Given that it's the end of the year I figured why not look back and think about the games I truly enjoyed this year? This list is in no particular order, it's simply a complilation of all the games that left the biggest mark on me this year.
I bought my PS4 in May of this year and the very first game I played wasn't Killzone: Shadow Fall or Infamous: Second Son. It was Transistor. I remember seeing it's trailer at various gaming confrences and the art style and story had me intrigued. I took the plunge and bought this game immediately after connecting my PS4 to the internet I bought this game. The opening instantly got me hooked. The game presents to you this strange, intriquing world. With it's art-deco meets cyberpunk aesthetic, compelling soundtrack and intriguing mystery at it's core the game was a blast. The pause and play combat brought an element of strategy to the proceedings and it allows for tons of expermenations. You unlock more abilities than you can use at anyone time and you may not even unlock all the abilities by the time you beat the game. This added to the game's replayability factor, in addition to the fact that the game is just plain fun. If you own a PS4, simply put, you need to own this game. It's only 20 bucks so it's no strain on the wallet.
This game. This freaking game. Now, full disclosure, I am not too keen on the Lord of the Rings series. I can respect it but it's not for me. So imagine my surprise when Shadow of Mordor released and I found myself playing the game to 100% completion. It takes a special kind of game to awaken that kind of determination in me. The world was so well fleshed out and the story, while just a standard revenge tale, was pretty enjoyable. It flirted with themes of identity and morality but it never fully explored them. Outside of that, the game was just plain amazing. In the year where Watch Dogs and Destiny would aspire to be revolutionary games but fall far short, who knew a liscenced game would deliver one of the most innovative mechanics seen this year? The nemesis system not only added tons of playability to the game, it changes the way narrative can be presented in games. When people talk about Mordor's story they typically aren't talking about the revenge quest, they're talking about the stories they crafted with their Talion. The rivalries they've formed and the lengths they went to resolve them. I know that I personally was more invested in hunting Nazu Black-Blade than I was with getting vengeance for Talion's family.
Towerfall Ascension was a game that took me by suprise. It was a PS Plus game that I downloaded and played expecting it to go the way of Road Not Taken and Stick it to the Man. Games that I played once, lost interest and never picked up again. I couldn't fathom how I wrong I was. It sat in my library for quite some time until I had some friends over one and one of them mentioned that they saw a Steam Train on it. So, curious, I booted it up and in doing so have created a series of rivalvies between/with my friends. I've been longing for the days of couch co-op, when me and my friends could make an entire night with four controlers, some pizza and a 12-pack of Mountain Dew. This game felt like a glorious return to those days. A fun, simple game where you and three other people have to dodge and shoot arrows at one another. It's one shot kills and the last man standing wins. My only knock against the game is it's lack of a compelling single player mode but honestly the game isn't made for that. It's made for nights were you and your friends decide to get some beers, pizza and beat the hell out of one another.
"It. It's different. It. It doesn't suck. Dear god, it doesn't suck! Call the papers dear, cause I've got news. It doesn't suck!" That was pretty much my reaction when I picked up this year's Call of Duty. I skipped out on Ghosts cause it didn't look like it was doing anything interesting and I didn't know anyone who was picking it up, even die-hard CoD fans I knew were cold to it. I honestly picked up this year's game because A) Exo-suits and B) Kevin Spacey. I don't care who you are, if that combo doesn't sound amazing you have no soul. I was floored to find that Sledgehammer Games pretty much kept as little as possible from other games and created something wholy new in the franchise. First off, for once I could follow a CoD campaign from start to finish. I usually can hang through the first act until they start throwing around names that all sound either ultra-rugged or ultra-Russian/Arab/Xenophobic and the plot just gets too convuluted for me to care. The game went from point A to B to C in a very straight foward way. The gameplay itself is some of the most fluid, frenetic I've played in a modern FPS. It's almost like a modern-day Tribes with it's dependence on jump packs. It's this perfect middle ground of traditional CoD and the hyper-kinetic nature of Titanfall. If you left the franchise or just never got into it, this is the perfect place to jump on.
This year and quite frankly these past few years, has seen the licenced game go from to punchline to genuinely good experience. Sure, games like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark still occur but it's becoming less uncommon for a game based on property to be actually good. South Park: The Stick of Truth was one I was very concerned for at first. From it's numerous delays, to shifting publishers from the now dead THQ (RIP) to Ubisoft and to the fact that it was delevoped by Obisidian. Nothing against those guys but they seem to have the misfortune of developing either can't-possibly-be-as-good-as-it's-predecessor sequels (Kotor II, Fallout: New Vegas) or unfinished games (Alpha Protocol). So while excited as a South Park fan, I had quite a bit of apprehention. The game instantly relieved me of any concerns I've had as it was everything I could've wanted. It's RPG-lite mechanics were a blast and it was the funniest game I played all year. My girlfriend liked to watch me play the game simply because she felt like it was watching an episode of the show. It also made me happy that I could finally complete an RPG. Since being a grown up with a job and bills to pay, I don't have the time to sink into a 100+ hour JRPG epic. This was a perfect game in that it gave me the gameplay I've grown fond of in a manner I could easily digest.