Let me start by clarifying that due to the limits of…well, reality, I don’t get to play every game that comes out in a given year or on all platforms. I play a limited number of games strictly on Xbox One based on whatever I can rent and very rarely buy.
That said when I do a year in review or award the top game in a given category it is based entirely on what I personally experienced this year.
So let’s get this started and get the negative “awards” out of the way first.
Most Disappointing Game
Simply put this is the game that I had the highest of hopes for but felt absolutely let down in its execution.
Undeniably the game that disappointed me most was Elder Scrolls Online.
It was one of the two games I picked up upon getting my hands on a Xbox and given my love for Skyrim and the desire to play a Bethesda RPG with other people I was extremely excited to have my hands on the game. Playing it quickly killed that excitement as all told I probably only played about a dozen hours of the game before trading it in several months later.
Simply put the game was just not fun, stripping most of what I loved about Skyrim or even Oblivion out of the game and making more MMO than Elder Scrolls. I still believe a multiplayer Bethesda RPG could work but it needs to be more of a Dying Light/Dead Island/Borderlands style of set up.
Runner up for most disappointing game is Transformers: Devastation. I immediately was drawn to this game by the art design. Seeing my favorite iteration of the characters in fully animated 3D looked awesome but the Bayonetta/Devil May Cry style game play immediately killed my enjoyment. Add to that the incredibly short-sighted and old fashioned way the game was designed to not let you record it properly on the DVR and I quickly returned the game to the Redbox (and later Gamefly) where I rented it.
Most Disappointing Ending
This game is one that was fun but dropped the ball at the end.
The winner of this category is undeniably Dying Light.
I had a blast playing Dying Light back in the summer. I spent a lot of time in the game, exploring the post-zombie-apocalypse quarantined city. But when it came time to wrap up the game it fell flat on its face.
The game was built around co-op yet when you reached the end-run of the game you were forced into a single player area. On top of this questionable decision, reaching the end was extremely difficult and required exact precision as you ran from zombies and climbed a construction site, the slightest error in timing led to immediate death. Once you made it through the horrendously difficult sequence you were treated to a final boss fight that was an extended quick time event. In 2015, a final boss, QTE.
I think that says it all.
Honorable mention goes to Mad Max as I really, really enjoyed the game in spite of its flaws and loved the story ending only to have it undone when being dumped back into the game post ending. Characters who died during the lead up to the end were magically back in the game immediately after the credits.
My favorite in game music this year was Fallout 4. I loved exploring the wasteland listening to classical music and the usual mix of old time music that perfectly fits the vibe of the game.
Honorable mention goes to Metal Gear Solid V as there is something undeniably amusing about the 80s rock and pop that populates the game. Seeing your helicopter fly in to a combat zone opening up on enemies with a minigun while “She Blinded Me With Science” blasts out of its speakers is remarkably amusing and sort of charming in its own way.
Best Co-Op Experience
Hands down Dying Light provided the best co-op experience of the year. Killing zombies, while admittedly cliche at this point, has always been fun. Dying Light took the best parts of Dead Island and made them better. Running through the quarantined city with a couple of friends kicking zombie ass made for dozens of hours of entertainment for me this year.
Best Game to Fall Just Short of Its Potential
Despite some repetitive game play, Mad Max was a game that I enjoyed the hell out of but couldn’t help but feel like it was just missing its full potential. I spent about 30 hours with the game and while I enjoyed myself I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that there were things that didn’t make it in, possibly due to time constraints, that should have. The world feels unintentionally empty, even for a post-apocalyptic world. The game was beautiful, especially during the sandstorms or at sunset/sunrise and I personally loved the car combat but something was definitely missing.
If you’re interested you can watch my play-through below:
This was a tough one as several of the games I played this year offered amazing moments and experiences but after spending the last week thinking about my single favorite sequence came from a game that I largely didn’t care for.
The game was Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and the sequence was the ultra bizarre WW2 Inception-esque sequence.
Instead of trying to explain the weird moment you found yourself back in WW2 with explosions “un-exploding” and soldiers coming back to life to fight you I’ll just show you a video of it all.
Honorable mention goes to the USS Constitution quest in Fallout 4. In my opinion it best encapsulates the absurd humor of the Fallout games. The quest requires you to help a crew of robots (that speak with “nautical” accents and slang and including a giant Sentrybot with a captain’s hat on its head) manning the rocket boosted USS Constitution get their ship unstuck from a savings and loan building. The quest had me smiling from start to comical finish.
Best Open World Experience
No argument here, Fallout 4 provided the best open world experience for me. I loved every moment of exploration and discovery within the ruined world of Fallout and can’t wait to do it all again.
Honorable mention goes to Metal Gear Solid 5. Honestly at times I feel that the massive world with all its empty expanses is a detriment to the game but once you get where the action is the game is frustratingly fun. Nothing comes easy, not even leveling up but it is still very worth the time it asks of you once you get into it.
Best Game for Short Intervals of Play
Star Wars: Battlefront definitely was my favorite game to play in short intervals. During the time I had the game I found it incredibly well suit to fire up, play 30 minutes to an hour and move on.
Biggest In Game Surprise
The biggest surprise all year for me was the sudden return of Mark Hamill as The Joker in Batman: Arkham Knight. Even more so than the eventual reveal of the Arkham Knight’s identity the sudden return of The Joker to the series after years of being told that Arkham City was Hamill’s swan song with the character was extremely surprising and enjoyable. In fact his constant presence throughout the game gave the game its soul. Him being at Batman’s side was the most enjoyable part of the game’s story and couldn’t have been a better way to end Rocksteady’s trilogy.
Favorite Game of the Year
Obviously this entire list is extremely subjective but this category may well be the most subjective. This is essentially my game of the year award and is based more on how much I enjoyed the game than any other factor. Without a doubt my favorite game of 2015 was Fallout 4. No other game sucked as much time out of my as it did nor is there a game that has left me with the desire for more after finishing it. I’m looking forward to a 2nd and 3rd play through and I’m excited for the potential DLC that could come out down the line. For all its flaws there is no other game from 2015 that gave me the sheer, unadulterated joy that Fallout 4 did.