Friday 9 January 2015

The Top 10 Games of 2014 (1)

We're finally down to our number 1 game of the year. Let's be honest, you knew this was coming, right? Did your favourite game turn up on our list? If not, let us know about it on the CeX Facebook page.

1- Grand Theft Auto V

It's a somewhat strange feeling knowing that the best game of 2014 was also the best game of 2013. But despite my near biased love for all things Grand Theft Auto related, I honestly think that Rockstar's recent re-release of Grand Theft Auto V warrants the top spot on our list. This re-release drops us back into the world we all fell in love with in 2013, but through a few new additions it makes the world, characters and story feel incredibly fresh and vibrant.

My love for the Grand Theft Auto series goes way back to 1997. Still only on disc 2 of Final Fantasy VII by the time the original Grand Theft Auto came out,  I wasn't planning to divert my attention away from Squaresofts RPG masterpiece any time soon. However, a friend of mine got Grand Theft Auto as a birthday present, so it was in my reach... plus they meant I didn't have to pay for it. Yeah, I'm a cheap bastard, sue me. Like myself, my friend was around 12-13 years old in 1997, but his parents didn't mind buying Grand Theft Auto for him. Maybe they didn't think the series would turn into the huge “murder simulator” most parents think it is nowadays, but regardless they overlooked the big 18's rating on the front. Thank you Mr and Mrs Kelly, thank you. I met up with my friend one evening after school. He had a brown paper bag in his hands, and like some kind of a drug deal you might see in an episode of The Wire, he sneakily slipped the bag into my hand. We parted ways without words, and as I peaked into the bag I read the words “Grand Theft Auto” on the CD game. Hell yes. From when I first popped that disc into my Playstation I was hooked on the series. From siding with the Krishna's in Grand Theft Auto 2, trying to figure out where the hell Donald Love went to in Grand Theft Auto 3, the shoot-out at the end of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, trying to “FOLLOW THE DAMN TRAIN” in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and bowling with Roman in Grand Theft Auto 4, the series has been with me for the past 17 years. Grand Theft Auto V is no different, and the impact it has made on the gaming community over the past year is incredible. This re-release just proves that a game created back in 2013 can still blow anything “new” out of the water.

Grand Theft Auto V deserved to be the best game of 2013 because it perfected the Grand Theft Auto formula. However, it deserves to be also named the best game of 2014 because, with some simple additions to gameplay, it still stands up even in the face of titles developed solely for the current-generation. Now out on PS4 and Xbox One, the game places the player in the sprawling city of San Andreas, and for the first time in the series the game lets the player control three entirely different characters. First up there's Michael, a former bank robber who now finds himself living the life of a bored house husband. Then there's Franklin, a young man who grew up on the streets who looks to Michael as a mentor. Finally there's Trevor, the wild card of the group. Trevor used to run with Michael back in the day, and after a few years in prison and away from a life of crime, Trevor is eager to get back into the game. However, as these three men decide to team up to try and pull off a huge bank heist, personal problems, home life, future aspirations and outside influences try and tear them apart. The story and writing here is truly excellent, and each character that you'll play as is impressively created, superbly written and very nuanced.

Outside of the story Grand Theft Auto V offers gameplay like no other game out there. Though missions are given to you by various characters across the city and often follow templates like assassination, tailing a car, drug dealing or transporting cars and vehicles, the game never treads over old ground. Throughout its entirety Grand Theft Auto V is brimming with exciting missions that impress, surprise and entertain. From thrilling to shocking to hilarious, Grand Theft Auto V's missions cover a lot of emotional ground. That said, the true genius of the game comes about between missions, and often beyond the scripted scenes of the game. Whether you decide to shoot up the city and resist the SAPD to take you alive, venture up to the mountains to take part in some dirt bike racing, climb Mount Chiliad and skydive off it, drive a pick-up truck around the rural areas of San Andreas with Rebel Radio on your radio, hunt the various wild animals across San Andreas or simply just explore the world before you, almost anything is possible here. However, though the world has been graphically improved in this re-release, what puts a whole new spin on the game is the much talked about first-person mode. While many will assume that first-person mode in a Grand Theft Auto game is gimmicky, it's ultimately hugely successfully in giving the player a whole new perspective on the city. Action feels more tense. The city of San Andreas feels more detailed and sprawling. The back roads and dingy bars feel more atmospheric. Shooting, fighting and driving feels more real. Basically, playing while using first-person mode revolutionises the gameplay, and not only makes it feel more real and tactile, but essentially improves upon Grand Theft Auto V in every way. I'm not saying I want future Grand Theft Auto games to be solely first-person based, but using this mode after finishing the game breaths new life into it. It's bloody awesome and makes non-scripted action set pieces look like scripted, highly orchestrated and nicely shot Hollywood movies.

I know some gamers will disagree with naming Grand Theft Auto V the best game of the year, but while we all have our own opinions, what is fact is that Rockstar didn't go for a half assed re-release of their year old game. No. They tweaked it slightly, but in doing so have given us a fresh perspective on a world that many of us spent many months submerging ourselves in. I play games to be entertained and immersed, and Grand Theft Auto V offers that by the bucket load. For me it all comes back to when I first played the original Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation back in 1997. As I raced around it's top-down perspective world I thought, “this is what games are about- freedom, exploration, fun and harmless fantasy”. The series as a whole nails this sentiment perfectly, but Grand Theft Auto V perfects it. Brilliant.

Grand Theft Auto V on PS4 and Xbox One breath new life into a year old release and claims our number 1 spot.

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