Game of the Year 2015: You're all diamonds(Except you, Arkham Knight)

Oh boy wowzers. What a year, 2015. Saw some good movies in Mad Max: Fury Road, Ant-Man, Ex Machina.. For TV I saw some great shit in Daredevil, Dark Matter, Jessica Jones. I even found some great and cool music thanks to that newfangled Spotify thing.

Out of all possible mediums to find absolute crap in, it just had to be video games. Almost everything I played was disappointing in some way or another. Like, come on man, throw me a bone. SOMETHING'S gotta be good? In fact, while putting together this list, I pretty much ended up forgetting what I've even played. The good has been so saturated with games I did not like that it was almost difficult just to find 5 games that I actually really enjoyed. But that could be a result of the emotional turmoil I went through by trying to find an apartment for 3 months. I dunno. Moving on.

There were a few released this year that I played and had to criticize pretty deeply. Games that were great, but also kind of shitty. I've been wrestling with this idea that I have to hold nothing but love for a video game for it to make my Best Of list. As if I'm unable to enjoy a game that I've been hard on before. Or that I'll be seen as a hypocrite of some kind. But the reality in this situation is that the two games I've been pretty harsh on ended up being some of my favorite games to go back to time and time again this year. (Except Arkham Knight, that game still sucks)

Barry. Fucking. Burton.

5: Resident Evil: Revelations 2

I played the first Revelations and was, to be blunt, bored of it. Until exactly half way through when something clicked in my head and I fell in love with it. Out of all the utter crap Capcom had put out(Resident Evil 6, oh my god) I was so surprised to see an honest and legitimate attempt at doing something different, and they actually executed on it perfectly.

It had a lot of elements of lightheartedness. The characters of Quint and Keith being bumbling bafoons, Parker constantly offering to buy Jill lunch, and Jessica's sweet ass. It had heart. And I loved it.

So with Revelations 2, I was scared. They had talked about seeing that you can make a modern horror shooter from The Last of Us. And I saw what they did with Resident Evil 6, so I was afraid they would get their hands on REV2 and make it this over the top action goofery.

That didn't happen. Instead, it was totally fucking epic. Barry Burton made his return, lost a daughter, found a daughter, found another daughter. It was kind of like(Okay, a whole hell of a lot like) The Last of Us. A stealth-esque game with bottle-throwing-to-distract-enemies mechanic as well as backpack crafting to make molotovs and health kits and the like. Even more similar with a grizzled old man looking out for and taking care of a little girl in the face of infected threats.

The first episode was dramatically underwhemling. It had a really good twist at the end of it, but that first episode was so short that I was not convinced this would ever pick up and be awesome. Those fears were unfounded. One of the few games to feature an ending(This year) so over the top and awesome that I was fully enthralled the entire way through.

It was a pleasant surprise for me. And a great way to start the year. Oh and that Raid Mode was a serious time sink for me. What a great game.

Nick Valentine and The Wrong Neighborhood Band

4: Fallout 4

I want to be clear here, I pretty much hate everything to do with the main narrative in this game. I suffered through a very long first-save and once I was done, I made a new one, and played by my own rules. I effectively told the game to fuck off and I made a name for myself by building my giant island and slowly capturing settlements and building them into something respectable.

It's got base building, heavy customization with weapons and armor, while at the same time allowing you to explore a big open world and find all kinds of shit, like a kid in a fridge.

It doesn't give you as many options as, say, Fallout 3 or New Vegas - and the options it does give you are much weaker and less important than those found in the other games - but to be blunt, that's not why I play this game anymore. I get so much more out of playing on Survival and making it to level 114 and building the shit out of my settlements and just try to hang around the world, while only doing main quest missions when I need to progress far enough to get something important, like ballistic weave.

Some of the companions are great, and some I'm just not a fan of. Strong, a Super Mutant voiced by Sean Schemmel, sounded like a match made in heaven for me. A Super Mutant, voiced by fucking GOKU, holy shit! How could I not love that? But he's annoying and he won't shut up and he's constantly using my fucking crafting stations holy crap Strong just moooooove.

But the game is solid. I mean, not technically. The framerate is mega shit at times, especially when you go into the city. But it allows me to sit back, open Spotify in the background, build a giant crazy tower apartment in the sky, and chill. And that's apparently exactly what I was looking for.


3: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Boy. Holy crap. What a game. I can't even find the words to describe it. It's a massive open world game that pays great respect to the characters within it, and allows the player to almost live in the world during your playthrough. The landscapes are beautiful, the combat kind of sucks, the dialog is as quick witted and as it is badass, with Geralt often talking tough and then later telling jokes and being a goofster.

I never played the other Witcher games. I never had an Xbox or a PC powerful enough for it, so you betcha I nabbed up Witcher 3 when I could. And it was love at first sight.

Geralt of Rivia, a character whose name I could barely pronounce for 150 hours of game time, is a unique character standing tall alongside gruff mercenaries and "hard boiled, war torn soldiers" in that he's funny, a really goofy guy. But he's also a near century old monster hunter with the scars to prove just how badass he is. Everything in this game took me by surprise, the music, the story, the characters. Sure, it was mega janky and it seemed to get made worse by patches killing the render distance for a while, but then it got sorted out and now that I've got hands on with the game again, it feels pretty good. But it's not the recent changes that make the game great, it's about that initial sense of wonderment and adventure that you will experience upon beginning your Witchering experience. And the fact that I played it for about 200 hours before beating it.

I laughed. I cried. I kicked some monster shit in. The Witcher 3 is easily one of the best games released this year, and one of my favorites by far.

And honestly, I've probably spent more time playing Gwent than I have actually slaying monsters.

It's like heroin for your eyes

2: Rocket League

What a tragic experience I had with Rocket League. I saw people posting all kinds of gifs and gifys and videos and stories about it a while ago and was told over and over again "TO ALL THOSE THAT READ THIS, SIGN UP FOR THE BETA AND BE AMAZED" and each time I was like, pssh, car soccer? That's so stupid. I don't want to play dumb ol' car soccer.

Then I found myself bored one night at 3:AM and thought, ehhh, it's a beta, what could it hurt? So I signed up, and when I woke up the next day and saw that beta invite sitting in my email, boy george it was love at first boost.

The technical tightness of this game was insatiable to me. It ran as smooth as baby butter or however that expression goes. The balls bouncing back and forth between cars, the goalpost getting closer and closer with every passing second, the roar of the crowd sending electric down your spine, the boost tingling that one part of your heart that you aren't sure is some crazy birth defect or not, or maybe that's just me but whatever.

And there he is. A carefully calculated pass to little Blue and there he begins setting up the shot, weaving in and out of Red team, making them look like absolute chumps. He gets within range, sets up, pops the ball into the air and lets it fly... and then my dumbass comes in and hits the ball because I'm an idiot and I ruin the shot and the guy ragequits the game and everyone spams "What a save!" in the chat.

It's sobering. It's exhilarating. This game gets my synapses burning in the heat of the moment. It's an easily addictive little game that most unassuming people not not think twice about. But believe you me, it's one of the best games this year and one I will be revisiting time and time again.

Straight Outta Konami

1: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

The Phantom Pain. A game of mythical hype. A game I have followed since day one and have been salivating at the mouth for ever since. It was going to be the single best game ever made, closing the gap in a story that has spanned decades in time and showing us the creation of the ultimate Metal Gear villain, Big Boss.

Yeah... No. It didn't happen that way. Konami flubbed hard, fired Kojima, made his team miserable and basically locked him down behind so much red tape it took several weeks before he was even able to tweet again. And poor innocent Silent Hill's got caught in the crossfire.

I've gone back and forth on MGSV for so long. I've done so many mental gymnastics to figure out how I truly feel about this game. The setting, the trailers, what it was supposed to be about. It was all a major swerve to my, and a lot of other peoples expectations.

But I'm starting to think that I am actually okay with how it turned out. Hideo Kojima has been talking about how he wanted to be done with MGS ever since MGS2 came out. That's a long time ago. And so with MGSV, he managed to get his team to make a state of the art engine and he used that engine to design the game he's been wanting to make for almost 30 years. And in doing so, ended up getting fired from the one thing he hasn't wanted to do, bailed out of Konami to a world of critical acclaim and many, many job offers, took his closest friends and co-workers with him, and will begin anew as an independent studio with the backing of a much, much larger company. If that's not genius, I don't know what is.

Kojima could have done anything. He could have made the game everyone wanted him to make. They could have explained "Oh okay this is where he meets Gray Fox and how Sniper Wolf plays into it and this is how Outer Heaven is formed and this is where he trains Solid Snake and blah blah blah" but it wouldn't have been new. It would have been a retelling of the same shit we've known since MG1 was released. Would it have been cool to see? Most definitely. But that's not the direction Kojima wanted to go. So he took a step back, went full force into the project as game designer and actually assigned a bunch of the writing to other people.

Personally, I respect that he didn't go the easy route. That he did, at the very least, what he wanted to do. And now that he's gone, Konami can milk whatever the fuck they want out of it because Kojima will be snoozing and chilling out with J.J. Abrams and having fun with his movie star friends and making cool ass indie games.

The game itself is one I keep going back to, either for FOB or to just dick around in missions and whatnot. It's extremely fun to handicap yourself by equipping loadouts without very much if any firepower whatsoever just so you can't automatically rely on guns or equipment to get yourself out of a bind. It doesn't hurt that the frame rate is as smooth as butter and the gameplay is just so technically tight that it's just such a joy to play.

Sure, the open world is largely empty, and they could have done so much more with so much of everything, but as much as I was disappointed by MGSV, I was also enthralled by it. Not the best game ever made, like it was apparently supposed to be. But, still pretty damn good. And easily my favorite game this year.

Runner's Up:
Good thing this story about photography school has such create cinematography

Life is Strange

I bought this game way too late and didn't have enough time to get around to playing all of it. I finished chapter 2 a few days ago and I'm way into it. I like the character of Max and the interesting look into teenage superhero life. But the only thing holding me back is I need a few days at least to process each episode and I also don't want to rush it.

I'm sure if I had more time to complete it all it would be right up here in a Top 6 list instead of 5, but I would feel strange adding this to the overall list when I hadn't even completed it yet.

It all seemed so innocent...
Grand Theft Auto Online

Yeah, I know. Weird choice, right?

When I got GTAV on PS3 so many years ago now, it felt great. It looked great. It was a little disappointing. There weren't as many heists as I thought there'd be and the Online component was straight up broken for months. Rockstar were also constantly patching cool shit out of the game and making items more and more expensive without any better ways to get money than to just grind missions like Rooftop Rumble over and over again. And heists for GTAO were nonexistent at that time. For almost two years, in fact.

So, bored of grinding, I stopped playing for quite a while. I would check back in after every expansion and try to obtain the new items before they disappeared, but I would always stop. Also, one thing that happened was the graphical quality was dramatically decreased to make room for new shit. Clothes were now kind of pixelated and splotchy. It was weird, so I once again stopped playing.

But then, I got a PS4(Shoutout to my boy Liam, you know who you are) and I once again obtained GTAV. My relationship with the game remained mostly unchanged. I would play it occasionally and then remember why I stopped.

And months and months and months later, they released heists, they released even more expansions, and most importantly they even stopped supporting the older consoles. And that was when shit got real for GTAO. Now that there weren't almost-decade old consoles holding us back, we got some new and interesting shit. Like freemode events that didn't require matchmaking. Stuff that you could actually do and participate in. Suddenly possess from Red Dead Redemption made their way to GTAO in the form of "VIP SecuServ", which allows you to register as a VIP and even hire other members to be your bodyguards.

Coming back to this after so much mediocrity was a very big surprise. It added both the style and substance that GTAO so desperately needed and what a breathe of fresh air it is. I will keep going back to GTAO for the foreseeable future and actually have fun participating in the new interesting game modes and ideas they've got banging around.

Absolute Stinkers:

I'll keep this short and sweet.

Batman: Arkham Knight.

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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