NG+ Game of the Year 2014 – Jason's Top Five

This week, the New Game Plus cast and crew reveal their favourite games of the year. To close the week off, New Game Plus’ big boss Jason O’Callaghan gives his verdict on the best games of 2014.

While many seem to think 2014 was a disappointing year in gaming, it is all a matter of perspective. The offerings on the now current-gen systems weren’t as risky and solid as those in previous years, but no more so than the ‘overhang’ years of any other generation. Then there was ‘the Troubles,’ which showed again that humanity is not quite ready for reasonable discourse on the internet. It was, however, a chance for the Wii U to shake off the early wobbles and hit its stride, and it most definitely did that.

To continue that theme, Japanese developers have embraced the Unreal Engine and shattered every single “brown Unreal game” joke you can make. While there were previously Japanese games made using Epic’s toolset, most notably all of Suda51’s recent offerings and the brilliant Asura’s Wrath, there are some big games which made the move to the engine: D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign-, Kingdom Hearts 3 and, in a big coup, both Street Fighter V and Tekken 7.

With a gaming compass firmly skewed to the East, you would not have be disappointed with this year at all, and chomping at the bit for 2015, even if my list isn’t hugely representative of that fact. With that said, let’s do this.


GOTY 2014 Jason Garden Warfare

[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare]

A surprise addition to EA’s 2014 lineup, this charming little shooter is, in broad terms, the family-friendly Battlefield game. Players play cooperatively as Plants defending against Zombies in the slick Horde-inspired Garden Ops mode, or competitively in a range of competitive options. Gameplay was tight, character design continued PopCap’s charming art style and progression was controlled by booster packs which were easily achievable without dipping into your wallet.

The worst part? Even when EA gave the game away for free, not enough people played it. But watch people keep complaining about having no alternative to CoD nonetheless.


GOTY 2014 Jason Wolfenstein

[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Wolfenstein: The New Order]

Wolfenstein has had an interesting journey through the modern age. There was a lot of love for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which was followed up by the technically tight but boring Wolfenstein 2009. Then along comes Wolfenstein: The New Order, which continued all the passe trends of modern gaming: American protagonist with a square jaw, the European love interest, the gritty English guy, the deranged German…zzz.

And yet here it is, number 4 on my GOTY list, a brilliant take on alt-history, with engaging gameplay, genuinely likeable characters in spite of the high levels of cliché, and an awesome soundscape contributed to by Mick Gordon. I don’t even think it’s fair to say that this is “brainless fun”: This is a well-polished and executed game, and easily one of the best of the year.


GOTY 2014 Jason South Park

[Watch New Game Plus’ review of South Park: The Stick of Truth]

I could not make this list without a callout to Mr Parker and Mr Stone’s lovechild. Obsidian Entertainment had the unenviable job of making one of the most well-known and loved animations in the world into a game that wasn’t horrible like its predecessors, and damn did they succeed.

This was both an engaging ‘long episode’ of the show and a love letter to gaming itself. The combat combined the best parts of Earthbound and Paper Mario, the humour rarely missed the mark, and the usual biting self-awareness was maintained. I would argue that the combat engine outlives the game, and it will be interesting to see if Obsidian re-use it in future titles. Maybe another South Park title? Here’s hoping.


GOTY 2014 Jason Smash Bros

[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U]

Yep, fine. I’m a baby playing a baby game. Up your arse, mate, because you’re missing out of the best entry into the series, as well as a brilliant nod to this great little love of ours.

This latest Smash Bros. built upon the best elements of Melee and Brawl to deliver a versatile game: Perfect for parties with its wealth of options and modes, and competitive enough for one of the more exclusive communities to embrace. Besides the usual Smash options, there was enjoyable single player and unique choices, with an inbuilt game viewing option and improved social options. The addition of Gamecube controller compatibility validated my otherwise worrying hoarding. Super Smash Bros. will definitely earn a place in the NG+ multiplayer lexicon.

Now plz nerf Diddy, for the love of all that is holy.


GOTY 2014 Jason Bayonetta

[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Bayonetta 2]

Platinum Games is going gangbusters. Following up from surprise hit Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, it currently has a heap of high profile titles in the works, with the Wii U exclusive Bayonetta 2 being the first and perhaps most prolific. The combat was more forgiving than the original, but not condescendingly so, Bayonetta continued to be a strong woman in gaming if that’s a concern for you, and the difficulty was hugely customisable; aside from a meaningful differences between the difficulty levels, items you equipped mid-game changed core mechanics, unsurprisingly to match other third-person combat titles.

The major point for me, and it’s a surprising sentence for me to type, was the visuals. This game looks fucking amazing, not only from a design and colourisation aspect, but also from the sense of movement, which was unparalleled. If you ever need to make the point that resolution doesn’t make the game, this is a good start.


There you go. Special mentions to Far Cry 4, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor — 2015 is going to be a great bargain-bin year.

 

We hope you enjoyed New Game Plus’ Game of the Year Week! Catch up on the previous week of GOTY lists, or watch our Game of the Year episode.