Overall, 2014 was a pretty good year for video games. While not quite the best in recent memory, we still saw many titles this year that have begun to scratch the surface of what we can expect from games this console generation. With many of my most anticipated titles — including Batman: Arkham Knight, The Order: 1886, and The Witcher 3 — slipping into 2015, a number of games that some may have overlooked in favor of these were given their time to shine. While I've yet to tackle a couple of those very games (looking at you, Bayonetta 2), I can honestly say it was extremely difficult to put my top 5 in order. Without further ado, I present my top 5 games of 2014!
5) Murdered: Soul Suspect
This is a game that almost slipped past me as it released around the same time the super (over)hyped Watch Dogs and Mario Kart 8 were hitting store shelves. It's a game that kept me guessing until the very end. Combat was pretty limited, essentially consisting of clumsy stealth takedowns, but the story this game told was its bread and butter. It's a game that was a welcome change to the shooter status quo at the time of its release, and is ripe for the picking of anyone looking for a great whodunit murder mystery. Developer Airtight Games may be gone, but the chilling conclusion to this game remains one of my fondest gaming memories of the last year.
See what we thought of Murdered: Soul Suspect here!
4) inFAMOUS: Second Son
Sucker Punch Productions captured my heart with the Sly Cooper trilogy, and I remain a faithful fanboy of theirs to this very day. While I really love the inFAMOUS games, Second Son is not the strongest entry in the series. The game is a fun ride, but it lands a little lower on my list as boss encounters are repetitive arena battles, and the game is extremely short (I had the platinum the weekend it released). That said, it brings some really badass powers to the table, a killer soundtrack, and a rather enjoyable performance from the extremely talented Troy Baker. It's clear the main goal with this game wasn't necessarily to make a great game, but to make a game that demonstrated exactly what the PS4 can do. Visually, Second Son is one of the best looking games released last year, if not the very best period. Despite its few shortcomings, Second Son is an excellent entry in the inFAMOUS series and a must play for fans of the franchise.
3) Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
As if having the Batman:Arkham City combat system in it wasn’t enough, Shadow of Mordor introduced the game-changing Nemesis system to the world in order to keep combat encounters interesting. Can I sneak up on this Captain and take him out with a stealth attack? I don’t know, let's interrogate this loose-lipped Uruk and find out how this guy takes damage. The system itself opens up further as you progress through the story and unlock new abilities. Branding enemies is one such ability, and it is particularly satisfying. Forcing orcs to fight alongside you when you go to take down a Warchief — only to then brand him and use him to help you take down another Warchief — never gets old. While I'm not in any way a fan of Lord of the Rings, this game’s story was actually pretty interesting to me. Shadow of Mordor is one of the most satisfying experiences of the year, hampered only by the final mission in the game.
See what we thought of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor here!
2) Wolfenstein: The New Order
This was a game I never intended to play. Another Wolfenstein game in 2014? How unexciting compared to Watch Dogs and Mario Kart 8, right?! Wrong. The New Order took my expectations for another dudebro-nazi-slaying-shooting-spree and turned them upside down. Never has BJ Blazkowicz been so...human. While it didn’t follow the current trend of trying to push shooters forward, The New Order reminded me of how a shooter should feel. At times, the game is downright brutal, but it also tells a rather touching story, with a conclusion that leaves me wondering what a future Wolfenstein game would even consist of. MachineGames (comprised of the ex-core Starbreeze team) has proven that they have the skill and talent to make some truly amazing games, and I for one cannot wait to see what comes next from them.
See what we thought of Wolfenstein: The New Order here!
1) Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
I know what you may be thinking. What in the hell is wrong with this guy?! PvZ over Mordor, Wolfenstein, and even inFamous?! If you had asked me at the beginning of last year if I'd ever even care about this game, the answer was hell no. I've never been a fan of the PvZ games, and honestly, had Titanfall not been a disappointment, I never would have picked this game up in the first place. After hearing several friends raving about it, I picked it up. I kid you not when I say that I've easily spent more time playing this game than any other this year; it's not necessarily the fact that it's pretty easy to pick up and play, but more so because it's a game that doesn't take itself seriously at all. On the surface, you would never expect that one of the most balanced multiplayer experiences in years would be a silly Plants vs Zombies shooter, but alas, once you learn the strengths and weaknesses of each of the game’s available classes, you’ll realize that none of them are overpowered. I roll as a Chomper primarily, and that's the last class I ever thought I'd grow attached to. Garden Warfare was the sole reason I turned on my Xbox One for the majority of the year, and it was the game that broke my platinum trophy dry spell on the PS4. With Popcap continuing to add new modes, maps and class variations for FREE, this is a game I intend to play for many years to come (until EA shuts down the servers, of course).
Honorable Mention - Assassin's Creed: Unity
I'm not done with this game yet, which is why it didn't place anywhere on my list. People seem to have written this one off due to all of the buzz surrounding the game’s perceived glitches and whatnot. While I'm really only now beginning to dig into Assassin's Creed: Unity, the little bit that I played prior to all of the patches being released ran without anything game-breaking for me. Sure, there were some combat encounter inputs that wouldn’t work and enemies that got stuck in the environment, but at the end of the day, this is the first time since Assassin’s Creed 2 that a series entry has held my attention this long. It offers a ton of content and made some small, yet significant, changes to the franchise formula that really make this game shine as an excellent addition to the AC series. The variety of collectibles (including some locked behind a boring companion app, but hey, they don't count towards the trophy total so who really cares?) and side missions — which can range from helping a woman find her way home while protecting her from guards to solving murder mysteries — really add to the game without becoming tedious and boring like past AC games. It gives Second Son a run for its money as far as graphics go, and like pretty much all of the Assassin’s Creed titles before it, Unity has a great soundtrack. Protagonist Arno has grown on me as a character also, and I'm really enjoying my time in Paris experiencing his tale.
So while 2014 produced quite a few games that were “meh” to me, there were still an amazing handful (and then some!) of titles that reminded me why I love gaming. I still have a ton of games from this year left to play, and 2015 doesn't seem like it plans on letting up at all. Mark my words, I will play Bayonetta 2 and finish Sunset Overdrive before this year starts to get out of hand!
Thanks for checking out my list, which doubles as my debut article here at Short Pause! Keep those controllers charged and ready to go; 2015 is going to be a blast!
Frankie loves pizza, video games, and controversial opinions. Follow his gaming exploits on Twitter @Vyprstryke.