Best Video Games Christmas 2014
Three FPS, two Assassin's Creeds and a Pro Evo in my disc drive!
As usual, an inordinate amount of games seemed to land in one thirty day onslaught, otherwise known as November.
No sane person could have played them all, but it’s the month those titles vying for a place under your Christmas tree get released. So, in case you had trouble keeping track of all the new titles appearing on shop shelves, we’ve compiled a little round-up of the big games that’ll be getting wrapped in their thousands this year.
The First Person Shooters
November brought numerous titles that rested their appeal on good old fashioned shooting from the first-person perspective. It's hardly whimsical Christmas fare, but there's no other genre that's as likely to sell by the bucketload in the holiday season.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
A traditional big hitter, this franchise sees a new addition each year and 2014 was no different. With publisher Activision setting up a system that sees three separate development teams develop concurrently and release every third year, this was the chance for Sledgehammer Games to bring a new level of relevancy to a series that’s increasingly become seen as a victim of its own iterative success. When Leon Matthews looked at it he found a game that boasted new elements - and for the first time in a while a decent campaign - but still rested on the same core gameplay; perhaps finally offering enough for those jaded by the franchise to give it another go.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
HD remasters of a much loved franchise, resurrecting some of the best campaign moments and multiplayer maps the genre has ever seen. The ambition for such a collection -collating the entire Halo series to date, bar Halo: Reach - was brave, but the potential was huge, particularly given the slightly stuttering state of new-gen releases on the Xbox One and PS4 thus far.
But, as with so many recent titles with multiplayer elements at their core, it proved to be somewhat undermined by connectivity issues. Leon tackled this one with a rolling review, intending to give the game time to breath and early problems to be rectified, but progress was slow; if you pop this under your tree, there's enough single player content to keep you happy, but there's no guarantee you'll be replaying your favourite maps from Halo 2 without some occasional teeth gnashing.
Far Cry 4
With Leon all FPS-ed out for the month, Manny stepped up to tackle review duties on this one.
Although much of Far Cry 4's storyline plods along a disjointed path in comparison to its elder brother, there's still plenty of fun to be found in the mountainous region of Kyrat. This is a land crafted as a grown-up playground, and one that's chock full of elephants, tigers, rocket launchers, guns, boats, rickshaws, wingsuits, wildfires and shady government agents.
The fun comes from combining the above in ever-more-silly schemes, with a huge roster of outposts and fortresses offering up their own unique challenge. Whether planned or unplanned, Far Cry 4 gives you the tools to make your own path, but whether that involves careful reconnaissance, flaming tigers or a circling gyrocopter is up to you.
Huge, beautiful, completely silly. Thoroughly recommended.
Well, let’s be honest, we mean football. If you’re willing to stray beyond the beautiful game, November also saw WWE 2K15 released (well, on the PS4 and Xbox One anyway), but there’s nothing like replaying a lost boxing day match in virtual form to exorcise the angst of a long suffering football supporter. FIFA is still the biggie, and you can read Manny’s review here, but as it was out in September (although let’s face it, still likely to be sitting high in the charts for Christmas) we’re omitting it from the round up.
FIFA's biggest - nay its only - rival saw something of a return to form this year, and Manny found it to be as equally praise worthy as the latest in EA's all conquering franchise. More than a mere yearly update, Konami's game boasted a fluidity and tactical side that embraced the series' roots, but also wasn't afraid to evolve. The result was a title centred on responsiveness and team AI, that could not only be a decent alternative to FIFA, but actually be appreciated alongside it as offering a slightly different experience. The question is, do you have enough room in your life for two football games?
Football Manager 2015
If you aspire to be more than just a virtual player, why not don your suit and orchestrate things as a manager? Sega’s yearly update proved to have all the staples that made the formula so addictive, but Niall noted there were a few backward steps that meant he couldn't quite let go of his beloved 2014 save file as easily as he’d hoped. The series is still a time killer extraordinaire though, so it deserves its place on any list of games that’ll help you get through a potentially hectic family Christmas gathering.
3rd Person Adventure Games
Well, at this time of year, that basically means Assassin's Creed, and there were two to choose from, if you straddle the console generation divide. For those with one foot still in the 7th generation - PS3 and Xbox 360 - Ubisoft released Assassin's Creed: Rogue, whilst those who've splashed out on the latest generation - PS4 and Xbox One - could look forward to Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Assassin's Creed: Unity
Set in revolution-era France, and exclusive to the latest generation of consoles, Unity showed enough graphical sheen to impress Ste Carter in his review. The subtle tweaks to combat have resulted in a more fluid feel, and the parkour continues to evolve. However, in a running theme for titles released recently, performance issues undermined the experience somewhat, with an erratic frame rate and some strange glitches leaving Ste to ponder if the game was perhaps just not quite ready.
Assassin's Creed: Rogue
Back on the trusty PS3 and Xbox 360 though things looked a bit rosier performance-wise, with the graphics benchmark set a little lower. The adventure promised something of a twist, as for the first time in the series you could take control of a protagonist who viewed things from the Templar side. The result is a game Ste felt was closer to Assassin's Creed: Black Flag 2.0, not necessarily a bad thing considering that entry reinvigorated the series after the lacklustre third title; hardly revolutionary, but good fun nonetheless.
OK, technically this was out in October, but it was the very end of the month and its release was soon swallowed up in the annual clamouring over the latest Call of Duty. Insomniac delivered up an insanely bouncy traversal-centric slice of post apocalyptic jollity Full of humour and the kind of neon colours that could scorch eyeballs, Leon awarded it a lofty 9/10, as the sheer fun factor of a game that didn't pretend to be anything more than a series of ludicrous mechanics stitched together won him over.
The Best of the Rest
If nothing there takes your fancy, remember there were a fair few more that slipped our review net in the month of November.
For Nintendo fans there was the playful carnage of Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, and Sony's most family friendly fare, LittleBigPlanet 3 (review inbound any day now) came out in the last days on the month. Whilst for those looking for some more gruesomely nihilistic action, the return of Grand Theft Auto V on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One brought with it the devilish temptation of a new, more realistic, first person mode. If that wasn't enough of a time killer, the latest in Bioware's Dragon Age RPG series, Dragon Age: Inquisition, appeared on all consoles as a cross generational title promising to draw you into a fantasy world during the long winter nights.
So, what's destined to be under your tree this Christmas eve?
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