2014 was disappointing for gaming on a number of levels, with several games not living up to early hype, and others getting released in a broken state. Of all the console manufacturers I would say Nintendo had the best year, with the Wii U finally producing some top notch games like Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2 and Super Smash Bros. Sony and Microsoft may have sold a staggering amount of new consoles, but their game output has been slow and fairly lacklustre in comparison. There were no stand out titles that were universally praised, with journalists’ reviews varying wildly, which made choosing a game more difficult.
It is quite a sad indictment of last year’s games that some of the top rated titles of 2014 have been remasters from the last console generation, with The Last of Us and GTA V being the best of the bunch. It seems that a lot of publishers are jumping on the bandwagon with upgraded versions of Sleeping Dogs, Metro Redux and The Master Chief Collection all hitting shelves for the new generation of consoles, with other titles planned for this year. The Master Chief Collection is also a prime example of another bugbear of 2014, the releasing of unfinished and broken games. Battlefield 4 started it off at the end of 2013 with a disastrous launch, of a game that was riddled with bugs and glitches that took the best part of a year to fix. In 2014 we’ve had the Master Chief Collection, which is having major problems with online matchmaking, with many disgruntled gamers asking for refunds. Sony have had the Driveclub fiasco, where the long delayed title suffered from server issues that stopped players from playing online, and delayed the promised PS+ version of the game indefinitely. Ubisoft have had a nightmare launch for Assassin’s Creed Unity, which has been plagued by frame rate problems and serious bugs, making the game nearly unplayable for some players.
There were a lot of games that were hyped up last year, with Watch Dogs being hailed as a GTA killer, Destiny being touted as the revolution of the first person shooter, and The Evil Within marking the return of survival horror. Unfortunately none of these games lived up to the hype. Watch Dogs received mixed reviews, although I know a few gamers that really enjoyed it. Destiny was far from being a revolution, but was a decent shooter with a poor story and repetitive gameplay. The Evil Within was nowhere near to being a spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4. For me Destiny was my biggest disappointment of the year; while the mechanics of the game were sound, the threadbare story was disappointing, especially after experiencing games like the Mass Effect series. The bullet sponge boss battles were also uninspiring, and the recyclng of enemies and levels meant that the battles quickly became a chore, rather than a challenge. While it can be a lot of fun when you play with friends, when compared to the humorous antics of the Borderlands series it is all rather dull and lifeless.
While it has been a disappointing year, there have been a few titles that I have really enjoyed. The new Wolfenstein was a great game, that was a nice amalgamation of the old style shooters with the new. It was good to go back to a World War setting, which has been neglected recently in favour of the modern day and futuristic themes. I also really enjoyed the new Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which really benefited from a three year development cycle. The single player was a lot of fun, with plenty of blockbuster bombast and a decent variety to the levels, although some of the set pieces had a feeling of Deja Vu about them. The addition of the Exo-suit to the multiplayer was inspired though, and added extra verticality and unpredictability with a decent selection of well designed maps rounding out the package.
With the majority of big budget games disappointing in one capacity or another during 2014, the resurgence of indie games showed that creativity isn’t dead in gaming, with several outstanding releases including OlliOlli, Transistor, Towerfall Ascension and Shovel Knight. I also really enjoyed Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, with its stunning art style, inventive combos, and platforming. With games like No Man’s Sky looking like raising the bar for indie games next year, and big budget titles like the new Zelda, The Division, Uncharted 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront showing promise, I have high hopes that 2015 will see the new consoles finally hitting their stride.