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Best Shooter of 2014 Nominees
Developed by Bungie
Published by Activision
Released September 9, 2014
Available on PS4, Xbox One
Destiny - PlayStation 4
Despite its underwhelming first impressions, Destiny's power at continuing to bring players together to perform strikes is still strong even 3 months after its release. The concentrated first-person shooter gameplay is simply fun and engaging enough to draw players to it again and again. It remains to be seen whether Destiny will justify its hype/investment in the long run, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a multiplayer shooter played by more people in 2014.
In that effort, Bungie is largely successful. The game is structured like a big open-world RPG, but its combat will feel instantly familiar to anybody who played the studio's landmark Xbox-exclusive series. The guns and enemy behaviors look and feel like they'd be right at home in Master Chief's backyard, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good insofar as the general quality of the combat is rock-solid. Guns feel weighty, and it can be satisfying to chew through an enemy's resistant health bar and finally drop the sucker.
At its core, Destiny is an MMO, in a derivative science fiction universe. That said, it did keep its hooks into me for hours upon hours at a time, so it's certainly doing something right.
Far Cry 4
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal
Published by Ubisoft
Released on November 18, 2014
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Far Cry 4 - Xbox One
Departing the tropical theme of previous iterations, Far Cry 4 heads to the Himalayas and fine-tunes the open world shooter series' mechanics to a bayonette point. After the amazing opening sequence showcasing the vocal talents of Troy Baker playing the flamboyant antagonist Pagan Min, the fictional region of Kyrat opens up for you to explore however you want. Far Cry 4 even features weaponized honey badgers - what more needs to be said.
The amount of flexibility you're given in almost any firefight is almost overwhelming. You can chuck grenades around like a madman, snipe enemies from afar, sneak around and stab guards in the throat, or emulate John Rambo by finding the biggest gun you can and holding down the trigger until the hammer goes "click". And those are just the more straightforward methods of Far Cry 4's action, as you can now experiment with throwing bait around to lure predators down on enemies or riding an elephant into battle and smashing cars aside like toys. Aside from a few missions where you're forced to approach an objective in a certain way, Far Cry 4 does a fantastic job of giving players a large degree of agency in how they'd like to engage with its action sequences. There is no funneling into a glorified hallway as seen in other shooters.
A definite highlight of the game is seen in the Shangri-La missions. As you collect parts of a thangka, you're treated to "visions" of an ancient warrior who has traveled to the mythical land of Shangri-La. This beautiful world is filled with rich red and golden color aesthetics, and the darkened teal and blue of lurking masked demons. While more linear than the rest of the game, these missions are more evenly-paced and a welcome break from the bullet-filled Kyrat.
The main antagonist, Pagan Min, at first acts like he's little more than a Saturday-morning-cartoon-style villain who does evil "just because," while taunting you via your radio from time to time. But as the story progresses, he'll have a few poignant moments where he will openly express regrets at not giving up rule of Kyrat to instead live a simpler life with your mother in America, making him seem a little more human than a stereotypical evil-doer.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Developed by MachineGames
Published by Bethesda
Released May 20, 2014
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Wolfenstein: The New Order
The latest Wolfenstein expanded from its pedigree by showing an alternate history 1960s in which the German Nazis won World War II, largely by exploiting robotic and cybernetic technology. The New Order was glorious on the new console hardware and delivered the rare modern shooter that's not afraid to just be a shooter. And even though the gameplay is straight-forward, the imagery and storytelling were anything but.
Weird difficulty spikes notwithstanding, Wolfenstein is a pretty enjoyable romp with a number of notable highlights. An entire section set in a Nazi war camp is particularly engrossing, as is the entire beginning section during the 1940s assault on Deathshead's compound.
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