I just love putting together this list as it incorporates games which vastly exceeded my expectations in some way or another. This can range from games that I took a shot on or games which I thought would be good but turned out much better than I imagined. For me, it’s one of the best feelings of being rewarded for taking a chance on a title you may not be 100% sure about. Make sure you don’t miss these 2014 gems!
Here’s my list for biggest surprises of 2014.
And the winners are…
Wolfenstein: The New Order
I’m well aware of Wolfenstein and it’s legacy to the video game industry even though it’s a franchise I’ve never really played much of. Perhaps that’s why when “The New Order” was announced, I pretty much overlooked it as just another first person shooter. My mind began to turn the more I saw on the game, especially after it’s release and the critics as well as the consumers had a lot of love for it. Taking a chance on the title, I found a game that valued it’s story just as much as it’s gunplay. No, this is not just a game about killing Nazis, The New Order manages to humanize characters like BJ Blazkowicz, formerly just a meathead out to shoot big guns. It was an interesting twist and combined with a story that can change based on certain decisions made, I was hooked. I’m glad I took a chance on The New Order as it’s more than just another first person shooter.
After hitting a rough patch with their last major release with Fuse, Insomniac may have been a bit worried when it announced another brand new IP was on the way. Thankfully, none of the Fuse issues were present here as Sunset Overdrive is a colorful, fun, and humorous open world action game with loads of customization and dripping with a heavy dose of style. One of the more unique elements to it is also in it’s traversal system as your character builds a style meter through grinding rails, bouncing off objects, swinging around poles and laying waste to enemies. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously constantly breaking the fourth wall and the overall story involves an evil corporation releasing an energy drink which turns people who drink it into monsters. Sunset Overdrive looked like a fun game after it was revealed and thankfully, the final product turned out to be one of my favorite games this year. No ‘Fuse’ moments here at all.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
I think when EA first announced this I immediately wrote it off due to it being a shooter instead of another great strategy entry in the series. As I can now fully say, I was dead wrong. The charm of Plants vs Zombies is ultimately what lead me to picking up the title and I’m so glad I did because even as a third person multiplayer shooter, Garden Warfare excels. Sure, it has all the wacky and goofy humor that the series is known for but what’s more impressive is that as a shooter, the game works extremely well. Each team has four distinct classes and can be customized with just an insane amount of accessories. Earning in game credits in order to spend on new “packs” of customization items is a major draw, almost becoming habit forming. It also helps that the game has recieved a lot of free DLC and is extremely fun as well. If you’re looking for a lighter but fun multiplayer shooter, you can’t go wrong with Garden Warfare.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
I feel real odd putting a Call of Duty game on a list like this but I have to give credit to Sledgehammer Games for managing to revive a series that was quickly becoming stale for me. I went in expecting another cookie cutter action ride but what I discovered with Advanced Warfare is that a lot of care went into making this game. The addition of the EXO Suit seems like such a small change but really it completely alters the way you think about combat. Letting you double jump, boost, and strafe at will, combat feels more tactical and is even faster than before. Multiplayer maps become a terrifying experience as death is not just regulated to corridors anymore. The campaign, while linear, had a lot of cool moments in it and I really enjoyed playing through. It also doesn’t hurt that Kevin Spacey is in the game and plays a pretty awesome character. Overall, Advanced Warfare provided enough of a refreshing change of pace from the typical Call of Duty run and gun formula.
Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor
When Mordor was first revealed, it looked like a cross between the gameplay of Assassin’s Creed and the combat of Batman. That aspect alone convinced me that the game would at least be good as it was pulling from great sources. What I didn’t expect was the game to knock my socks off as it hit every developer promise leading up to it’s release. The biggest revelation about the game is in it’s Nemesis System mechanic, a feature that breathes new life into the game, making each playthrough truly unique turning random Uruks into actual fleshed out characters with strengths and weaknesses. What’s more impressive is that they “remember” things you’ve done and can continue to haunt you if they’re not killed. It’s an aspect that gets talked up pre-release but typically is only half backed once on the shelf. Monolith knocked it out of the park however, staying true to what they promised and making a damn fun game in the process. Believe me, this isn’t the last time you’ll see Mordor in my awards this year.