Here. We Go.
Our community voting for Retailer of the Year 2014 and the Readers' Choice Game of the Year 2014 is already underway, and this week we'll be going through our personal picks. We like to do this every year, giving each writer a chance to wax lyrical about their favourite games of the year, the most striking gaming highlights and moments from the past twelve months, not to mention the disappointments and let-downs, before looking ahead to 2015 and dishing out our site awards.
With that in mind, here are our personal staff picks for the Best game of 2014.
Brendan | Wolfenstein: The New Order
I was expecting some serious competition throughout the year for this one. But if I'm honest, this has been a solid lock for Game of the Year since release back in May. The original Wolfenstein was the first FPS I ever played and none of the updates since have done it justice until Machine Games stepped up and blew the doors off my expectations.
Wolfenstein: The New Order has a perfect range of old-school bombast with fantastic weapons and dual shotguns that take up gluttonous amounts of the screen. And we're shooting Nazis to bits again, which never gets old. The 'what if the Nazi's won?' post-war scenario gives the old war a new twist too.
Surprisingly, there's a sound stealth game here too and I really enjoyed trying to be as sneaky as possible, knowing that if I did mess things up, the reliably solid gunplay had my back for when things had to get loud. The game has so much personality too, there are some great one-liners that don't care about being, some of the dialogue scenes are incredibly tense (the train scene!) and Blaskowitz himself seems to be a bit more fleshed out. FPS games have had a decent year, with Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare also making valid claims to my GOTY prize, but nothing's quite put a smile on my face like returning to where it all began in Wolfenstein.
Carl | Dragon Age: Inquisition
I’m not sure there’s much else I can add to the review for Dragon Age: Inquisition from a few weeks ago, but it really has been a last-minute knock-out punch over pretty much everything else this year. Considering it has taken me over 100 hours to get anywhere near finishing all the content included, it’s the first game since Skyrim to absolutely consume my attention and time. Then again, BioWare had no choice but to deliver exactly that, and it has redeemed them from their previous development sins.
What I think really clinched its victory as my personal nod over every other contender was two-fold – its emphasis to explore and discover things all over the world of Thedas, and the feeling that your choices actually mattered. It also highlighted that, as fantastic as Telltale Games are at giving us wonderful narratives, the choices they present us with are just very clever illusions for the most part. Meanwhile, BioWare have managed to make every choice from the previous two entries matter on top with having to make some incredibly tough decisions in Inquisition, making the experience at least appear to spin out in more directions whilst still being a fantastic and focused story.
I also got to fight dragons and jump over their fireballs. I cannot stress enough how badass that actually was, and had I tried to do that in Skyrim I would have been toasted within seconds. So, because of the fact you can do that, plus how charmingly insane Sera is (her bard song is absolutely the best) it gets my shout as Game of the Year.
Jon | Titanfall
Ever since Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, we've been conditioned into thinking that 'progression' is an essential part of any multiplayer shooter. I like ranks, unlocks and cosmetics well enough, but for me, these optional fripperies are just the cherry on the cake. What matters is the gameplay; the guns, the maps, the feedback, the movement, the sheer thrill of the action itself, and on that basis Titanfall is objectively one of the very best games the new consoles have to offer and one of the finest shooters in years.
It's innovative and ambitious, blowing the genre wide open with enormous robots, verticality, parkour and jet packs, yet managed to make its toys fun to use and accessible to everyone of all skill levels. The maps are the best we've seen in years, stacking up with the best of the decade, giving players room to move and experiment with new play styles. Titanfall's controversial AI made you feel like part of a war, not just a match, while its extractions allowed us to claw back a moral victory at the end of a bum round. It was a breath of fresh air, a vital shot of adrenaline right into the heart of a genre that had, for a time, stopped pushing forward and started treating water.
Sure, it was also a bit skinny at full price, but Titanfall's sheer quality kept me coming back week on week, month on month. The fact that it expanded and improved through free updates and inexpensive map packs was just a bonus.
But ultimately I'd argue that Titanfall earns its title as Best Game Of The Year on the back of its legacy. In stark contrast to the cover systems and sluggish combat of the last generation, we're riding into 2015 on a wave of shooters designed around verticality, double jumping and gameplay freedom. We have Titanfall to thank for that, and long may it continue.
Matt | Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta 2 is the only game that made me really want to drop several hundred quid just to play it. It's that good. For all of the talk of the Xbox One's big hitters, and the PS4's better third-party material, I'm not sure if either console has really had a truly killer app. Halo: The Master Chief Collection could have certainly been it, but 343i managed to shoot themselves in the foot there. Instead, Bayonetta 2 swept into my life, demanded my attention, dropped my jaw to the floor, and marched me to a digital counter with a Wii U in my basket.
Sometimes, games can wow you at previews and then reveal themselves to be shallow, unfulfilling experiences when played for longer periods upon release. Bayonetta 2 did the exact opposite, delivering setpiece after masterful setpiece, increasingly bonkers bosses to battle against, and giving me grin upon grin as I carved swathes through forces both demonic and divine, my flurrying fingers plucking combos out of thin air thanks to a mechanically perfect combat system that encourages experimentation.
For such an intricate marvel, it's astonishingly accessible, and yet it manages that without ever compromising -- packed to the gills as it is with things to collect, rankings to chase, and perfect runs to execute. You'll dive back in again and again for all of these things, ratcheting the difficulty level up as you improve, but you'll also return for the beauty of it all, as well. And to see Bayonetta strutting her stuff dressed as Samus, of course.
In the end, I don't really think I can do the game any better justice than this extract from my 10/10 review of the game:
I've played it through three times already, and I want to play it again right now. I want to summon a giant, demonic unicorn with my hair while dressed as Samus, before rolling around the corpse of my felled, headless nemesis in a Morphball. I want to surf the tunnel of the tsunami that destroyed a city, before flying around the hovering body of the angelic leviathan that summoned it, and poking out the angel's eyes with stilettos bearing giant swords. Again! I want the feeling of fighting that Masked Lumen again, on a higher difficulty level, with different weapons, pitching Bayonetta against an enemy that is more than her equal. And I want to win. Again and again and again -- faster, harder, better. There is no other action game that can elicit the pure joy that comes from such an expertly balanced set of systems set against such a bonkers backdrop.
It's just brilliant.