5. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Call of Duty: Ghosts was not very good, and this is coming from a fan of the series. The game was the most poorly received installment since the series was rebooted with Modern Warfare in 2007. And while it still sold pretty damn well, overall sales were down compared to the previous year’s installment.
After years of annual of Call of Duty games, it seemed like the series was finally running out of steam, and many fans were feeling the weight of franchise fatigue. So when Advanced Warfare was announced, with Sledgehammer Games becoming the third distinct studio to be simultaneously developing CoD games, most of us just shrugged our shoulders.
Sledgehammers’ relative inexperience with developing a Call of Duty game was a blessing in disguise though, and fans and critics seem to agree that Advanced Warfare is the breath of fresh air that the series needed.
From gameplay features that actually made good on the promise of shaking up the formula, to a solid multiplayer iteration with serious esports potential, to (most surprising of all) a fantastic singleplayer campaign that rivals the “wow” factor of the original Modern Warfare… Sledgehammer managed to make Call of Duty a truly great game again, even for fans who had checked out of the series years ago.
The only problem now though is that any future Call of Duty game without boost jumping is going to feel sorely lacking.
6. Alien: Isolation
It’s been a tough decade or so for Alien games. In the past 10 years, we’ve gotten everything from a half-hearted attempt at RTS, to an awful tie-in to an already awful movie, to a pretty disappointing revival of the iconic Aliens vs. Predator. And of course, that’s not even mentioning Colonial Marines, which I think we’re all trying to forget.
So when SEGA, the publisher of Colonial Marines no less, announced that they were producing a horror shooter set in the Alien universe, and giving it to a developer with exactly zero experience in either of those genres… it sounded like a recipe for disaster.
Developer Creative Assembly’s almost experimental approach to the game certainly didn’t help bolster any confidence. Instead of a typical FPS experience, Isolation would only feature a handful of enemies, including a single, indestructible alien. The game would therefore require more stealth than shooting, with weapons only being mildly effective throughout the game.
It was an intriguing idea, but one that could have easily fallen flat on its face. Luckily, that was not the case, and Alien: Isolation handedly proved that the universe was still wide open for some amazing games, granted they were given to the right developers.
7. Sunset Overdrive
Despite being responsible for two of gaming’s most beloved series, Insomniac Games has been on a bit of a downslide recently. First there was the Resistance series, which never quite reached its full potential; then a trio of disappointingly mediocre Ratchet and Clank games.
Then Fuse came along, which the studio was clearly hoping could be their next big thing. That didn’t quite pan out, with the game becoming Insomniac’s worst-reviewed game in over a decade.
So when Sunset Overdrive was announced, and despite a fantastic reveal trailer, fans weren’t keen on getting too excited. That all changed when the game was finally released though, and quickly became one of the best-received “next-gen” exclusives so far.
8. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor‘s announcement was a pretty “WTF” moment last year, mostly because up until that point, pretty much no one had ever heard of it. The fact that Monolith Studios was attached only added to the head-scratching, as the studio had been producing pretty diminishing returns since 2005’s F.E.A.R.
While a lot of people were impressed by what they saw in the initial gameplay trailers, the game continued to draw controversy throughout the next year: from a lack of review copies for press, to reports that WB was essentially bribing YouTubers for positive coverage, to even stranger rumors that the game was a retooled version of a cancelled Batman project.
That, combined with the fact that previous Lord of the Rings games tended to be “pretty good” at their absolute best, and Shadow of Mordor managed to be a surprise hit that almost no one saw coming.
Just be sure to grab it on PS4/Xbox One, I hear it’s quite awful on previous-gen consoles.