Published on January 21st, 2016 | by Ethan
GOTY 2015 Parker’s Top 5
Parker, known for appearing on the Pixel Podcast and running Game Creator’s Vault (I think), gave us a list of his favorite games he played in 2015. He’s a pretty cool guy. – Ethan
5. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
This game moved me so much that I’m going to go ahead and ignore the fact that it was released in 2014. I played it in 2015, so it qualifies as one of my favorite games of the year. Here is a game that demonstrates that incredible capability of video games as a storytelling medium. Valiant Hearts is a relatively simple game when compared to blockbusters like Halo 5, The Phantom Pain or Destiny, but is uses interactivity to convey feelings of loss, hope, redemption and crushing sadness like few others ever have. It’s a side-scrolling, 2D platformer/puzzle game that tells the stories of participants in the First World War. Each level requires some problem solving, a little bit of button mashing and some quick reaction time, but the real meat of the experience is in collecting artifacts across the maps that reveal facts and information about life during the war. The main characters’ motivations are believable and their actions relatable. When tragedy struck, I felt for them. When a family was reunited despite the violence and dangers of war, I was relieved that they were safe. The final scene of the game crushed me. I literally cried at the end of this game. That’s never happened to me before. This is a prime example of the simple storytelling that can be executed so perfectly using the interactivity of video games, and I think everyone with an interest in the medium should take some time and experience it.
4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This is another visually stunning game. Roaming through the mountainous regions of Afghanistan on horseback is a great way to kill a couple hours. A few more hours can be spent strategizing the most lethal, stealthy or efficient ways to complete the missions given to Snake in this most recent game in the Metal Gear Solid series. The change of format to an open-world style of gameplay makes this game a real treat for those players who can get the most use out of the various tools, techniques and skills available to them throughout the long story mode and online against other players. As with most Metal Gear Solid games, the story is a bit weird, convoluted and confusing, and I don’t beat myself up too much about keeping up with it, quite frankly. But the gameplay is so satisfying, the tone just right and the visuals so gorgeous that I just can’t stop playing.
3. Star Wars Battlefront
This game suffered from pre-release hype more than any other game this year. Many players were disappointed with the perceived lack of content, the choices made regarding server browsers, and the decision by the developers to focus on the original trilogy era for their locations, weapons and playable characters. I was not – am not – disappointed because the bottom line is that Star Wars Battlefront is really fun. It is absolutely beautiful to watch blaster bolts fly across the battlefield like swarms of angry bees, and to look up at the skies of Jakku to watch the massive starship battle happening above. It is stunning to listen to blaster rifles fire, TIE fighters zoom overhead and AT-ATs lumber across the forest moon of Endor. Seeing Han Solo, Boba Fett or Luke Skywalker sprint past in a hail of blaster fire is a thrilling experience. Playing this game is like living out all those fantasies you had as a kid watching the movies, playing with the action figures and arguing with your friends about which characters would win in a fight. It’s just plain fun. There’s very little depth to the gameplay, leveling system and player progression, I will admit that, but that’s not really why I’m playing in the first place. I just want to fight off some Stormtroopers on Tatooine or blast some rebel scum as they try and take an imperial base on Sullust. Star Wars Battlefront does just a few things, but it does them well and it’s one of my favorite games of the year.
2. Destiny: The Taken King
This is the game that Destiny should have been when it was initially released in 2014. A fairly intricate, well-backed and meaningful story unfolds as players complete a variety of missions across new spaces and access new and improved gameplay. All of the tedious grinding and leveling done by players during the first year of Destiny fall away as The Taken King sweeps in and delivers the experience we all wish we had gotten at initial release. Characters are much more well-realized and fleshed out where before they were little more than cardboard cutouts standing in front of empty stalls. The Ghost, which players hear constantly throughout gameplay, now speaks and acts as if he has a full sense of what is happening around him, and can now interact with key pieces of lore within the game world by scanning and explaining things to the player. Not everything is perfect in the new world of Destiny, though. Leveling, while reworked and simplified slightly, is still a little confusing for new players. The grind is alive and well for better, stronger weapons and gear. And a sizable amount of year-one content is replaced by the new stuff, rather than joined by it, so things get a bit repetitive the more you play.
1. Halo 5
Stunning graphics, incredible sound design and solid gameplay make up for a less-than-stellar story in the first Halo game made specifically for current-generation consoles. Deep lore Easter eggs abound in each level of the campaign growing the backstory of the worlds and characters within the Halo universe, which almost makes me forget that I’m playing as Jameson Locke and Fireteam Osiris instead of Master Chief and Blue Team for 80 percent of the levels. There’s no denying that the gameplay in Halo 5 is the most Spartan-like of any installment in the series. Sprinting across maps filled with alien hostiles before making a flying leap and smashing into the ground and taking out a crowd of Grunts is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done in a Halo game. I have actually flipped my position on this game since my initial playthrough during the week of release. I had built up expectations ahead of time, which almost never leads to an enjoyable experience, and because those expectations weren’t all met I felt disappointed. After another careful and slow playthrough of the campaign and spending considerable time with the multiplayer, Halo 5 is my favorite game of 2015.