The 2015 Video Game Awards: Predicting the Winners

Source: CD Projekt Red

Source: CD Projekt Red

The biggest video game award ceremony of the year is almost here. Produced by host Geoff Keighley, who spent many years hosting the now-defunct Spike Video Game Awards, this new incarnation of The Game Awards will air as a livestream at 9 p.m. Eastern on December 3.

Judging the awards is a panel of 32 prominent members of the global gaming press, with advisors from major development studios and game designers. The categories and nominees have just been announced, so I thought I’d run down the list and discuss the candidates and likely winners for many of the categories.

Game of the Year

  • Bloodborne
  • Fallout 4
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Super Mario Maker
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

This is the big one, obviously, and it’s going to be a bloody battle among titans. The odd game out here — although it’s very good — is Super Mario Maker. All of the other titles are gritty, realistic action games, while Mario Maker is a colorful game about building, sharing, and playing Mario levels. Because of that, it’s safe to say it probably won’t win — even though it’s a very good game.

As for the others, Bloodborne is a little more niche than the rest (thanks to its punishing difficulty), so we can probably count it out. That leaves a very close call between three well-received games. I bet this one goes to Fallout 4, but you could make a very convincing case for The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid V.

Developer of the Year

  • Bethesda Game Studios
  • CD Projekt Red
  • FromSoftware
  • Kojima Productions
  • Nintendo

You might expect this one to go to the maker of the game that wins Game of the Year, but that doesn’t always happen. Still, I’d give this one to CD Projekt Red for the leap in quality it made between The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3. All of the developers are operating at the top of their game, but CD Projekt Red surprised everyone with the size, scope, and quality of The Witcher 3.

Best Independent Game

  • Axiom Verge
  • Her Story
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Rocket League
  • Undertale

All of these games are well worth your time, but none caught on quite like Rocket League. That game was released during a slow period this summer, and it hooked just about every member of the video game press. Since it’s the press who’s voting on these awards, I think Rocket League is the smartest bet.

Best Mobile/Handheld Game

  • Downwell
  • Fallout Shelter
  • Lara Croft GO
  • Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate
  • Pac-Man 256

The only really small game on here is Downwell, an addictive action game about shooting at enemies as you plummet down a pit. Fallout Shelter was fun for about two hours before the pointlessness of the game became readily apparent. Maybe others are better at it, but my average run in Pac-Man 256 lasts about 10 seconds, which I find dispiriting. And Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate was huge in Japan, but didn’t catch on as fiercely over here. I think the most likely game to win this is Lara Croft GO, a gorgeous, well-crafted title that turns tomb raiding into a digital board game — and makes you wonder why no one thought of it before.

Best Narrative

  • Her Story
  • Life Is Strange
  • Tales From The Borderlands
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Until Dawn

The games in this category range so widely in ambition and style that they’re tough to compare. Life is Strange and Tales from the Borderlands are episodic adventure games that were very well received as they released episodically over the course of the year. The Witcher 3 is an enormous Western RPG, while Until Dawn is like a playable horror movie. Her Story is a collection of police interrogation videos you can watch in any order simply by searching for words in a fake police database.

Of the games, Tales from the Borderlands seems to have gotten the most attention for its compelling narrative, but don’t count out The Witcher 3, whose quests have a distinctly European fairy tale flavor, and never play out quite how you’d expect.

Source: Warner Bros.

Source: Warner Bros.

Best Art Direction

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Bloodborne
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

All of these games are worthy of this award in their own special way. Gotham City in Batman is a neon-soaked noir wonderland. Ori is like a living, breathing painting. Metal Gear and The Witcher might look photo-realistic if they weren’t so uncommonly beautiful.

But my money’s on Bloodborne for this one. The game exists mostly in a decaying Gothic city that would be chilling even without the beasts wandering the streets. And those beasts are feats of art direction in their own right, sending chills down your spine before they deliver a single blow. Just check out the shrieking menace in this video.

Best Performance

  • Ashly Burch as Chloe Price (Life is Strange)
  • Camilla Luddington as Lara Croft (Rise of the Tomb Raider)
  • Doug Cockle as Geralt (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt)
  • Mark Hamill as The Joker (Batman: Arkham Knight)
  • Viva Seifert (Her Story)

I love me some Witcher 3, but the main character, Geralt of Rivia, shows very little emotion. In the world of the game, this is because of the process all witchers go through to become a witcher — it zaps a chunk of what makes them human. Doug Cockle does a good job of playing a witcher, but the performance is purposely fairly one-note.

My bet is that this award goes to Mark Hamill for his performance as The Joker. Not only does Hamill come off as an unhinged maniac who seems to relish every line he delivers, but in all likelihood this is his last go-round in the role. Hamill is a safe bet.

Best Shooter

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
  • Destiny: The Taken King
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Splatoon
  • Star Wars Battlefront

This has been a banner year for shooter fans. Playing Halo 5 is like driving a luxury car. Splatoon is Nintendo’s first foray into the genre, and it’s tons of fun. Black Ops 3 is basically three games in one. And although I love Star Wars Battlefront as a Star Wars game, its lack of a single-player campaign means it probably won’t take home this prize.

I’m going with Destiny: The Taken King for Best Shooter. Initial reviews of this game last year were way less positive than gamers expected from Halo alum Bungie. But nearly everything wrong with the game in year one was fixed in year two, marked by the game’s 2.0 update and the DLC The Taken King. In 2015, Destiny has truly come into its own, and it’s unlike anything else on the market.

Best Action/Adventure Game

  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider

All of these titles would be smart picks, especially Rise of the Tomb Raider, which managed to find many ways to improve on the rock-solid foundation of 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot. But I see this one going to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Not only is this almost certainly Hideo Kojima’s swan song for the series, but it’s a game that hooks players in on just about every level. Also, its open-world design is a big change for the series, but it’s one that worked out great in the end.

Best Role Playing Game

  • Bloodborne
  • Fallout 4
  • Pillars of Eternity
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Undertale

We have another list of fantastic titles in this category, but I’m going to bet this one goes to The Witcher. From the graphics and the game world to the story and the side quests, The Witcher 3 nails just about everything it tries to do. It even has fantastic real-time combat — something role-playing games often struggle to deliver. No game set its sights higher and delivered something utterly unique the way Witcher 3 did.

Best Multiplayer

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
  • Destiny: The Taken King
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Rocket League
  • Splatoon

Splatoon is a surprisingly ingenious shooter, but its lack of voice chat will probably keep it from winning this award. Destiny rocks on multiplayer, but primarily if you have a squad of friends you can reliably play with multiple nights a week. Rocket League is phenomenal, but fairly basic compared to the others. Call of Duty is a killer multiplayer game, but its yearly release cycle makes any one installment feel less special.

I bet Halo 5 wins this award, in large part because of its incredible new Warzone mode. In this mode, two teams have to defeat AI-controlled enemies to take over bases — until they meet in the middle, at which point the true test of power begins. It might be the best new shooter mode in years, making it a smart bet to win the Best Multiplayer award. It also doesn’t hurt that it launched without a hitch (unlike a 343 Studios’s last effort, Halo: The Master Chief Collection).

Most Anticipated Game

  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Quantum Break
  • The Last Guardian
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

This award is kind of silly, in that it’s based as much on marketing as it is on actual gameplay. Plus, it’s a fan’s choice category, meaning it’s up to the fans to vote. (You can vote on all of the fan’s choice categories right here). Still, I can’t wait to play each of the games on the list.

Sony is putting tons of focus on No Man’s Sky, a game that promises to deliver billions of planets (even if it’s not clear what you’ll do on them). Quantum Break looks as much like a TV show as it does a time-manipulating action game. The Last Guardian comes from a fantastically talented studio, but it would be more enticing if it wasn’t taking forever to come out. And the Uncharted series contains some of the best PS3 titles ever, and I expect nothing less from Uncharted 4.

That said, I’m most looking forward to Horizon Zero Dawn. This game, from the makers of Killzone, is something entirely new. It’s an action RPG that takes place 1,000 years in the future, when civilization has collapsed and robotic dinosaurs rule the land. You play as an archer who hunts these giant beasts and harvests their parts for tools. Watch this trailer for an idea of what to expect.

Source: Bethesda

Source: Bethesda

For the rest of these categories, I either haven’t played enough of them to make a prediction, or they’re based on fan’s choice, so I’ll let the fans decide for themselves.

Best Score/Soundtrack

  • Fallout 4
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Best Fighting Game

  • Guilty Gear Xrd –SIGN
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Rise of Incarnates
  • Rising Thunder

Best Family Game

  • Disney Infinity 3.0
  • Lego Dimensions
  • Skylanders: SuperChargers
  • Splatoon
  • Super Mario Maker

Best Sports/Racing Game

  • FIFA 16
  • Forza Motorsport 6
  • NBA 2K16
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
  • Rocket League

Games for Change Award

  • Cibele (Nina Freeman)
  • Her Story (Sam Barlow)
  • Life Is Strange (DONTNOD Entertainment / Square Enix)
  • Sunset (Tale of Tales)
  • Undertale (tobyfox)

esports Player of the Year

  • Kenny “KennyS” Schrub
  • Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok
  • Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer
  • Peter “ppd” Dager
  • Syed Sumail “Suma1L” Hassan

eSports Team of the Year

  • Evil Geniuses
  • Fnatic
  • Optic Gaming
  • SK Telecom T1
  • Team SoloMid

eSports Game of the Year

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Dota 2
  • Hearthstone
  • League of Legends

Trending Gamer

  • Total Biscuit
  • Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles
  • Greg Miller
  • Markiplier
  • PewDiePie

Best Fan Creation

  • GTA V – Targets (Hoodoo Operator)
  • Real GTA (Corridor Digital)
  • Portal Stories: Mel (Prism Studios)
  • Super Mario Maker e-Reader Levels (Baddboy78 / theycallmeshaky)
  • Twitch Plays Dark Souls (Twitch Community)