A whole new year
Fact: 2013 will forever go down as one of the best years the seventh console generation has ever seen. A mere glance at our list of the best games of 2013 is so potent that it has been scientificially proven to increase your metabolism by as much as 3,000 percent--we asked doctors and everything. (Editor's note: This is patently false information. The following list, however, is phenomenal, so give it a read.)
But what does 2014 have in store for games, especially if if you didn't dump a few hundred bucks into a next-gen console? Good news: This year actually has quite a few last-gen releases that are sure to please (or so we hope). Planning on sticking with your PS3 and/or Xbox 360 for a while yet? Here's what you have to look forward to this year, starting with
Earth Defense Force 2025
Release date: February 4
Not all games need a gripping narrative or mind-blowing mechanic to be enjoyable--sometimes, the unadulterated slaughter of giant insects and colossal robots is enough. Such is the case with Earth Defense Force, a series of arcadey shooters where the only thing standing between mankind and extinction is a few dudes with highly explosive weaponry.
While Earth Defense Force 2025--the sixth entry in the series--adds new weapons, vehicles, and enemies to the horde mode-style gameplay, the moment-to-moment action will remain largely unchanged: Point, shoot, unlock new guns, laugh at hilariously corny dialogue, repeat. Still, obliterating alien ants with a rocket launcher is just as cool as it sounds, especially with a few friends in tow. Earth Defense Force 2025 might just be the perfect (and budget-priced) palate cleanser for starting 2014.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Release date: Out now. Read our Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 review!
Those who'd rather cartwheel over shattered glass than play another entry in the FF13 saga can at least find solace in the fact that Lightning Returns is the final entry. But if you're one of the many who have grown to appreciate Lightning and her crew, this promises to be an exciting end that will hopefully answer more questions than it raises.
Instead of a full party of characters, you'll only control Lightning, who's been deemed the savior of souls in a world that will cease to exist in 13 days' time. Lightning Returns takes a more action-oriented approach to combat, as active blocking and movement are key to survival. It's also more open-ended in terms of narrative than most Final Fantasy games; you can travel to any of its hub areas to complete quests and save souls in any order you'd like, all while an in-game clock runs down in real-time. Get to the bottom of each of the story's mysteries quick enough, and you'll complete your mission successfully. Fail, and whoops--guess you just wasted 20+ hours because it's game over. That sounds fun, right?
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
Release date: February 25
Poor Dracula. He's always got folks smashing through his front door, eager to beat him to death with whips or drown him with magical water. And for what reason? Because he has an unfortunate intestinal condition that requires he feast on the blood of the living to survive? Sounds like he got the short end of the stick, if you ask me. But in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, you actually get to play as Dracula--in a mostly modern day setting, no less--to exact revenge on those who apparently a hold a grudge against those with an aversion to sunlight.
The original Lords of Shadow was praised for its combo-centric combat, which makes a return here. You'll have to swap between three weapons--Dracula's Blood Whip (basically a revamped Combat Cross), the health-replenishing Vorpal Blade, and the heavy-hitting Chaos Claws--to take down enemies, and you'll obtain new abilities as you progress to bypass previously inaccessible areas. Lords of Shadows 2 isn't exactly a traditional open world game, but it does allow for a ton more exploration than did the first, as well as a--gasp!--free-moving camera. We can't wait to set foot in Drac's castle--or the modern day city that eventually flourishes around it.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Release date: March 4
Hey, remember that JRPG-esque South Park game that was announced, like, three years ago? The one that was originally supposed to come out in March 2013, then was pushed back to April 2013, then was pushed back to December 2013, then was pushed back to March 2014? Assuming it doesn't get hit with any further delays, you'll finally be able to play it within a few months' time! And really, I hope that's the case--because it looks pretty damn fun.
With a story penned by the creators of South Park themselves, The Stick of Truth is sure to be a hilarious adventure if nothing else. Plus, its developer, Obsidian, has a background in crafting (mostly) enjoyable RPGs, so expect the character development and turn-based combat to be just as deep as the butt jokes.
Dark Souls 2
Release date: March 11
Anytime someone tells you they like Demon's Souls or Dark Souls because they're hard, what they're probably trying to communicate is that they like those games because they force you to play smart. Learning the attack patterns of enemies--and using that information to outwit your opponents--is your only hope of survival. And it's the rewarding feeling of overcoming seemingly impossible odds that makes the Souls games so special. Naturally, lots of folks are eager for the additional punishment promised by Dark Souls 2.
This upcoming sequel aims to maintain the challenge the series is known for. Meaning, basic enemies are deadly enough to make you want to smash your controller through that fancy HD TV of yours. Oh, and the towering bosses with their one-hit kills? Yeah, they can go bathe in battery acid. So what's new, then? For starters, some of the game's more convoluted systems (ahem, Covenants) will be a bit easier to comprehend, while a new graphics engine will hopefully alleviate the framerate issues that plagued Demon's and Dark Souls. Oh, and enemies will apparently have more advanced AI, as if they weren't hard enough to defeat before. Aaaaand cue the tears.
Murdered: Soul Suspect
Release date: TBA 2014
Ronan O'Connor is a simple man, a detective that doesn't always play by the rules--that is, until he's murdered by a mysterious hooded stranger possessing extraordinary strength. But O'Connor doesn't die, exactly--he turns into a ghost. The only way to escape the limbo he finds himself in is by uncovering the mystery behind his own murder. Such is the premise of Murdered: Soul Suspect, an upcoming supernatural action-adventure game.
As sort-of-dead O'Connor, you can't really talk to anyone to find out how you died, which is problematic. But being a ghost has its benefits: you can walk through walls and investigate clues mostly unhindered, as seen in this 25-minute gameplay clip from E3 2013. Except, you know, demons and stuff are kind of a problem, so you'll have to survive the evil forces of your new ghost world while solving the mysteries of the living one.
Release date: TBA 2014
What is Devil's Third, you ask? Good question--all we've got to go on is this old trailer from E3 2010. Its brief clips suggest the game is a fast-paced third-person shooter featuring plenty of parkour, swordplay, and even plentier gore.
Not surprising, considering it's the brainchild of Ninja Gaiden mastermind Tomonobu Itagaki, whose taste for virtual violence knows no bounds. The project had more or less gone dark after THQ--the initial publisher of Devil's Third--closed its doors, though CVG reports Itagaki recently announced the game is more than 80 percent complete and will be releasing sometime in 2014.
Release date: TBA 2014
The original Drakengard featured one of the most horrific alternate ending sequences ever conceived. In it, ginormous cannibal babies descend from the heavens, cooing as they gnashed their sharp teeth together in anticipation of the greatest of feasts: you and your friends. To say this hack 'n slash action RPG series has a bit of a strange side to it is an understatement. Drakengard 3--which released in Japan in December of last year--is also a bit bizarre, namely in that Zero, the female protagonist, enjoys coating herself in the blood of her enemies.
In ground combat, the more you kill your enemies, the more their life juice covers your body, enabling the activation of special meters that increase your combat effectiveness. Zero has access to a variety of weapons and combos to keep things interesting as you slice your way through hordes of bad guys, and you'll occasionally have to take to the air on your trusty dragon sidekick to incinerate anything standing in your way. Whether or not "anything" includes ginormous cannibal babies remains to be seen.
Release date: TBA 2014
Take Dead Island, turn all the zombies into sword-wielding skeletons, and replace busted boat oars with medieval weaponry, and bam--you've got Hellraid. Considering it began life as a Dead Island mod, it should come as no surprise that this first-person hack 'n slash looks an awful lot like Techland's previous project. Still, the thought of some good ol' fashioned dungeon exploration has me rather excited.
If this trailer is any indication, it seems you'll have access to a variety of weapons to take on monsters, including swords, axes, and staves that are quite useful for catching skeletons on fire (yay magic!). Not only will Hellraid feature plenty of looting and leveling while combatting the hordes of, er, Hell, but its co-op offering means friends can face the challenges together.
Tales of Xillia 2
Release date: TBA 2014
While Namco's Tales franchise has never mustered a following comparable to that of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, its unique real-time battle system has earned it a loyal niche fanbase in the West. The original Tales of Xillia, the 13th entry in the saga, was localized in North America almost two full years after its release in Japan, and its long-awaited sequel, Tales of Xillia 2, will finally see a release in 2014.
Picking up a year after the events of its predecessor, Xillia 2 features protagonist Ludger Will Kresnik, a man who possesses the ability to destroy alternate timelines in his universe. His quest, no doubt, will be paved with many a battle and save-the-world moments. Pretty atypical stuff for a JRPG, but there you go.
Embracing the past
Have you decided to stick with the trusty PS3 and Xbox 360 for a while? If so, what games are you looking forward to the most in 2014? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you're looking for more, check out 10 abnormal things normal people do in video games and platformer themes we want less and more of.