2014 will only have six hours left by the time this post goes live. And to it, I say good riddance. I’ve had an incredibly shit-awful year to say the least in what is the understatement of the forever. I’m not going to write a blog about it this year like I may have in the past – those who know me, I’ll probably have done my yearly mini ‘state of the union’ thing on Facebook by now if you’re so inclined.
Rather, this is about games. That said, 2014’s not been the best of years either for our medium. The amount of tormental abuse that has come people’s way since late Summer has set us back just as it seemed we were starting to finally get our bearings and stand on our own as a medium. It’ll be sometime, if at all, before we discover how far back it has pushed us.
Even then, for releases, 2014 has not been a good year. To say its been shit would be a massive overstatement, but it sure has been a disappointing one to the point a DLC almost wont my Game of the Year (there’s your first hint if the header above didn’t give you a clue) in comparison to last year when four marquee games came out and showed what games were made of in the best possible way is an apt way to describe this year.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been some fantastic games this year, though, there has been. And although a good majority of them only arrived towards the end of the year, there’s still been a handful of things to fill the list.
Not to mention, one of the most smartest, cleverist ways to announce a new game in a well-known series that in itself was one of the scariest games to be made in recent times, perhaps ever. Fuck if I’m going anywhere near it, though. shiver
Thankfully, 2015 looks set to be one of the greatest years in gaming ever. MGS5! UNCHARTED 4! THE DIVISION! NO MAN’S SKY! And it all begins on Friday with the official UK release of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (did I mention Friday was my birthday? hint hint)
For now, lets close this wankfest of a year in games by doing the annual top ten. Here’s the links for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Zero current-gen games made it onto the list last year whereas this year, although some exclusives got in, it’s mainly a mix of cross-generation (PS3/4, Xbox 360/One) games.
One other caveat: there were some games I was hoping to play massively by the time I got to making this list, but it just wasn’t meant to be. They’re in a smaller list at the bottom. Whether they’re worth their salt or not, I’ll find out in the next week or so (bought the two AC games on Boxing Day, received promos on two more yesterday with thanks to Tom Bramwell and I’m going to try and pick up one more on Friday with Toad).
A much more-wordier Game of the Year list than in past years is below, along with a twenty-minute long video with said top ten plus a couple of honorable mentions and a My Favourite Game-related cameo from Five Out of Ten Magazine editor Alan Williamson.
[WARNING: Massive spoilers for the fourth-placed listing on the list are mentioned, so you’ve been warned]**
10 – Titanfall
This was the first real reason to buy into the concept of ‘next-gen’ considering Watch Dogs’ and DriveClub’s delay at the end of last year. And after a long road involving legal proceedings and courtroom drama involving Respawn heads Vince Zampella and Jason West after supposed ‘insubordination’ in 2010 from Infinity Ward, Titanfall launched.
While campaign comprised of very little, there was still plenty there gameplay wise. It felt easy to get into, yet still fast paced and fun whether you were in a titan or on foot. Some of its shine was taken from me because of documented issues with the PC version and I’ve not spent much time with the Xbox One version – this is mostly from Bluepoint’s excellent Xbox 360 port – but Titanfall still remains a big highlight from 2014.
Here’s hoping Titanfall 2 has more of the same and fixes its campaign issues with the inclusion of a single-player mode
9 – Transistor
To my eternal shame, I’ve not played a great deal of indie games this year – not unless you count a remaster of The Unfinished Swan on PS4 or Shelter on PC.
But all that aside, Transistor is just a most incredible game. Supergiant’s first effort at bat, Bastion, was a fabulous little game when it came out in 2011 on Xbox 360 and PC – PlayStation 4/Vita get it sometime in the New Year – but it was its sophmore effort that stands tallest as its finest yet: a beautiful art design, fantastic soundtrack from Darren Korb and a terrific mix of isometric action RPG gameplay with a hint of strategy thrown in too.
Whatever comes next from Supergiant, I just know I am definitely in for whatever it is that does come next.
8 – Far Cry 4
A caveat: I’m still nowhere near done with Far Cry 4, but I’ve spent some signfigiant time on it with by now that I feel comfortable enough to put it on this list. Far Cry 4, after its great predecessor, has finally swung me round on the series for the better after the horrifying disappointment that was Far Cry 2.
I have seen some arguments that this is more or less a Far Cry 3.5 – and there are some aspects in there where that rings true – but I don’t see that so much of a bad thing. Look, it’s just a stupidly fun shooter with a just as equally brilliant villain from the time I’ve had with the game in Pagen Min (though he needs more screen time). Just play it.
And yet, Far Cry 4 isn’t Ubisoft’s best game this year. South Park: The Stick of Truth is most definitely the funniest game this year, faithfully recreated by Obsidian Entertainment and with a story created by and voiced by the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Compared to before when licensed efforts were a once-in-a-blue moon success to most of the tripe with it, these days, it’s starting to skew away towards the latter: just look at Rocksteady’s Batman games and Alien Isolation from Creative Assembly. You can add The Stick of Truth among the group of successful tie-ins as one of the finest.
Still isn’t the best South Park game, though (South Park Rally for life, yo).
6 – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
I’m going to come out and say it. Going by past efforts, Treyarch and – if Advanced Warfare is a pointer – Sledgehammer Games are going to be the ones who keep the Call of Duty train going because since 2011, Infinity Ward have been slipping bad.
The studio, who once made one of the best FPS games of all time with CoD4: Modern Warfare, have seen standards slip since MW3. Last year’s Ghosts was one of the worst in the series (and considering I mention Treyarch above as a studio who could carry the series’ future for the better, that means something considering they made Call of Duty 3 as well).
But Slegehammer Games, in their first solo effort, have fixed the rotor back on the series with a fantastic game. AW’s gunplay is efficent and a step forward for the series, as exoskeletons add a new dimension for the series. Story is a massively fun and enjoyable romp too with Kevin Spacey taking a fantastic starring role as Jonathan Irons.
Here’s to the future. One that, with Treyarch in charge for next year’s game, has Black Ops III in it.
5 – DriveClub
So DriveClub had massive issues coming out the gate of its launch. Multiplayer was busted, challenges were busted. Basically, anything tied to the game’s crucial aspect of social connectivity was a goner.
And yet, I still enjoyed DriveClub.
Its single-player side gave me a handful of hours of fun with it. But Evolution has since turned the game on its head for the better. Multiplayer was fixed, challenges came back and photo mode was added. Yet the biggest addition since its troubles was the game’s weather update. It has changed DriveClub and become a key selling point for the game, if not its biggest.
The weather update has a massive adverse affect on the game – you try staying on the road at near 200mph in the rain. It looks fucking gorgeous too. Simply put, it may come too late in the day for some who’ve held out for the PS Plus Edition or turned their back on it during its trouble, but if you’re willing to give it another shot, you should look into DriveClub again. Here’s hoping Evolution and Sony haven’t been put off a future for the series just yet.
4 – The Last of Us: Left Behind
During the Best of Season 1 special of My Favourite Game, in a previously unaired segment of a conversation, I suggested to Holly Nielsen that Mass Effect 3: Citadel is the best DLC of all time. Every time I think about the best DLC of all time – considering the format’s rise to prominence last generation, for better or worse – it can change. It’s either GTA IV’s The Ballad of Gay Tony or the aforementioned Citadel.
You can add The Last of Us: Left Behind to the argument now.
Normally, I don’t include DLC in my top ten, I’ve included the odd DLC whenever I do these posts yearly, but only as a honourable mention. But this is the first time ever I’ve included DLC in my actual top ten (were it not for the Autumn influx, it might have actually won it). I don’t forsee this for the future, though this is a massive exception: maybe to do with my massive Last of Us bias or because it’s such an marvellous piece of content, you be the judge.
How it manages to flip the main game’s gameplay from survival to two teenage girls acting mallrats having brick throwing contests and water gun fights (“Maybe it’s because we’ve never done something like that, but it’s also like the brick throwing was core gameplay, the water gun – that was an early idea – that was core gameplay and those were easier things to figure out,” Neil Druckmann told me this year on Left Behind). Plus, fantastic performances from Ashley Johnson and Yanni King.
Not to mention, one of the sweetest moments ever in perhaps any piece of videogame content as well as perhaps one of its most important ever: the kiss. When this happened, my jaw just dropped because I hadn’t noticed these subtle hints going around that there may have been something more. There’s a part of me now that wishes I actually got more excited after seeing it for the first time, but it still doesn’t take way how incredibly well Naughty Dog did that scene.
Left Behind is my favourite piece of storytelling this year and can easily be in the argument now for what is the best DLC ever. It’s fantastic.
3 – Destiny
Maybe I’m not seeing it, but for all of its flaws – and you don’t need me to tell you if you’ve played it that it has plenty of them – I still return to Destiny every so often. I only got back in recently because of The Dark Below content, having only spent roughly ten hours since launch because of personal events over the Autumn. And yet, after finishing most of The Dark Below content, I’m still coming back, having put in twenty more hours since returning, making the total playtime to date a grand 30 hours. Which is impressive considering I only came back around a few weeks ago.
Look, Destiny has big gaping problems: a lack of a story that is relegated more or less to Grimore Cards, a Peter Dinklage performance that is so phoned in that you would swear blind it was calling for a Chinese delivery or a 118 number, how visiting planets feels less ambitious than it did when details of what it was going to be first came out and how there was just the Fallen, Hive and Vex in the final game as enemies when it did seem like there may have been more out there going by leaked art before the game’s announce.Oh, and not to mention how confusing it is to grasp the concept of leveling up after Level 20 which isn’t even messaged properly.
Yet, Destiny has me coming back. Whether it’s to do with the fun gunplay Bungie has maintained from its Halo day, how fun Crucible is or just co-op’ing with friends on strikes and patrols (I’ve still to do a raid – I’m only a L26 yet!). There’s a magic formula that has me coming back to Destiny every so often and I’ve not cracked it. But it has me in again. Lets hope Bungie can sort its issues out for Destiny 2 and crack the formula.
2 – Forza Horizon 2
This was stupidly close to winning it, but thanks to Destiny’s late surge and a certain action game actually coming from third to clinching the thing, it’ll have to do as runner-up. That withstanding, Forza Horizon 2 is just the most fantastic racing game this year.
A bigger open-world to deal with, a much wider selection of cars in different classes – there’s a certain sense of enjoyment when driving a supercar such as a Lambo, Ferrari or McLaren F1 – with more events to deal with and a soundtrack that is on par if not better than its predecessor. Drivatars make the leap over from Forza Motorsport 5 too, although whether that’s a good thing depends on how much of a twat your Drivatar or the other players Drivatars’ are.
The weather system, decent it is, isn’t as convincing now I’ve experienced weather in DriveClub, though, and I just can’t give a fuck of Sean Maguire’s character. But Forza Horizon 2 is still the better racer of the two and is in my view the best sole reason to own an Xbox One this year.
1 – Bayonetta 2
It’s gone from a 2010 honorable mention to 2014 Game of the Year. And yet, it almost didn’t happen.
Bayonetta had a future, it seemed, if my 2011 interview with then Sega West head Mike Hayes was anything. But then came the rumour that a sequel was canned in 2012, never to be announced. Five months later after the intital story, the impossible happened: Bayonetta 2 was brought back to life. And it was Nintendo that revived it as a Wii U exclusive.
Let me be clear here, even though I’ve owned Nintendo systems in the past, I’ve never felt stupidly excited for a Nintendo game or a Nintendo-published game ever as much as I did for this. It was only last year that a Nintendo game in Animal Crossing: New Leaf came into my top ten for the first time ever (I’m sure if I did a top ten for 2007, admittedly, I would probably put Super Mario Galaxy in there) and that for all intents and purposes was more or less a happy accident of sorts that it ended up on the list. Bayonetta 2 now sits atop the list – the first ever Nintendo game to be my Game of the Year – because it single-handedly justified my Wii U purchase.
Bayo 2 is straight up fun. Like, it is the ephimamy of what gaming should fucking be: fun. Playing it reminded me how incredible Bayo 1’s action gameplay was to the point I just wanted to cry, as Bayo 2’s is just as satysfying but also refined from the first game. Not to mention, just as much as many incredibly, over-the-top set-pieces.
As for the one they call Cereza, the mighty witch is still one of the best female characters in recent times in games. She still has a massively biting sense of humour, but more importantly, she’s still one of the best portrayals of sex-positive characters in gaming, showing that her sexuality is hers and hers alone to own.
A year ago, I still would have struggled to recommend a Wii U to you, even with the excellent Pikmin 3 plus Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Super Mario 3D World. Now, I can absolutely recommend it to you, not just for other games like Mario Kart 8 or the system’s 2015 slate – as a result of the latter, I genuinely believe it’ll be the system’s best year ever – but if you want a sole, defining reason as to why you should now pick up a Wii U, Bayonetta 2 is it. And if you never played the original on PS3 or Xbox 360, pick up the double combo-pack featuring a port of Bayo 1 for Wii U as well as its sequel.
Bayonetta 2 lives. And we should be fucking glad it does for showing how incredibly fun games can be. Well done, Platinum. Thank you, Nintendo.
Honorable Mentions: The Last of Us: Remastered, Grand Theft Auto V, Sunset Overdrive, inFamous: Second Son, Wolfenstein: The New Order, MLB: The Show 14, Mario Kart 8, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Hohokum and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
Games that came too late for the cutoff: Dragon Age: Inquisition, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue/Unity, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.