Most of id’s good reputation comes from its influential early work like Doom and Quake, but you have to give some credit to Rage and the id Tech engine. Having spent several years now working on the next Doom, id has really raised our expectations. We think we’ll see something massive from this legendary team.
KEY GAME: Rage
Starting on licensed games –James Bond, Lord Of The Rings,The Simpsons – Visceral eventually created its own IP (Dead Space), and helped define a new generation of survival horror in the process. With an untitled StarWars game in the works, andBattlefield: Hardline due for release,we’ve only seen the start of what Visceral can do…
KEY GAME: Dead Space 2
Rockstar was really the obvious number one. But it does not claim that place here because of sales or popularity. It’s here on the merit of its output. Rockstar North is a team that always seeks to turn the rules on their head. It provokes debate and controversy. It challenges ideas and satirises modern life. Most importantly of all, it produces some stunning experiences, writ large over hours of gameplay in massive environments with wonderful levels of detail. And you need only look at the way the rest of the industry has grown and developed since the release of GTA III to see its singular vision trickle down. 3D action games of every stripe now lean on GTA’s template. Open-world games must follow the sandbox rules Rockstar developed. And as the years have gone by we’ve enjoyed watching those principles polished and refined into Red Dead Redemption, GTA IV and finally Grand Theft Auto V. You need only look at the scope of its most recent game to appreciate just how far it pushes itself. The racing, heists, sandbox exploration and Hollywood-esque action setpieces could each in their own way have supported single games on their own. That they all exist together in one place, so well balanced, is a credit to Rockstar North. It is simply the very best out there.
KEY GAME: Grand Theft Auto V
Square Enix (Kitase Team)
Once upon a time, Kitase and his team at Square Enix could have topped our list, but the recent Final Fantasy games he’s been involved with have sadly held him back. The recent re-releases of Final Fantasy X and X-2 have kept him relevant, though – and we hope Kitase finds his inspiration again for whatever his next project turns out to be.
KEY GAME: Final Fantasy VII
After Deus Ex caught the imagination of gamers with its gorgeous concept art, black-and-gold colour scheme and transhumanist narrative, Eidos Montreal floored everyone again with its multiplayer for Tomb Raider. Thief was a bit disappointing, but Eidos could win over the world again with its Deus Ex follow-up this year.
KEY GAME: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
CD Projekt Red
The Polish studio’s best work appears to be ahead of it. With The Witcher 3 near the top of several most wanted lists in 2015, anticipation for this final chapter is greater than for its predecessors. More than anything else, though, CD Projekt Red is garnering a reputation for making games the right way. DRM-free, plenty of DLC post launch for everyone at no cost, and delaying release to actually finish the game properly.
KEY GAME: The Witcher 3
DICE took a heavy knock from the issues surrounding Battlefield 4, but up until that cross-generational launch it had always delivered massive online shooter games with seeming ease. Its commitment to experimentation through games like Mirror’s Edge also gives it a lot of credit and means Star Wars: Battlefront remains a game to watch.
KEY GAME: Battlefield
Despite some issues with recent releases – Assassin’s Creed Unity, for example – Ubisoft Montreal is still worthy of note: the Far Cry series is solid, Watch Dogs reviewed well and its work with the UbiArt Framework on Child Of Light proved it’s more than a onetrick pony. We hope the studio recovers from Unity’s bad press in time for 2015’s AC.
KEY GAME: Farcry 4
Just when you might have thought Blizzard was slipping away from its place of power it delivers Diablo III to blow away the console crowd, Hearthstone to reinvigorate the trading card game genre and then brings World Of Warcraft back to top form with Warlords Of Draenor. The last year has seen Blizzard regain its place on the world. Bring on Overwatch.
KEY GAME: World Of Warcraft
It was the franchise developers weren’t supposed to be able to get right. Batman was dead as a concept and yet Rocksteady pulled it off and even repeated the trick with a sequel. Now rounding off its trilogy, the London-based developer could probably have its pick of projects with Warner Bros. Its delivery of tight action mechanics and superb character design has rightly earned it a place among the top developers in the world and its facilities in London are apparently attracting a lot of interest from other teams. The key to Rocksteady’s success has been finding a way to balance sandbox exploration with a consistent narrative throughline. Many teams have played in these waters and found them challenging to get right, but the Arkham team seems to be on the right track as it finalises its most ambitious project to date. Where it goes from here will be something we’re all excited to see.
KEY GAME: Arkham Asylum