Thursday, March 3, 2016

Top 10 Games of 2015

2014 was a remarkably dry year for games. Destiny was the only standout and that game has quickly lost all, if not most of it's replayability thanks to a content drought and absurd microtransactions. I had hoped that 2015 would be a good year for games, and to my surprise and relief, it was actually pretty good. While there were definitely fewer great titles overall, the titles that were good gave you more bang for your buck. Here's the list. Disappointments and all.

10: Star Wars: Battlefront

Star Wars: Battlefront was a huge disappointment. The overpriced season pass, the lack of meaningful single-player, the lack of space battles, and the overall lack of content is depressing. Titanfall had the exact same problem last year. Even all that said, the game is gorgeous. The sound design is probably the best I've heard in a video game period, and the minute to minute gameplay is actually pretty satisfying if not repetitive. Make no mistake, this is not a fantastic game and I would argue that it's probably best to avoid it. That said, there is fun to be had, even if it is fleeting and leaves you wanting more.

9: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid has a storied history with ... well, story. As such it was surprising to see gameplay take a front seat for once in a Metal Gear Solid game. Personally, I was so annoyed with the overbearing cut-scenes of Metal Gear Solid 4 that I was expecting to give this one a pass. When I finally did get around to playing it however, I was pleasantly surprised. The gameplay is more robust than it's ever been. The world is fun to traverse and it's a fun sandbox. All that said, it was disappointing to lose so much of the narrative. The previous game had too much story not enough game, while this one has too much game not enough story. It's strange. It's fun, no doubt. Just a little bittersweet.

8: Bloodborne

I hate Dark Souls. I absolutely detest it. I feel that it's challenge comes not from challenging game design, smart level design, or particularly well thought out encounters but by it's clunky controls and cheap deaths. It keeps players invested because it makes them angry with it. It encourages you to trudge on not because the gameplay is fun, but because conquering such a broken landscape yields a sense of accomplishment. It always struck me as unfinished. Bloodborne is the exact opposite. It's challenging, yeah, but it's not hard because it's cheap. It's hard because it's well thought out. The controls are also far superior here than in previous games in this "lineage." The look of the game is great too. Pick it up. It's Dark Souls if Dark Souls wasn't a master of Stockholm Syndrome.

7: Batman: Arkham Knight

I played this game on Xbox One, so I can't speak to this game's abhorrent launch on PC. As such I'm just going to go by my experience on console. Arkham Knight is a great game. The narrative is mostly stellar barring one extremely obvious and disappointing plot twist, the gameplay is robust and snappy, and the overall product is just incredibly solid. The use of the Joker was clever, the story beats from the comics were great, and they really nailed the Batman feel here. Batmobile was a fun addition, whenever it wasn't being forced on you, and the side missions while repetitive do offer immediate rewards upon completing them, making them more enjoyable than before. Again, the game is absolutely broken on PC, but I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the actual game behind the endless bugs.

6: Ori and the Blind Forest

Platformers are seemingly dead nowadays. Not many people are making them and even fewer are doing them well, so I was pleasantly surprised at just how well done Ori and the Blind Forest was. Controls are tight and responsive, the art is visually stunning, and the story is actually really enjoyable despite it's simplicity. There's not much I can say about Ori and the Blind Forest other than it's a very good platformer. There are literally no problems with it. Though I suppose I could have done with fewer frustrating sections. It's very good.

5: Destiny: The Taken King

Destiny: The Taken King is what Destiny should have been in 2014. There's actually a story, there are actually likable characters, and there are genuinely fun single player missions. I enjoyed my time with the story's narrative, something I couldn't even pretend to say about the vanilla release. The new weapons are fun and satisfying and the new supers are really interesting too. Here's the HUGE caveat. While the Taken King is actually a great improvement over Destiny's formula, it is still not fantastic. Right now there is a content drought and with few things to do, the game has grown stagnant. The reason this is number 5 and not 10 is because they are ultimately going in the right direction with it unlike Battlefront.. When I was interested in playing the Taken King, I loved it. When I wasn't? Well, I would have rather played Halo.

4: Rocket League

Rocket League is soccer with cars. It's stupendous fun. It truly is a classic game experience in a world saturated by film wannabes. This game would have been right at home on the PSOne and it's great fun. There's not much I can say, honestly. Soccer. Cars. Back flips. Turbo. What else do you need?

3: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider is better than it's already great predecessor in nearly every way imaginable. The story, while a bit derivative and "tropey" at times, is very fun and very entertaining. The gameplay is far more robust than it was before and the lack of a tacked on multiplayer actually serves to the strength of the very strong single player. While I still feel that sometimes it's a bit repetitive, when it breaks out of those few ruts, it's fantastic. Though I'll admit, I miss the old tough as nails Lara Croft. Hopefully she'll be here next time. 

2: Fallout 4

There just aren't many games that can immerse me as much as Bethesda games can. They're expansive, detailed, unpredictable. Everything that an open world RPG should be. Many have criticized it's streamlined RPG system but I never felt like it made the game any less fun or any less immersive. Bethesda games are my one chance every few years to feel like a kid again, and Fallout 4 allows that. The gun play is better than previous installments, the characters are fun and interesting, and the world is beautifully detailed. There are several bugs, but I personally have never experience any game breaking ones. Obviously this is just my opinion, but I really enjoyed my time with Fallout 4. I only wish I could play it for the first time again.

1: Halo 5: Guardians

I love Halo. I've loved Halo since I was a child. When Halo 4 came out in 2012, I didn't realize just how quickly the multiplayer would fall apart. The campaign level design was novice at best, the post launch support was abysmal. Needless to say, 343 didn't exactly make a great first impression. In 2014, the Master Chief Collection launched in the most broken state I've ever seen a game launch. Things were looking bad. Then BAM. Halo 5 comes out and it's actually good. Dare I say great.

The story is where opinions differ, some liked it some hated it. I personally really enjoyed it. The co-op focus allowed for better level design in the campaign and they knocked multiplayer out of the park. The controls are perfect, the gameplay is balanced, the weapons feel right, the game-modes are well constructed and highly customizable. Forge mode is essentially turning into it's own game engine, and 343 is constantly adding new content to the games sandbox for free. Adding classic weapons like the CE Magnum and Halo 2 Battle Rifle into the multiplayer suite and with several more updates on the horizon including the reworked Firefight mode completely for free. A complete single player. A robust multiplayer. A thriving custom games scene. And constant support after launch for free. This is Halo at it's finest. I still have my issues with it. The cliffhanger ending feels a bit cheap and the microtransactions while minimal are irritating just by their presence, (I also personally dislike 343's art style, btw) but ultimately, Halo 5 is a complete package. Lots to do, lots to create. Almost feels like what Destiny should be. Shame.