The South Park games are an eclectic mix, from an FPS in the days before everything had to be an FPS, through kart racing, game shows and tower defence. An RPG must have been the obvious choice, then, thankfully after they had the revelation that South Park games work better when they look like the TV show.
But even despite the turmoil that accompanied the development, from THQ’s bankruptcy to the frankly shameful censorship – I imported the unsullied version, naturally – it turned out amazingly well. It’s fun, funny, authentic, and unlike many turn-based RPGs, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. With my reduced gaming time coming into frequent conflict with my love of a genre that thrives on lengthy narratives, words cannot express how much I appreciated a traditional RPG that I could finish in 15 hours.
It’s the fact that it was funny that stood out most, though. From the ludicrous summons to the creative trophies (‘Are We Cool?’ and ‘Heisenberg’ are favourites), through the obsession with anal probing, dodging swinging ball sacks and the way the Nazi zombies speak in incomprehensible snippets of Hitler speeches, it’s often hilarious when most games can’t raise a chuckle. Even if the game had sucked, which it absolutely doesn’t, I’d have happily endured through the running time to soak in all the humour.
Happy new year, everyone. May it be better for gaming than the last one.
That this is the only first-party game to make my list may be an admission that I don’t have a Wii U more than any lack of trying from the platform holders, but the fact is Microsoft and Sony haven’t been particularly prolific in 2014.
But even without caveats, I thought Second Son fulfilled the promise that the Infamous series had had since the beginning. The first two were good but saddled with a bland protagonist and a uninteresting, half-baked apocalyptic story. Delsin liked having powers, just like the player does. He’s like Spider-Man rather than another tortured hero.
Second Son was, in fact, the first game in which I bothered to earn the Platinum trophy. That means I finished it twice, when most games don’t even move me to play through them once. Even if it still suffers from the rather binary morality of the other Infamous games, the good and bad paths were enjoyably different.
It was gorgeous too, of course. One of the first games to restore some faith in what these consoles are capable of when they’re not running another remaster.
Here’s another late addition, which I admitted to missing out on barely a month ago but have since fallen for in a big way. I wish I could say it wasn’t the Assassin’s Creed ripoff that I called it back when it was unveiled because, gameplay-wise, that’s essentially what it is. But it’s polished nonetheless – that’s something you can’t say about this year’s Assassin’s Creed – and has enough tricks to stand out.
The Nemesis system was the cleverest for me, in that it’s a somewhat procedurally generated system that doesn’t stand out as being so – you might not realise that Goroth Plague-Bringer, against whom you had a long-running feud, was a creation of the game itself. The way it would cause some uruks to run away and others to return from the dead, hell-bent on revenge, allowed the game to create something approaching the personal, unique stories that typify the best open-world sandbox games.
Monolith seems to have a way of coming out of nowhere with impressive games – think the Condemned, F.E.A.R. and No One Lives Forever series – without picking up the following of some of the better-known studios. After this, and following my frequent complaints that so few studios are making games that aren’t safe, ridiculously budgeted annual sequels, I’ll keep an eye on what it does next.
The consensus on Dark Souls II seems to be that it’s the weakest of the three games in the tenuously linked Souls series, so perhaps I’m unusual in finding it more immediately engaging than its direct predecessor. I admittedly lack the patience to go all that far and sample their full depth, so the “immediately” part may be where a connoisseur could tell me I’m wrong.
Honestly, I feel like a bit of a dilettante discussing it when there are so many writers who can be far more authoritative on these games, so I’ll just say that I had a blast with it. I’m safe with my complaint that it’s another of those games that suffered from pushing ageing hardware too far, this time to a controversial extent that makes the inevitable PS4/XB1 upgrade seem more cynical than usual. But beyond that I enjoyed the bleak world, the minimalist storytelling, and the creative bosses.
If this is Souls without its soul, the series director Hidetaka Miyazaki having been reduced to a mere supervisor by his role on the upcoming Bloodborne, I can’t wait to see how that game turns out. I’ll reserve a spot in next year’s list, shall I?
Did you hear that the Souls games are quite hard, by the way? I think I’ve seen it mentioned.
Last year I complained about what a disappointment 2012 had been and in the last few weeks I bemoaned 2014 too, thus proving that video games are the opposite of Star Trek movies in that you should only bother with the odd-numbered ones. Except Into Darkness. That was shite.
I filled a couple of gaps in this year’s experiences since I wrote that post, with at least one of them certain to make the list as I write this, ahead of finalising my top five – alas, I couldn’t come up with ten without severely scraping the barrel. That made the line-up mildly less tragic than it was looking a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t change the fact that early 2015 looks like handily thrashing the entirety of this time round the sun.
Would a disappointment like Destiny have a chance in a year that will bring us Persona 5, The Witcher III, Batman: Arkham Knight, Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, Metal Gear Solid V, No Man’s Sky, Street Fighter V, Majora’s Mask 3D and a new Ace Attorney? No chance. But it’s still 2014, so let’s give it a send-off and pretend it never happened.
As usual, for your reference…
Handheld games have an unfortunate tendency to be overlooked in the copious GOTY awards at this time of year, but the lack of this in the popular lists – not this one, then – is a tragedy. Good for Animal Crossing and Zelda, which are great, but here we have a B-tier Nintendo franchise upping its game on a spectacular scale.
The 3DS has had a spectacular year, by all accounts, and its earliest hit was my favourite. Its presentation is lovely, from the personality-filled 3D models to the animated cut-scenes that almost justify the stereoscopic effects on their own. It’s the perfect standard bearer for the features of the 3DS, introducing me to StreetPass, SpotPass and the rest through well thought out integration. Plenty of free DLC as well. Sad that that seems like an aberration today.
Credit, too, for 8-4‘s brilliant translation. True to the setting and humorous without being obnoxious, even while including Internet memes in its dialogue – something I still find hard to believe is possible.
Awakening is a great starting point for Fire Emblem neophytes, with little baggage from the previous instalments and even – cover your ears, purists – the ability to disable what was once the series’ USP: permadeath. This nod to accessibility should be praised rather than reviled, for this game’s unexpectedly strong sales performance – who knew that a good game on a system that was starved of great software would result in sales? – look to have kept it alive.
If the standards are this high, here’s to many more.