This has been an interesting year for video games. We've had some great new games as well as reissues and remastered classics, and the developers have finally got to grips with the next-gen consoles and DirectX 12 for the PC gamers. But we've also had a considerable number of delayed releases, the slow creep of micro-transactions into full-priced games and the continuing trend of dubious quality DLC, the development of which seems to be based more around selling season passes rather than creating enjoyable new content for the game.
So, without further ado (and in no particular order), here is my gaming Top 10 for 2015:
Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (PC, Xbox One, PlayStation4)
Expansive, beautiful, heart-breaking; there are so many ways to describe the latest in the Witcher series. With a massive, beautifully-detailed world, hundreds of quests and a great combat system, there are many reasons to like Witcher 3, but what stands out the most if the quality of the storylines. Sometimes fantastic, sometimes heartbreaking, the quality of the writing is highly unusual in a video game and rightfully earned the game a number of "Game of the year" awards.
Sheltered (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Although it's not the most well known post-apocalyptic game of the year, Sheltered is a great indie game based around keeping your family safe after a nuclear armageddon. At the start of the game you find a rather decrepit shelter with basic amenities, which you make your base of operations, but as food, water and fuel are limited, you soon have to travel out into the irradiated wastes in search of new resources. With old-style pixel art graphics, the game is a mix of adventure, strategy and resource management and you can find yourself making some very tough and emotional choices; should you risk giving your children contaminated water to drink or send someone out into the wastes and risk their lives in the hope that you find some clean water, for example?
The Handsome Collection (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Guns! Aliens! Space! There is very little not to like about the rerelease of Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-sequel in the Handsome Collection bundle. Both games are a sublime mixture of co-op shooter, action and humour, based on the viscous wasteland world of Pandora or on, or around, its moon. Both games are huge with great storylines, masses of quests and enough guns and action to keep the most die-hard shooter happy for hours.
Tales From the Borderlands (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
And once you've completed The Handsome Collection (or want a more gentle introduction to the world of Borderlands), Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic, quicktime event (QTE) based story game which sees you cast as a hapless Hyperion junior executive trying to further his career after the events of Borderlands 2. The plot and characters are fantastic and are a great way to enjoy the world of Borderlands if you're not a fan of shooters or simply want to know what happens next.
Rock Band 4 (Xbox One)
Time to release your inner rock star (and upset the neighbours) because Rock Band is back and this time on a next gen console. Although it's "more of the same", Rock Band 4 does have some new features, including freestyle guitar solos and drum fills. You can import your old songs and, by using a special adapter, you can use your older instruments as well, which is a great feature. Whether you're a music fan or just enjoy chilling out with some friends, Rock Band 4 has plenty to offer.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Released as a kind of "expand alone" (too big to be DLC and too small for a full game), Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is two mini-campaigns set before the events of it's predecessor, Wolfenstein: The New Order. As before, the game looks beautiful and runs well on all platforms. Although the storyline is less poignant than the first game, the second part delves into some new areas, giving it a different feel from the first part and giving you two games in one.
Mad Max (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Mad Max was a bit of a surprise to me. Loosely based on all the films, but not particularly favouring any of them, the game stands on it's own and is a great mix of adventure, brawling and vehicular combat. Add to that a worthy story, breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and a huge open world, and you have an absorbing game which managed to provide hours of gameplay. The only slight glitch is with the truly awful controls, which take a bit of getting used to!
Xbox One backwards compatibility (Xbox One)
OK, so it's not a game, but backwards compatibility for Xbox One was a very welcome, and totally unexpected, addition when it was announced in the summer. Even though the number of supported games is currently quite small (and popular titles such as Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim and the Modern Warfare and early Black Ops games are missing), Microsoft has promised others will follow and, as it's free, what's not to like?
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Packed with frantic, heartpounding close combat, Rainbow Six is a fantastic game to play with a group of friends. Its short rounds and co-operative play are highly addictive and the mix of game types give players a chance to be both attackers and defenders as the special forces or terrorist group. The graphics are impressive with the micro terrain destruction (allowing you to bash holes in walls to shoot through) and smoke effects looking particularly good even through the match-making system leaves a little to be desired.
Fallout 4 (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
It's been six years since it's predecessor was released, so Fallout 4 was met with excitement by the fan base and it was certainly worth the wait. Set in Boston 200 years after a disastrous nuclear war, the game offers hours and hours of open world discovery and adventure in the familiar Fallout world. New features include founding and managing settlements, weapon and armour customisation and it wouldn't be a Fallout game without Power armour!
So these are the gaming highlights of 2015 for me and I look forwards to what 2016 will bring. With titles such as Tom Clancy's The Division, Xcom 2, Farcry Primal, Mirrors Edge Catalyst, No Man's Sky and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided among many others, we have a lot to look forward to.