Now that the next generation of games consoles are on sale, and support for the Xbox 360 and PS3 is continuing for some time, 2014 is shaping up to be a banner year for gamers, and there are plenty of big titles on the way.
These titles are set to both bring back beloved game series and to show us just what's possible with the new and powerful next gen platforms. Some are delayed titles we should have had already, and others are new, intriguing releases that we just can't wait to get our hands on. So, without further ado, let's take a look at our pick of the top 25 must-play games of 2014.
An open-world, highly stylised shooter, Sunset Overdrive, exclusive to the Xbox One, comes from the previously PlayStation-only Insomniac, creator of Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, and Resistance, so it was always going to attract our attention. What's more, it's filled with some splat-tastic mutants, crazy weapons and free-running multiplayer with a dash of co-op. What's not to like?
With one of the most interesting trailers we've seen for some time, the apocalyptic Everybody's Gone to the Rapture has us in its grip. Supposedly a spiritual successor to the acclaimed Dear Esther, the latest title by The Chinese Room will be an open-world adventure for the PlayStation 4, and takes place after the world ends, following six different characters as they survive the now barren world.
An open-world game that'll mix vehicle and on-foot gameplay, Mad Max is a perfect license for the sandbox game formula, and Avalanche has plenty of practice after the Just Cause titles, so we've got high hopes. And, after some heated feedback, Max is going to have a proper Aussie accent, keeping the license and its identity in tact. The game will arrive ahead of the new film, incidentally: Mad Max: Fury Road has been put back to May 2015.
Another spiritual successor, this time to the excellent Xenoblade Chronicles, the mysterious 'X' from Monolith Soft is coming for the Wii U, and it's quickly generated a buzz amongst gamers. X looks set to feature a vast open world populated with giant, transforming mechs and all manner of deadly sorts, and if it's anything like Xenoblade, we've got some high quality RPG action to look forward to on the Wii U.
Although the Fable series has never really lived up to the considerable hype generated by Peter Molyneux, we've always had a soft spot for the charming fairytale RPG. After three main titles that focused on solo play, only dabbling with multiplayer (and not very well at that), Fable Legends will change things, and will instead centre on co-op play for up to four players on Xbox One. As ever, players can dabble in good and evil, shaping the world as they see fit, only this time they'll do it in a group (solo play is still supported however).
Bolstering the PS4's already impressive line-up of free-to-play titles, Capcom's Deep Down is a strange one. Set in New York in 2094, players are teleported to the past in order to go on a bit of ye olde dungeon raiding with a hefty dose of hack and slashery. It'll use Capcom's vaunted Phanta Rhei game engine, and early gameplay demonstrations have shown impressive visuals and third-person adventuring, with more than a little similarity to Dark Souls.
Ubisoft's open-world racer has been pushed back until the third quarter of 2014, meaning it may miss out on the early next gen market, but it shouldn't matter too much as it's looking pretty tasty, and worth the extended wait.
Encompassing the entire United States in an open and persistent world, The Crew will feature all sorts of racing-focused missions that you can take on alone or with your crew of friends. Vehicles of various types will feature, and all can be customized.
Admittedly, this would probably be higher on our list if it wasn't for the second game being such a let down, but BioWare may very well revitalise the Dragon Age brand with Inquisition. Already it's looking like a true next gen title, and it'll hopefully span a larger, more varied open world that'll be far more interesting than the dull setting of the second title. Oh, and Morrigan is back, which is good.
Final Fantasy an increasingly divisive series, with many hating the collection of games based around the 'Fabula Nova Crystallis' mythos of FFXIII, but even the staunchest critic of Square's direction with its flagship license has to take note of Final Fantasy XV (originally Final Fantasy Versus XIII).
Although sharing the above mythology, XV isn't connected to the other XIII games, and is its own creation, focusing more on action and combat. Third person is the viewpoint this time, and the world will be both open and interactive, with a full day and night cycle. The style of the game is also a departure from the last few FF outings, with a more gritty feel. Could be a mind-changer.
This very experimental Xbox One exclusive from Max Payne and Alan Wake creator Remedy looks very interesting, but as with all things that take such risks, it could also fail, badly. We hope it doesn't, though, as the time travelling mixture of game and TV show is promising, and certainly fits in with the Xbox One's ethos of all-encompassing multimedia. Quite how the game and TV show will actually affect each other, and how much your actions will matter remains to be seen, but we're all for pushing the envelope, and this could well herald a new direction for gaming.
Fans have long wished for a multiplayer Elder Scrolls. After all, each game always has a vast world full of quests and danger that would perfectly fit some sword and sorcery multiplayer action. Well, Bethesda has heard these wishes, and Elder Scrolls Online will give series fans just that, a massively multiplayer world spannng the whole of Tamriel. As with the solo games, Elder Scrolls Online will be a first or third-person affair, and it'll bring to the heavily populated genre Bethesda's various unique takes on the RPG, complete with full voice acting and a wide open character progression ystem that doesn't limit you to specific classes.
Microsoft is probably tired of this being called the Xbox's Little Big Planet, but essentially, that's what Project Spark is, only it's on a far larger scale than the PlayStation's cutsey creation tool. Cross platform with Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC, Project Spark allows players to create virtually anything they want with an easy to use, AI-based visual programming language. Platformers, RPGs, racing games, shooters, you name it, you can build it, and what's more, it's going to be free-to-play.
One of the first wave of announced PS4 exclusives, The Order: 1886 takes place in London within an alternate history in, surprise, surprise, 1886. The story sees an ancient order of knights with access to some powerful technology defend the world against evil. It'll be a third-person action title, and looks a little similar to Gears of War, only with more elaborate facial hair and less steroid abuse.
Nintendo's Smash Bros is a hugely popular franchise that needs little introduction, and rightly so, as it's perhaps the perfect example of a working videogame mash-up. Its debut on the Wii U sees Capcom's ever-popular Mega Man join in the action alongside the existing roster of classics, and the 3DS is also set to get in on the action. Friendships around the world are once again set to be broken.
Definitely one of the more intriguing titles revealed at this year's E3, Tom Clancy's The Division is going to be a very unique take on MMO gaming. Splicing the tactical warfare we've come to know from the various series sporting the best selling author's name, and mixing in drop-in, drop-out co-op and competitive play, the gameplay demos we've seen already certainly show promise. It'll be a third-person, action RPG and will also expand the gameplay to mobile devices in a way that actually doesn't simply seem like a gimmick. Nice.
Okay, so we don't know much about it, but a new Halo game always brings in a crowd, and regardless of your opinion of the series this generation, a next gen outing for the Master Chief is a title that can't be missed. 343 Industries did a sterling job breathing new life into the series with Halo 4, and with the new power of the Xbox One at its disposal, we're hoping for a truly AAA killer app for the Xbox One.
The Infamous games on the PS3 were great examples of open-world superhero titles. Not bogged down with limitations of actual comic book characters developer, Sucker Punch, crafted a great superhero universe with tons of powers, parkour and varied missions.
With the power of the PS4 behind it, Infamous: Second Son should be even better, and Sucker Punch has introduced a new hero, a new story and a far more detailed world, with more of everything, including many more super powers for players to make use of.
A new Mario Kart is cause for celebration as, despite all best efforts, no one does karting better than Nintendo. The series is the best kart racer around, and Mario Kart 8 is set to introduce more new elements, with the biggest addition being the inclusion of anti gravity racing. Definitely a title that makes you want to buy a Wii U.
The very adult, and very impressive Witcher series is headed back to our screens in 2014 in The Wild Hunt, and this should be the biggest Witcher instalment yet. It'll feature a vast, 'multi-region' open world instead of the series' previous more enclosed areas, and is set to round off the Geralt of Rivia trilogy in style.
Simply the fact this this is Halo creator, Bungie's first title since giving up the mantle of the Master Chief is enough of a reason to be interested in it, but Destiny looks great on its own merits. Admittedly, it all looks very Halo in style, which is to be expected coming from the same team, but a new direction and subject matter could spell a classic FPS in the making.
It's an open world title and focuses on multiplayer with a mixture of weapons and magic. Bungie has also claimed that he game world will be alive, and random events can happen at any time, and it'll feature various character classes. As long as it's not too similar to Gearbox's excellent Borderlands, this could be one of the biggest hits of the year.
Some would argue that this is the title to get an Xbox One for, and at the moment, we'd find it hard to disagree. As both the next gen consoles exclusive launch line-ups are a little lacking, we've yet to see a true 'killer app', but Titanfall is our favourite to be the Xbox One's when it arrives next year.
Cutting-edge online gameplay courtesy of the guys behind Call of Duty? Check. Giant, drivable mechs with bloody great guns? Check. Fast-paced, on-foot combat with free-running elements? Check. Really, how can this possibly fail to be one of the best online games ever? Hopefully, and as long as a mammoth screw-up is avoided, it won't, and this will be one of the best games of the year. Fingers crossed.
Although as confusing as hell, with a main game and separate prologue (Ground Zeroes), the next gen instalment of Metal Gear Solid is a definite highlight of next year's release schedules, and is going to take the stealth, espionage, action title into the open world. Although Hideo Kojima has already gone on record as saying that the game won't look as good as other next gen titles, we think it looks pretty spiffy, and when it comes to stealthy gameplay, it's one of the series that does it best. As long as Kojima can rein in his obsession with ridiculously long cut-scenes, this could be the best MGS outing yet, and an early slice of next gen open world action.
Ground Zeroes has a release date of spring 2014, and will serve as a taster of what's to come in the main game, The Phantom Pain, which could arrive soon after. However, Kojima has recently hinted at a longer development time for the title, so a 2014 isn't guaranteed.
Sticking with stealth, the return of Thief is, in this writer's humble opinion, about bloody time. Eidos Montreal has big shoes to fill, taking over from both the series' creator Looking Glass Studios and caretaker Ion Storm, but this new instalment looks set to more than live up to the legacy. The developers have even scrapped various aspects of the game following fan feedback, so it should have every chance of being the game series veterans and newcomers alike want.
Few games have managed to come close to the superb stealth mechanics of the Thief series, and that, along with one of the most interesting game worlds around should make for a truly spectacular return of super thief, Garrett. Come on Eidos, don't let us down.
Only missing out on the top spot because of an unforeseen delay, Dark Souls II is our second-place runner up. Both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls were soundly deserving games of the year in their respective release windows, offering the kind of challenge that few other games can hope to beat.
The series is often called one of, if not the most difficult ever, but this doesn't mean unplayable. The challenge is perfectly offset by a great combat system and a difficulty that's harsh, but never unfair. The fear and trepidation you experience constantly as you venture around the world is unlike that of any other title, and the novel, and borderline genius multiplayer elements served to create a unique and absorbing action RPG that constantly dares you to have another go.
Dark Souls II will, hopefully, continue this trend, and despite early claims that the game may be easier (although more accessible doesn’t necessarily mean easier), more recent details have revealed that it could, in actual fact, be even more challenging than ever before. It's gong to be larger, with more variety and even more weapons, magic and, of course, ways to die. It'll also have a revamped multiplayer. We can't wait.
Although it's suffered delays, pushing it into 2014, Ubisoft's open-world hacking title simply looks stunning, with some of the most impressive features we've seen in a sandbox game for quite some time (and we still can't get enough of GTA V). From the initial jaw-dropper that was the E3 reveal in 2012 to the flurry of trailers released over the last few months, we've constantly been gripped by the game.
It's seemingly got everything, from vehicular action, on-foot combat and gunplay, random events, varied missions, impressive AI and the hacking element that lets you take full control of your surroundings, including spying on people and finding out their deepest secrets.
Watch Dogs may be out for all platforms, but this is the first game that really made us realise what next gen tech was capable of, and with what could be an amazing solo campaign and interesting multiplayer and social features, we could have the start of a truly great franchise. If it doesn't deliver, we may just cry.