Bloodborne reeks of brutal brilliance. From Software's violent eviscerate-'em-up pegs you as a personality-less predator, as you stomp the Gothic cobbles of Yharnam in search of monstrous prey to mutilate. A spiritual successor to the Souls series, Hidetaka Miyazaki's vulgar PlayStation 4 exclusive adopts a more aggressive angle than its predecessors, relying on dodge rolls and risk taking rather than methodical melee. But it's this minor twist that makes the Japanese developer's latest a masterpiece – and a deserved winner of our 2015 Game of the Year award.
The not-so blunt reality is that Bloodborne's combat is borderline perfect: each slash of the Saw Cleaver or Holy Sword is a work of art. The game forces you to practice if you hope to progress, but it's through repetition that it teaches you the intricacies of its system: the time it takes to evade an attack, the number of strikes that you can submerge into your prey before you need to get out of the way, the tell-tale signs that broadcast what a beast is about to do. But even then there's a spontaneity to the manner in which skirmishes advance, with rash impulsiveness rewarded – or penalised.
"Bloodborne fires a quicksilver bullet at convention, gnawing away at the fat that diseases most blockbusters these days"
And it's in the eventual showers of slaughtered celebration that the game wedges an irremovable stake into your battered and bruised chest. Whether it's the Cleric Beast or Ebrietas, few games make you feel a sense of elation quite like From Software's latest, as you pound the air like it's made of matted fur and sodden skin. This rapturous response abounds again and again and again over the course of the role-playing game's 60 or so hour campaign, and each victory rewards with a rush more fulfilling than the last, leaving you blood-drunk.
There's more to Bloodborne than the thrill of the chase, of course: the game is utterly gorgeous – a mix of Victorian architecture and Lovecraftian horror. Environments overlap and intertwine, feeding into each other like the bowels of a giant space beetle. And while there's very much a narrative here to be extracted and understood, you don't necessarily need to analyse the game to feast on its frightened fiction. This is a nightmare for you to project yourself into and compose your own prose inside – and it's all the more memorable for that reason alone.
It's a daring, dismal, and deceitful game, then – the anti-AAA in many ways. Bloodborne fires a quicksilver bullet at convention, carefully gnawing away at the fat that diseases most blockbusters these days. What it leaves behind is a carcass so unspoiled that it will be etched into the annals of gaming history for generations to come – a gratuitous, ghastly experience that's glorious in every single way.
Do you agree that Bloodborne is slick, or does it make you feel violently sick? Hack away at our Game of the Year in the comments section below.