The Student Newspaper of Bingham High School

The Prospector

The Student Newspaper of Bingham High School

The Prospector

The Student Newspaper of Bingham High School

The Prospector

Best Games of 2023

Photo Credit: Credit: Pierson Schouten

2023 has been an… “interesting” year for gaming. The catalog has been filled with quite a few hits, many misses, and more remakes than anyone wanted. But hey, at least we didn’t get a sixteenth re-release of Skyrim… Seriously, Todd, fifteen re-releases? 

With the Game Awards coming up on the 7th of December, now is as good a time as any to go back through the year of 2023 and look at some of the biggest highlights of why this year has been considered one of the best for gaming. It’s worth noting that this is based off of what I’ve personally played and the games will not be limited to just games that released this year, but it will include games that are still getting updates and service. I apologize in advance if your favorite game isn’t mentioned. 


Halo Infinite (released December 8, 2021) (rated T)


While Halo Infinite released nearly two years ago, the game still gets regular updates. And before you write this off, Infinite has achieved its highest player count this year. Even as someone who adores Halo and grew up with the franchise, I have no problem admitting that this game started out rough. An absurd amount of cosmetics locked behind paywall with absurd prices, spotty connections for the simplest game modes like Slayer, Capture the flag, Oddball, Strongholds, and Fiesta. Don’t even get me started on Big team battle or the fact that theater mode released as a broken mess. And forge… yeah, we’ll get to that. 

Infinite’s launch obviously wasn’t perfect, but it continues to get better and better with every update it receives. As much as I hate that about Live Service games, it’s better than nothing. The player base shares the same opinion, which is reflected by the massive jump in player count. Back in September, there were about 6,700 players. If you play live service games, you probably know that is incredibly low. The popular live service games average 20,000-50,000 most of the time. It can even get into the 100,000-300,000 but that’s usually only if there’s a big update or the game is just popular. So what happened with Halo Infinite? Well, after the interest that season four of the multiplayer generated, people eagerly awaited season five. It was well worth the wait. The player count jumped to about 18,000 players in October when season five dropped. Not only did 343 Industries grace us with great new maps such as Forbidden, Prism, and some remakes of Halo 3 maps, but we finally got a taste of cross-core customization with the ability to wear any helmet on any armor set. Yes, it should’ve been in the game at launch, but hey, better late than never. I look forward to seeing shoulder pauldrons possibly being up next for cross-core. 

As previously mentioned, the theater was released as a broken mess. It’s still not perfect but it’s getting there. All they need to do is fix the rewind glitches and then it should be fine. The pain of having to either restart the entire game and go back into theater or rewind several minutes in hopes that the game will load the correct armor onto my spartan is something I look forward to not having to worry about. A first world problem, but still. 

As for Forge, it never should’ve released late, but if that’s what it takes to not have a repeat of the horrendous, unfinished mess that was Cyberpunk 2077, that’s excusable. And like so many things in this game, the wait was well worth it. Forge was great when it released, but like the Pedro Pascal said, “Life is good, but it could be better!” The players have made Minecraft look like a footnote in comparison to Halo Infinite’s forge. I’ve seen remakes of old multiplayer maps from previous games, hilarious community-created game modes like Speed Halo that was popular back in the Halo Reach days, and entire recreations of campaign maps. Oh and it just gets better. With the launch of season five, 343 allowed us the ability to program enemy AI (bots) into the game, which gives us so many different ways to play. People have created full-length missions with forge and AI. The fact that we’re able to basically play firefight on these maps and add cool little gimmicks like dropping into combat in an ODST drop pod just speaks volumes about how much care 343 has put into this game. I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that 343 didn’t abandon this game, especially considering the player-base will never be satisfied and constantly talks down to the developers. That is proof that the hard-working employees of this company adore this game and will continue to make it better. 


Cyberpunk 2077 (released December 10, 2020) (rating M)


Remember that “horrendous, unfinished mess of a game” I was talking about earlier? Surprised? Me too.

Let’s rewind the clock back to Jun 9, 2019. Hundreds of E3 attendees sat eagerly in a room lit only by a screen the size of a billboard. The words “CD PROJEKT RED presents” is projected on the screen for a few moments, but the name of that company is enough to excite any fan of The Witcher. The first frame of Night City is shown to viewers, lit by hundreds of neon lights and ads projected on buildings everywhere. By the end of the trailer, seeing Keanu Reeves playing one of the main characters was enough to sell basically everyone. The man himself walks on stage and to say that people were excited would be an understatement. Memes such as “You’re breathtaking!” were born from just the excitement alone. The release date was set for April 16, 2020. I think you can already see where this is going. 

A virus tore people away from school, friends, and work which caused many delays and setbacks in the gaming scene. Cyberpunk was delayed to December 10, 2020, but people were still hopeful. However, that hope would be short lived. The game released and it was one of the worst releases in gaming history. Thankfully, I had convinced myself to hold off on buying the game until I saw any reviews or any sort of discussion on if the game lived up to the height, which it didn’t. The game was broken. Buggy gameplay, consistent crashes, glitches that would break the game enough to the point that players couldn’t progress through certain quests, an overall terrible experience. From that day on, many gamers, myself included, had the same mindset; we don’t care if the game is delayed, just as long as it doesn’t launch like Cyberpunk. To be fair, the game launching like it did wasn’t at the fault of the developers. They were all given strict, unmanageable deadlines that simply couldn’t be met in the time given. Gotta love the gaming industry.

For almost two years, the game remained unplayable for most. The only sort of attention the game got was negative reviews about the game or praise towards the anime Studio Trigger made about the game. And as surprising as it might be, this was when the game really started getting fixed. The Edgerunners update saw many fixes to general glitches, bugs that would lock players out of quests, and they even added easter eggs and items that belonged to characters in the anime. Of course, this wasn’t the update that fixed the game, it was still buggy, but it was definitely the spark. It’s a miracle that people started coming back, considering the game seemed like it was abandoned by CD Projekt Red

So, what happened? Well, the short answer is that they kicked it into gear and fixed the game. After the Edgerunners update (patch 1.6), CDPR continued to pour out update after update to fix the game and as someone who got into it after the patches, I can confidently say that they absolutely fixed the game. I got the game back in June and I’m glad I played after all the fixes. I never intended on picking up the game in the first place, but my friend talked me into it and I can’t argue with thirty dollars off (base-price is sixty). I ran into maybe two or three bugs that made it so I had to revert to a previous save to progress a quest, so that’s much better than what players had to deal with at launch.

September arrived and with it, CDPR rolled out the absolute masterpiece that is Phantom Liberty, the game’s first and unfortunately last expansion. I won’t get into spoilers, but the DLC takes place before the final quest in the base-game and still follows V and Johnny Silverhand, who get roped into saving the president. This expansion is a sort of love letter to the fans and spy-thriller action movies like James Bond. The player teams up with Solomon Reed, who is played by the fantastic Idris Elba, on a mission to find out who tried to assassinate the president and what happened to “Songbird”, Reed’s former partner. That’s all I’ll say for the story.

Speaking of Idris Elba, it should be no surprise that the British rapper made a few tracks for the game, which have a very unique style compared to his other work. And on the discussion of music, it is impressive that they managed to make the soundtrack just as good as the base-game’s soundtrack. The expansion’s main song, which shares the name of the expansion, Phantom Liberty gives a sort of “Live And Let Die” vibe which accurately sets the mood for what the story will be like. Dawid Podsiadlo wanted us to cry and it worked. Again, no spoilers, my lips are sealed, but once you finish the expansion’s main story, the credits roll and I have to say, I don’t sit through credits often, but this time was different. The Phantom Liberty song begins and along with it, animation of some of the events that transpired in the story and it looks beautiful. Dawid Podsiadlo and P.T. Adamczyk’s music for this game has been an absolute gift, but this time, they went harder than anyone expected them to. I like to listen to the OST’s (Original Soundtrack) for games before I play them, so when I heard Phantom Liberty, I just thought “dang, that was pretty cool. I really liked that.” But it just hits differently when you finish the story. All of the endings for the expansion are pretty emotional so having that song play during the credits and having experienced that story, I was just speechless. I could go on for literal hours about how much I adore this game’s soundtrack.

As much as I love this game, it does pain me to admit that the combat can get kind of bland at times. I talk smack about Destiny 2 a lot even though I used to play it all the time up until the recent layoffs at Bungie, but I am still of the opinion that Destiny 2 still had the best gunfight combat. All of the weapons feel fun to use and have their own cool little gimmicks. Sadly, that’s something that Cyberpunk lacks. There’s a ton of fun weapons like Johnny’s pistol, Rebbeca’s shotgun, Jackie’s pistol, and Panam’s sniper, but the way they function in game just feels kind of stiff. Don’t get me wrong, they all look and sound awesome, but it just feels like something’s missing everytime I get into a fight with the hundredth scavenger enemy. You can still do some fun builds by pairing the sandevistan, a piece of cyberware that allows you to slow down time, with a bunch of knives and do some Quicksilver-type of stuff, but it just feels like there could be more. 

Bottom line is that with this game being fixed, it may as well be a different game than the one we got at launch. It’s a personal favorite of mine and I still find myself going back through the game on occasion, trying new builds or new paths to take within the story, which I wish I could talk about but for the sake of spoilers, I will not. 


Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (released April 28, 2023) (rating 12+)


We just can’t seem to escape games that launch broken, can we? This is the new industry standard, unfortunately. But I will say that this game didn’t have nearly as many problems as Halo Infinite and Cyberpunk. The major problems at launch were CPU issues, a framerate more inconsistent than Utah weather, loading times that make Skyrim look like an angel in comparison, and crashes that make even Fallout 4 seem like a joke.

But here we are, almost eight months later and now everything is all good and dandy. 

I’ve never been into the Souls style games even though I enjoy watching people play Bloodborne and Elden Ring, but Jedi: Survivor is fantastic in almost every way. I had doubts going into the game just because of how good the previous title was but this game completely blew Jedi: Fallen Order out of the water. A lot of the combat has similar moves and elements from Fallen Order, but even more new ones. The addition of different lightsaber hilts with stances was one of the best parts of the game. When I heard there were completely new hilts, I just thought they were going to be cosmetic and nothing more, but I’m glad that wasn’t the case.

The different stances are a great addition to the game because of how different they are. Although I found myself only really using the double-bladed, crossguard, and dual-wield, all of them bring something to the table. Double-bladed is flashy and quick. Even if you’re not great at the game, the double-bladed lightsaber gives you Vergil syndrome; you look cool no matter what you do. The crossguard is slow but powerful. It gives a sort of claymore or longsword feel that I personally love. The way Cal swings it is just awesome because of how his slow actions convey that that saber is heavier than the others. Dual-wielding lightsabers is just as good as it was in the first game, if not a little better. It feels a little faster than it did in the first game and with the new moves, it’s a power trip with all the upgrades. The single-bladed stance is a great choice for any combat scenario. Its stats are balanced and equal all across the board, so you can use it in any situation. It feels like the best choice for crowd control (yes, better than dual-wield and double-bladed, it’s weird, I know) and certainly a safe choice for boss fights. As for the blaster stance, I found myself using that one the least. It’s a cool concept and obviously has the best range because it uses a gun with the lightsaber, but it’s only good at range in my opinion. I also found it to be a little boring compared to the other stances.

Like Cyberpunk, I’ll stray away from story spoilers. All I’ll say is that it’s better than the first game and the characters are just as good, if not better in this one. Cameron Monaghan’s performance as Cal is an absolute delight. It’s very clear he loves the character and the game as he seems to fit more comfortably into the role in this game. Co-star Tina Ivlev also seems to fit into her role as Merrin much better than in the first game. The chemistry between the two characters is one of the more believable relationships in recent gaming. Of course, Cere and Greez are still great in their own way and while I wish there was more information on Bode, he’s still a very solid character. Especially in the final act of the game.

So aside from Lightsaber combat, is the game better than the first in terms of gameplay? Absolutely. Better, more fluid combat, out of this world sound design, and jaw dropping visuals, this game seems like a love letter to Star Wars fans everywhere. I will say that the difficulty is kind of odd. There are some parts that felt way too easy and some that felt more difficult than they needed to be. I find it interesting that they added an auto-parry feature to the game, but I understand why they did it. It makes the game more accessible for people who aren’t very familiar with the style of a Soul game, which I think is great. More accessibility to players is always a win.


Baldur’s Gate 3 (released August 3, 2023) (rating M)


Surprising to none of you, I’m sure. I could go on and on for hours about this game but to put it simply, it’s probably the best fantasy RPG since Skyrim. Although, this game makes Skyrim look like an adorable footnote. The amount of choices and options in the game is so big, I don’t think I could list everything even if I tried. 

Again, I could talk about this for hours. So instead, I’ll just list some of my favorite parts. The amount of choices and options within the game are fantastic and also headache inducing. Your decisions can determine the outcome of events that play out and on top of that, they are so significant that players have been known to completely restart the game because they can’t go back and change anything once they enter act three. In other words, choose wisely or you’ll regret everything somewhere down the line.

I think the combat is very fun, but it’s definitely the weakest part of the game. What I will credit the combat for however, is if you walk into an encounter unprepared, you and your party can and most likely will get destroyed. I like difficulty in games, but sometimes, situations feel a little unfair, but it’s a very small issue. This game does it right. You have to actually do some kind of prep or else you’ll regret it. Even just increasing your stats a little could be a factor on if you’ll succeed or not. Some people might not like that, but the game makes up for it in story and exploration. The voice acting is some of the best I’ve heard in recent games and something that surprised me is that whenever the narrative feels lacking (which isn’t super often), the characters carry it.

Overall, I enjoyed the game a lot more than I thought I would. Hopefully it runs well for Xbox players whenever it gets ported. 


Honorable mentions for games I’ve watched but haven’t played


Spider-Man 2 (T) on the PS5 was a pretty solid game. I wouldn’t call it game of the year, but it was still a great game. Based on everything I’ve seen, the combat is a lot better than the first game and the Miles Morales game. The narrative is just as good as the first game and the villains are a lot more interesting. Venom was the biggest highlight in my opinion.

I played the original Resident Evil 4 (M) and it’s still my favorite in the franchise. The remake does almost everything right. I think Leon is really good in this game, but I’m just glad they brought the original voice actor back. I miss some of the quips and dialogue that was left out of the remake, but it’s not a super big deal. Some of the enemies feel like a pushover, but a lot of their designs are pretty cool.

I want to talk about Alan Wake 2 (M), but I haven’t finished watching the playthrough. I did just want to mention it though because it’s definitely one of the best games to come out this year. It easily has the best score too. I’m hoping to pick up the game at some point and experience the rest of it for myself rather than watching someone else play it.

Overall, it’s been a very good year for gaming. It’ll be interesting to see which games win at the Game Awards considering the main contenders are huge games with huge support from their respective fans. As for some of my votes I’m hoping Cyberpunk’s Phantom Liberty (M) expansion at least wins for best narrative, Cameron Monaghan for best voice actor, Alan Wake 2 for best soundtrack, and Tears of the Kingdom for best art direction.

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