This was meant to be the breakout year for the new kids on the block. The Xbox One and the PS4 would deliver bigger downloads, but more realistic visuals and immersive gameplay would result from more powerful technology than their Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 predecessors. How could anything go wrong?
While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my transition into the eighth generation of gaming, this isn’t your typical ‘year in review’ feature article. Sure, heaps of new titles were put on the digital and physical shelves but, all in all, 2014 just wasn’t that eventful when it came to good value, high quality games on these new consoles.
This has been the slowest start to a new generation of gaming since… well… ever. After a shaky start to its launch with shoddy games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Fighter Within, and the pathetic large-scale demo that was Forza 5, a long stint of ‘next-gen’ limbo saw the Xbox One release its marquee title, Titanfall, in March.
At first glance, it seemed like COD ground combat mixed with the adrenaline of MechWarrior. I have my own reservations about Call of Duty, and never really grasped the enjoyment of those hulking mechanical bots; Titanfall was a no-go for me – and it was received as such. Despite its early success, its sales soon faded away; one AAA title down the drain.
But this trend was a common occurrence of this year: Watch Dogs, Driveclub, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and Destiny, to name a few. While there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with these games from a content perspective, they are all AAA games that lived and died by a release date – resulting in bugs, as well as frame rate and connection issues.
Big-budget games meant something quite different – zero reliability and no guarantees on quality – and it was a chance for the little guys and girls to strut their stuff. Thank goodness for the wonderfully crafted Child of Light for giving us an adventure to rival Alice’s journey down the rabbit-hole. Also to Valiant Hearts, for ridding us of that horrible Watch Dogs taste and keeping the fading memory of World War I alive (I do realise these games are from the same developer, as well). Even an indie-developed sports game, The Golf Club, showed some promise despite its shortcomings in content.
After a barren middle of the year, starved for content, the market became flooded with high definition re-released games. Metro Redux, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, Sleeping Dogs, Diablo III, Minecraft, and The Last of Us were the words on everyone’s lips; it was a step backwards, for sure, but it was a nice distraction.
Monolith Studios chose the perfect time to release their new game, Shadow of Mordor. It burst onto the scene at a time when everyone was still cooped up in Destiny and wondering what else there was to play, considering the unfortunate demise of games like Sniper Elite III, Murdered: Soul Suspect and the new Transformers entry. It commanded attention and was superior in most facets when compared to any Action/Adventure released prior. Whether it was so good or because we couldn’t remember the last great game in the year, it had everything: Picturesque graphics in a harsh Middle-Earth setting; gory, brutal combat; extensive ability sets; it was fun. Shadow of Mordor showed such quality console gamers hadn’t seen in months. Monolith Studios had successfully delivered the first value-for-money AAA title for 2014 – in October.
As the year closes out, the games on offer have been quite good. Sunset Overdrive, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and more work by Telltale Games have been received well. However, these few 8-9/10 experiences don’t account for the amount of utter disappointments we’ve had when it comes to new IP and games that… uh… actually work.
There was a lot promised in 2014, and there were games we didn’t even get to see. On top of Dying Light, this year’s release date rap sheet is headlined by Batman: Arkham Knight, The Division, Evolve, and The Witcher 3. Instead of keeping gamers in suspense in the lead-up to a game’s release, only to have it extended by months at a time, why don’t the developers simply give themselves more time from the outset? I don’t know what’s going on there. To the developers and publishers: Take. Your. Time.
With the lack of polish to a raft of games this year – all from high-profile studios – 2015 may bring some changes. The bigwig developers may think that we’re dumb, but we’re not. Through word-of-mouth or hands-on experience, we know when a game isn’t worth playing. The tacky pre-order bonuses might stay, but I think we’ll see more open betas for games where mass critique will deliver the best game possible.
Smaller games made their mark in 2014 but next year they will undoubtedly flourish with exceptional quality, whilst keeping the companies with huge profit margins in check. When you think about, that’s all players really want: A well-polished, enjoyable game for the right price. And if it’s not, we’ll let everyone know about it – there’s definitely been a lot of that this year.
Next year will, hopefully, be the 2014 console gamers should’ve had.