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AFC's Top Action Games of 2013

Last time on Atlanta Fried Critic Z, you were blown away and shocked speechless at the sheer magnitude of my choices for the Top RPGs of 2013. Will my choices for the action category be just as effective, or will they be painfully predictable and worthy of derision? Will you be swayed into playing any of them? Did you even fucking play The Wonderful 101, you filthy casual? Find out all that, and more, today on Atlanta Fried Critic Z!

But seriously, here are my best action games of the year. So yeah. Enjoy or whatever.

5. God of War: Ascension (PlayStation 3)

Ascension's sex mini-game was kinkier than usual this time around.
The God of War games have, by and large, been a reliable carrier of the torch lit by Devil May Cry back in the early 2000's. They took everything that game created, then improved it with more fluid combat and a story where the protagonist was more complex than a pizza-chomping, one-liner-spewing Abercrombie & Fitch model-esque douche. But in my oh-so-humble opinion, the series was beginning to waver with the third main entry, which had a pretty trite narrative compounded by laughably idiotic violence and pleasant hints of blatant misogyny. Still, it was only one slight misstep in an otherwise stellar series, and this year, God of War: Ascension proved that the franchise was still a capable contender, providing one of the most satisfying action experiences of the year.

Taking place before the events of the main chronology, this entry told the tale of Kratos as he was just coming to grips with accidentally slaughtering his wife and daughter, while simultaneously crossing paths with the dangerous Furies. Despite some missteps, such as a stupidly titled trophy and a level near the end that bordered on a sadistic level of difficulty, the action and story blended perfectly this time around, making for the most enjoyable entry in the series since God of War II.  Fantastic scenery and some of the best music in the franchise rounded out the package, making my midnight jog through the rain to pick it up well worth it (the sweet statue that came with the limited edition was just icing on the cake, really.) Despite my initial trepidation about yet another journey into the series lore, God of War: Ascension demonstrated the series' staying power, and made me start daydreaming about a PlayStation 4 entry.

4. The Wonderful 101 (Wii U)

One could say that this game's sales tanked. Yeah, I'll show myself to the door.
Statistically speaking, you didn't play this game. It's okay, no judgment here, you dirty heathen. After all, a game that blends elements of Pikmin and Bayonetta, then releases exclusively on the Wii U is a bit of a tough sell for anybody. But anybody who happened to be in the very minute niche that picked this title up will tell you that, if you missed out on this experience, you'd be missing one of the most fun and fresh titles to arrive in quite some time. Despite niggling flaws, The Wonderful 101 is a damn fine action game, with innovative mechanics that elevate the experience beyond typical hack-and-slash fare.

Players take the role of varying members of the superhero squadron, the Wonderful 101, as they attempt to combat an alien menace. To do that, they use their bodies as weapons and, with the help of citizens, form massive shapes such as swords and rocket launchers. Aside from the wealth of personality the game has, which hearkens back to the tone of cult classic Viewtiful Joe, the main attraction here is the rich and multifaceted gameplay. There's no beating around the bush here, Platinum's latest will kick your ass into next week for the first long while you spend with it, as you cut your teeth on the demanding and intricate mechanics. But eventually, you realize that practice makes perfect, and over time you'll find yourself pummeling through massive foes with relative ease. No doubt, this was a risky game on Ninty's part to put out, but it paid off in a big way (well, with the exception of sales; they're still ass), because it's a truly great experience that throws back to their more quirky titles on the GameCube. The Wonderful 101 is a fun, demanding and original experience that every Wii U owner not afraid of a challenge should pick up.

3. Anarchy Reigns (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)

Jack's Evil Dead cosplay could use some work, but the realistic props are impeccable.
If you owned a Wii, are a somewhat knowledgeable about games, and somehow didn't pick up MadWorld, you're a bit of a shitty person. Just a bit. Anyway, Platinum's bloody saga that was part Running Man, part ending sequence of Kill Bill Volume 1, and entirely batshit crazy deserved a proper sequel after its release. It took a while, but this year, my prayers were answered when Anarchy Reigns launched for a budget price. After only a few minutes, I was thoroughly sucked into the deranged world contained on the game disc, which finds Chaser protagonist Jack Cayman embroiled in a plot to rescue a client's father. In order to do that, he has to punch, slice and maim his way through massive worlds, undertaking a number of missions and slaughtering an increasingly staggering number of foes.

Narrative-wise, the game is pretty solid, with some great dialogue and memorable character development to drive things forward. The real stars here, though, are the gameplay and the music. A giant throwback to trashy 90's arcade games like Crude Buster, this game is basically what happens when you take "90's cool" and put it on a modern console; 'roided-up musclemen and badass women in revealing outfits kill ludicrous amounts of enemies in equally ludicrous ways through the power of old-fashioned button mashing. That being said, the large amount of characters all play differently, and succeeding in the fantastic online mode means getting to know your playstyle intimately. As mentioned above, the soundtrack is also excellent, with rap, metal, pop and a ton of other genres all fused together into one cohesive experience. It's all a brutal and satisfying romp, and a downright blast when playing online. Anarachy Reigns shows that sometimes, coming across as dated can be a good thing.

2. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)

"Oh, shit, I forgot gravity was a thing."
Go ahead, get it out. Wah, the game is too short, or wah, it's a little too easy, or wah, it's not a stealth game. Well, even as somebody who values long games, loves a nice challenge, and is a diehard fan of the core Metal Gear franchise, this was one game that absolutely blew me out of the water. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is one of those rare experiences that looks to be an absolutely dreadful game, then comes out and ends up being one of the finest in years. Serving as a canonical sequel the convoluted but brilliantly written Guns of the Patriots, this game follows cyborg ninja Raiden as he joins up with a group of mercenaries and attempts to get to the bottom of a murky organization who is harvesting children's brains. Along the way, he uncovers more about the Patriots and tries to stop the rise of a corrupt US president. Ah, yes, and kills things. Lots and lots of things.

See, Revengeance is essentially Raiden's introduction from Guns of the Patriots blown up into an entire campaign. Players will regularly use the character's EMP blades to take down flocks of Metal Gears and even larger flocks of cybernetic enemies. Aside from learning the button maneuvers necessary to fight some of the harder foes, mastering the unique cutting mechanic (lining up slices with the analog stick, then executing them) is key to anybody's success in this game. That's aside from the ridiculous set pieces, which find the superhuman characters running up the sides of buildings and taking down helicopters from the roofs of skyscrapers. The entire game is fairly ridiculous, but that's what makes it so endearing; realism gets thrown out the window in favor of non-stop action. Even though the game is a bit on the easy side, and can be completed in 4-5 hours, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a great experience that offers up several unique things to the genre, and manages to be a compelling part of Metal Gear lore.

1. DmC: Devil May Cry (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360)

"Saw" that one comi-... okay, okay, I'm done.
Change a character's hair style, and people lose their fucking minds. That's the lesson talented developer Ninja Theory learned this year, at least, when they rebooted the Devil May Cry series with an admittedly dramatic overhaul. The new Dante is just a small part of what made DmC: Devil May Cry a ridiculously fun experience, alongside a great narrative and blisteringly fun gameplay set inside an incredibly imaginative world. A small-time demon hunter who scarfs pizza and beer inside of his mobile home, Dante becomes involved with Kat and Vergil, two individuals who hold the secret to the protagonist's elusive past. In order to uncover these things, however, they have to get to the bottom of a conspiracy hatched by demons to control humanity, through methods like cable news and soft drinks. Along the way, the characters grow and develop, and their motivations slowly change as they learn more about themselves and what they stand for.

Despite how fantastic the story is, though, the gameplay here is also top-notch, and perhaps even the best in the series. As the game progresses players will unlock dozens of combos and a healthy amount of weapons, along with other upgrades, and must get the hang of them through trial and error. Elaborate combos and devastating specials must be gotten the hang of if you even hope to stand a chance against the nasty foes on display. The game, aside from the thrilling cutscenes, is all about the action, and never really relies on gimmicky QTEs to propel things forward, which is a rarity in today's marketplace. Getting good at this game is a matter of skill, and the extra difficulty levels and myriad of side-missions ensure that more advanced players will have plenty to cut their teeth on. Maybe it's a controversial pick, but for me, action games this year didn't get any better than DmC: Devil May Cry, with its phenomenal narrative and even more stellar gameplay. Here's hoping Ninja Theory gets a chance for a follow-up. 

And so, my picks for best action games are out to be scrutinized and bitched about. Well, hey, that's what the comments section is for! Anyway, look forward to my Top Adventure Games of 2013 in the next 24-48, followed by my Best Games of 2013 list shortly thereafter!


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