In terms of the scope and selection of games released this year, how is 2015 doing so far for the gaming-minded?
One of last fall's more prominent game industry jokes was "2014 has been delayed to 2015." Several high-profile "AAA" games -- among them Batman: Arkham Knight, Evolve and Battlefield: Hardline -- were pushed back from their late summer and fall release dates into the first half of 2015. With the hype train drawn out and players robbed of their highly anticipated fall titles, the pressure was on for early 2015 releases.
So if you're a player looking for something new to dig into, has 2015 done right by you?
In terms of AAA games, free-running first-person zombie adventure Dying Light kicked off the year, with Turtle Rock's co-op shooter Evolve launching just two weeks later. Both games offer something extensive to dig into: one an open-world with consistently updated DLC content and strong cooperative elements, the other a thrilling experience pitting you head-to-head with other players as fierce monsters. Late February also finally saw the release of Ready at Dawn's steampunk werewolf hunt The Order: 1886, a technical and visual masterpiece with a story and mechanics that divided its critics. Review scores aside, the first two months of 2015 provided for those looking for adventure, setting the year off to a strong start.
The pacing of new releases would continue to be steady and strong throughout the spring. Those hungry for another title from Square Enix's flagship Final Fantasy series got Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, a fast-paced, narratively nuanced epic previously unreleased in North America. From Software's Bloodborne launched in late March to critical acclaim, sweeping up the imaginations and free time of Dark Souls fans and genre newcomers alike. Additionally, Kickstarter-funded Pillars of Eternity made its debut, giving players who enjoy the long, slow burn of a meaty role-playing game something to chew on. With these three big contenders, RPG players had enough to keep them happy through March, until the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in late spring, which earned a rare 10 from GameSpot.
April's big new game was Mortal Kombat X, the latest iteration of the classic fighting game. This was the first mainstream-appeal fighting game to launch since Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS last fall -- Dead or Alive 5 Last Round being an iteration on the Dead or Alive 5 run, and not totally "new" per se. Despite the odd DLC pricing model, it represents the highest iteration and best handling of the series' fighting mechanics.
But nothing would ring in spring games quite like the May launch of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which blew expectations out of the water and has continued to captivate players late into the summer with a string of DLC -- of course, its 100-plus hours of playable content is surely helping its longevity. Do you even Gwent? Another AAA title delayed into 2015 with high expectations attached to it was Batman: Arkham Knight. The final entry in Rocksteady's Arkham trilogy, Arkham Knight launched in early June to a welcoming audience.
Most of these games won't the fit the bill of all kinds of players, but whether you're into RPGs or co-op shooters, you still had your pick in the first half of the year. But there's a certain genre fan I want to address separately: the Nintendo die-hard. The first half of 2015 was strong for Nintendo, beginning with the latest iterations of the beloved Kirby and Monster Hunter series -- Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate -- and the remastering of two cult classics, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D and Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.
While new turn-based strategy IP Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. failed to impress, the spring launch of Splatoon did. Lauded as a fresh take on the shooter genre and featuring the cutest little squid kids as combatants, Splatoon captivated audiences and, some might argue, made the Wii U console a must-have. 2015 has so far been a good year to a Nintendo fan, and even if you aren't a superfan who's only into games for the beloved Japanese company, the offerings on Wii U and 3DS are sizable, worthwhile affairs.
Between several adventures across different worlds, a handful of heavy RPGs -- one quite punishing -- and a fighting game, the first half of 2015 hasn't disappointed in terms of variety and scope in new games.
But in addition to the above big names, players have been treated to four episodic games leaning on player narrative choice and spanning four genres -- Dontnod's Life is Strange, Capcom's Resident Evil Revelations 2, and Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones. We've also seen a handful of remastered editions of classic games and new releases of modern titles on new platforms: Capcom brought HD remasters of the original Resident Evil and DmC: Devil May Cry, Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin Edition hit PS4 and Xbox One, Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster hit PS4 and Grand Theft Auto V finally came to PC. For players still clinging to their favorites from years past, this year has so far been good to them in terms of genre selection and tailoring to the new consoles on the market. With the rise of the remaster, it's safe to say Xbox 360 and PS3 are nearly relegated to history.
However, the biggest surprises of 2015 have been among the indie scene. Kerbal Space Program finally launched in earnest after being on Steam Early Access for over two years. Games like Hotline Miami 2 and Axiom Verge came to us from small teams, surprising us with their innovation and challenge. Ori and the Blind Forest captured our hearts and many hours of do-overs as we powered through the brutal, challenging gameplay to further the gut-wrenching story. Most recently, Her Story and Rocket League have stolen our imagination and time, both bringing radically different experiences that are so intriguing we can't pull away.
To sum it up: 2015 has been good to us gamers. There are tons of games to choose from, both AAA and indie, renewed and completely new, bite-sized and all-time-consuming. The latter half of 2015 is already packed with big goodies as we approach the traditional overstuffed pre-holiday lineup, but looking out into 2016, it'll be hard for next year to match the surplus of gaming wealth we've gotten so far.