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[09.01.2016]

The Best Games of 2015

Tom Breedveld

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Ah, the state of social affairs today. A situation like GamerGate, the high point of which was reached in 2014 (but don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t still going strong), has of course also left its marks on the videogame industry in 2015, where situations of censorship and alleged sexism pertaining to female characters abounded.

Japan-based publisher Koei Tecmo decided not to export the third installment in its Dead Or Alive: Volleyball franchise – known for its buxom female protagonists, and not much else – to Europe and the U.S., citing the ‘sensitivity in the west regarding how female characters are portrayed in works of fiction’ as the main reason.

Social Justice Warriors

Being unwilling to deal with the Social Justice Warriors who take it upon themselves to destroy every last piece of fiction that doesn’t accommodate their cold worldview, is something I can certainly understand, since most of these people have proven themselves to be unable to listen to any form of reason, and will quickly resort to threats and doxing to get what they feel they deserve. Their fear mongering tactics have been scarily successful since the start of GamerGate last year. See South Park’s last season for a more apt summary of how these funruiners operate (the song ‘Bullyproof Windows’ being the highlight).

Nevertheless, it’s censorship, by definition the wrong answer. Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn were invited to speak at the UN about female harassment within games, the games industry and the internet, which has got to be one of the lamest excuses to stand in front of that pseudo-political department, and their goal was to see bigger amounts of censorship in those environments. The list goes on – free speech is quite unequivocally under attack.

Draconian measures

Two-fifty words and counting, so unfortunately, for those of you who don’t know or understand the situation or fail to see the problem, that is a wrong I will have to right another time. The draconian measures enforced by overly sensitive people who seek to eliminate any form of criticism against their ideals instead of trying to convince their opponents, as is the goal of a democratic society, extends its reach beyond the world of games, so we are all potential victims.

With that in mind, and to incur a much needed mood whiplash, let us focus on the top 5 best games of 2015, since there were, despite everything, quite a few good ones, and we must prove to Them that they are not winning.

A lot of series got their next installment, such as Metal Gear Solid, which received its fifth (actually eleventh) game, The Phantom Pain, with Kiefer Sutherland as Big Boss. Producer Konami had a collective aneurism and fired Hideo Kojima, the man responsible for ninety percent of Konami’s successes, and stopped the almost 30-year-old Metal Gear franchise, because they were tired of making money, I guess.

New savior

Nevertheless, The Phantom Pain is a great game, and a great going-away-gift from Kojima to us, complete with a sniper in a bikini (played by a Dutch woman, no less), which this year I’m counting as a plus point.

The Witcher got a third installment, which I will definitely get around to playing one day. Lara Croft got another game with Rise Of The Tomb Raider, the new Assassin’s Creed plays out in London and Master Chief is back in Halo 5: Guardians, all of which are worth your time, if you ask me.

Indie games did very well, although I refuse to play Undertale, no matter how many people call it their new savior and Messiah. It’s a retro-NES-game-wannabe, the easiest way to make an indie game, and on top of that, it’s a Zelda-clone with a twist, where I’ve always found Zelda to be profoundly boring. Keep it away from me.

Soccer with cars

Honourable mention to Hotline Miami 2, which is an 80’s game-imitator I do like, and which, for all its blood and brutality drenched in a great 80’s atmosphere, could have been directed by Nicholas Winding Refn. Another cool ‘dumb, clean fun’-game is Rocket League, a.k.a. soccer with cars. Until Dawn is cooler (scarier and gorier, too) than expected. I don’t care about Super Mario Maker, Life Is Strange, Splatoon, or the new Call Of Duty game.

You’ve heard about the good stuff, now let me tell you what was absolutely great last year.

 

5: Steel Crate Games: ‘Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes

Essentially a party game, but hey, what’s wrong with that? I enjoy most games by myself the way one would enjoy a good book, so a game that doesn’t fill my requirements of having great dialogue and a compelling story and still ends up on my list, must be revolutionary in some way. Keep Talking most certainly is, since it redefines teamwork.

One man, who can see the screen, and the bomb shown on that screen, needs help from his teammates to diffuse the explosive. His teammates can’t see the bomb but are the ones holding the manual that tells them how to disable it. Their job is to communicate the instructions to their pal with the bomb. Since there is a time limit and since we all know how hard it is to describe something that one has no reference to, frantic, stressful and certainly hilarious situations ensue.

The very recently developed virtual reality headsets that will hit the market in 2016 lend themselves perfectly to this game, as they guarantee that the bomb, and only the bomb, can be seen by the diffuser only, while he hears his cohorts screaming in his ear, trying desperately to explain to him what he should be doing.

 

 

4: Everything Unlimited Ltd.: ‘The Beginner’s Guide

From Davey Wreden, creator of The Stanley Parable (which was number one on my list two years ago), comes another great game that is an interactive movie if ever I saw one.

Davey himself takes you on a tour of several mini games made by his friend Coda, and tries to discover with you what a game can tell you about a person. The game’s story is based on Davey’s personal feelings of being overwhelmed by the success of The Stanley Parable, which he best describes in this neat comic (and which I, for one, perfectly understood).

Combining philosophical monologues with what I will describe as ‘walking around in paintings’ (and what society as large calls a ‘walking simulator’), the serenity of the entire game is a false reassurance, since depressing truths about friendship, communication and loneliness that will hit way too close to home for most of us are the name of the game (no pun intended).

I really can’t say much more than that since that would ruin the experience for you, but I can tell you that this game, which takes about a movie length to complete (ca. ninety minutes), is more than worth the ten bucks you need to buy it. After you’re finished, take a few minutes for silent contemplation.

 

 

3: Rocksteady Studios: ‘Batman: Arkham Knight

Ah, the Triple-A games at last. It was really hard to decide what the order of my top 3 games should be, since I enjoyed them all equally (i.e. a hell of a lot). Still, the Gordian knot must be cut, and therefore Arkham Knight wins number 3 because it’s a fantastic game, but game-play-wise it doesn’t bring anything to the table that its predecessors Asylum and City didn’t bring years before. Knight is one hell of a closing chapter, though.

Brought out on the new generation of consoles, Batman, rendered in superior graphics, is sexier than ever as he fights a returned Scarecrow, voiced by John Noble, with the help of his allies, such as Jim Gordon (Jonathan Banks). The death of the Joker (Mark Hamill) a year ago has left its mark too, however, as Batman has been infected with the Clown Prince Of Crime’s blood, and can’t seem to shake the grip this rictus-jester now has on his psyche…

The darkest chapter in the Arkham-saga (the first to receive an M-rating), Rocksteady pulls no punches as the gritty storyline Knight has to offer sees all your favorite characters beaten, bruised, tortured, humiliated and at odds with each other. Plenty of sick villains take the stage, such as personal favorite Professor Pyg, who fights you with the dissected remains of his victims. The ending, one of the most mindbending endings I know of, is my favorite conclusion of a video game perhaps ever.

Still, the combat and stealth, while fun, is the same thing I’ve been doing since Asylum came out in 2009, albeit with slight tweaks, and the plot-twist as to who the Knight actually is, should be no surprise to anyone who has ever read a Batman-comic. Graphics are amazing, though (Harley Quinn’s ass will not soon be forgotten), and the game features no loading times at áll. Get ready to bé the Batman.

 

 

2: Frictional Games: ‘SOMA

If games are to be accepted as art, the games that really have a tale to tell need to gain the attention they deserve. Like The Beginner’s Guide, SOMA is one of those games.

Starting with BioShock and Portal in 2007, games have entered the postmodernist ‘waking up to your own medium’ state of being. The question that the more serious games ask these days is always: ‘How much are you really in control?’ This question usually pertains to the game you are playing as much as to the life you are leading, and Frictional Games have used that line of questioning to create a truly horrifying, beautifully designed philosophical treatise.

Surviving victim of a car crash that took the life of his girlfriend, Simon Jarrett visits a doctor who scans his brain, to try and undo the lethal brain damage he has incurred. After the scan, Simon doesn’t wake up in the doctor’s office, however – he finds himself a hundred years in the future, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Earth has been destroyed by a meteorite, and the last humans have taken refuge in PATHOS-II, an underwater facility that tries to rescue the remainder of humanity by uploading their consciousness into a computerized utopia, which is to be sent into space. The machinery that has been built to achieve this effect, however, is slowly becoming sentient…

Every Wednesday night at my place, me and a couple of friends play horror games we are too chicken to play by ourselves, and since Frictional Games were previously known for their terrifying Amnesia-series, SOMA was next in line.

The horror in the game is superb (the ‘anglerfish-spoop’ as we call it, where we were forced to traverse the depths of a pitch-dark oceanic trench by following roadlights, only to find one of the lights was attached to the mouth of a mutated anglerfish that came for us with frightening speed, is still the object of discussion and awe every Wednesday – and there are many more spoops like that one), and the way the idea of a ‘consciousness’ is discussed is both disconcerting and very interesting.

The game loses its number one spot because of a rather hackneyed ending that doesn’t really solve anything and ends five minutes too soon, but other than that, it’s a perfect ten.

 

 

1: Bethesda Game Studios: ‘Fallout 4

I’ve been waiting for you to come home, baby. I’ve been right here, waiting.

Yes, after seven long years since the last good Fallout-game (fuck you, fans of New Vegas, I thought it was fucking boring), Bethesda is back, and they don’t disappoint.

Where in Fallout 3 you were the child, looking for your father who left you to do something bigger than the both of you, now you are the parent, looking for your child, taken from you to achieve something bigger than the both of you.

It’s the simple morals in the Fallout-series I like – how, even after nuclear war has devastated the world around you, and your own life knows its fair share of hardships, the goal is always to pick up the pieces, and get back up stronger. As they say at the beginning and end of every Fallout-game: War… War never changes. But, since it’s an RPG, the first real RPG I ever played at the ripe age of fourteen, the choice is always yours. What is your solution?

I will admit, I have several selfish reasons to put this game in the number one-spot (then again, it’s my review). I’ve always liked Fallout better than Bethesda’s other big title, The Elder Scrolls, because I prefer science fiction (the future) over fantasy (the past).

I liked Fallout 3 better than New Vegas, which was done by Obsidian Entertainment, and can therefore be considered part of an entirely different story.

But most of all, I wanna throw sand in the eyes of all those fuck nuggets, like that fat fuck from my Introduction To Game Studies-class, who hate on triple A-games, the games with the big bucks behind them, the long established series, simply because they don’t want to admit that even the over saturated, never changing, customer-base-ignoring idiots that make up most of Hollywood and the games industry, can do something right from time to time.

It’s hipster talk. Sure, games come out broken and unfinished, and pay-to-play and pre-orders are the devil, but some big game developers still make amazing games because that’s what they’re passionate about, and that’s what Bethesda does.

Fallout 4 has great companions, a beautiful world to walk around in and explore, amazing quests, the return of Ron Perlman, a hell of a lot to offer and a thousand hours of gameplay, and months before it came out people were already hating on it because it wasn’t New Vegas 2.0.

Well, boo-fucking-hoo, I enjoyed it, and I enjoy your butt-hurt over it, so it’s the number one game of 2015.

Let’s make 2016 even better.

 

 

Tom Breedveld (1994) is filmwetenschapper by day, crime-fighter by night. He’s also a smart-ass.

Games, Tom Breedveld, 09.01.2016 @ 11:03

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2 Reacties

op 09 01 2016 at 19:23 schreef Erfeo:

Een gamergater op Frontaal Naakt? Niet te geloven. GG is en blijft een typisch domrechtse aangelegenheid. Net zoals de ‘bezorgde burgers’ die over alle tegenspraak proberen heen te brullen, overspoelen deze bezorgde gamers het internet met lege catchphrases. Ethics! Free Speech! CENSORSHIP! Maar waar gaat het nou eindelijk over?

Ik ben zo’n typisch gutmensch die linkse games critici leest (een “SJW”!!!1!), en ik kan je vertellen niemand protesteerd tegen DOA:V. Totdat het als GG talking-point werd verkozen was er niks controversieels aan de franchise. Maar weinig mensen in het westen hebben sterke gevoelens bij die games, positief noch negatief. Dat soort softcore gedoe doet het nou eenmaal slecht op de westerse markt, wat de verkoopcijfers van de vorige games bewijzen. Maar stel dat er wel een enorme ‘SJW outrage’ was geweest: So what? Wat kan Koei Tecmo het schelen als Tumblr wordt vol gekalkt met boze posts? Zoals we nu zien zijn ze alleen maar gebaat met (kunstmatige) controverse.

En natuurlijk verschijnen ook meteen de grote boevrouwen ten toneel: Quinn en Sarkeesian. En natuurlijk gaat helemaal nergens over. Denk je nou echt dat de VN van plan is rechtse game journalisten en critici het zwijgen op te leggen? Nergens wordt rerept over het censureren van meningen. Aangezien we in vrije landen leven mag je zoveel haatblogjes over Quinn schrijven als je maar wil. Dat betekent echter nog niet dat we het stalkerige gedrag dat zo normaal is geworden op social media moeten accepteren. Wil je pas echt een gevaar voor de vrijheid van meningsuiting zien, kijk dan naar de enorme hoeveelheid doods- en verkrachtingsbedrijgingen die publieke personen (en ja, met name vrouwen) ontvangen.

Censuur ammehoela!

op 25 01 2016 at 02:04 schreef Humor de Nar:

Great article and summary, albeit with a bit underexposure for Metal Gear Solid. I hope to read more gaming-related articles on Frontaal Naakt.

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