Top 5 Video Games of 2015
By ROB FLAKS
First Place, Arts Review-Video Games — Long Island Press High School Journalism Awards 2016
With colossal new worlds, fascinating heroes and breathtaking adventures, there was a deluge of excellent video games last year. Here is my list of the top five games of 2015.
5. Life is Strange
Many games these days revolve around “go here, kill this and get reward.” An antithesis to this template is Life Is Strange which depicts the quaint Pacific town of Arcadia Bay and the dark mysterious secret that lies beneath its charming exterior. Main character Max Caulfield gains a supernatural power to reverse time and uses it to solve the many different problems that arise during the game’s five chapters. The story has some predictable turns, but by the final chapter I realized I had no idea where the story was going, a notable feat for any narrative. The graphics and music also deserve special mention with a soundtrack bursting with Indie and hipster music and an art style that looks like a water-color canvass in motion. These details make Arcadia Bay a character in the story. With a length of anywhere between 12-15 hours based on how much time you spend exploring the environment and partaking in optional activities, Life Is Strange offers an excellent value for the $15 price tag.
4. Rocket League
With athletes replaced with cars, Rocket League is certainly the most unique game on the list. In this 5 on 5 soccer game, players control their cars directly and have a plethora of insane jumps and tilts to help them guard, shoot and save the ball. Its vibrant color pallet and “easy to learn, hard to master” game-play provides a uniquely addictive quality that made me want to keep playing so that I could improve. Jericho sophomore and Rocket League player Matt T. said, “Everyone’s played soccer, and this is a more fast paced and fun version of that.” In between fast- paced matches of between 5-15 minutes, players can customize their cars with cosmetics and other accessories that become unlocked as you keep playing. From a quick and casual game between friends, to a round robin tournament, Rocket League fits the bill for your wacky fun party game. Much like Mario Kart and Smash Brothers, I expect to see this game being played and thoroughly enjoyed by people of all skill levels.
The spiritual successor to the punishingly difficult Dark Souls marries challenging combat and some of the most terrifying enemies in locales since, well, Dark Souls. Creative director Hidetaka Miyazaki returns with Bloodborne and his work is evident in the sprawling, interconnected and non-linear level design that rewards players for meticulously exploring every nook and cranny of the detailed, maze-like environment. The aesthetic can best be described as Victorian England mixed with H.P. Lovecraft. The game has some of the most unique and haunting enemies ever showcased on the small screen. “I love the game and I’m always happy when I find a dead end so I can go explore all the branching paths I missed,” said freshman Matt M. Bloodborne’s combat revolves around attacking enemies and quickly dodging their counter-attacks. The lack of any means of shielding gives the combat an urgency and threat that makes every enemy encounter a potentially game over screen. The story is as enigmatic as the level design–leaving players piecing it together from item descriptions and sparse dialogue from the game’s few friendly NPCs (Non-Player Characters). It is worth noting that as of right now, the game remains a PlayStation 4 exclusive, although a PC version is being considered by the developer FromSoftware, Inc.
2. Witcher 3
This open world adventure follows the story of Geralt of Rivia and his quest to find his wife. It takes place in a medieval open world heavily reminiscent of “Game of Thrones” and is actually based on a series of Polish books. The game has possibly the best graphics ever showcased on PC and certainly on consoles. The story has large branching paths with choices you make at the very onset having sweeping consequences hours later. Combat revolves around methodically picking your moment to strike and staying on defense. Sword fighting against one or two enemies is manageable, but fighting larger groups will leave you feeling like you barely survived. Science teacher Mr. Croce, an avid fan of the series and Witcher 3 in particular said, “I would recommend this game to anyone 18 and older.” He went on to say that his favorite aspects are “the replay ability, the story telling, the effect of your choices and the fact that you could spend between 8 and 80 hours playing it.”
1. Fallout 4
The highly anticipated latest entry in the series, Fallout 4 invites players to explore the post-apocalyptic Boston Commonwealth. The graphics are the best that the series has had, although weird graphical glitches and occasional muddy textures detract from what is otherwise a good-looking game. For what the game lacks in graphical fidelity, it makes up in atmosphere, setting, and storytelling. Fallout 4’s Boston actually feels like a real city (or the ruins of one). Almost every building can be entered and explored, with many of the game’s best Easter eggs and interesting quests being found in these niches. Freshman Dylan M. said, “I like how detailed the world is. I never feel like I’m just wasting my time.” The character customization, which finally provides the option of creating a female protagonist, has a lot of depth, and players can spend hours attempting to re-create their likenesses.
The main story follows your character attempting to find his son and explores the question of how far will you go to save someone you love. The game’s trademark music stations return with a fresh new collection of classic songs ranging from the 1920s to the 1960s, with my particular favorites being “Wanderer” by Dion and “Civilization” by Danny Kaye. Weapon customization has been revamped and now requires that players scavenge for spoons, toasters and other such junk in the hopes of finding useful parts to design the latest and greatest in post-apocalyptic defense. The companion system has also been redone with 12 different characters that have the option of accompanying you on your travels through the Commonwealth. The best parts of Fallout 4, however, are the stories you make for yourself. No two players will have the same experience and since random quests are constantly generated, the game technically never ends.
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