You can tell it’s a good year for games when I have more difficulty whittling down my list of surprises than my list of disappointments. I even had to cheat a bit and cut Black Ops III in half in order to give my list of disappointments three nominees.
Most Disappointing Game of 2015
Winner: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Dear Esther was one of my first forays into the “Walking simulator” genres. It was beautiful, fascinating and I felt encouraged to explore a space. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture seemed to following down the same path as Dear Esther but it became the deliberately slow movement speed and ugly performance issues ballooned to the point where I just didn’t care if I finished it or not.
The plodding movement speed ran against the exploratory nature of the game which is insane when that’s the only means of interaction.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s campaign was a significant step down from Black Ops II’s which was surprise considering Treyarch’s track record. However, I wasn’t as bummed out by it as others because I played it in a co-operative setting.
As for Xenoblade Chronicles 3D? It’s my fault for even buying this game. I knew it had MMORPG trappings but I felt compelled to buy a New Nintendo 3DS game after picking up the refreshed handheld earlier this year. The surrounding praise didn’t help but I should have known better. I’m more disappointed at myself than the game, really.
Runner ups: Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Campaign), Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
Most of Surprising Game of 2015
Winner: Rocket League
Soccer with cars. I heard rumblings about Super Acrobatic Rocket Powered Cars being a fun game I didn’t bother pursuing it. Rocket League was given away through the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection and if it wasn’t for the slowish summer season and the fact that it was “free”, I may have missed out on this simple and incredibly deep game. It’s a game that comes closest to matching the spirt of soccer. I wasn’t controlling a player who manipulated the ball based on his dribbling ability, I used a car and exerted force to manipulate the ball; it was my skill (or lack thereof) that determined if I scored, how well I blocked, how accurate I passed or how fast I dribbled a ball. It was both frustrating and satisfying.
Hitman: Sniper looked like the myriad of other Silent Scope knockoffs on iOS but since it was Square Enix Montreal, I gave it a try and discovered a surprising amount of depth and challenge. I even made my way onto the top 100 or so.
I didn’t think Life is Strange was my kind of game but what did I know? It didn’t matter if it starred high school girls, a heartfelt story was great no matter what.
Runner ups: Hitman: Sniper, Life is Strange