The Richie Report – The Anno 2014 Retrospective

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. That’s right, it’s a FESTIVE END OF YEAR RICHIE REPORT all up in your sweet, baffled faces. I’m coming down YOUR CHIMNEY and I’ve got a bag full of OPINIONS. Of course, Christmas isn’t quite what it was a few years ago with December generally being a dead month for game releases (apart from Ubisoft’s latest I don’t care-’em-up The Crew. Which is about car shit.)

2014 was the year where people started wandering blindly into the new current gen abandoning their Xbox 360s and PS3s for either a PS4, an Xbox One or, if they were feeling silly, a Wii U. There wasn’t much in the way of fanboyism at first because at this point all the new consoles were a load of shit. They were good times.

Full retail releases were thin on the ground in January with the highest profile disc-based game out there being some Dragonball shit for the previous gen consoles. I don’t know much about Dragonball except that it’s some sort of anime bollocks and, until proven otherwise, I reckon anime is a gateway drug to the Japanese tradition of diddling kids.

There wasn’t even much digital-only action happening, but one of the year’s standout titles did arrive. OlliOlli showed up on the PlayStation Vita and started testing the glorious little handheld’s mayfly-like battery life with its horrifyingly addictive skating gameplay.

Things didn’t look much better for February with the first mildly anticipated full retail game of the new generation, Thief. This late entrant into the much-loved series of stealthy sneak ‘em ups turned out to be one of those new-gen games that highlights a total lack of understanding from the developers of how to use the new hardware.

Aside from that, the new generation was limited to a few indie efforts. Luckily for previous-gen gamers (which we all still were because the new consoles were kind of rubbish at this point) the opportunity to block off the next six months of your gaming calendars arrived in the form of Earth Defense Force 2025. This ant genocide simulator somewhat took over my gaming spring and summer until it was maxed out. It was sort of brilliant but the quality of it didn’t really matter, all that mattered was the journey and it lasted six months and ended with me quitting achievement whoring. Also, I can’t walk past an ant without punching it in its ant tits.

The previous generation continued to put up a fight with the fantastic South Park: The Stick of Truth. A fantastic recreation of the cartoon with a decent J-RPG game mechanic. A genuine contender for Game of the Year and easily the funniest game ever made. Fuck all that Tim Schaefer PC nonsense.

Dark Souls II arrived for the gamers out there who hate fun. By all accounts it wasn’t quite as good as the first one but was still pretty good. I didn’t care then and I care even less now, even though a PS4 version has been announced.

Although the new gen at this point had somewhat stuttered, March ended with inFamous: Second Son which, for some people at least, may be the game of the year. Sure, it was just another superhero sandboxer but it looked great and benefitted from some lovely slick controls. It’s actually what I’m currently playing and it still stands up as a GOTY contender in many ways.

The inexplicably popular Batman series returned with the clumsily titled Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate. This was a side-viewed Metroidvania thing I think. It was notable for people not wanking it clean off like all the other Batman games.

Trials also returned with Trials Fusion which was very good but by this point everybody was a bit Trialsed out and so this game didn’t really generate much interest amongst non-Trials experts.

April badly needed a big full retail game to come out. Unfortunately all they could muster was The Amazing Spider-man 2 which wasn’t very good and it stuck religiously to the European Union directives on what a Spider-man game should be. If you’ve played one, you’ve played them all and they are all shit. I’ve decided Spider-man is shit. The eight year old version of me is pissed off with me though.

I spent the first four days telling Star Wars fans to fuck off. The first real game out (if you don’t count 3DS stuff) was Bound by Flame. I don’t know anyone who has a good word to say about it. Or a bad one. It may be the most ignored game in the history of the world.

PS4 fans welcomed Transistor, the spiritual successor to indie darling isometric-’em-up Bastion which we rather liked, apparently. It’s been on my personal ‘to buy’ list for months now. I’m just so very lazy.

Fans of shooting nazis in the face were treated to Wolfenstein: The New Order which is apparently very good. I ignored it because I don’t really like the Wolfenstein games. Not because I sympathise with nazis or anything.

Most notably, the most hyped game of all time, Watch_Dogs, landed at the end of May, and while it delivered some competent stealth sandbox action, it was all a little underwhelming given just how exciting this game looked at E3 a couple of years previously. WiiU fans didn’t get their mitts on the game until November and even they didn’t give a toss by then.

At this point people were becoming wise to Ubisoft and their ridiculous trailers. The reality never really matches up but if you get past the initial feeling of blaverageness, it’s actually a pretty good game. Anyway, if you’re still excited about The Division, you need to stop that.

WiiU adopters got their game of the year with Mario Kart 8. It’s apparently very good. I can’t be bothered. I loved the SNES one if that counts but Street Racer was better.

Murdered: Soul Suspect arrived to little or no fanfare and offered some post-death detective work and creepiness. It wasn’t very good but it was at least a little bit different. It was E3 season and amongst all the incoming games that were previewed, Sony also announced the immediate release of Entwined, a game about a bird and a fish that play Rez together and get bored very quickly. Stylish but dull.

EA got their debut UFC game onto the shelves and while it was full of decent fan service with loads of video clips featuring UFC stars, it felt a little bit thin on actual gameplay. To be fair though, they do keep supporting the game with free updates that add extra fighters and gameplay tweaks. It’s not a bad game but we’re hoping for more from the inevitable yearly sequels and it needs to feel a little bit more hard-hitting.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark managed to be the worst game of the year. A standard third-person robo shooter, the game’s piss-poor graphics, controls and gameplay make you wonder who is responsible and if it is worth killing them.

One of the best games of the year was Sniper Elite 3 and, in keeping with its gameplay, snuck right onto the shelves and was quietly appreciated by all who played it. Mark certainly liked it, especially when he realised it had saved all of his best headshots. It offered up some great sniping action but mostly we just liked the x-ray bits where you see all the bones get fucked up. Tom Berringer in the house.

One of the very best digital-only games of the year made its console debut on the PS4 and Vita. Rogue Legacy is one of those 2D retro looking platformers where you die constantly. I’ve never been a fan of the genre and will never understand the appeal of things like Spelunky but Rogue Legacy was the shit, son. Addictive to the point of insanity and a ton of fun, all PS4 owners should get this.

Sony’s emote-’em-up, The Last of Us got remastered and titled The Last of Us: Remastered as well, and had quite a marketing campaign behind it. It certainly doesn’t take away anything from Sony’s 2013 Game of the Year contender but didn’t add much either. It’s still getting new DLC but it’s mostly multiplayer filth which no-one wants.

Sacred 3 irritated fans of this unfriendliest of RPG series by turning the game from a sort of hateful Diablo clone into a shit hack and slasher. I laughed anyway. Sacred 2 remains the most dislikable title on the 360.

Aside from various sports games and a lot of indie titles, the only notable full disc games on offer in August were the Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (which recently got given away for free to PS4 owners), Metro Redux (a hi-def port of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light) and inFamous: First Light was a bit of standalone content which also got a physical release.

The best thing about August was actually a demo. P.T. (which ended up being a teaser trailer for the new Silent Hill game) was the most terrifying thing to ever happen to me. A survival horror demo which only has controls for walking and LOOKING CLOSER AT THINGS. Christ.

Minecraft showed up for the PS4 this month hoping to continue the game’s tradition of stealing away months from obsessed children and for some reason there was another Warriors Orochi game out but the big release in September was Destiny which brought loot-based questing and Halo-style action to the major consoles.

The gunfights were quite fabulous but the game’s piss-weak story and dull missions meant that most people got rid of this after a week or so. It wasn’t bad but also it wasn’t interesting.

FIFA 15 popped up and was pretty good. Y’know, like all the FIFAs. Because it literally is all the FIFAs.

The month was closed out in fine style by Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor which, despite being based in the tedious Lord of the Rings universe, brought some excellent Assassin’s Creed sandboxing to the party and had some of the most satisfying combat seen all year. A strong Game of the Year contender indeed.

Some long awaited games hit in October. Planned PS4 launch title, Driveclub, was released in a state so broken that it never really recovered and the promised PS+ version still hasn’t been released and probably never will. Some dudes must have been fired over this one.

Sega had made some big promises about Alien: Isolation and, frankly, I wasn’t buying them. Everything related to the Alien universe has been rubbish in the last ten or so years and this was no exception. Once you got past the atmospherics, which were typically authentic, you were left with an incredibly dull BioShock rip-off that was even more dull and had some of the worst 1990s level design I’ve ever seen. The alien does a good job of making the whole thing terrifying but this game was mediocre in October and hasn’t improved since.

Styx: Master of Shadows added some orc-based stealth to the release schedules but was mostly ignored. We liked it though.

The previous gen put up a fight with the generation exclusive Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel but surely with two massive games and about a thousand bits of DLC, we’d already all had enough Borderlands. Right?

Bethesda got ready for Halloween by publishing Shinji Mikami’s latest joint. The Resident Evil creator didn’t stray far from the formula with The Evil Within, which mixed some big scares and lots of gore with some clumsy action, survival horror staples (jump scares, limited ammo and bad level design) and overly long levels. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t Resident Evil 4, no matter how hard it tried to be.

The most interesting thing about Shadow Warrior, a first-person shoot and slash ‘em up, was that it was published by budget game legends Mastertronic. Unfortunately, the game continued this trend of terrible level design by literally having you run back and forth around levels trying to find a fucking switch or something. The combat was alright but the game was far too long to support the shallow gameplay.

WiiU owners briefly got to be smug when they got their hands on Bayonetta 2. It’s apparently very good but I didn’t think much of the original and sort of hated it for spawning so many cosplay costumes.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare tried its best to change things up by pretending to be a Ghost Recon game with mechs. It’s apparently very good but I’m not about to pay fifty quid to find out.

Ubisoft put out two versions of Assassin’s Creed 2015 with Rogue on the old gen (apparently quite good) and Unity on the PS4 and Xbox One (apparently not very good). I literally do not understand why these games are still selling. Unity was apparently quite badly made with serious issues around its framerate and stability.

Speaking of broken. The Xbox One exclusive, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, had serious issues on launch too, with its multiplayer mode. I don’t know if they fixed it. I don’t care.

Terraria showed up on the PS4. It didn’t add a whole lot that we haven’t seen from other versions of the game but it’s still Terraria and Terraria is great. There’s a bunch of Christmas content bits in there this month as well.

Konami gave the previous two months to FIFA and had a muted release but shockingly ended up putting out the better football game with Pro Evolution Soccer 2015. There’s not much between them but the solid feel of PES just makes it more satisfying to play.

Sony ‘s last big exclusive was LittleBigPlanet 3. I really should play one of these given that I own at least three versions (LBP2, Vita and PSP). It’s reviewing okay but does the world still need cutesy platformers?

Dragon Age: Inquisition was EA’s last biggie of the year. The latest in their series of RPGs, Inquisition did well in the reviews but is apparently about as slow an RPG as you can get so if you’re a fan of lots of action in your RPGs, this might not be the one.

Two legit Game of the Year candidates also hit this month. Far Cry 4 may have been nothing more than a prettier version of Far Cry 3 and about as Ubisoft as a game can get, but god damn it it was fun. Destiny had great gunplay but Far Cry 4 had the best I’ve seen. The setting, the story and the mission structure was okay but nothing too special but the action was perfection and made the whole thirty or so hours it took me to get the platinum trophy fly by.

If that was my full retail game of the year, the best digital game of the year was Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions. Taking everything I loved about Geometry Wars 2 (a legit ten out of ten game) and adding an excellent ‘Adventure’ mode that gave you loads of levels with twists on the established gameplay made this a fantastic package. The visuals occasionally get in the way though which lets it down a little but overall this was a spectacular title and one that I’m still playing a month later and can never stop apparently.

November also saw the release of the this-gen version of last year’s standout game of the year, Grand Theft Auto 5 which was just a fantastic game from start to finish. I’m not ready to go back and do it all again quite so soon but I will definitely pick this up when the price drops.

As ever, December is a dead month for releases with only The Crew, Ubisoft’s attempt to make driving games feel like Assassin’s Creed, and a new Guilty Gear hitting the shelves. Vita owners get some decent digital content though with Resogun (the legit best PS4 game) and Soldner-X 2 (the legit best PS4 shoot ‘em up) both heading to the fabby handheld.

That’s 2014 wrapped up with a little bow for you. The new gen took a while to get going but firmly established itself with some decent games in the latter half of the year. The PS4 and the Xbox One will continue to go toe to toe in 2015 and Sony recently announced a bunch of good stuff for the PS Vita too. Also, if No Man’s Sky doesn’t end up being the best game of all time I’m starting a suicide cult.

The final chart of the year makes more blaverage reading so I’ll cut it with some vicious rhymes from the Wu Tang Clan.

1. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Well I’m a sire, I set the microphone on fire
2 FIFA 15 – Rap styles vary, and Carey like Mariah
3 Grand Theft Auto V – I come from the Shaolin slum, and the isle I’m from
4 Far Cry 4 – is coming through with nuff niggas and nuff guns
5 Assassin’s Creed: Unity – so if you wanna come sweating, stressing, contesting
6 Pokémon Omega Ruby – you’ll catch a sharp sword to the midsection
7 Pokémon Alpha Sapphire – Don’t talk the talk, if you can’t walk the walk
8 DriveClub – Phony niggas are outlined in chalk
9 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – A man vexed, is what the projects made me
10 Minecraft: Xbox Edition – Rebel to the grain there’s no way to barricade me

Wu Tang! Wu Tang! Wu Tang! Wu Tang!

Last five articles by Richie


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