2015 was amazing for gaming (even though I severely slacked in picking up many games), and 2016 looks set to be even more epic! Thanks to hype from game studios, who want us to part with our wallets in exchange for virtual fun times, there’s an absolute ton of games in the pipeline for next year. Here’s a few titles I can’t help but get hyped about (this time, in order of release)!

                               

Tom Clancy’s: The Division

8th March, Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft

A deadly pandemic spreads across the USA on Black Friday, government collapses, society falls, and chaos ensues. As an elite, specially trained group of self-supported agents, it’s up to you to restore order. Set in an open world New York city, players are free to roam around in teams of three, completing their objectives. Oh, it’s online too, and also has RPG elements! I was actually fortunate enough to be able to try this with a couple of friends at EGX (Eurogamer Expo) back in September. Whilst it was only a short demonstration, and set in a “Dark Zone” (a player vs player area, with rare loot), it did give me a good feel for the gameplay. The controls felt solid, and once I got the hang of it, manoeuvring around, and getting in and out of cover felt very fluid. Think Gears of War, but without the annoying clunkiness. However, unlike Gears, this game demands tactical thinking, and quick reflexes. There aren’t “classes” in the traditional sense, instead you are presented with a skill tree, and can choose abilities as you please. However, for this demo, we were assigned pre-defined presets. My character, for example, had an ability to throw mines, that also locked onto enemy targets. It was fun to watch unsuspecting foes get ambushed by these strikes.  It’s how you use these skills to help your fellow teammates that makes them important. Alas, my friends and I didn’t do this effectively enough, and we got slaughtered… we were a bit rubbish, to be honest (but it was still entertaining!) It just highlights how important teamwork is in this title; communication is key, as your character is quite delicate, and will go down quickly. There really is no ‘i’ in ‘team’ in this game, it demands coordination, and cooperation. It’s nice to see an online open-world game take such a tactical angle when it comes to gameplay, and it’s brave move by Ubisoft. My team and I will see you in NYC in March (and hopefully we’ll be better at it by then.)

 

Homefront: The Revolution

Release Date: Q1/Q2 2016, Developer: Dambuster Studios, Publisher: Deep Silver

Amidst the massive queues at EGX, my friends and I were lucky enough to get a short hands-on playthrough of this (on XBox One.) Set in Philadelphia, in 2029, two years after the first game, a group of freedom fighters continue their campaign to take back America, which has been occupied by The Greater Korean Republic (GKR.) Needless to say, the world is dark, gritty, and has an oppressive vibe. The demo began with a few of the resistance fighters discussing a plan of attack on a GKR patrol, after which, lead to a set-piece where I had to drop explosive barrels, from a makeshift trap, onto the patrol as it passed. Even after succeeding this, reinforcements and enemy attack drones swarmed in, outnumbering me and my squad, so we were forced to flee to the nearest safe zone. Upon making it there, I was instructed to make my way to a GKR checkpoint, and to take control of it. I gathered supplies, hoped on a bike, and rode on to my objective. I have to admit, the bike controls felt smooth and responsive, plus there were rudimentary ramps setup, which made navigating the city easier and smoother. Even with a speedy bike, I had to zip around the city with caution, as enemies patrolled the various areas. Although it is possible to tackle them with the various gadgets you bodge together, the most notable being a remote hacking device to take control of drones, and a remote control car, with C4 strapped to it. I think you can all imagine how  the latter works. However, with the short time I had, I didn’t utilize these much. Blasting a few enemies later, and I reached the GKR checkpoint, where I had to hack a terminal. This involved keeping the analogue sticks held in the correct position for long enough, which was a bit unclear, and fiddly, but I took the base in the end. What I played showed a lot of promise, although, at times, it was unclear as to where I was supposed to be heading to especially after taking the base, where I wandered aimlessly. I’m taking this as a demo restriction though, and I hope the world will feel more open in the full release. I have to admit, the on-foot controls felt very clunky too, and at times manoeuvres seemed a tad clumsy. However, hopefully Dambuster Studios can polish this a bit more in time for release. It had an overwhelming feel of Far Cry too it too; the hud, controlling territories, transport… it just screamed Far Cry. In any case, it did take the best elements of it, but I just pray it’s not a complete clone, besides the setting/enemies. It was still fun enough though, and it was nice to have a shooter focus more on guerrilla tactics, rather than being a run-and-gun fps.

 

Ratchet & Clank

Release Date: 12th April, Developer: Insomniac Games, Publisher: Sony

Yet another title I had a quick blast on at EGX. Rather than being a complete reboot, or just a straight-up remake, Ratchet & Clank is more of a retelling of the original. This is to tie in with the film release, that is scheduled in April, as well as sticking as true to the original as possible. It is a rather interesting angle to take, and from what I played, it’s certainly shaping up very nicely. The level I got to try out was a section in Metropolis, where the duo hitch a ride on a train. This is one of the remake levels, and the area has been completely re-imagined, although it still has the familiarity of the original. The most obvious change, is the details in the level itself, and the environment. Areas feel a lot more open, allowing for far more flexibility when it comes to navigating through the action. Back in the PS2 era, this was a visual showcase, showing off massive draw distances and a lot of small details. 13 years later, and this is definitely a showcase of the PS4 hardware. The draw distance is even more insane, and the city truly comes to life, with much more variation in scenery and scope. There’s a ton of little things to feast your eyes upon, whilst it all stunningly keeps a steady pace of 30 frames per second, without even breaking into a sweat. There’s even different carts, carrying different cargo, adding even more into the mix, which actually transforms the gameplay in terms of mechanics. More obstacles have been placed, so traversing these requires much more platforming and dexterity. In the series’ tradition, there’s still the crazy weapons in your arsenal, including a few new additions. My absolute favourite, and one that seems quite popular, is the Pixelizer, a gun that transforms your adversaries  into 2D 8-bit renditions of themselves, dishing out a great amount of damage. The awesome Groovitron makes a comeback too, which fires a disco ball, leaving your enemies within its radius stuck helplessly in a funky dance (Insomniac apparently love creating dance animations, and it clearly shows.) In terms of the core gameplay, its smooth, easy to pick up and play, and feels basic. The latter is really not a bad thing, as it’s meant to be a fun platforming experience, and it delivers on this extremely well. It feels new, whilst having a very old-school ideology. I’ve missed  fun platforming games like this, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more.

 

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End                         

Release Date: 26th April, Developer: Naughty Dog, Publisher: Sony

Before I start on this one, I’ll be honest… I’ve never actually played any of the Uncharted games before. Yes, I know, I’m a heathen. However, I’m definitely going to be catching up on the series before this launches (I just hope I have the time to finish them all!) Way back at E3 2014, the title revealed that it would once again give players control of series’ protagonist, Nathan Drake, as well as showing off Naughty Dog’s technical prowess, with probably the most stunning visuals seen so far on PS4. Gameplay demos have shown that the title has the usual Indiana Jones inspired high action, adventure, and cinematic set-pieces that the series is known for. A scenario, involving a chase across a fictional Madagascan city, looks absolutely breathtaking. Nate, and his pal Sully, plow through a (usually peaceful) area, whilst a hulking, speedy tank is persistently on their tail. Whilst navigating through the streets, pedestrians flee for their lives, buildings take damage, and market carts get thrown around. In a word, it’s chaos. The beauty of this sequence is, that it’s completely dynamic. Sure, there’s a set finish point, but there’s no set route to get there, so there’s the option for multiple experiences. This sequence ends up with a more traditional set-piece, where Nathan peruses an enemy convoy to rescue his brother, after which, they bike it out of there, fleeing from the same tank that was so persistent earlier. Honestly, it’s completely nuts, and rivals big budget Hollywood blockbusters. Rumours suggest that this could be the final outing for the Uncharted series. In which case, if Naughty Dog can pace the game right, with this high-adrenaline action sequences, and give us the same freedom throughout, all whilst delivering a great story, then this would be a fitting finale. I have high hopes that they’ll fulfil this

 

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

Release Date: 24th May, Developer: DICE, Publisher: EA

Ok, that’s it… I’m calling 2016 the year of revival, as so many old, yet beloved games are making a comeback! Seven years later, and we’re finally getting another Mirror’s Edge title, in the form of Catalyst. Interestingly, this is more of a prequel, detailing how Faith became the badass heroine we see in the original. From trailers, this looks a lot heavier on story this time round, which I honestly don’t mind. Faith seems like the basis for a very interesting character, and if DICE get it right, her status as an iconic character could be raised to even greater levels. Of course, the gameplay looks to maintain the classic parkour we all know and love, all executed in a much more fluid, accurate fashion. Interestingly, the world the game is set in, only known as ‘the city of glass’ (which is beautifully rendered with the Frostbite 3 engine), is open-world, so I’m intrigued to see how everything plays out from that perspective. Faith is also still able to engage in hand-to-hand combat, in what is promised to be a much more in-depth system. Fortunately, the terrible gunplay has been done away with, so there’ll be no using firearms, which I hope will put much more emphasis on the fantastic free-running. So far, everything is shaping up extremely nicely… but I do have some slight doubts. Why, do you ask? Star Wars: Battlefront, that’s why. Don’t get me wrong, Battlefront is a fun game to play, but it is a little light on content, making is a bit of a shallow experience. I don’t even need to mention the notorious season pass, which, not only costs as much as the game itself, but also has a ton of content locked behind it. The fact that both parties that were involved in the creation and distribution of Battlefront, makes me worry that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst may get the same treatment. Fortunately, they are entirely different games, but EA’s greed knows no bounds, and DICE have been slipping in quality in recent years. I just hope they can give Mirror’s Edge the successor it deserves.

 

No Man’s Sky

Release Date: June, Developer/Publisher: Hello Games

I was so disappointed when it was revealed at Sony’s Paris Games Week conference, that this wouldn’t make it into 2015, and was pushed to June next year. Just think, if it wasn’t for the delay, we could be hopping into our spaceships right now, and exploring the universe they’ve spawned. Mind you, there technically was never an official release date anyway, so I’m only whining because I’m spoiled. I’m sure the delay was with good reason, so I’ll forgive them. This isn’t a typical run-and-gun game, it’s about hopping into a spaceship, finding planets and seeking out its secrets. However, the main lure of this, is the fact that it’s an entirely randomly generated universe, so every planet, every landscape, every tree, every creature… literally EVERYTHING, is random. Hello games have even stated that different planets will have “different eco-systems”, which sounds absolutely insane. At one point, in a press demonstration, the player shot at a creature, and some police-like drones flew in to investigate. The possibilities and combinations seem endless with this title! Also the universe game’s universe is so big, that director Sean Murray claimed “our sun [in the real universe] would have burnt out well before our entire universe has been discovered.” The thing is, as much as we’ve been shown of this game, we still know very little about it, and that’s all down its randomness. My mind can’t even begin to comprehend what could even be out there, and I’m really excited to see what No Man’s Sky’s universe has to discover. If it can deliver on all these promises, it’ll be very spectacular indeed.

 

Doom

Release Date: Q2 2016, Developer: iD Software, Publisher: Bethesda

2004’s Doom 3 was a great title, but in contrast to its high-action predecessors, it focused on horror, and slower pacing. As good as it was, it really didn’t feel like a proper Doom game to me. Fast forward to July of this year, at E3, when Bethesda finally opened the flood gates to reveal gameplay for the latest instalment. It felt like a huge blast from the past, and it was glorious. The demons are back! In a return to form, it appears to have reverted back to the fast-paced shooting antics that the series is known for. It’s visceral, and the action is non-stop! The weapons look badass (the chainsaw in particular, which literally cuts foes in half), and can be combined with brutal melee finishing moves when enemies are weakened enough. I’m not even exaggerating by calling them “brutal”, the protagonist is literally able to break necks and tear limbs off! Needless to say, this game isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. If I’m honest, when I saw how violent this all was, I couldn’t help but giggle with glee like a schoolboy. Although, that’s what looks to be the joy of Doom, it’s so over-the-top with its violence, that it gets really silly, you can’t take it seriously. I mean, come on… the plot of Doom began with fighting Demons from Hell on a space station on Mars, how can anyone take that seriously?! iD are clearly very aware of this, so are not holding back for anyone. Top it all off with a fun looking multiplayer mode, where you’ll actually be able to transform into a Demon to wreak havoc, plus a Timesplitters style level editor, and we look to have a game that’ll be as fun as hell!

                                               

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Release Date: 23rd August, Developer: Eidos Montreal, Publisher: Square Enix

Ah yes, Deus Ex… my favourite game franchise of all-time. After that statement, I think it’s obvious why this is here. Eidos Montreal’s first attempt at living up to the original’s legacy, 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, was definitely a worthy instalment to the franchise (also serving as a prequel.) It captured the spirit of it, as well as grounding it in modern gameplay mechanics. Mankind Divided takes place two years after the events of the previous game, once again following protagonist Adam Jensen. After an incident in the previous instalment, augmented humans are seen as a threat, and looked down upon. It was interesting to see how the developers tackled the moral aspects of augmentation technology in Human Revolution, and I really hope they go a lot deeper into the social and political aspects of it in this outing. Speaking of augmentations, the new ones look like a lot of fun to play with, and still seem to fit into the game’s world. The Icarus Dash, for example, lets Adam zip across areas at lightning speed, allowing him to get to cover quickly, whilst also being able to reach higher vantage points. This can also be used as an attack to throw enemies back. His signature Nano Blades return too, although these can now also be fired as projectiles, and even charged to deal explosive damage. If killing isn’t your style, then why not try the Tesla arm, that stuns foes, rather than eliminating them? Freedom of choice was always a big point of the Deus Ex series, and Mankind Divided looks set to continue that trend. Press have come out of hands-on playthroughs stating that even the tutorial mission “is the most expansive” they’ve ever played and that even then, the player is given a huge freedom of choice. The original Deus Ex had branching stories, and consequences for your actions. Whilst Human Revolution also did this, it was a bit more limited in its execution, which was a bit of a let-down. Hopefully, Eidos Montreal can nail that freedom of choice, whilst also retaining the atmosphere and richly detailed worlds. If they do then, then they may have a title that even rivals the original. This is yet another title that has suffered a delay, and whilst they claim that “it will require more time in tuning, iterations, and refinement to meet our high standards”, the fact it’s been pushed back by an entire 6 months seems to indicate the issues are deeper than that. Mind you, if that is definitely the case, then the fact that it has been pushed back is a great move. It just goes to show how much Eidos Montreal/Square Enix care about the quality of Mankind Divided, and it only means we’ll be guaranteed the finest quality product possible. Considering how rich and detailed Human Revolution was, that can be nothing but a good thing.

 

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Release Date: 2016, Developer/Publisher: Square Enix

They said they wouldn’t do it, because a remake would take them “at least 20 years” to develop , but at Sony’s conference at E3, in a shocking announcement that spread so much joy, it actually made grown men cry, the Final Fantasy VII remake was revealed. Speculation ran wild as to how Square Enix would tackle this, especially after their previous statement, but fairly recently a lot was revealed. A gameplay trailer, from Sony’s Playstation Experience showcase, showed off a lot of stuff, mainly focusing on the earlier sections of VII. Whilst a lot of it looks to remain faithful to the original, there seems to be notable changes. For one, the combat system appears to be real-time, rather than sticking to turn-based combat. At first, I was very pissed off about this, but after some thought, I can completely understand the change, and I have a feeling it might just work. Realistically, the battles that transpire in this universe would be extremely cinematic battles, with a ton of drama to them, which can’t really be portrayed in a turn-based system. A real time system would allow for much more flexibility in this sense. Also, as revered as Final Fantasy VII is, it still has the record of being one of the most returned games in history, as a lot of gamers hated the turn-based mechanics. Go figure. As much as I enjoy turn-based games, sometimes they need to adapt to survive, and that’s the case here. Another titbit that has been discussed, is that this remake is likely to be presented in an episodic format, which is leaving a sour taste in a lot more gamers’ mouths. Personally, I’m all for this, as long as Square Enix get it right. It will not only mean that we’ll get our hands on FF VII sooner, but it could add a lot more scope. The team have already stated that they intend to “expand the story”, so this could take the classic to new and interesting places. Let’s just hope they don’t overcharge us, and that they don’t make the plot as overly-convoluted as Final Fantasy XIII…

 

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Release Date: 2016, Developer: Guerrilla Games, Publisher: Sony

This is one of the few games on this list that is a completely new IP… and it’s about time we had more new IPs, especially from Guerrilla Games. This is the first title they’ve developed in 11 years that isn’t Killzone (not that I hate Killzone, but it’s refreshing for something completely new.) In only a few short gameplay demos, they’ve already set the scene of mystery and intrigue with Horizon’s world. It’s set over 1000 years in the future, where mankind has long abandoned Earth. A few tribes remain, walking the wilds of our ruined planet, trying to survive. Then there’s the mechanical creatures that also roam the earth; from machine-like deer, to giant robot dinosaurs. It’s an incredibly striking contrast to the game’s world, where nature has thrived, turning once metropolises, into overgrown jungles. The questions on my lips are, how did the world get like this, and why the hell are these mechanical animals here? How did they even get here? Those of mysteries I’m really looking forward to finding out. The developers promise a story that’s “rich” in terms of the game world, and of protagonist Aloy, as she explores the world. From the gameplay we’ve seen so far, I’d say it’s taken a few cues from Tomb Raider (the reboot.) Of course, this is a great source of inspiration, and it looks as though they’ve truly put their own spin on it, and made it into their own. Aloy needs to hunt creatures (not all are hostile), to gather resources, to acquire upgrades, and mainly uses her bow to take them down. With this, she can also set traps, such as mines and trip-wires. Whilst supplies seem plentiful in the demonstrations, Guerrilla promise that they’ll be a lot more spare in the final version. The gameplay definitely looks like it’ll have a very tactical side to it, and I’m hoping that there’ll be multiple play styles that can be adopted. The action when fighting larger, more threatening targets looks intense. At the end of both demos, Aloy was pitted against the giant dinosaur-like creature I mentioned earlier. This involved a lot of traversing the environment, and using everything at her disposal. What I found really impressive was the fact that the dinos’ cannons could be blasted off, and actually equipped as a temporary weapon, to deal extra firepower. The fact that there’s such a contrast between the sneaky hunting sections, and these fast-paced epic battles fills me with hope, and surely means we’ll be getting a diverse, rich experience from this world.

                                               

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Release Date: 2016?, Developer: Ubisoft San Francisco, Publisher: Ubisoft

This was the biggest surprises to come out of E3 2015, when Ubisoft opened their conference by revealing this brand new South Park title. Not much is known about it, and nothing has been mentioned of it since, so it mostly remains shrouded in mystery. This also gives me doubts as to whether it’ll release next year or not. Either way, what we do know is, this will be another RPG style adventure, starring the boys of South Park. This time, they’ve dropped the medieval D&D style look, to undertake the roles of their superhero alter-egos, the (hilariously named) ‘Coon and Friends. I’m intrigued to see how the humour plays out in this title, as there’s so many different ways in which creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone can poke fun at superhero lore. It’ll be interesting to see what new abilities the kids will have when it comes to combat. There were some interesting, and comical, moves that each character had, and there’s so many possibilities here. Although, surely Mysterion (Kenny) will be a bit overpowered if he can’t die? I’m a big fan of the TV series, and it’s great to see another title in development. Although the studio has changed hands to Ubisoft’s San Francisco this time round, so I hope they can capture the spirit of the show as well as Obsidian did. Mind you, with Matt and Trey still heavily involved, I have a feeling that this project is in safe hands.

 

System Shock 3

Release Date:  2017… at the earliest, Developer: Otherside Entertainment, Publisher: ?

ss3

Words cannot describe how happy I am to be typing a piece on this. Back when I was with my previous blog/YouTube channel, Work in Progress, I made a top 10 list of games that deserved a sequel, and this ranked quite highly. 16 years after the release of System Shock 2, this finally looks to be happening! A teaser site went live earlier on in the month, and upon unlocking, it was fully revealed to be System Shock 3 (even though some techno-whizzes managed to uncover the secret early.) What was revealed was new artwork, featuring antagonist SHODAN, and an audio file that was bound to get any System Shock fan excited. I had to admit, it sent chills down my spine, it totally has the traditional creepy System Shock atmosphere, I couldn’t be more stoked! So, who are Otherside Entertainment? Well, apart from developing Underworld Ascendant, they’re comprised of a number of ex-Looking Glass Studios developers. Considering these people are responsible for the System Shock series, it’s time to get very excited. However, a survey, accessible via the teaser site, hints at virtual reality support, leading to speculation that SS3 could be a VR exclusive experience. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, in all honesty. As much as I love VR, it’s not mainstream enough, and too expensive to warrant a VR only title. I’m sure it will be an additional option on top of a more traditional gameplay experience. Let’s face it, if it were VR only, it’d be suicide, and I’m sure Otherside are more sensible than that. In terms of a release date, realistically, I know this won’t see the light of day for a good while yet, so I highly doubt we’ll see it next year. However, the fact it actually exists, means that I had to say something about it! Hey, at least it’s coming sooner than Half-Life 3. Then again, after this, anything feels possible… but, probably not….

 

Playstation VR

Release Date:  First half of 2016, Developer: Sony

The reason I left this one until the end, is because it is actually hardware. Yes, I know this is meant to be a most anticipated games list, but Playstation VR is too much of an awesome concept to simply be ignored. Also, I was lucky enough to have actually tried it. In the lead up to EGX, Sony put up booking slots for gamers to test out the new Playstation virtual reality headset, and I took the opportunity to sign up as soon as I could. I didn’t realise how fortunate I actually was, because a mere hour after bookings went up, all the slots were gone. On the day itself, we were allocated to random demo booths for PS VR, and I got to play a demo called BattleZone. The headset felt extremely comfortable, and was easy enough to fit around my big head. The demo itself was a basic, but fun, futuristic tank battle game, set in a Tron-like world. I was placed in the cockpit, and was able to drive around, blasting enemy tanks to pieces. Normally, I’d say this is a simple run of the mill battle game, but the use of virtual reality made the experience mind-blowing. The tutorial took place underground, in a hangar, and looking around showed a ton of detail, it seemed to go on forever. When I was on the battleground itself, I was truly immersed in the experience, and at one point I even went to reach out for one of the buttons in the tank cockpit, it was that convincing! I wasn’t convinced on virtual reality gaming before, but after walking away from that demonstration, I’m convinced it’s the future of gaming. I do admit, I did feel slightly dizzy, even after only 10 minutes on it, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time to adjust to it once it’s out. However, whilst it was an awesome experience, I feel that (for now) it’s something that only hardcore gamers will be interested in, plus Sony have stated it will cost “as much as a brand new console” on launch. I do see a ton of potential for this in the future, but it’s definitely going to get off to a rocky start. I do have faith that this will hit the mainstream eventually though, because the experience is so stunning, that not even words can do it justice.

 

So, those were the games I’m looking forward to the most next year. Let me know if I missed anything, and what your opinion is on releases next year. On Wednesday, I shall be posting my final article of the year, which goes into things I learned in 2015. It’s all a bit of silly fun (although watch out for a few rants), so it’s worth looking out for. Until then, then…

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