2015 was a year full of prosperity, anticipation and surprise hits. After two full years on the market, I can now say without a shred of hesitation that I am proud to own a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. While E3 2015 brought about some surprises we await next year and beyond, this year I found myself still playing catch up for all of the games I regret not playing, even in the last few weeks of December.
As I spend my next few intimate weeks with the sultry and sweet stylings of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward and Rocket League, here are my top 3 games to cap off the incredible year that was 2015.
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Bloodborne]
I paid extra attention to many titles that released earlier in the year, as it seems easy to forget what an amazing start 2015 had. FromSoftware’s Bloodborne definitely held a huge stake with that notion. A brooding, murky Victorian playground that plays with you more times than you can play with it, every victory and sense of accomplishment in Bloodborne is quickly dashed as a strong sense of fearful apprehension sets in.
Bloodborne invokes the fight/flight response in players better than most games can, with a combat system that rewards aggressive pursuit and spacing of enemies and mechanics that are tailored specifically for moving around foes with utmost agility. It’s what sets it apart from the Demon’s and Dark Souls’ parry/turtle-heavy style — quite frankly, it’s a system I prefer a lot more.
Bloodborne forces you against frightful enemies, but never lets you forget that you can gnash your teeth back like a rabid animal; that is…if you ever have any hope of escaping the gothic nightmare unravelling before you.
1 (tied). Undertale
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Undertale]
For the longest time, I had been disenfranchised with the state of indie game development. Some developers had seen it as an avenue for depicting video games in a more earnest light, while forgetting the part where a degree of skill or reflexes are required. Thankfully, not only have I been brought back down to earth, but sent barrelling to the Underground with the little surprise hit known as Undertale.
While definitely not skimping on the narrative side, Undertale approaches RPG tropes and spins them on their head with a fantastic blend of humour, sincerity and terror. Take combat: Your success rate in dodging enemy attacks isn’t contingent on your character’s stats like a traditional RPG; instead you actively navigate yourself around pellets, flames and onomatopoeia materialising as enemy attacks in a bullet hell fashion. I love how these battles play out; they flip the table on turn-based conventions while offering engaging and endearingly frustrating tests of skill.It’s a game that prefers pacifist resolution instead of outright attacking your enemies and is accommodated through reading your enemies and choosing a unique set of actions that allow you to befriend and spare them.
How you play determines the way the story unfolds, and the Undertale’s success lies in how well the jargon and the combat system integrates with the narrative. A standard tale of humanity vs. inhumanity is enhanced with a lovable cast of characters, shattered fourth-wall and a heartfelt tone that turns Undertale into an incredible experience that made me laugh in spades, cry uncontrollably and will haunt me for years to come.
Go play Undertale as soon as you can.
1 (tied). Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
[Watch New Game Plus’ review of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain]
Fans of Radiohead will be happy to know that there are no alarms or no surprises here. Despite the media circus leading up to (and following) its release, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain remains one of my most cherished and prolonged experiences with a video game in 2015.
Say what you will about the narrative and what little significance it holds within the entire Metal Gear mythos, but the sparse use of cutscenes and exposition serve as a response to the many criticisms of previous Metal Gear games and their infamous reputation as interactive movies. The Phantom Pain starts off with a clean slate and moves its focus to the essence of stealth, reconnaissance and the freedom to approach any situation as you see fit.
The Phantom Pain contains one of the most in-depth and satisfying stealth experiences you’ll ever get in the Metal Gear series — or even any stealth-action game. Questions emerge from the moment you decide your mission loadout: Approach a situation lethally or non-lethally? Go in fast or disable power generators, mortars and satellite dishes so that no back up platoons arrive? It’s focus on adaptability and improvisation helps cater to any playstyle and ensures entertaining anecdotes told around the campfire by mutual Metal Gear enthusiasts.
Not only that, but the base building foundations made standard by Peace Walker are expanded upon, allowing the development of departments, weapons and gadgetry. You’ll need them for the PvP-inspired invasion of other player’s bases in the name of resource collection and nuclear deterrence; the latter proving to be more of the harrowing brand of social commentary Hideo Kojima is well known for sneaking into his games.
Despite everything that happened around its release, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain remains a fantastic romp from start to finish, and it’s a game I highly recommend if you’re willing to love it for 100+ hours (which is exactly what I did).
Come back tomorrow for more of the New Game Plus crew’s favourite games of 2015, or catch up on Jamie’s, Trey’s and Donald’s games of the year. For our overall Game of the Year, watch our 2015 Game of the Year Special.