2014 was a major year. I played some games, represented Darkstation at E3, suffered disappointment at the hands of Assassin's Creed, and more importantly, married the love of my life. A busy 2014 meant that I didn't get to play as many games this year, but the ones I got my hands on were quite memorable. Here is my Top 5 list for the year. See you all in 2015!
Favorite Game Released Before 2014, Played In 2014: Dead Rising 3
In November, Santa Claus arrived early and dropped off an Xbox One. One games I was eager to play was Dead Rising 3. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the series, the janky controls left me frustrated and I didn't care for its time management. And yet, I love the series' tone, sense of humor, and the creative weapon design introduced in Dead Rising 2. The third game feels much more comfortable than the other games. The amount of time to do side missions is a bit more comfortable and some of the boss encounters were pretty manageable. The vehicle mods are fantastic and using a morotcycle/steamroller hybrid to mow down legions of the undead is a seriously satisfying experience.
5. Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure
Tesla Effect marked the return of the popular Tex Murphy series of FMV games that endeared audiences with the exploits of a futuristic gumshoe solving cases out of his office near the irradiated ruins of San Francisco. Tesla Effect, another Kickstarter success story, was a love letter to its fans, filled with enough callbacks and fanservice to delight those who have stuck around long enough to wait for a new game. Tesla Effect has a “getting the band back together” feel that is noticeable even to an outsider like myself. Because of the devotion to its own history and fiction, Tesla Effect is one of the most sincerest sequels of 2014.Its existence will be an odd curiosity to some, a relic of an era, but for series stalwarts it will be a pure nostalgia trip.
4. Wolfenstein: The New Order
I never graduated past the classic Wolfenstein game from the 1990s. The game’s “GO KILL SOME NAZIS” angle was more than enough to fulfill my desire to storm my way through the Nazi war machine and take out Mecha-Hitler. I went into The New Order expecting a similar experience and was completely surprised by the moving story of B.J. Blazkowicz, a “man out of time” after a coma leads him to the nightmare of a Nazi-controlled Europe. The gung ho spirit of the original was alive and well (dual wielding shotguns never got old), but I really enjoyed the game’s heart and B.J.’s relationship with individual members of the underground resistance.
3. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Not all Ubisoft ventures in 2014 were broken or rife with controversy. Valiant Hearts: The Great War was a winner when I saw it at E3. No other studio in my memory has tackled the subject of World War I, especially now that war games are firmly, and stubbornly, entrenched within the “modern” era. Valiant Hearts paints a picture of war so hellish and miserable, free from comic book villains and ridiculous one man armies. While other studios are spending money trying to make the player feel like America’s Greatest Hero, its refreshing to see someone to take a step back and show just how affecting war really is.
2. South Park: The Stick of Truth
The long awaited South Park: The Stick of Truth finally broke the streak of middling games based on the Comedy Central show. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s personal involvement with the game’s development, beyond providing voices, goes to show how fruitful deep collaboration can be. The game drips South Park, from its crummy animation, foul language and often not-so-mild preachiness. The fan service is spectacular, with many favorite characters returning, and the game fits very well within the fiction of the television show.
1. Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation was my dream game. Alien: Isolation was an education as much as it was a revelation. Creative Assembly made the Xenomorph scary again, not the cheap cannon fodder it became in the Alien Versus Predator series. Though similar to Outlast, Isolation’s rust bucket ship atmosphere proved far more unsettling than any mental hospital. I haven’t experienced the same level of stress, tension, and sweaty palms since the original Silent Hill. The game is so effective at conveying fear and the overall powerlessness of the protagonist like no other game this year. Bolstered by a beautifully realized recreation of Ridley Scott’s vision of the future, Isolation is - hands down - the best fanservice product of the year.
Honorable Mention: Dark Souls II, The Wolf Among Us, Goat Simulator, Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.