My Top 3 Game Surprises Of 2015
Every year, we have expectations. And while many of these expectations are met (and others fall well shy), there are other things that come out of the blue.
To me, it's these surprises that helps keep the industry interesting. I mean, as great as a game like Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain is, nobody was surprised that it was great. I suppose the only way you'd be surprised is if you were never an MGS fan and MGSV was the first title that really hooked you. And that leads me to my picks, 'cuz one of them is similar to the situation I just outlined.
Let's start with a game I was convinced I would find just utterly dumb and perhaps even reprehensibly stupid. Sorry, but whenever I hear the words "teen horror," I immediately feel brain cells struggling for survival. And yet...
3. Until Dawn
Admittedly, I read all the comments from Sony and developer Supermassive Games about how it'd be a mistake to assume Until Dawn was just another brainless, cornball teen horror adventure. Thing is, I just didn't believe them. But after about an hour of playing, I started to realize that Supermassive had created something decidedly special, and while it did smack of some stupidity (hey, teenagers are stupid by definition; we were all stupid when we were teenagers), it was exceedingly well done. And the Butterfly Effect was very involving and because you could actually see the impact your decisions had, it made the entire experience that much less...vague. More tangible, I guess. And when eight different characters have their virtual lives in your hands, that's a pretty unique feeling. Very compelling, the whole way 'round and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
2. Rocket League
Hey, I reviewed Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, even when most people had never heard of it. So, I was A. a little confused when I heard about Rocket League, because I just didn't think the first game needed a spiritual successor, and B. I was shocked to see the overwhelmingly positive response. I jumped on the bandwagon late, finally reviewing the game just last week and boy, was I happy. Maybe it's the online component that got me this time, or maybe it's just that this new version is simply bigger and better in every conceivable way. I still can't really explain why Supersonic didn't completely resonate with me but Rocket League absolutely does...but I don't feel the need to explain. I just love it.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Yeah, I know. For many, it was no surprise. But per my MGSV example above, I had never played any of the games in the franchise, despite hearing great things about The Witcher 2. On top of which, I quite frankly thought the game would be too massive and too aimless for me to become immersed. I know how great The Elder Scrolls is, for example, but the lack of a really driving core story always threw me, and I was worried Wild Hunt would be the same way. But CD Projekt Red managed to weave a fantastic story into a gigantic world that, thanks to its structure and inherently divided presentation, didn't feel anywhere near as overwhelming as it could've. It was a stroke of genius, I say, and it kept me coming back for more. I'm still wondering if I should give The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt overall Game of the Year because there are some questions there, but I know it was my favorite surprise of 2015.
Oh, and even though I'm not the authority on DLC by any stretch of the imagination, I say that Hearts of Stone expansion is the best piece of add-on content so far this generation.
1/1/2016 Ben Dutka