You’ve read part one (if not, why not and fix that by clicking here), now feast your eyes on which honoured titles made our Top 5…
5. DRAGON AGE INQUISITION
This might surprise some people by coming in at number 5. While the third Dragon Age game eclipses everything that came before it in a tidal wave of gorgeous visuals, stirring orchestral score and refined combat, as an overall experience it’s actually my least favourite entry in the series. Call me insane, but the plot just isn’t as strong as the previous games, and while infinitely more polished than what came before it just lacks the raw emotion of Mass Effect 3 and the personal touches that made the first two stand out. Even DA2 had a more complex plot and better characters. All that said, Inquisition is a HUGE game and huge achievement, in addition to being the only game of its type currently available on next gen machines. I put in over 200 hours with the game and really enjoyed it – I just feel it could have done with less padding and a more intriguing story.
4. GRAND THEFT AUTO V
In the year of the remaster, one game is the daddy of them all. GTA V is quite frankly an astonishing achievement in it’s own right, but this complete overhaul is surely deserving of some kind of award. The game is staggeringly beautiful to behold, the extra grunt of the new machines pushing it into the stratosphere. This alone would have sufficed, but Rockstar have put in a lot of extra effort and added new animals, activities, vehicles and Easter eggs to the package, as well as the now stable and excellent GTA Online. Playing through the game again I was struck by just how polished, well crafted and just plain FUN it is compared to 99% of games out there. Well worth putting in the hours again.
3. SUNSET OVERDRIVE
Sunset Overdrive is batshit mental. It’s ADHD personified in game form, a riotous burst of adrenaline, snappy dialogue, crazy clothes and LOTS of explosions. The bastard child of Tony Hawk, Jet Set Radio and Crackdown, it is still very much it’s own beast – wildly different to everything else available right now and bursting with personality. It’s the most pure fun I’ve had with a game in many years, and actually a pretty damn good reason to buy an Xbox One. In a year of remasters, reissues and the usual annual updates, this game demands and more importantly deserves your time and attention. PIGEON COMBO!
While technically not a full game, and not strictly even a demo, ‘Playable Teaser’ is pretty much the most impressive thing I’ve played in a very long time. The proof of concept for the upcoming Kojima/Del Toro-helmed Silent Hills is an absolute masterclass in pure, abject terror, both psychological and physical. A seemingly innocuous stretch of corridor that loops back on itself slowly reveals a deeply disturbing hidden world of dripping walls, scraping sounds, nasty apparitions and some extremely esoteric puzzles. I played it sat next to my wife with the lights on and could still barely force myself round each corner. This small piece of software is pretty much reason enough to own a PS4 – if you don’t play this you really are missing out on the total rebirth of survival horror.
1. SHADOW OF MORDOR
The top three games in my list all have one thing in common – they all have a fresh, original aspect to them that washes away the stale taste of yearly iterations and games that are merely content to play it safe. While Shadow of Mordor is, in most respects, the epitome of refined systems taken from other games, it’s Nemesis system is a breath of fresh air that allows room for the player to create truly personalised, emergent stories unique to them and them alone. I enjoyed Mordor immensely – every game mechanic is polished to ridiculous degree, the visuals and music are outstanding, and as a Tolkien fan the sheer attention to detail of Middle Earth lore is extremely pleasing. Of all the games released over the last year, Mordor is probably the most pleasantly surprising – and definitely the easiest to recommend.
So there you have it – my list of personal gems from the last year or so. Honourable mentions must also go out to The Evil Within, Zoo Tycoon, Outlast, Titanfall, Forza Horizon 2 and Child of Light. While every game on my list is great in its own way, it’s pretty telling of the state of industry that the majority are either remasters of last gen games, or multi format titles straddling this generation and the last. I would argue that we are still to see our first epoch-defining next gen masterpiece – will 2015 be the year it arrives? Only time will tell.
– Matt Reynolds @Thelostmoment