Saturday 2 January 2016

Blake Harmer's Best Of 2015

Hi everyone, time for my favourite and least favourite experiences from 2015. Please note that these are things that I personally experienced in 2015 not necessarily things that were released in 2015 although most of them were.

Game of the Year 2015 - Bloodborne

Yes I know, for anyone who knows me playing this game at the time there will be surprise that I am giving this GOTY. Despite my initial hatred caused mainly by my ineptitude playing the game, because of its crushing difficulty which almost led me to give up on it completely, everything about this game is practically flawless. The combat is amazing and the storyline, while mostly gleaned from books found around the game and hinted at through cutscenes, is a slice of cosmic horror brilliance that feels like a massive homage to the works of HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos without being truly part of it. Every mistake you make is brutally punished like the Dark Souls and Demons Souls games before it. However, persevere, and this is one of the most rewarding games you will experience this year. Essential if you own a PS4.

Honourable Mention - MGS V: The Phanom Pain

MGS could have easily taken the gong on gameplay alone. However, the unfinished storyline along with parts that felt rushed despite its scale stopped this from besting Bloodborne in the end. Had Kojima taken a “less is more" approach and ended the game after “part one” then as a self-contained slice of genius this would have been a different story and the rest of the game could have been finished in a later instalment of MGS. Alas this is now never to be.

Honourable Mention - Fallout 4

Now, those who know me know I love Fallout 4. Sure, it doesn’t do a huge amount of new stuff in terms of gameplay over Fallout 3and New Vegas, but what it does it does well, with the new crafting and settlement building very welcome additions to the series. However, no other game franchise aside from Bethesda’s other big franchise can make me lost in a gaming world as much as a Fallout title. I become engrossed in simple exploration, little side quests and visiting and exploring new towns with their new stories to tell.

I could have very easily given this GOTY based on these facts alone, along with the several hours I have already put into the game. However, I have chosen to reserve final judgment of the game purely as I have yet to finish the game at time of writing. However, don’t be too shocked if this ends up in my GOTY writings in 2016. Even with tough contenders such as Uncharted 4, X-Com 2 and No Mans Sky vying for my attention next year, and games such as Witcher 3, Halo 5, Star Wars: Battlefront, Rise of The Tomb Raider and Assassins Creed: Syndicate as big games of this year that I have yet to experience.

Worst Game of the Year 2015 - Entwined

As mentioned earlier, this is only based on games I’ve actually played, and whilst I’m sure there are games that have been released this year that are far more deserving of this award, Entwined is just the weakest I’ve played this year. Unlike the God-awful Doki Doki Universe which won this award last year, Entwined isn’t truly an awful game. It's more of a disappointment based on what I believe it was trying to achieve. The game is trying for that indie artfulness that, when done right, gives the gamer an emotional attachment and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Examples that spring to mind include The Unfinished Swan or Flower. However, while Entwined has some lovely visuals, it just never truly grabbed me emotionally. Unfortunately, when the game is very repetitive and not all that difficult, there just isn’t a lot here to recommend extended playtime or replayability once the credits roll. The ultimate feeling I was left with was a resounding "Meh" about this game, and sometimes that can be worse than playing a bad game.

Film of the year 2015

This is a really tough decision, as there have been some truly outstanding films this year, including Birdman, The Martian, Kingsman and Jurassic World to name but a few as honourable mentions. However, here are 3 films that I love for different reasons that I have seen in 2015, so much so that it would be unfair to rate one over the other because of this (Yes I know this is a bit of a copout but hey, I’m writing this article):

Best Comedy 2015 - What We Do In The Shadows

This is quite possibly the best mockumentary I have seen since the almighty This is Spinal Tap, What We Do In The Shadows is a hilarious comedy showing a household of vampires and what they do in their spare time on the build up to their yearly celebration: “The Unholy Masquerade”. From clubbing to enticing victims, all while dealing with their nemeses the werewolves, this comedy is practically flawless from start to finish.

Best Action Movie 2015 - Mad Max: Fury Road

This film is no-nonsense, doing exactly what it says on the tin and delivering exactly what you want from a Mad Max movie: vehicular carnage, non-stop action and a simple yet well-explained plot that holds it all together. By God, is it amazing. The film also deserves special mention for bringing new fans to the franchise while also staying true to its roots by sticking to real stunts and prosthetics whilst only using CG to enhance lighting and explosions where needed.

Best Movie containing the word "Star Wars" thus trumping any other movie - Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Joking aside, this is an outstanding movie. It recaptures the feel of the original trilogy, uniting you with old friends while introducing you to new ones. It tells a good story that has the feel of A New Hope in a lot of aspects while still remaining sufficiently original in its own right. The film is a fanboy's dream, and as a huge Star Wars fan myself there was no doubt this film would enter my all-time top films of 2015. However, it earns its right to be here for being the emotional action-packed rollercoaster ride that it is. Harrison Ford’s reprisal as Han Solo is amazing, whilst new characters Finn, Rey & BB-8 are also strong characters as well.

If you are one of the few people who hate Star Wars, then there will be nothing here for you (and less on this entire website – so stick a spoon up your arse!), but if you are a fan like most sensible people, then this film is truly essential and I implore you to go see it as soon as you possibly can if you haven’t already.

Album of the Year 2015 - "Coma Ecliptic" by Between the Buried & Me

While still mad and an exercise in technical genius, "Coma Ecliptic" is probably the most accessible BTBAM album I have heard and is also practically flawless. In my opinion this is my favourite album of theirs since Colours. If you are a fan of Progressive Metal then I highly recommend this!

Most Disappointing Album 2015 – "The Colour Before The Sun" by Coheed & Cambria

To me this was a big let-down, especially as this follows the last 2 Afterman albums which are some of C&C’s best work. The album has good songs on it but the overall content feels ultimately uninspiring and forgettable. Granted this is the first album C&C have made that isn’t a concept album, but knowing they are a band that are capable of so much more than what is offered in this album is ultimately disappointing.

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