GregHorrorShow’s Top 30 Multiplayer Maps (Part Two: The Top 15)

Maps Part 2

So we’re back again with some multiplayer goodness – this time heading into the Top 15 maps, really showcasing some of my all time favourite arenas.

If you missed Part One (30-16) check it out here:

And away we go!

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15. FIREBASE GODDESS (Mass Effect 3)

Another multiplayer that I would love to revisit at some stage is Mass Effect 3. Firebase Goddess is a great map with lots of ins-and-outs and a cool exterior section showing the destruction that has occurred at the base. With the play in Mass Effect 3 being horde-based the numerous entrances make for some tense moments and you’ll need a good squad of players to hold down locations and complete objectives on this one!

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14. TWILIGHT GAP (Destiny)

Destiny has been one of my favourite online shooters of the last few years and Twilight Gap has housed many happy memories for me. The layout is great, with a few parts of the map requiring you to glide across – which of course leaves you open to attack. Finely balanced and with a lot of different entrances/exits, this is a really cool map. Also the capture point at ‘B’ is both enclosed and exposed at the same time… quite a feat of design and something that I have both benefited from and succumbed to in equal measure!

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13. MAWLR GRAVEYARD (Killzone 3)

Killzone 3 has a lot of maps that revolve around a specific feature and MAWLR Graveyard is no different. The central route through the map means going through the path of a metal crusher – activated by a button on a raised platform. It’s very satisfying to spot a group of enemy soldiers making a run for it, hit the button and watch the kills stack up. But you also have other ways around, with two rooms on each side for close quarters action – which are linked by an underground tunnel. Fantastic stuff.

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12. CASTEL GANDOLFO (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood)

The majority of levels in the Assassin’s Creed series have been effective but nothing special in my opinion. However Castel Gandolfo (a real province in Italy) is a fantastically made map that generates an amazing amount of tension during games. Set across two floors of the building, including some of the exterior as well, it’s crowded enough to lose your pursuers but not so busy that you can’t get a good chase on. Great placement of Trap Doors’ adds a further edge to proceedings.

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11. GRAND BAZAAR (Battlefield 3)

Battlefield 3 has given us some of the biggest maps ever seen on a console shooter and Grand Bazaar is a stunning example of how good design can enhance the player’s experience. Basically an alleyway with lots of entrances/exits and the ability to flank around both sides, this is a map that makes it easy to get caught up in the choke-point of the alley but gives you the option of stepping back from the carnage and making a dash via a different route to try and claim a flag. It’s this freedom of choice that makes Grand Bazaar such a strong map.

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10. BILL’S TOWN (The Last Of Us)

Ah, The Last Of Us – potentially the most underrated multiplayer game ever. As you stealth and stalk your way around the game world, it’s important the maps give you enough options to sneak up on your enemies. Bill’s Town is a great example of this, featuring levels of verticality as well as lots of different entrances to the buildings on the map. The walkway across the map from top floor to top floor is risky but necessary for a quick escape in a pinch. Great stuff.

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9. THARSIS DEPOT (Killzone 2)

Set on the same refinery as the single player mission, Tharsis Depot is full of steel and has an elogated bottleneck between the bases down one side of the map. Co-incidentally that is also where one team has to defend in search and destroy – which usually leads to all kinds of chaos. With two floors to choose from there are plenty of ways to surprise your enemies and I am a HUGE fan of holding down the corridor just off the main room in the middle to shotgun any enemies that come my way.

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8. THE SANCTUARY (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)

This map is my personal favourite from Uncharted 2. Whether it’s plunder, elimination, deathmatch or whatever – The Sanctuary almost always throws up a great match. The underground tunnels are a fantastic addition in that they effectively add a third layer to proceedings and the risk/reward of positioning the Hammer on the exposed ledge is a stroke of genius. In fact you can also climb to the top of the tower in each base, above the main rooftops so technically The Sanctuary has FOUR levels to play with. A monster of a multiplayer map considering how compact it is.

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7. SHORES OF TIME (Destiny)

Undoubtedly my favourite Destiny map, the layout is truly superb – it gives you lots of options for circling round and flanking opponents as well as freedom to traverse the area however you want. That could be through tunnels or across open stretches and the placement of capture points is exquisitely balanced. They are certainly defendable but having three different entrances to each makes it difficult and extremely tense. Add to that the gorgeous, lush look of the level and you have something really cool.

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6. PORT VALDEZ (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

This was one of the maps from the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta and it is still one of my favourite maps on the game. The balance between defence and attack (in Rush mode) in terms of positioning of buildings etc is truly superb. The last few bases of this massive map are fantastic and you really do have to consider your tactics. Making a run for it is all well good but you can almost guarantee a host of snipers will have their sights trained on the entrance of whichever base you’re at. A really well designed map, especially considering the size and amount of bases in it.

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5. CHECKPOINT (The Last Of Us)

Checkpoint is the map that best showcases the slower, more deliberate gameplay of The Last Of Us. If you get two experienced teams of players it can be a thrilling, tense battle to victory. Alternatively if you don’t know the map it can be extremely punishing! Focused around the checkpoint that the level is named after, which sits in the middle of the area, the level has buildings on either side and well placed resource boxes mean there is a big risk/reward element in trying to get supplies. There are choke points dotted around but more than enough other routes to enable you to circumnavigate your enemies and sneak up on them to take them down unseen.

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4. CHATEAU (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Chateau is one of those maps that creates it’s own centrepiece as the game progresses. At the start of the round the roof is set on fire and soon enough the rooms in the upstairs of the building catch alight, the floor crumbles as it burns and flames lick the walls. It is some truly stunning stuff. And that’s to say nothing of the zipline from a hole in the top floor down to the adjacent garden or the downstairs room with overturned furniture that can be used as makeshift cover. A well designed map full of character.

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3. CASPIAN BORDER (Battlefield 3)

There are so many great maps in Battlefield 3 that I could probably do a Top 10 list just based on that title alone but the one that stands out above the rest for me is Caspian Border. Finely placed objectives and a wonderful mix of high and low positions mean sheer fun. The four main areas are far enough apart that it makes sense to grab a vehicle but if you find yourself stranded it isn’t too far to run. Add jets and helicopters into the mix and you have a recipe for some seriously amazing mutilplayer action. Outstanding.

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2. LENTE MISSILE BASE (Killzone 3)

This is a map that I simply love playing on. The way Lente Missile Base spans so many levels is brilliant and, of course, the fact that missiles actually take off from the basement (and you can get killed if you’re foolish enough to be down there) make this one of Killzone 3’s best experiences. Like some of the other centre-pieces in the game’s online offering there is a switch you can push to cancel the missile launch. It’s the little touches like that which really give the level a touch of character. From tense fights in the main tower through to open battles in the courtyard and below to tight skirmishes in the tunnels under the base, there is always something going on in this map.

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1. RADEC ACADEMY (Killzone 2)

Yep *still* the daddy of all multiplayer maps, Radec Academy is a superbly designed map with both open areas and some really tight corridors/stairways which leads to some intense firefights. The positioning of the search and destroy targets (for both teams) is inspired – essentially requiring you to hold a room that has three or four different entrances. Meanwhile there is the opportunity to snipe from the balcony overlooking the square – but you’ll have be quick to take those chances as people don’t hang around… unless you’re lucky enough to find an unsuspecting soul taking stock in one of the doorways opposite. Then of course you have the tunnels that run between each base and the building at the back of the map which can get quite crowded if a speaker spawns down there. Overall for me personally, it’s tough to think of what more they could’ve done to improve Radec Academy…

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So there we go – not a huge amount of movement right at the top of my list but there have been some really great maps over the last three years.

What have I missed? Drop a comment below or find me on Twitter (@greghorrorshow)

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GregHorrorShow’s Top 30 Multiplayer Maps (Part One: 30-16)

Maps Part 1

It’s been a while since I ran down my favourite multiplayer maps, three years in fact, and I thought it would be a good time to revisit the idea. Having gone through all the games released since the last time I made a list I’ve had to extend the list out from 20 maps to 30.

This extension also means I’ll put these up in two parts as 30 videos is quite a lot for one post! If you have any trouble with the video quality on the clips below just click on the YouTube logo on the video to view them on YouTube direct, which may be smoother.

There were plenty of other maps that I love but didn’t make the cut and I did try to stick to only having two maps per game, which was tougher than you might think!

So without further ado, here we go with Part One…

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30. FRINGE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops III)

I’m not the biggest fan of Call Of Duty’s fast paced online action but I usually get a fair few hours of enjoyment from each new title. It didn’t take long for Fringe to cement its place as my favourite map from Black Ops III. The increased movement and different abilities that the game brings to the series has meant the developers have had to plan accordingly. Several levels of verticality, along with window access to ground floor buildings and the open central area led to plenty of great battles.

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29. DRONE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops II)

I’ve found that my taste in Call Of Duty games tend to favour the Black Ops side of things rather than the Modern Warfare series. In terms of multiplayer I’d say Drone is my favourite of any Call Of Duty map. Tightly designed with plenty of ways in (and out) of buildings, you’ll need to keep a constant eye in all directions to avoid enemies flanking you. The main room with the slide doors will have you second guessing yourself – everytime you hear the ‘swoosh’ of the door opening you have milliseconds to decide… friend or foe?

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28. SEASIDE – GLAMORGAN, WALES (Resistance 3)

I still maintain that Resistance 3 was a hugely underrated game and that extends to the online. Glamorgan’s mix of small one floor barns/buildings makes for a strong map and while the bridge in the centre can be a choke point, the fact that you can also go around the sides means it never becomes too much of an issue. Raised platforms at each end also offer the opportunity for sniper fire but it’s when up-close and personal that the map thrives.

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27. PARACEL STORM (Battlefield 4)

Battlefield 4 didn’t quite live up to expectations in the online department, although I did have a lot of fun with it. One thing it did right though (despite the terrible name they gave it) was the ‘Levolution’ aspect of maps, where a huge event would change the layout of the map while you played. Paracel Storm was a close knit set of tropical islands that had you engaged in both long and short range firefights. It was already a great map but when you heard the siren sound… well, you knew there was trouble afoot. Suddenly the environment would be rocked by a tropical storm – heavy rain and huge crashing waves. As if that wasn’t enough, sometimes a massive navy ship would run aground and smash into one of the islands. Really cool stuff.

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26. SAO PAULO BUS DEPOT (Max Payne 3)

Max Payne 3’s gritty, dark universe comes through in the multiplayer as well as the single player and Sao Paulo’s Bus Depot is a prime example. Run down and seemingly abandoned, the design of the map is fantastic. There are so many different ways in (and out) of the depot itself, as well as vertical levels, that you’re never far from trouble. Perfect for settling those Vendetta’s:smile:

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25. RICHMAN MANSION (Grand Theft Auto Online)

A lot of the areas used for battles in Grand Theft Auto Online are small stretches of street or perhaps, an abandoned trainyard. None of them really grabbed me but the close quarters of the mansion map meant you had to stay on your toes. Although it was small in size there were plenty of low walls and alcoves to hide in and I have lots of happy memories of great, intense shootouts on this map. The video above is an example of one of the rare occasions I came out on top… for a while at least!

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24. THE HANGAR (Killzone: Shadow Fall)

The Hangar was a free map that arrived as part of one of the games updates (thank you Guerrilla Games for all the free content! That’s how DLC should work). It soon became a firm favourite, with a huge open area in the middle, corresponding walkways at the side and various alleyways on the lower floor underneath. Clever placement of mission objectives meant that while there were a few chokepoints, they were only clogged while specific missions were in play. Did I mention it also looks glorious?

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23. SYR DARYA UPLINK (MAG)

Sadly MAG is long gone but this was always my favourite of the huge maps on offer in the game. The initial capture points are perfectly placed and having them upstairs means it’s difficult to take but equally as difficult for the enemy if you do manage to secure it. The final point in the warehouse has so many twists and turns that it housed some epic battles for me.

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22. HOTH REBEL BASE (Star Wars: Battlefront)

There has been some grumbling about Star Wars: Battlefront’s lack of maps – different variations on 4 areas at launch – and while I think more environments should’ve featured, what we do have looks absolutely stunning. My pick of the bunch is the Rebel Base on Hoth. Bright white, almost antiseptic, walls inside the base make way to icy caves and pathways. You’ll find yourself fighting among parked spaceships and even using them for cover! While it is narrow in spots there are so many options to traverse the map that it never feels like too much of an issue. Great map design.

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21. GRAY RAMPART (Metal Gear Solid V Online)

Metal Gear Solid Online isn’t a game busting with content. There aren’t a great deal of maps available but what is there, for the most part, is very enjoyable. My pick of the bunch is Gray Rampart, which I’ve found to be super well designed and big enough to host the madness that is Metal Gear Online. There are buildings scattered throughout that give hiding places or somewhere to regroup and plan your next move. Taking place in the shadow of a huge dam, it’s a vast map with lots of ways to get around and just the right amount of open space. Do you chance going over the bridge and getting sniped? Or head underneath to try and sneak around?

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20. OPERATION 925 (Battlefield 3)

The Close Quarters DLC for Battlefield 3 is among the best DLC I’ve ever played. And the map design of the levels is the main reason for this. Operation 925 contains a host of destroyable walls/glass which means no-where is safe to hide! The video above is an excellent look around the level. As well as the two levels of the building you also have the underground car park to contend with, which opens out nicely after the tight corridors leading to it.

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19. VALPARAISO (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

With plenty of hills to fight up/down on, this is a wonderfully varied map boasting four differently styled bases that will keep you entertained for ages. The mixture of jungle environments just within this map is a testament to how well made it is – you’ll start in dense jungle before breaking into the open for a while until eventually you’ll find yourself in another dense jungle setting for an enclosed final base.

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18. HIGHRISE (Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)

Call Of Duty’s multiplayer is pretty fun in short bursts and the Highrise map is one of the highlights of the series. Set, essentially, in the upper floor of two buildings and on another building’s rooftop inbetween – this is a close quarters map with plenty of scope for sneaking into the enemies’ tower. One of my favourite tactics was using the lower walkways to get into the opposite tower and launch an attack behind the enemy – that is of course if I could get in without being spotted… easier said than done.

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17. THE PARK (Killzone: Shadow Fall)

Killzone, as a series, has always had superbly designed maps that work vertically on many levels. The Park is another great addition to the collection, adding in a few chokepoints to fight over and capture. If you can keep the enemy from coming through the central corridor on the upper floor (a VERY popular flashpoint) then you can force them to use alternative routes. Having said that, it’s rare for one team to keep hold of that corridor for very long! There is also a cool underground network of tunnels that are very tight but can be used to get across the map of needed.

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16. LONDON UNDERGROUND (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Like almost all Uncharted online maps London Underground is based upon a single player campaign level. And this one runs the full gambit. Three vertical levels of fun and a speeding train that passes through the level, killing anyone in it’s path. Fortunately Naughty Dog also put some of the objectives on the tracks or near where the train passes, just to add to the chaos! This is a really well designed map with lots of entrances/exits to all rooms, meaning you’ll need to stay focussed to keep hold of objectives.

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So there we go, the first 15 maps done and with 7 new entries there is plenty of new stuff in the mix. The Top 15 should be up next week hopefully, that also has some new entries so keep an eye out for it.

Have you enjoyed any of the maps above? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@greghorrorshow).

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Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – Review (PS4)

AC Synd Main

The Assassin’s Creed series arrived on the scene back in 2007 with an interesting premise but repetitive and unrefined gameplay. It was well received and when the second game arrived two years later, it had almost everything we wanted. Again the next title in the series, Brotherhood, improved and refined the way the series played and was an absolute blast. That was in 2010 and in the five years since we have had a mainline Assassin’s Creed game released every year.

Aside from 2013’s Black Flag it has been a case of diminishing returns, with not much innovation and too much clutter getting in the way of the gaming experience, culminating in 2014’s Unity, which was a broken game upon release. I didn’t finish Unity as I didn’t like the main character and felt like I had better things to spend my game time on.

As you can imagine, I approached Syndicate with some trepidation. It was ticking boxes for me pre-release: Victorian London? Check. Two main playable characters? Check. One of which is female? Check. It looked good on paper but after playing nine of these games in eight years (including a few spin off titles) the potential for burn out was extremely high. So did another new setting and main characters do anything to stop the slide of the series?

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The answer for me is a resounding yes.

Let’s start with the characters, twins Evie and Jacob Frye. For the first time in a long while I genuinely felt attached and interested in Assassin’s Creed’s main stars. As much as I enjoyed Black Flag and felt Edward Kenway was a likeable character, I didn’t really care for his story. With Syndicate I was keen to progress the story and enjoyed the freedom (some missions aside) to choose between controlling Evie or Jacob.

Both have slightly different skills, Evie is more stealth based while Jacob is more aggressive, but you can use either for most situations and be confident you won’t run into too much trouble. A huge part of their appeal is the delivery from actors Victoria Atkin and Paul Amos, both in terms of motion capture and vocal performance. The sibling banter flows freely and feels genuine enough to convince.

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The gameplay is still rooted in the maligned Assassin’s Creed template – you’ll need to climb a viewpoint to see all the side activities in an area but with climbing more efficient and easy to navigate it wasn’t too much of a hardship. The side activities were varied enough to keep me coming back, whether it was smaller stuff like protecting horse-drawn cargo, carriage racing (not a high point), bare knuckle fighting (surprisingly fun) or bigger things like taking over gang hideouts or assassinating Templars commanders. Do enough side stuff to clear out a borough of London and you trigger a gang fight, with each of these having a gang leader with back story and lines of dialogue etc. It reminded me a little of Shadow Of Mordor’s nemesis system but more static and less in depth. I’d love to see them work on this and try to incorporate something more dynamic for future titles.

There are also some interesting side missions that you can do for historical figures of the time – Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell, Darwin, Marx and even Queen Victoria have some really nice missions. In addition to that you’ll also find yourself bumping into others, like Florence Nightingale and Prime Minister Disraeli. Fun stuff and the game doesn’t take any of it too seriously, which is good.

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Another welcome new addition is the story based assassinations themselves. Nothing was more frustrating for me in previous games than sneaking up on a target, going to take them out, only for that to bring up a health bar and trigger a ‘boss fight’. Here you have the freedom to do as you like and the game also provides some ‘Hitman‘ style optional extras – interesting ways to get close to your target and perhaps activate a unique kill on them. Very cool stuff.

The game looks fantastic with some really cool lighting and a day/night cycle that also features various weather effects. Considering the issues in last year’s title I didn’t experience much in the way of technical problems. There was, of course, a bit of open-world ‘jank’, which isn’t uncommon in games of this size but there was nothing that dampened my enjoyment of the game.

Thinking of negatives, to be honest there aren’t many. I would’ve liked to have seen a little more variation in the bigger side missions – having said that I spent hours taking over London and finished them all, so they can’t have been that bad! The characters themselves handled fine but the horse drawn vehicle stuff was painful at times. I guess it would be tough to race through the streets of London in the 1860’s but a little more control would’ve been welcome. Also having the same button to get into a vehicle and pick up a dead body meant some extremely frustrating moments where the game picked the wrong option for me. Minor complaints in the grand scheme of things.

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So, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was a really positive experience for me. The fact that Ubisoft are giving the franchise a year off in 2016 is great news as it allows for some breathing space and gives them time to improve the game a lot more. We know the next game won’t be returning to London and the twins Frye but I genuinely hope we see a return to England with Evie and Jacob in the future.

Rating: 9/10

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Time (Isn’t) On My Side… Quantity Or Quality?

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I have been having a game related problem for a few years that really came to a head in 2015. The issue is that the equation of my gaming life (time spent enjoying gaming in proportion to the length of the games I’m playing) seems to have reversed. Now, I am not one to often complain that games are too long but there does seem to have been a trend recently that has seen more and more games increase in size but not in quality.

There have always been, and hopefully will always be, games that sprawl in length and give you a chance to spend dozens of hours soaking up the world and the stories within it. Titles from the Fallout, Dragon Age, Deus Ex, Grand Theft Auto and Witcher series spring to mind immediately. These are games I love playing and can completely lose myself in. However they are also games I can set aside and know I won’t be finishing any time soon. They are a known quantity. Titles I can dip into as and when (I’m still thoroughly enjoying 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition despite being 50 hours in with the end nowhere in sight!). For me these titles aren’t really part of this problem – although the fact there are so many of them being released means I have to pick my battles in terms of what to play!

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The titles that have been more of an issue are games that, traditionally, you would expect to end a lot sooner than they did. Single player, non-RPG experiences – you aren’t creating a character, choosing a storyline or having a say in the way things unfold. These are games where I’m signing up to be told a story. To play through a set experience and take on control of a character in a world created to tell their tale. Games that have, up until recently, usually hit somewhere around the 10 hour mark. The Uncharted games are a perfect example of this, with the three titles in the series having playthrough times of 8, 9 and 11 hours respectively.

More recently I’ve encountered titles that, while very enjoyable for the most part, outstayed their welcome by a few good hours. Batman: Arkham Knight was a great example of this – a game with a memorable cast of characters and solid gameplay. I really enjoyed how the side mission activities linked in with the game world but the main story… Well, to be frank, quite a lot of the main missions genuinely felt like time fillers that were simply not needed. Stuff that was there to just pad out the hour count – especially the repetitious and tedious Batmobile missions.

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Watch_Dogs was another of these titles, clocking in at a quite unnecessary 18 hours of play for the single player campaign. And that’s without any side missions. The game itself was fairly middle-of-the-road, with some interesting ideas in a disappointing story with a poorly developed main character. Would these problems have been solved by a shorter campaign? Something more like 10-12 hours? No, certainly not but I do believe they could’ve been greatly alleviated because you wouldn’t have had the same level of repetition during gameplay.

However the worst offender for me over the last few years was Alien: Isolation, a truly phenomenal title that was damaged but it’s length. The game saw you take on the role of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen – the main character of the Alien movies and general badass. However in this game you weren’t fighting the Alien, you were hiding from it, sneaking around. Hiding in lockers and creeping through the spaceship was thrilling and scary. The problem was the needless backtracking that added so much time to the campaign. If this game had been around the 15 hour mark it may well have been the best horror title around. But by the time I finished it (at around 20 hours) I was just glad it was over, those last two or three hours genuinely felt like a slog – which is a real shame in a game that good.

TheOrder 3

As I said before, I’m all for long games and making sure consumers get their money worth. There is a place for games of all sizes and when you’re talking about top quality, open world titles then it’s all good. What’s troubling to me, and has impacted my gaming time, is the number of games that are simply padding their campaigns out just to increase the playtime in the hope of avoiding ‘The Order-gate’.

In case you missed it, allow me to explain. The Order: 1886 was a highly anticipated game from Sony’s Santa Monica Studios, a developer with great pedigree, that worked previously on the God Of War titles. However almost all the reviews criticized the short length of the game, leading to a flurry of forum posts and articles as to whether the game was worth paying full price for and whether consumers were being ‘ripped off’. The toxic conversation plagued the game and became what the title was known for. Which is a shame because it was graphically stunning and had a wonderful script.

For me The Order’s length, around 7 hours, was perfect for the game. Despite the positives I mentioned above, I actually thought the gameplay itself was quite mundane. However, when the credits rolled I genuinely thought, ‘you know what, if they made a sequel I would definitely play it’. I doubt I would’ve felt that way if the game had been twice the length. Another great story driven title from last year, Until Dawn, clocked in at 8 hours (and even gave you choices within the story) which was just the right size for the game.

I appreciate that as consumers we need to get our money’s worth from the games we purchase but should the length of a game be the main yardstick by which we judge titles? What about glorious experiences like Journey? Admittedly it’s not a full price title but it’s a good example of a powerful, moving game that only lasts a few hours. I guess my issue isn’t that these games are getting longer, it’s that I feel like the extra hours are being filled with boring, repetitive gameplay. And that is a waste of a gaming commodity even more valuable than my money… my gaming time.

GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2015

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What a year 2015 was for gaming! I feel like I open my awards post with that every other year but the last twelve months saw the release of some truly astonishing titles. The breadth of titles was stunning and the depth of the games themselves left me wondering when I would get to play everything!

As is always the case there are titles I simply haven’t had time to get to or that I started but only put a small amount of time into. Things like Mad Max, Just Cause 3, Mortal Kombat and Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection may well have made it into these awards somewhere but alas not this year.

So as usual let’s delve back into 2014 for a title I missed at the time but ended up being a firm favourite early in 2015…

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MISSED GEM OF 2014

GAMES2015 WOLF

WINNER: Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

I had no real knowledge of the Fable comic series before the announcement of The Wolf Among Us and even then I thought it sounded like a cool premise but wasn’t sure if I’d want to play a game based around it. Having loved The Walking Dead (yes, even the much maligned season two!), I just didn’t know if I could care about a cast of characters in such a far fetched setting… Well, as it turns out I definitely could! You play as Sheriff Bigby, the wolf of the game’s title and fairy tale legend. You are charged with keeping fairy tale characters in check as they settle into life in the real world alongside Humans. They do such a good job of dragging you into this world and it features all the hallmarks of a Telltale game – narrative choice, good writing and memorable characters.

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

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WINNER: Metal Gear Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Until Dawn came close to nabbing this award, with the best use of the motion function of the controller in years. In tense moments of the game you are tasked with remaining still and not moving the gamepad. If you do you will be caught/trapped etc. In a game where all the characters can die at any time it led to some extremely tense moments! Life Is Strange‘s unique use of time travel also impressed, just the fact that you could rewind dialogue choices more than once gave you a sense of freedom to explore the possibilities and take your best option. Again, Batman: Arkham Knight might have taken this in another year. I don’t recall a use of audio/visual cues that was as good as it was in Arkham. In addition to the radial wheel to choose missions there was an abundance of in-world feedback that I loved. So many times I’d be on my way somewhere and see or hear something odd, a building on fire or a strange flying shape, that I investigated and suddenly found myself in a side mission. Great stuff. But there is only one game that could take the award for 2015. In a year of amazing games Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain rewrote the rulebook for open world games. There is so much I could say here; the amount of buddies you can take on missions, the customisation of weapons, the base management and so on. It all boils down to one thing: giving players the flexibility to take on missions, or salvage ones gone awry, in their own way. Want to capture that colonel and get his Intel? Go for it. Oh, you’d rather just shoot a rocket launcher at him and jump in a jeep to speed off? Just as valid. Amazing.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Until Dawn (Don’t Move)
  • Batman (Audio/Visual Cues)
  • Life Is Strange (Improved Rewind Mechanic)

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

GAMES2015 DESTINY

WINNER: Destiny: The Taken King

There could only really be one winner in this category. With The Taken King, Destiny has been revitalised. With fresh content and a re-working of the game’s original story stuff this really was DLC worth having. New multiplayer maps and modes added extra value to the mix and this was a fantastic addition to the game. DriveClub: Bikes also bought a wealth of new content in the form of Bikes to the game. Another full tour mode, challenges and multiplayer bring a different spin on the original game and for the mid-range price point. If you’re into DriveClub and fancy something different, you can’t really go wrong here. Rocket League has been extremely well supported by the developer with both free and paid for content. I’ve taken advantage of both and found them to be excellent. Sure a lot of it is smaller things like cars/decals etc. but with the new content that allows you to mix it up and make the game more fun (low gravity/huge ball etc.) I feel it’s a worthy nominee. The same can’t really be said for Star Wars: Battlefront but it’s the only other DLC I played this year. A free addition that gives you a new map and few new game modes, it’s perfectly fine and apparently more free content is coming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • DriveClub: Bikes
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Rocket League

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

GAMES2015 ROCKET LEAGUE

WINNER: Rocket League

This was previously my Best Downloadable Only Game category but it kind of felt redundant, with so many great games in the spirit of the award also getting physical releases. So from here on out The Joe Danger Award will be for games that are mid level price but captured my attention in terms of hours spent playing or polish. This year the award came down to a head-to-head between Life Is Strange and Rocket League. As much as I enjoyed Helldivers it didn’t stick with me and Steins;Gate is awesome but it just doesn’t fly in the same way as the two frontrunners. In the end I have to give it to Rocket League – I had no expectations for that game and it pretty much took over my gaming schedule for the entire Summer! With no story or characters to divide opinion, Rocket League seemed to be enjoyed by everyone that played it and for good reason.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Life Is Strange
  • Steins;gate
  • Helldivers

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2016

GAMES2015 UC4

WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Well because of its delay in 2015 through to Spring of 2016, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes this award for the second year in a row. I love the Uncharted series and the footage that has been released, along with the multiplayer beta I played before Christmas (footage here) have stoked the flames even more. I can’t wait for this… No Man’s Sky was a runner up in this category back in 2013, another game that has been confirmed for 2016. This space exploration sim looks set to explode this year as gamers clamour to name new planets and creatures. Should be good fun! I couldn’t get enough of Persona 4 Golden a few years back so the sequel, Persona 5, is big news for me. I look forward to building up those Social Links all over again! I also think Horizon: Zero Dawn looks astounding, and the creators of Killzone are well worth backing in their new game universe. Another one to look forward to in 2016.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Persona 5
  • No Man’s Sky

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Star Wars Battlefront

As someone who isn’t even a Star Wars it was a surprise just how much of an effect that Battlefront trailer had. I suppose everything Star Wars is so much a part of pop culture’s make up that just seeing the characters and hearing the music triggered my brain – nonetheless it’s a great trailer that was the best I saw this year. I’ve been hoping for a second installment of Dishonored and it was finally revealed at E3, with the awesome news that this time out you’ll be playing as Emily Kaldwin – hopefully it can live up to the trailer, which is the same thing I’m hoping for Hitman. This game looks amazing graphically and I really enjoyed the last one. With the PS4’s improved sharing functionality, this could be a game that benefits and the trailer does a good job of giving a glimpse of the world that awaits. I was always going to get Fallout 4 but I thought this trailer was really well done and deserves a spot on the list.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Fallout 4
  • Dishonored 2
  • Hitman

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BEST VITA GAME

GAMES2015 helldivers

WINNER: Helldivers

My Vita was sadly underused for new titles during 2015. I had a lot of game time on the handheld but it was mostly spent playing older titles I’d missed – things like Persona 3, Muramasa Rebirth, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and the previously mentioned Wolf Among Us. So unfortunately most of the new stuff I played didn’t get a huge amount of screen time. I really enjoyed my time with Helldivers and thought it was a great port. It ran fine for me and I used it offline to level up my character before logging in when possible to update it. Steins;Gate has been really cool so far but I’m under 10 hrs in and don’t feel I can give it the award without having seen the whole story. I also thought Broken Age was impressive – it looked gorgeous and had a very engaging setting. Some of the puzzles were a little bit taxing for me but I’ve never been that strong on logic stuff in games. Olli Olli 2 was more of the same but why change a working formula? The introduction of manuals gave a further level of control to an already difficult, but fulfilling, game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Broken Age
  • SteinsGate
  • Olli Olli 2

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BEST GRAPHICS

GAMES2015 BATTLEFRONT

WINNER: Star Wars: Battlefront

That Star Wars Battlefront trailer that you watched above? Most people dismissed it as CGI and said the game would never look that good. It looks that good. No question. Fair enough the game only has four environments but they are jaw droppingly stunning. The fact that The Order: 1886 didn’t win this category is still a surprise to me. I just didn’t see anything surpassing it, least of all a multiplayer title. But don’t let that detract from Sony Santa Monica’s eye melting depiction of an alternate history Whitechapel in the late 19th century. It has to be seen to be believed at times and while the gameplay wasn’t great, the graphics certainly were. Until Dawn had some ridiculously good facial capture and looked absolutely gorgeous, both in terms of the characters and the environments. Another game that had fantastic environments was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which at times looked unreal – especially with it’s day/night and weather cycles.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Order: 1886
  • Until Dawn
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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BEST STORYLINE

Life Is Strange 2

WINNER: Life Is Strange

I seem to be in the minority when talking about the story of Batman: Arkham Knight. I enjoyed Rocksteady’s final hurrah with this character and found the tales told over the course of the game to be fun and interesting. Although I should also say it was mostly the side stuff that held my interest, the main storyline not so much. Until Dawn was another story I enjoyed – the mix of main storyline and background information found via collectibles was great and felt natural. The Order: 1886 told a solid story and was possibly the best written of the bunch this year. It’s such a shame everyone focused on the, supposedly, short play time of the game and not it’s positive aspects. Which brings us to the winner of this category, Life Is Strange. What a story. This was one full of twists I didn’t see coming and with some lovely character moments. Max’s story is well told and something that everyone can relate to, even if you’re not a teenage girl yourself.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Until Dawn
  • The Order: 1886
  • Batman: Arkham Knight

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

GAMES2015 MGS GOTY

WINNER: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

It wasn’t a huge year for music scores in the games I played. I enjoyed Life Is Strange‘s incidental music a lot and Batman: Arkham Knight had some powerful cues that really lent some atmosphere to the events on screen. Jason Graves delivered with Until Dawn and had me jumping out of my skin on several occasions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes it though – some of the score when out on missions is fantastic and that music when you’re preparing for a mission is insanely good. I have high hopes for this category next year with titles like Uncharted 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Rise Of The Tomb Raider and Horizon: Zero Dawn hitting the PS4.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Until Dawn
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Life Is Strange

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

GAMES2015 LIFE IS STRANGE

WINNER: Life Is Strange

Battlefield: Hardline set the bar for licensed soundtracks early in the year with songs by Jamie N Commons, Public Enemy, Judas Priest, Run The Jewels and The Clash before being usurped by the 80’s-fest that was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain which included artists like Hall and Oates, Kajagoogoo, Kim Wilde, A-Ha and The Cure. The use of them in game was great as well, which made a huge difference. Battlefront had the benefit of licensing in some of the most well known film score in history. Those songs just fire something up in people and add a huge amount to the experience of playing the game. But the winner here is undoubtedly Life Is Strange, which has an array of fantastic music from artists like Syd Matters, Amanda Palmer, Sparklehorse and Foals. It all suits the game so well and the opening of the game is possibly the best use of music I’ve seen in a game. It’s flawlessly executed and helped me fall in love with the game even more.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield: Hardline
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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BEST VOICE ACTING

Until Dawn Main

WINNER: Until Dawn

It makes a change when looking at the best voice acting category to have a selection of games NOT featuring Nolan North or Troy Baker! As great as those two are we have some fresh blood. First up I want to give a shout out to Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and in particular the twins Evie (Victoria Atkin) and Jacob Frye (Paul Amos). Both compliment each other really well and it’s a refreshing change to have such engaging lead characters in the series. Also props to Battlefield Hardline, which I felt was a little overlooked in 2015. I liked the episodic TV format of the game and thought the voice performances were strong – especially Adam Harrington and Travis Willingham. Life is Strange nearly took this category with some wonderful work from Ashly Burch and Hannah Telle, as Max and Chloe, but in the end I had to go with Until Dawn. The game has a fantastic cast and some memorable dialogue that is delivered pitch perfect. Hayden Panettiere is great as Sam and Brett Dalton gives a good performance as Mike. For me though the best two lines were from Galadriel Stineman’s Ashley (“What are you tweeting? Hashtag there’s a freaking ghost after us!”) and Nichole Bloom’s Emily (“Understand the palm of my hand, bitch!”). Wonderful stuff that really added depth to the characters.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Life Is Strange
  • Battlefield: Hardline
  • Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

Life Is Strange Main

WINNER: Life Is Strange

I haven’t finished The Witcher 3 but have played enough to know it’s deserving of a place on this list. I never had a chance to experience the previous games in the series as they were PC only but that didn’t seem to hold me back at all. The Witcher 3 has an in depth and interesting combat system that takes into account potions and well as sword-play. It can be challenging at times but is definitely worth sticking with, complimented by some cool story beats and side missions. As I mentioned earlier, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain took the opening world genre and redefined it. While it’s story wasn’t strong, I felt gameplay wise this was possibly the best thing I played this year. Until Dawn was also an absolute blast, which is surprising coming from someone who is not into the horror genre at all. I’m still annoyed about my ending to that game, thinking about the characters I lost, which is always one of the signs of a great game. The winner of this year’s award is another game that stuck with me for weeks after I’d finished it. Life Is Strange sucked me in like no other game this year. The mix of setting, characters, music, story and gameplay had me hooked from the very first episode. Seeing your choices make a difference, no matter how big or small, was always cool and some of those cliffhanger endings to episodes were jaw dropping. Checking the online stats and seeing how many people made different decisions was an eye opener. An amazing game, I can’t wait to see what comes next from the developer.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Witcher 3
  • Until Dawn
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

GAMES2015 ROCKET LEAGUE 2

WINNER:  Rocket League

It was a much improved year for multiplayer gaming, with Destiny continuing to satisfy and increasing the level of content with The Taken King expansion. I had a great time with the game in 2015, jumping on to do a few Daily Challenges in the multiplayer Crucible modes. It remains the best shooter currently out there, the handling and control I would say are on a par with my other favourite FPS series, Killzone. At the other end of the spectrum we had Star Wars Battlefront, which was aimed at a much more casual market. With looser shooting and helpful mechanics like no reloading, Battlefront might have been something you could dismiss but DICE do a stunning job of creating the most authentic Star Wars experience out there. Now, admittedly, that is the view of a non-Star Wars fan but for me when you look around the battlefield and see Storm Troopers, AT-ATs and then that music swells as Luke Skywalker bursts round the corner… Well that’s Star Wars and it works. I still feel Metal Gear Solid Online was a little under-appreciated this year but then again I’ve been waiting years for a good SOCOM style multiplayer shooter so I was always going to like this. Having said all that the game that dominated my online time in 2015 was a football game. And it wasn’t FIFA 16. The award for best multiplayer goes to Rocket League, a game in which you play football (soccer) with cars. It sounds simple because it is but the developers nailed the control of the cars and the way the ball reacts. Scoring a goal is quite something else in Rocket League. This was the most fun I had this year online and the game also posed a great challenge as I started to get better at controlling the cars. And that’s the amazing thing about Rocket League – you can be good, bad or great. You can pick up a pad for the first time and play the game, having just as much fun as a seasoned veteran. It’s easy to get into, tough to master and generally an all round excellent game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Metal Gear Solid Online
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • Destiny: The Taken King

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GAME OF THE YEAR

GAMES2015 MGS INNOVATION

WINNER: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

As I said at the start of these awards, it really has been a great year for gaming. It was tough to whittle this list down to four and even tougher to decide a winner. In the end it could really only be one title though, the game that delivered on both single player and multiplayer fronts. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Hideo Kojima’s swan song at Konami and the final instalment in the Metal Gear series was stellar. A few mis-steps aside (would’ve preferred keeping voice actor David Hayter as Snake and well, the less said about Quiet’s outfit the better) it was a masterpiece and has given other developers of open world games a lot to think about. The sheer flexibility of the game is unreal – what would be a ‘Game Over’ screen and restart in other titles (including previous Metal Gear titles) is here a chance to try and salvage the mission by improvising. The AI is clever enough but never feels unfairly advanced or, equally, too stupid. The online is also an achievement, with the slick control from single player coming over. Add into the mix the Fulton system and how that effects things in Bounty Hunter mode and you have mechanics that keep the game interesting beyond your usual 3rd person shooter stuff. This is the best game of 2015 overall and a worthy winner.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Life Is Strange
  • Until Dawn
  • Rocket League

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So there you have it! 2015 is done and we can now look forward to 2016, which is shaping up to be another big year for games. Titles like Uncharted 4, Deus Ex, No Man’s Sky, Hitman, The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush 2 and The Division, among others, will be hitting and I can’t wait! It’s a great time to be a gamer and I’m already wondering which of 2016’s titles will make the list next time out!

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GregHorrorShow: The Music Of 2015

Music 2015 Chvrches

It’s been a pretty fantastic year for music in 2015. Returning artists like Adele, Justin Bieber, Florence + The Machine and Ellie Goulding saw huge success and the further rise of streaming took an interesting turn as Apple finally joined the fray.

I have put together a playlist on Spotify of my recommended tracks for the year, give it a click below to listen.

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I saw a lot of new bands this year and while I really enjoyed Clean Cut Kid, Aurora and Solomon Grey, the best new band I saw live in 2015 was Slaves at the Scala. It was a brilliant gig with a friendly, upbeat vibe. Overall though the best thing I saw live was Health, which, with a combined audio/visual performance, really was something special.

Music 2015 Oh Wonder

I really liked what we’ve heard so far from Jack Garrett and I found the Oh Wonder album to be a wonderful listen. Halsey stepped into Lorde‘s shoes and delivered a really great album, for me it lacks a little of the punch of Lorde’s stuff but Castle is a superb track.

Disclosure returned with a brilliant album and, after an extended absence, so did The Chemical Brothers. It’s a really cool album with lots of great featured artists on vocals. As well as being stunning live, I loved the Health album this year – it’s definitely worth checking out.

Tame Impala came back with a chilled out bang and Kendrick Lemar continued his hot streak of releases with ‘To Pump A Butterfly’. Another returning band was Sleater-Kinney, whose album I enjoyed.

Music 2015 Kendrick

Robyn returned with ‘Love Is Free’ which was one of my favourite songs and, of course, The Weeknd‘s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ was huge. There were also great songs from Petite Meller, Kagoule, Charli XCX and Duke Dumont, among others.

You can check all these tracks out on the playlist above, if you haven’t already.

And so to wrap things up I’ll move onto the awards…

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BEST ALBUM

Music 2015 Best Album

It’s no secret to anyone who follows me on social media that I love Chvrches. I thought their previous album was brilliant and I wasn’t sure how they would follow it up. Thankfully ‘Every Open Eye‘ didn’t disappoint. Retaining their trademark sound but varying it enough to sound fresh, Chvrches delivered my album of the year.

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BEST SONG

Music 2015 Best Song

I had to think long on this one as there have been so many great tracks this year but the one I returned to over and over again was ‘Stonefist’ by Health. It’s an assault on the ears in the best possible way, a clarion call that keeps you hooked until the end.

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What you have you guys been listening to? Let me know of any albums I’ve missed or that you think are worth checking out!

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GregHorrorShow: The TV Of 2015

TV 2015 Blacklist

What a year it’s been for TV, with traditional television production companies feeling the heat from new shows made for Netflix – it’s certainly an interesting time and the only clear winner is the consumer, as we get tons of amazing new shows to watch!

Before we launch into those new (and returning) shows, let’s take a look at some older stuff I caught up on that I’d recommend.

I mentioned both of these last year and I’ve stuck with them – A Town Called Eureka (Season 3) and Arrow (Season 2). Both shows deliver a nice dose of light hearted escapism, although Arrow did tread a few darker paths in it’s 2nd season. I also delved into Continuum‘s first season, which is a wonderfully cheesy sci-fi romp involving a group of time-traveling criminals and the cop stranded in the past trying to catch them!

TV 2015 Fringe

However the award for most captivating show I’d missed first time around it goes to Fringe, of which I devoured the entire 5 seasons in the course of the year! A cross between the X-Files and Warehouse 13, it lost its way a little in Season 4 but finished strong and the White Tulip episode is one of the finest episodes of TV I’ve ever seen. I know it’s old but that takes this year’s title for Best Episode.

Wow, with new shows where do I start?!

Well, I absolutely loved Agent Carter, which is a fantastically stylised trip through an alternate 1940’s in which Peggy Carter spends her time tracking down top secret weapons and generally kicking ass. It was a short season but I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the show returning in January. Sticking with Marvel, I thought Daredevil finished strong but it seemed to take an age to get there, I really had to stick with it as those first 5 or 6 episodes involved a lot of set up. It was worth it in the end and the characters came into their own in the second half of the season.

TV 2015 Agent Carter

Rounding out the Marvel trilogy is Jessica Jones which is truly amazing TV. I’m only halfway through the season as I write this but it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. This is a superhero show that tackles some really heavy issues and doesn’t shy away from any of them. Also it’s a private eye with superpowers – just… genius.

On a completely different superhero vibe, Supergirl is midway through it’s first season and it’s been quite enjoyable, if a little light. There’s a good dynamic between the characters but this is at the other end of the spectrum to Jessica Jones or Daredevil – Supergirl is definitely more of a Saturday afternoon kind of show! Sens8 arrived this year and The Wachowskis (of The Matrix fame) delivered an experience that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It was a fun, if at times confusing, tale of 8 individuals from around the world that are psychically linked. It certainly looked great, especially with it being shot in different locations across the globe.

TV 2015 Newsroom

I thoroughly enjoyed the final season of The Newsroom, which arrived too late for last year’s round up. The cast, as always, delivered some superb episodes and the writing was as sharp as ever. What a fantastic show and while I was disappointed it was finishing, it was the right time to go out. Defiance also wrapped up this year and while this season was stronger than the last, it also felt like the right moment to end the show. I appreciated the return to form of some of the main characters but it was hard to maintain the impact that first season had.

I managed to catch both Season 2 and Season 3 of the amazing Orphan Black this year. As the story becomes more complex I just come to appreciate the characters even more and especially the performance of actress Tatiana Masley – who plays the majority of roles in the show. I can’t wait for Season 4, which should be great fun judging by how this season ended! I also got stuck into the first season of Gotham, which I think is a great idea for a show and I’m looking forward to seeing where they take it from here.

TV 2015 Blindspot

Blindspot was another highlight for me – the story of a woman with amnesia, covered in tattoos that lead the FBI to different clues and cases as they try to work out who she is and why she landed on their doorstep. The Blacklist returned for its third season and although we only got the first half of it this year it was quite something. Consistently one of the, if not the, best show on my television, it always brings great storylines and solid character development. And well, Raymond Reddington – who is one of the best anti-heroes in recent TV history. Shout out also to the music supervisor on The Blacklist, this season has been fantastic on the soundtrack front.

The Middle continues to entertain and, along with New Girl, remains my go-to light, half hour shows. Also keeping things light were Castle (Season 7) and Haven (Season 5), with the latter coming to the end of its run this season. Firstly Castle though, and as usual the cast keep that close-knit chemistry going which really helps to keep you interested in the show. There were a few lulls over the course of the season and the stuff about Castle going missing turned out to be a bit of a waste of time in my opinion. I did enjoy it though and look forward to more cop/writer adventures soon.

TV 2015 Librarians

Haven got back to form in its final season and concentrating on the main trio of characters was definitely a wise move. It was a shame to see it end but it had a good run across the five seasons it was on our screens. Another light hearted show I’ve been enjoying is The Librarians (Season 2) which is such wonderful, silly fun and a perfect replacement for formerly watched shows like Warehouse 13 or Charmed. This season has definitely been improved and the writing has come on leaps and bounds.

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BEST NEW SHOW

TV 2015 Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones just about steals it for 2015. It was a tough choice this year and became a three way fight between Jessica Jones, Agent Carter and Blindspot. All three have their plus points and I really enjoyed all of them. For me though, Jessica Jones was a real breath of fresh air. So much darker than I imagined and with an awesome twist on the gumshoe detective genre, it was my favourite new show this year.

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BEST SHOW

TV 2015 Orphan Black

It could only be Orphan Black. I love this show so much and having the benefit of two seasons in one year gave it the edge. It was this or The Blacklist. Both are unbelievable TV and both find me desperately wanting to see the next episode as soon as possible. Orphan Black tells a complex tale but it is well worth sticking with – the pay off is just too good. The characters, the situations… brilliant.

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So what have you guys been watching, let me know what else I should be checking out below or give me a shout on Twitter – @greghorrorshow

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