Gaming Respawn’s Game of the Year – Part 1

Game of the Year 2015

2015 is soon to become a distant memory and 2016 looks to be shaping up as a fun year of gaming among other things, and as tradition goes it’s time to take a last look at 2015, say our goodbyes and pick our very own Game of the Year. Each member of Gaming Respawn has chosen their own title that is worthy of GOTY and it’s a very diverse list, here are their games and the reasons why.

You can find Part 2 here.


 

Michael Fitzgerald – Super Mario Maker

This was tough for me actually. 2015 is a year that saw some very good games and I played quite a lot of them, but there was nothing that leapt out at me this year as being THE undisputed best.

I should explain a few things first. I played GTA V on consoles and didn’t get it for PC. Had I bought it for PC, it would have easily been my pick for Game of the Year 2015. However, I bought it for the PS4 towards the tail end of 2014, so it wouldn’t be right for me to include it here. It is a bloody amazing game though and if for some reason you haven’t played it yet, I couldn’t recommend it enough.

I haven’t played Fallout 4. This is a combination of me not playing any of the original games and also I just didn’t have the time to commit to it. I may buy it down the line but that will most certainly be next year at the earliest, so it won’t be making it onto my GOTY list for 2015.

I was already committed to my Konami boycott by the time Metal Gear Solid V came out, so I’ve still yet to play it and won’t be playing it until my demands of Konami are met. You can look at my demands here. Some may call me crazy, I think I’m being very reasonable.

That pretty much covers the two potentially controversial omissions when it comes to console gaming. As I’ve already stated previously, I’m almost exclusively a console gamer. This isn’t because I have anything against PC gaming, but more down to a question of finance. I can’t really afford to kit myself out with a decent gaming PC, and I wouldn’t want to play games on the PC if I couldn’t get the best experience possible. This hopefully explains why I haven’t mentioned any of the best PC exclusive games.

My two favourite gaming genres are sports sims and platformers, so that should hopefully explain why I’ve gone for what I have this year.

Firstly, honourable mentions. Those would be this year’s Madden and FIFA titles. I personally found Madden to be excellent this year. I see that it’s received strong scores pretty much across the board and I think that’s thoroughly deserved. The difficulty is perfectly balanced for people of all skill levels, the graphics are superlative and the gameplay is immensely enjoyable. It was the first time in about 4 years that I finally went to the trouble of picking up a Madden game fresh on release date and I don’t regret it one bit. An excellent game that I’d recommend to both fans and non-fans alike.

FIFA 16 got a, on reflection, rather ludicrous, 95% score from me so it simply had to be in the running this year. Yes, the gameplay has been slowed down somewhat and feels just generally “heavier” than on previous releases, but I still think this is the best FIFA game since FIFA 11. I still sink hours into it every week and scoring goals just feels far more satisfying now you have to work for them a little more. This is an easy game to recommend, but I will concede that I probably overrated it.

So, after giving it some thought, I’ve decided that my Game of the Year is going to be the one I have enjoyed the most, and that simply has to be Super Mario Maker. This game was a genuine system seller for me. I’d always looked at the Wii U and been intrigued by it, especially the first-party game library it had to offer. Despite being a grumpy and jaded 28-year-old at the time of writing this, there’s just something about Nintendo and their colourful roster of mascots that still piques my interest more than two decades after first being introduced to them.

Super Mario Maker is not just a well-imagined gaming experience, it just captures the heart of what video games are, and that’s fun. It’s so overwhelmingly fun, charming, and downright joyous that when I saw clips of it on YouTube I just knew I had to finally bite the bullet and get the Wii U. Nintendo does this to me every console generation. I chastise them for making a weaker machine tech wise and give the idea of buying their new console a hearty harrumph. But then they go and make good games with Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Kirby and, to seal the deal, Mario and from that point I just know I’m going to buy the bloody thing!

Super Mario Brothers is the first game I vividly remember playing, and now on Mario Maker I can create my own versions of levels spanning three different console generations. Mario Maker not only allows me to be creative but it also lets me share the fruits of my labour with other people around the world. I love creating a level, uploading it and then seeing that someone has starred it. I do the same for levels from others that I enjoy. There are genuinely some of the most endearing and creative levels you could imagine already up online and more are being added every single day.

Mario Maker reminds me of why I even got into playing video games in the first place. It speaks to that little boy holding that plastic controller in his hand for the first time and not knowing what to expect once he flips that switch and the video game console boots up. Mario Maker was the Wii U’s last hurrah, and what a hurrah it was!

So that’s my Game of the Year. I look forward to the hate mail!

Thanks for reading

Peace Out

Super Mario Makewr


Kane – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

This year hasn’t been that amazing in terms of games for me, don’t get me wrong there have been plenty of AAA blockbusters and fun indie games that I’ve enjoyed and would fully recommend but just like Michael, nothing really stood out or blew me away, expect for The Witcher 3 and for me this is easily the Game of the Year, slaying all the competition from games such as Fallout 4, Bloodborne and Metal Gear Solid V.

Being a huge RPG fan, The Witcher 3 had been a game I’ve anticipated for a while and it ticked all the right boxes for me. The combat is fun, challenging and gets better over time as you develop your character, a huge vast world to explore full of adventures and untold tales, a great main character who is usually misunderstood because of who he is and his appearance, a deep morality system and the best-looking RPG I have ever seen, that will make your eyes melt when played at its best on PC.

The Witcher 3 was always likely going to succeed, it came out at a perfect date allowing players to sink 100s of hours in with no other game distractions, it’s a game that many were waiting for to really show off the power and potential of the PS4 and Xbox One, and you’re made to feel like a bad ass monster slayer with an arsenal of swords, magic, bombs and other means to kill and survive in a world full of corrupt politicians, low life bandits ready to stick a dagger in your back for a few Orens and magical beasts terrorising civilians.

Well done to The Witcher 3 and CD Projekt Red, you guys delivered and are worthy winners of my GOTY award. Honourable mentions to Bloodborne for its creepy setting and brutal gameplay and Shovel Knight which you can see the review here which is my favourite indie game and brought me back to my youth, the game came to Sony and MS consoles for the first time in 2015.

Merry Xmas all.

witcher3_en_wallpaper_wallpaper_10_1920x1080_1433327726


Ian Cooper – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

My game of 2015 has to be Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It was one of the most anticipated games of the year and boy it did not disappoint.

I was already an MGS fan which made me even more excited. Once I put that disc in my PS4 I was hooked! Phenomenal graphics and prime storytelling albeit abruptly ended with a lot of questions left unanswered and a polish that is not common in games of today makes this an easy choice for my Game of the Year.

If the single-player story wasn’t enough, there is a fantastic competitive multiplayer extension which could be its own game. Unbelievable!

mainvisual_mid


James Haxell – Batman: Arkham Knight

For me it had to be Batman Arkham Knight. Sure this was not the best of the Arkham games but that’s like saying Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the worst of the Indiana Jones trilogy, they are all still brilliant. Before you ask, it is a trilogy as the Crystal Skull is not a film. The Arkham games will always have a special place in my heart as Arkham Asylum made me love Batman and eventually become a huge DC fan. To think that I always used to be a Marvel kid, oh well, the Bat-Signal steered me on the right path.

The great success of the other games meant there was a lot of pressure on Arkham Knight and this being Rocksteady’s last it needed to be special and it was. There were so many great things about the game with the story being one of them. It had a spectacular plot with the usual twists and turns, even if at times it felt a little too spelt out. Then again it needed to cater for all players and not just huge Bat-fans. Arkham Knight did a better job at mixing the villains together to make it seem like one big plot rather than most villains working independently, creating chaos. This doesn’t mean they don’t all have their own agenda. It was a wonderful roundup of the series that showed a weaker side to B-man and the fact the Joker popped up constantly made him feel like a companion and a much more interesting one than Navi, maybe he should be the next to team up with Link.

Arkham Knight fixed the gameplay so it felt smoother. The one button combo had also been jazzed up, making fights look even more badass and varied. Among the additions to combat were the introduction of team up fights. Not being able to play as other characters that much was made up for by these ingenious fights with joint takedowns being so satisfying. On the other hand, the Batmobile is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Personally I enjoyed driving around, though I just preferred gliding over my city like a guardian angel. Yet more cool gadgets were added to Batman’s utility belt; however, shark repellent and jet-powered roller skates were surprisingly left out again for some unknown reason.

This was the first time I ever bought a season pass for a game and it luckily turned out to be worth it with some great add-ons. Besides Arkham Knight finally gave me the opportunity to play as Harley Quinn which in itself was worthy of gaining my choice as the game of the year.

batman-arkham-knight


Alec Hawley – Just Cause 3

The Just Cause series has traditionally been seen as the video gaming equivalent of a popcorn blockbuster or a hit of cocaine, a brief frenzy of visual and sensory overload that fizzles out quickly and has no substance backing it up. At first glance, Just Cause 3 seems to follow the same formula, our ludicrous protagonist Rico Rodriguez flying into his homeland of Medici in order to overthrow the caricaturish villain General di Ravello, who has vague and unspecified plans for world domination, and proceeding to blow up virtually all the dictator’s infrastructure and military, with fuel tanks, satellite dishes, radar towers and electric substations joining tanks, helicopters, jets and trucks in flames on the ground. It’s easy to think that this is all Just Cause 3 has to offer, an impression reinforced by the game’s tagline, “set the world on fire”, all that is promised is a frenzy of destruction.

What truly makes the game worthy of GOTY honours is the fact that all this destruction is balanced by the game’s navigation system, a combination of grappling hook, parachute and wing suit providing the perfect toolset to navigate Medici by air, a calming, almost serene experience that is one of the purest pleasures in gaming. The fact that this is so satisfying is testament to the hard work of Avalanche Studios, whose diligence shines through everywhere, the game providing an ultra fluid hyperkinetic experience whose systems simply work perfectly together. This results in multi-layered encounters where Rico begins an assault by parachuting in and taking out the most obvious threats from the air, mopping up forces on the ground and then flying up and taking control of the helicopters that have begun to rain down machine fire, letting off a few missiles before ejecting after being hit by an anti-aircraft weapon and returning to the ground to continue the assault. The game’s battles therefore end up being an aerial game of cat and mouse, the key always being to keep the antagonist off guard, abusive and elusive in boxing parlance.

Of course, Just Cause 3 is not perfect, with its story missions often oddly anticlimactic and its plot the usual mix of overblown characterisation and action movie logic. However, its core gameplay loops of navigation and combat are among the most satisfying in gaming and this is backed up by a perfect gaming landscape of sheer cliffs and shimmering azure seas, genuinely compelling collectibles, side challenges and the dual tether system; Rico’s grappling hook able to attach items together and then combine them at great speed, further enhancing the possibilities for creative destruction. The fact that, for the first time, all the game’s destructible objects have been physically modelled is also vital to Just Cause 3’s lasting appeal, each explosion having the potential to be slightly different from the last, reinforcing the decisive control of the player and enhancing immersion.

Overall, Just Cause 3 is a towering achievement, the product of a studio working extremely hard in order to allow players to have as much fun as possible, and nothing this year gave me as much sheer gaming pleasure.

jc3

That’s part 1 of Gaming Respawn’s Game of the Year, check back Xmas Day for part 2 which is here.

Related posts

The Fitzgerald Scale – Mike Plays Super Mario Odyssey (and Talks a Bit About 3D Mario Games)

Michael Fitzgerald

Nintendo Switch Online: Year 1 Review

Jes Taylor

Death Stranding Review

Lee Pilling

Valfaris Review

Justin McKay

Gaming Respawn’s Most Anticipated Games 2019

Daniel Garcia-Montes

Luigi’s Mansion 3 Review

Dom Richards