It’s been a while since we’ve had a year for video games crammed full of highly anticipated releases and unexpectedly enjoyable titles, captivating hordes of gamers.
Cast your trigger fingers back to 2011; now there was a year to be a video games enthusiast. While a multitude of highly entertaining sequels and new iterations (Mass Effect 2, DeadSpace 2, Top Spin 4, Crysis 2, Portal 2, and Gears of War 3, to name a few) accounted for the usual suspects, some games came out of nowhere and, for their time, were nothing short of groundbreaking. Of particular note were Limbo, for its dark colour palette and eerie setting, and L.A. Noire for its monumental use of facial recognition technology.
Yes, 2011 was a great year but 2016 is set to eclipse that in some big ways. Rarely will we see so many blockbuster and independent video games jostle for our attention ever again, as today’s mainstream titles will have to compete with virtual reality gaming for the first time.
Crackdown 3, The Last Guardian, Unravel, Quantum Break, No Man’s Sky; the list goes on – a list that would make this article way longer than it would need to be. With so much cream rising to the top in 2016, here’s just a selection of my most anticipated games – in no particular order – coming out this year.
Gears of War 4
If you missed my Gears of War Ultimate Edition review, I love this franchise. Sure, you can poke fun at the big bulky men moaning and groaning – trying to find their feelings – but it’s damn fun. After all the released DLC, Gears of War 3 (I like to forget about Judgement) could cater for every player: Solo/Co-op Campaign, Horde Mode, Beast Mode and competitive multiplayer.
I still know very little about Gears 4 but, if it continues on the trend left by Gears 3, it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It won’t be the same without Marcus Fenix at the helm, but a return to the franchise’s horror roots from the original installment would be fantastic. It’s fair to say that something’s been missing since then.
Here’s hoping The Coalition and Microsoft Studios don’t screw it up.
The spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie is sure to reinvigorate the platformer/puzzle genre in 2016. After an unbelievably successful campaign on Kickstarter, Yooka-Laylee will no doubt bring fun puzzles, a quirky soundtrack, appealing visuals and an infectiously entertaining co-operative experience. The surprising combination of a chameleon and a bat is sure to result in some memorable move sets and charming character development.
This game is being created by newly formed Playtonic, a group of former staff members from Rare Ltd., a bunch of whom helped develop Banjo-Kazooie. They are an experienced team and their credentials are impressive, so it’s safe to say Yooka-Laylee is in good hands and will do the old-style platformers from a by-gone era justice.
I was lucky enough to play the Alpha and, despite the immense amount of improvements required (I wrote almost two whole pages worth of notes), this game is on another level of awesome for me. In a market inundated with shooters, The Division did enough even in the Alpha stage to distinguish itself from the pack.
The content on offer here is enormous. There are story missions, side-quests, unscripted action missions, collectibles, a sprawling map and an unexpectedly engrossing PvP area called the Dark Zone, all while having an opt-in/opt-out co-operative multiplayer mode. The Division’s effective day/night cycle further heightens the overall immersion in the game, as Massive Entertainment has delivered a picturesque location battered by disease and famine.
The Alpha failed to delve into the story surrounding Manhattan’s downfall and how The Division is returning the city to some form of normality. However, perhaps that’s one of its draw cards: You’re just a soldier trying to save the city on a day-by-day basis, unaware of what will happen the day after.
After two long years of delays, and finally getting some substantial hands-on time with the game, the wait has been worth it. As much as I love Gears of War, The Division is my front-runner for 2016.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
After South Park’s previous outing in 2014, there isn’t really too much to add here. The transition from all your favourite South Park characters playing Wizards and Warriors to now role-playing as Superheroes is sure to be a hilarious outing.
Hopefully the locations have a bit more variety to them, as it looks as though The Fractured But Whole still takes place, for the most part, in South Park.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Adam Jensen never asked for a sequel, but hey, he got one! Mankind Divided looks as though it’s taken what made Human Revolution an absolute hit and expanded on it ten-fold.
It looks as though Jensen’s collection of weapons and gadgets has expanded in this latest iteration, where Adam is caught in the middle of radicalised groups of Augments crippling the influence of Humans. Abilities of particular note are the Icarus Dash, which is a quick teleportation ability that is used to great effect with the Icarus Bomb – a huge area-of-effect attack causing Jensen to slam into the ground from great heights.
Similar to Human Revolution, there’s no right or wrong way to play the game. However, if you want to remain unseen, there’s definitely a wrong way to play. As always, the missions have hidden paths towards your objectives, with crawling through vents and attacking while cloaked being a particularly favourite past-time of mine.
Ghost of a Tale
This little game from solo developer SeithCG first caught my eye when it was a part of an ID@Xbox showcase at E3 a few years ago. Ever since then, I’ve been following its progress quite closely and with a lot of intrigue.
The story surrounding Ghost of a Tale is still largely unknown, but you play the part of a tiny mouse named Tilo on “a perilous adventure”. This indie title looks absolutely beautiful and is one of those ‘big things in small packages’ type of games. The game’s use of combat seems to be a little bare but, when you’re up against huge crabs and towering armoured rats, how much damage can you expect little Tilo to inflict?
I’m not even disappointed that Ghost of a Tale isn’t expected on my platform of choice this year. Just to see it at full capacity for the first time will be a huge thrill.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Every fan of sci-fi, role-playing games, or just downright awesomeness will more than likely have Mass Effect: Andromeda on their lists this year. Despite a select few moments throughout its first couple of outings, Mass Effect is without question the most absorbing, narrative-driven franchise I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
The unexpected inclusion of Mass Effect 3’s co-operative wave-based multiplayer finally gave the franchise room to move outside the traditional realms of solo gaming. And even that was pretty damn fun, albeit quite repetitive.
As is always the case, Bioware has mountains of content to work with. Without Shepard at the helm (whose first name, funnily enough, is never mentioned) we have a new main character and, while there may be a chance for us to see some old faces, there’ll most likely be a fresh supporting cast to help us on our adventures.
If you can believe it, these are just a few games making their way to PC and consoles this year – unbelievable, isn’t it? If you have a favourite selection of 2016 titles, we want to know about it. Let us know in the comments below!