After a rather empty 2014 with the new consoles struggling to deliver any real quality titles, 2015 proved a bumper year for video games with so many great ones on offer be they sequels, reboots or fresh IPs. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” “Fallout 4,” “Batman: Arkham Knight,” “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” “Bloodborne,” “Rocket League,” “Ori and the Blind Forest,” “Just Cause 3,” “Her Story” and so many more left an indelible impression and made this year one of gaming’s best in a long time.
Next year looks even more exciting with new entries in beloved series such as “Crackdown,” “Dark Souls,” “Deus Ex,” “Doom,” “Far Cry,” “Gears of War,” “Ghost Recon,” “Hitman,” “Homefront,” “Kingdom Hearts,” “Mass Effect,” “Mirror’s Edge,” “Persona,” “Ratchet and Clank,” “Star Fox,” “Street Fighter,” “Uncharted” and “XCOM”. There’s also a ton of new original games from the makers of acclaimed works like “Diablo,” “Heavy Rain,” “Alan Wake,” “Shadow of the Colossus,” “The Unfinished Swan,” “Gone Home,” “Braid,” “Bayonetta,” “Mark of the Ninja,” “Killzone” and “Mega Man”.
Today I take a look at my most personally anticipated games of 2016. This is by no means a best of list, people’s taste vary considerably and so I can only speak to my own. As a player I’m more interested in single-player and narrative driven games, with very little interest in multiplayer or military shooter titles. I’m also format agnostic – playing primarily on PC but PS4, Xbox One and Wii U as well. Those preferences affect my taste, but in the comments below please share with us what games you are anticipating the most of any in 2016.
1. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
(March 18th 2016)
For its fourth and apparent final outing, PlayStation’s flagship game series comes to the PS4 for the first time. Naughty Dog redefined cinematic gaming with this series, the second one in particular still my favorite game of all time. Three years on, you return as a now seemingly retired Nathan Drake who is contacted by his older brother Sam, long believed dead, who seeks the former treasure hunter’s help to find the long lost pirate colony of Libertatia.
As this marks the first game in the series made specifically for the PS4, the footage so far has demonstrated some jaw dropping graphics and the kind of amazing set pieces the franchise is famous for, but there’s also an interesting tonal shift in the story. With the creative team behind this one now mostly made up of people who worked on “The Last of Us,” expect a darker and more serious affair this time out.
2. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
(May 24th 2016)
A part sequel/part reboot of EA’s superb and still highly under-rated 2008 parkour game “Mirror’s Edge,” you once again take on the role of ‘runner’ Faith Connors in the futuristic city called Glass where she uses her free running skills to leap across rooftops, complete missions and evade enemies. The original game was a huge breath of fresh air though had one or two nagging problems – mostly to do with the tacked on combat.
Said combat system has been overhauled and scaled back for this sequel which puts a greater emphasis on the game’s biggest strength – traversal. One big difference though is that the straight up missions and linear gameplay of the first game has been ditched in favor of an open-world, free-roaming environment which allows for multiple paths to reach one’s objective. The graphics are gorgeous, but the gameplay is what makes this look like so much fun.
3. Mass Effect: Andromeda
One of the greatest game series of the past decade goes all ‘The Next Generation’ on us, leaping forward at least several centuries on from the events of the Normandy, the Reapers and Commander Shepherd. Developed with the Frostbite 3 engine, the new game sees the return of the six-wheeled Mako vehicle from the first game along with a whole bunch of new characters and alien races.
Moving to a whole different galaxy smartly allows BioWare to avoid the problems caused by the multiple “Mass Effect 3” endings and effectively allows a reboot of the series which will hopefully get back to its roots of exploration and RPG elements rather than straight up action. So far the trailers have been vague, but what has been shown looks glorious.
4. No Man’s Sky
Still looking as stunningly exciting as ever in demos throughout 2015, indie studio Hello Games’ ambitious and procedurally generated sci-fi game is a love letter to Isaac Asmiov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and all those classic sci-fi authors in a game that’s all about exploring a universe in way that will open your mind and inspire wonder. Boasting a virtual galaxy, it’s estimated around 18 quintillion planets will be explorable.
The sheer scale of the game is astonishing, but also puts pressure on this little British studio with only a handful of staffers to deliver something which will be seriously groundbreaking. There’s also concern as to what one can actually ‘do’ in this environment and is there a goal beyond the far off notion of reaching the center of the galaxy. Right now though, it finally has a rough June release date – let us hope it makes it.
5. Dishonored 2
Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks made magic with 2012’s “Dishonored,” its steampunk meets sci-fi meets action-adventure which gave us one of the richest gaming worlds since the “Bioshock” series and embraced an approach that was all about stealth and multiple options. Naturally a sequel has been anticipated for sometime and it looks like it’s finally here.
First announced in June this year with a stunning trailer, the new entry is set fifteen years on and sees you stepping into the role of the now adult Empress Emily Kaldwin who has been usurped from the throne and sets out to reclaim her title. Players can decide whether to play as either Emily Kaldwin or Corvo Attano and while both have the same missions, their reactions and strengths will differ in each. The game itself is said to also be more difficult and challenging than its predecessor.
6. The Last Guardian
Arguably the longest period of development hell ever for a video game, Fumito Ueda’s “The Last Guardian” looks to finally be getting a release in 2016 – nine years after it first went into development. Following on from his acclaimed “Ico” and “Shadow of the Colossus” work, Ueda’s new game follows a young boy who befriends a giant chimera named Trico. The two work together to evade guards that are after them both.
A demo of a level in the game at E3 this year stole the show, a third-person puzzle platformer with a real emotional bond between its two characters. Indeed the giant creature can be trained throughout the game and will have its own behaviour that will make it a unique experience for each player depending upon how they interact with it.
7. Detroit: Become Human
Following on from “Heavy Rain” and “Beyond: Two Souls,” Quantic Dream continue their efforts to redefine the line between cinematic storytelling and gaming with their newest effort, “Detroit: Become Human”. The PS4 exclusive is based on a 2012 tech demo created by Quantic’s David Cage and the big question is if Cage and co. have improved the gameplay – a problem that has been an issue at times with their previous titles.
The story follows Kara (Valorie Curry), a freshly-produced autonomous android with artificial consciousness discovering how it is to live among humans in Detroit – a world where androids are still without consciousness and considered as practical tools to serve humanity. It’s not unfamiliar territory in gaming, but Quantic Dream has shown a nack for compelling narratives.
8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
(August 23rd 2016)
The follow-up to 2011’s “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” which served as both a reboot and prequel of the series, the new entry continues the story of Adam Jensen two years later. The first one delivered a memorable new aesthetic – something like “Blade Runner” but with less obvious Asian influences and all of it bathed in a gorgeous golden hue. The look of the new one is more graphically impressive, but loses that color scheme and lived in feel that made the first so distinctive.
Set in Prague 2029, the world has now become more fearful and angry towards augmented persons following the end of the first game. Jensen now works for an international coalition to stop terrorist attacks and must deal with terrorist groups and shadowy interests who control his own organisation. Hopefully it will retain the great customisation system and intriguing level design of ‘Human Revolution’.
9. The Legend of Zelda
This title is lower than it probably should be because Nintendo seems to be in a state of flux right now. If the game makes it to shelves either this year, or if it’s not held back to serve as a launch title of their proposed Nintendo NX console, I’ll be surprised. Teased at E3 2014, there’s been nothing revealed about the title since – only word of delays and promises that it is coming for the Wii U despite the NX’s development.
What little we do know remains intriguing. This will mark the first original Zelda game developed with high-definition graphics. There’s also a very different approach to the material, it’s now focusing on non-linear, open-world and objective-based game play with major reforms in the way it handles dungeons and puzzle solving. Mostly akin to the original ‘Zelda’, this will take place in a fully connected overworld which is the largest one in any Zelda game to date.
10. Horizon Zero Dawn
Guerrilla Games have finally stepped away from the “Killzone” franchise to develop a new and original PS4-exclusive IP that’s part role-playing game and part post-apocalyptic action adventure. Most resembling the underrated “Enslaved: Odyssey to the West” in look and “Assassin’s Creed” in its RPG and open world style, the environment crafted here is one that’s both primitive and sci-fi – various native types using rudimentary weapons and guerilla warfare to bring down giant robotic enemy creatures.
The game is ambitious in all the right ways – there’s no tutorials at all, the interface is kept deliberately minimalist despite boasting an elaborate crafting system, and there’s dynamic climate and numerous ways to take down enemies along with a feisty female scavenger protagonist. Narrative wise expect some big ideas as well – over forty concepts and twenty different stories were considered with the “riskiest” and most challenging being the one ultimately chosen – it’ll be interesting to see where it leads.
11. We Happy Few
This new indie game is set in an alternate dystopian 1960s England which looks like the lovechild of Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and Aldous Huxley’s iconic novel “Brave New World”. Launched at PAX earlier this year, the first-person survival game has a distinct style and feel, while the developers are doing extensive pre-testing with the title to make sure they don’t get the mixed reception they had with their first game “Contrast”. We’ll soon find out if they’re successful.
The story is set in the fictional town of Wellington Wells where a traumatic past incident has led to the townspeople being subjected to a bliss-inducing drug called Joy – a mind-numbing hallucinogenic that keeps everyone sedated and under control. You play a ‘Downer,’ someone who hasn’t taken the drug and is ostracised by society for not doing so – your goal is to get out of town which is easier said than done.
(February 9th 2016)
Boasting some very naturalistic dialogue and a sense of both cheeky fun and sinister dread, “Firewatch” is set in the aftermath of the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Early gameplay footage has been extremely promising for the project which is the debut effort of Campo Santo, a team made up of the creative leads of Telltale Games’ “The Walking Dead” and the lead designer of “Mark of the Ninja”.
You play a fire lookout in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest during the Summer of 1989. You are constantly on a walkie-talkie with your supervisor and players choose from a number of dialog options to interact with her – ultimately influencing the tone of your relationship. Exploring the surrounding area, you uncover clues about mysterious occurrences in the vicinity that tie back into your lookout being ransacked. Not groundbreaking sure, but this will likely surprise.
A first-person interactive survival game, the story is set in 2037 and follows an astronaut who floats through the wreckage of a destroyed space station with no memory of the incident. Over the course of the game, you find clues that piece together the events of the incident and attempt to repair the escape vehicle to return home.
Essentially “Gravity” as a video game but with an added mystery element, it’s a stripped down and basic struggle for survival – exploring the zero gravity environment for oxygen and resources that will allow you to get back home. Trailers for the game certainly show some stunning level design and tense action as you try to move around and function in this airless plce of wonder and danger. Should also be really fun with a VR headset.
The franchise that effectively launched gaming as we know it is finally back with a new entry twelve years after the last one hit and with “Fallout” and “Elder Scrolls” publisher Bethesda Softworks behind it. The new “Doom” isn’t a sequel but rather a full on reboot, with you exploring not just Mars but levels of Hell as well in your efforts to quash the demon horde breaking into our dimension.
Various classic weapons and enemies return along with a combat system that puts the emphasis on momentum, speed and melee attacks – as a result there’s no cover mechanics or health regeneration systems. Boasting elaborate multiplayer modes and a fully customisable level builder, a large swath of gameplay was unveiled at E3 and showed insanely violent, gory and brutal action which went over superbly with the crowds and stirred much excitement about the title.
15. Quantum Break
(April 5th 2016)
First revealed almost three years ago, “Alan Wake” creator Remedy Entertainment’s third-person shooter action title has undergone some revisions to its original elaborate plans of a simultaneous TV series and video game – probably put off by the mess that was Syfy’s “Defiance” which tried a similar trick. Instead, they have split the game into four segments with each segment kicking off with a 22-minute live-action digital episode.
Players play Jack Joyce, a man with time manipulation powers in a world where time stutters which makes everything freeze except you. There’s both environmental puzzles and combat involving time manipulation elements, but another part of this game is that the digital episodes shows us the story from the villain’s perspective. Within each episode you make choices that impact how you play as the protagonist in the game sections. Shawn Ashmore, Aidan Gillen and Dominic Monaghan lead the cast of the game and digtial episodes in a title which takes some interesting risks.
Studio MDHR’s indie run and gun platformer follows a cupheaded-man who loses a bet with the devil and spends the game attempting to repay it. This leads to a narrative with branching level sequences and almost entirely based around boss fights – in fact there’s over 30 in this, smashing the previous world record of 25. To help you out it seems you have infinite lives, special moves and the ability to fight in a two player co-op mode with the secondary character of Mugman.
What’s drawing all the attention and acclaim though is the game’s aesthetic. Drawn in the style of 1930s cartoons, this takes that distinctive art style of Disney and Fleischer studios along with the latter’s more subversive and downright crazy extremeist work to craft some truly ambitious looking levels. First revealed mid-2014, it remains one of the most fascinating looking smaller games on the horizon.
17. What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow, the indie film company behind 2012’s distinctive and surprising “The Unfinished Swan,” are finally back with the more anthology-style “What Remains of Edith Finch”. Set in Washington State, the first-person game starts off with you playing Edith Finch, a woman exploring the history of her family who tries to figure out why she’s the last Finch left alive.
From there players can experience the life of a different family member with stories ranging from the early 1900s to the present day. Depending upon the person selected, both the gameplay and tone of the stories that unfold will change – though one constant is that each story ends with that family member’s death. Coming exclusively to PS4, this looks to be filling the niche next year that the excellent likes of “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” and “Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture” occupied in 2015.
18. Crackdown 3
The first “Crackdown” remains one of the best Xbox 360 exclusives to date. The third person sandbox shooter was something of a precursor to “Just Cause” in its focus on a massive and detailed open world and destructible environments. Narrative was minimal, this was objective based gameplay with a superb upgrade system and excellent co-op and multiplayer elements. In contrast its sequel was so much more of the same it proved a disappoinment for bringing absolutely nothing new to the table.
First unveiled in August this year, the new game boasts 100% destructible environments in online multiplayer mode – allowing you to completely destroy all the environments the game has generated. Sadly this does not carry over to the campaign where only a limited degree of destruction is available. The new game, which will likely drop the ‘3’ of the title, also ties into Microsoft’s heavily touted but still largely unused cloud computing features which will reportedly speed up the physics modeling and rendering on screen.
19. Star Citizen: Squadron 42
Trying to move into a genre dominated by “EVE Online,” Cloud Imperium is introducing the MMO space simulator “Star Citizen” which blends space combat and empire building in a giant shared online universe that they hope will last for years to come. To get people hooked on this new universe though, they need an entryway and that comes with ‘Squadron 42’ – a CryEngine powered single player and co-op multiplayer story-based campaign game. The game’s director is “Wing Commander” creator Chris Roberts, something that shows with this part of the game effectively looking like a spiritual successor to the “Wing Commander” franchise.
Set in the 30th-century Milky Way, you serve in the military with the aim of achieving citizenship in a galactic federation akin to the late Roman Empire. Some major talent like Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, Ben Mendelsohn, Jack Huston, Andy Serkis, Harry Treadaway and Rhona Mitra are involved along with returning “Wing Commander” players Mark Hamill and John Rhys-Davies. Split into three chapters, each will be a major game in their own right with the first one alone said to contain around 20 hours and 70 missions worth of game play.
20. Far Cry Primal
(February 23rd 2016)
The “Far Cry” franchise avoids the curse of going stale by shifting to a time not heavily explored in gaming circles – the Stone Age. It’s 10,000 B.C. in the fictional land of Oros and you’re a stranded rogue tribal hunter in an open world filled with mammoths and saber-toothed cats. Survival is a daily challenge, not just against the elements and native animals but the local rival tribes.
Removing the gunplay and vehicle driving elements of the previous games, here players only have access to melee weapons which they have to craft themselves from materials scavenged along the way. You also have the ability to tame and train animals to help protect yourself and a tribe you intend to build. It’s a refreshing change for the series at just the right time.
21. Tom Clancy’s The Division
(March 8th 2016)
Stealing the show back in 2013 at E3 where it was unveiled, subsequent demonstrations and trailers have cooled interest in Ubisoft’s open world third-person shooter RPG title as it appears the title has undergone some serious graphical downgrading – a problem which ultimately sank the ambitions of Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs” franchise before it even started.
Even with the downgrades, the open world and mission-based game still looks great thanks to Ubisoft’s new proprietary engine known as Snowdrop. Gameplay for both single and multiplayer modes also appears strong. Set after a pandemic has caused the U.S. Government to collapse, you are a part of a classified unit of self-supported tactical agents trained to operate independently and who have been dropped into New York City. Your mission is to combat the viral threat and prevent the fall of society.
22. Dark Souls III
(April 12th 2016)
After delivering one of 2015’s best games with “Bloodborne,” FromSoftware returns to their most recognisable franchise for the third game in the “Dark Souls” series which is said to mark a major turning point for the series – whatever continues on from here will be very different. That means with this entry, the gameplay is very much akin to the second one though there are some new combat features tipped to be introduced.
Several elements from the second game have been removed though such as the agility stat and fewer maps, to compensate the levels are larger and encourage more exploration and there’s more focus on role-playing elements and improved tactical elements. Otherwise expect it to be every bit as punishing and challenging as this series is famous for.
Fullbright, the team behind “Gone Home,” take their knack for a tasteful and unfolding mystery and shift it from a domestic contemporary home to a space station in the year 2088. In this one you play a woman who arrives at said space station to find the crew has vanished and you have to discover what happened.
Like “Gone Home” this is a game that seemingly takes the viewer’s intelligence into account and requires you to make intuitive leaps regarding its gameplay and story. There’s strange hologram figures made up of primary colors, not to mention various bits of gravity shifting to allow you to explore the station. Much of this one though is being kept under wraps and, like “Gone Home,” it’s probably better to know less going in.
First unveiled at E3 this year, there’s still not a lot known about this sci-fi exploration game in which you play a female protagonist who transfers an energy sphere from her robotic dog to a humanoid robot she finds in her travels. Plot specifics are still unknown, but we do know that you play one of the last remaining humans who befriends courageous robot companions throughout travels in a dynamic world.
Designed by the people behind the “Metroid Prime” series and the creator of the “Mega Man” franchise, the game is a blending of two game developers from very different backgrounds – Texas and Japan. From all the subsequent interviews with developers, the collaboration is proving very fruitful. Whether the game will meet its intended second-quarter 2016 release date seems more uncertain.
25. Star Fox Zero
(April 22nd 2016)
First revealed in 2014, the classic Nintendo franchise “Star Fox” gets rebooted for the Wii U with the first game in the franchise in a decade. Amiibo compatible, episodic in structure, and aiming to make full use of the Wii U’s gamepad – the spaceship shooter will use the pad’s motion controls for aiming and its control sticks for speed and certain moves.
There’s also multiple modes allowing for third-person views on the TV, cockpit views on the gamepad monitor, and co-op allowing for gunners and pilots to split duties. Sound confusing? It certainly seems to be with some gameplay demonstrations showcasing a system that looks like it will take gamers some time to get used to. If it works though, it will be great to have the likes of Fox McCloud and his friends back.
Other Promising Possibilities
Day of the Tentacle Remastered, Dreams, For Honor, Gears of War 4, Heavy Rain Remastered, Hitman, Homefront: The Revolution, Kingdom Hearts III, Lawbreakers, Matterfall, Overkill’s The Walking Dead, Overwatch, Persona 5, Ratchet and Clank, Scalebound, Street Fighter 5, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, The Witness, XCOM 2