Siobhan Keogh wraps up the highs and lows of the gaming year.

It's safe to say last year was a bad year for video games. A long-simmering culture war hit boiling point, making mainstream headlines. The collateral damage was massive, and it was all video game fans talked about for months.

That culture war is still ongoing, but things have chilled out this year. In fact, I reckon it's been a pretty good year for video games, overall. Regardless, I'm here to take a look at some of the highs and lows of 2015.

Developers are finally taking risks

Usually when a new console cycle comes around, new games pop up. But the first couple of years following the release of the Xbox One and the PS4 have been full of old ideas, remastered.

A scene from the video game Unravel.
A scene from the video game Unravel.

This year's E3 was the first since where we saw some legitimate risk-taking - games like Horizon: Zero Dawn cropped up. Horizon has a terrible, boring name, but the game itself looks anything but. It's an action role-playing game, and while it might be post-apocalyptic - a very common video game trope - it doesn't feature zombies or a nuclear wasteland.

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What it does feature is robot dinosaurs. If that's not a risk. I don't know what is.

There was also plenty of new IP, like Unravel and ReCore.

That said, 90s game Final Fantasy VII still stole the whole show with its remake. Take from that what you will.

Blockbusters were let-downs

This year there were loads of games that just didn't live up to their predecessors. They weren't bad, necessarily, just... didn't quite hit those highs.

A scene from the video game Fallout 4.
A scene from the video game Fallout 4.

The Just Cause series really hit its stride in Just Cause 2, but the third game in the franchise was buggy and was let down by extremely long load times. Fallout 4 was bombed by users on Metacritic because of its pared-back role playing elements. Halo 5 took everything that was good about Halo 4, like its emotional resonance, and decided fans just wanted new and boring characters.

But there were surprise hits

You know what my personal game of the year is? Until Dawn. Did I know about its existence before it released and people started talking about it? Nope.

A scene from the video game Until Dawn.
A scene from the video game Until Dawn.

Then there was Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition, which I'm still working my way through. The non-enhanced version was released on PC last year, but the enhanced edition brought it to consoles with new content and gameplay options. It's a fantastic, classic turn-based RPG that no one seems to have played.

There was also Life is Strange, which advanced the adventure genre and blew many people away... right up until that last episode, anyway.

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Kojima vs. Konami

The biggest story of the year was, unusually, a story about one game designer.

In March of this year rumours began circulating that Konami was going to split with Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima. Konami then unceremoniously removed Kojima's name from marketing materials for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

A scene from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
A scene from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

After reports spread that Kojima had left the company in October, Konami insisted that Kojima was just taking a great big holiday.

But just a few days ago, Kojima announced that his studio Kojima Productions was going to become independent of Konami.

Konami plans on continuing to make Metal Gear titles without Kojima. To get an idea of how crazy this is, think of Kojima as an auteur. It's like deciding to make a Quentin Tarantino movie and then firing Tarantino. It's just a bad idea.

Into 2016

In a handful or two of days we'll be celebrating the beginning of 2016, and there's plenty for gamers to get excited about.

A scene from Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4 is set for release in 2016.
A scene from Uncharted 3, Uncharted 4 is set for release in 2016.

As early as February there'll be big name titles like XCOM 2 on shelves, followed up by Uncharted 4 in March and Quantum Break in April. By the end of the year - all going to plan - we will have played through the new Mirror's Edge, Deus Ex, Final Fantasy XV, and No Man's Sky. And as always, there will be loads more - I can't wait.

- nzherald.co.nz