2014, much like my previous year, was spent trying out games of many differing types and on all current platforms. I've enjoyed checking out games that don't immediately fit with my existing tastes, but as I came to sit down and pull this list together, I have realised that I miss investing a bunch of time with the stuff that really hits the mark - I spent the back quarter of the year bouncing from one new release to the next. These are the 10 games that I enjoyed the most, and going into 2015 I will be revisiting them and many others, perhaps taking a break from trying out everything - at least until they're available at a more affordable price!
10. Bayonetta 2 (Platinum Games | October)
A sequel that delivers more of the same, but layers extra dollops of crazy on top to keep things interesting. Bayonetta 2 is fast-paced and entertaining, I love how many ways you can attack, and the tiny improvements that have been made to the systems. I get the same thrill from it as I did with DmC last year, where the most fun is found with how you manage juggling between varying enemies within a fight. Here, it's awesome when you really get into the zone, see the attacks coming amidst the chaos, and activate Witch Time consistently to get keep an intense combo going.
9. Hitman Go (Square Enix | April)
My favourite mobile game of the year, because it takes one of my most loved series, and delivers a really solid, really slick, incredibly well designed and good looking experience that retains the unique feel of Hitman. New areas unlock only after returning and nailing additional objectives, encouraging you to dissect levels down to single moves around the 'board'. A huge surprise, which has received support by way of additional level sets made available regularly since launch, all free of charge.
8. Wolfenstein: The New Order (MachineGames | May)
This was a really special release this year. No-one expected Wolfenstein to be this good (though I did enjoy the 2009 'reboot'), and it was one of my favourite surprises of the 2014. The game takes you on a journey through so many different settings, the combat is among the best in the genre, and the characters - on both sides of the conflict - are memorable and entertaining. Gadgets and new mechanics are layered on with regularity, and even the fact that the campaign was reasonably lengthy was a welcome surprise. It isn't top flight - the hideout stuff was a little tiresome - but it is very good and accomplishes so much within the confines of the series.
7. Destiny (Bungie | September)
The most fun I've had playing online with friends this year, my time with it was prematurely cut short when I went to Japan for October. I really enjoyed both the co-op and the versus play, and the combat feels really good. I can see where it falls short; I wish the story was more compelling, and I'm concerned about whether it'll develop into the MMO shooter that it clearly has the potential to be, but I had a blast with what's there now and am itching to jump back in.
6. Forza Horizon 2 (Playground Games | October)
The act of driving around this detailed gameworld is nearly perfect. I have several issues with the game - the repetition of dialogue and scripted stiffness to the progression, as well as the clunkiness of the potentially awesome Pokemon Snap-esque Photo Mode all come to mind. Yet I have come back to it again and again, because the act of racing around is so enjoyable, and I love the mix of high-speed cars and the festival vibe. It hasn't improved on the shortcomings of the first game, but its strengths make Forza Horizon 2 absolutely top of the racing genre list.
5. Sunset Overdrive (Insomniac Games | October)
The simple joy of careening around the world of Sunset Overdrive takes it far in my estimations. Though not to everyone's taste, I did enjoy the stupid humour and characters, with cutscenes and dialogue ensuring I kept a smile on my face. There are more weapons than I was even able to try, and with the fluidity of movement, bouncing from pillar to post across a candy-coloured city as a horde of energy-drink fuelled beasts claw at you, I'm feeling the urge to go back and try more side content even now the story has closed out. The game's got attitude, and I felt it worked, reminding me of both Tony Hawk's and Jet Set Radio.
4. Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft Montreal | November)
An incredible feeling of freedom, and an enjoyable variety to the different missions and areas of the most beautiful gameworld this generation. I really love the game's economy - it feels like it is screaming "stop hoarding your money!", and has you avoid maxing out your wallet capacity by spending your cash on maps, new weapons and gadgets to experiment with. Though it has a lot going on, I revelled in the density of the content rather than being overwhelmed like I sometimes am with similar games - rather than feeling confused and simply sticking to the 'story missions', I've been taking my time sampling every mission type and having a blast with them all. The autodrive is genius for a game like this, it gives you the option to get taken to your waypoint should you choose to. On the surface it may look like more of the same, but there are substantial improvements in every area, with a robust and chaotic co-op mode to boot.
3. TowerFall: Ascension (Matt Makes Games | March)
Between being the most played title at Gaming At Rob's, and my favourite game to play in co-op with my girlfriend, I've come to appreciate TowerFall Ascension from every angle. It boasts the best 2D character control since Super Meat Boy, and has a fantastic variety of content, from multiple modes to rules, environments to weapon pickups. The instant replay prevalent after every round is absolutely perfect for this game, and the option to export to a .gif is a stroke of genius. With more content coming in early 2015, I'm certain that it will continue to be a favourite local multiplayer game of ours here at GoPlayThat, and for me personally too.
2. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith | October)
When I returned from Japan, all everyone was talking about was what a pleasant surprise Shadow of Mordor had been - several friends were chasing the Platinum Trophy because they'd had such a great time with the Nemesis system and wanted to bleed the game dry of its content. I was worried that my time with the game wouldn't meet the high expectation I had for it - and despite what I felt was a slow start, it really was impressive. As the game opened up and multiple Uruks started to mix into the same gameplay scenarios, I felt the game hit its stride and deliver on the hype. The open world gameplay, with its unique play on mission types and enemy AI, delivered the freshest open world experience of the year. Everything you choose to do will have an impact on the hierarchy of the Uruk-hai, and sometimes the choice won't be yours at all - a particularly nasty enemy may just show up when it's least convenient, looking for your head. Outstanding design.
1. Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer | May (Act III))
When I sat down to sort out this list, something that I felt I had to do was put Kentucky Route Zero at the very top. It feels strange to me to slot this in as #1, because only 1 of the 5 episodes of the game has been released this year, with 2 still to come, but I think that serves to emphasize how incredibly strongly I feel about it.
It's a point-and-click adventure game that's just so thick with a feeling of mystery, the sleepy pacing urging you to continue. The narrative and sound design are unique, the visual design is consistently inspired, and each Act feels unique and self contained whilst feeding into a singular narrative that benefits greatly from a chilling yet somehow comforting atmosphere that runs throughout.
It's not about the challenge, it's about the experience, and I know that isn't for everyone. If you're open to that then it's worth getting on board now, with Acts IV and V hopefully releasing in 2015. I'm going to be replaying the content that is available, because it was so impressive the first time through that I want to experience it again, this time without the wait in between episode releases.