So, that was 2015. I've reviewed a tonne of games this year and there's plenty to choose from when asked to pick out some favourites. So here are some of the best, the worst and the most memorable moments and games from 2015. There's also a look ahead to 2016's games.
Best new IP - Until Dawn
Man this was a busy category. But ultimately I had to be strict. Bloodborne is a bit too close to Dark Souls to be genuinely considered as a fully new IP. Rocket League is a sequel to the disastrously named Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. If Nintendo hadn't shot themselves in the foot by announcing the NX and killing my desire to buy a Wii U and enjoy some colourful rumblings with Splatoon, I might have gone that way. Lego Dimensions blew it by locking most of its £90 game behind multiple paywalls. Life is Strange was a genuine contender, but that ridiculous release schedule ruined the pacing and the hipster vibe made me want to tear off my own face a little bit too much for comfort.
Anyways, enough apologising, Until Dawn is a worthy winner. It should have been awful, especially after such a prolonged development, but the teen horror version of Heavy Rain was bags of fun. The interactive nature gave the player unprecedented control over the lives of the cast, meaning you could often kill off any characters that got on your nerves. The story could have been pants, but it finely balanced a mix of slasher movie scares with a supernatural twist that gelled together far better than expected. So much more than Hayden Panettiere in a towel. But that too. Until Dawn Review - A night to remember.
Best value - Witcher III
Ok, I've made an award just for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Batman might be my game of the year, but I've logged considerably more hours into CD Projekt Red's adventure. Here's a developer that genuinely cares about their side-quests. I kept losing track of the main story's events because I'd spend entire weekends doing side-quests either for generous equipment rewards, or maybe tracking down one of the many contracts. More often than not though it was because of the excellent writing, with many side-quests having stories that put genre rivals to shame.
There was plenty of free DLC to shout about too. There are so many missions in the game, I've not felt even slightly pressured into buying the paid DLC content, but at some point next year, I probably will buy it, because I know it'll be money well spent.
The Witcher III has grown on me even more since I reviewing the game, but there's no denying it has a few rough edges that should have been sorted before release. Thankfully, the game has seen regular patches in the months following release and runs much smoother nowadays. I'm still a bit pissed that the XP rewards for some missions are nerfed once you reach a certain level. Sure you find some a bit easy once you get beefed up, but the time spent on a quest should still be rewarded with a decent stack of XP. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt Review | An unpolished classic?
Most surprising - Bloodborne
I only ended up reviewing Bloodborne because I was the only member of staff with a PS4 at the time. Considering I would have rather covered a week of Prometheus' shifts than play the likes of Demon's Souls/Dark Souls, I wasn't expecting to get along with From Software's PS4 exclusive.
But the faster combat and vengeful regain system strengthened my resolve for one of this gen's sternest challenges. Yharnam is a design masterpiece too. With no map to hand, I had to rely on visual landmarks and a genuine sense of direction to work out where to go. And how good is that feeling of finding a new lantern or a time-saving shortcut? I've still got a lot to do in the game, but I'm glad I got the chance to try something genuinely different this year. Bloodborne Review - Hunt. Die. Learn. Grow.
Game of the Year - Batman: Arkham Asylum
The Witcher III ran this one mighty close, but Rocksteady's grand finale to the Arkhamverse left the biggest impression on me. The game even survives some questionable tank battles with the Batmobile thanks to finally letting me glide around a proper version of Gotham City.
Naturally, the gadgets and melee combat were honed to perfection, but it's the story elements that really stood out for me this time. Not so much the revelation of who the Arkham Knight was, but Batman's final journey through Rocksteady's world. The plot was packed with surprises and the writers weren't afraid to kill off important characters. It'd be cruel to say more for those of you yet to make your way through the game really.
Visually, Batman: Arkham Knight was a showstopper too. Firing on some seriously next-gen cylinders, the detail was excellent and a scene towards the end that sees snow-like debris drifting through the Gotham skies in a neon-lit central square was one of the year's biggest scenic highlights. Batman: Arkham Knight Review | A Knight to Remember.
Most disappointing game - Mad Max
Our team became smaller than ever before this year, which made reviewing RPGs and open world action titles an unbelievable ballache. Nothing quite tore at my soul as much as my extended time with Mad Max. Arguably the dullest open-world title I've ever played, where every mechanic was needlessly drawn out. By the time the car was levelled up to do all the cool shit from the trailers, the game was finished.
The monotony of exploring the desert for salvage and then getting out of your car to endure the poorly imitated Arkham combat barely evolved from start to finish. What's worse, it all looked like a last-gen game, the story was non-existent (Max is a grumpy twat, obsessed with his car) and it all just felt like the gaming equivalent of crawling under a rock in the desert and waiting for it to end. Mad Max Review - Bleeding out on the Blacktop.
Biggest facepalm moment of 2015 - Kojima and Konami
Worthy mention: Tony Hawk's 5, Nintendo announcing NX and killing the Wii U for Xmas, The Order: 1886.
Boy was I sick of hearing about this shit. Metal Gear Solid V has spent the year in the shadow of the public (but also very private) fallout between Hideo Kojima and Konami. We've not heard any official reasoning, but the rumours and reports have frankly made Konami look like grade-A assholes.
It's not hard to imagine that Kojima may have gone way over budget or may have some diva-like tendencies, but the lack of professionalism/respect shown by Konami has been seriously embarrassing. Everything from the removal of Kojima's name from the branding, the cancellation of P.T./Silent Hills to the holiday/sacking furore. Just a horrible mess and a sad detraction from Kojima's final Metal Gear Solid.
Most mind blowing presentation - Sony at E3
I genuinely thought Sony would struggle at this year's E3 with such a thin lineup of Xmas exclusives. They were clearly looking at the big picture though and in what felt like a caffeine-fuelled hallucination, they went ahead and unveiled The Last Guardian (again), Shenmue 3, Horizon: Zero Dawn and a Final Fantasy VII Remake. Conversely, Microsoft seemed a bit too pleased with themselves for announcing backwards-compatibility.
Most anticipated for 2016 - Mirror's Edge: Catalyst
Honourable mentions: Uncharted 4, Street Fighter V, Doom, Unravel.
I'm still surprised EA and DICE are making a second entry in the series, but I'm so glad they are. The original Mirror's Edge gave the first person genre a vital injection of creativity. For too long movement in shooters had felt the same.
In recent years, the game went on to influence the likes of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare/Black Ops III, Brink and Titanfall. It'll be great to see what new tricks Faith has learned and it's also a relief to hear the guns are being ditched completely. Usually the introduction of an open-world has me getting annoyed, but climbing around a city with Faith's free-running skills could be something special.
Announcement hope for 2016 - Titanfall 2
I picked up an Xbox One in time to review Forza 6 this year and promptly snapped up a copy of Titanfall. Honestly, that shooter is the best multiplayer experience I've had all year. Thankfully, there's still a decent amount of people playing online and for some reason, even as a newbie, I don't suck at it.
It's high time that EA announced a multi-platform sequel though. Fingers crossed they keep the mix of AI and human opponents as it gives the game a unique even playing field feel where everyone can have fun. Let's have a proper campaign mode this time though yeah?
2015 game I'm most looking forward to playing next year - Fallout 4
You can't play them all, especially if you've got to review half of them. So I've spent the last few months trying to avoid hearing too much about the mighty Fallout 4. I'm going to be all over it next year though and will be enjoying a smoother launch thanks to post-release patches.
Genre picks for 2015
- Action: Batman: Arkham Knight (a big shout to Rise of the Tomb Raider though)
- FPS: Call of Duty: Black Ops III
- Multiplayer: Rocket League
- Racer: Forza 6
- RPG: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
- Platformer: Tearaway Unfolded
- Fighter: Mortal Kombat X
- Horror: Until Dawn
- Best indie: Submerged
- Best remaster: Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
Don't forget to let us know your picks for the best and worst games of the year too in the comments section below,