by Matthew Thompson
I decided to take a top ten approach to handing out my Game of the Year (you can see both parts of that list here and here), but I still want to hand out a few more awards or maybe just make up some reasons to talk about a few more games I played this year. And that is what this post is for. So without further ado, here they are!
Downloadable Content of the Year
Quality downloadable content isn’t exactly easy to come by these days, but I have been pleasantly surprised by some of 2014’s content. The new Survival Mode included in Resogun’s Heroes expansion became my favorite part of an already excellent game. Mario Kart 8 packed some incredible value and stellar new courses into its first major DLC release. But easily my favorite downloadable content of 2014 was The Last of Us: Left Behind.
Left Behind smartly flashes between two connected stories. It explores a relationship Ellie had prior to meeting Joel and in doing so gives greater meaning to some of Ellie’s comments and actions in the main game. While the outcome of both sides of this tale are already known, it still manages to tell a moving and emotional tale. What impressed me even more was the gameplay. One side is used to deliver more of The Last of Us’ intense combat encounters this time with a new twist. Being able to pin the Hunters and Infected against each other adds a wonderful new dynamic to the frantic fights. I also found it extremely clever how they used existing mechanics to create games for the girls to play in the flashbacks. While I wish it had lasted a bit longer, I loved Left Behind and it was a worthy addition to one of my all-time favorite games.
Most Disappointing Game of the Year
Destiny entered the year with high expectations and simply did not live up to them. I think what disappointed me the most about it were the things I just assumed Bungie would get right. Things like encounter and mission design which they seemed to do as well as anyone in gaming while working on Halo. They just aren’t up to snuff in Destiny. It also misses the mark with the narrative (which is barely existent yet terrible when it does show up) and the loot drop system (which makes an already grind-y game feel even more like a chore). Excellent shooting mechanics and some enjoyable co-op mean there is still fun to have with Destiny, but it did not live up to the hype by any stretch of the imagination which is what this category is about.
Some of these awards were difficult to choose. Others at least had some different candidates I made sure to mention. Not this one. No 2014 gaming award was easier to select for me than this because nothing came close to the wonderful soundtrack for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The composer from the original DKC trilogy, David Wise, was brought back for Tropical Freeze and he brought with him a spectacular collection of tunes. Words don’t do it justice. To that end, here’s a link to a selection of some of the best songs from the game on Youtube. But hearing it for yourself in-game is just another reason to make sure you play one of 2014’s best games.
My Worst Moment in Gaming in 2014
I think I lucked out this year and didn’t play any new releases that were all that terrible. Thief was certainly forgettable. The worst new game I played was Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z whose Lava Pope enemies (that is what I call them anyway) were certainly infuriating. But the worst gaming moment I experienced in 2014 was playing an older game. Maybe it is fitting it is another Ninja Gaiden title. And in truth it is much better than Yaiba overall, but no singular moment that I experienced in that game is worse than Ninja Gaiden 3’s T-rex boss fight.
I’m a huge Ninja Gaiden fan. I have great memories of the NES games and the first two modern titles have perhaps my favorite combat ever. So there was a time I was really excited for Ninja Gaiden 3. But by the time I played the demo and saw the reception it received, I decided to skip it. I finally gave it a go this past year and it was a deflating experience, nothing more so than the truly awful T-Rex fight. You may have seen a gif or two of this online at one point or another, but the way the whole thing plays out is just a disaster. And then once you think you have put this horrific event behind you, he comes back for more. To think Itagaki’s first Ninja Gaiden has one of the best collections of boss fights ever and a couple games later we ended up here… it’s downright depressing.
Also an honorable mention to Darksiders 2’s shooter dungeon which is one of the most baffling design decisions I have experienced in recent memory.
My Non-2014 Game of the Year
In any given year I might spend as much time playing games I missed out in previous years as I do playing new releases. That was as true as ever in 2014. That included everything from the unique controlling Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to Mario’s journey through the Sprixie Kingdom in Super Mario 3D World. The best time I had playing something older for the first time this year was definitely going through the God of War series. I enjoyed the whole thing for the most part, but God of War II was my favorite.
For God of War II, it feels like Sony’s Santa Monica Studio got rid of the stuff that didn’t work in the first game, kept all the good stuff and then added a bunch of stuff I didn’t even know I wanted all while cranking everything up to 11. That means better combat (new weapons, new combos, etc.). That means better platforming (grapple swinging and Icarus Wings in, balance beam walking out). That means grander scale and better boss fights (the opening fight against the Colossus of Rhodes remains my favorite level in the series). The PS3 titles outdid it in some areas like graphics, but the second entry is yet to be topped as far as the overall package is concerned.
That will do it for my look back at gaming in 2014. I hope you all enjoyed it. Next week I will look forward to what’s to come this year with my most anticipated titles of 2015. Thanks for reading!