Wednesday, December 30, 2015

William Lowery's Favorite Games of 2015

Another year has passed, and during that year I played a lot of games, which is why I'll be discussing my favorite games that I played this year.  Keep in mind, this list does not pertain to games that were released this year, since I am normally not able to play most of the titles that came out during the year until later down the line.  Secondly, unless it's a game that I have played before, such as Ghostbusters: The Video Game or Dead Island, then it was not considered for the list.  For now, however, it's time to start the countdown.

9. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
In recent years, I have become a huge fan of the Borderlands series; what appeals to me most about the games are their sense of humor and First Person Shooter meets RPG gameplay, which is quite fun.  The latest installment, while not bringing any major changes to the franchise, still managed to be very enjoyable thanks to solid gameplay that does introduce a few new concepts to keep things varied; namely, the addition of zero gravity, which manages to make firefights more fun with the enhanced mobility offered by this mechanic.  In addition to solid gameplay, the game's story showed the rise of the man we came to love to hate in Borderlands 2, Handsome Jack.

8. Call of Duty: Black Ops
Even though I have not played many of the games in the Call of Duty series, I was still pleasantly surprised by Black Ops, and this is largely due in part to the story.  It's a conspiracy filled narrative with many twists and turns, and a main protagonist whose mind is gradually degrading over the course of the game, and I found myself very interested in the events going on.  While the gameplay was nothing new, it was nevertheless enjoyable thanks to various moments strewn throughout the campaign to help break up the shooting.  Besides an interesting story mode, there was also the highly replayable zombies' mode, which never gets old.  Regardless of your own experience with the franchise, I still think Black Ops is a title both fans and non-fans of Call of Duty will enjoy.

7. Earth Defense Force 2025
Earth Defense Force is a series with a simple concept: you and/or a friend, versus a race of aliens called Ravagers that will be killed or blown up with a variety of different weapons that can be acquired over the course of the game.  The latest installment in the series keeps this concept intact but this game shakes things up by featuring four different character classes to choose from and play as, plus a lengthy campaign to beat and a wide variety of enemies to face.  Although repetition is still an issue in Earth Defense Force 2025, it never becomes a huge problem due to two of the reasons I mentioned prior.  As a whole, Earth Defense Force 2025 just might be my favorite installment in the series to date due to new concepts introduced that keep things fun and entertaining.

6. Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
Transformers is a massive franchise with everything from toys to TV shows and movies; yet video games were an area the franchise was never successful in until 2010's War for Cybertron, which was followed up by the excellent Fall of Cybertron  The biggest strength of this game is that it keeps you on your toes; nearly every level in the campaign has you playing as a different member of the Autobots and Decepticons, and each one brings something new to the table.  Whether it's relying on the assistance of the massive robot Metroplex when playing as Optimus Prime, or laying wasted to enemies as Bruticus or the Dinobot Grimlock, there's never a dull moment in this game.  Much like the Arkham series, this game is an example of taking a license and creating something that is very enjoyable for everyone, even if they aren't a fan of the particular series.

5. Splinter Cell: Blacklist
As I mentioned in my review for the game, Blacklist was my first foray into the stealth genre, and I'm very glad I played this game.  While the story was quite lackluster, this was made up for by the gameplay, which encourages you to stick to the shadows, but at the same time be mobile and take advantage of your surroundings.  Also, the game's Ghost, Panther, and Hunter playstyles encourage you to use your own methods when dealing with enemies, either keeping it sneaky or very loud, thus encouraging experimentation.  The game can be challenging, yes, but when you do succeed, it is very satisfying.

4. Far Cry 3/Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
When deciding on how to rank my favorite games of this year, trying to rank these two was rather tricky, but then I decided to just include them both in the same rank.  With Far Cry 3, you have a game with a solid story and gameplay that is very engaging; with  Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, you have a game that takes the original game and turns it upside down and inside and out by having a story that feels like it was ripped from a science fiction/action B-movie, a main character who's a parody of action stars from the 80's, and weapons that can be outfitted with ridiculous attachments such as a quadruple barrel for the shotgun and explosive rounds for the sniper rifle.  Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon are both great games, but Blood Dragon gets brownie points for having an awesome soundtrack and a powerful laser weapon called the Killstar.

3. Super Mario Galaxy
Sometimes, setting your game in space can lead to positive results; it worked well with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and it works great in Super Mario Galaxy.  By having the levels consist of different galaxies, this means that each level brings something new and interesting through creative level design and unique ideas for each galaxy.  The result is a game bursting with creativity and one that is hard not to put down.  Combine the creative gameplay with strong visuals and a great soundtrack, and you have a game that is a surefire must-play.

2. Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 and I had a rocky start; initially, I picked up this game in April of 2014, played it for about an hour, and didn't touch the game again until December of that same year.  When playing the game again I decided to restart from the beginning, and I got hooked.  Three aspects of what made this game great were its characters, strong writing, and good sense of player choice.  Each of the crew members Shepherd recruits as part of his team is interesting and the excellent writing does a great job at making you care for the crewmates of the Normandy.  Then you have the choice system, which allows you to either make Shepherd a heroic captain or a complete jerk. I went with the former, but the choices you have to make are significant, as they can change the outcome of a given situation.  As for the gameplay, it's a solid mix of third person shooting and exploration.  Although I do have a couple of minor issues with the game, these are overly linear level design during combat sections and a final boss that is very easy, yet such issues are outweighed by how good the rest of the game is.  Even though I started in the middle with the series, Mass Effect 2 was still an excellent game.

Before my number one pick, here are two honorable mentions:
  • LEGO Marvel Superheroes
  • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
1. Grand Theft Auto V
To be honest, I could have chosen this game or Mass Effect 2 as my choice for favorite game of 2015, but I decided on this game, but why?  For me, its two reasons: a strong story and gameplay that will constantly keep you entertained through its varied missions, fun side activities, and just the great thrill of exploring and discovering new areas  The story is very compelling, featuring three protagonists who each have their own personal life problems but also realizes they work together as a great, if sometimes distraught, team.  The gameplay of this fifth installment raises the stakes by offering three different characters to switch between and play as for most of the game.  Besides the huge amount of activities to do, the game also has fun and exciting story missions, which never suffer from the feeling of repetition.  In short, Grand Theft Auto V is an amazing game.

That was my list of favorite games for this year; now to get ready for next year's batch of games that I'll by playing.

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