It’s the 31st of December, the last day of 2015 and what a year it has been for the video games industry. This year has seen some of the great franchises return with Halo, Assassin’s Creed, The Witcher, Fallout and Metal Gear Solid as well as a host of new I.P’s for players to sink their teeth into with the likes of Bloodborne, Until Dawn and Dying Light making their debuts. 2015 also saw the emergence of Backwards Compatibility for the Xbox One and Emulation for the PlayStation 4 as well as the future of video games with the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR a positive sign of things to come.
PressA2Join writers Will So, Paul Policarp, Paula Turner and Daniel Pitt take a look back at some of their personal highlights and of course lows from what has been a fascinating year for all video games platforms.
Will So: [Xbox] 2015 was a great year to be a gamer. We had plenty of fantastic games released throughout the year in various formats. There were some really solid HD collections for the current generation systems like Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition, Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, Castle Crashers: Remastered, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. While these games were released in the previous console generation, those who happened to miss out on these great games the first time, or just wanted an excuse to play them again with a higher visual quality and better frame rate had a chance to do that through these collections.
I had a lot of fun playing through these collections, especially Gears of War: Ultimate Edition because the original Gears of War happens to be one of my personal favourite games of all time, so it was great being able to replay Marcus’ story as the new recruit of Delta Squad again, as well as play through the multiplayer (that still holds up quite well by today’s standards) with friends again.
There were fun episodic games like TellTale’s Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones, and ones from other developers such as King’s Quest and Book of Unwritten Tales 2. Then there were a bevy of fun indie games such as Tembo The Badass Elephant, Beyond Eyes, and Penarium. If you were a fan of games with great narrative, or just gaming on a budget, there were lots to choose from this year. There were also plenty of games that were quite a disappointment. Funk of Titans was a bland side scrolling free runner that didn’t even have an interesting soundtrack despite being a game heavily around music in the plot and theme. Meanwhile Submerged was built around a simple concept but felt quite boring and repetitive after the first hour since it never changes or adds anything new after the first hour. Finally there is Rock Zombie, which was a mess technically speaking (full of annoying glitches and hit detection) and in terms of the graphics and gameplay. It’s one game that should be avoided at all costs unless you want to have a good laugh.
Of course, there were the big AAA titles of games just about everyone looked forward to like The Witcher III, Fallout 4, Halo 5: Guardians, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. These were the games that dominated the sales charts at the end of the year, and received quite a lot of critical acclaim as well. Needless to say whatever your gaming tastes are, there was likely a game for you.
Paul Policarp: [PC & PlayStation] Unlike the dreadfully bland and underwhelming 2014, 2015 was undoubtedly a largely positive year. While some underhanded industry shenanigans definitely tarnish an otherwise great year for gaming, I felt utterly spoiled in 2015.
That I have to struggle to cherry-pick the high points of the year is testament to its glory. We started off strong with Bloodborne, which I’m desperately trying to make more time for, because I know it’s going to consume every shred of my being. We also had CD Projekt RED. Not The Witcher 3, mind you, (I still haven’t found the time to properly play it, for similar reasons as Bloodborne) but CD Projekt and their consumer-oriented policies and overall attitude. In a world of draconic DRM, pre-order culture and DLC upon DLC, CD Projekt’s laid-back approach in marketing and selling The Witcher 3 and additional content was a breath of fresh air.
The year’s end brought us Fallout 4, which I found to be an enjoyable, if flawed, return to the Wasteland. It was a great year for indies as well. I had a lot of fun with Rampage Knights‘ co-op mode, I played an impressive isometric old-school adventure game (Stasis) and had some rootin’ tootin’ disturbing times in Hard West. We had Valve introduce Steam Refunds, a welcome, but somewhat tardy improvement to the Steam storefront, giving their consumers a bit more security in the face of an avalanche of subpar products.
And there are so many other great games that I haven’t even touched yet: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Pillars of Eternity, Undertale…this is what happens when you have a yearful of great releases. 2015 also marks the year I was given the opportunity, by PressA2Join, to write long-winded rambling articles about what you youngsters call “the video games”, so that’s a definite high-point.
Daniel Pitt: [Xbox, PC & PlayStation] 2015 has been an amazing year for the video games industry with all major platforms providing us with some unique and exciting experiences across a multitude of spectrum’s. The year kicked off with Techland’s Dying Light, which was an amazing experience, introducing parkour to the world of zombies while providing players with a 4 player co-op experience. Techland did a brilliant job with Dying Light and I feel that the end of the year awards didn’t reflect what a great game it was.
February and March saw a whole host of new I.P’s released including Bloodborne, EVOLVE and The Order 1886. Although I never got to experience Bloodborne as I would have liked, the game has been a revelation and definitely a huge coup for the PlayStation. EVOLVE allowed players to become the ‘Monster’ in an epic 4v1 player scenario and The Order 1886, another PlayStation exclusive came under heavy fire from critics across the globe. As well those great new I.P’s Microsoft Studios published Ori And The Blind Forest, which has to be the stand out arcade game of the year for so many different reasons including the amazing art concept as well as the story and soundtrack.
The start of the year really helped to set a trend for the industry and that trend continued strongly throughout the entire year with so many amazing games being developed. Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn is a prime example of that, a game where players were introduced to a full length player choice experience that not only set out to enthral but also terrorise poor players. I absolutely loved the concept for Until Dawn with players lives in your hands, knowing that one wrong move, one miss hit button could see that character suffer a horrendous death was a huge highlight for me personally, I enjoyed every second I experienced with the game.
As far as ‘Exclusives’ go, PlayStation had the pick of the bunch with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Bloodborne, Until Dawn, Journey, Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture, SOMA and The Order 1866 but that’s not to say that Microsoft didn’t have their fair share of moments in 2015 with Forza 6, Halo 5 Guardians and Rise Of The Tomb Raider, admittedly a timed exclusive in their repertoire. The year certainly had gamers talking about ‘Exclusives’ and that will no doubt continue long into 2016 with a ton of new I.P’s and the continuation of some fantastic franchises such as Gears Of War and Uncharted.
2015 saw some hugely iconic games return with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Star Wars Battlefront, Call Of Duty: Black Ops III, Battlefield Hardline, FIFA 16, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Just Cause 3, Batman Arkham Knight, Fallout 4 and Halo 5: Guardians to name just a few, gamers were certainly not without choice or variety.
As well as experiencing some of the bigger games 2015 I also had a lot of fun with some of the years great independent games. Finally getting to experience ARK: Survival Evolved, has been a lot of fun, though I spend most of my days getting randomly attacked and killed or losing my thatch home, it’s an amazing all round experience for both the PC and Xbox One, with PlayStation coming in 2016, it could well be the year of the dinosaur. Layers Of Fear was another highlight for me, wandering the Victorian style house of a deranged psychopath painter was an experience I will definitely remember. Being a huge fan of Horror games in general, I tend not to wander too far from what I love when it comes to PC gaming and I followed up Layers Of Fear with Stairs, The Park and Alone In The Dark Illumination.
2015 saw not only the Xbox One Game Preview Program introduced (Microsoft’s very own version of STEAM’s Early Access), it also saw the birth of Backwards Compatibility for the current gen consoles. Players are now able to download some of their favourite Xbox 360 titles through the years directly onto the Xbox One and enjoy them all over again. Of course every title is not available but the library of games is growing by the month with games such as the Gears Of War series and Just Cause 2 now available for download on the Xbox One for previous owners, Microsoft showed themselves to be holding a rather strong card.
Not to be outdone by Microsoft, SONY had their very own reveal in the form of Emulation, which is now seeing a host of PlayStation 2 classics arriving on the PlayStation 4 at a very reasonable price. This for me was the real jewel in the crown as it has allowed me the chance to revisit some of my favourite games down the years like Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto Vice City. Suffice to say, I am once more able to take on the role of Tommy Vercetti while cruising around the streets of Vice City listening to Emotion Radio and the beautiful voice of Fernando.
Paula Turner: [Xbox] For me, 2015 was the year of the RPG, games that built up so much hype, people who weren’t normally interested in RPG’s and had never played the previous titles wanted desperately to play them. Of course the big ones had their flaws as both Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contained an abundance of glitches, with Fallout 4 losing and corrupting your precious save data and flying enemies and NPC’s in The Witcher, although patches have been released in an attempt to fix the issues. Despite their problems, I wasn’t disappointed, especially with The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red really outdone themselves with their biggest game ever. Quests never felt boring, enemies were impressive to look at and to fight, my only problem was that my horse seemed a little insane, stopping randomly during races and generally running in a completely different direction than I wanted, which led to some infuriating moments.
A couple of RPG’s also slipped under the radar, being overshadowed by the big boys but still made for some amazing experiences with both Wasteland 2 Directors Cut and Divinity Original Sin getting complete makeovers and making the treacherous journey from PC to console and coming out completely unscathed. Both similar in nature, turn based strategic RPG’s that I didn’t think I’d enjoy but found myself pouring hours of my time into. Both took some time to figure out especially Divinity which may not appeal to the casual gamers out there, who don’t really want to spend their time working out where to go instead of following a helpful glowing trail to their next objective, the satisfaction and sense of achievement that came with progression was definitely a highlight for both these games and I loved dressing up in a gorilla costume and killing things. I hope more RPG’s head to the Xbox One, I’ll just need to find the time to play and explore them all.
Paul Policarp: The lows are more easily identifiable this time around. Electronic Arts shut down Maxis after having them churn out a terrible Sim City game, continuing their tradition of buying promising developers, breaking them upon the great AAA gallows and then discarding the husks. The PC Version of Arkham Knight happened, showing us the amount of contempt some publishers have towards the general public, effectively shipping broken games and then acting like they’re the good guys when offering refunds after the fact. Steam continues to be riddled with horrible games, barely worthy of the term and last, but definitely not least…just…Konami. …fucking Konami, man… At least I had the cathartic experience of watching them be booed at The Game Awards after denying their star game designer the privilege of accepting an award for a game that he made.
At least Hideo Kojima landed well on his feet, started his new studio and is prepared to show the bigwigs what’s what. 2016 is already shaping up to be an interesting year and I’m already looking forward to Firewatch, Dark Souls 3 and X-COM 2 during the first few months. Hopefully I’ll see you all back here when you read my highly important opinions on them. On that note, Paul P. signing out.
Daniel Pitt: I would have to agree with Paul’s views on the whole Hideo Kojima saga, KONAMI really let themselves down at the Game Of The Year Awards by refusing to allow Kojima the right to attend the ceremony. It’s great to see that he has moved on now and formed Kojima Productions, I’m also loving the new logo and eagerly waiting with anticipation to see what he develops for their first title, which of course will be a PlayStation Exclusive.
If I had to pick another low it would be the lack of single player campaign for Star Wars Battlefront. The game had some huge potential and boasts an exhilarating multiplayer experience, it deserved a full single player campaign to accompany it. I feel that DICE missed a trick by not venturing down that path but hopefully future DLC will make up for that.
It was extremely disappointing to see the failure by Rocksteady to successfully port Batman Arkham Knight across to the PC, with so many issues surrounding the game, I feel they let down the PC community by not delivering a true value for money experience. Hopefully that issue will be resolved in 2016 and the buyers compensated in some way.
Overall, 2015 has been an amazing year for video games across all platforms, those are highs and lows for 2015. Let us know yours in the comment section below.