As we enter into a new year, we often like to reflect on the things we enjoyed the most over the last 365 days. However, I think it wouldn’t be unfair to say that 2014 wasn’t a stellar year for video games as far as they go. Botched launches, DRM and Microtransactions plagued preceedings, and the less said about Gamergate the better. However, through the smog of controversy, there were a few stand out titles of the year. Here is a list of my Top Ten Video Games of 2014.
Now, I am cheating a little here. Hotline Miami was released a few years ago on PC, and last year on PS3. However, I didn’t get to play either of those versions, and feel the game deserves to be mentioned. If it had come out this year across the board, believe me it would be taking the #1 spot. The game is by far one of the most addictive video games I’ve experienced, forcing me through multiple playthroughs to collect puzzle pieces and just enjoy the ride over and over. A mix of stealth and pure, balls out chaos, every element comes together to form an aesthetically delicious piece of art. It’s gruesome, unapolagetic and it’s difficulty might turn some off, but this beautifully troubled game is something you all need to play. Expect Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number to slay rankings in 2015…
Infamous: Second Son
Second Son was one of the first games I played on the PS4, and it truly is a testament to the hardware the console holds inside. Visually spectacular, the game is truly gorgeous. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the previous iterations of the series, but Second Son had me hooked from the start. Getting around the city is a joy, and the range of different powers make sure things never get dull, a complaint of mine regarding previous entries. While the game’s main protagonist isn’t the most engaging, it’s more than made up for by the interesting, fleshed out supporting cast. In addition to the story, the game includes a wealth of side missions to distract yourself with, many of them actually fun, unlike many open world action games I can remember. The game is straight up fun, and I strongly recommend anyone looking to start their PS4 collection to pick this up.
The Wolf Among Us
I’m a huge fan of every TellTale Games effort, and The Wolf Among Us is no different. In fact, I would wager that the first season of this comic book adaptation is superior to the studio’s The Walking Dead: Season 2. The life in each character is staggering, with some stellar voice acting bringing each small cameo to the fore in spectacular fashion. Despite it’s fairytale setting, the game can be grizzly, and has some real shock power up it’s sleeve, featuring some of the most intense situations I’ve seen all year. This iteration in the studio’s line up is the first for me that genuinely feels like I’m making an impact and difference on the world around me, and made each one of them painstaking. With a large number of new TellTale universes due to start in 2015, I feel we’re in for a great year.
Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor is a game that, for I think most other people too, just snuck up and smacked me in the face. Yes, the mechanics and gameplay aren’t really anything you haven’t seen before, but they’re just done so well that it’s hard to ignore just how GOOD the game is. That’s before any mention of the fantastic Nemesis system, something I had no hope for whatsoever. Monolith really pulled this out of the bag, making up for a pretty lacklustre story with an innovative mechanic that makes adventuring across Mordor a real treat, and allows players to carve their own stories through vengence and battle. I spent hours on one particular conquest, ranking up my chosen orc to bring my nemesis to it’s knees. When I did, it was one of the most empowering and fulfilling moments in gaming in 2014 for me. And that’s what it’s all about.
The Binding Of Isaac: Rebirth
Hooray for late console ports! Having only just played Binding Of Isaac, I’ve already spent several nights pushing through the game’s punishing rooms, pressing on just to defeat Mom just one more time. The game’s simplistic mechanics make it an easy game to learn, but something you’ll lose sleep over mastering. The use of power ups in the form of pills make everybody’s experience totally unique, coupled with the randomly generated levels in which you play. It was this game that cemented the PS4’s place within the Indie market for me. Games I’d wanted to play on my PC for years, but hadn’t quite had the specs, are becoming more accessible to me in droves, and Rebirth is the pick of the litter so far. Sit back, grab a beer and prepare yourself for a night of frustration and rewards.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
I was never a big fan of the previous entries in the Dragon Age series. I tried my hand at Origins a few times, never to get very far. The game’s wooden movement, shoddy visuals and poor combat system always marred my enjoyment, despite top class voice acting and storytelling from BioWare. When Inquisition was released, I didn’t pay much attention to it. But when I started noticing it, I had to play it. The game is rich with exploration opportunities, deeply rooted characters and a beautiiful landscape. As expected, the stellar voice acting returns, with several characters even I recognised making a return. Combat is improved, movement is fluid and the ability to now hear your character speak their chosen lines, a la Mass Effect really made Inquisition a fantastic experience for me. While admittedly I haven’t yet finished the game, 60 hours in I’m still slaving away at it’s myriad of side quests and lengthy main story. I plan on going back to it as soon as I can.
Dark Souls II
Oh, Dark Souls. While the sequel to From Software’s 2011 masterpiece might not quite have hit the heights of the original, it brings with it every feeling of trepidatious excitement and fury at the world your placed in. And what a world it is; filled with terrifying monsters, luscious enviroments and deadly traps, Drangleic is a holiday destination everybody needs to visit. There’s more than a clear trend of difficult games on this list, but of all, this is the big one. While it’s AI is a little more in the unfair camp than the original, the satisfying combat and engrossing boss battles are more than enough to let the game stand on it’s own merits. There are few feelings more satisfying than finally beating that first boss, or getting through an area you’ve been stuck on for weeks. And that’s the core experience of Dark Souls, and it’s intact here. The game has a tremendous amount of respect for the player, all it asks is a little back from you.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth
Another game that came out of nowhere, Stick Of Truth marries the format of it’s TV inspiration perfectly with simple RPG elements that work together to create something truly special and unique. The RPG elements in question really are simple, and take very little time to master, but it’s all the game needs. The game is visually perfect, and could be easily mistaken for an actual epsiode of the cartoon. In fact, when watchcing gameplay trailers before release, I didn’t believe they were gameplay, but cutscenes. It’s clear a huge amount of love was put into the game during development, and it creators Stone and Parker’s contributions speak volumes. Focusing mainly on older material, the game crafts a new story that’s both accessible to new fans yet rewards fans who might have been lost along the way. It was a treat to visit South Park again, and I urge everybody else to do the same.
When Aliens: Colonial Marines was released, I was crushed. Sure, it had been handled by Gearbox, which wasn’t exactly filling me with hope considering their past hatchet job Duke Nukem Forever, so when I saw strategy studio Creative Assembly were teaming up with Sega to bring us Alien: Isolation, a survival horror game based on the first Alien film, I was lost for words. Previews showed the game every single fan of the franchise had been dreaming of, yet the bad taste of Colional Marines was still fresh in the mouths of many. Imagine my delight then when, the game was released, it turned out to be one of the best survival horror experiences I’ve ever had. Gameplay is mainly sleath focused, but fixes issues of games such as Outlast by creating a very real threat that you cannot run from. It makes the tension that much more real, and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. There’s little that compare to hiding under a table, seeing the long, sleek tail of the titular Alien sweeping by your feet. The atmosphere the game creates is palpable, and the use of manual save points dotted throughout the ship are novel. Speaking of atmosphere, the game re-creates the look of it’s 70’s inspiration to a T. Green CRT screens fill Sevastopol, blocky text and scrolling screens adorn every wall. It really is an Alien fan’s wet dream, and puts games like The Evil Within to shame.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
I’ll never forget the day I passed up buying this game for the incredibly disappointing Watch Dogs. New Order is everything that game is not. Exciting, engrossing, dark and just incredibly fun. I can count on one hand the number of recent FPS’s that have let you wield two sniper rifles at once, and I don’t remember any that managed to do so and involve a story so in-depth and heartfelt that I finished the game and went straight back to the start. Gone is the ambiguity created by games like Call Of Duty and Battlefield, in New Order the enemies are Nazi’s. No moral ambiguity there, no questionable racism running through the preceedings. Just you, guns and a whole lot of evil bastards looking to kill you and everyone else in their path. If there was any time for WW2 shooters to return, it’s now. I enjoyed the game so much, I’m planning on rebuying it to play through again on the current gen consoles. It’s hard to describe the game past saying it’s just more balls out fun, it’s hectic and I loved every minute of it. Evoking memories of the days when FPS stories were substantial and the gunplay was more than enough to get you through without gimmicks boiled down to quick time events, Wolfenstein: The New Order is my game of the year 2014, because it’s the most fun I had all year. It’s as simple as that.
So, there you have it. My Top Ten Video Games of 2014. While 2014 was disappointing, 2015 looks to be filled with surprise and some damn good games. What were your favourite games of the year? Let me know below.