Infinite Lives Best Of 2015

We’ve only got a couple days left in 2015, so I thought that it would be a good time to wrap up the year before we move on to 2016. Instead of giving you my ten best games, DLC, microtransactions, trailers, so and so forth, I’m just going to offer up a handful of what I thought really stood out this year. I’ll focus on games today, we’ll hit DLC tomorrow and then we’ll spin it forward to 2016.

Fallout 4 Box Art

Let’s start with my favorite new game of 2015. I say new game here because I still played Destiny more than any other game this year. But of the new, 2015 titles that I played this year, I think it’s no surprise that I’ve been enjoying Fallout 4 the most. I was super excited for this game the minute it was teased back before E3. Now that I’ve spent plenty of time out in the Commonwealth, I definitely think it’s my favorite game of the year. Does it measure up with Fallout 3? I don’t really know that they’re actually that comparable. Yes, the dialogue system is a little out of character for the series; and yes, some of the more traditional RPG mechanics are simplified. But I think the whole package is actually a really great game – and the main quest line that runs through the game is I think stronger than Fallout 3‘s. The characters in the Commonwealth actually feel a little more alive – perhaps that because of the better graphics, especially the character models. The new designs on items and enemies keep classic parts of the Fallout universe fresh. And the revamped combat really makes it less of a chore to get into bigger firefights. Combat actually feels modern and I think appeals to a wider audience than just series and Bethesda fans. I think the negativity surrounding the game is totally unjustified, at least to the extent that I see it. I think people are overreacting, and maybe assuming that Bethesda will do the same things with their next Elder Scrolls game. Just relax a little, suspend that disbelief a bit and dive in and you’ll find a really exciting world to explore and get lost in.

While I think Fallout 4 is the best game that I played, I did have a lot of fun with a couple other games worth mentioning. Rock Band 4 returned music party games to the consoles. Again, there are some issues here – mainly that the game launched pretty bare-bones and they’ve been adding features moving forward. But honestly, just being able to load up a Rock Band game again and rock out on the Xbox One is awesome. I put a lot of time in over the summer with Smite on the Xbox One as well. I’ve never really gotten into MOBA’s but Smite managed to draw me in with the more third-person camera/action game style controls. The retro gamer in me really loved playing around with the Rare Replay collection, as well as the Mega Man Legacy Collection. Both featured a good mix of games for a reasonable price – and gave younger gamers a chance to go back and play some truly classic games. More recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Halo 5 – which is honestly somewhat surprising to me. I went in to that game with relatively low expectations – Master Chief Collection and Halo 4 both didn’t really excite me. But 343 finally has created a Halo game that does a great job of retaining classic Halo gameplay while also bringing in some new ideas and features we’ve seen in other recent FPS games. Add in that Warzone is I think the most ideal way to experience Halo and it all comes together to make a really solid shooter on the Xbox One. That said, I think my favorite shooter I played this year was Battlefield Hardline. I loved the new take on the classic formula – cops and robbers instead of military was actually I think a great move for the series. The maps were awesome – they worked perfectly on just about every game mode. Each class was balanced well, and I think Blood Money/Heist were fantastic additions to the franchise.

Battlefield Hardline

Before I wrap up, I want to mention a couple games that came out this year that I haven’t run through yet, but are on my short list. I already have The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, just haven’t sat down and really played it. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is on sale right now, so I’m picking that up later on and will give that a shot – I really liked the beta so, I have a hunch I’ll be enjoying the full game. Star Wars Battlefront is another game that I really liked the Beta for, just didn’t get the full game at launch. I probably will be looking into it soon to give it a better overview.


Rare Replay – A Compilation Done Right

Rare Replay CoverI recently picked up the new Rare Replay compilation that just came out on the Xbox One. It’s the third compilation game that I’ve grabbed on the console, after Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. Of the three, the latter two are definitely I think the better executed of the bunch. I’ve written plenty about how Master Chief Collection just falls flat in its delivery already so I won’t belabor the point here. Instead I want to talk about what makes the Rare Replay work so well.

For starters, value is really important with these compilation games. Rare Replay shines here – there are 30 games celebrating the 30 years that Rare has been a company. That’s already a good start, but add in that the price is only $30 and that adds up to a really awesome value just from looking at it from the top down. But when you look at some of the games in the collection, that’s really where the value starts to show. Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie, Battletoads and Blast Corps are all classic games over the last 30 years that each would be easily worth more than the $1 dollar on the collection. The fact that there are some truly hidden gems on the collection (R.C. Pro Am, Sabrewulf, Conkers Bad Fur Day) just helps add even more to the value.

Battletoads Cover

But the reason why I think this collection and the Borderlands collection do so well, while Master Chief falls short is because they don’t rely on it all being in one place. Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel are actually separate downloaded titles – Handsome Collection is just the only way to get them on the Xbox One right now. Rare Replay takes a similar approach – all the previous 360 titles are downloaded and launched separate from the main game, which has the older titles on it. That makes trouble shooting a whole lot easier, and I would have to think that coding it a hell of a lot simpler too. The big lesson that I think we can learn from Master Chief is that having multiple game engines running in one title can be terribly problematic. With Rare Replay the emulators are limited – an NES, Arcade, N64 and Original Xbox – each older consoles with more stable emulation. Pulling the 360 games out as separate entities helps keep it that way. It is easier to address any future issues with the emulation on the older games this way.

The other thing that helps make Rare Replay special is the love behind the game. Master Chief came close – it really is an incredible collection of the Chief’s adventures so far, and does feel like a love letter to his story. But Rare Replay takes it even farther – with behind the scenes videos detailing the studios history, to go along with specific ones on games. There’s a lot more bonus content with this beyond the 30 games than in either of the other two collections. Add in to that the fact that Rare has always been a very unique studio, doing things their way, and it just feels right. In the end, even if there is only a couple games you’re interested in here, you really should pick it up. The value is awesome, the games play great, and there’s some legitimate gaming history here.