In honor of the day we here in America eat copious amounts of turkey, watch giant balloons float down major New York thoroughfares, and decide we’d rather be saving $20 on a new TV instead of spending time with our loved ones, we here at EGM decided to push aside the negativity and ambivalence that can sometimes befall the game industry and look back upon those things that we were thankful for this year.

Pure West, Baby
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It made sense that Stan Lee, the king of hamming it up, would make an appearance in Lego: Marvel Super Heroes last year as a playable character as well as replacing the series’ standard “citizen in distress.” But I was genuinely surprised that instead of just going back to a normal citizen for the role, TT Games brought in Adam West, one of the most celebrated men to wear the cape and cowl, to do the same this year in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. It was, without a doubt, a guilty pleasure gone amazingly right.

I’m someone who can point to West’s portrayal of the Caped Crusader from the ‘60s (I watched in syndication, like many folks my age, and now I’m rewatching with the long-awaited release of the entire Batman series of DVD/Blu-Ray) as what helped spur a lifelong obsession with not just Batman but comic books in general, and it thrilled me to see him still embracing the character and hamming it up for his fans—even serving as narrator in a special level dedicated entirely to the show!

It’s Not Just a Car
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Yeah, I know—two Batman posts on the same list. But the honest truth is that, outside of specific games, there wasn’t a ton for me to be thankful for this year, and you’ll have to wait for our “Best of” lists in a couple of weeks to see what stoked my fire in 2014.

Anyway, back at the beginning of the year, we got what many Batman fans have been waiting for: the announcement of Batman: Arkham Knight. And this time, it’s headed up by true Arkham series developer Rocksteady (even they ignore Warner Bros. Montreal’s Origins effort). Looking to cap off what they’ve said time and again will only be a trilogy, they’ve opened up Gotham like never before and given us what we’ve asked for all the way back when we first saw Arkham Asylum: the ability to drive the Batmobile.

I actually got to go hands-on with this multi-use behemoth at E3 this year, and in the small snippet of gameplay I got to try, it blew me away. Not only was it great for combat against other cars, but it helped with crowd control when Batman got into a hairy situation at Ace Chemicals. What’s more, I could even solve puzzles with the vehicle’s winch. The only thing I’m not thankful for is that the game’s been delayed several times, and now I have to wait until June 2015 to go hands-on with it again. Considering all the recent launch disasters, however, maybe it’s a good thing Rocksteady admitted they needed another nine months with the game.

Flip Side of the Coin
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I’m completing a couple of trifectas here. This marks my third Warner Bros.related property, and I’m now the third person to mention something from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Normally, I’m not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan, but Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor really surprised a lot of us here in the office. While Josh may appreciate the new patch that lets you play as the female leader of the resistance and Andrew loves protagonist Talion, for me, it was all about the Nemesis system.

This feature offers incredible systemic gameplay, with each victory or defeat changing dialogue, power levels, and how you need to approach your target—and it’s a potential game-changer for the action-adventure genre. It offered me immense replayability well after the completion of the main story as I began to develop my own narrative within the game. Now, here’s the only question: Who will be the first to try to ape this gameplay revolution?

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