impartialgecko's Dope List of Fantastic Videogamery in 2014!

2014 was an odd year for video games. I played just about as many re-releases of games as I did new games, I bought a PS4 and I started to wonder where this industry is headed. I thought this year was going to be something very different on an emotional level: excitement, awe, anticipation and so on. Instead, 2014 was subdued. But when I look back on it I can pick out 10 games that have stuck in my brain.

Here's a dope list of video games that I really liked this year!

List items

  • As I was playing Wolfenstein on my newly acquired PS4 I was initially disappointed. The game starts in a oppressively-linear corridor lined with textures from three years ago, narrated in melodramatic, gravely tones by a revamped William "BJ" Blazckowicz. This was not the next-gen experience I had anticipated or been promised. But slowly, surely, Wolfenstein gradually revealed its true nature as an incredibly thoughtful, well-paced and impeccably-crafted adventure.

    Gratifying dual-wielding gun murder of future-Nazis was something I expected. Open-ended level-design maybe less so. But where Wolfenstein really got me was on an emotional level. I haven't connected with a group of characters so quickly since the first Uncharted. Wolfenstein draws its characters with depth and startling humanity. It shows you how the broken and the marginalised members of an inhumane and cruel society cope with the fear, the stress and the pressure of knowing that the entire world is out to get them. Everyone has their own reasons for refusing to lay down and submit and not all of them align with BJ's binary perception of the conflict. It's also a game that tackles ideas and issues that Western society as a whole still has trouble with. The Holocaust and specifically the Nazi death camps are handled with a deft touch. Sex, love and relationships are depicted with a realism and a maturity that we rarely see in any medium, let alone video games.

    Not content with purely making a competent modern Wolfenstein game, Machine Games made a game that is happy, sorrowful, hopeful, thought-provoking and thoroughly adult that also has robot Nazis in it. That's one hell of an achievement. Arguably, 2014's most laudable.

  • Once again Giant Bomb's wiki fails me again, this time with its titles. LUFTRAUSERS is awesome. There's no intelligent or thought-provoking way to talk about LUFTRAUSERS other than to say that it's an angry game about flying a crazy future plane and blowing stuff up. It's a game that you only understand when you get it in your hands and feel how responsive and satisfying it is to stall out of an ascent and dive-bombing the fighters tailing you. It may be a monochromatic arcade game but I had more fun with LUFTRAUSERS than everything else on this list.

  • Hohokum embodies some of my favourite things that only video games can do. It's a game with no text and no dialogue yet it creates a tone and atmosphere that sucks you in and encourages you to explore every bit of it. The sensation of discovery that Hohokum provides is unmatched. The abstract puzzles and challenges were not difficult per se, but they asked my to buy into the strange dream logic that Hohokum operates under. Once I got myself into that head-space, Hohokum was magical. It's playable joy masquerading as an art installation, or as some people might call it: a screensaver. Those people are boring people and Hohokum is sensational.

  • This list system refuses to let me enter the fourth game on my list and that's probably because it's not a game on its own. The Last of Us stuck the landing with its story. The DLC: Left Behind poses new questions and reveals a hithero unseen dimension of Ellie's already fantastically-drawn character all the while telling a story we already knew the ending to. Left Behind does in 90 minutes what The Last of Us does over the course of 15 hours. It's funny, it's touching, it's harrowing and it's the best story I've seen in a game this year. Naughty Dog really do make everyone else look like amateurs.

  • Hot damn this game was a surprise. Full of promise but saddled with a license that has been the kiss-of-death to almost any video game, I held out hope for Shadow of Mordor despite my better judgment. Even I couldn't have anticipated how bloody impressive the game turned out. Previously, I mentioned how I loved exploiting and breaking systems in open-world games like Far Cry 4. Shadow of Mordor IS its Nemesis system, which gives context and personality to almost every encounter you have with orc society. The game also gives you all the tools and information to take advantage of that system and use it to achieve your goals. I never once faced an orc chieftain head on once I got the ability to possess enemies. Instead, I engaged in a complex game of political intrigue; initiated my dominated warlords into the service of my targets and then ordering them to assassinate their new leader. I played Mordor's political hierarchy like an instrument and it was the most cerebral, rewarding type of power fantasy I've ever experienced.

  • Jazzpunk is wonderful Dadaist nonsense of the highest order. It gamifies the punchline and weaponises the non-sequitur in a way that puts even Portal 2 to shame. It's a ride, it's a fucking experience that you can't begin to comprehend until you've played it yourself and uncovered the aggressive lunacy that permeates this game.

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition is a game riddled with flaws. It's technically all over the place, the interface is clunky, its implementation of open-world trappings is half-baked and its side-content miserably dull. But, it does what I want from a BioWare game which is to let me slip into a well-realised world full of interesting people that I want to spend time with. The writing is solid, the choices complex and finally BioWare has written a plot that stands up to comparisons with its on strong characterisation. It says something that DA:I made me recall what I played of Dragon Age 2 more fondly. Egregious issues aside, DA:I managed to rekindle my enthusiasm for BioWare. That's no small feat.

  • I have a lot of mixed feelings about Transistor, but all of them are strong. Some times I'm trying to forget that the follow-up to one of my favourite games of all time didn't hit me as hard and at others I'm recalling the intoxicating sense of mystery Transistor weaves through it's visuals and soundtrack. Supergiant's sophomore effort may not have resonated with me the same way Bastion did, but in some way it helped me realise what they do well and what they don't. Transistor is so specific, so representative of a holistic approach to making games that I enjoyed engaging with it as a piece of artistic expression more than I did as a game. That's not to say Transistor isn't a superb game, it just transcends its systemic and mechanical trappings to become something more.

  • I didn't like Far Cry 3 for a lot of reasons. It tried so hard to be edgy and subversive yet had none of the follow-through required to come off as anything but pretentious. It was a game that kept trying to get up in my face and I wanted none of it. Far Cry 4 on the other hand tones down much of the thematic bullshit that stopped me playing its predecessor and thus allowed me to enjoy the template Ubisoft Montreal had previously established. At its core, Far Cry 4 is a loop wired into the pleasure centres of your brain that pings whenever you craft a new ammo belt or buy one of the new signature guns. The improvements to the Far Cry 3 formula are minor, but the design of the world and the conflict that you're asked to engage is considerably more interesting. I was genuinely torn by a lot of the choices Far Cry 4 asks you to make, even though in the end they were ultimately meaningless. And even without the shockingly decent writing, Far Cry 4 is the type of systemically-driven sandbox that I adore. I love breaking and taking advantage of systems in games and Far Cry 4 is tuned for maximum chaos. It's nothing ground-breaking, but that didn't stop me from cackling maniacally when a convoy truck took out the elephant I was riding from under me.

  • Is Advanced Warfare a hail-mary or the last hurrah? Out of some sense of obligation and morbid curiousity I played every Call of Duty campaign since Modern Warfare 2, occasionally dabbling in the multiplayer to remind myself that a lot of people play this game a lot more than I ever will. Advanced Warfare's inclusion of double jumps, dashes and ground pounds put the stupid back into a genre that I'd checked out of precisely because it had gotten too bloody serious. Painfully linear, if well-paced campaign aside, Advanced Warfare's real achievement was giving me the tools to have fun again with its specific brand of video game paintball. Upping the pace and adding verticality was all Sledgehammer needed to do to Call of Duty's staid death-arenas to make it feel fresh and exciting and satisfying again. It's proof that formulas exist for a reason and that a slight change in mechanics is all that's required to remind us how good those ideas really are.