By buzz_clik 10 Comments
2014 was a fucking weird year in gaming. Hell, you probably don't need me to tell you that, right? It was a year where communities and AAA game engines alike were all doing their best (or worst) to tear themselves apart. But between fruitlessly trying to dissuade people from being monsters on the internet, watching the ever-awesome Jenn Frank leave (and thankfully return to) my Twitter timeline and pining for a decent excuse to buy The Master Chief Collection (which I still haven't bought) there were still some good reasons not to abandon The Pursuit of Gaming™.
Before kicking off the list proper, it's time for some special awards.
The 2014 On The List, Off The List Award - The Castle Doctrine
The permadeath in this creepy little gem carries a couple of penalties, the biggest of which (for me at least) is the fact you have to start from scratch with laying out your devious, trap-filled floor design. Once you're dead, it's all gone in a single moment of hubris and heartbreak. As such, I still have a folder on my desktop that's full of screen caps of levels I made for this game, which I could go back to and use to painstakingly recreate and tweak the floor plan I had in place before I'd foolishly decided to try to rob someone else. This game was in my Top 10 for a while until I remembered another game that promptly shoved it out again.
The 2014 Fuck You It's a Roguelike Award - Heavy Bullets
Weirdo FPS Rogue thingy that's got a style all its own. A very enjoyable game that definitely warrants a mention, especially as another game I thought might make it into my Top 10.
The 2014 You Played So Much Of It So Why Isn't It In Your Top 10 Award - Destiny
I'm still playing Destiny. If it's not the best-looking game I've played this year then it's certainly close. Tonally, it's such a cohesive and impressive world. It's just a shame that world ends up being so small and uneventful for the most part. That said, I'M STILL PLAYING DESTINY.
2014's Console I Should Have Bought More Games For - Wii U
Mario Kart 8. Super Smash Bros. Bayo-fucking-netta 2, for chrissakes. (Captain Toad's not out here in Australia until next year.) Despite best intentions, I bought none of these apparently awesome games that were tailor-made for a console I'm not sure I even turned on during 2014. Not even the almighty enthusiasm of The Ryckert got me to indulge. I'm a bad human being with no joy in my heart.
2014's I Didn't Buy This In Time To Play Enough To Include It Game - Far Cry 4
Apparently it's great. You already know this. I'm about to find out for myself once I spend more than ten minutes with it.
And now onto The Real Deal. (With Bill McNeal!)
10. Fract OSC
Not much to say on this one, other than it's a gorgeous, unique, dazzling musical adventure that made me feel like I was playing the true successor to the Myst games, which I love(d). Who doesn't enjoy being dropped into a strange world with nothing but the urge to explore and discover as your guide? Plus it looks like the kind of game a Tron-obsessed youth imagined would be the norm in the future.
This shit is all action all the way, in an old school manner that very much appeals to me, a dude pushing 40 years old. SHUT YOUR MOUTH, IT'LL HAPPEN TO YOU ONE DAY. Ahem. Anyway, everything about this game, from the graphics to the gameplay, taps into the kind of classic twitch shootery fun that helped form my childhood. Well, I say everything is classic, but that's a lie: Luftrausers' soundtrack is pure modern-day banger crunch. And it's also the most canny soundtrack you'll ever hear, each part of its tune informed by what parts you choose for your aircraft. Change your tactics, change your parts, change the music. It's fucking brilliant, and is yet more excellent work from Kozilek, who produced the Nuclear Throne music (and was totally cool with me mashing up one of his songs with Ke$ha).
There are some corners of the internet that consider this game to be uneven or just flat overall. Not me. I enjoyed everything about it. In between shooting nazis in the face, tearing giant robots to pieces and cleaving Uruk heads from Uruk bodies, each episode of The Wolf Among Us was a laconic oasis of storytelling that I'd happily let wash over me. The change of pace would deliver me to such a lovely, meditative place that I may have simply not noticed any shortcomings in the way the game's story unfolded. Simply put, The Wolf Among Us had an atmosphere that so completely enveloped me that I was too involved to recognise most of its flaws. Just wish I didn't have to wait so goddamn long between drinks.
7. Hitman Go
I downloaded this game in the middle of a hangover and finished everything it had to offer (at the time) in a short weekend. Once I'd picked it up, I just couldn't put it down. Hell, I don't even have an affinity for the Hitman series, having only ever played ten minutes of the first game; I can only imagine the feeling fans of Agent 47 got, seeing their favourite bullet-headed assassin's antics had been realised so perfectly in another format. When the next set of levels came out I devoured and completed them so quickly that I still wanted more. And there are indeed more levels to come, that brown package teasing another batch of perfectly formed miniature action.
An amazing update of the revered classic. Sounds good, looks great, plays like a dream. There's not much more to say about a game that does what it set out to do, no more and no less, in such a effective and rock solid way. Tight as fuck.
Goddamn, that Nemesis system. That's some clever-ass stuff right there. The game it's imbedded in is a great romp, with its satisfying combat and robust world, but that crucial unique element elevates the experience as something really special.
4. Crossy Road
Our household got its first iPad at the end of last year. As a result, three out of the ten games I'm listing here are titles I've played curled up on the couch next to my wife, or lying in bed trying to fight off that pesky sleep. Crossy Road is one of those perfect "just one more go" games. My high score is 399. I have 48/53 road-hopping critters you can choose from, and all without paying a cent despite the (very non-intrusive) suggestion I do so. I love this game so much. It's such a brilliantly simple idea, to make an endless runner Frogger (although some of the busier road areas remind me more of Freeway for Atari 2600). And it's done with such gleeful panache that you can't help but be charmed. Plus Hipster Whale, the company that made it, is from Victoria, Australia! I feel so good saying that.
I've finished this game and its DLC multiple times, and still love going back and noodling about with it. While the puzzles are never really taxing (the RED dream charity levels up the ante a bit) they're still quite clever and not common fare. I've heard people rag on the fact it's not that difficult, but could those same people have come up with Monument Valley's space-warping ideas in the first place? And for me the puzzles aren't really the point, although I very much enjoyed that aspect. I think the package as a whole, from sound design to art direction to the sumptuous storybook feel, is what makes me marvel at it all over again each time. It's such a complete experience, and an inspiring one at that. It's just gorgeous to look at, and no other game on this list has made me feel like hopping on a computer and creating something of my own after I've spent time with it.
There's a lot of talk about how the attitude in this game tries too hard. And I get it, it does try too hard in places. But then I thought Sunset Overdrive's bratty swagger was perfectly in keeping with the 90s gaming vibe its art direction evokes. Heck, it even made me chuckle aloud on more than one occasion. Say what you will about Sunset Overdrive, it swung for the fences on the presentation front. But the fact there's a game that's just pure fun beneath the presentation's lurid impasto sludge? Hell the fuck yeah. Traversing an open world that's bristling with life has never been more of a fluid, natural joy.
AKA You knew this was coming if you follow me on Twitter.
I'm not one of those fanboys who gets so attached to a franchise or company that I get genuinely upset when even the smallest slight is made against it. Well, I wasn't until Titanfall came along. Now, every time I see someone snort and glibly ask if people were still playing Titanfall (or worse, Titanfail OH YOU'RE SO FUCKING WITTY AREN'T YOU INTERNET) I feel compelled to lunge at the keyboard to defend my favourite game of the year. But I usually talk myself out of typing a response, mainly because I'd come across as one of those fanboys who gets so attached to a franchise or company and gets genuinely upset when even the smallest slight is made against it.
So why am I so protective of this game? Because it just clicked with me, right from the first minutes of the beta. It's so fast, it offers so many options for getting from A to B in a flash, the gunplay feels right, there are big fucking robots… seriously, I could dump entire paragraphs here, all filled with the breathless, smitten awe I still feel for Respawn's spry debut (and the disappointment I feel that it didn't catch on among my circle of friends in a bigger way). Last time I checked (and this was ages ago) I'd spent 530 hours with the game. THAT'S JUST FUCKING RIDICULOUS BUT FUCK IT I JUST LOVE TITANFALL SO MUCH