It’s been over a week since I stayed up until 4:30 in the morning playing Rainbow Six Siege, and I still don’t think I’ve fully recovered. That’s mostly because I am GETTING OLD, but also because I’ve spent most nights in between staying up playing it too. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so tired in my life. The bags under my eyes are so big that Sainsbury’s charges me 5p every time I walk out the store. I have, as some people may say, totally and utterly Phipped It™.
But that’s the power of Siege. It is, as our work experience friend Harry described it, “proper clutch”, with quick 20 minute sessions turning into three-hour marathons. The pacing of each round is superb, opening with a manic dash to discover the location of your objective or doing your best to secure it, before progressing into a calm, collected game of cat and mouse, and ramping up again as the clock ticks down and your teammates count out.
At one point during my early morning of madness, my hands started sweating, my heart started beating so fast that I genuinely thought I was dying, and I was perched so far on the edge of my seat that there was a legitimate risk of falling off. I always thought those were just things reviewers said to make things seem more exciting than they actually are. But apparently not.
As Siege quickly taught me, there is nothing more satisfying than breaching through the ceiling and wiping out the enemy team from above, nor is there anything more frustrating than thinking you have a room secure only to get thermite charged from behind. It’s a thinking person’s game that has a steep learning curve; a tactical shooter that teaches you the hard way in almost every match, but that is designed in such a way that it never feels intimidating or inaccessible.
My game of the year last year was another online shooter, Titanfall, a big noisy game about big noisy mechs stomping across even bigger, noisier battlegrounds. But Siege is an entirely different beast. It’s a small game about perfecting the finer details, learning the maps, knowing where to flank, when to make a play, and getting you to feel like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t. It’s a hardcore game refined for a mainstream audience. And when it gets it right, it can be one of the most satisfying multiplayer shooters available on the new-gen consoles.
It was a tough call, though, because up until December I was convinced that I wouldn’t play a better game than Bloodborne. I can’t really explain why. As many of you know, I’ve never been a particularly big Dark Souls fan, and it wasn’t until the week of release that I really started paying attention to it. To even consider it as one of, if not the Game of the Year, then, came as much of a surprise to me as it does to you.
I think it was Brett’s fault more than anything, screeching and pumping his fists into the air as he defeated a boss (and slamming them into the table whenever he got beaten by a wolf). But I’m so glad that he did. While it had moments that threatened to push me away (those awful Brain Trust enemies being one of the worst things in the history of videogames) Bloodborne’s sense of wonder and reward rank it up there as one of the very best of the generation. It’s quicker and more accessible than Souls – largely due to its emphasis being placed on offence rather than defence – but manages to retain the same sense of satisfaction as its predecessors, again, much like Siege, leading to the perfect balance between challenge and reward.
So thank you, Brett, for being an odd, overly-animated little fellow. Because if I hadn’t paid any attention to what you were doing, I wouldn’t have experienced one of my favourite games of the year.
Another heart-pumper this year (albeit for entirely different reasons) was Until Dawn. Unlike Siege and Bloodborne, Until Dawn poses no challenge. It has no fail state. It is one of the easiest games you’ll ever play, yet it still succeeds in carrying an unrelenting sense of risk.
Branching narratives are nothing new in video games, of course, and QTEs even less so, but Supermassive did such a magnificent job here that even the smallest decisions could often feel like life or death scenarios. Did moving the baseball bat in the boiler room alter the fate of one of the characters? Unless I replay it (or check out the wiki) I will never know. But it felt like it did, and that’s a powerful tool for Supermassive to wield. Combine it with a brilliantly-paced psychological horror narrative and you have some of 2015’s most intense hours of gameplay.
But there were so many other highlights this year, too, not least of which being Call of Duty: Black Ops 3‘s sublime multiplayer. I know Treyarch has become recognised as the leading Call of Duty studio in recent years, but it’s taken me up until Black Ops 3 to see it, with its excellent map design, surprisingly brilliant Specialists and shooting mechanics that are – in my opinion – second to none. It still isn’t as exciting as, say, Titanfall, but hey, until Titanfall 2 comes along, I doubt anything will be.
Besides that, Batman: Arkham Knight kept me hooked on collecting Riddler trophies for far too many nights than I should really admit to, the thrill of DiRT Rally made me consider dropping gams jurnlizm to become a real rally driver, and Hotline Miami 2, while flawed, was more of the same gloriously good gory violence. Oh, and I just remembered that mobile ‘Scrabble with Bears’ title Alphabear is one of the best games ever made, so forget everything I said in the 10 or so paragraphs above.
I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year xx