I am not an journalist. some might even said I am a bad writer at english talking alltogether. So when giant bemb said to me "we walk you to give me your list of best game for this year x10!" I am saying: "ok! I will try my best."
The sad truth about being a game developer is that you have less and less time to actually play games as the years roll on. At least, this has been my experience. Also, once you build games professionally, it's a bit akin to when film nerds will notice the shadow of the boom mic in a shot; I spend a lot of time deconstructing the underlying components of a game, rather than simply enjoying it from the outside, as I could when I was younger. Personally, 2014 has been one of my bleakest years for games in recent memory. I feel like the industry itself might simply be shifting away from the types of experiences I really cherish. As a result, many of the games I played this past year were released 10-20 years ago, particularly when Japan ruled supreme and exported mountains of ridiculousness. Without further adieu I present:
Luis' Top Ten Games What I Turned On and Played for More Than 30 Minutes: 2014 Edition
I played the original Shenmue and Shenmue II on my Dreamcast when they were originally released over a decade ago. They were absolutely mind-blowing at the time, and still contain some very impressive bits of narrative, artwork and design. I'd been meaning to replay Shenmue II forever, disturbing that it took me about 10 years to get around to it. An absolutely fantastic game, exceptionally weird. One of the first games I can recall feeling kind of "grimy" and sprawling, much like wandering around a real Asian Metropolis. There's a lot of proto-cyberpunk stuff in here. I happily played this one to completion.
Probably the only contemporary game on my list, this is the first GTA game I ever bothered to finish. I'd owned many of the previous titles, but usually I would get bored of repeating failed missions, then just wander around and create chaos, maybe activate cheat codes. Trevor is something I've never quite seen in a game before, and I'm actually pretty impressed at their ability to inject/transpose so much of the actor's personality into that character model. One of the few games where I was able to suspend my disbelief and think of the characters as people (or at least actors) rather than assemblages of animations and .wav files.
After about a year of not touching Hawken, I booted back into it recently, and have started scraping together some endorphins. I began playing the game when it was released as a closed Alpha. At this time it was an exceptionally rough, glitchy, unpolished experience.. I still think that was my favourite time for the game, as it felt much what I imagine remote-piloting rusting scraps of carnivorous machines on a dying planet would feel like. Still, the current iteration of Hawken is great. Machines in a wasteland, engaged in an endless war of attrition, for no purpose but to suffocate the ruins with their fallen, iron corpses.
The original demo for Carmageddon 2 might still be the most fun I had one summer in the late 90s. Booting up this unpolished Alpha build re-triggered a lot of those memories for me. The guys over at Stainless seem to have realized what made Carma2 so fascinating (and quite unique from both Carma 1 and Carma 3). I think the most important thing is that the physics model was stylized, ie: it is not at all realistic. A lot of modern games try to get their physics engines as accurate as possible, but this does not necessarily make for a better experience. I much prefer seeing cars crumple like pieces of tinfoil during a head-on collision, or wrapping around Stop Signs at high speed, deforming into giant, shrapnel croissants.
Never decided to play this thing until I saw the Kow-Yokoyama-Esque Japanese box art, and it finally managed to pique my interest. Apparently I'd seen the north american version of this game many times during my youth, but completely ignored it due to the cover depicting a generic robot with a big gun. One of Polyphony Digital's few non-car-simulator games, very fascinating to see what these people are capable of when they're using their imaginations and not just laser-scanning Camaros or whatever. This thing is kind of like a chunkier Zone of the Enders, mixed with a bit of Rez. No doubt both of those games borrowed something from Omega Boost.
While researching why From Software has such a weird company name, I stumbled across their gameography from ye olden times. Apparently they've been attempting to make Dark Souls for 20 years and I was out of the loop. I really love the sound design in this thing, it's very cold and morose. You wander around dark stone corridors and hack away at miserable creatures. Very familiar premise, but with crunchier textures and weirdo directorial decisions.
I was finally able to track down a copy of this bizarre survival horror game from the mid 2000s. I remember playing the Japanese version of it when it first came out, but was never able to progress very far. Very eclectic direction and aesthetic decisions. Still haven't completed it, as its unfortunately got a lot of mechanical/technical faults. Still, a very weird one, harking back to when Japan could still toss out some serious curve-balls.
I've been reading about this game for years but had never come across a copy until a recent trip to Japan, where i found it in a bin at thrift store for 3 bucks. If i owned a "Grade-A Certified Angus Beef" stamp, I would decorate Gadget's jewel-case with it many times. Just fantastic in every way, this thing was easily +20 years ahead of its time. Surreal direction, disturbing sound design, bizarre music, creepy denizens. I feel at least a dozen high profile games have borrowed from Gadget over the past 20 or so years since its release. They really dont make 'em like this anymore, a true classic.
I can't remember if I played this in early 2014, or sometime in 2013. I will list it here regardless because I loved that thing. I'd like to think a bundle of japanese developers found a fan-translated Twin Peaks box set on VHS, and reverse engineered Deadly Premonition from that. But the box set was missing a few episodes, and one of the tapes was replaced by any movie starring Naomi Watts.
Oh, I guess this is contemporary as well. I've only been able to dip into this thing for a short time, but already I must tip my hat to the developers for really doing their homework. The production design for the ship you're on (can't remember the name) is impressively astute; very happy they were able to reproduce the sort of "1970s alternate reality sci-fi" aesthetic that makes the original film still feel so visually unique. Everything feels nicotine stained, and there are CRTs, tape machines, and monochrome LCDs galore. You get a gold star.