Welcome to the first ever Hale IT Game of the Year awards! Because 2015 was such an incredible year on all platforms, we simply couldn't single out one game; instead, we've hand-picked five of the best games of 2015 that we've enjoyed the most. So, without further ado, let's get started!
Life is Strange (Dontnod Entertainment - PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)
Episodic games have seriously caught on in recent years, thanks largely to the efforts of Telltale Games including their adaptations of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Our first entry was a fierce contest between Telltale's hilarious and heartwarming Tales from the Borderlands and Dontnod's Life is Strange, both episodic series that received critical acclaim and further defined the kinds of stories you can tell within their format. However, we went for Life is Strange because there's honestly nothing else like it.
You play as Max, who upon returning to her hometown to go to college, finds out she can rewind time after witnessing (and promptly rescuing) a girl being fatally shot. From there, the more Max uses her powers to change the course of history, she stumbles upon a mystery that threatens her hometown. The story is both brave and brilliant, but it's the characters and setting that really sell Life is Strange as a truly believable adventure.
Rocket League (Psyonix - PS4, PC)
Football with turbo powered cars. What else needs to be said? Rocket League is the greatest multiplayer game of the year, and arguably the best in the last five. A spiritual successor to early PS3 title Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle Cars, it's up to your team to score more than the opposing team of supercharged vehicles. And fear not, there's no offside rule.
Rocket League springs to life when you're making the most of your car's abilities, whether that be turbo boosting, flying through the air, or leaping off the walls for insane trick shots. The ball is gigantic and can be easily seen at all times. It also pays to be a defensive player, and in teams of two, three or four, it's almost essential to have a goalie or someone hanging back to watch your six.
Rocket League was so successful that it's already broken into e-sport territory with official tournaments on Twitch accruing more viewers than the constantly dominant League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. You can buy Rocket League on PS4 and PC via Steam, and the game is getting an Xbox One release in February 2016.
Fallout 4 (Bethesda Game Studios - PS4, Xbox One, PC)
The latest and long, long awaited entry in Bethesda's post-apocalyptic open world series, Fallout 4 might just be the best of the lot. While it's a bit lighter on the previous games' RPG elements, it's arguably a deeper experience than ever, and certainly the most customisable. After things go pear-shaped when you flee into an underground vault with your husband/wife, son and neighbours to escape nuclear annihilation, you as the Sole Survivor must trek the wastes of the Boston Commonwealth in search of your son.
Naturally, the Commonwealth is massive, littered with locales to explore, quests to complete, survivors to befriend and hostile beasts to kill/flee in terror from. Customisation is more expansive than ever, allowing you full control over weapon and armour-smithing, as well as a new settlement building feature that lets you establish home bases across the wasteland.
Fallout 4 is also an astonishingly beautiful game. No, it's not as graphically advanced as, say, The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid V, but the game's art direction is simply awe-inspiring. Words can't really do justice to how brilliant Fallout 4 is, it's best that you experience it for yourself, forming your own personal story on your quest across the Commonwealth.
Super Mario Maker (Nintendo - Wii U)
It was an incredible year for Wii U owners, who have had plenty to do between Splatoon, Xenoblade Chronicles X and the superb Super Mario Maker. Finally Mario fans have been given the tools to craft their own classic 2D levels. Players are able to search for levels via the game's extensive user-generated database, and there's a great range of carefully crafted levels Nintendo themselves would be proud of, to sadomasochistic deathtraps worthy of a Saw film.
The creation tool is incredibly easy to use, and it's easier still to get lost in the multitude of resources you're given to craft your own worlds. No doubt your first instinct is to make the hardest level of all time, but Super Mario Maker does a great job of subconsciously teaching you the subtle intricacies of great level design. That's why Super Mario Maker's hidden genius is enough to make it on this list.
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (Square Enix - PS3, PS4, PC)
Now, bear with us on this one. Yes, this is an expansion for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, an MMO that was released in 2013. However, the amount of content added in the Heavensward expansion matches what we originally had, and further augments one of this generation's most addictive, beautiful and pleasantly social gaming experiences.
Heavensward offers more of what existing players wanted and more; more dungeons, more gorgeous locations, flying mounts (finally!) and hundreds of new quests and a superb next chapter of the FFXIV saga. Final Fantasy XIV does require a monthly subscription to play, but it's justified by the overwhelming amount of content that honestly makes it one of the most cost effective gaming experiences out there. It also helps that the game makes a damn convincing argument for the continued existence of the waning MMO genre.
Ultimately Final Fantasy XIV is a game where you'll likely make a lot of new friends, and being able to share stories with those people, and embark on adventures with them, is why gaming is such an incredible medium. Heavensward proves that this business model still has life in it, and Square Enix's execution of it is to be lauded.
Well, that was our pick of the best games of 2015! Do you have a favourite game that didn't make our list? There were tons of incredible games this year and we'd be writing a novel if we covered them all! Let us know what your 2015 games of the year were on our social channels. And don't forget to contact Hale IT on 0161 941 2525 if computer or electrical problems are stopping you from playing the games you enjoy!