We’ve taken care of movies and books, which means it’s time for video games. Even casual gamers have plenty to be excited for this year, with releases from big developers and indie outfits that’ll keep you entertained for hours. Where we could, we’ve included specific dates or seasons, but as anyone who spends any time following gaming can tell you, release dates in the industry can be harder to nail down. Whatever part of the year these get released, here are the games we’re definitely going to be playing this year.
PS4, Xbox One, PC
Pop culture seems to be dominated by a specific type of conversation right now. Conversations like, “What if they took Jurassic Park and made it with Captain America, but also some Power Rangers? That’d be awesome…” People’s idea generation consists mainly of taking a few things people liked and smashing them together. It might’ve worked once or twice, seeing as how Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was far more entertaining than it had any right to be, but it’s so far from a good way to generate ideas that the attraction has to be how easy it is to do, not it’s reliably solid output
That’s our main fear with For Honor. The game looks like it could easily be simplified to say, “let’s make Vikings, Samurai, and Knights fight each other.” That might be a cool sentence, but it’s not enough to sustain multiple hours of gameplay. There has to be a reason these three groups have been brought together beyond finding out what a Viking battle axe would do to a katana.
As far as justifications go, For Honor’s recent story trailer looks like it’s taking the premise seriously. That’s probably the right move, because if For Honor is going to work, it needs to treat its premise earnestly and explore the grounded realities of war and loss. So, yes we’re excited to have Vikings, samurai, and knights all fight each other, but we’re a little more excited that Ubisoft isn’t taking the lazy way out for the narrative on this one.
All the Delicate Duplicates
Sometimes we like a game that doesn’t tell us everything we need to know up front. We want to puzzle our way through until the grand reveal or, if there is no grand reveal, we gather all the little clues so we can finally piece together what the game’s trying to tell us. Firewatch was like the former, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Dear Esther were the latter, and we were fans of all three. All the Delicate Duplicates promises exactly that sort of experience.
Exploration of the game world, plot, and concepts seems to come from making words into physical things. Several scenes in the trailer float glowing words past the screen while other words and phrases curl around objects or hover stagnant in the air. There are actual objects in the game too, and interaction with them starts to warp the perspective of the characters. We can’t tell you exactly how or why, but, like we said, that’s part of the reason we’re looking forward to this game.
The other caveat with this game is how prominently it features Tumblr, and while we’re not condemning the website, it does come with a bit of a reputation. Sort of like reverse 4chan. The game shouldn’t bury its achievements or awards for reputation’s sake, we just thought it’d be worth mentioning. Ultimately, our curiosity outweighs any misgivings we might have right now.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo hasn’t been a contender in the console “wars” since they botched their Wii and Wii U launches. Instead of focusing on producing triple A quality games for slightly quirky consoles, they quadrupled down on quirk and let third party gimmicks trash their once stellar reputation. The Gamecube was a respectable machine, so we don’t want it to sound like we didn’t appreciate the effort, but by its release the PS2 was well on its way to being the dominant console of its time and the Xbox showed everyone that Halo was a thing. It’s been a long time since they’ve been worth paying attention to.
Now, finally, Nintendo Switch could revitalize the company’s efforts in the ongoing struggle for console domination. It’s taken the best parts of a whole bunch of modern technology and inserted some of Nintendo’s signature quirk, though this time it looks to be more innovative than gimmicky. There’s more information coming in every day, but from the announcement, it looks to be a traditionally powerful console with the added portability of a tablet. You can play it on your full-size TV or carry this thing all over the place.
An added attraction is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being a suspected launch title. It’s one of the last big franchises to resist the oversaturated or annual release model, meaning each game is going to be good, even if it doesn’t quite reach Ocarina of Time levels of greatness. From early trailers and screenshots, it seems like this game’s going to hold a little closer to its Japanese roots than previous entries, as the art style of the game and music of the trailers have more overtly Japanese influences. That’s a bit of a change for us, since the last installment we played was Twilight Princess, but we like that it feels fresh while maintaining the atmosphere of the games that brought us into the series.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch could be considered one of the first short story collections put to game. This looks like something Edgar Allen Poe would be proud of, since there’s absolutely a melancholy, gothic feel to the trailer. And since it has such a narrative heavy slant (an aspect of gaming that we’re huge fans of), it’s absolutely a game we’ll be on the lookout for.
You play as Edith Finch, the last surviving member of the Finch family, as she wanders through the enormous Finch mansion trying to piece together the ultimate fates of her relatives. Everyone’s dead, which is not a spoiler, since you know that from press releases. It’s also doesn’t seem to be the most important parts of the relatives’ stories. The important part is why Edith Finch is still alive. And who knows? Maybe she dies by the end of it too.
There looks to be some VR components to the game too, which might explain why the game was initially announced at E3 2015 but won’t come out until this year. We’d imagine optimizing for VR takes some time. If the game is as atmospherically interesting as the trailers promise, the extra time seems worth it. Most VR experiences out there don’t offer much in the ways of replay value or extended playtime, but hopefully What Remains of Edith Finch will make us put the VR headset on more than once.
PS4, Xbox One, PC
We’ll fully cop to the fact that we didn’t finish the first Outlast. The game was terrifying, relying on suspense and dread rather than the tired method of jump scares and gore. There are absolutely instances of both in the game, but they’re far from cheap. For the most part, the atmosphere was to blame (or thank, depending on preferences) for our twisted enjoyment. The atmosphere was also to blame for us tapping out about halfway through, electing to stay stranded in the mental asylum to be murdered by a genetically modified Iraq war vet instead of venture out into the
Outlast 2 is taking what works from the original, but definitely doesn’t seem to be a rehash of the same old scares, putting the player at the mercy of a religious cult that lives in the Sonoran desert in the Southwestern United States. The cult has long since cut itself off from mainstream society, opting for a creepier Jonestown vibe. Where the first game created claustrophobic hallways and medical wings, Outlast 2 opts for wide open cornfields and parched deserts. The same isolation and desperation is present in both locations though, which is a credit to the talents of the creative and development teams.
This is a game we recommend playing with other people. Partly because that makes it less scary, but mostly because it adds a layer of actual fun to it. We played the first one alone and the demo of the second one with friends, and there was a noticeable difference in our willingness to play. As in, we actually finished the demo. This might even be something you’d make a night of, switching off controllers and keeping a bottle of whiskey nearby for strength.
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
Shooters like the Battlefield and Call of Duty series always get a lot of attention and a huge chunk of the FPS market, but can also be a little alienating for people. For team-based mass market shooters, the team-based part often gets lost, leaving players to scream endlessly into the void when they need ammo or health. There have been many times we’ve been playing Battlefield 1, used every bit of ammo we have, and none of the fifteen or so Support guys who ran past us bothered to drop a crate. Then we got shot in the face buy some guy with a shotgun, because this is Battlefield, after all.
The point is, for some gamers, core mechanics, squad support, and tactical gameplay are far more attractive than explosive set pieces and top of the line graphics. Don’t get us wrong, the graphics of the Rising Storm games aren’t atrocious, the developers just don’t spend as much time on them, instead spending their time on balancing gameplay and making the experience play a little more authentically. The first game had players fighting through the Eastern Front of World War 2 while its expansion pack put them in the same war’s Pacific Theater. This year, the sequel is jumping forward a bit in favor of the War in Vietnam.
Expect the team and squad based tactical shooter to faithfully recreate the hellacious confusion of the Vietnam battlefields, the heart-pounding moment soldiers have to jump from their Huey, and the desperate flailing of soldiers who just emptied their clips and missed. This game is definitely not one that most FPS players can adjust to, but joining the tight-knit community is worth the effort.
We’ve talked a little about VR already, but with Farpoint we’re going to get more into it, mostly because the game’s only coming out for Playstation VR. Normally, we’d be upset with this kind of exclusivity, but this game is special. Mostly because we just used the word “game” and not “experience.”
The majority of things available for VR right now are closer to mildly interactive movies than they are full games. You can have a great time with Arkham VR or any of the dozens of simulators people are coding, but in terms of an open world game like the traditional entries in the Arkham series, Halo, or the games people actually buy, there aren’t many VR options. Farpoint seems to be breaking that mold.
The game sees the player take control of an operative on a mission to pick up scientists studying some kind of anomaly near Jupiter, when the anomaly opens some kind of rupture and transports the player and the scientists to an unknown planet. It’s a fairly standard setup, but for right now, plot isn’t really where we want VR to explore. What we hope for in terms of originality for VR is in gameplay. If Farpoint can deliver a game worth putting on the Playstation VR headset more than once, we’d consider it a success, as well as something other developers should looks towards when they start making VR games.
Something we’re always looking for is indie games that don’t heavily favor art style over substance. There are way too many left-of-center indie games with silly looking protagonists bouncing around needlessly 8-bit platforming worlds with some kind of subversive twist on the medium, all without the guide of a plot. Know that when we talk about an indie game with a unique look, we like it for more than its style.
Hello Neighbor closely holds to the Pixar animation style, with vibrant colors and a heavy emphasis on geometry. So much so that the creator’s website openly admits to having “Pixar-style visuals.” A description like that lends itself to a fun, family game. One where you might be able to fire up a split screen adventure with whatever younger relatives you happen to have, children, cousins, nieces, nephews, or otherwise. The final game is decidedly different than that.
The main action of the game is breaking into your creepy neighbor’s house, under the belief that he’s hiding something in his basement. Obviously, your neighbor doesn’t want you to do that, so he’s constantly trying to stop you. Where the game innovates is in its AI. It’s a procedural AI, meaning the neighbor will start to learn your tricks and will catch you faster if you’re predictable. The art style works in the game’s favor too, since there’s something exponentially creepier about being chased around a house by retired Buzz Lightyear.
If you’d like, you can sample the game now with a free Pre-Alpha demo or support the project by purchasing Early Alpha Access. Both are extremely early builds of the game and are used more as proof of concepts or representations of a final product. If that doesn’t sound good, the game’s set for a summer 2017 release date, which will be here faster than people will be comfortable with.
Spider-Man (Working Title)
Spider-Man has a long history in video games. It’s not quite as dismal as Superman’s or rock bottom to Arkham as Batman’s. In fact, up until now, his peaks and valleys have mostly been mediocre to just plain good, with a quick foray into relative excellence for the Tobey Maguire movie tagalongs. But we may now finally be getting a truly exceptional Spider-Man video game, thanks to the joint efforts of Marvel and Insomniac.
We’ll run through a few things that make us excited for this Spider-Man game. First off, it’s partially a result of the same agreement that brought Tom Holland’s performance in Civil War. In that, we saw what happens when Marvel gets creative input on their most popular pre-MCU character. Second, Insomniac is responsible for some of your favorite games. Ratchet & Clank and Spyro both came out of their studio, and mentioning both those series game most of you a serious case of nostalgia. What’s more, both those series were fun, mildly irreverent, colorful, unique adventures, all things that readily describe Spider-Man. Third, this isn’t a game made out of the blackness of corporate greed. It’s not a shameless grab for your money masquerading as a movie companion. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man for the PS4 are related only in name. Their plots, villains, actors, conflicts, and even costumes are all different.
Knowing all that, we’re going to hold out hope that this game will do for Spidey games what Arkham did for Batman games. This could be the thing that legitimizes twenty years of just acceptable Spider-Man interactivity. It’s also the single strongest argument for someone going out and buying a PS4 no matter what other gaming setup they might have in the house.
Ratchet & Clank is still good, by the way, so if you have a PS4, we recommend you get back on that.
Red Dead Redemption 2
PS4, Xbox One
This is the game we’re probably most cautiously optimistic about. One the one hand, Red Dead Redemption was so good we don’t want to run any risk of tarnishing it with a sequel. On the other, Red Dead Redemption was so good how could you not want a sequel? Rockstar’s been tight lipped about the game’s development, and there really isn’t much to go off of beyond a trailer mostly featuring landscapes. Because of that, most of what we’ll say is speculation, but it’s always fun to speculate.
One of the strengths of the first game was how well it dealt with modernization, both societal and personal. John Marston, the protagonist of the first game, was a guy trying to reconcile his past with what he wanted his future to be. That’s a sentence that could describe the United States at virtually every point in its history. We’ll probably see more of that, maybe dealing more directly with the technology that promises to swallow up the Wild West. The characters we see riding horses at the end of the trailer could be some kind of last-ditch outlaw backlash against the encroachment of the railroad and civilization.
Whatever the game is going to be about, we’re excited for it. Rockstar doesn’t make bad games, so this sequel is going to be at least a worthy followup. At the very least, we’ll get a few good hours playing desperado again.