As we wind down for Christmas and New Year, our team here at BGE take a look back at 2015 and give our opinions on what we considered to be the best games we played this year.
Game of the year is normally a really easy decision for me. 2014 was Forza Horizon 2, 2013 Titanfall. But this year my gaming time has been super limited. I think the only games I’ve finished this year have been Portal 2 (hardly a recent release), the excellent Massive Chalice and Halo 5: Guardians. Halo 5 is the obvious choice here, I’m enjoying the campaign on co-op and arena mode is really well balanced. Warzone however I just can’t get on with and it really saps my enjoyment. This month it’s been all about Rainbow 6 Siege whenever I’ve had time to game, the combat is compelling but the networking and UI leaves a lot to be desired. Earlier this year Rocket League gave me undoubtedly the highest multiplayer highs of 2015 but lacked depth after 40 odd hours of game time. I understand it’s had some updates in recent months but the aforementioned time is always against me. Which leads us to my Game of the Year, which is unsurprisingly a game I haven’t even finished yet. Ori and the Blind Forest might be the best looking game to come out on console, ever. The controls are super tight, and even though the game gets really challenging you never feel like it is screwing you over. Apart from the Ginso Tree of course. Ori is right at the top of my “must finish” list for the Christmas break, and that will legitimise it in my mind as my personal Game of the Year.
Ori & The Blind Forest
2015 has been a good year for gamers. We’ve had the next Forza Motorsport game and the long awaited Halo 5: Guardians, but for me I’d have to go with Rise of the Tomb Raider as my Game of the Year. Crystal Dynamics have really improved upon the previous Tomb Raider, expanding the areas we can explore, the approaches we can take, and the general feel of the game has improved as well. Visually it’s superb, and Lara is still an evolving character, not a gun-toting toff which adds to the experience. I really look forward to playing more of these in the series, and hopefully a version with a perfected multiplayer experience.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider
Sik’s been badgering me for this… ‘What’s your game of the year? It just needs to be a short paragraph…’
I don’t even know where to start and that’s not because of the number of games that have been released this year, but rather because I still don’t know what a ‘best game’ is. How am I supposed to quantify something like that?
One of the reasons I’m not a big fan of recommending games is because I have absurdly high standards not only from the game itself, but also from the industry and development interface associated with it. Take Fallout 4 for example, Mix’s Game of the Year. In his review, Mix gives Fallout 4/5 and waxes lyrical about the content and in some ways he’s right. The game itself is massive but if I’d written a review it would get 0/5 – not because the game isn’t good, but because I couldn’t recommend a game that is fundamentally broken to my friends. There’s a standing joke when Bethesda release a new game that it’ll be full of bugs… ‘ho ho ho, well, you know Bethesda’. What the FUCK? How is that OK? Why do we as a community accept paying full price for a game which is broken at launch? I could write an entire article about that and it’s really unfortunate because I’ve put 100 hours into Fallout since it launched. It’s obviously good, but it can’t be game of the year simply because of how it was released. The experience of wandering the wasteland is still a great one and the inclusion of settlements will appeal to people who put plenty of time into Minecrafty games, but for me the stuff they’ve added to the game doesn’t really add to the gameplay. It feels like a Fallout 3 expansion with some tweaking of the basic game mechanics which is a pity for a game that took so long to develop and was so highly expected.
I’d put the newly released Rainbow 6 into this same category – The terrorist hunt modes are as fun as ever and the expansion of gametypes in it is a welcome addition, but the netcode is still broken several weeks after launch and lets not talk about the god-awful user interface. There’s also no campaign included for the first time in the Rainbow series which means that the multiplayer has to be able to stand on its own and it could, if they’d just finished the development.
OK, what about the other end of the spectrum? Rather than taking 10 years to develop and giving us a massive sandbox environment, Rocket League is the definition of tightly controlled gameplay. This fantastic little indie game has probably sucked up more of my time this year than any other. It’s exactly how games should be developed. The controls are simple and work perfectly, the rules are obvious, the cross platform netcode is almost flawless and there’s instant gratification to be had that turns into real skill once you start understanding some of the meta game mechanics. But (and let’s be honest here) it’s really just a game where you drive a car to push a ball into a goal. As good as Rocket League is, it is a fairly shallow experience. That doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant fun, but for me a Game of the Year needs to do something special – it needs to bring something new to the table, so games that are extremely limited in their scope like Rocket League, Downwell, and Duck Game all miss out on that. That said, I’d much rather Indie developers did exactly this, rather than trying to be ridiculously ambitious and end up delivering a gigantic turd. DayZ, I’m looking at you…
While we’re talking about novelty, let’s have a little chat about the most recent installation of the Call of Duty series. Black Ops III is impressive. I’ve played pretty much all of the Call of Duty games and this one stands out for me. If the series as a whole didn’t have the baggage of a reputation for being boring tripe populated by pre-teen assholes I’d even suggest some of my friends could get into this one. Some of the graphics and animation are the best I’ve seen; particularly around the human faces (something notoriously difficult to do well) and as usual the multiplayer gameplay is extremely solid. The addition of Titanfall-esque movement lifts the multiplayer from average to fantastic and it’s a great example of how controls and movement in a game should be done. But… with the exception of the movement which was lifted from directly from Titanfall, it’s really just Black-Ops 2 made shinier. There’s isn’t a whole lot of new content or game mechanics and even if there were, the gradual inclusion of micro-transactions for unlockables really grinds me the wrong way. It’s cunning in a way…These weren’t in the original release, but you can bet your right testicle that it was always the plan to bring them into the game once all the initial reviews had been completed. Clever marketing and release development? Kinda. It’s still being a cunt though.
Which brings us nicely to another AAA release that has microtransactions as a core part of the experience. Halo 5 is a big return to form in the Halo universe. After a series of disappointing and downward trending releases since Halo 2 or 3 this latest iteration seems to tick most of the boxes for a great game. The campaign is pretty good although there are still some weak elements in it and some pointless core design decisions. It’s no Halo CE or Halo 2 but it’s definitely better than Halo 4. The multiplayer brings new (to Halo) gamemodes such as Battlefields Rush gametype in a mode called Warzone, which is a fun 24 player romp to capture territories while choosing what weapons to spawn but the core of it is the absolutely typical Halo multiplayer of the last 6 years and that’s just not enough for a Game of the Year. ‘Better than the shit they released last time’ doesn’t cut it – especially when the new gamemode was obviously developed to facilitate the micro purchases of ‘Req Packs’. Let me ask you this: Do you think the game mode of Warzone was developed first and Req packs were just added in as a good idea, or do you think the idea of having unlockable packs that can generate a revenue stream and developing a gamemode that facilitates that was the way it went down?
At the time of writing this, 343i have also just released Forge, a ‘create-your-own-map’ editor as part of the whole game. When Forge was first released in Halo 3 it was a stroke of genius. The shift of responsibility for the development of game assets from the developer to the customer base is something that will have more than paid off the investment time and cost in developing the forge environment. No longer do the game developers need to put time and effort into creating new, unique content – the gamers will do it for them. Not only that, they’ll be HAPPY to do the job of the developer for absolutely no return. ‘YUM! This turd sandwich is fantastic! Please can I have more?’ Don’t get me wrong – if the original Forge was genius then the new one is nothing short of sublime. I’m genuinely excited about the potential for what can be done in it, but the cynical side of me can never look past why it was developed in the first place. By all means use and enjoy it, but do remember that when you’re submitting maps to 343i for inclusion in playlists that you’re essentially generating free content for them. I’d at least ask for a free t-shirt and reach-around if my map was chosen…
Almost all of the games I’ve bought or played this year fall into one of those categories above: Good, but broken. Too limited in scope, or too generic or unambitious. This is why I don’t do review pieces… Only one game I’ve played this year stands out for me as genuinely bringing something new to the party and even it does it in an extremely limited way, but if you force me to pick something, I’m going to give it my recommendation in the hope that it will expand the minds of developers into what a game could be.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
At this point, 99% of people are probably going ‘what? Have you been drinking lighter fluid again, BASE? Have you forgotten to take your medication or is this early senility kicking in?’ That’s fine. I’m secure in the knowledge that 99% of the people out there are sheep and will continue to promote and buy the AAA titles that the media shoves down our throats.
But look at what KTANE does – it’s an asymmetrical multiplayer experience. Not too many of those about. The Left for Dead / Evolve series are the only ones that quickly spring to mind. It’s a non-splitscreen multiplayer experience where only 1 person needs to own the game. None of those about that I know of… It’s a game that’s easy enough to explain that you can play it at a party when everyone’s had a couple of drinks and still all have a laugh. It’s a game with controls that are simple enough that you don’t need to be a ‘gamer’ to be able to play it, or even be able to use a gamepad. And it’s a game that includes native VR support…
The truth of the game is that the gameplay is limited and you’ll never do well at it until you’ve played it a few times before. But it gets my Game of the Year not actually for the actual gameplay, but for everything else. If you want solid gameplay just go and buy any of the games I’ve mentioned in this review – they’re all good and they all have arguments to be Game of the Year. If you’re interested in seeing where the industry might possibly go, other than just redeveloping existing IP, then go look at Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
I’m a bit torn as to what I would decide is my Game of the Year. I like to think that the game would be the biggest, best looking, most played game which is highly coveted and an all-round epic game.
But that’s not the case. My first thought would have to be Mad Max. The game is masterfully created, perfectly optimised, and downright gorgeous when playing. The gameplay ranges from the GTA-esque open world and driving mechanics to the combat mechanics of the Batman Arkham franchise.
Instead, I am drawn to choose a game which is not a AAA blockbuster, one which was just a ‘side-game’ to the many shooters coming out, Fallout, Call of Duty, Battlefront for example. The game I have enjoyed playing the most, and my GOTY is….Rocket League.
This game has great visuals, not grand landscapes, but still fantastic to look at, thanks to running on Unreal Engine 4. It has no shooting, no escort missions, no retrieval missions; it has one idea – football, but with jet fuelled rocket cars – and it executes it to near perfection! I have loved playing this game, in a party of 2 all the way to 8 players, and it is just as fun regardless of the number of players. It even manages to be fun when online playing by yourself, teaming up with randoms.
There are countless ways to customise your car, now around 20 choices of car (Still making negligible differences in the actual game, purely aesthetic choice) and now around 15 materials to edit your car. I love this game and it’s very quickly becoming my go-to game on Steam.
My instincts immediately pointed me towards Ori & The Blind Forest, a sublime 2D Platformer with hand-drawn art, gorgeous visuals, a beautiful score and top notch solid gameplay…but while Ori was genuinely fantastic, one game pipped it to the post for my game of the year.
This game – is it even a game? I’m not sure, but what I can say is that it represents the power of the medium in terms of what a game can be, and it made me feel things no other game had made me feel. At only 90 minutes long, it’s an experience like no other, and I would wholeheartedly recommend picking it up, going in blind, and giving it a go. That’s my choice for Game of the Year.
The Beginners Guide
So that’s it! Everyone here at BGE wishes all our readers a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and we looked to gaming with you in 2016.