The Year is dead! Long live the Year!
I’m notoriously bad at choosing just one thing, it’s probably faster, and definitely more fun for me if I just list the top moments of the year*. So here they are, in (mostly) no particular order!
*Some of these may be from before 2014, but if they’re here it’s because they were rediscovered or first played/read/watched during the year.
Marcus’ Top Games
Titanfall is a fantastic debut from Respawn Entertainment and makes a strong impact on the world of online FPS games. That a company managed to take their game from closed-beta to release with almost no hiccups in service and also without having a single obvious bug to speak of is becoming a rarer and rarer feat. For Respawn to have done it on their first run is even more impressive. With such strong, multi-faceted offerings from the likes of this and Battlefield, I find it hard to believe that the Call of Duty franchise can keep going strong. With release dates less than a year apart between Titanfall and Advanced Warfare it’s hard to argue that Sledgehammer borrowed ideas from Titanfall for their new release. However, watching the gameplay trailers for CoD it’s something that’s far too easy to believe. For any FPS fans that haven’t tried out Titanfall yet, I heartily advise you tiptoe into its refreshing waters. Respawn’s generous offerings of large, free updates featuring new game modes make another good reason to follow along.
Supergiant Games set themselves a tough number to beat when they released Bastion a few years ago. The game was lauded by many for its narrative and level design and received massive critical acclaim for its soundtrack. In Transistor, for me at least, they have triumphed in every way. I adored Bastion, but in Transistor, the battles are more engaging, the storyline more enjoyable and the soundtrack even better. It may have helped that I loved the cyberpunk world and terminology of Transistor aswell. A Must-Play for fans of Bastion and also something that stands a good chance of converting those who didn’t fall in love with Supergiant’s first offering.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (WiiU)
Just look at the Arcade Awards. Nintendo done good this year. Admittedly, although Wind Waker is more than a decade old, when the remake was first announced I felt it was an unnecessary effort. The cel-shaded Gamecube original still holds up well against the test of time both visually and mechanically. Along with that, and even though Wind Waker is by far my favourite installment in the Legend of Zelda series, I certainly felt there were other games in the series in greater want of an update (Majora’s Mask, now coming soon to a 3DS near you). Still, the remake is much more than just a graphical overhaul with some neat additions to the gameplay to make use of the WiiU Gamepad. Even having played the original to completion almost 20 times, more than any other game for me, this revision makes it all feel fresh. For those among you that never tried the original this game is deserving of your time. I found it far too easy to become attached to every character in this game, they’ve all just got so much, well, character and everyone has their own little back-stories for anyone who chooses to investigate them. Legend of Zelda : Wind Waker will likely remain my top game of all time and I’m thankful for the chance to relive its beauty in glorious high definition.
Marcus’ Top Movies
Dumb And Dumber To
The original Dumb and Dumber is a personal favourite for both myself and my other half, so for the successor to even come marginally close to that level was pretty good. I can’t say whether it would have been as enjoyable for me had I not loved the original so much, but Carey and Daniels really get what makes these characters so lovable. Their entire lack of a character growth arc is entirely endearing and Dumb and Dumber To’s ability to make reference to scenes from it’s 20 year old successor without needing to simply recreate or imitate the things we loved originally makes it a winner for me this year.
X-Men : Days of Future Past
The X-Men movieverse has come back in a big way since the shoddy Last Stand and entirely awful Wolverine Origins. While First Class and Wolverine were great, Days of Future Past has been the greatest entry to date. Everyone involved gave top-notch performances and there were enough references to the original trilogy to close things off nicely in preparation for Apocalypse. One thing that I took particular enjoyment out of in the run-up to the movie however was the German “Alle sind gleich” (All Are Equal) ad campaign, where the main cast were done up in minimalist political campaign-styled posters.
Guardians of the Galaxy
In the year that DC proclaimed that the world was ‘Not yet ready for a Wonder Woman movie’, Marvel Studios went ahead and decided the world was ready for a movie featuring a talking raccoon and a giant tree whose vocabulary consisted entirely of three words. From Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ to The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ this movie had me hooked and made the world fall in love with Marvel’s greatest B-Listers.
Marcus’ Top TV Series
This is my Firefly. The greatest Sci-Fi show to come out in a very long time and it got cut down long before its time! The buddy-cop chemistry between Michael Ealy and Karl Urban harks back to Lethal Weapon and the soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers is second to none. Mackensie Crook’s Q-Style scientist and his endless attempts to be ‘one of the guys’ show his great acting scope, ranging from the comedic to sincerely moving.
A show that would’ve been easy to royally screw up given the source material, but this contemporary prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho just keeps going from strength to strength. Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are stellarly cast as Norma and Norman Bates with Highmore’s Bambi-esque ‘Mother!’ being a chilling sound to hear each time he utters it. The young actor channels Anthony Perkins very well indeed with his recreation of the classic “Norman Bates Smile” bringing the second season to a fantastic conclusion.
A departure from the normal vulgarity for Ricky Gervais, Derek tells the story of a mentally disabled volunteer in a Care Home for the elderly. Even if you’re not usually a fan of his work I’d advise checking in on Derek. Fair warning, almost every episode has a ‘First 10 Minutes of Up’ feeling, it just lasts 20 minutes. And there are 14 episodes to weep your way through.
Marcus’ Top Comics
Hawkguy, bro. Hawkguy. This has been Marvel’s crowning glory this year for me and their cancellation of the series only to relaunch it sans Matt Fraction and David Aja is a really bloody stupid plan. Hawkeye was presented in a mode that would have been perfect as a TV series, with almost every issue opening with “Okay this looks bad…” and proceeding to tell a large portion of the story in flashback. The highlight of the series was one particular issue told from the point of view of Pizza Dog AKA Lucky, Clint Barton’s dog.
Sheltered : A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale (Image)
This was the first #1 I picked up when I first began collecting comics monthly in late 2013. I really have to commend myself on a good first choice a year down the line as the series comes to a close. Sheltered tells the story of the children of Safe Haven, a survivalist colony who live in total belief of the notion that The Big One is coming, a non-descript end to life as we know it. I’m usually a sucker for all things Post-Apocalyptic, from Fallout to A Boy and His Dog, so this look into life before all that was pretty interesting. The closing pages of each issue, which contained a well-researched survivalist bulletin were really neat too. Expect an in-depth review in the next few weeks once I get round to ready the final installments. Also, there’s a movie in the works, from the creators of The Walking Dead TV series, but that’s pretty much the sum total of information available right now on that front.
Arkham Asylum : A Serious House on Serious Earth / Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader (DC)
I felt I had to register DC in some way on this list. Unfortunately, nothing they’ve produced this year has been quite up to scratch for me. Batman Beyond came very, very close, but it wasn’t quite there yet. After completing Arkham City, I went back for a re-read of Arkham Asylum, also picking up Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader for the first time after borrowing it from a buddy. These two graphic novels really are a treat to read, so much so that I couldn’t really choose just one to feature here, A Serious House on Serious Earth wins for Dave McKean’s art, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader for the closing ‘Goodnight Moon’ tribute to Batman. Actually… Now that I’ve written this, I really do wish I’d featured Batman Beyond Universe on this list for a few special moments featured in its pages, however, I’ll leave this be, as a testament to the lofty heights that DC once was able to reach.
That’s all from me folks! If you have any suggestions for how to nerd-out during 2015 based on what you see above then I’d love to hear them! My various unread/unwatched/unlplayed libraries aren’t nearly overwhelming enough yet!