Jake Dubusker ’15
Top 5 Best and Worst Games of 2014
This time of year is when retrospectives are done on the year as a whole for video games, when irrelevant “Game of the Year” awards are handed out by every single review outlet, and so I’ll join in and take the time to outline which of this year’s games are the most worth your time and money and which ones are better purposed as a Frisbee for your dog. Normally I’d restrict awards to games I’ve done reviews for, but especially in this holiday season where new major releases come out with every coffee break of the day, that would leave too many gaps. So let’s start out with #5:
#5 Best – Wolfenstein: The New Order
The newest entry in one of Id Software’s genre-defining FPS series, The New Order is an all-around great experience with every component needed for a good shooter competently put together. The fantastical elements and future tech give it charm and adds more to the fun given by the ability to carry enough weapons at once to arm a militia.
#5 Worst – Child of Light
This one I put in the worst list not for being a bad game necessarily but for being a rather shameful waste of potential. With charming aesthetics and characters, this would-be amusing RPG suffers most from being shoehorned into the RPG genre. If it had just not crowbarred in frustratingly boring and grind-heavy turn-based combat and instead stuck to being a puzzle-platformer with more straightforward combat that never left the overworld, it would have been a wholly beautiful work that might have seen presence in the Top 5 Best list, rather than a nuisance that was a chore to progress through.
#4 Best – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
While Ubisoft seem to be of the opinion recently that bug-testing and actually finishing games before releasing them is for squares, Monolith Software graced us with a movie franchise tie-in of all things that manages to be more immersive and fun to explore than most of the Assassin’s Creed games it took cues from. While not having much innovation aside from the satisfying nemesis system and having a rather throwaway plot, this game demonstrates how to do a large sandbox game well by guaranteeing that you’ll get distracted for hours sneaking behind groups of Uruks and shooting down wasp nests over their heads.
#4 Worst – Watch_Dogs
The massive hype train that followed this one served as an indicator that that Ubisoft didn’t have much faith in its own game selling on its merits, and also guaranteed that it would not live up to expectations. While, like Child of Light, it’s not an outright bad game and indeed Watch_Dogs has its appealing mechanics that I had fun with, it’s severely bogged down by a plot that takes itself too seriously and hacking mechanics that aren’t expanded upon as much as they should have been and leave much to be desired (especially considering how interesting the present mechanics are), as well as a sandbox that for large amounts of time has little purpose other than adding a commute to your next objective. Given more expansion on its unique mechanics and ideas it could have been a great game that set itself apart from the usual sandbox crime-based games even more, but as it stands there not much reason to pick this one over something like Saints Row IV. Even so, it does have a fair list of merits and good ideas with implementation so it wouldn’t be deserving of a spot on this list if it weren’t for its technical issues, on the PC port at least. Anyone without a specific hardware build faces extreme performance issues regardless of their system’s capabilities. I would drive down the street and a slab of metal would flash out of nowhere in front of me, then I’d drive through it like it was some kind of hologram. Driving also stutters terribly, and framerate leaves much to be desired.
#3 Best – Shovel Knight
Retro-style platformers are popular in the indie game developer community, but few manage to pull them off quite as well as Shovel Knight does. With top notch level design and mechanics, a surprisingly meaningful plot, and a great soundtrack, the only flaw I can come up with for this game is that it eventually ends. It may be easy to dismiss it as nostalgia bait since it was designed in every way to look like an NES game, but play for even a minute and you’ll find out that this is a genuinely fun package.
#3 Worst – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
A dull and uninspired attempt to adapt Castlevania into 3D gameplay, this game offered good visuals and little else. The stealth in the modern world sections is particularly offensive, while the appealing castle world would have been quite a thrill if they had made it more interesting to explore than an empty, dusty library. Unoriginal combat ripped almost directly from God of War and stripped of quality, poorly implemented climbing segments, and just a lack of things to do in the game that are fun make this a game that you’ll want to pass on even if you find it in the bargain bin. What hurts most is that just last generation on the handheld DS, Konami made a trilogy of 3 fantastic 2D Castlevania titles, but now they seem to only want to fail more attempts to transition a series that’s best on 2D to 3D gameplay. We could have gotten another Aria of Sorrow or Portrait of Ruin, but instead we got Germanic Mythology God of War.
#2 Best – Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Low Wii U sales can’t keep Nintendo down as this flagship title returns stronger than ever. With a huge roster, lots of different game modes to enjoy alone or with friends, a wonderfully smooth online experience, and gameplay that’s faster than before and the most refined it’s ever been, this is a no brainer for anyone with a Wii U, and the best reason yet for non-owners to go out and buy the console.
#2 Worst – Assassin’s Creed: Unity
A year after releasing the great Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Ubisoft seems to have decided that the best way to follow it up would be to release the game before they’ve even finished making it. Regardless of the merits the gameplay has it’s all for naught when it bugs out every few minutes and someone loses their entire face or you get stuck while running by some furniture. Perhaps it may be worth recommending in the future after the 90 patches necessary to play it are released, or maybe now if you just want to experience the spectacle of a truly broken game, though even aside from that the game wears contempt for its player base on its sleeve.
#1 Best – Bayonetta 2
Platinum Games’ greatly anticipated sequel to their best rated game ever – or at least it was, because Bayonetta 2 surpassed it in ratings! This crazy, action-packed, lightning-fast paced spectacle fighter takes you from flying through the sky taking down what I can only describe as tower-sized angel dragon beings, to the depths of Hell itself battling equally outlandish and menacing demons at every corner. The entire game is just dripping with a sheer joyful energy, nothing else can deliver the unparalleled level of pure, unfiltered fun that Bayonetta 2 does with every second of gameplay. There is no game that released this entire year that was more intense, exciting, and fun as this game, and perhaps I could extend that statement to the past few years, or maybe even decade or two; the only game that comes to mind that comes even close is Platinum’s own The Wonderful 101.It seems these guys just know how to make amazing games, may they live on to make many more Games of the Year.
#1 Worst – Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
Sonic has had a rather maligned career on the past few consoles, between a laundry-list of mediocre titles and infamously terrible ones like Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). In recent years however with solid titles like Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations it seemed that Sonic Team had been learning from their awful mistakes and inching towards maintaining a lineup of good games for the hedgehog. Then Sonic Boom happened, oh boy did it ever happen. Not actually developed by Sonic Team, Sega handed the Sonic title to BigRedButton studios, composed of staff that were ex-Naughty Dog studio employees and considering how the game turned out it’s obvious why they’re ex-employees from there. Loaded with bugs, glitches, and exploits of every variety, it’s actually possible to skip over 90% of the game due to a glitch with Knuckles that lets him jump infinitely over the map, a positive result if you ask me. The radically redesigned characters speak like they’ve all undergone lobotomies and the new designs are dumb and impractical – why does Sonic wear bandages on his shoes? With combat, puzzles, exploration, control, and level design that is just atrocious and uninspired in every aspect, this may be the worst Sonic game to ever disgrace the store shelves, and considering how low he’s fallen in the past that’s one of the worst possible insults in gaming.
Hopefully Sega gives the next game back to Sonic Team and they can make Sonic Colors 2 or something.
Happy New Year!