LIVING

Video Games Of 2014 Provide Plenty For Grown-Ups

12/09/2014 04:42 EST | Updated 12/09/2014 04:59 EST
Bioware

It’s been a transitional year for gaming. Plenty of people still own last-gen consoles, even though the studios have mostly moved onto the new machines. But they're still sussing out the hardware, which is why some of 2014's best-reviewed titles, like "Grand Theft Auto V" and "The Last of Us," are actually current-gen upgrades of last year's best games.

Still, there have been plenty of amazing games released this year covering a wide enough range of genres to make any grown-up gamer happy.

(Oh, and if you're considering a new console as a gift, the PS4 is currently the best-seller, though the Wii U is very underrated, especially if you have kids. But as ever, it's best to make the choice based on potential future exclusives since that remains the biggest differentiator.)

  • "Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor" (XOne, X360, PS3, PS4, PC)
    With the final "Hobbit" movie entering theatres this month, Middle-Earth excitement is high, so keep the fantasy going outside the cinema with this game set between the two trilogies. It's garnered more hype than any Tolkien-related game in recent memory because rather than rehashing a film, the game sets its own course in Sauron’s homeland of Mordor, though the ring and Gollum both play a role. Think of it as mix of the buddy-cop genre as you play an Aragorn-like Ranger who is possessed by a wraith, both of whom saw their families killed by orcs. The rest of the game is about revenge, but what sets its apart from other fantasy epics is the “nemesis system,” which makes every Orc a developed character and sees your every kill or failed attempt directly impacting your enemies internal politics.
  • "Bayonetta 2" (Wii U)
    This baroque action game is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. The titular character is about as sexy as a pixilated person can be — to the point of parody — but she's also a powerful protagonist, rather than a princess waiting to be rescued by some plumber. So there’s that. Also, she’s a witch and spends her time battling not only demons but also angels (and doing so atop a fighter jet in the opening scene, no less). So there's that, too. But if you're cool with the amped-up estrogen and Dante-esque trappings, then what you’ll find is one of the most imaginative hack'n'slash games around, one that will have you reveling in its glorious excesses. It also includes a port of the first, equally absurd "Bayonetta" and is a much-needed mature-rated offering on Nintendo's primarily family-friendly Wii U.
  • "Dragon Age: Inquisition" (XOne, PS4, PC)
    Edmonton studio BioWare just took home Game of the Year at the Game Awards and with good reason. This third chapter in the D&D-inspired "Dragon Age" trilogy is a huge step-up from the previous one, expanding the sprawling sword'n'sorcery epic into an open-world that would satisfy the "Skyrim" fans while also keeping a tight reign on their narrative. It's also mature and progressive, offering up strong female and gay male characters, the opportunity to select your own gender and a germane exploration of racism that is more than welcome in a year irrevocably stained by GamerGate.
  • "Assassin’s Creed Unity” (XOne, PS4, PC)
    The latest entry in Ubisoft Montreal’s mega-popular historic action series is set during the French Revolution and boasts a spectacular recreation of 18th-century Paris for you to wander about while seeking people to assassinate. Though revolutionary politics largely takes a backseat to a revenge plot and star-crossed love story, the streets teeming with angry crowds do show off the new consoles' processing power. Oh, and you may have heard about some launch problems with this game, but most have been fixed with downloadable patches and, as an apology, game owners will get some downloadable content for free.
  • "Halo: The Master Chief Collection" (XOne)
    Master Chief may be one of the most iconic gaming mascots since Mario era, but unless you've been an Xbox gamer since 2001, you likely haven't played all the "Halo" games, which is why this is such a treat. All four main entries from the Xbox and Xbox 360 eras are compiled to whet appetites for next year’s fifth on the Xbox One (which gets a multiplayer beta included here as an extra). The "Master Chief Collection" is a rare opportunity to binge-play a series as if it were on Netflix. Half the fun is watching how the game design grows in sophistication along the way. The graphics are also a treat, and those you can toggle between the HD upgrades and original looks, while also being impressed by how much the first game, "Halo: Combat Evolved," nailed its first at-bat. There are also nearly 100 maps for multiplayer fans to have nostalgic fun killing each other in.
  • "Sunset Overdrive" (XOne)
    The overdrive isn’t hyperbole. This is one of the most absurdly over-the-top games in recent memory, and it’s on purpose. Insomniac took a break from their more serious “Uncharted” series to delve back into the style of their cartoonish early efforts. Their brightly coloured, near-future, post-apocalyptic action game features fantastical weapons, maniacal mutants and countless surfaces for you to grind across as you shooting the latter with the former. The result is a game that makes you feel like you’ve been downing the FizzCo energy drink that turned this entire city crazy in the first place.
  • "Far Cry 4" (XOne, X360, PS3, PS4, PC)
    "Far Cry" is a fascinating franchise as the games don't follow any particular story or setting across the sequels, they merely share the same dev team and open-world first-person shooter game design. So don't worry about whether or not you've played the previous games, because "Far Cry 4" begins at square one. In this case, the setting is the fictional Nepalese-inspired nation of Kyrat and the story involves the player joining forces with an insurgency to overthrow an evil royal dictator. That's a lot of politics for a video game, and though largely restricted to the cut-scenes, it at least provides some justification for the endless shooting and stabbing of bad guys that you will be doing. Perhaps the most interesting parts of the game, however, are the gorgeous recreations of a Himalayan country and the unpredictable and deadly wildlife constantly on the prowl.
  • "Titanfall" (XOne, PC)
    This first-person shooter is not for fans of video game narrative or single player campaigns, because there's little of the former and none of the latter. "Titanfall" is an online-only game from Respawn, a studio that emerged after the primary developers behind the mega-successful "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" franchise were fired. When there, they split their focus between single and multiplayer, so this time the studio put all of its resources into perfecting their multiplayer maps and team-based gameplay. Story fans may be bummed, but it's been considered an evolutionary step for the FPS genre. Most importantly, it has mechs. For those who grew up on anime series like "Macrosse," the ability to pilot giant fighter robots into combat is pretty unbeatable, and it also extends the matches a bit longer as you can survive a blown-up titan.
  • "Broken Age" (PC, iOS)
    Cult indie developer Double Fine – whose leader Tim Scahfer is essentially the Joss Whedon of gaming – made news a few years ago when they pitched an old-school point-and-click adventure game on Kickstarter and brought in $3 million. Turns out that wasn't enough money, so Double Fine broke the game in two with the second part free for everyone who picked up the first, which is itself a split storyline between a teenage boy lost in space and a teenage girl about to be sacrificed to a monster. Luckily, it looks like part two will be out in early 2015, so it's close enough to make "Broken Age" a worthwhile gift for anyone who loves '80s-era adventure games, artisanal art design and quirky comedy.
  • "Destiny" (PS4, Xone, PS3, X360)
    The $300 million production cost, not to mention its immodest title, perhaps raised "Destiny" beyond achievable expectations, but Bungie Studio's first post-"Halo" game is nothing if not ambitious. It's a shared-world first-person shooter that borrows aspects of massive multiplayer online games like "World of Warcraft." The story wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but the gameplay was on-point and it's an experiment that is continuing to evolve. Speaking of, the downloadable expansion pack "A Dark Below" just came out to further beef up the game.