Features & News

The obligatory ‘Game of the Year’ article 2015

January 1, 2016, Author: Andy Buick

Well here it is… No, not ‘Merry Christmas’, that’s sadly gone for another year already, but it’s the TIMJ GOTY awards, so rejoice regardless!

It’s been a pretty strong year, but read on for some not so surprising choices in the main, plus a couple of games you may want to take a closer look at…

Matt Parker (News Editor) – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

This is tough as I’ve really not had much time for playing games this year. Most of my time was spent reviewing stuff and nothing I’ve reviewed really stood out as ‘the best thing this year’. What I have managed to put some time into, even if I’ve not completed it, is Metal Gear Solid V and its quality is already shining through, making this a fairly easy decision for me.

Some people might be disappointed that this isn’t a ‘traditional’ Metal Gear game. There are few cut-scenes relative to what you normally get in an MGS game and there’s a greater focus on exploring a map rather than following a linear path – so some might say this is barely a Metal Gear at all. I don’t care what they have to say though as Metal Gear Solid V is an absolute joy to play and offers you a great sandbox to discover, great toys to use and enemies that are really fun to mess with.

It’s true that Konami are doing their best to fill MGSV with gross micro-transactions, it’s true that some of the A.I. makes dumb decisions, and it’s true that there’s not a great variety in the missions you’ll be given. This doesn’t matter, though, as you’ll be too busy finding different ways to destroy bases, take out targets or rescue prisoners. Visually stunning and tremendous fun – Metal Gear Solid V is my game of the year.

Runners Up: DropsySteamworld Heist

Jonn Blanchard (Staff Writer) – Fallout 4

This definitely won’t come as a shock to anyone who follows me on social media: my game of the year is the wonderful Fallout 4. There’s been a ton of criticism about it, that it doesn’t progress the series much, that the story isn’t great and that there aren’t enough bits of interest outside of the main quest, but all these complaints ignore the fact that, on its own, it’s an amazing game. It’s a huge, beautiful world, with plenty to do, and the story might not be amazing, but in a world where more and more games are eschewing single-player experiences for multiplayer, it’s still one of the best out there.

If you haven’t picked it up yet because you were worried about the naysayers, then you should definitely think about it. It’s a huge game and, in my opinion, pays back its purchase price many times over. There is a ton to do, and I really don’t think there’s another game that makes exploration so much fun.

James Swinbanks (Staff Writer) – Fallout 4 / The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Despite having thought about it far too much already, I’m still struggling to pick a definitive game of 2015. My personal favourite is Fallout 4, because Bethesda open worlds have a knack of drawing me into them. Whether I have 15 minutes, or an hour’s worth of free time, there is always something meaningful for me to achieve.

On the other hand, we have The Witcher 3, which has probably the most in-depth narrative of anything I’ve ever played. The way the different tales of each character interweave with Geralt’s journey to find Ciri is nothing short of a fantastical wet dream.

My heart tells me Fallout 4, but my head says The Witcher 3. Both games achieve excellence for different reasons, and both are worth your time. They’ll certainly demand it.

Runners up: MasochisiaRocket League

Andy Corrigan (Editor in Chief) – Bloodborne

2015 was a particularly strong year for blockbuster games and usually such a situation would cause me no end of headaches when making my end of year selections. However, with how busy I am these days it’s rare that any game is so good that I have to restart it immediately after I’ve finished, and no game has ever caused me to do this three times in a row.

One game achieved that in 2015, From Software’s Bloodborne, and therefore it’s the only pick for ‘Game of the Year’ I could have made.

I came into it as a Soul’s virgin. I’d never played Demon’s Souls nor any of the Dark Souls games prior, and I bought into Bloodborne only because of the online buzz and my growing curiosity. Everyone talks about the difficulty of From Software’s games, but that’s somewhat misleading. The biggest hurdle is only in understanding the world’s harsh rules and structure. Once you understand those aspects, it’s a joy, regardless of any challenge it puts in your way.

Tense, challenging, never unfair, and so good it helped me through the stresses of a personally challenging time, and even made me play through Dark Souls II as soon as I’d finished with it. Simply brilliant.

Runners Up: Wasteland 2 (console release), Persona 4: Dancing All Night

Jasper Pickering (Staff Writer) – Undertale

If you’d asked me what my game of the year would be in 2015 back in January, I would have been inclined to say Metal Gear Solid V or Fallout 4, both of which succumbed to mass hyperbole and derision for being too different and similar respectively. Then came along an indie title called Undertale and blew me away.

A JRPG in every way bar actually being Japanese, Undertale pays notable tribute to classics like Earthbound with its aesthetic and quirky sense of humour. Not only is it one of the funniest games I’ve ever played, it’s (in my humble opinion at least) the best game of its genre. It isn’t so much genre-defining as it is genre-redefining. Its fighting mechanics are a breath of fresh air, as you can get through the entirety of the game without killing a single opponent and defending plays out like a well-executed ‘Bullet Hell’. It also has great replayability as each playthough is different depending on whether you want to spare each enemy (‘The Pacifist run’) or obliterate every monster that stands in your way (‘The Genocide Run’).

Why anyone would elect to play a Genocide Run first is beyond me, only because the cast of characters you meet are so lovable the thought of ripping them to shreds is nothing short of sadistic.

What would a retro-indie game be without a killer soundtrack? It wouldn’t be Undertale, that’s for sure. With all the music composed by the game’s creator Toby Fox, this is hands-down one of the best soundtracks to a video-game I’ve ever heard. I don’t normally find myself re-listening to a soundtrack to games, but each track here is a winner. In fact, I’m listening to it right now.

This game made me laugh, it made me tear up. I struggle to think of any other game that has had such an impact on me; I kept thinking about it weeks after playing it. It breaks so many boundaries in the medium, and I honestly think this is a game that we’ll be talking about in years to come, discussing what it all meant like a James Joyce novel or a David Lynch movie. It’s an exercise in art that can only be achieved in the medium of video-games.

This isn’t just my favourite game from 2015. This is my favourite game of all time.

Dan Moore (Staff Writer) – Her Story

Her Story is something genuinely different. No shooting, no running around, not even any combining of items. You are presented with a faux CRT screen and a series of videos, and you are tasked with figuring out what happened when a man died, by reviewing the interviews with his wife in video format. On paper, it should barely be a game and be rubbish. The reality is very different, as Her Story has stuck with me throughout the year as one of the most haunting and compelling games I have ever played.

Who would have thought that what is essentially a FMV game in 2015 would wind up being my game of the year? Certainly not me, and that should tell you everything you need to know.

Runners up: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom PainDestiny: The Taken King

Andy Buick (Features Editor) – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witcher 3

This was a difficult decision this year, not least as possibly my two favourite titles are ineligible due to being older releases (Persona 4: Golden and Rogue Legacy – both highly recommended!). That said, ultimately one title stood out above all others, The Witcher 3.

While it wasn’t quite as open a world as as I had expected, such was the size and the breadth and depth of the content, that this was easily forgivable. CD Projekt Red have created a world that’s a sight to behold. In spite of the rumblings of downgrades around launch, it’s a beautiful game, that had me stopping regularly just to take in the latest breath-taking view. When not just admiring, there’s a huge amount of content to keep you engaged, and to the team’s great credit the great majority is of a very high quality. There are side quests in The Witcher 3 that are better than the main quest line in many other titles.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay is to say that my hopes were almost impossibly high when this came out, and yet I wasn’t even remotely disappointed.

Runners-up: Rocket LeagueTearaway Unfolded