It was a pretty exciting first year of new-gen gaming, and I have to say that I came away quite impressed with the variety of games that were available on both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. Hell, even the Wii U surprised me with some quality games. While 2014 could easily be classified as the “Year of the Over-Hyped Game (Watch Dogs)” or “The Year of the Broken Game (DRIVECLUB),” there were just enough great titles released to salvage the year as a whole. There were a number of qualified candidates that could’ve made this list, such as Titanfall, with its fresh take on the first-person genre, and inFAMOUS: Second Son, with its engaging story and living, breathtaking recreation of Seattle. There were tons of memorable indie games as well that more than held their own against the AAA heavyweights; Mercenary Kings, Rogue Legacy, and Counter Spy stand out. Shovel Knight was another highlight, and despite enjoying my time with it on the 3DS, I’m looking forward to giving it a full-go with trophies when it launches on the Vita later this year. I would love to say that I could have included games like Alien: Isolation and Far Cry 4 on this list, but I’m not deep enough into those games to know for sure just how good they may be. The aforementioned games stood out amongst the crowd of titles released in the past year, but there were five more games that cast an even bigger shadow over these. So, without further ado, here are my five favorite games of 2014.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Anyone that knows anything about me as a gamer knows that I’m a huge fan of games such as Fallout 3 and Skyrim. I have no shame in spending an embarrassing amount of time playing an action RPG if there is a focused narrative that I have a direct impact on, countless missions and side quests, and a rich, vast world for me to explore. Dragon Age: Inquisition delivers on all of these fronts and more. The level of customization when creating your character was the first indicator that I was about to embark on a deep gaming experience. From the top-down battle view to the branching story and striking visuals, everything about Dragon Age: Inquisition is executed almost flawlessly. Even the multiplayer — which is similar to the one found in Mass Effect 3 — is surprisingly robust and a blast to play with friends. I look forward to spending more time playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s definitely the action RPG I’ve been craving.
What can I say about Destiny that Ben hasn’t already said? The game is easily the “Best Over-Hyped Game of the Year." Yes, the criticism regarding the narrative is just; failing to create a sensational story to go along with the gorgeous universe that Destiny will no doubt expand upon over the coming months and years ahead is a major missed opportunity on Bungie’s part. With that being said, there’s very little else — if anything — to dislike about Destiny. The gameplay alone — thanks to the tight, responsive controls — almost entirely makes up for the weak story. I have spent close to 100 hours playing story missions, strike missions, crucible rounds, and raids. If that doesn’t tell you something about the game’s appeal, I don’t know what does. We are still trying to improve our runs through the Vault of Glass, and have yet to even try the Crota’s End raid. I know Destiny has its share of haters, and they will disagree with me on this, but I firmly believe that Destiny is the best co-op experience I’ve played to date. I will be playing this game for quite some time.
This little gem released on the PC last year, but made its way to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita during the annual PlayStation Play program this past summer. I enjoyed my time playing on the Vita, as it runs just fine and is perfect for on-the-go play sessions. However, to truly experience The Swapper is to play it on the PlayStation 4 while connected to a surround sound system or headphones. The dreadful sense of isolation the game imparts is captured perfectly through the excellent sound design — one of the best of any title this year — and eerie soundtrack. The fact that the game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second is the proverbial icing on the digital cake. Even though it’s mostly known for being a puzzle-platformer, there is actually an exceptional narrative told along the way thanks to the message logs found throughout. Do yourself a favor and pick this game up; it’s the perfect complement to the bigger, louder gamers that we all love so much. The Swapper is a great example of why indie games need to be allowed to reach the bigger platforms.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
I had high expectations prior to the release of Wolfenstein: The New Order, especially when I heard that MachineGames was making the bold choice of moving forward without a multiplayer suite, focusing its efforts entirely on the single-player campaign. That risk paid off tenfold, as The New Order featured the best story of any of the Wolfenstein games by far. In fact, it wasn’t even close. For the first time ever, BJ Blazkowicz was more than just a Nazi killing machine. Now we have a more fleshed out Blazkowicz who sports a softer side, yet still manages to go into beast mode when needed, brutally killing thousands of Nazis along the way and staying true to form. With a strong cast of supporting characters, a heinous villain, and a lengthy campaign (close to 12 hours), Wolfenstein: The New Order was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve experienced in a very long time. I hope this marks a new era for the beloved franchise.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
After last year’s bland and disappointing entry, Call of Duty: Ghosts, I was afraid that the Call of Duty brand was trending downward quickly, desperately in need of a reboot. Thankfully, Sledgehammer Games seemingly sensed that feeling of dread, because they managed to inject a much needed shot of innovation into the billion dollar franchise. Advanced Warfare changed the way we all play Call of Duty thanks to the introduction of Exoskeleton suits to the tried-and-true franchise formula. The multiplayer suite feels fresh thanks to the suits’ new abilities, as boosting quickly in all directions, double jumping to reach new elevated vantage points, cloaking, and silent moving all lend a new angle to the competitive side of things. Add in some of the best designed maps the series has seen, and Call of Duty appears to be trending upwards yet again. And let’s not forget the fact that Advanced Warfare pits Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey and — the über talented — Troy Baker against one another. In what is easily the best Call of Duty campaign in years, it's full of the series’ trademark thrilling action set-pieces that will leave your hands sweating mission after nail-biting mission. This is exactly what Activision and the Call of Duty brand needed, and Sledgehammer Games delivered.
Well there you have it, these were the five best gaming experiences of 2014 in my opinion. It was hard as hell leaving Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn off of this list, but what's a Top 5 without some controversy? I doubt all of you will agree with this list, and I wouldn't want you to, because then there's no debate. I'm a huge fan of varying opinions, and I want to hear from all of you. What are your top 5 games of 2014? Let us know in the comments below.