Chris "Atom" DeAngelus
Transistor is an early contender for one of the most engaging games of the year. It isn't Bastion 2, since it's more of a straight RPG than an action game, and the tone, characters and setting are quite different. It manages to craft an engaging and exciting RPG experience mixed with a simple but curiously enticing story, and its biggest sin is being over too soon. It won't necessarily appeal to all of Bastion's fans, but Transistor shows that Supergiant Games isn't just a one-hit wonder and is capable of crafting an entirely different kind of game experience that is still exciting and delightful.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited is easily one of the best buys you can make as an RPG fan on the Vita. It's a well-designed, deep and fun game that is brimming with content. The new content is an improvement over the original PS3 version. The storyline is a tad silly and simplistic, but it doesn't get in the way of the boatloads of gameplay. Die-hards may spend hundreds of hours perfecting their characters, but even casual players who just want to experience the story will get their money's worth from Disgaea 4.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition isn't going to redefine your Diablo experience. It's bigger, shinier and has some nice new content, but in the end, it's the same game. It's a fun mix of killing monsters and collecting loot that has stood the test of time, despite some initial missteps. Ultimate Evil Edition is a strong contender for the best version of the game, with any losses from the PC version bolstered by the console-exclusive features and the enjoyable gamepad-based control scheme. Those who have already played the PS3 version might want to wait for a price drop, but PS4 newcomers will find Diablo III to be well worth the wait.
Velocity 2X is a solid and well-made blend of shoot-'em-up and platforming action. It doesn't quite touch the best of either genre, but the mix of the two styles and the teleport-themed puzzles help give the title its own identity. The improvements over the original Velocity are noticeable, and the game is fun to play. It keeps up a fast pace, although it gets somewhat repetitive toward the end. A few nagging flaws and problems hold it back, but they're nothing more than slight blemishes on a very enjoyable game.
Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate is pretty much the best Dynasty Warriors game on the market. It has flaws and weaknesses, but it makes up for it in polish and amount of content. With over 100 distinct and interesting characters, multiple game modes, and a surprisingly fun story mode, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate has enough to keep players busy for ages. It's not going to win over anyone who's sick of the Warriors formula, but it should be more than enough to keep fans happy. The biggest flaw it has is that it doesn't take advantage of the PlayStation 4's increased power, although it still is a step up from the other versions of the game. If you're a Dynasty Warriors fan or looking to get in the franchise, Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate is the best choice.
Destiny suffers from a serious case of rough edges. A number of elements, from the repetitive mission design to a weak early game, are a lot rougher than expected from an otherwise polished game. There isn't one glaring problem that detracts from the experience, but a number of minor issues hurt the game. Beneath those flaws lies an extremely enjoyable MMO-styled shooter that plays excellently, looks great, is extremely addictive, and has a strong and varied endgame. Destiny makes a strong impression on anyone who's willing to give it the time. It may not be the game-changer that Halo was, but Destiny is a strong game in its own right.
Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes is a solid update to the existing game. It mostly adds polish and new content to the existing gameplay, and it does a good job. The biggest flaws are in the game's somewhat-inconsistent level design and the poor balance between characters. The latter is particularly egregious in a game where you have to spend $15 per character, and it's very possible to end up with a dud. It's a solid game for kids, and it features a whole lot of content and a fun Toybox mode that really sets it apart from Skylanders. Assuming you're willing to shell out the money for the experience, any Disney-loving kid will have fun with this title.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is the rare Arkham clone that transcends its status. It borrows heavily from Batman: Arkham Asylum but does enough new, interesting and distinctive things that it doesn't feel derivative. The core gameplay mechanics are some of the most enjoyable I've encountered this year, and the game is fun from start to finish. A lackluster plot and odd use of the source material holds the game back slightly but not enough to interfere with the unadulterated fun of the core concept. Shadow of Mordor may not be the deepest or most meaningful game released this year, but it sure is one of the most fun.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a ghost of a game. You can see the lingering spirit of something more, but in the end, it's only a pale shadow of what it could have been. The weak character writing and lackluster visuals drag down what is otherwise a fun adventure game. There are some game mechanics that should've been exorcised (pun intended). If you're looking for a relaxing way to spend a rainy afternoon, Murdered fits the bill, but that's about it.
Alien: Isolation does so much right. It's beautiful, atmospheric and interesting, and it does a great job of maintaining the ambiance of the original film. When the game works, it is head and shoulders above any other title that uses the license. When it fails, however, it descends into frustration and tedium. A few critical design decisions have the potential to turn an awesome experience into a tiring one, and it's very hard for the game to maintain its atmosphere with an unhappy player. A better save system or a less flawed set of enemy AI patterns would've done wonders for Isolation. If you're a giant "Alien" fan, this is the game for you. More casual horror fans should only take the dive if they have the utmost confidence in their skills or a very high tolerance for frustration.