Despite it boiling people’s blood to the point of lunacy, Batman: Arkham Knight is my game of 2015. Yes, a large part of this is due to Batman being in it, but that’s testament to how impactful The Dark Knight is and how good Rocksteady has become in regards to this series.
To address the elephant in the room straight away, I concede that the Batmobile sections aren’t the highlight of the experience. Relied on too heavily and suffering due to the developer feeling like they had to continually go back to it, it’s not as solid as it should have been. But it’s certainly not terrible, and getting to speed around the streets of Gotham is incredibly satisfying.
It was also the correct direction for Rocksteady to head in, because imagine it hadn’t have included the Batmobile this time around? Heads would have rolled. Each Arkham game has served to build upon the last, the continual aim to be the perfect Batman simulator. You can’t do that without the car, and that’s why Arkham Knight is so damned good. If you have personality issues and enjoy the thought of actually one day stepping into those black boots, no video game in history has ever done it this well. So what that I have to engage in some ‘stealth tank’ sections every now and then. I’d rather the odd hiccup surrounded by excellence than mediocre nonsense that takes no risks.
This is where Rocksteady shines, too. Be it the narrative, the way it’s structured, or the ending – which is a genuine triumph – Arkham Knight completely understands how to handle The Caped Crusader. It may sound ridiculous, but you start to feel like him, a sensation that’s backed up by the terrific environment you find yourself in.
Have you ever run around the streets in Batman: Rise Of Sin Tzu? You could be in a Nickelodeon cartoon for all that cared. There’s no atmosphere, no sense of scale. You’re just some jabroni surrounded by a bunch of nondescript buildings. Rocksteady prides itself on how it brings DC’s world to life, and it does it with tremendous execution. Arkham Knight is the pinnacle of such efforts, and the reason it tops my list this year.
Aside from this, Fallout 4 certainly deserves a mention. Now the dust has settled I think it’s quite clear to most it was simply ‘more of the same’, but Bethesda did more than enough to make that ‘same’ enjoyable, at least for one more go around. Few other RPGs are as skilled at hooking you to the point of addiction, and yet this does it time and time again, even when you’re not really doing anything.
A simple spark of curiosity as to what lies in the distance can lead to hours of exploration and, more importantly, the idea that you’re discovering something no one else has. It’s not true. At all. And it’s likely millions of others have treaded on the same turf. But that’s why Fallout 4 is so special. It puts you at the centre of its world and goes to any lengths possible to ensure you constantly feel that level of importance. Even if it will never compare to the wonder that is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion…
And then, of course, we have what is the game of all years: Gears Of War. While Ultimate Edition may have rolled a few eyes because ‘it’s just a remaster’, the original in the series remains a gaming masterpiece due to how well it plays. The only reason the first Gears had been forgotten was due to Father Time eating away at its now archaic technical foundations. Spruce those up, however, and I can’t think of a third-person shooter I’d rather toy around with more. Paced near perfectly and with enough trinkets to constantly keep events interesting (active reload), it’s finished off with what remains my favourite multiplayer suite.
There are few gaming feelings as satisfying as being the last man standing before taking out all four of your opponents, and it’s one that’s remained as sweet for almost a decade. Admittedly the reliance on shotguns is a perpetual point of contention, but I’m alright with it. And I’m alright with Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition.
Special mentions to Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam Bros, Rogue Legacy (because it came on PS+ in 2015), and Until Dawn.