The best PC games of 2014
There are a few inevitable but unannounced titles we haven't slotted into the list just yet. The likes of Fifa and PES will surely return, but until then we can look forward to a barrage of racing games - led by the ever-expanding and stupidly beautiful Project CARS - and a rush of cybersports designed for side-by-side competition. The Sportsfriends bundle alone contains a raft of such games, and Make Something Unreal competition winner Epigenesis has a bright future that might just grow its own dedicated esports community.
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Release Date: TBA
Link:The Project CARS site
It’s been a long time since the PC had a platform-defining racing sim in the vein of the Xbox’s Forza or the Playstation’s Gran Turismo. Project CARS might just be that sim. Unconventionally funded by a community who can pledge money and purchase tool packs to contribute to the game, Project CARS supports Oculus Rift and TrackIR, has 35 locations to Gran Turismo’s 27 (all with full day/night cycles and dynamic weather), and is already streaks ahead of the so-called ‘next-gen’ Forza 5. As you can see, it looks gorgeous.
Ridge Racer: Driftopia
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Link:Ridge Racer Driftopia site
This is the second Ridge Racer game made by Bugbear after 2012’s pretty-good Ridge Racer Unbounded. Driftopia is a free-to-play affair that’ll be supported by in-game microtransactions. Plyers will be able to compete “asynchronously”, which means saving and sharing your fastest, driftiest ghost runs for friends to compete with. It’s available as a free download on Steam Early Access right now.
Developer: Drool LLC
Release Date: TBA 2014
Racing games are rarely as dark or psychadelic as this rhythm action game, in which you play a chrome scarab hurtling down a dream-like runway at ungodly speeds, on a quest to slay a cybernetic, malignant force known as CRAKHED. As you fly towards your goal, you can slam your vessel against the ground to create a thunderous bass beat, earning your tiny racer his “THUMPER” title.
Next Car Game
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Next Car Game site
The next car game from FlatOut developers, bugbear, will be a physics-driven affair. Spectacular damage modelling has been the focus of their early tech demo, which consisted of a white plane populated by various vehicle-mangling machines. When the game eventually gets a proper name and some tracks we can look forward to some violent wheel-to-wheel driving duels.
To see Next Car Game’s destruction tech in action, check out Craig’s car-bashing experiments.
Developer: Kunos Simulazioni
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Steam early access
Much like Project CARS, Assetto Corsa represents a new approach to racing games. The developers are independant, and put out a beta of the game very early, with only a small number of courses and cars, but a very impressive driving model. Now they’re using the funds from early access buyers to support themselves while they gradually expand the game with every increasing numbers of cars and tracks, providing a steady drip feed of new driving options.
That’s a picture of F1 2013, because the surely-inevitable sequel has yet to be announced, technically. Codemasters have talked about future editions, though, saying that any future F1 games will be built on “next-gen” hardware. That means they can use more of our PCs’ latent power to render more realistic physics and volumetric tyre spray and the like. We can, of course, expect lots of fine licensed cars and tracks to race on, and an updated ruleset to reflect the latest frivolities of F1 lawmaking.
Developer: Ivory Tower/Ubisoft
Release Date: Late 2014
Link:The Crew: The Website
Ubisoft's ambitious racing game mixes single-player, cooperative and competitive driving in an open world, persistent online space. I've consulted the checklist and that makes it an MMO, so if you prefer your racing games to be a little more antisocial, The Crew might not be for you. As per the title, the game encourages you to to recruit a team of fellow driving enthusiasts, giving you all sorts of tasks to accomplish in the world when you get together. The campaign – playable alone or with chums – sees you infiltrating the murky driving underworld, in order to stop the supply of knock-off hubcaps and illicit nodding dogs. Possibly.
What happened when we got our hands all over Ubisoft's racey MMO? Words happened, that's what.
Release Date: TBA
Link:Trials Fusion site
Fusion is a word which here means 'all futuristic, like', with this latest Trials game swapping non-descript warehouses for neon-tinged future cityscapes. Thankfully, the future still has bikes, along with idiots willing to risk life and limb to get to the end of insanely difficult, physics-puzzley courses. It would be fairly tricky to make a Trials title without either of those. Fusion adds tricks to the formula, giving you points for doing backflips, frontflips, sideflips and mobiusflips in addition to your primary challenge of staying the hell alive. Because it's being published by Ubisoft, it also has a tie-in mobile thing called Trials Frontier, which will presumably link up to the main event in some way.
Release Date: TBA 2014
When it leaves early access, Snow will be a free-to-play open world snowboard and ski winter sports game set on a huge explorable mountain. Microtransactions based around licensed real-world gear will keep the game afloat while players carve up the slopes, swapping tricks on the mountain or competing on preset courses of ramps and rails.
Developer: Refract Studios
Release Date:TBA 2014
This is the spiritual successor to the excellent Nitronic Rush, a speedy survival racer that also doubles as an exploration game. You’re racing around the neon walkways of a huge, mad city, dodging lightning strikes and flying razor blades, and occasionally transforming into a flying car to negotiate tricky gaps in the road. There will also be a level editor so players can create their own bizarre courses.
Developer: Stainless Games
Release date: Mid 2014
How tame Carmageddon looks now - once the videonasty most reviled, now a harmlessly over-the-top knockabout racer with splattery, jam-filled pedestrians. It’s remake may struggle to deliver the transgressive thrill the original game did, but just as long as it approaches racing with the same riotous sense of destruction it should deliver just as many belly laughs. Early Access will be available in early 2014.
MXGP: The Official Motocross Videogame
Release date: Spring 2014
Motorcross isn’t well represented in games, so the announcement of a modern official racing game last year was pleasant news for fans. Terrain deformation and advanced animation hopes to sell the danger and drama of every sliding turn and official licensing will add credence to the 60 riders, 60 bikes and 14 tracks.
Developer: Dead Shark Triple Punch
Release: Mid 2014
Winner of 2013’s Make Something Unreal Contest, Epigenesis is a bit like handball with space-gladiators, except you fire the ball out of a cannon attached to your hand - much better than a puny human palm. Contests take place on platforms floating in space, and you’re entirely free to shove opponents off into the abyss while punting the glowing victory orb towards Epigenesis’ elevated goals.
Developer: Mode 7
Release: TBC 2014
Link:Frozen Endzone site
Frozen Synapse was one of the best turn-based tactics titles of recent years, and we've no reason to suspect that its unusual follow-up will be any less strategically rich. Espionage is replaced here with an American Football-like sport – the game differentiates itself from Madden, however, with its turn-based action, futuristic aesthetic and, oh yeah, the fact that its two teams are entirely populated with robots.
Developer: Ramiro Corbetta
Release Date: 2014
Hokra has the noble distinction of being the only game I know of to be both a sports game and an art installation. Created for the New York University game centre, Hokra presents a minimalist version of hockey, pitting two teams of two against each other in local co-op. The game evokes Sensible World of Soccer’s simplistic pass and shoot approach to football. Hokra will be sold as part of the Sportsfriends bundle along with with Johann Sebastian Joust, Super Pole Riders and BariBariBall.
Johann Sebastian Joust
Developer: Douglas Wilson
Release Date: 2014
Johann Sebastian Joust can be secure of it’s place in history. No matter what the quality of the eventual game, it will always be remembered as one of the greatest puns ever made. Thankfully it also looks like a lot of fun. Two players hold motion controllers, they can’t move them any faster than the tempo of the music. Thus they must protect their own controller while trying to jostle and disrupt their opponents. The result is a barely disguised fight in videogame form. Which is brilliant. Johann Sebastian Joust will be sold as part of the Sportsfriends bundle along with with Hokra, Super Pole Riders and BariBariBall.
Super Pole Riders
Developer: Bennet Foddy
Release Date: 2014
Super Pole Riders, by QWOP creator Bennet Foddy, is an upgraded version of his free web game Pole Riders. It features two pole vaulters trying to kick a ball (suspended in mid air) into each other’s goals. Much like QWOP, the attraction is in how the difficult controls result in a clumsy and hilarious experience, with players vaulting into and over one another, repeatedly falling flat on their faces. Foody plans to improve the game with variable arenas, interesting geometry and up to four pole wielding maniacs at once. Super Pole Riders will be sold as part of the Sportsfriends bundle along with with Johann Sebastian Joust, Hokra and BariBariBall.
Developer: Noah Sasso
Release Date: 2014
BariBariBall is a very simple game. You and your opponent are in an arena with a ball. If you dunk the ball on their side of the arena, you score, if they dunk it in yours, they score. What makes it work is the incredible degree of control you have over your character’s movement which, coupled with a slow moving ball, means every game becomes a series of improbably acrobatic double jumps, air dashes and last minute interceptions. BariBariBall will be sold as part of the Sportsfriends bundle along with with Johann Sebastian Joust, Super Pole Riders and Hokra.
Release Date: October 17
Link:Codies' F1 site
2014 was a big year for F1, with various rule and regulation changes being decreed from on high, and Codies will reflect those changes in this year's tie-in game. New difficulty options have also been promised, but it's clear this is more of a stopgap until next year's offering, which strangely has already been announced. That's the 'next-gen' one, in which we can expect F1's already impressively rendered vehicles and tracks to look extra shiny on PC. Or to have higher quality textures. Or whatever it is the 'next-gen' difference is.
We covered the announcement of both games here.
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: September 23
Link:EA's FIFA site
This gazillionth entry in EA's licensed football series will give each player their own 'emotional intelligence', something that sees them perk up or become depressed depending on how the match is going. The marketing focus has been on graphical upgrades and gimmicks borrowed from The Sims 4, which is hopefully a sign that the mechanical business of kicking a ball around is all well and correct. Gimmicks aside, PC players will finally be getting the 'next-gen' version of FIFA, rather than the port of the PS3/360 game we received last year.
We interviewed FIFA 15's producer Nick Channon about all things football.
Release Date: Out now
Link:Codies' Grid site
Autosport was essentially Codemasters' apology for the missing features of Grid 2, among other things re-instating the in-car view that was bizarrely absent in the previous game. Reactions were mixed, to that view and to the idea of shelling out another wadge of cash for the game Grid 2 should have been, but beneath all that lies a racer we found particularly solid and refined.