This week, the annual Top 5 lists.
You can't have a new year without a Top 5! So I'd better do one before the Earth halts in its orbit around the sun and plunges us all into eternal winter.
Undertale is a good game...
...etc, etc. Right, now we've got that over with, look alive, 'cause here come the fives, Clive!
Dragons are the midwife of new ideas. You get a new idea? Best to do it first with dragons so people don't get scared off. Then if that works out, you can put your new idea in whatever horrible setting your disgusting mind can conjure. Heartening to see that process in action this year, as Dark Souls begat Bloodborne - Dark Souls gameplay in a glistening wet orgy of Lovecraftian horror: you gotta love it! And then you gotta launder your bedsheets!
Might ruffle some feathers here, 'cause this game was perfectly functional. But I feel the need to take a stand against games that think a handful of mindless multiplayer modes is worth exactly the same retail price as four full-length retro games plus the pizza afterwards. It was going to be either Evolve or Star Wars: Battlefront. And Star Wars clinched it for the slightly patronizing attitude of, "We all know you nerds will buy anything with a Wookiee in it!"
You know what? Before we move on, "good games, yay, bad games, boo" is all very well, but what about the third category? For the first time, I'd like to introduce a third Top 5 list celebrating the games that did nothing interesting, took no risks, pushed nothing forward, and which were generally to the year of gaming what Martin O'Malley was to televised debate. Without further ado, here's my fifth blandest game of 2015! [beat] Hmm, what's that? [beat] Jim Sterling just did something like this? Well, it's a good thing everyone knows that I write these a few weeks in advance, isn't it? Otherwise, they might have accused me of ripping him off! And made complete fucking fools of themselves!
While it has its moments, Batman: Arkham Knight made its mistake when it thought, "How can we enhance our characteristic stealth-action-adventure for the last instalment? Oh, I know! Let's take out some of the stealth-action-adventuring and replace it with Tonka toys being smashed together in the clumsy fists of an idiot god!"
While I did have some issues relating to questionably-necessary monsters (insofar as it can be said that monsters are ever not questionably necessary except on the front of a box of Sugar Puffs), there's more than enough to recommend in SOMA regardless. It may now go down in history as the second best atmospheric narrative horror game with philosophical themes set at the bottom of the ocean with an existential plot twist in it of all time.
Speaking of questionable necessity, mainstream culture has gradually been coming around to the idea that video games probably aren't all murder porn aimed at the high-school massacre demographic, but this was not intended to be taken as a fucking challenge. The game that strutted about in its big black controversy knickers dropping embarrassing turds from its leg holes conveniently named after the reaction it provokes, Hatred. Although after release, they should have renamed it Dispassionate Ridicule.
Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, or as it might as well have been called, Everybody's Gone to the Toilet on the Reasonable Assumption That They Won't Miss Anything. I'm all for doing new things with interactive story, but after you throw away traditional ideas of pacing, challenge, and coherent narrative, you are actually then supposed to replace them with something!
Over the years, AAA gaming has been trying to pummel us into accepting that we have no choice but to have graphics like Rembrandt had sex with Industrial Light & Magic, and that means we have to sacrifice the kind of in-depth detail and storytelling we used to have in our open-world RPGs. But then Witcher 3 replied, "Oh no, you don't! You just have to work until your bollocks drop off!" I for one appreciate it, CD Projekt RED. Hope the reattachment surgery goes well.
Have you ever wanted to be a giant, all-powerful monster? What about a giant, all-powerful monster wading through knee-high runoff from the dog food factory? What about a bloke dressed as a giant, all-powerful monster attempting to navigate a discount furniture warehouse wearing really uncomfortable shoes? No? Didn't think so, but here's Godzilla anyway. May it return to its thousand-year slumber at the bottom of the ocean just in time for another BP oil spill.
A textbook case of a franchise in holding pattern while it figures out what to base itself around now it's taken out the funbags, Rise of the Tomb Raider. I look forward to the next instalments: Beginnings of the Tomb Raider, Induction of the Tomb Raider, Tentative Steps of the Pubescence of the Tomb Raider, after which of course comes the reboot.
You know I don't ask much of games, just a good central mechanic and a game world roughly 180,000 light years in diameter. What I like about Elite: Dangerous (title drop) is that it's not insecure like some of these other jerks. It's not worried you'll piss off if you can't explode something with lasers every four nanoseconds. Kick back, fly around, be alone with your thoughts in the depths of the infinite, then when you do explode someone with lasers, it still feels special. Wouldn't you agree, Mister dissipating-remains-of-a-pirate?
Number 2 Worst is not only a barely-playable, unfinished, horribly-designed litre of cold wee-wee, but one that got poured down the trousers of one of PC gaming's oldest franchises, soaking the knickers of its proud legacy of one, arguably two sort-of good games; Alone in the Dark: Illumination. I can only presume they made it multiplayer-focused on the principle of a problem shared being a problem halved. But even if you split the cold piss between you, you're just ruining two pairs of trousers.
What rundown of mediocrity would be complete without a visit to the series that must now legally credit the Microsoft Word find-and-replace tool as the lead designer? With Syndicate, Assassin's Creed has dribbled its way to a standstill like a camel with a leaky hump. And not the good kind of leaky hump.
No sense being coy, it's Undertale, the darlingest of 2015's indie darlings. Which I haven't reviewed properly, 'cause it really is best experienced from knowing as little as possible, not unlike a leaky hump. The basic appearance hides a deep narrative that manages to be funny and touching without horrifically derailing itself, as well as the kind of unique and deconstructive gameplay that actually makes an impact on the medium. Unlike the following:
Morst Worst (sic)
Well, in fairness, it did have some impact, that being the impact of Sony's hand against its forehead as they muttered, "Christ, what the fuck were we thinking?" Where do you start on The Order: 1886, the werewolf game with, like, three werewolves in it, that took all the potential of its setting and fired it out of drab, tedious cover-shooter gameplay, with a plot that just sort of gave up and cut off halfway through? Well, I don't know where to start, but I know where to stop - when the hacksaw blade gets lodged in the pelvic bone!
Poor old 343 Industries, they tried so hard to make Halo 5 interesting. They played at Master Chief being hunted for crimes, and then his crime was, like, one notch below an unpaid parking ticket. They bring Cortana back to life, and that had all the impact of finding a rotting Malteser under a beanbag chair. There's only so much you can do with the material, I suppose. It's like trying to paint a masterpiece with used bathwater on a canvas of dryer lint. In a house made of bog roll. In Swindon.
- The Fallen Child: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Bland on the Run: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Well done planet Earth for getting through another year without exploding, fingers crossed for at least one more
- BE SURE TO LET ME KNOW HOW BAD I AM AT OPINIONS