Out with the old, in with the new…
2015 is coming to an end, and while a moment of reflection on the year’s highlights and disappointments are in order, I shall first gaze upon the horizon of the not so distant future. 2015 was an excellent year for gaming which not only satisfyingly delivered a plethora of phenomenal sequels, but also introduced a wide variety of new, innovative IP’s that arguably hogged the spotlight. Maintaining an optimistically framed mindset, hopefully 2016 is able to replicate this exquisitely balanced equilibrium. With many impressive 2015 titles being pushed into the new year, an unfortunate sign that history will always repeat itself, 2016 admittedly shows intriguing promise and hopefully will be able to deliver a wide array of quality experiences while ultimately living up to the hype. Here are 10 games that have peaked my excitement for the New Year, with each and every one of them emitting an alluring nature that has unquestionably captivated my attention. Aside from these intriguing works of art, I also look forward to The Division, No Man’s Sky, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy VII Remake, For Honor, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Unravel, Star Fox Zero, Street Fighter V, Mafia III, Yooka Laylee, Cuphead, Mighty No 9, Overwatch, Ratchet & Clank, Recore, Daganronpa 3, and Gravity Rush 2. I am also well aware that some of the ten selected games have not been given a definitive release date, let alone a 2016 release window, however their inclusion indicates that there is some margin of a possibility for a 2016 release date. These ten captivating titles, which are ordered alphabetically, have undoubtedly peaked my interest and have rendered me extremely impatient for the imminent New Year which is just around the corner. Which of these games will land on my Top Games of 2016 list? Only time will tell, but for now, let us celebrate the imaginative possibilities of these ten promising titles.
Detroit: Become Human
I immensely enjoy David Cage’s work. I never got around to playing Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy (although its name is absolutely marvelous), I absolutely adored Quantic Dream’s PS3 debut Heavy Rain, and in contrast to popular opinion, I enjoyed Cage’s experimental Beyond: Two Souls. However, the one work of art hidden in Cage’s repertoire is a simple tech demo exploring the fundamental meaning of being human and perceiving the will to live through the eyes of a machine. The story of an artificial intelligence and/or robot experiencing emotion and personified characteristics is a derivative one, but with Cage’s idiosyncratic expertise and direction, alongside the excellent sound design, “Kara” was poignantly executed and after its intense, yet brief duration, we were left distraught with an impulse of wanting more. Kara’s reception was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that the simple tech demo is currently being developed into a full-fledged game. Detroit: Become Human focuses on the institutionalized nature of androids and the constant struggles of coexisting alongside humans, where Kara is the only android with any form of consciousness. These thematic elements of discovery and elaborating on the human soul will be the fundamental crux that drives Detroit forward, hopefully in a manner where some originality is brought to the table. Hopefully Detroit: Become Human takes a note or two from Heavy Rain as opposed to Beyond: Two Souls and focuses on a coherently developed narrative with branching decisions that will greatly affect its conclusive outcome.
Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4 seems to spice up the tried and true formula immensely and caters to a more horror-esque nature, which I welcome with open arms. The Gears of War series, arguably my favourite exclusive series on the Xbox 360, has relatively dwindled in terms of nuance since the excellent third instalment, as Judgment failed to capture the essence of what made the core trilogy so special. Gears 4 clearly wishes to establish a new front rather than replicating or expanding on the existing foundation; inhabiting the aforementioned eerie atmosphere is an extremely nuanced experience for traditional Gears fans as it mimics classic sci-fi horror works such as Alien or even the recent Dead Space, an aesthetic inclusion which was not present in the main trilogy and I applaud The Coalition for simply taking a new spin on an existing formula. Granted, is this vertical slice focusing on the desperation and fear indicative of the final experience that awaits in Holiday 2016? Well only time will tell, but one can only hope. Aside from a traditional single player campaign, I’m also genuinely curious as to what The Coalition plan to bring to the multiplayer and cooperative front as these components are staples in this renowned series. Gears of War’s multiplayer additions were never necessarily innovative nor did they raise the bar in the competitive front of online gaming, but they were extremely fun to say the least. However Gears of War 2 introduced an iconic survival cooperative mode called Horde Mode, which would go on to be replicated and improved by future iterations and other inspired titles. I wonder what new concepts and designs The Coalition are willing to implement in order to continue elevating the standards of intense, mesmerizing cooperative action that the Gears series is known for.
Horizon Zero Dawn
I always welcome a new expansive world to explore, having a scenic escape that amounts to limitless possibilities is the differentiating factor that segregates the imaginative quality of gaming from other mediums of entertainment. The world of Horizon Zero Dawn is oozing with impeccable detail and its vista are exquisitely vibrant, significantly pushing the graphical limitations of the Playstation 4. Set in a future 1000 thousand years from the present, the world of Horizon is predominately inhabited by mechanized creatures which rule the vast lands. Even though the game is set so far off into the future, humanity and its civilization have been rendered to a primitive state, in a manner similar to their prehistoric tendencies. Not much is known about Horizon’s lead heroine, Aloy, or her uncharted journey into this treacherous world but hopefully it’ll prove to be an unforgettable expedition which is able to evoke a more prominent sense of raw emotion in comparison to Guerrilla Games’ other franchise, Killzone. I’m honestly most excited by the fact that Guerilla Games is edging out of their comfort zone and is creating something that admittedly outshines the ambition of their previous work. With certain explorative and role-playing elements heavily inspired by The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and having Fallout: New Vegas’ lead writer, John Gonzalez, at the helm of Horizon’s narrative, Guerilla Games has the necessary essentials to construct an exquisitely polished and intricately complex Role-Playing Game. An open world RPG is no easy feat, so their determination should definitely be accommodated; they’re definitely venturing into the right direction as every minute snippet of gameplay looks absolutely mesmerizing, further justifying the minutia as to why Horizon Zero Dawn is arguably my most anticipated game of 2016
The Last Guardian
I must shamefully admit that, in all my years of gaming, I have never once completed a Team Ico game. I probably clocked in about one or two hours of Shadow of the Colossus at most and haven’t even scratched the surface of Ico, two shameful confessions that I wish to rectify in the coming year. With that being said, it has been nearly over a decade since Team Ico released their last game, Shadow of the Colossus, so claiming that fans are eagerly awaiting the release of their next experimental entry is a severe understatement. The Last Guardian seems to incorporate an abundance of intricacies from Team Ico’s previous efforts and polish them to a crisp shine. The art direction is vibrantly vivid, catering to photo realistic colour palette, while portraying a rather illustrative design. The Last Guardian seems to embody a level of tranquility that is reflected in both presentational elements and gameplay design, as typical gameplay and other interactions never seem too stress inducing, although scaling your cat/dog/griffin companion mirrors the monumental intricacy and adrenaline induction of scaling Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus. This simple tranquility unfortunately seems tentative as I have an inclination that the game will eventually take an emotionally sombre turn. After being in development hell for over eight years, folks had best believed that The Last Guardian was cancelled and would never see the light of day, which is why Sony’s re-reveal of the game at this year’s E3 Press Conference was an extraordinary surprise to say the least, and the simple fact that it was in a playable state was most certainly a good sign. Hopefully we’ll be able to experience its greatness in full this year and that it’ll be able to live up to the insurmountable expectations that it has fostered over the years.
Legend of Zelda Wii U
Arguably my favourite Nintendo franchise of all time, The Legend of Zelda encapsulates the essence of adventure and exploration, while encompassing an innovative sense of progression. Link’s first colossal steps into the 3D realm of gaming was simply a revolutionary feat which paved the way for all 3D adventure games to come, and is to this day a golden standard in gaming, which is why The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is unquestionably one of my favourite games of all time. Link’s newest entry on home consoles is strikingly beautiful to say the least as the luscious open landscapes of this fully realised Hyrule finds a harmonizing equilibrium between the cel shaded design of The Wind Waker and the grounded realism of Twilight Princess, being aesthetically similar to the gorgeous Hyrule of Skyward Sword. To be honest, a bare minimum of footage of this tantalizing Zelda entry has been shown, which is an unfortunate shame, but perhaps its minutia being shrouded in mystery is the core contributing factor to its own alluring nature. Not only will this Zelda entry explore traditional non-linear level design, but it will also feature a vast open world, an expansive playground which has been said to be one of the largest in the entire franchise, fully utilizing the technical prowess of the Wii U. Despite the Wii U being significantly underwhelming on technical spectrum in comparison to the PS4 and Xbox One, titles such as Mario Kart 8 manage to look stunningly crisp and arguably outshine some graphical highlights found on Sony and Microsoft’s respective consoles, so with an optimistically open mindset, Link’s first original adventure into the High Definition graphical spectrum of gaming could equate to a sublime painting in motion.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is easily one of the best, if not the best modern JRPG in recent memory. Not only is its sense of exploration a nuance in its own right and its interactive Tales meets Pokémon hybrid battle system challengingly exquisite, but its gorgeous world was fully realized and conjured up by the geniuses behind the likes Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, the prestigious Studio Ghibli, not to mention that the poignant soundtrack was expertly done by Studio Ghibli’s very own Joe Hisaishi. Ni No Kuni told the heartwarming story of a son’s love for his mother, and his journey into uncharted territory to get her back. Ni No Kuni was a beautiful experience that oozed bombastic charm, proving to be equally innocent as it was heartbreaking, and will be forever engrained in my memory. Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom seems to evoke the same charming aura of its predecessor, retaining certain thematic elements of loss, love, independence, and responsibility, and seeing how Revenant Kingdom will follow a new cast of characters in an entirely new uncharted world, I’m anxious to see what new twists and turns Level-5 has in store for us. Having only been announced at Sony’s recent PSX Keynote event, not much outside of its reveal trailer has been revealed, but it would appear that Level-5 has another excellent coming-of-age story up their sleeves; hopefully Studio Ghibli will be involved in some manner as their gorgeously, hand-drawn animation truly encapsulated the aesthetic feel and variance of their work, making Ni No Kuni an experience that could stand against the likes of Ghibli’s expansive repertoire.
Persona 4 is my favourite video game of all time and it quite literally changed my life. After playing the excellent golden edition on the PlayStation Vita, it was impossible to not be excited for the next entry in the Megami Tensei subseries. Persona 4 is such a beautifully crafted experience, and allowed me to reflect the characters’ personal struggles with my own. As entertaining and addictive Persona’s dungeon crawling, turn based gameplay is, the true impressive feat of the series is the enthralling story and exceptionally well-developed characters. In a recent interview with Game Informer, director Katsura Hashino has expressed how Persona 5 will be “thematically accessible” for both Persona veterans and newcomers, and that our heroes this time around, aren’t heavily focused on an overarching dilemma, instead focusing on finding themselves and forging their own identities. Identity and alter egos seem to play an integral, thematic role in Persona 5 as it’s appropriately fitting, yet ironic that the tangible representations of personas are portrayed as masquerade masks. In addition to its existing scale of awesomeness, Persona 5’s adorably personified animal character is a shape-shifting cat named Morgana, who will serve as a party member and a comical companion, hopefully in a manner similar to Teddie. As clichéd as this phrase may be, since it’s tossed around more than a Caesar salad, Persona 4 is more than just a simple game, it’s an experience that honestly taught you values of love, friendship, family, and loss and hopefully Persona 5 will successfully continue this legacy, and add its own innovative touches to this mesmerising formula. Thematic elements aside, I’m curious as to what new inclusions Atlas has applied to the traditional battle system and how they’ll innovate on the widely entertaining social simulation gameplay that the series is renowned for. If Persona 5 is at least half as amazing as its masterful predecessor, then this could easily be one of the greatest games of all time.
I want Alan Wake 2. It’s a simple as that, but Remedy Games has an agenda that clashes against my wishes. Instead Remedy are focusing their attention on a new IP that focuses on time manipulation, which may seem derivative at first glance, but its significance to both narrative and gameplay separate it from titles thematically similar. After an unfortunate time experiment gone wrong, the fabric of time itself simply breaks down which also grants the two main characters – Jack Joyce and Paul Serene – different time-based abilities; Serene can see into the future to decide which choices to make in the present, while Jack is able to stop time. As you might’ve guessed, time manipulation plays an integral role in gameplay, as controlling Jack gives you a wide array of different time-centric abilities, giving him a slight edge over his enemies. Not only is he able to simply freeze time, but he is also able to offensively dish out time-based projectiles, reverse the direction of bullets, perform an immediate takedown after spawning right next to an enemy, deploy a time-based shield that will deflect bullets, and perform a “Time Dodge” which pays homage to Remedy’s original Max Payne Bullet Time mechanic. The tangible use of time is represented extraordinarily well both thematically and mechanically as the two are intertwined seamlessly. Not only will you be able to experience all of Sam Lake’s eccentric expertise in a traditional gaming format, but live-action TV episodes will follow each aforementioned gaming counterpart. The video game segment of Quantum Break will tell the story of protagonist Jack Joyce, while the TV counterpart will tell the story of antagonist Paul Serene. Players can also make decisions as Serene in the beginning of each TV episode, which will influence the state of the game itself. This sheer interaction between narrative and gameplay and the contrast of two very different mediums is an extremely innovative feat and ambitious to say the least; hopefully Remedy is able to successfully deliver on their ambition and release yet another hit.
Just the sheer thought of action gurus, Platinum Games, making an open world action RPG is ineffably surreal; the inventive minds behind the excellent Bayonetta series and other fantastic examples of perfected action such as Metal Gear Rising: Revengance , Mad World, and Vanquish are collectively crafting an open world experience that’ll seamlessly harmonize their trademark expertise on action. RPG’s with expansive open worlds tend to earn their longevity through their sense of freedom, exploration, and the sheer number of possibilities that can accomplished. These immersive properties act as the essential air that breathes life into the RPG genre, while their gameplay counterpart – the combat in particular – tends to be intuitive, but fails to rival the grand scale of its presentational and thematic counterparts. Some titles are the exception to the rule, with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning coming to mind, but these are few and far between. Hopefully Platinum Games are able to rectify this tradition and deliver a role playing experience that excels in traditional immersion and engrossing gameplay. Scalebound centralizes on protagonist Drew and his expedition through the world of Draconis; Drew is bonded and accompanied by a dragon named Thuban who is equally as important as Drew himself. Not only does Drew have a dragon arm – which allows him to scan enemies for information, unleash pulse energy, and heal his loyal dragon companion – but he is also able to transform into a half-dragon hybrid, which significantly enhances his abilities, unleashing devastating attacks whilst scaling larger enemies. In terms of interesting mythos, Draconis inhabits a giant mushroom that grows extensively throughout the world; in similar fashion to “The Force” from Star Wars, Pulse Energy emanates from this mushroom and it serves as the ubiquitous life foundation of every existing creature. Only a fragment of gameplay footage has been released so it’s fairly difficult to construct a keen perspective, but from little I have seen, it certainly looks promising. Hopefully we’ll able to ride atop of Thuban’s back and soar the open skies in the vivacious world of Draconis.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted 4 is easily my most anticipated game of 2016. I absolutely love the Uncharted series and Naughty Dog is arguably the greatest developer in the industry. What glorious praise can I sing about Uncharted 4 that hasn’t been said already? The game looks absolutely gorgeous and exceptionally well detailed. The gunplay looks extraordinarily responsive, with dynamic implementations polishing the fine edges. The level design is more intricately diverse and expansive, as the game design is also catered to different methods of execution. Set pieces have been cranked up to eleven, seemingly having a heavier emphasis on player interaction this time around. However, simply interacting with the familiar faces for one last time and seeing just how much we’ve grown with them over the last decade is the true beauty and bittersweet nature of Uncharted 4. The Uncharted series has always been about characters; the story may have been far-fetched at times and the gameplay is arguably repetitive in nature, but the true magic that Uncharted encapsulates is its characters and their relationship with one another. Not only are we reunited with Drake, Elena, and Sully after a long five years, but Nathan Drake himself is reunited with his long lost brother Sam, who was thought to have been dead for fifteen years in counting. What Sam brings to the table in terms of the narrative is shrouded in mystery as of now, but one thing is for certain, his interaction and relationship with Nathan is undoubtedly intriguing as we are given a glimpse into Drake’s past. Considering that this will be Drake’s last adventure, I’m curious to see how high the stakes are this time around and just how far Naughty Dog are willing to dive into Drake’s past. Plus having Nolan North and Troy Baker working side by side as brothers is an ingenious idea, and the two play off of each other extremely well. It’s fairly bittersweet to see the series come to an end as it has been a part of me for quite some time, but all good things must eventually come to an end, and I simply can’t wait to see how Naughty Dog plans to wrap it all up. Naughty Dog most definitely have a lot to live up to with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but seeing how the directors behind ‘The Last of Us’ are in charge of the project, we could possibly be getting the greatest game of this console generation. Now if I could only freeze myself until March 18th.
2015 was definitely an impressive year in gaming and 2016 shows that same level of promise. What will succeed and what will flop? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: now is a great time to be a gamer. What games are you looking forward to in 2016?