Hello and a Happy New Year to all. I’m Nick R P Green, and let’s start the year by looking back over the last 12 months, yes it’s time for my best game of the year.
As you may have seen before, what follows is the original script for my GotY YouTube video, for those people who prefer to read articles than watch videos. If you'd rather watch this is video form instead follow this link.
2015 has been a reasonably good year for gaming, there were loads of really big releases and a ton of really good games. Now, I always have one slight problem with games of the year, in that I rarely buy brand new games, I tend to wait for steam sales, so as always I looked on Wikipedia to see which games came out this year and which of them I actually played. And here they are below.
So let’s have a top 3, and remember, only games I’ve actually played will be included, so don’t be surprised when things like Fallout 4, Witcher 3 or Undertale aren’t in the list. And don’t worry, I will get Fallout, at some point.
Starting us off at number three is a game you’ve probably not heard of, by a developer you’ve almost certainly never heard of. Mini Metro by Dinosaur Polo Club had been in Steam Early Access when I first played it, but was officially released in November. It’s an indie strategy sim where you are charged with creating a metro service in various different locations London, Hong Kong, New York, Paris etc. The gameplay and art style are extremely simplistic and for a game so simple, I found it incredibly stimulating and at times, very relaxing. You set where the lines go between stations, add trains and carriages and at the end of the week, you are rewarded with extra items, trains, carriages, lines, bridges/tunnels etc. Sitting back and watching the little coloured trains run around the track you’ve created, it's a similar joy to having made your own model railway and I found it very therapeutic. The game now has music and sound effects that complement the soothing nature very well and even a daily challenge has been added to give you more reason to keep coming back. Really simple, yet highly addictive, I managed to sink 15 hours into this little indie gem, definitely one to grab if you just need to take a nice 10-15 break.
At number two then is The Beginner’s Guide by Davey Wreden, the guy behind the equally fantastic The Stanley Parable. If you’ve heard anything about this game, you’ll know that reviewers had a hard time reviewing it, because talking about the gameplay or the story itself will pretty much ruin the experience. All I’ll say is that Wreden narrates the game himself and takes you on a personal journey and how some very specific games had an impact on his life. It’s very intriguing, highly thought provoking and at times rather emotional. I finished the game not quite knowing what or how to think, but knowing that what I had just played was making me think something. I can’t remember the last before this, that a video game hit me emotionally like The Beginner’s Guide did. Give it a try.
Oh and before I finish with this, if you’re not sure whether you’d like this style of game, later in the year, Crows Crows Crows a new studio directed by the designer of The Stanley Parable, released a completely free game, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist. I nearly picked this over Mini Metro actually for number three, very funny, only about fifteen minutes long and is narrated by Simon Amstell, the comedian who used to host Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Give that a go first, as I said it’s completely free and if you think you’d enjoy a similar albeit less humour driven and more thought provoking style game, then pick up the Beginner’s Guide.
Number 1. What could possibly be number 1. What could I, Nicholas Robert Pierce Green, have possibly played this year that I would consider to be number 1? Am I a massive Metal Gear fanboy? Yes, I am. Has it been my favourite game series since I played MGS1? Yes. Was a Metal Gear game released this year? Yes. Should I pick it? Well…. duh.
All my friends already knew this was coming from the moment I said I was doing a game of the year. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is my Game of the Year for 2015. I’m a massive Metal Gear fanboy and Phantom Pain delivered spectacularly. Just for perspective on the fanboyism though, I do honestly believe MGSV is the best game I played this year, last year I wouldn’t have picked Ground Zeroes as game of the year, as A: it wasn’t a game, it was a tech demo, and B: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Anyway, whilst Phantom Pain does have its issues, in particular the story seems to end rather abruptly and there’s been evidence of a cut chapter and mission etc. but I’ve got plans for a video on that at some point.
What makes it the best, is the gameplay, it's a huge open world to explore and so much to do in it. A decent chunk of story missions and a ton of extra side missions that are actually fun and feel rewarding to complete and not simply a complete for completionist's sake situation. The stealth mechanics have never been so good, the amount of detail in gameplay is incredible. Like the idea that if I call my horse over whilst I’m sprinting, the horse will run alongside me and I can mount it without breaking stride. Or being able to duck whilst in a vehicle to hide. Or using a supply drop to knock out an enemy. The game rewards you for thinking cleverly and I know it sounds cliché but it does let you play the game your way. You can select different equipment, buddies, uniform even take a vehicle along with you. There’s so many options, and so much to do.
The story albeit the problems I mentioned earlier is brilliantly devised once again by Hideo Kojima, a fantastic balance of realism and fantasy that’s made the Metal Gear series so memorable. Phantom Pain has genuine moments of humour, sadness, fear and countless moments that really make you feel for the characters. And every one of them is well performed. Kiefer Sutherland as Snake does an admirable job and it becomes very easy to stop thinking he’s not David Hayter and that he is Big Boss, it really didn't bother me, despite being a big fan of Hayter’s Snake. The rest of the voice cast is great, but particularly Robin Atkin Downes brings in an outstanding performance as Kazuhira Miller, extremely passionate, highly engaging, never too over the top which is about right for the heightened realism of Metal Gear, just a great performance.
There is just so much to do, so much content and a masterpiece of gameplay and scale. I finally finished the game after 47 hours of playing, the credits rolled and then the message Chapter 1 complete appears, after 47 hours! 65 hours was the final time upon actually completing the game. 65 hours! In a time where big budget game are being stripped to its bare bones to make way for DLC, single player campaigns are barely four hours in some cases, or in cases like last gen Black Ops 3 and Star Wars Battlefront, non existent at all but still requiring you to part with £40 to play, a game that required most reviewers to play at least 50 hours to see to the end is fantastic value for money, and all the more impressive for being a story driven action game. And I haven’t even played the new Metal Gear Online yet, so I’ll look forward to that when the PC version gets it. Just brilliant, a fantastic end to a fantastic series for Mr Kojima. Can’t wait to see what he does next, and let’s hope Konami just leaves Metal Gear well alone. As the great Jim Sterling would put it: Fuck Konami.
Ok time for the special mentions, firstly to Lara Croft GO from Square Enix, this was a great little mobile puzzle game, similar style to that of Hitman GO but far superior indeed. Not very long, though an extra set of challenges was added for free late in the year. Lovely art style, fun puzzles that aren’t complicated to the point of frustration and easily the best mobile game of the year.
The last special mention goes to Batman: Arkham Knight. What a way to end what has been a fantastic series, by delivering a repetitive chore filled game, with a boring Batmobile crammed down your throat far too often and a PC version that… well, you know, I’m not even going to bother going into that again, finished the game and got my refund. Oh and the Harley Quinn pre-order DLC, disgusting, feels like the development team made it in a day. Uninspired and far too short, I feel sorry for anyone who ended up spending money on it. Arkham Knight, I was so hyped for you and you let me down big time. The game itself is good, but it’s easily the worst game in the series and I’m including Arkham Origins in that, and the PC port fiasco not only makes you my worst game of the year, but the final straw in me ever pre-ordering anything ever again. Warner Bros, we’re not surprised but shame on you Rocksteady, you were better than this. Let’s hope this was a case of the publisher dragging the developer down with them. I hope so.
Thanks very much for reading. Obviously, leave some comments below comparing your list with mine, remember these were from the games I actually played this year. Like and check out the original video if you like what you've seen and I’ll see you next time for my top 3 League of Legends updates of 2015. Till then!