The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to One Hit Pixel.
The beginning of a new year means another season of Game of the Year content on the internet. More and more I’ve seen people come up with more original lists, but I of course have had my own. Note that these are more personal than most. If you read either last year’s list, you probably know where this is going.
This year’s list of categories sees some returning categories, some brand new, and some re-jigging of old ones; so let’s begin with my tried and tested award…
Head-Banging Music Track of the Year – Mario Kart 8 – Wii U
Eh? A Nintendo game with Mario in it has the best Metal riff?
Two words – Bowser’s Castle.
Metal music seems to creep its way into Mario Kart 8’s soundtrack a fair bit, but in Bowser’s Castle it turns it up to eleven. Wailing guitars are accompanied by saxophones to create this wonderful piece. Its inclusion is surprising, but the tone for the course is set by the first few bars. Further up we find a giant Bowser statue pounding the track with his bare fists, more fire than you know what to do with, and one of the most perilous of the new tracks in Mario Kart 8. It’s glorious.
Equally fantastic music can be found within Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, full of remixes of classic tracks; but the pounding riffs that can be found there were expected. In Mario Kart 8, this one is a bit left-field, despite the hints from one or two other tracks.
Biggest Tear Jerker – This War of Mine – PC
Last year’s winner (Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch) sucker punched in the first few minutes, while the other winner (The Walking Dead: Season 1) did so at the very end. This year brings a game that not only questions a player’s actions, but also makes them mourn every loss.
War seems to be the common theme in my considerations this year as Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War provides a compelling narrative spanning the majority of the Great War from multiple perspectives. For the longest time this was the forerunner of the category.
But what This War of Mine does is vastly different. Instead of glorifying war by focusing on men with guns, we instead focus on the survivor’s struggles in this fictional war. Each loss of innocent human life that is committed fills one with remorse, while every loss to your party filled with regret. The game isn’t one you play for fun, but play to experience. So while previous winners sucker punches you with one major tragedy, This War of Mine reminds you of the human cost of war as it repeatedly slaps you in the face.
Best of British – Velocity 2X (Futurlab) – PS Vita/PS4
This was a two horse race between The Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation and Futurlab’s Velocity 2X. On the one hand we have a game that exceeded all expectations to deliver a survival horror experience that is intense. On the other hand, we have a game I described in its review as “the perfect sequel”.
You know what? I stand by that. For the second time running, Velocity 2X wins the Best of British award. It not only refines what made Velocity and its PS Vita upgrade Velocity Ultra so compelling, but includes seamlessly integrated platforming sections that are also great fun to speed run. The decision to port it to PS4 as well brings this incredible game to a wider audience, something I hope that Futurlab have the freedom to do in the future.
It’s been an incredible year for the two Sussex based studios, which only leads me to expect great things in 2015 from other UK based studios. Hopefully, some of the more high-profile ones don’t disappoint.
Best Crowdfunded Game – Shovel Knight – Wii U, 3DS, PC / Divinity: Original Sin – PC / Wasteland 2 – PC
I couldn’t decide. All three have a significant impact unique to their individual circumstances. All are great in their own right.
Let’s face it, without crowd funding, Shovel Knight wouldn’t exist and the world would be worse off without it. It’s a compelling game from talented people who have the passion for creating nostalgic experiences, while at the same time updating the mechanics to standards that in 2014 are revered.
Divinity: Original Sin marks the most ambitious project that Larian have ever undertaken. A lot of potential was present in Divinity: Dragon Commander’s narrative and world, shackled by some odd RTS elements. Original Sin may not be single-handedly reviving the PC RPG (cRPG) sub-genre that quietly disappeared in the late 1990s, but it is one that brings new, fresh ideas to the table. Player characters having a multi-choice conversation before deciding on a strategy is just the icing on the cake.
Then there’s Wasteland 2: Another major player in the cRPG revival this year that generated millions in crowd funding. Long usurped by Fallout as the premier post-apocalyptic RPG, the sequel to the 1988 PC classic is certainly a monumental gamble for InXile Entertainment. Critical acclaim and praise from consumers mean that this Kickstarter gamble paid off. The focus now lies with InXile’s next endeavour: Torment: Tides of Numenera – the spiritual successor to Planescape Torment which is one of the most revered cRPGs ever made.
The Best Decision Made All Year – Nintendo Publishing Bayonetta 2 for Wii U
Nintendo did the impossible this year – make the Wii U a practical investment. It wasn’t hard mind as my main concern was with the small library of games. Mario Kart 8 heralded in the new age of Nintendo, but the autumnal releases stole much of the thunder from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases. Smash Bros. for Wii U and Hyrule Warriors showed that Nintendo were comfortable allowing other developers in on the act (Bandai Namco and Koei Tecmo respectively).
Bayonetta 2 on the other hand was a far larger risk. Here was a game that had a sizeable following, supplanting Platinum Games as the best in the business for spectacle fighting games. It was divisive with an eye-catching protagonist full of sass, but it was a confident game with a great setting with fantastic combat mechanics. Witch Time remains the best implementation of Bullet Time mechanics since Max Payne (the original one). By opting to put up the money to allow this game to happen, we were treated to Platinum Games’ best game of 2014. Given that the other game was the terrible Legend of Korra, that isn’t too hard…
Could it have been made on any other platform? Absolutely. Would it have been made on any other platform? No. Nintendo forked out the publishing money to Sega and Platinum Games in order for one of the more sought after sequels to come to life. They even allowed the original to be ported with upgrades for their console and bundled it with the boxed version!
From the moment that remix of Moon River (which is just as incredible as the cover of Fly Me To The Moon from the first game) plays to the high-octane action combat that is thrust upon you like a squire thrown into battle. It’s an iterative sequel, but it refines what made the original such a joy to play and takes out what made it infuriating. They could have just left it at that.
But Nintendo did something incredible. They allowed Bayonetta to don Nintendo themed garments with gameplay functionality linked to those games. Having her wield Arwings with Star Fox charms dangling from them instead of her standard pistols is a nice touch, but seeing what happens when Platinum Games make a Star Fox level within their own game is genius!
Most Pointless Investment of the Year – Pre-Orders
We’re divided on our opinions of pre-orders here at One Hit Pixel, but the past few months have only cemented my thoughts on this disputed topic.
Back in July, I wrote a piece asking “Are Pre-orders really that evil?” – the opinion piece inspired by the thoughts of Polygon’s Ben Kuchera. In it, I attempted to justify my pre-orders of Destiny and Evolve, while at the same time dismissing pre-ordering Alien: Isolation as a waste of time. While the launch of Evolve had been delayed at this point, we’ve had the “Big Alpha” that I’d wanted to get into and for the most-part I wasn’t disappointed. Hopefully the expanded content found within the final version keeps this as a mainstay in my gaming roster.
Do I regret pre-ordering Destiny? Not really as I saw the beta as an investment rather than a bonus and it served its purpose. I would have picked it up on day one in any case with the intention of going around with friends. I noticed some early warning signs in the beta that turned out to be deal breakers. But while that’s useful for me to write a critical piece, it’s nowhere near as useful for the average consumer. Betas in theory should be for those who want to test and provide feedback for the development team, same with Alphas. By commercialising them, we run the risk of missing the point of what these tests are for.
But dear lord how I sympathise with those who pre-ordered Halo: The Master Chief Collection or Assassin’s Creed: Unity. These people probably took days off work just to play the game, or play with friends who had also taken the day off. In the case of Halo in particular, the crippling matchmaking issues would write off an entire day or more; meaning that by the time the game is fixed, these people would be back at work and all the more bitter about the ordeal.
There’s value in waiting and seeing the condition of the game post-launch. I urge people in 2015 to think really hard about whether or not to invest in pre-ordering games next year.
Biggest Surprise – Wolfenstein: The New Order – PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
If Aliens: Colonial Marines was an indicator that games might not be as good as its preview builds, Wolfenstein: The New Order is, rather pleasantly, the exact opposite. What was demoed was a hatchet job of the game’s worst level – the introduction. What we got was the best FPS experience of 2014.
I could quite easily have put the honourable mention of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor as winner of this category, due to the fact that preview builds made it look like a mere Batman: Arkham City/Assassin’s Creed clone. But as new things were drip fed by Warner Bros. Interactive’s PR department, Shadow of Mordor looked more and more like the real deal.
Wolfenstein: The New Order on the other hand didn’t set itself free from the shackles of bad first impressions until its release. Suddenly we had a sleeper hit, a smart revival of a franchise that may have been muddled in tone between gameplay and narrative, but was a lot of fun to play. I mean, how could I not give this award to the game that had me fighting Nazi’s on the moon?
Most Offensive Game – The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Those first few hours of this infernal game have produced so much ire within me that I refuse to give this more than a paragraph of my time. If you want to know what enraged me so much about this game, you can read the review here. In a year where perceptions about feminism have been all over the place, this is a game that does not help things…
Most Broken on Launch – Halo: The Master Chief Collection/Assassin’s Creed: Unity/DriveClub
Last year I awarded Most Dissappointing Game to SimCity thanks to its performance issues. This year it became more apparent that broken and disappointing are vastly different things.
These three games represent a month or two of controversy. Halo’s matchmaking issues cripple it to this day, while numerous patches still haven’t fixed some key issues within Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Both developers have publically apologised with the promise of free DLC. Ubisoft cancelled the season pass for the game. 343 were forced to launch Halo 3: ODST Remastered for free.
Then we have DriveClub. Delayed since the PlayStation 4’s launch day, the game took another year to surface, only for its own disastrous launch to effectively put the PlayStation Plus “free” version on hiatus as SCE were not sure it would work. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this idea dead in the water.
Most Disappointing Game of the Year – Destiny
Before you brandish the pitch forks and demand my immediate resignation, remember this list is purely my opinion. So hear me out.
Destiny promised many things. It promised an open world where players can meet up, go on missions, shoot aliens, and explore the galaxy. The first impression was one of wonderment as exploring worlds is a blast, especially when events that happen periodically suddenly flash on the HUD. But when the rather lacklustre campaign is over, the sudden realisation crops up: This is a MMORPG with barely any end-game.
Normally, this would be a death knell. PVP can only last so long and the one Raid mission that came out before the DLC hit is the only level of challenge left beyond completing fetch quests. My patience for World of Warcraft wore thin after a good two years, finally shattering the crippling addiction. Destiny lasted all but two months.
The elephant in the room is of course Watch_Dogs. That was a game where the initial reveal was breath-taking, the premise a captivating and original one, and another game that promised many things. That turned out to be graphically inferior (unless you modded the PC version), deeply unoriginal beyond the hacking mechanics, and yet another Ubisoft game where intel is gathered from “climbing up towers”. It was a closely contested for a long time.
What it eventually came down to was the fact that Destiny felt like a stunted effort, restricted by its menu-based navigation, DLC packs, initial player caps, and the lop-sided progression system. Raids do a lot to make the game more exciting, but that slog to get good enough to even attempt the raid missions with friends just isn’t worth the time or effort.
On top of that, Xbox One owners got to experience first-hand just how much damage timed-exclusivity deals hurt – a trend I hope dies off sooner rather than later.
Shameless Hype Ramp of 2014 – Watch Dogs
Oh I bet you saw this coming. E3 2012 was when it was first introduced, with stunning visuals and a phenomenal open-world hacking premise that spiced up the Grand Theft Auto formula. Throughout 2013 we were inundated with trailer after trailer, showcasing just how next-gen the game was to be. It was all going so well, topping Most Anticipated game lists for 2014.
Then all of a sudden someone noticed that the trailers close to launch looked off compared to previous trailers.
Other things began to surface. Aidan Pierce’s character, the storyline, how it looked more like a generic open-world third person shooter with minor hacking mechanics; it was all beginning to unravel. Then the game launched to reviews that while generally positive weren’t the scores expected. It sold well, but the consensus was that it was a disappoint affair.
To top it all off, the original graphic filters and settings were apparently hidden within the PC version’s code. There was only a small impact on performance and the tools were subsequently released in the form of an unofficial mod for the PC version. Ubisoft’s response could be considered an act of defiance.
Worst Game of the Year 2014 – Rambo: The Video Game
I said in my review that this was the biggest contender for Worst Game of the Year in 2014 and somehow after many disasters it never got surpassed! Some other games such as Air Control were incomplete messes, but this is the sole full price “effort” that came out this year that stunk worse than sewage.
On-rail shooting that isn’t fun, mixed with QTEs make up the entire gameplay experience; but these are only the beginning of this woeful experience. Sylvester Stalone looks like a disfigured husk of a man with sausage link arms, while everyone else looks only slightly more human. Animation quality is pathetic, voice acting was gutted out of the VHS versions of the films it depicts, and the game is prone to more crashing than most games this year. Heck, I couldn’t even finish it!