Edited by: Sarah Jane Farron
2016 is here and what better way to start the year (and a newly launched site) off than to reveal the final contenders for my 2015 Game of the Year, leading up to the single game that claimed this prestigious award for itself. I’m a little cautious about revealing these games and my reasons for choosing them as people feel strongly about these awards and this is no small praise.
I am content with my choices; though there were a lot of great games last year. I found it much easier to narrow down my list of contenders since I was unable to play many video games that were on most lists.
So with all that said, here are my finalist contenders for my 2015 Game of the Year.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Release: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Playstation 3, Android, PC, Linux, Mac OS (March 2015)
When I heard there was going to be a sequel to Hotline Miami, I was ecstatic. Hotline Miami 2 took everything that made the first game great and pushed it even further in meaningful ways.
The first game awarded confidence to players as they progressed and began to master its mechanics, and its sequel does much of the same. It starts off daunting the player, it gives them moments of awe between mastering each mechanic, and then builds their confidence as they accomplish each level.
The way Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number replicates these core principles that made me fall in love with the first game is impressive to see which made it a finalist for my Game of the Year.
The Right Number
The Hotline Miami series takes place in an alternate timeline where Russia is a superpower with nuclear missiles primed and the world as a whole is on the brink of global thermonuclear war. Hotline Miami 2 acts as both the sequel and prequel to the first game; the first takes place during 1989 while the second ranges from 1985 to 1991. There are thirteen playable characters who give their own perspective in this brutal, ultra-violent twin-stick shooter.
The levels in this game are much larger with an increased number of enemies to suit, particularly during the prequel acts. What I enjoyed most about this was the game forced me to switch up my tactics by incorporating many new weapons and mixing them up for each scenario. On one missions, my starting weapon was a sniper rifle and a machete, while another mission gave me only my fists, putting me up against enemies with machines guns. There was a large difficulty spike in the latter parts of the game, being less forgiving and requiring more precision but by the time I reached that point, I had mastered the game’s mechanics and learned to adapt my playstyle depending on the scenario and the tools available.
The only reason Hotline Miami 2 is not my Game of the Year is because there were two titles that greatly exceeded my expectations.
Release: Playstation 4 (March 2015)
This is the title I never knew I wanted. I previously tried one of FromSoftware’s past titles, Dark Souls, and could not manage to play more than a few hours. I did not enjoy how the story was presented or the confusing combat that could I never got the hang of. It was not for me so I planned to stay away from Dark Souls and any titles that resemble it.
By coincidence, Bloodborne was released a week before I purchased my PlayStation 4. Thanks to peer pressure and hype, it managed to pull me in. Friends were in love with it, everyone was talking about it, so it managed to grab my attention. I took a chance with this game, and I am glad I did.
To my complete and utter surprise, Bloodborne ended up being my favorite PlayStation 4 game thus far despite also being one of the hardest games I have ever laid my hands on.
Patience is Key
Bloodborne killed me, a lot, but oddly enough, I loved every death. The penalty for death taught me more than I could have imagined. You drop all the blood echoes obtained from items and killing enemies. You require this to level up your character, and without them, you may never see your character’s full potential. This penalty (or “lesson” as I like to call it) is harsh but it is nothing compared to the Dark Souls games.
In Dark Souls, once you die, in addition to dropping every soul collected (they work similar to blood echoes), the player loses their humanity and begins to enter a “hollow” or undead state. While hollow, you are unable to summon players into your game and lose a portion of your max health each time you revive. Some people like this mechanic, but I hated it. I continued to perish time and time again, which ultimately made me dislike FromSoftware’s approach to death.
When Bloodborne came out, I was a little optimistic since the penalty was not as great and the setting looked unbelievable. The dark undertones, sleek sidearm, and range of enemies sparked my interest. Also, it helped that multiple people at work were telling me about the excellent boss fights and exhilaration they felt when defeating them.
After I fought the first creature and lost, I was devastated. It was not until later that I realized that you are supposed to die in the beginning. The game taught me how and when to die, it showed me when to dodge, and how to use my weapons, emphasizing patience. The only other game to teach me the importance of patience was Hotline Miami, but this game requires much more of it from the player as death could mean restarting an entire area. I observed my enemies and understood their weak points. I was zoned in on every new enemy encounter before approaching because I did not want to die.
Bloodborne is a difficult game with a lot of uplifting moments. I remember how timid I was when I fought the Cleric Beast for the first time. To my surprise, I managed to defeat it on my first try. It was one of my favorite moments in the game because I exceeded my own expectations. You can watch the long (and slightly mundane) fight leading up to this moment here.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Release: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC (September 2015)
Here it is, the moment that led to this: my 2015 Game of the Year. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain dominated the competition for several reasons that include its sheer scale of the world, its smooth controls, and phenomenal lore. From the prologue featuring “The Man Who Sold The World” to the very end, it’s ability to entertain propelled the game forward.
Metal Gear Solid V is the first game in the series to shift away from more linear, enclosed levels and instead having a vast, open-world. There are two large areas for you to explore with 157 side-ops (a combination of story, side, and combat unit missions) available for you to take on at will. This nonlinear approach made the game endlessly enjoyable. It kept me moving around to different locations and made me adapt to each mission and develop new playstyles.
For some of these, I was given tasks that required me to move away from my usual playstyle and take a more specialized approach. For example, some missions required me to destroy a specific amount of vehicles. Normally I go with a stealthy approach, equipping a silenced pistol, a sniper rifle, and a non-lethal automatic but that does not cut it here. For this called for a more… explosive solution. A stealthy approach is my favorite way of dealing with things but it was great fun blowing stuff up with rocket launchers, grenades, and other forms of explosives for a change.
Note that I mentioned playstyle because Metal Gear Solid V allows you to play differently depending on what sort of player you are. One of my favorite moments, before I discovered it was easier to accomplish this sort of task by sneaking around, was capturing my first outpost in a run n’ gun fashion.
On top of all this, there is an expansive base-builder where you can send comrades to obtain resources for you. There are missions that occur at the base and funny easter eggs. One of the most unique experiences from Metal Gear Solid V is how you can rob other player’s bases. This new player vs. player (pvp) experiment works really well on paper, but there are balancing issues. Players can cheat the system by spamming their most powerful weapons to either gain control of another base or protecting their own base with ease.
There are endless possibilities with Metal Gear Solid V. I was lost in its world for hours beyond hours, trying to obtain better weaponry, completing every side-op, and dabbling with its online multiplayer mechanics. I felt like there was never a dull moment no matter what I was doing. Easily, one of my most memorable moments was when I battled Quiet for the first time. She ended up being one of my top characters of the year and she barely uttered a word.
Who Will Win Next
There you have it. My top three titles from 2015, and there can only be one, Game of the Year. 2016 may not have as many great games as 2015 did and I have a lot of catching up to do with last years titles. This year, I expect to see many niche games that appeal greatly to me which may be challenging to choose the next Game of the Year. Check out my 2014 Game of the Year here; it may surprise you.