James' Highlights of 2015 - HighrezGaming

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Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori was something of a curiosity from the very moment of its announcement, created by a team of industry veterans spread out across the world, this elusive virtual company apparently set out to create an old fashioned gaming experience brought to life with a modern, Studio Ghibli inspired aesthetic. What we got instead was the most beautiful 2D Metroidvania style videogame ever created, it was a mesmerising cocktail of sublime beauty and gut wrenchingly brutal platform gameplay that was sure to delight gamers both young and old. It was rumoured (or so I’ve been told) to be able reduce grown men to tears, and it surely achieved this, just not with its cutesy storytelling though, but rather the amount of time it would spend rubbing its players faces in the dirt, mocking their inadequate reaction times.

Still, even that could not detract from the fact that Microsoft secured themselves a major exclusive with this one, it’s environmentally conscious storyline, beautiful soundtrack, gorgeous visuals and devilishly addictive gameplay have surely guaranteed it a place as one of the stand out releases of the year and, quite possibly, rank it as a genuine instant classic.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft’s latest effort is Tomb Raider turned up to eleven. It’s everything that made Crystal Dynamics’ last effort good, but polished so effectively that no gamer could help but notice their own reflection staring back at them from its gleaming façade. Sure, there was a fair amount of hype about this one, not least because Microsoft forked out a fair wad of cash to keep as an Xbox/PC exclusive for a period of about twelve months, or so we believe, but there can simply be no denying that the Redwood based developer delivered the goods in style.

Visually speaking, the game was absolutely gorgeous, with stunningly detailed, highly realised locales all smothered in a plethora of beautiful effects, and yet that’s just the start. Gameplay wise, Rise of the Tomb Raider manages to match up to its visual panache with finely honed mechanics, character upgrade systems and a shedload of content. It may not be a million miles away from the last game, but the formula has been perfected now, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.

PC gamers waiting to get their hands on this should rejoice as Microsoft have announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be with you before the end of the month!

Velocity 2X

I had already seen this before it released on the PS4 in 2014 and rather liked the look of it, but it was not until the Xbox One version launched earlier this year that I finally got a hands-on with the game, and found myself absolutely blown away with its intoxicating mix of puzzle game, shooter and platformer. As if that was already a rather heady brew as it is, developer, FuturLab, also managed to add just a subtle hint Psygnosis’ futuristic racing masterpiece, WipEout 2097, in for good measure too. Sure, it sounds like a strange combination, and well it should, but in practice, there can simply be no denying that it all comes together frighteningly well in the hands of a young studio with a big future ahead of them.

It fluidly guides players across its fifty level or so expanse with what is essentially just one massive tutorial, constantly teaching the player the skills that they need to not simply survive each challenge, but perfect them. Many, many hours can be spent zipping backwards and forwards across areas, mastering the art of teleportation to ensure that the quickest level completion time doesn’t stay out of reach for too long, nor the many pickups and secret collectibles that are scattered across the plethora of maps. Velocity feels like a game that strives for perfection; it’s elegant, beautiful and a sheer joy to play, so yeah, it comes pretty damn close.

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