2015 has been an amazing year to be a Xbox One owner. Xbox One has arguably had the best console exclusives this year (particularly in the second half of the year). Phil Spencer has truly started to make his mark on the brand, introducing backwards compatibility and bringing the focus of the console back to games. We have also been treated to some fantastic third-party titles. Nearly every genre has been catered to this year, whether you prefer RPGs, shooters, racers or anything else. While I haven’t played every game this year, I have played a lot. Some notable exceptions though are Fallout 4, Ori and the Blind Forest, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. As such, they are ineligible for this list, but I’m sure that some of my fellow Xbox Enthusiasts will include them. Any way, here are what I consider to be the best five games I have played this year.
First of all, some honourable mentions –
– Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – a brilliant open world stealth game that may well be best remembered as Hideo Kojima’s last MGS game, but is the most accessible entry in the series.
– Dying Light – Techland’s zombie parkour game burst onto the scene earlier in the year and still has updates coming out for it. My favourite new IP this year.
– Gears of War: Ultimate Edition – The Coalition’s first attempt at a Gears of War game is a remake of Epic Games’ original. The game looks next gen and bodes well for Gears 4 next year. It is a remaster though, so I think it only deserves an honourable mention.
- Batman: Arkham Knight – Back in June, Rocksteady Studios delivered the conclusion to their Arkham trilogy. The big new addition to the game this time around was the Batmobile. As a huge racing fan, I enjoyed the racing sections and the overall handling of the Batmobile. While lots of fans were put off by the way the vehicle morphed into a tank, I did enjoy these sections, though I can understand that they’re not quite as ‘Batman-like’. The traversal was greatly improved by the grapple gun, which felt as though it instantly fit into the world. The map was superbly designed, with each area of the city feeling individual and not a replica of the previous area. The combat is still the best third-person fighting scheme I’ve played and the new enemies required a few new strategies to defeat them. I thought the story was more than good enough and the way they included The Joker was somewhat inspired. If you enjoy brawlers, are a fan of Batman, or just enjoy a great game, you really should check out Batman: Arkham Knight.
- Tales from the Borderlands – When Telltale games announced that they were doing an episodic game based on the Borderlands property I was more than a little dubious. I just wasn’t sure how the RPG shooter was going to fit into Telltale’s interactive movie-style game. I really didn’t need to worry though as the writers at Telltale games gave us a story full of humour, suspense and the same kind of craziness that screams Borderlands. Yes, the game engine is really starting to show its age now but the writing was absolutely top notch. It expertly dovetails into the Borderlands storyline without feeling forced or stretched. I can honestly say that this is my favourite Telltale game to date and that is a huge compliment.
- Rise of the Tomb Raider – After all the controversy of the time-exclusive nature of the release, and the weird decision to launch the game on the same day as Fallout 4, it was great to see just how good this game was. Crystal Dynamics have built on their brilliant reboot and given us a story showing how Lara is continuing to develop into the world renown adventurer we all know and love. I love that they dialed back a bit on the supernatural side and gave us new locations like snowy mountains. I also applaud the decision to not include multiplayer as it was clearly just tacked on at the last minute in the previous game. While the inclusion of the ‘exhibition’ mode has a similar rushed kind of feel, it does allow for some satisfying speed runs through the levels. One of the best things I can say about this game is that I am no longer bothered that I don’t have a Playstation 4 to play Uncharted 4 on.
- Halo 5: Guardians – Halo 5 was probably the most hyped game of the year, and while the story didn’t live up to that, the multiplayer certainly did. The gameplay and graphics were easily the best they have ever been. The standard multiplayer has been tightened and rejuvenated in just the right way. The new multiplayer mode, Warzone, is just sublime. More than half of my 150+ hours with the game have been spent playing Warzone. I also love that Microsoft have announced that all the DLC for the game is going to be free. When games like Star Wars Battlefront are charging $50 for a DLC season pass, Microsoft’s stance is to be applauded.
- Forza Motorsport 6 – Even though I am a huge racing fan, I would not normally choose a racing game as the greatest game of the year, but Forza Motorsport 6 is the best racing game I have ever played. The game is as near to perfection as I have ever come across. The graphics are fantastic and it runs at a flawless 60 frames per second. The choice of circuits and locations is extensive as is the selection of cars. The handling model is still the best in the business and the presentation is top notch. The career mode has had a bit of an overhaul and is all the best for it, it’s still a massive game but it is now possible to complete the career mode without having to spend around 200 hours playing the game. If you have any interest in cars at all, I cannot recommend this game highly enough.