo for accomplishing such a feat. Now with Bungie stepping down and 343 Industries taking the reins, how have they faired? Does Halo 4 reclaim it's title as king of the shooters or does it fall miserably short?

As many already know, Bungie has stepped down from their beloved franchise and has left it confidently in the hands of 343 Industries. Many were skeptical at this decision, especially due to the fact that it was Bungie's treasured possession. How could anyone re-invent their work? Thankfully, a lot of the good folks at 343 are ex-Bungie employee's who have Halo's future in their best interest. Is that enough though?

Halo 4 picks up some four years after the events of Halo 3 which left John and Cortana stranded in space aboard a mutilated ship, drifting through space with everyone presuming death. Let me just quickly get this out of the way. Disregarding the extended Halo universe, Master Chief had very little personality and nearly nothing to say and little reason for anyone to care for him throughout the games. Thankfully and surprisingly, 343 corrects that and gives players a reason to see Chief as a person, not just some unstoppable killing machine and for once, you actually feel his humanity and given reason to. Make no mistake, this story is not his, it's all about Cortana. While John has slept for the past four years, Cortana was left on her lonesome, with nothing to do but think and in turn, her age is slowly becoming the death of her. To anyone ignorant of the Halo universe, A.I.'s have a life expectancy of seven years. By that age, they begin to become rampant and quite literally think themselves to death as they can no longer process the information held within them. It soon becomes a struggle for Cortana as she helplessly loses her mind while trying to help Master Chief stop the incoming threats. It's a sad tale which walks the line of questioning who really is the machine and who is real.

The Chief is awoken to once fight again and as the Forward Unto Dawn is attacked by pocket resistances of the Covenant, the entire ship is being sucked into a Forerunner planet known as Requiem. The game's story takes precedence here as John and Cortana take it upon themselves to stop an ancient Forerunner threat known as the Didact, who is bent on destroying all of humanity. It is here that I would issue one of my only gripes pertaining to the campaign. Little information is given regarding this threat nor is much backstory explained without the inclusion of the novels. But the true story revolves around the two star characters and how their relationship grows. I can't give enough credit to 343 for brilliantly creating such an emotional and gripping story for a series that was once very poorly recognized for it's lore. The length of the campaign is but another minor gripe I might add. It only took me roughly 6-10 hours to beat the main campaign, albeit I never took it upon me to search for additional Terminals that provide substantial back-story into the game. What helps keep the game almost perfectly fleshed out is the excellent balance between on-foot and vehicle missions. The game expands into more of a sandbox in this situation and gives you the choice to either tackle it on foot or even jump into a Scorpion tank and annihilate anything in your path. Another wonderful addition to the vehicle side of things is the Mantis. An enormous, two story mech that's equipped with rockets and a mini-gun capable of eliminating anything short of a Phantom.

Newly introduced alongside the Covenant are the Promethean's. While having the Covenant back is like reuniting with an old friend, these new enemies require a completely new strategy and you are forced to work outside your comfort zone on many occasions. Promethean Knights are exceptionally smart, carefully avoiding your shots while playing aggressively one you decide to retreat. And to make matters worse, the Crawlers are just as relentless as they can reach multiple vantage points in order to attack you. With new enemies, comes a new arsenal and for the most part, it's pretty fantastic. The weapons range from short to long range and the majority even boast different firing options based on whether you scope the weapon or not. While some might never replace fan favourites such as the Battle Rifle, Energy Sword or Magnum, they are a welcomed treat and only help to diversify combat situations.

Now, Halo has never been recognized as one of the most graphically superior games of it's age. While it's never been a bad looking game, it was never exceptional either. That all changes with this most recent installment. With a new engine to work off of, 343 revamps the look of the game entirely and it can be said without a doubt that Halo 4 is one of the single most gorgeous looking games of it's time. From the expertly crafted cut-scenes, simply beautiful backdrops and some of the best facial animation I've seen this side of L.A. Noire. Halo 4 is a graphical force to be reckoned with and it is wonderfully coupled with amazing motion capture scenes that truly leaves the player enamoured.

On top of that, the sound design has been completely re-done. No longer are the returning weapons recognizable by mere sound anymore. This might come as a turn off to some, but truthfully, it shouldn't. The iconic returning weapons now sound more powerful than ever, packing a responsive punch with each pull of the trigger. Each piece of Master Chief's armour can be heard as he moves even in the slightest direction and it's incredible. But that's not the only change to come to the series. Sadly, Marty O'Donnell's extremely iconic theme is no longer heard as 343 opted for a new composer for Halo 4. Neil Davidge is O'Donnell's replacement and while his music will never strike a specific tone that the former's did, it is nothing if not atmospheric and appropriate. The voice work also takes a massive leap here and for the better. Both Master Chief and Cortana's voice actors are given more fleshed out lines and are given more room to breathe. As the story progresses, you can feel Cortana slipping and the fantastic voice work from Jen Taylor is commendable.

Replacing ODST's and Reach's popular firefight mode is Spartan Ops. Instead of keeping the popular wave based mode that has become popular over the past several years, 343 decides instead to create a weekly episodic feature that puts you in the shoes of a team of a Spartan-IV' and you are given the option to team up with up three other friends or by your lonesome if preferred. Each episode is split into five separate chapters, each with their own given objectives and while it's a fun addition, you aren't given much reason to jump back and replay each chapter. Theater and Forge also make a return and with very little changes.

And finally, we move on to the creme of the crop of Halo; multiplayer. Up until this point, one of the only reasons Halo has remained so relevant in the shooter genre is because of it's constantly innovative multiplayer. First revolutionized in Halo 2 and the introduction of Xbox Live in 2004, and only continued to improve with each installment, fans worried most that multiplayer would take the biggest hit. That is not the case as 343's endearing respect for the series is most evident here. The gameplay takes little visible change and is as fluid and responsive as ever. Unease spread through fans when new additions were announced though. Supply drops, which are similar to kill-streaks in Call of Duty, play a part in Halo 4's multiplayer, albeit not in every mode. Thankfully, what could have been unbalanced and over-powered, fits perfectly into the universe and does little to turn the tide massively in favour for one team as it might in other games. When a player garners enough kills, they are allowed a random choice between three items to choose from. It might be a weapon that will not spawn on the map, a speed boost or even a damage boost. But make no mistake, once selected, the item drops down on the map where the player selects it to and it all becomes fair game from there on out.

The ranking system first introduced in Halo Reach makes a comeback here where levelling is revolved around experience points. Competing objectives or racking up medals grants you a larger amount of experience points at the end of the match. Once you reach a new level, you are awarded a "Spartan Point" which can be used to purchase select pieces of armour or even alter your load-out weapons or armour abilities. Most of the familiar game types make a return with slight adjustments in roster size or name. The game ships out with 10 multiplayer maps, all with their own different feel and suited to different styles of play regarding the modes you play or the amount of players in the match. As with Halo Reach, it's apparent that with Forge mode, Community maps might become a part of the multiplayer again as there is countless variations to be made and selected from. If 343 is even only half as dedicated as Bungie was when it came to their community, expect to stick around for the long run.

With a brand new developer comes a cause for concern, especially when it comes to one that has never released anything prior. Such is not the case with 343 as their utmost dedication for Halo is clearly evident even without playing the game. Adding in not only one of the most gripping stories in the Halo universe but also re-creating a formula which was once though impossible, 343 sought out to continue Bungie's efforts in the best fashion they could and to put it simply, they created what could be the best Halo game to date.

Final Score: 9.75

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