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Tom’s 2014 Must Play List: 15 to 11

Every December we shine a light on the very best games of the year. From the obscure to the overlooked to the very obviously great, here’s the 20 games I think you need to play from 2014.

You can see 20 – 16 here.

15. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
I didn’t expect to like the new COD, and then when reviews dropped and everyone talked about how new and fresh it was, I decided to give it a shot. Having hated the last two games in the series, it took some convincing. COD has grown stale, but the coverage was universally positive. They said this was the step forward the series needed to make. So were they right?

Well, kind of. The new jetpack ability adds mobility, but it’s a weird half step. With Titanfall and Sunset Overdrive raising player mobility above all else, the ”advances” in Advanced Warfare felt like half measures. And with mechs and drones and all sorts of other techy toys to play with, Advanced Warfare really did feel a lot like a futuristic sci fi shooter, minus the sheer bombast of a more ambitious game like Titanfall.

But awful story aside (the story twists were signposted more prominently than London), there is a lot of optimism and energy in Advanced Warfare. Ghosts felt apathetic and tired, but there’s a childish glee in the James Bond style gadgets you played with in AW, and the homing grenades are a real joy to use.

I was also glad to see the politics of the game was more aligned with the realities of the world we lived in. Ghosts was a travesty, casting South and Central America as overt antagonists to US democracy when history has shown the exact opposite to be true. In Advanced Warfare, the more conventional villain of evil corporate tyranny via right leaning PMC’s were an enemy I had far less guilt about fighting against.

Overall Advanced Warfare is a solid, well-made game, and while most people will enjoy the conventional, mildly modernised multiplayer part, I had fun in the brief, bombastic singleplayer campaign.

14. Titanfall
Pretty much everything about Titanfall feels good. Every little design decision that Respawn have made is to make the game more immediate, more visceral and more thrilling. It’s the little things. Like the wall running. And the way you can run and never get tired. Or how you can reload while running. Or how the slow Titan’s can boost for a quick burst of speed to dodge an attack. Or the way you can catch enemy projectiles in an energy field before firing them back, making Titan fights a bit like a very lethal tennis match. All those little things make Titanfall a very good game. Maybe even a great one.

But it’s important to remember what Titanfall is. It’s a multiplayer deathmatch game. It’s a tiny bit like COD, but it’s a lot like Unreal Tournament. As a result, it’s a game for people that like that kind of experience. Fast, thrilling, and absolutely compulsive in short bursts, I played it all day on release, and only stopped when my stomach made noises and I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. Titanfall grabbed me at the time, but I have to confess I don’t come back to it often. When I do, I remember how much fun it is. I’m surprised more people aren’t playing it. I really enjoy it. But only, crucially, for a little while. After twenty or thirty minutes I’ve had my fill.

That’s because ultimately Titanfall is a very simple game. Simple and fast and enjoyable. It’s so fast paced and frenetic that playing it is always fun, but it’s a very “rich” experience. Just a little bit is enough. Playing it for too long feels like eating a full cake by yourself. Just a taste is enough.

13. Infamous: Second Son
The new consoles are still harbouring a lot more graphical power than they’ve shown us so far, but Infamous: Second Son was a teasing glance at what we can hope to see in the future. A great looking game with particularly impressive lighting effects, it was definitely one of the best looking games of the year.

When it came to the gameplay, Infamous: Second Son played it pretty safe. A basic open world game in a similar vein to the previous two in the series, it made a lot of sensible changes. It also didn’t feel overwhelming. While other open world games tend to drown the player in objectives, Infamous: Second Son had just the right amount of activities and side missions to keep you interested without killing the pace of the main story. Finding collectibles was easy and fun, as navigating the city was smooth and satisfying.

Still, the story was a little limited in scope. I find the Infamous universe generally interesting, but it feels like by the end of Infamous: Second Son little had changed in that world. Perhaps now that we have a new central character and a great game engine to build on, our next adventure with Sucker Punch Productions will have a story as ambitious as the technology that underlies it.

12. Nidhogg
I’ve played Nidhogg by myself for maybe three or four minutes this year, but when anyone – ANYONE – else was in our house, the chance that we would start playing Nidhogg was always high.

Together with Lethal League, Samurai Gun and Gangbeasts, Nidhogg is a key member of our multiplayer quadrology. Much has been said about the death of couch co-op and competitive gaming, but with these four games, we were well served in 2014.

Nidhogg was one of those games I waited for a long time. It was heavily discussed prior to release and its showing at events where the devs let people play it resulted in a huge amount of positive buzz.

Nidhogg was both more and less than the pre-release hype led us to believe. With a paucity of modes and levels (just four environments to duel in), it was a bit feature light. However, the thumping soundtrack by Daedalus and the surprising depth of the combat meant the final product lived up to, if not exceeded, the hype.

Crucially, Nidhogg gets both funnier and more fun when you start drinking. It’s strangely hilarious to watch, making it a surprising candidate for our “best party game of the year” award* too.

*Not a real award

11. Gang Beasts
Gang Beasts makes people shout at the screen. It’s one of those games. You’ll shout at the game. You’ll shout at each other. You’ll laugh. Someone will throw something. Alliances will be formed then instantly broken. Everyone will hate each other. Most importantly though, everyone will have fun. More fun than they can remember having in a multiplayer game since their first Quake LAN, Mario Kart race or Smash Brothers brawl. Gang Beasts is up there with the very best multiplayer games you will ever experience.

So what is Gang Beasts and why is it so much fun? Well, just watch this:

Chaos. Beautiful, hilarious, brutal chaos. The kind of chaos that looks like a well choreographed Hollywood fight scene one second, and balloon animals blowing around in a tornado the next.

The goal of Gang Beasts is to throw your enemies off the level. Sometimes that means throwing them out of the ring, other times it means throwing them out of a rotating Ferris wheel onto the wobbly planks of a seaside pier below. Sometimes it means throwing them off the back of a moving lorry on a motorway, other times into a burning furnace at the end of a conveyor belt in a factory. Suffice it to say the stages in Gang Beasts are brilliantly designed, brutal playgrounds upon which to kill your friends.

It’s been a great year for multiplayer games that let you kill your friends while laughing in their face. Gangbeasts is the best of the bunch.

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