Top-10 Games of 2015: Final Edition

Reflecting on the year that was 2015 in gaming, here is my finalized top-10 list, updating my post from September. As mentioned previously, the only games that were considered for this top-10 list were those that I have played myself.

10. Star Wars: Battlefront
DICE and EA revived the popular franchise with the series’ first release in two console generations. The game has great elements such as its sound design and inclusion of favorite heroes and villains from the classic films, however it ranks last of this list due to its shallow gameplay. That gameplay is a strength and a weakness, however, depending upon how you choose to look at it. Clearly a decision was made to make this title approachable and arcade-like for mass appeal, something that seems to have paid dividends, based on sales reports.

9Halo 5: Guardians
343 Studios brought back Halo multiplayer, plain and simple. Halo 5 has what is widely regarded as at worst, the series’ best multiplayer since Halo 2, back in 2004. The campaign mode tried some team elements that were hit or miss; with Spartan Locke being a forgettable second lead playable character who I would hope to see less of in Halo 6. The new War Zone mode is also a notable addition to the multiplayer suite that warrants some playtime.

8Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Treyarch’s third carnation of their series-leading Black Ops title was another hit. This game is certainly worth the price of admission with a stellar campaign, multiplayer and the return of the fan-favorite zombies mode. An interesting and somewhat random addition was Free Run mode, which takes advantage of some of the new boost jump and wall run techniques, featured in this game to serve as a challenging tutorial-like experience. One downside to this year’s COD was the fact that it shipped with only one zombie map in the standard edition.

7Rocket League
One of the most fun multiplayer games you will ever play. I have a background in sports, but for those who don’t this game will provide a entertaining introduction to them for you. It is hard to believe this game was provided free with a Playstation Plus subscription, when I would have been happy to pay for it. Here is hoping that they continue to support and add on to this game in the future. One of the upper-hands this game has on traditional sports games is their fan bases get more and more fragmented across each year’s release, while Rocket League fans at least for the near future will just have this one game to dedicate time into. This should keep servers busy and online matches easy to find for years to come.

6Batman: Arkham Knight
Rocksteady’s apparent finale to theirArkahm series was easily my most-anticipated game of 2015. Its story and combat did not disappoint those who have been along for the ride since 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. However, their controversial use of the batmobile prevents this game from reaching the high point to which it could have ascended. While the batmobile can be very fun to cruise through Gotham City in, the game’s requirement for you to utilize it time and time again to complete the main story can be frustrating.

5Life is Strange
Though the game has not yet concluded with Episode 5, the first four episodes of Dontnod’sLife is Strange have hit home with me. The games brings the nostalgia of being back in high school while also touching on very unfamiliar territory through mechanics I have never seen in games before. Some may criticize the dialogue and voice acting choices made, but those who enjoy the game may come to accept it as part of its charm. Based on the placement I have given it here, you can probably guess which side of the issue I fall on.

4Until Dawn
Supermassive Games has something so different and fun here that I could not put it any lower on this list. As someone who has been intrigued by horror movies most of my life, the 80’s horror movie feel this brings with it gave me a chance to be a part of a genre I have enjoyed for so long. Borrowing elements from Quantic Dream games such asHeavy Rain fits this game incredibly well and has me looking forward to a second unique playthrough in the future. I will keep my fingers crossed that this universe is revisited sooner than later by Supermassive.

3.Rise of the Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics had something special with their 2013 reboot ofTomb Raider. However, they hit a new high with Lara Croft’s return in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The game held onto much of the gameplay and features of its predecessor while bringing a new, more interesting, setting to the table and some added pieces of content to give many reasons to return to the world and the hubs within. The game also has the series’ first season pass with more story content coming down the road.

2Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Though this incarnation of Metal Gear Solid may be unrecognizable to those who have not played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the minute-to-minute gameplay in MGSV is as addictive as any console game in memory. As someone who has not played many RPGs, dumping 70+ hours (so far) into a single-player experience is something new to me. It is hard not to appreciate the kind of monetary value that brings with it compared to some other $60 experiences that may only give you 10 or less hours of playtime. The Xbox One digital version I played was not without some slowdown issues and glitches, but it was never enough to knock it from the number one spot on this list.

1Fallout 4
Full disclosure, this is the first proper-RPG that I have ever completed. I had playedFallout 3 previouslyhowever the gunplay in Fallout 4 is so superior to that of 3, or Fallout: New Vegas, that every aspect of this game simply clicked. There is some bias to my feelings on this game, being born in Massachusetts, however it seems like there is quite a bit of happiness coming from many others visiting the Commonwealth’s wasteland. This game will be pointed at for some quirkiness and bugs that can come with Bethesda Game Studios’ titles, however I had no issues whatsoever in my nearly 130 hour playthrough. The season pass will see a price hike due to BGS creating more DLC than previously planned. Count me as excited to hear that and now knowing I will not be putting this game away anytime soon in 2016.

The Dion Lewis Dilemma

Fourth-year running back Dion Lewis has been a standout through two games for the 2-0 New England Patriots. With 258 yards from scrimmage after he is off to one of the hottest starts in team history for a running back. Unfortunately what should be great excitement from the fanbase about his performance has been marred by a fumble in each of the team’s games thus far. In recent seasons we have Stevan Ridley quickly sent to the bench after fumbles to bring in the trusted Benjarvus Green-Ellis.

Fortunately for Lewis, Bill Belichick has shown the confidence to stick with him following each loose ball, despite the inclusion of two other third-down type backs for a total of three on the roster for the first time in recent memory. The fact that Belichick has not given an opportunity to Travaris Cadet or James White in those situations is a testament of the team’s confidence in Lewis’s abilities even without a track record of success in the NFL after a standout collegiate career as a workhorse back for Pitt.

Lewis has as good an opportunity being handed to him and he is likely ever going to get in the National Football League and needs to find away to improve his ball security in a hurry to make sure it is not squandered. Talent and output on the field can only allow the team to overlook losing the football so many times before the team will be willing to put a less explosive back on the field and accept lesser gains. Lewis needs to do whatever else it may take to master ball security in a hurry or else he could become just a small footnote in the 2015 New England Patriots’ campaign.

Best Games of 2015… So Far

2015 is already banging on the doorstep of the holiday season, which means in the coming weeks and months outlets will begin discussing their Game of the Year nominees and awards. That being the case I thought it would be a good time to examine my personal top games of the year. The only games that will be considered for this top-10 list will be those that I have played myself, which means some critically-acclaimed games such as The Witcher 3 will be absent from the list.

There are of course games still coming this year that could break into this list (Fallout 4, Star Wars: Battlefront, Halo 5: Guardians and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 to name a few) so an update will be posted when the year is finally complete.

10. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
The Chinese Room has created an artistic tale of the end of days here utilizing a passive mode of story-telling story that encourages exploration and will bring different experiences to all who complete it. Some reviewers seemed to become very invested in the characters’ stories that are encountered here, which unfortunately was not the case with me. That being said, this game is still good for an interesting experience over the course of a few hours.

9. #IDARB
This indie sports game has a very interesting Twitter origin you should read about. #IDARB would have ranked even higher on this list had I never played the number 5 game on this list. It is a very fun, very clever, game that you will enjoy as a party game or online with friends. Its single player games vs. the CPU are the one area that did not resonate with me. In that way this game definitely invokes feelings similar to Super Smash Bros.

8. Resident Evil: Revelations 2
After greatly enjoying the console port of Resident Evil: Revelations in 2013, I was very excited for the follow-up. The setting, character design and story did not peak my interest as much as its predecessor’s though, unfortunately. The gameplay is still there which earns this game its spot on the list. The inclusion of fan-favorite Barry Burton does not hurt its cause at the end of the day either.

7. Mortal Kombat X
The first Mortal Kombat to make its way to the next generation was a good one. What surprised me was the enjoyment I had with its single-player campaign. It told an interesting and new story that tied-in well with previous games while introducing some fresh characters. There are a few characters absent from the game and some others behind a paywall which is an area I hope games start to work away from, though I will not hold my breath for that.

6. The Order: 1886
One of the best looking games I have seen on a console. The alternate history version of London used in this game is very pretty and interesting. The game has some Uncharted-esque shootouts you run into in-between bits where the game feels like it wants you to just enjoy the scenery and dialogue. A sequel seems inevitable and it will be interesting to see if Ready at Dawn can focus a bit more on the gameplay now that they have established this world.

5. Rocket League
One of the most fun multiplayer games you will ever play. I have a background in sports, but for those who don’t this game will provide a entertaining introduction to them for you. It is hard to believe this game was provided free with a Playstation Plus subscription, when I would have been happy to pay for it. Here is hoping that they continue to support and add on to this game in the future. One of the upper-hands this game has on traditional sports games is their fanbases get more and more fragmented across each year’s release, while Rocket League fans at least for the near future will just have this one game to dedicate time into. This should keep servers busy and online matches easy to find for years to come.

4. Batman: Arkham Knight
Rocksteady’s apparent finale to their Arkahm series was easily my most-anticipated game of 2015. Its story and combat did not disappoint those who have been along for the ride since 2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. However, their controversial use of the batmobile prevents this game from reaching the high point to which it could have ascended. While the batmobile can be very fun to cruise through Gotham City in, the game’s requirement for you to utilize it time and time again to complete the main story can be frustrating.

3. Life is Strange
Though the game has not yet concluded with Episode 5, the first four episodes of Dontnod’s Life is Strange have hit home with me. The games brings the nostalgia of being back in high school while also touching on very unfamiliar territory through mechanics I have never seen in games before. Some may criticize the dialogue and voice acting choices made, but those who enjoy the game may come to accept it as part of its charm. Based on the placement I have given it here, you can probably guess which side of the issue I fall on.

2. Until Dawn
Supermassive Games has something so different and fun here that I could not put it any lower on this list. As someone who has been intrigued by horror movies most of my life, the 80’s horror movie feel this brings with it gave me a chance to be a part of a genre I have enjoyed for so long. Borrowing elements from Quantic Dream games such as Heavy Rain fits this game incredibly well and has me looking forward to a second unique playthrough in the future. I will keep my fingers crossed that this universe is revisited sooner than later by Supermassive.

1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Though this incarnation of Metal Gear Solid may be unrecognizable to those who have not played Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the minute-to-minute gameplay in MGSV is as addictive as any console game in memory. As someone who has not played many RPGs, dumping 70+ hours (so far) into a single-player experience is something new to me. It is hard not to appreciate the kind of monetary value that brings with it compared to some other $60 experiences that may only give you 10 or less hours of playtime. The Xbox One digital version I played was not without some slowdown issues and glitches, but it was never enough to knock it from the number one spot on this list. This game is now in contention for my personal favorite game alongside title’s like Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us and Portal 2.

Cloud Atlas Disappoints

Cloud Atlas has received mostly positive reviews and while it provides some entertainment value, it is a failure in a number of areas. The film tells a number of stories over different periods of time, that are supposed to in the end come together to form a cohesive set of events. Even after its nearly three hours, you are still left with more questions than answers and the story never bonds as one would hope.

Some of the best scenes of the CA stray far away from its serious, epic storyline. Particularly the escapades of Timothy Cavendish, played by Jim Broadbent, provide some much needed lighthearted moments in a movie that is otherwise trying to be much too ambitious for its own good. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski, the minds behind The Matrix, failed to put anything to screen here that can hold a candle to their sci-fi trilogy.

There are some great individual performances in the movie and there are certainly memorable moments, however in the end you are still feeling like you are waiting on the punchline of a joke that is sadly never coming. The original novel by David Mitchell may provide more insight, but unfortunately you are left not caring enough about the characters that you want to know more of them.

Resident Evil Movies Getting Further Off Rails

MILD SPOILERS BELOW:

Sony’s Resident Evil film franchise is getting further and further away from the game series that it is supposed to be based upon. The creators of these films have decided to arbitrarily throw in characters and ideas from the game series without explaining who and what they are.

In this fifth film, titled Retribution, Paul W.S. Anderson, who has written all five films and now directed three, proved once again he knows very little of the game series. He seems like he must grab a character list and synopsis of each game and just grabs pieces from them without even having a true understanding of them. Anderson has seemingly never played the games, and if he has, he is truly failing to bring the tone and spirit of them to the big screen.

In Retribution, former Raccoon City police officers Barry Burton and Leon S. Kennedy, originally from Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, respectively, have been thrown in without giving the audience even a clue of who they are or that they have a history with other characters present, such as Jill Valentine.

I have been scratching my head since the original film in 2002 as to why they have chosen to base the series around Alice, portrayed by Milla Jovovich, a character who was never in any of the games to begin with. Her character, along with overly stylized martial arts sequences and plenty of other cheesy moments, can make these films difficult to watch at times. I was one false step away from leaving the theatre halfway through Retribution.

With a sixth film completely evident going by the ending of this one, it seems I may have to endure one more of these films.