Despite my reservations this time last year, 2015 has proven to be quite significant for the games industry. We’ve had sprawling role-playing epics in the forms of The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, adrenaline-fuelled action in Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Rise Of The Tomb Raider, and slitting throats to a backdrop of funky 80’s tunes in Metal Gear Solid V, and, well, Metal Gear Solid V.
Whatever your poison, 2015 has had you covered. If the blockbuster titles haven’t appealed to you, then the indie space is sure to have catered. Whether you’ve been looking for compelling narratives (Her Story), metroidvania style adventures (Ori And The Blind Forest and Axiom Verge), or rocket-powered battlecars (Rocket League), if you haven’t found anything new to play this year, you simply haven’t been looking hard enough. Nevertheless, here are my personal highlights for the year of 2015.
5. Mortal Kombat X
It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed Mortal Kombat; about 20 years to be exact. Back in the 90’s, Mortal Kombat 3 always seemed so exotic and full of mystery to my naive, child-like mind. Rumours hit the schoolyard of secret characters and fatalities where you could turn into animals, and many of them turned out to be true. The jump to 3D, however, was far from smooth for the series, and slicker fighting games such as Tekken grabbed my attention from the 32-bit era onwards.
I’m glad that I finally took a punt on Mortal Kombat again in 2015. After being impressed with 2013’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, and hearing only good things about 2011’s reboot of Mortal Kombat, I was eager to see the next fighting game from NetherRealm Studios. MKX certainly didn’t disappoint. The fighting mechanics are probably the best of any game in the series, and it remains entertaining, by providing fresh, random trials in the forms of Faction Challenges and Battle Towers that provide unique and often crazy new modifiers to the proceedings. It’s just a shame that the DLC plans are pretty egregious, and that the PC port was broken at launch. Regardless, as a console experience, it ranks highly on my list for the year.
Read our preview for Mortal Kombat X here.
4. Star Wars Battlefront
Many criticised Star Wars Battlefront for a lot of the elements that I really enjoyed. For example, some critics said that the core shooting lacked depth, with many weapons feeling too similar. Personally, I liked the casual approach.
As someone who hasn’t really enjoyed a competitive online first-person shooter since Quake III, the simplicity of Battlefront struck a chord with me. Games such as Call Of Duty have never hooked me due to the seemingly endless customisations, perk trees and upgrades. I always preferred twitch-based shooters where everyone had the same weapon set, making the playing field level for newbies and veterans alike. While Battlefront still had the upgrades and loadouts of its competitors, it seemed to take the grind out of online shooters somewhat, giving you a limited loadout that was easy to understand, without bogging you down with the nuance of competitive play.
The game is unlikely to hold the attention of anyone looking for a deep, engrossing shooter, but for someone who just wants to fire lasers in the Star Wars universe, Battlefront is a blast that achieves what it sets out to do.
Read our Battlefront review here.
3. The Talos Principle
A game which I feel changed me slightly in some capacity, and yet only comes in at number 3 is testament to how strong 2015 has been. The Talos Principle is a deep puzzle game with a strong narrative that encourages consideration outside of its puzzle rooms. In other words, the game inspires you to think outside of the box. It’s a game that challenges your intelligence in more ways than one and leaves you wondering philosophical matters about the nature of consciousness.
The Talos Principle is elegantly designed, from the beautiful decay of the Greco-Roman ruins you’re exploring, to the metaphysical plotline. This is a game that forces you to think on multiple levels, about your immediate goals and about your own existence. That may sound flouncy, but the game handles this very well, introducing humour to prevent the experience from becoming too dry.
While the game was released at the back end of 2014 for PC owners, it released on PS4 this year, giving me my first opportunity to play it. Bundled with the DLC Road To Gehenna, there really is no excuse not to try The Talos Principle.
Read our review for The Talos Principle here.
2. Rocket League
And now for something completely different. Rocket League is far simpler than the previous entry on the list, but God damn, it’s good! Rocket League takes the beautiful game of football and splices it with a monster truck rally. It sounds stupid, but that’s part of the charm.
The true beauty of Rocket League is how it rewards all levels of play. You accumulate points not only by scoring goals, but by defending well, clearing the ball, and making amazing saves. It is possible to achieve the highest score on the board while still losing a game 6-0, which gives a sense of personal accomplishment. Couple this with a simple matchmaking system and generally seamless online play, and you’re on to a winner.
Rocket League is a game that is very easy to pick up and have an absolute blast with, but it also has a layer that is difficult to master. Check out some high-level play to see some the crazy stuff that’s possible in this game.
Read my Rocket League review here.
1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear’s swansong was always going to be a talking point, but Metal Gear Solid V has created the type of open world that Ubisoft have been trying to make for years. Everything in this game works like clockwork, with every action having equal and opposite reaction. Guards are no longer the short-sighted drones on predictable routes of previous games, but react to your presence in an understandable manner. Luckily, you have a dazzling array of weapons, items, and techniques to dispatch them, most notably the fulton balloon, which adds a new base-building mechanic to the proceedings.
The story is really compelling, from those notable opening scenes in the hospital through to Skull Face’s revelation, the game does an exceptional job in telling a story through its environment, often using subtlety instead of Kojima’s usual obsession with 40 minute cutscenes.
While the narrative takes a big dive during chapter 2, the moment-to-moment action in MGSV is, quite simply, amazing. In terms of the gameplay, this is not only my favourite game of 2015, but my favourite game for several years. Quite simply, it sets a benchmark for action games that I doubt will be topped for a very long time. After putting nearly 80 hours in and still having around 30 side ops to complete, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Despite very strong competition, it slides easily into the top slot on my Game Of The Year list.
Why not check out our review for Metal Gear Solid V?
Check back this week for my Game of the Year coverage at Power Up Gaming.