Samuel Roberts: I can’t wait to play Hitman because it looks like a return to the multi-layered stealth sandbox stuff from Blood Money—it better be, anyway. The level they showed off at E3 and Gamescom this year showed the different ways you could approach a level and kill a target, and it looked pretty in-depth. You could throw a bomb, watch a security guard find it then take it inside the palace where your target it is. If you can find where he placed it, you’ve smuggled a weapon into the premises. It’s that sort of depth that makes me optimistic about the new Hitman.
I’m less clear on the value of its new Early Access-like structure—that’s something we’ll find out about this December. But the ultimate aim is to build a Hitman game that’s bigger than Absolution with a lot more in the way of giant stealth sandboxes. After a nearly 10-year wait for a proper Hitman follow-up, there’s a chance this could be the one.
Other games I’m excited about:
Star Wars Battlefront
A few Star Wars-starved years of games have really made me want to play this possibly lightweight but fun shooter.
I’m certain this will be one of the best games of the year—Bethesda doesn’t muck about with RPGs.
Full modding support, unpredictable levels, more layers of strategy—more of what I love from Firaxis.
Rainbow Six Siege
Ubisoft delays games like they’re planes on a stormy Thanksgiving, and earlier this month Siege was pushed from October 13 to December 1. It’s a modest calendar nudge, but more than that it’s a reminder to look at the big picture: one of the biggest studios in the world has poured millions of dollars into making a multiplayer-focused, tactical, single-life competitive FPS.
That is a minor miracle. Ubisoft poured years into Rainbow Six Patriots as it saw its share of the blockbuster FPS market erode completely (remember, Vegas released a full year before Call of Duty 4), only to scrap Patriots and emerge later with Siege. Siege will have a campaign, but Ubisoft has been silent on it (aside from a 1:58 cinematic trailer), which is actually very encouraging to me—it speaks to the level of focus on competitive multiplayer Ubisoft is putting on the game. The same can’t be said for the recent Battlefields.
Other games I'm excited about:
To be honest, at first XCOM 2’s new premise rubbed me the wrong way. The aliens won!? I’m going to have to bounce around Earth like a rogue, fugitive military? Judge me, but I enjoyed playing XCOM mostly at my own pace, watching my ant farm of a base prosper and my roster of troops swell. The new ideas, and all the inversions of XCOM: EU’s core ideas, are growing on me (and all the enhancements bundled with them), though. I’m looking forward to getting outside my comfort zone.
Into the Stars
Oregon Trail in space! Or a flashier FTL, as our preview in June put it.
Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age
Here’s a dark horse that went a bit dark. After Crytek USA (formerly Vigil Games, the creators of Darksiders) experienced big layoffs, Hunt was moved to Crytek’s Frankfurt studio. We haven’t heard much since Sam and I saw a very encouraging demo at E3 2014, but the idea and the tech driving it remains sound: Left 4 Dead-style survival co-op in procedurally-generated levels, but with Resident Evil 4-style combat.
Total War: Warhammer
I almost have to keep forcing myself to forget that this is actually happening, because if I allow myself to think about it too much, whole days get lost down the Warhammer wiki rabbithole. Having spent a hefty chunk of my teenage years painstakingly painting a vast greenskin horde (and buying but failing to paint wood elf and empire armies, sorry mum), pretty much the preservation of my whole childhood rests on Creative Assembly not messing this up. No pressure, Creative Assembly.
Handily, based on what Wes and I saw at E3, a significant mess up seems likely. Games Workshop has cast its properties far and wide, and many have fallen on stony ground, but the Total War couldn’t be a better fit for the Warhammer Fantasy Battle universe. I long to see Karl Franz’s Demigryph cavalry scattering the goblin scum. But my heart also swells at the thought of a sky blackened with warbosses on wyverns. I’ve only dabbled with the Total War series in the past, mainly during the Shogun era, but this feels like it could be my next all-consuming obsession. And without having to worry about gassing myself with a can of Chaos Black undercoat in the garage either.
Other games I’m excited about…
A team-based FPS is so far out of Blizzard’s traditional comfort zone, but sumptuous character design, rich lore and (fingers crossed), careful competitive balance is very much in the firm’s wheelhouse. After some misfiring new shooters in the past few years—sorry, Evolve—it would be exciting to see something brand new really break out. With the Blizz bucks behind it, Overwatch surely has as good a chance as any.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
There probably isn’t a series I’ve got more affection for than BioWare’s rollicking space opera. With Shep’s story sewn up, I can’t wait to see what galaxy-spanning conflagration we’re chucked into next. Next to nothing is known for sure so far, but get your think on with superfan Sam Maggs’ dissection of what we’d like to see.
I’m ready for a new Fallout, not because I loved Fallout 3 and New Vegas but because I had problems enjoying them both. Fallout 3 never ran well for me, and even today I get tons of crashes to desktop whenever I try to play it. New Vegas ran great, but it somehow never gelled for me. I just never created a character I felt connected to, and while the game was fun I never really felt swept up in it.
I did love the world both games presented, though, which makes me hopeful that Fallout 4 will both run well on my PC and that I’ll become engaged with the story, world, and my own character. Plus, the new base-building and settlement-creation tools look like they’ll keep me busy even if the story doesn’t keep me interested.
I mean, come on. It’s a cute little yarn golem using his own string to solve puzzles in what looks like a beautiful and dangerous world. My only hope is that when you fail a puzzle they don’t show you Yarny dying. I can’t take that. Just put some text on the screen saying “Try again.” Don’t show me Yarny’s lifeless corpse.
I loved Dishonored. It had a great blend of stealth and action, the levels were designed amazingly well and felt tailored to whatever playstyle and powers I decided to use, and the world was intriguing. I’m glad it takes place in a new city—I’m really dying to know more about the rest of the world—and I’m happy we’ll have a choice to play as either Corvo or Emily.
I got to play Doom multiplayer at Quakecon this year, and I liked it. I’m curious to see how the single-player campaign is and how the included mod tools work.
The art style and animation make it look like an old-timey cartoon that you get to play inside of. What’s not to be excited about?
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
“But can I play without killing anyone?” ask a bunch of people, their eyes hopeful and their voices quavering. Apparently you can! Have a great time with that. Me? I’m gonna be firing my forearms through as many torsos as I possibly can.
Enemy Unknown and its expansion sit right at the top of my Steam most-played, not counting Dota 2. I adore what Firaxis achieved with the series, crafting a tactical sim that could be dramatic, silly, personal, and challenging by turns. I've played it as a lunchtime game, as a weekend-consuming epic. The iPad version continues to soak up flights and long train journeys.
Nontheless, the formula needed to change. XCOM traditionally suffers from a sort of reverse difficulty curve, where once you've cracked those hyper-tough early missions your power increases to the point where the game becomes less intimidating. Flipping the formula on its head and framing you as the invading force is a brilliant idea, one that will hopefully provide a developing challenge as each campaign continues.
Similarly, I like the way that missions open with a stealth bit that replaces the old 'move forward in overwatch until Sectoids appear' system. Firaxis could have easily made an XCOM sequel that slotted into all of the old grooves and I'd have been happy - that they're willing to acknowledge and adress some of the games' bad habits is definitely to their credit. I hope it turns out as good as it looks.
There was a very specific moment in Bethesda's E3 conference when I knew I was going to lose a lot of time to Fallout 4. Bethesda's narratives and combat systems often leave me cold, but I'm a sucker for the sense that I'm making their gameworlds my own. Building a settlement from scratch really appeals to me, as does custom armour and weapons. Also there's a dog. I am going to play this computer game.
The original is one of my favourite immersive sims this side of the No One Lives Forever series. I love the world, the mythology, the freedom and the atmosphere. Returning to that from a new angle is a huge draw.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
On one hand, I’d love to burst through BioWare’s doors and yell “Mass Effect 3 was all a dream and everyone can still all go on space adventures together!” and have them all clap and nod and put Shepard and Garrus and Liara and Tali and crew into a new game. But it’d be a cheap sort of joy to see the characters I’m already attached to reunite—a squirt of fan dopamine—and we’d all miss the opportunity to get attached to new characters, to play Mass Effect for the first time again, which is a valuable experience.
I’m hopeful for Andromeda. Based on the rumors and what we’ve seen in the trailer, it looks like it might loop back around to the first Mass Effect’s great sense of exploration. We’re in a new galaxy with a new Mako, perhaps looking for something, and I hope zipping between star systems and exploring planets with unique terrain. The song choice in the trailer has me expecting a ‘space western’ theme: lawless settlements, bounty hunters, and the reckless struggle for wealth and power in a rich, uncharted wilderness. I wouldn’t mind something a little rougher, more about conflict between civilized people (and aliens) in uncivilized territory than the first trilogy’s eventual ‘universe in peril’ opera. I want to live in another galaxy and explore more alien cultures, without always being expected to save them from doom.
Other games I’m excited about…
Rain World is selling itself with its animation, and it’s doing a great job. Its stealthy platforming might be great (or not, we’ll find out), but the way its bendy, slinky Slugcat pounces and prowls is enough to make me want to play it. You can see a bunch of brief videos here.
Sea of Thieves
Rare’s next game is a multiplayer pirate ‘em up. We don’t know much about Sea of Thieves, except that we’ve seen ships (manned by multiple players) blasting each other with cannons, and tropical islands with swords and skeletons and treasure. The implication is that we’ll band together with friends, own a ship and sail around competing with other gangs for loot—I don’t know how that’ll work, or if I’m even reading it right, but it’s enticing.
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
I love the Red Orchestra series’ roleplaying teamwork and asymmetrical battles. I’m also fascinated by the Vietnam War—more than World War II—which is probably thanks to 80s and 90s American filmmaking. Put ‘em together, and I’m interested.
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
I was more invested in Divinity: Original Sin than probably any other game last year. It completely enthralled both me and the partner I played the entire 80+ hour campaign with. It was long but never dragged, deep but understandable, and the few complaints I had didn’t spoil the massive amount of time I shoveled into it. Simply put, it was incredibly challenging and fun and, given the choice, I’d do it all over again.
So when Larian Studios announced they were working on an Enhanced Edition of Original Sin, I was elated at the idea of pouring another 80 hours into a game I had already beaten. By the end of my first playthrough, there was still a lot more I wanted to do—and a lot that was added after I was already mid campaign, such as new companions. I’ll be able to make those choices and experience those new things without feeling like I’m just retracing my steps. And it’ll be a great refresher leading into their recently announced sequel.
I am a huge sucker for first-person puzzle games set in beautiful environments, so The Witness (and its lack of release date) is my enigmatic kryptonite.
[Update: What perfect timing, The Witness just got a release date.]
I’ve expressed some concerns with Overwatch’s bland character abilities, but the world Blizzard is building is extremely fresh and exciting.
I love games that double as big, AI sandoxes. Setting, story and theme are welcome too, but I'm happiest when I get to play with and manipulate a game's computerised people. MGS 5 is scratching that itch at the moment—giving me puzzle box spaces filled with systems that favour a logical approach. By December, I'll be looking for something new, and Hitman could be the perfect replacement. There are still a lot of questions surrounding the semi-episodic release, but everything Io has said and shown suggests a game filled with large levels and AI that responds dynamically to what you do. What Io studio head Hannes Seifert told me about Hitman's AI during Gamescom had me excited about the possibilities. If they really can pack each level with clever ways to subvert its characters, we could be on the verge of the best Hitman to date.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Has it really been four years since I last crouched in a vent? Since I last activated my glowing rocket legs to slam into a road full of guards, knocking them hither and thither? Yes it has, and I'm more than ready to do it all over again.
I don't even care about the new features. It's a Bethesda RPG, so I'm going to put hundreds of hours into it.
Just Cause 3
There's a lot of cerebral, systems-based gaming on the way. Just Cause 3 will be a welcome break, featuring brainless action with amazing explosions.
Dark Souls 3
Creative director of the bulk of the Souls series Hidetaka Miyazaki didn’t have access to books at his reading level as a kid. He spent most of his time reading advanced texts, replacing comprehension with imagination wherever necessary. The Souls games have reflected this ethos in their mythopoetic landscapes and enemy design that suggest massive, rich histories without explicitly stating much at all. It’s just a bummer the first few games were so limited graphically.
Heresy, I know, but Bloodborne, a PS4 exclusive, was the first souls game with enough detail in the environments, animation, and character design to truly complete the emotional palette I feel Miyazaki shot for with the other games. And since Dark Souls 3 isn’t held back by last generation’s consoles, it’s going to look so, so good on PC. I hope. I’m incredibly excited for another deep dive into the oppressive, somber tones of a Dark Souls game, even if the formula might feel a bit worn out for some. Even if it is more of the same (and good for it), it’s hard to ignore Bloodborne’s influence on what we’ve seen so far. Enemies seem more aggressive and combat looks quicker, but don’t fret, no werewolves yet.
Other games I’m excited about:
I just want VR already. While ADR1FT seems to be about spectacle and unease, or what I’m least interested about in VR, it still looks pretty great. Experiencing panic in zero-g is on the bucket list.
Little is known about the next game from the creators of Limbo other than what we’ve seen in the trailer. What’s there makes sure inspires a sense of mundane dread, which is exactly what I was hoping for. It’s debuting on the Xbox first and we likely won’t see it this year on PC, but I refuse to be anything but excited.
If there aren’t mods for different breeds of dogs, I’m out.
A heist game from the creator of the inimitable Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving, Quadrilateral Cowboy invites you to program your way through high-tech security to commit flawless, untraceable crimes. Your greatest weapon is a portable terminal that can be used to reprogram laser grids, disable alarms and unlock doors—but only for a few desperate moments. The perfect heist requires precise timing, and an ability to unscrew panels and send hacking commands with sweaty palms.
I've been excited about QC since playing an early prototype. It's a sharp puzzle game, and it feels great to glide through a facility, doors opening before you and laser grids deactivating themselves as your hacking sequence unfolds. I've missed Blendo's stylish art, and warm sense of humour. Who wouldn't want to play a game with this mission statement: "when you have a top-of-the-line hacking deck armed with a 56.6k modem and a staggering 256k RAM, it means just one thing: you answer only to the highest bidder."
We haven't seen anything new of the game for a while, but it's still on course for release this year.
Other games I'm excited about.
I'm sending Sergeant Balls Balls on one last job. Maybe this time he won't get killed and zombified. Who am I kidding, he's a dead man.
Total War: Warhammer
Playing this will feel like travelling back in time to high-five my 15 year old self, in the best possible way.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Just the sort of sci-fi world I want to wander around in. Will Jensen be able to look in a mirror without smashing it? Will Malik return? Will art director Jonathan Jacques Belettete's enthusiasm for triangles finally be sated?
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
If we had a stronger idea of how The Division actually works from moment-to-moment, that game might occupy this slot. Now I'm actually more excited about the new open world Ghost Recon game that has you and your friends smashing drug rings in Bolivia. Ubisoft open worlds tend to feel quite samey (climb a tower, grab a plant, hit an outpost) but Wildlands incorporates salt flats, jungles and deserts in one huge space, and then lets you approach the zone however you like. It could be ace.
But what are YOUR most anticipated games, good readers?