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Monday, January 26, 2015

My top 10 video games from 2014

10. The Last of Us Remastered
While the wait began for original games on the new consoles, there was no shortage of remakes and remasterings to tide gamers over in 2014. Among the best was this critically acclaimed title from 2013 following Joel and Ellie in a post-apocalyptic world filled with fungi-infested monstrosities. The PS4 version runs in native 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, has amazing lighting and shadows, and includes previous downloadable content. I was late to the party on this one, but I have no regrets. It is definitely worth the pick-up on the PS4 if you haven't played it yet.

 9. Infamous: Second Son
Typical with console launches are software droughts, and this exclusive PS4 title came out to help end that. The third main entry in the Infamous series follows Delsin Rowe, an Akomish Native American who has the ability to possess superhuman powers. As you progress through the story taking place in Seattle, you gain different powers that make combat exciting. The vibrant world is filled with things to do to help upgrade and expand Delsin's skill tree. The Paper Trail storyline adds even more content to a game worth the price of admission.

8. Clicker Heroes
On the surface, it doesn't seem like this web browser-based game amounts to much. You just click on enemies to defeat them and get gold. But then you keep clicking. And click some more. And more. Then you're buying heroes to help you out. And you keep going. And going. You come back the next day with mountains of gold to spend. Eventually you hit a wall. That's where you ascend and start from the beginning. But that's when the real fun begins. I've never clicked a mouse so much in my life. Play the game here, if you dare.

7. Bravely Default
Miss the glory days of "Final Fantasy"? Well, this Square Enix RPG is a welcoming blast from the past. Sure, the story isn't that original, but at least it's understandable. The battle mechanics shine the brightest, allowing you to end battles quickly by taking more actions per turn, or strategically stockpile them to perform wicked combos. The job system is very expansive, giving players many different ways to play the game. All in all, it's a classic RPG packed with content.

6. Transistor
Supergiant Games' second title is another visually appealing experience like their debut game "Bastion." Red, a famous singer whose voice has been stolen, and Transistor, the sword-like titular object who serves as the game's narrator, make for interesting protagonists in the beautiful, futuristic world of Cloudbank. The tactical time-pausing combat mode is great for chaining movement and attacks all at once, and there's a hefty amount of abilities for all types of players. A new game plus mode adds to the replayability.

5. Mario Kart 8
While the familiar elements are here like 50cc, 100cc and 150cc difficulty options, as well as 16 new and 16 retro tracks, Nintendo's popular racer is still a blast to play. It features some of the best track designs to date, and even the retro courses were redone in a way that they felt brand new. The anti-gravity feature really freshens up races, and newer items like the Piranha Plant and Boomerang Flower add to the intensity. Online mode is quick to get into, and with already one excellent downloadable package out and another on the way, the fun continues into 2015.

4. Shovel Knight
Like "Bravely Default," this 2D side-scroller from Yacht Club Games is another blast from the past, resembling NES classics like "DuckTales," "Super Mario Bros. 3" and the "Castlevania" games. But mostly it's "Mega Man," as you control this titular character through cleverly designed stages ending in exciting boss fights. The controls are tight and responsive, and the 8-bit style visuals look very clean on the HD television. Oh yes, and the music. Those sweet, sweet catchy tunes.

3. Bayonetta 2
Platinum Games knows how to make a character action game, and the sequel to "Bayonetta" is one of the best ones out there. Sure, there's an absurd, over-the-top story that does require knowing some lore from the first game, but you really don't need it. It's all about the ridiculous combat sequences with very fluid movement and controls. Button mashers need not apply. To get those precious Pure Platinum rankings, you'll need to pull off nail-biting dodges and epic combos. With all the flashiness going on, the frame rate does not miss a beat. It also comes packaged with the first game, a two-for-one deal you can't say no to.

2. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Finally, after all these years we have the perfect "South Park" video game. Playing off the very funny Black Friday console war trilogy of episodes, you are the new kid in town on a journey to protect the Stick of Truth. Trey Parker and Matt Stone don't hold back and push the bar further and further. The visuals look just like the TV show, adding to the charm. It's packed with references from the show and there are surprise guests fans will enjoy. Combat features multiple partners like Princess Kenny and Professor Chaos. Future "South Park" games will be impossible to live up to.

1. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
For Nintendo in 2014 it was the year of Smash. After a steady of stream of preview footage and character reveals, the 3DS version was released first. While a great game, it's held back by the smaller screen and missing the joys of TV play. The Wii U version puts those issues to bed, featuring a ton of playable characters and variety of stages. Nintendo did their best making this the best Smash experience possible, offering multiple controller options, lots of modes, and successful online implementation. It's also the first game to really utilize amiibos in a unique way -- leveling up and training characters to specific play styles. The long wait for Smash was most definitely worth it.

2014 games I still need to tackle:
Far Cry 4
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Child of Light
Valiant Hearts: The Great War

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Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 shaping up to be a big year in gaming

2014 saw many big-name titles get delayed into 2015, disappointing many but probably a great thing to avoid any buggy launches that we saw aplenty last year. Now that we're midway through January, here's a look at some of the scheduled releases so far this year.

Dying Light (Jan. 27, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
This survival horror title from Dead Island developer Techland features a day-night cycle where simply the daytime is good for scavenging items and completing tasks while the nighttime is when zombies go nuts and offer no mercy.

Evolve (Feb. 10, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Turtle Rock Studios, the creators of Left 4 Dead, offers up more multiplayer mayhem in Evolve, where squads of four players battle one player controlling a various monster with the ability to, of course, evolve.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (Feb. 13, 3DS)
After years of hoping and praying, Nintendo is finally giving Zelda fans a remake of this classic Nintendo 64 game where Link becomes trapped in the parallel world of Termina, where the moon is to crash in 3 days' time. Also on Feb. 13 is the release of the New 3DS XL, which features higher CPU performance, microSD support, and 3D viewing improvements.

The Order: 1886 (Feb. 20, PS4)
This Sony exclusive takes place in an alternate history London where knights do battle with half-breed monsters. It's expected to heavily take advantage of the PS4's graphical capabilities.

Battlefield Hardline (March 17, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
Instead of the military setting from past games, Hardline focuses on police and crime. Modes include rescuing hostages, heists, and chasing down criminals.

Bloodborne (March 24, PS4)
Another Sony exclusive, this game its directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, well-known for the punishing Demon's Souls and Dark Souls games. Bloodborne is faster paced than its predecessors but promises to keep the intensity.

Splatoon (May, Wii U)
Nintendo's quirky team-based, third-person shooter has players controlling characters called Inklings, who can switch between human and squid forms. The idea is to splatter the most colored ink in the game's environment to win the match.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (May 19, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
The third game in the series, Wild Hunt features many side quests and promises dozens of hours to complete the main storyline. Protagonist Geralt of Rivia will be able to use a crossbow, and jump and vault over obstacles.

Batman: Arkham Knight (June 2, PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Taking place one year after the events of Arkham City, Arkham Knight finally lets you grab the keys to the Batmobile to drive around and blast away enemies. Classic villains include Scarecrow, Penguin, Two-Face, Harley Quinn and Riddler.

Other scheduled releases but no specific date in 2015 include:
The Legend of Zelda on the Wii U
Halo 5: Guardians on the Xbox One in the fall
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain for last-gen and current-gen consoles and PC
No Man's Sky for PS4 and PC
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End for PS4