Stuffed with Turkey and one too many mince pies, we at ‘The Action Pixel’ staved off a food coma by discussing our GOTY for 2015. After much too-ing and fro-ing, a bit of back and forth and another round (or two) of mince pies we came to a decision. It was a tough one because 2015 was JAM-PACKED with killer games on almost every device so without futher-a-do…lets take a look at some of them.
There were so many games in the nominee section for 2015 that, rather than make you read this article all the way till the end of 2016, we decided to limit ourselves to four nominees and one overall winner. The games that haven’t quite made the cut are still excellent titles that shouldn’t be missed and we’d be remiss not to mention them below.
Dying Light – PS4, X1, PS3, X360
One of the best open world playgrounds of the year and that’s saying a lot when this was the year of ‘Fallout 4’ and ‘The Witcher 3’. Combining this world with a surprisingly deep and engaging narrative and zombies by the bucket-load proved a winning formula. We absolutely can’t wait for what developer Techland does next and with a few tweeks we very much expect one of their future games to be right up there with the best of the year.
80 Days – Mobile
I only started playing 80 days a week ago since someone yelled at me for leaving it off my first draft of this list…and I’ve barely stopped playing it since. A text based adventure game based on the famous Jules Verne novel it combines light puzzle solving with RPG elements in a digitised ‘choose your own adventure’. Light-Hearted, fun, addictive and only £3…what more could you want from a mobile game?
Rise of the Tomb Raider – X1, X360 and PC
The return of Lara Croft continues in leaps and bounds with this impressive followup to the Tomb Raider reboot. In a year where Uncharted was sadly delayed this title led the way in character driven narrative adventures. Such a shame the quality of the game didn’t translate into sales – here’s hoping a PS4 release next year can fix that.
Her Story – PC, MAC, IOS
A crime fiction story that’s unlike any game you’ve played before, you must piece together a woman’s story through police interview records from the seat of a dusty old desktop. For innovation alone this game should be on this list and it doesn’t hurt that it’s moving and incredibly engaging.
Ori and The Blind Forest – X1, X360
A beautifully realised 2D platformer that really tugs at the heart-strings, Ori and The Blind Forest is a damn good reason to own an Xbox 1 all by itself. Stunning, emotionally charged and heart rending and that’s just the first ten minutes, this was a little gem of a game in 2015.
Super Mario Maker – Wii U
Lets be honest, even to this day the Super Mario games boast some of the greatest gameplay mechanics ever committed to our happy medium. It’s so well balanced that even 30 years after the release of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ its hard to think of a game series that does platforming better. So naturally, when you open up the toolbox and let the legion of Nintendo fans create their own Mario levels, the results are going to be impressive. Create and share your own levels or simply search for and play what other have made, ‘Super Mario Maker’ proves just how creative gamers can be.
and now….On To the Game of The Year Nominees
5. Bloodborne – PS4
One of the best games of the year and also one of the most annoying, ‘Bloodborne’ was absolutely pitiless in its difficulty level but that was very much part of its charm. There was no easy way to get into this 3rd person gothic action adventure and it must have left many an initiate too frustrated to give it a real shot; but’ if you just kept plugging away, if you really tried to figure out what the game was asking you to do, you were rewarded with one of the richest experiences of the year. Set in the macabre town of Yharnam during the night of ‘The Hunt’ you were asked to traverse the decrepit environment looking for the mysterious Paleblood. As is typical for a From Software game, the enemies you met along the way, from crazed townspeople to vicious, nightmare monsters, were terrifying and difficult to overcome. But, unlike the developer’s ‘Souls’ series the action here was a touch quicker and much more fluid so that rather than having to think out every encounter with a lot of trial and error thrown in, you could improvise a little more and use your instincts. Sure, you would see the ‘YOU DIED’ screen an awful lot but the whole affair seemed much more instantaneous. This was a game of ‘just one more go’ every time you played. If you couldn’t reach a checkpoint you would hammer away at the same group of enemies time and time again till you reached that magical glowing lantern that took you to your ‘safe’ area. If you couldn’t beat a boss you would take it on over and over until you saw the most satisfying words in gaming: ‘PREY SLAUGHTERED’. Once it got it hooks in you, ‘Bloodborne’ never, ever let go.
4. Fallout 4 – Multiplatform
Arguably the biggest release of the year and certainly one of the best, Bethesda delivered yet another cracking game in a stunning open world. There’s so much to love about this game it’s hard to know where to begin: The promise of an open world game is in emergent game-play, namely you don’t have to follow the beats of the story if you don’t want to, you can just grab your trusty Pip-Boy and go and explore to your hearts content. If open world is done right, fun things will happen to you no matter where you end up. Fallout 4, more than any game since, well, ‘Fallout 3’ makes that process work. Judging from social media reports, gamers were spending dozens of hours in the game just messing around before moving on to even the second mission in the main campaign. Not to say the campaign wasn’t worth it, far from it (infact this is one of the most engaging stories Bethesda has ever burned onto a disc), it’s just that the world itself was an absolute laugh riot. There were so many systems present in ‘Fallout 4’ that it could be a little overwhelming but gamers soon realised it was a like a beautifully crafted buffet and they could pick and choose which parts of the experience they wanted to focus on. You could breeze through the story if you wanted or spend a few days making your home base an impregnable fortress, the world was your oyster. ‘Fallout 4’ will certainly be at the top of a lot of people’s lists and we can’t blame them, it’s a truly wonderful game.
3. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Multiplatform
Take careful note other game publishers, 2015 was the year CD Projekt Red showed the world how to do it right. Not only did they create the other great open world game of the year, but their communication with the public was second to none turning their legion of fans into an army. A good old fashioned high fantasy RPG, ‘The Witcher III’ felt streamlined for the console audience without losing any depth whatsoever. Usually if I want to play a game of this nature I would expect to have to navigate three menu screens to deliver one hit on an enemy but not with ‘The Witcher III’, CD Projekt Red knew it’s target audience too well for that. The world is huge and improbably gorgeous, the combat is solid utilising the tried and tested ‘Arkham Asylum’ style of fighting that works so well with a controller, and the RPG elements are all as well realised as you’d expect; but it’s the story that really draws the gamer in. Not only is every mission in the main campaign thoroughly engaging, but all the side quests contribute something towards the characters journey or are interesting little stories in themselves. This leads you to feel invested in Geralt’s world in a way that other RPGs couldn’t quite match this year. Ofcourse we can’t finish this write up without a mention of Gwent, a little card game tacked onto ‘The Witcher III’ which has absolutely taken off into a beast of its own. I have friends who have spent entire game sessions lasting hours just playing Gwent. I swear CD Projekt Red could put that side-game onto the app store, stick 99p on it and make a fortune, but knowing them they’d probably just give it away for free. Roll on Witcher 4.
2. Rocket League – Multiplatform
Forget the 100+ hour Witchers of the world, or the 200+ hour Fallouts, we at The Action Pixel spent most of our time this year on the 5 min football matches that this little gem delivered proving that you don’t need a AAA budget to make an engrossing game. Developer Psyonix could have tried to expand this game, they could have added racing levels, or combat elements, or littered the arenas with power boosting pickups ala ‘Mario Kart’ but they didn’t need all that. Just 5 minute football matches in rocket powered cars is all that was required to give us one of the best games of the year. The simplicity is deceptive however as the physics engine of ‘Rocket League’ is impressive to say the least. The cars manoeuvre fluidly and the ball bounces around the arena in a surprisingly challenging manner. The number of times I’ve lined up the absolute perfect shot on goal only to mistime my jump by a hair, or for an opponent to get there a split second before me are too numerous to count, but rather than be frustrating this is just part of the ebb and flow of the beautiful game. ‘Rocket League’ has already done gangbusters sales wise and it hasn’t even been released on Xbox yet. By the time all’s said and done Psyonix will be swimming in funds and I can’t wait to see what they do with it all.
And ‘The Action Pixel’s’ 2015 Game Of The Year is…
1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Multiplatform
Forget all the drama surrounding the release, forget the expectation of this being Hideo Kojima’s latest, greatest game, forget even the legacy of Metal Gears past, cause in the end none of that mattered. It was the moment to moment gameplay, the sheer delight of picking up the controller and taking part that has given ‘The Phantom Pain’ this year’s crown. ‘Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’ will undoubtedly be the final chapter in Kojima’s shepherding of the series and the legendary developer has certainly gone out with a bang. As you select a mission, choose your equipment and drop into enemy territory you get a thrill that nothing has managed to recreate in a long while. The rush of adrenaline as you sneak towards your objective sends chills down your spine as you know you could get caught at any moment. But ofcourse, getting caught isn’t game over cause you just slip to full action mode and blast your way to success. The rest of the game is just window dressing compared to the amount of fun this gameplay delivers. That’s not to say that everything else is bad, in-fact the entire game has a very high standard of quality that you’d expect from a Hideo Kojima title. Many bemoaned the lack of a story but that assertion left ‘The Action Pixel’ confused, the story is in the game though it’s understated and told through tidbits of information rather than dragging cutscenes like Metal Gear games of the past. The new elements such as base building and resource collecting build on what was present in ‘Metal Gear: Peace Walker’, and gives the player a satisfying distraction from the game proper, something to fiddle with between missions. But all of this again is just a superstructure built on the foundation of excellent gameplay mechanics. Something that you can repeat over and over again or leave for a while and jump back into and it’ll still be as engrossing as ever. We’re sad to think that there won’t be another Kojima MGS, but if there isn’t…this was truly the magnum opus.