HITC’s Christmas Playlist: Our favourite games of 2014

Question Mark

The HITC gaming writers decide to load up their personal favourites from 2014 to play over the weekend and into Christmas.

If you had to single out one title as your best game this year what would you choose? Here are the games we’ve decided to go for:

Adam - ?

Game of the year, what is my game of the year? I thought pretty long and hard about it all, and I’ve played quite a lot of games this year, so it’s been tough to pick just one. Some games I’m still finishing off writing my reviews for, although I have finished the actual games, just bear with me.

I thought about how I should whittle down the games I’ve played to just one, so I tried to think of which games I truly enjoyed playing, and even thought about just picking the one that I gave the most positive review to.

Initially I was going to give it to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, it’s definitely a contender, and probably many other folks’ game of the year choice. But, I ended up picking my own game of the year as Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. on Wii U (Smash). Ironically it is the game I’ve given the highest review score to this year, but that’s not why I chose it.

I chose Smash for many reasons; one of those being that it gave me those nostalgia-feels from playing the original on the N64. It’s only the second Smash game I’ve ever played, since owning the original, and I was delighted it hadn’t really changed all that much, save for way, way more content and characters.

Smash was one of, if not, the games that I yearned to keep playing after I’d reviewed it this year. I played Mordor a heck of a lot even after my review was published, but Smash brought in much more play time, and I think the amount I want, and do, play a game is testament to its status as my game of the year. Smash is just fun. Pure, hectic, sometimes frustrating, fun.

One final point I want to make – although Smash was a huge nostalgia-trip for me, that’s not the main reason I’m picking it for my game of the year. It’s a bloody good game. The graphics are crisp, but not just ‘crisp, crisp’, they’re Nintendo crisp. With smooth curved lines, bright colours, and all those pretty particle effects, you’ll be in awe. The game is packed full of content too – loads of characters from the Nintendo, and other, universes, challenges, customisation, online multiplayer and more. It’s the complete package. I’ve already given my two cents about Smash in my review, so check it out if I’ve intrigued you enough.

 

Steve

Up until recently I would have gone straight for Dark Souls II as my favourite game this year, that was until I got sucked into Hearthstone however. It’s a game I’ve been consciously avoiding, partly because microtransactions put me off, but mainly because I could just see myself getting totally hooked. I know all too well Blizzard’s ability to take something established, file off all the edges and streamline it into a concentrated gameplay nugget of pure addictive entertainment.

And that’s just what they’ve done with Hearthstone, an easy to pick up collectable card game with plenty of depth that takes things from the Magic The Gathering mould, hones them down and then constantly rewards you for playing. The game is imaginative, full of character and presented with a beautiful chunkiness. Games are fast-paced, but you can keep up with what’s going on and are gently guided into the game’s intricacies . You can be hands on with the game and spot combinations of cards and spells you hadn’t yet thought of, which you then dive into the deck builder to reproduce. Hearthstone definitely has a lingering fascination, you’ll find yourself mulling over your decks when you’re not playing

Blizzard has also done a good job on balancing the player vs player match ups and as your understanding of the game increases so does the difficulty. There’s enough people playing the game to keep things thriving and a vibrant community has flourished.

Like Magic The Gathering, Hearthstone is going to need to keep bringing new cards to refresh the game and add more variations, thus ensuring you don’t always face the same hardcore of killer deck builds (although there are thousands of deck concepts to be found online). Goblins vs Gnomes has just arrived, and with 20 million playing Hearthstone it’s inevitable new expansions will keep coming - a strong reason to call it out as the best game this year for longevity alone. This one’s got  some serious legs!

On this issue of microtransactions, Hearthstone is surprisingly less pay-to-win than I expected. You can buy extra packs with real money, and spending out a lot will get you stronger cards faster, but you can progress through the game without ever paying up. You can earn gold from your daily quests to buy cards or gamble in the Arena and if you’re playing fairly well the game is pretty much self-sustaining.

The matches are brilliantly done as well, they won’t drag on forever and move with an urgent tempo that crescendos to the end. If you have an idle hour you can pick Hearthstone up quick and have a game, it doesn’t have to turn into an all-nighter, but easily can do!

 

Matt

Unlike my fellow writers I’m still rocking an old console so my game of the year has to be based on releases for the Xbox 360. I’m sure, should I have a XO or PS4 then my game of the year may be slightly different but I don’t.

There are of course still some great games coming out for the previous gen consoles and it was a tough choice for my game of the year. Some games that could have stolen it turned out to be hugely gutted for their Xbox 360 release, WWE 2K15 being a prime example of a game they shouldn’t have bothered with. I eventually narrowed it down to two, Telltale’s Walking Dead Season 2 and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Walking Dead blew me away with its level of emotion and character involvement, but I’ve gone for Lego Batman 3 for sheer fun, playability and longevity.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham sees the combined forces of the Justice League and Legion of Doom go to space to battle Brainiac, who is intent on shrinking the Earth to add to his diabolical collection of shrunken cities. The space elements along with the level of detail in the game are what really set it apart. Even once you have completed the very well written and gripping story there is so much more to do, with over 150 Characters to unlock, most with a number of different outfits which change their abilities and look dramatically. Add the level of detail to the classic Lego humour and you have yourself a winner.

For more details on Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham you can read my review here;

 

If you’ve enjoyed the games that get our individual GOTY awards then drop us a comment, likewise if you haven’t. If you’re going to be settling into a game over the festive break which ones have you got lined up?

Last week's playlist

More games we've enjoyed this year:

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel review - moonwalking with lasers

GTA V PS4 review - Remaster City

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Review

Destiny Review - A solid foundation to be built upon

Wolfenstein: The New Order review - a classy blast from the past

Register for HITC Gaming Digest