It would be so easy for me to make a case for Destiny: The Taken King as my Game of the Year. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. Why? I’ll explain in a moment.
But first, let’s all raise a glass to my real GOTY for 2015 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
In truth, I’ve only recently started playing through the game on my own PS4 and I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I saw enough of MGS V throughout 2015 to know quality when I see it.
So why does MGS V get the nod, when I clearly couldn’t put Destiny down for large parts of the last twelve months? If you’ve been reading our weekly PlayTime roundups of what the team played each week, you’ll know that (when I’m not travelling) Destiny was one of my big, go-to titles. But here’s why it can’t win.
Destiny itself, of course, came out in 2014. While The Taken King was sold at a full price, was available as a separate disc-based purchase, and included a good amount of new content, let’s be fair – it is really just expensive DLC. Very expensive DLC. It isn’t Destiny 2, by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t believe it can be counted as a full game release. As such, and with a heavy heart, I just had to remove it from my Game of the Year ruminations.
And if I’m truly honest – heart over head – I really didn’t want to give MGS V the title either. Why? For purely emotional reasons.
Konami has done its best in recent years to destroy, deconstruct, and generaly ruin its video game business in the eyes of its fans, me included. 2015 was a particularly heinous year, and both Hideo Kojima and MGS V were at the epicentre. Memories of classics such as Frogger, Castlevania, Gradius, Pro Evolution Soccer, Silent Hill, and many more are being squandered, and the debacle with Kojima Productions is well documented, and certainly not something to relive in a GotY article.
But in the end, Metal Gear Solid V is exactly what I wanted from a PS4-based MGS title. And if I’m going to rule based on my head and not my heart – as I did with Destiny: TTK – I have to give it the gong.
MGS V plays beautifully; better than any MGS title before it. I truly believe that. It includes all the touches you’d want from an MGS title, including bonkers story-lines, crazy collectibles, hidden secrets, neat context-aware cut-scenes, bizarre humour, and – of course – heaps of stealth-based action.
Purists might argue that it doesn’t quite fit the mold as an MGS game. For me, it moves the franchise forward, making it more accessible than ever. MGS sequels in recent years required you to have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the entire, ridiculous, time-hopping story and all the characters within it. MGS V doesn’t burden you in quite the same way, and that makes it more of a video game experience, and less of a university-level thesis.
On top of that, it looks beautiful. It sounds wonderful. It gives you that hit of endorphins when you complete a tough mission that keeps you coming back for more. And that opening sequence is worth the price of entry alone.
And it isn’t just me that thinks highly of the game. With a current metacritic score of 93, it tops the charts for PS4 games released in 2015. The critics almost universally loved it. The user score is slightly lower at 8 out of 10, but that’s still high in metacritic terms, and reflects our own team’s attitude toward the game. Some of us love it, and some of us were disappointed.
For me, it is still the standout, full release title of 2015, despite Konami’s self-destructive stance.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is, without any doubt, a Hideo Kojima game, regardless of whether those words appear on the box or not. And thankfully, it won’t be his last on the PS4, thanks to the deal he struck recently with Sony. As a likely final hurrah for the “real” Snake, it deserves my Game of the Year accolade more than any other 2015 title.