How’s about we look back at the year 2014 in gaming? Everyone else is doing it. Now, I haven’t played every game to come out last year so I can’t tell you what truly the best game of the year was (what does that even mean with games, as different as they all are?) but I can look at the industry as a whole and gauge the waves which some games generated. Basically, here is a bunch of random “of the year” junk you might enjoy reading:
MOST WTF GAME OF THE YEAR
Remember when “the new Rambo game” was announced completely out of nowhere and everyone got really confused? Well, it got actually released, in 2014, and now I’m fucking discombobulated (real word). I don’t quite know where to even start explaining why that is. For one, who the fuck is this:
Looking at that image, I wonder whether the devs got deeply inspired by the visual style of Robot Chicken or they simply took a recent photo of the currently deformed Sylvester Stallone and de-aged him using some free phone app (in which case they actually did a remarkable job). Before you ask, it’s not a smartphone game; that’s what Rambo looks like on PS3, XBox 360 and PC. And before you immediately also ask, this title is not as cheap as you’d think, not for the buyer anyway:
If you read that carefully, you noticed that, on top of everything, it’s a rail shooter. Whatever other type of action you might see in any gameplay video is basically a cutscene, with quick-time button prompts, and don’t let the fact that it all also looks like shit fool you. What’s more though is that this is a rail shooter that does not use Kinect or PS Move or a Wii-anything because that would make too much sense. Seriously, this game could not be more bizarre if it asked you to buy a console add-on to insert it on a cartridge. Thankfully, this developer just got the rights to make Terminators: The Video Game next, so we’ll probably get more perspective on this when we [most likely] revisit their work in one year.
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE YEAR
Not only was Shadow of Mordor completely off my radar, before release, it had just about everything going against it. For one, the Middle-Earth, or its’ equivalent setting, has become as fresh a video game element as killing shit. On top of that, it was yet another game to rip off the Arkham series combat, and it looked like a re-skinned Assassin’s Creed, which just isn’t classy. Additionally, the much lauded Nemesis system was first conceived in the kickstarter project, Deathfire: Ruins of Nethermore. Oh, and the main protagonist was the millionth goddamn video game amnesiac to boot.
How did something that’s so generic on paper, turn out so fucking awesome and… dare I say it… fresh? Yes, this game has issues and I still wish it was set in a more original and fleshed out world (don’t freak out, Tolkien fanboys, I mean more fleshed out in this game) but when it comes to gameplay, it’s truly hard to criticize. I respect a game that offers enough freedom to let you play the way you want but makes sure that each play style is legitimately enjoyable. Whether you like it face-to-face or sneakily-yet-as-brutally-from-behind, you’ll enjoy doing it in the Shadows of Mordor (stop giggling, pervert) and thanks to the Nemesis system, it all comes together very meaningfully to alleviate the eventual mindless tedium of most action games. No words can describe the satisfaction of kicking the living shit out of an ugly asshole responsible for your death, as he seems to realize how horribly he fucked up by encountering you again. It’s hard to describe how big of a step this is for action games in general. The Shadow of Mordor is just fun to play and keep playing, and it has no right to be. Trust me and trust the hype on this one, if you haven’t yet.
MOST UNPLEASANT SURPRISE OF THE YEAR
Destiny is the true example of the power that some developers wield in the industry. All year long, we’ve been hearing all about Destiny this and Destiny that, and about a patch released for Destiny, and about an exploit that’s discovered in Destiny, and how the exploit is removed from Destiny, and how you can still kind of do the exploit in Destiny, and all sorts of other bullshit non-news with no reason to be put into sentences. I truly cannot recall another release, with similarly poor critical reception, get this much news coverage.
I admit that the game has great production values and the gameplay is so velvety smooth that I wish it were socially acceptable to drape myself in it somehow. Because of those two things, it isn’t a terrible game, but I have to say that I’d expected a hell of a lot more than those two things, given the potential. This was to be the only MMO I would pick up on day one and actually stick with. I mean, a brand new original sci fi epic from the makers of Halo, with Diablo-style loot? Bungie’s 10-year-long shared FPS ongoing mumbo-jumbo? Fuck yes.
After finally playing it, I wish Bungie had made a “normal” game instead. Now, you may genuinely enjoy Destiny and I see it get props for doing something new here and there, but could you honestly not envision it as a much better game in the classic single player format of, say, Halo? In that form, I highly doubt that it could have gotten away with the painfully repetitive mission structure we currently have. There would likely be a half-coherent story of some sort, as well. Maybe Bungie could have even found enough time to create awesome set pieces and boss battles, a more balanced competitive component, a more reactive game world. Maybe they could make the different celestial bodies feel different by adding unique gameplay quirks that make sense, like giving the Moon the Moon’s gravity, for example. If it were a ‘normal’ game with Halo-like coop campaign, would you honestly miss the crap you’d have to trade off for it, like the Tower or having to go into orbit and come back down to the same spawn location to retread the level between missions? Yeah, I’ve heard all about the added post game content and the loot improvements but you can’t deny that the Destiny we got is a bunch of bare bones, with a promise to sell us the rest later.
MOST OVERBLOWN BULLSHIT OF THE YEAR
A non-issue, which should have involved no one but the small group of people, who were directly responsible, if they like. Unfortunately, a few attention whores saw an opportunity there and you know the rest. If you don’t know the rest then keep it that way as you are avoiding wasting a moment of your time, which you could use for something a lot more useful like farting at your hand while snapping your fingers, for instance. Moving on.
MOST UNDERBLOWN BULLSHIT OF THE YEAR
Did you even know? The whole Prey 2 development limbo thing was plenty mysterious. The game just kind of started taking awhile at one point, then some odd rumors began popping up and then everyone just sort of forgot it even existed. Well, in October of 2014, Bethesda finally acknowledged that the game had actually been canned, with their Pete Hines citing “quality standards” as the reason… That’s Bethesda stating that something isn’t up to their quality standards… That’s the maker of Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls stating that something isn’t up to their quality standards…
This news has been met with surprising indifference, which may partly be due to the fact that it didn’t surprise anyone but it is a pretty major fucking thing, if you think about it.
First of all, the original Prey was an awesome game. Second, yes it was. Third, Human Head Studios, the makers of the first game, claimed to be making the exact game they really wanted to make all along. Fourth, what they showed looked absolutely sexy. Finally, this cancellation came after some pretty disturbing rumors/speculation on what really went on behind the scenes. While, I take all manner of leaked info with a grain of salt, this instance got a little more believable after an ex Human Head dev followed the cancellation announcement with this juicy tweet:
Bethesda is somewhat known for its’ douche-y practices, and this time, it seems that it might have cost us all a potentially kick-ass game. How are we letting it all slide so easily?
MOST OK RATED BUT STILL KINDA UNDERRATED OF THE YEAR
A quick reminder that the douchebag Bethesda is not the developer Bethesda. The developer Bethesda is often a talented bunch of people who just make epic games. MachineGames is one of those talented bunches, and Wolfenstein: The New Order is pretty damn epic. The game is a relative success, selling over a million copies and getting decent overall review scores but I feel like it deserved a little more recognition. It’s not just a decent enough game, it’s a great game and the best possible manifestation of an old school shooter in 2014. What that means is that MachineGames saw the merits of things that a Wolfenstein game should offer, instead of trying to cram novelty into it, and gave us the best version of it all.
Take the setting. I’m as tired of Nazi shit as everyone else but this particular take on it is actually long overdue. This is probably the wrongest thing to say but those Nazi fuckers thought big and it would certainly be interesting to see some of their wild architectural and engineering ideas realized. MachineGames thought so too:
Another wrong thing I’d like to say is that I truly admire MachineGames’ balls. The New Order has absolutely no multiplayer, so that the single player campaign could get as much attention as possible. As a result, every feature is thought out and polished. Nearly every level offers gameplay and advancement flexibility: you can usually go stealthy or equip two shotguns and do wasted surgery. Modern additions, like the numerous weapon and character upgrades, provide an excellent sense of progression while never getting in the way of the classic FPS experience. They even wrapped all the action around a pretty damn solid story, which manages to be sentimental, moving even, while remaining appropriate in a world with goddamn cyber-dogs. It’s a fantastic package that doesn’t aim to be a swiss army knife of first person shooters, at the expense of anything, and did you notice how I said that you could dual-wield goddamn shotguns? Yep. Sniper rifles, too.
MOST WEIRD SUCKINESS OF THE YEAR
2014 had its’ own weird theme, where some notable franchises were given odd shitty outings that weren’t really sequels but rather ugly mutated outgrowths, which carried familiar names. The best one of them is The Elder Scrolls Online, and that one got about 5.7 out of 10 from users on Metacritic, and if I learned anything in college it’s that that’s an F. All they had to do to make it a massive success was to crudely repurpose Skyrim into a coop experience.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Zenimax tried to make The Elder Scrolls and World of Warcraft at the same time, which is like trying to make a donkey fuck a chicken in hopes of that sexy biracial baby. Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way, and you realize it when the game starts turning your companions into floating arrows the moment you stop doing the exact same thing. Plenty has been said about this game’s terrible grouping system, and its’ linear progression and bland NPC’s, and it’s all due to this lack of clear intent. With many many many changes, this could have been quite a decent single player game, as it does have some hints of one.
The same cannot be said about Deus Ex: The Fall, which got 4.4 out of 10 from users for the IOS version. Now, consider the fact that popping pimples qualifies as a game in the IOS scene, and read that last sentence again. That very thing got ported to PC, in 2014, on-screen jump prompts and all. End of story. If you are a fan of the series, don’t be like me; don’t be fooled by the orange-y tint and think that this must be similar to Human Revolution. It’s not and it brings absolutely nothing of significance to the franchise, except perhaps for a pretty bally approach to turtlenecks.
Now, I feel bad for dumping The Elder Scrolls Online in with this shit because this is a whole different level of suck. While Deus Ex: The Fall has an excuse, being a half-assed port of a half-assed IOS game, Escape Dead Island just feels like one in everything from gameplay, to its’ structure, to the visuals on PC and seventh generation consoles.
Dead Island isn’t the best game series out there but it’s better than this empty, linear, clunky, ugly, cheap, dumb, glitchy (well, glitchier) piece of dogshit, and that’s the most accurate review you will ever read of this game.
Oh, Assassin’s Creed Unity is another game that could be on here, from the looks of it but I have not played it. I’ve long given up trying to catch up to this series and have yet to play all the numbered sequels before I start with shit titled ‘Unity’.
MOST NOT ACKNOWEDGED WIN OF THE YEAR
If you read through last year’s headlines, you’d think that Nintendo did not even have a console out. It was the year of Sony and Microsoft, comparing dicks and flicking buggers at each other, like nothing else is even relevant. Valve did DOTA 2, then took their Steam machines and disappeared into the same black hole that might also contain Half Life 3, while the most remarkable piece of Nintendo news is being made fun of by EA:
Look, games these days are blockbuster events in every sense of the phrase, while Nintendo characters still can’t fucking speak. I get that but that does not make them irrelevant. I don’t care that they don’t descend into Area 51 for the latest technical effects or hire Daniel Day-Lewis to bring turtle shells to life; their games are fun and that’s ultimately what it’s all about. Whatever magic they used or did not use to achieve it, Mario Kart 8 was possibly the most fun game of 2014. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze was possibly the best platformer of 2014, and Bayonetta 2 was possibly the best third party exclusive of 2014. Oh, and Hyrule Warriors is still a pretty damn fun little dumb game as well. Oh and Super Smash Bros came out for Wii U and 3DS, you might recall. Now, quickly, name this many really really good PS4/X1 games of 2014. I mean really good exclusive ones that you’d nominate for the game of the year without feeling like the ‘tank man‘ (look it up)… I rest my case.
MOST ACKNOWLEDGED WIN OF THE YEAR
In 2014, we discovered that a whole bunch of those Kickstarter developers, who’d asked us for all that money, didn’t suddenly go missing or file for bankruptcy or clarify that they only “wished” they could make all those games. If 2014 did anything of true significance, for me personally, is it gave me solid confidence and optimism for the future of these self-funded games.
Anyway, you might remember how about a year ago, Double Fine (the one who started it all), dropped a major scare bomb by claiming that they ran out of their Kickstarter money, but in 2014, they finally released… err.. half of the game. Sure, that doesn’t sound too encouraging but what they dropped was pretty damn well received, so at the very least, we know that Double Fine fully intended to live up to their promises not to spend the money on hookers and booze.
The same goes for just about everyone else, who has yet to release their full game, but do have some very real and tasty progress to let us play at this time: Grim Dawn, Pillars of Eternity, and Carmageddon: Reincarnation, just to name a three. Perhaps even more importantly, the full releases have been mostly living up to expectations, as is the case with Shadowrun Returns (and especially Dragonfall), Wasteland 2 and don’t even get me started on Divinity: Original Sin. Everything mentioned here has been highly anticipated and all of it has gotten pretty damn high marks across Metacritic and Steam. Great times.