Welcome to the next installment of the Refined Geekery Best of 2015 series. Today we are going to look at the best Xbox One games of the year. Microsoft’s big black box has had an incredibly strong year this year, including many notable exclusives, indies, and some great third party games. Now due to my limiting the best of list at five, there are some great games that I am just not able to highlight here. #idarb started the year off with one of the most addictive multiplayer experiences of the year. Metal Gear Solid was an incredibly strong game that pushed mechanical depth to its limits, and Forza 6 iterated on a proven concept with one of the best looking and full featured racing games to date. That said, we can’t all be winners. So without further ado, here are the top 5 games of 2015 on the Xbox One.
5. Fallout 4
I am about 50 hours in to Fallout 4, and I don’t even feel like I have scratched the surface of everything I can do in this game. Fallout 4, like Skyrim before it, is so enormous that I don’t even know if I will ever actually ‘finish’ this game, and I am okay with that. I know that before I walk away satisfied, I will have dumped at least twice the amount of time I have already put in, building my settlements, liberating others, aiding the people of Diamond City, and fighting the good fight to make this post-apocalyptic version of Boston the most habitable a nuclear wasteland can be. My investment in the world is so great that I feel any clearing of a hardware store or comic shop is a victory for civilization. It is a depth of world-building that only a developer like Bethesda could make and I have given myself to its embrace wholeheartedly. And then there is the crafting. No game has presented its junk with so much value like Fallout 4 has. It’s pickup system will have you scouring for hours if not days for those proper materials to make your next big upgrade. Does one of your communities need a generator but you are short on aluminium? There is no greater feeling than finding a few lunch trays just laying around in a broken down school, knowing that you are bringing the lives of your little digital residents one step closer to civilization.
4. Halo 5: Guardians
Sure the single-player campaign’s narrative was less than stellar, but from a gameplay perspective, Halo has never been better than it is in Halo 5 and it is so hard to go back to play those classic Halo games without the many upgraded systems included in the latest package. At the most basic level, it is the tightest and most satisfying shooter mechanically that I have played in years. Every crunch of a headshot, every recoil from a weapon, every gameplay mechanic, system, sound, and haptic experience, has been built to create an adrenaline based reward that sends all of the chemicals within my primitive brain rushing in pure chaotic bliss. Movement has speed and heft – you are a force to be reckoned with. Oh, and then there is the multiplayer, and what a multiplayer it is. With free DLC and a games as service attitude from 343 Industries, Halo 5 shows it has the staying power to last for months. Warzone, the newest multiplayer addition, is as fast and frenetic as Halo multiplayer always has been, while also including so much more to do aside from killing the opposite team. The multiple courses toward victory ensures that players of all types can find ways to contribute to a team’s overall score. Arena on the other hand presents the classic Halo 2 style of 4v4 and 8v8 competition that was the series’ signature for so many years. To date I have played 158 hours of Halo 5. That is an insane amount of time, and as such I cannot make such a list without giving accolade to my most addictive game of 2015.
3. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics’ Rise of the Tomb Raider is incredible. The game improves on almost all of the core moments that made the Tomb Raider relaunch in 2013. The gameplay loop is so solid and I find myself so addicted to its multitude of mechanics that I cannot express enough how much people need to play this game. The puzzles that Crystal Dynamics have put together within Rise, the aptly named tombs, are some of the most enjoyable and well-crafted physics based head-scratchers I have played since perhaps even Portal 2. The story, meanwhile has become more singularly focussed, drawing on Lara’s relationship with her father, and the compulsion/drive that pushes her to be the explorer she feels he would want her to become. The villains are less of a joke than the previous version – not exactly hard given the silliness of the plot of Tomb Raider 2013. It is also one of the best looking games made this generation. The environments are beautifully constructed (I was awestruck the first time I walked out into the Geothermal Valley), with gorgeous overlooks and vistas that show the power of the Xbox One. All of these make it one of the best games of the year, but once more, it is that moment to moment gameplay that is key to Rise of Tomb Raider’s success.
2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
When the current generation of video game consoles was announced, and with it an onslaught of open world games, few felt as anticipated as the third and possibly final game within The Witcher franchise. CD Projekt Red had blown away everyone’s expectations with their last outing, the beautiful and complex Assassins of Kings, and opening up the series to new and more powerful hardware seemed a thrilling proposition. Red’s penchant for dramatic, engaging story content, embroiled in moral nuance was only greater served by the horse power this generation yielded, creating some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring visuals to date. And yet, visuals alone do not a great game make. No, what separates The Witcher 3 from all other games this year is just how compelling and ambiguous your journey is throughout this hundred-hour-plus epoch. The characters that live and breath within the games varying landscapes feel so fleshed out, each with ambitions and believable, emotional motivations. It is the kind of world building that makes you pause before each and every decision, knowing that for every positive you create for one person, an equally negative effect will be felt somewhere else. It is mature story-telling of the highest quality and as such it is the second best Xbox One game of 2015.
1. Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is my favourite game of the year. The game presents its players with a gorgeous painterly aesthetic, lush environments, and fluidly rendered animations. The game draws inspiration from a marriage of both old-school gaming mechanics and traditional forms of both Japanese and Western animation (Think Princess Mononoke meets the Lion King). Such inspiration is clearly worn on Ori’s sleeve as the expressiveness in its character design cannot help but permeate the toughest of jaded gamer exterior. Its gut-wrenchingly emotional beginning will affect both gamers and non-gamers alike, but it is the tight, responsive, and punishing platforming that will keep you playing through it’s metroid-vania-styled environments. It is quite possibly the best looking, best playing game of this generation. From the moment of its first trailer to the moment I put my game pad down and let the credits role, I knew that Ori was going to be something special, and something special it is. Ori and the Blind Forest is the best game of 2015 and is a must play for everyone!
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