As the seventh major instalment in the series, though, not to mention the first designed for new console hardware, Assassin's Creed Unity feels like a missed opportunity. Going back to basics at this point may have resulted in a less substantial game than recent years have led us to expect, but it might have delivered a more satisfying one. As it is, mild improvements in traversal and combat are quickly overwhelmed by the creaking systems onto which they have been grafted. Revolutionary Paris is one of the most beautifully realised environments in a series that has had its fair share of them, but the game you play doesn't really do it justice.
Costume Quest 2 isn't a long game - it took me around six hours to complete, including almost all the side quests - but even a short game can outstay its welcome, and while there is still a great concept at the core of Double Fine's Halloween series, if anything this sequel is even further away from nailing it than its predecessor. Shallow and repetitive, Costume Quest 2's winsome appearance and occasional wit never quite obscure the busywork at its core.
As soon as I finished The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, I started it again and was greeted by that same warning. "This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand." Originally I thought it was telling me that I was going to be challenged by what followed and that I shouldn't expect any help in figuring it out. And I still think that. But I also suspect The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, which rarely uses a word more than it has to, is making a broader point when it says it doesn't intend to hold your hand.
Overall, The Curse of Naxxramas seems well worth owning, then. The solo content has its ups and downs, but it is most often fun, and also offers some welcome environmental refreshment. Things like a new game board, new music, new enemy emotes and all the trappings of Blizzard's typically lavish production values might sound trivial to some, but for those of us who have spent hundreds of hours playing Hearthstone already they are as much a part of the experience as anything else, and that shouldn't be overlooked. As for the new cards, the cunning behind many of them is likely to echo throughout the seasons, even though not all of them are showing up in regular play at the moment. And if you're anything like me, you won't want to be without them.
Perhaps that was always likely to happen after a game as complete as Trials Evolution, and I have still spent a dozen hours enjoying everything Fusion has to offer and can't imagine anyone finding much fault with any of it. All the same, I hope that whenever RedLynx returns to the drawing board in future, it does so with more of a daredevil heart. We've had enough evolution - what Trials needs next is revolution.
In fact, Hearthstone is unlike a lot of games. It's a card strategy game that is bright and accessible. It's a free-to-play game with generosity of spirit. Heck, it may not have all the features its fans are demanding just yet, but it's even a Blizzard game where "coming soon" actually means coming soon. It's overflowing with character and imagination, feeds off and fuels a vibrant community of players and performers, and it only stands to improve as Blizzard introduces new features, an iPad version and expansions. And now it's finally finished! I can't wait to see where it goes next. Job's done.
Towards the end, at least, there are a couple of levels where the checkpoint balancing isn't quite so bad, and this also coincides with some better level design. By this stage you may also have unlocked a couple of gadgets that allow you to do things like slow down time or increase your damage multiplier. The rest of the game may be shallow, bland and repetitive, but here you get a sense of the kind of game Knack could have been if it had only dared to be a bit more complex in every respect.
If you can look past that and get over the through-balls, though, FIFA 14 on next-gen is the best version of the game. Modes like Career, Ultimate Team and Seasons are well thought out and will happily consume many hours of your time as you tinker and experiment, and while matches often follow a familiar pattern, it helps that that pattern is fast, exciting and frequently spectacular. It would be nice to see changes that allow for greater variation in build-up play next year, but in the meantime FIFA 14 with better dribbling and nerfed headers will do nicely.
The spine of the game is still mashing your way through zombie hordes with elaborate weaponry, and fortunately this remains enjoyable from beginning to end, but having stripped back some of the humour and made the game less colourful and more gritty, it's a shame that the developers weren't able to infuse it with something else to top up its character. It's not as though Capcom Vancouver didn't understand people's love of the originals: when you're not smashing through zombies, you collect golden statues of Frank West, while the local museum has exhibitions dedicated to West and Chuck Greene, his successor in Dead Rising 2.
The core of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a reminder that quality can be permanent rather than fleeting, and the new additions give us new reasons to take interest and - hopefully - another way in for people who are ready for something different.
Almost everything you do in Liberty City would be good enough to drive its own game, and the best parts would be good enough to outrun the competition, but the reason it works so well is that Rockstar has made a game that requires no patience to play. This, as much as its usual coherency and the best script in the series, is what makes GTA IV the best openworld game yet, and why it will take something miraculous to rob it of game of the year status.