Which games got us going in 2014?
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
WE CAN blame Peter Jackson for Lord of the Rings burnout, but the lack of attention paid to Shadow of Mordor is criminal. Here was a game combining the stealth of Assassin's Creed with gritty graphics, fantastic bad guys, a beautifully brooding open world and action set pieces to rival Jackson's best movie moments. Patience and practice with the game's tougher bits rewarded gamers with some deliciouslybloodthirsty kill thrills. Let's face it: sliding a knife into the neck of a hulking orc is never going to get old.
Finally, a world-class racer for the anybodies. Forza Horizon 2 is the best thing on four wheels, successfully giving incentives for multiple styles of play. Are you fast and precise? Have some rewards! Are you a marathon racer? Kudos to you! Did you plough through six fences and write off enough luxury vehicles to give Mike Hosking nightmares for life? There's points for that too! This Forza spinoff makes sure to keep the fun dial on the dashboard and revved high.
The Evil Within
For downright gore, nothing can touch The Evil Within. Shinji Mikami's return to horror came with deliciously sadistic scenes pools swimming in body parts, a butchery filled with human bodies and machete wielding baddies splattered with blood. Whether you were impaled on hidden traps, got caught napping by gruesome zombie nurses or had your head removed by someone called "the sadist", dying was just part of the fun.
Sure, I haven't played Titanfall for a while but when it first came out, I spent an unreasonable amount of time levelling up my mech and shooting down enemies. It could have become boring, but developers have continued to add new bits and pieces to make the game worth going back to. Titanfall is also one of the slickest next-gen games, and one of the few online-only launches that hasn't had its servers overloaded. It deserves bonus points for that.
Far Cry 4
The Far Cry series is known for delivering great bad guys, but in Far Cry 4's Pagan Min, a blond-fringed psycho with power issues, they found their best yet. Gamers were tasked with taking out Min in the jungle setting of the Himalayas. Everything about Far Cry 4's wonderful open world was worth exploring from the sun-glistening waterfalls to the mountainous ravines and badly built shacks. Best of all were those lumbering elephants. Using them to bust through gates and charge enemies might be my gaming moment of the year.
Infamous: Second Son
The Infamous series doesn't change too much. You play as a superpowered "conduit" who runs, glides and flies around Seattle either saving people or killing them. You earn points for being good or bad, and the points change the story. Second Son doesn't try to switch things up - but the game is still a neon-drenched blast. Maybe I should have wanted more, but Second Son was still the most fun I've had playing a game's campaign this year.
Dark Souls II
There should be a support group for Dark Souls II addicts. The RPG is irresistible and maddening, dragging you into its murderer's row of ridiculously hard-to-survive battles even as you swear to God you'll quit. Playing it will make you pine for the breezy heists of GTA, the quaint bloodsport of Halo. But nothing in gaming will feel as good as when, through cracking 2am eyes, you finally see a dreaded boss dissolving into the red mist of death before you. Victory at last! Now sleep.
Previous Alien games have sucked. Majorly. But Alien: Isolation took things back to the drawing board, using the gritty realism of Alien's brilliant first two films as inspiration for a game filled with terrifying scares. Its beauty was in the game's old school VHS quality as you crawled around air vents, ventured into unexplored alien territory and avoided those terrifying snappy beasts. Best of all, Alien: Isolation made HR Giger's alien creations scary again.
Skylanders: Trap Team
It was hard to pick between Little Big Planet 3, Disney Infinity 2.0 and Skylanders as the best game for kids this year. Infinity and Skylanders are certainly the more expensive options, with their array of real-life toys required to fully appreciate the extra bits. But Trap Team narrowly wins out thanks to beautiful animations, great action set-pieces and puzzles that capture littlies' imaginations. It's the one my nearly five-year-old son keeps going back to, time and again.
Child of Light
Oh, this game is beautiful. Child of Light surprises and delights with wild imagination. The gameplay is another take on Ubisoft's modern template, with the character development that made games like Far Cry great. Watch Aurora battle and breeze through dark and dreamy worlds with your faithful firefly on duty. It's a storybook splashed on your screen, a leader for its time, and in case you didn't get the hint: it's all played out in rhyme.