As we wave goodbye to 2014, we reflect on all our most memorable moments. Some of us discovered an inert power we’d never known we had, others fought their way out of an armored stronghold with nothing but a lockpick and a 2-by-4. Still others discovered new worlds to explore while the rest of us saved the world in one form or another. And we accomplished all of this right from the comfort of our own homes.
This past year was a big one for the gaming industry as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo put forth a huge number of long-awaited titles, one after the other. Whether hardcore or casual, gamers all over the country have had no shortage of challenges to keep them occupied in 2014. Speaking personally, ten specific titles have stood out from the rest and deserve special attention.
Perhaps one of the most sought-after titles from Bungie and Activision, Destiny wastes little time throwing players into an intergalactic conflict with creatures from all corners of deep space in a bid to save the last safe city left on a futuristic Earth. But the seldom-seen plot isn’t even half the appeal of the next-gen shooter. Class differences and abilities aside, the number of different weapons available is mind-boggling and, factoring in the upgrade system to make even the strongest weapons even stronger, procuring and developing them all is a considerable challenge in and of itself. Beyond even the tools and tricks, however, is the co-op play. I have to say, the definitive core of Destiny that makes it so much fun is the fact that nearly every mission and assignment you come across is built to be done in a team. I’ve never played a game that encouraged cooperation and teamwork so much, and it always feels good to know that someone’s got your back in a big firefight (I always get a warm feeling whenever a total stranger revives me after I die). I’ve met and played with countless people all over the country and I’ve made a lot of cool friends because of it as well. You’d be hard-pressed to find an in-game activity where you won’t encounter other players. Say what you will about Bungie, but they certainly know how to bring people together.
My Rating: 5/5
Assassin’s Creed Unity
And speaking of bringing people together, no other game under Ubisoft’s famed Assassin’s Creed roster has done it like its fifth installment. For the first time in the series, players are able to actually engage in missions alongside their friends to take on challenges that prove too big for one assassin. This opens up a multitude of different ways players can tackle certain obstacles. Ever wish you had a distraction to draw enemies away from a certain spot? Or cover fire in a thick melee? Or perhaps you’d just like a more experienced fellow assassin show around? Regardless, grouping up is the way to go, and for its first foray into coop play, Assassin’s Creed Unity has not disappointed. Tie in an epic story of a boy-turned-assassin during the French Revolution and sprinkle a little ‘Romeo and Juliet’ –esque romance in the mix with boatloads of DLC, and you’ve got a game worthy of attention.
My Rating: 4.5/5
Far Cry 4
Ubisoft keeps the hits coming with the next installment in the wild Far Cry series. Here we follow Ajay Ghale, a Kyrati-American returning to his native country of Nepal for the spreading his deceased mother’s ashes, only to find himself in the middle of a brutal civil war between an eccentric tyrant and a rebel group willing to use any means to bring him down. With that kind of crossfire, you’d think it was enough to keep your head down. But the warring factions aren’t the only things trying to kill you in Kyrat, Nepal. Ever wondered what happens when you piss off an elephant, trip over a branch that turned out to be a big snake, or almost kiss a demon fish? Not Ajay. From crocodiles and rhinos to brown bears and entire wolf packs, virtually everything that moves is an enemy and will keep you on your toes from start to finish.
My Rating: 5/5
Pokemon Omega Ruby/ Alpha Sapphire
Whether you’ve been catching ‘em all since the good ol’ days of Red and Blue, or are brand new to the journey, this duo of third-gen remakes is built to please all. Veterans of the series will immediately recognize all the familiar faces and locales, but the new coat of paint courtesy of 3DS-rendered graphics and textures gives it a refreshing feel unlike anything that came before it. At its core, the formula hasn’t changed: catch and train wild pokemon, collect badges, stop the bad guys from taking over the world. But with tons of new gameplay features, including the Super Training System (introduced in X and Y), training and growing all your favorite pokemon from Ruby and Sapphire for the Gameboy Advance gets way more personalized and opens up a multitude of new strategy options. Do you open with a powerhouse that hits fast and hard, or a tank that can take hits and wear down your foes? And spoiler alert: Riding on the back of certain Dragon/Psychic type pokemon is the coolest thing ever.
My Rating: 4.5/5
Super Smash Bros. 4
Probably the pinnacle of wild, crazy, sometimes even nonsensical, showdowns, I’ve yet to meet a gamer that wasn’t looking forward to the new Smash Bros. New additions to the familiar lineup include Megaman, Pac-man, and Little Mac giving combatants a revamped taste of old-school gaming’s roots, and new mechanics and battle modes coupled with all new weapons and stages yield nearly endless ways to bring the hurt. For the first time ever in the series, players can create their own fighters with their own looks, styles, and even customized movesets. And if that wasn’t enough, the same can even be done for existing characters! Whether you play for the 3DS or the Wii U, both versions bring something unique to the table and both are worth keeping an eye out for.
My Rating: 5/5
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Don’t rub your eyes. You read that right. I’m sure any fan of Square’s is looking at this with a skeptically raised brow at the moment, but follow me here. I’ll be the first to admit that I feel Square Enix sort of dropped the ball with its newest addition to the long line of Final Fantasy games, but those able to tear their attention away from the plot might notice some pretty solid gameplay. The first thing I noticed was an increased level of available exploration compared to the first two games in the trilogy. The maps offer a great deal to explore and there’s a lot to discover. Next in line, the combat system gets a makeover from the previous installments. This time around, we only have to manage Lightning herself on the battlefield as opposed to an entire party of characters, however she’s bolstered with the ability to change her combat style mid-fight, and so careful planning in setting up her load-out beforehand is paramount. That being said, combat is fast, fun, and satisfying, and with a staggering amount of costumes, weapons, and accessories to customize Lightning herself, there’s a lot more to this game than meets the eye. That plot though…
My Rating: 3.5/5
Dragon Age Inquisition
When a series is great, it only takes one game to make a believer out of you. For me, that was Dragon Age Origins a couple years back. Bioware certainly knows how to grab the attention as its newest title starts with a very literal bang as an unknown supernatural force violently disrupts the peace talks between two sides that have long been at odds. And their prime suspect is none other than you. In working to clear your name and discover the source of the strange power you’ve acquired, you travel across the land, meeting new heroes and familiar faces alike in an adventure you build as you go, and it’s in that aspect that Inquisition shines brightest. There’s nothing like watching an entire story unfold based on the decisions that you yourself are responsible for making. A decision made in one place can have drastic consequences in another and every choice keeps you guessing in a land where the right friendship or wrong burned bridge could mean the difference between saving the world and breaking it.
My Rating: 5/5
Anyone who’s played Deus Ex: Human Revolution knows that Square is no stranger to forays into futuristic America. Enter Watchdogs, the story of hacker Aiden Pearce as he seeks vengeance on the mob that wronged him. Armed with one heck of a smartphone, players can turn the entire city of Chicago into a weapon that bends to his will. From other phones and cameras to the citywide electrical network, there’s virtually nothing you can’t hack as you fight your way past mobs, police, and even other hackers in your search for the truth in a vast open-world city to explore. Aiden’s ingenuity and creativity grants multiple ways to tackle any situation, so no matter what, you’re never left without options in the most hopeless of situations. Craft a quick cherry bomb or hack a car alarm for a distracting noise, hack a camera for a bird’s eye view on things, or even cause a blackout to completely turn a situation around. You don’t have to be tech savvy to get into this one.
My Rating: 4/5
Blazblue Chrono Phantasma
Beautifully rendered 2D graphics, colorful characters, and a unique, exciting combat system make up the framework of one of Aksys’ newest fighters. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Blazblue is the fact that every character comes with their own style of combat and force players to actually strategize to make the best use of their abilities. Fully voiced anime-style cutscenes line the story mode and can be set to either English or Japanese for a completely new experience as the saga of the Azure Grimoire continues in the third installment of the series. Anime lovers and 2D-fighter enthusiasts will definitely want to pick this up.
My Rating: 4/5
Who knew Heaven and Hell could have such an attitude? The long-awaited sequel to Platinum’s first romp through the great beyond hits the Wii U as the pistol-heeled beauty runs afoul of the best that the afterlife has to offer in a bid to save her best friend. A new arsenal of weapons makes for a killer amount of combo attacks and brand beasts to summon finish off the big baddies in style. Those looking for a good hack-n-slash beat down need look no further than this.
My Rating: 4/5