Though it might seem that the next-gen lineups have been a little meagre in terms of true big hitters post-launch, we've found ourselves positively flooded with cracking titles in the first half of this year. Core console owners may have struggled with slim pickings, but for PC owners, handheld fans, and niche aficionados, 2014 has held some outstanding games thus far, so much so that there was no room for the likes of Titanfall, Mario Kart 8, Child of Light, Dark Souls II, Watch Dogs, or Infamous: Second Son in our personal top shouts.
Let the games begin...
Brendan Griffiths -- Wolfenstein: The New Order
2014 hasn’t had the brightest of beginnings, but there have been a few enjoyable big-name titles that despite not living up to the hype were still a lot of fun. I’m mainly talking about Infamous: Second Son and Watch Dogs there. Ubisoft have had a great year with their digital lineup with Child of Light and Valiant Hearts surely going to bothering my Top 10 picks at the end of the year.
A close runner up to my favourite entry of 2014 so far is Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition on the PS4. The visual upgrade surprised me with just how much better it was than the PS3 version and the game itself is still one of the best action adventure games ever made.
My runaway favourite game so far this year though takes me neatly back to the first FPS game I ever played so many years ago, step forward Wolfenstein: The New Order. There’s a slow underwater level and some annoying base stopgaps, but everything else is just brilliant.
Every weapon handles fantastically and the sight of dual-wielding the insanely massive auto-shotguns is an old-school rush. As a big WWII FPS fan, I was in my element blasting Nazis again. I wasn’t expecting the stealth options to be so impressive either, which really helped on the tougher settings. The story and characters really worked too with the ghastly Nazis leaders being superbly written and even Blazkowicz -the original silent FPS hero- having surprising depth. The decision to skip multiplayer to focus on the campaign was a brilliant choice by the devs and I hope that we’ll see more from the franchise again, which given the sales and critical reception, is very much a possibility.
Carl Phillips -- WildStar
What? Were you honestly expecting me to put something else here? Oh, how foolish you are.
In fairness, Dark Souls II came close, but in the end I couldn’t let anything other than Carbine’s MMORPG get my personal nod. It’s been a long time coming and those of you that have read my review (or at leastthe final part of it – I’m aware it’s freakin’ huge) will already know why I consider it a top-notch effort.
So forgive me if I don’t really have anything else to add – I’ve pretty much said everything that can be said in the 8000 or so words I’ve typed over the last month, but that statement in itself should demonstrate how big a game it is, even by MMO standards. It isn’t faultless (and is currently suffering from an influx of bots) but the end result is that WildStar is accessible, visually engaging, and just plain fun whilst providing enough challenge to push genre veterans – all thanks to its telegraphs based combat mechanics.
As things stand, it could very well stand the test of time in a genre that has seen so many contenders fall to the wayside, but for now it’s a welcoming breath of fresh air… well, it is until I do a veteran dungeon run with people who don’t know the tactics SERIOUSLYWHATISUPWITHTH-[I think you’ve had enough, Carl – Ed.]
Jonathan Lester -- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
We may be waiting for the next console generation to really kick off -- CD Projekt and Rocksteady have their fingers on the button -- but the last six months have kept me glued to my myriad screens even after the reviewing stops and the scant hours earmarked for 'sleep' and 'briefly seeing my loved ones' begin. For me, the niche games, sleeper hits and underdog platforms have really delivered, from Mario Kart 8 to Etrian Odyssey Untold, The Secret World to Super Time Force, Transistor, TxK and The Last Federation. The likes of Thief and Castlevania Lords Of Shadow 2 didn't get a look-in, though that modest unknown game with the robots and parkour has been taking up a lot of my time. Titan... something?
However, the one game that really captured my imagination this year is barely a game at all by some people's descriptions, a visual novel that still kept me turning its virtual pages and desperately clock-watching until my next opportunity to experience more of its chilling, masterfully-written, gutwrenching story.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc really is one of the most extraordinary things I've encountered in months, turning what's sometimes a busman's holiday into the favourite part of my day. "In all honesty, I spent every day last week counting down the minutes until I could play it again," I wrote in my review. "Harrowing yet uplifting, playful yet macabre, I've rarely found a game to be quite so rewarding. So long as you're ready and willing to read, to savour the experience and immerse yourself in it, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is one of the first truly essential games of the year. Well played, PlayStation Vita."
"Now hurry up with the sequel localisation, dammit. I can't wait until Q3!"
Matt Gardner -- The Banner Saga
If I was going on time played, I'd have to say Watch Dogs. Despite the boredom of the early game, despite Aiden's complete lack of personality, despite the nonsensical racing, and the bland nature of Chicago, I've sunk well over 40 hours into it over the last few weeks. It's a distorted number, of course. Watch Dogs is a ridiculously bloated game, packed with needless filler. But it's also got some cracking systems and emergent, thrilling moments. Jon was right in his pre-review opinion piece -- it's about as close as we've ever come to living out our Blues Brothers car chase fantasies. There's something to be said for that.
WildStar also gets a nod for being the first MMO to convince me to pay a monthly subscription since City of Heroes. I've just found it to be exceptional at every turn, making the action feel more immediate, and creating an MMO universe that makes sense. I get stuck on immersion with MMOs, which sounds a bit crazy, but is exactly why I couldn't stand The Elder Scrolls Online and precisely why I've fallen in love with WildStar. It just makes sense.
Mario Kart 8 is fantastic, Final Fantasy X HD Remaster proved sublime, Infamous: Second Son was arguably the most enjoyable entry in the series so far, but I'm going to have to go back to January for my pick of the games thus far in 2014.
I called The Banner Saga "a crowdfunded triumph" back in my review, and its ambition and execution have found a faithful following over the six months since release beyond those willing supporters who saw the game sail through its Kickstarter goal. It would be easy to glance at The Banner Saga and suggest that it's the Eyvind Earle-inspired artwork or perhaps Austin Wintory's sublime soundtrack that makes this game stand out in particular, and that no doubt had something to do with Stoic's crowdfunding success. But the fact is that a great many Kickstarter projects often promise much yet fail to execute. Not so here. The aesthetics were stunning, sure, but it was the clean accessibility of the game's tactical combat, matched with impressive strategic depth and challenging AI opposition that really impressed, coupled with a dynamic story that twisted and turned and frequently laid the heavy burden of choice upon the shoulders of the player.
It's Game of Thrones meets Disney... and it's absolutely fantastic.
What have been your picks for the best game of the year so far? Let us know in the comments box below!