A few days ago I was scrolling through GameInformer’s list of upcoming releases to help plan out the games (and hardware) that I’ll be buying throughout the rest of the year. The first thing I was shocked to find was just how many titles were on the list. Starting with tomorrow’s releases, there are 418 more releases confirmed for 2016. Here are some of my most anticipated games on that list and why I’m excited for them.
I won’t mix words here…the Uncharted series is my favorite gaming franchise of all time. Naughty Dog has proven their excellence time and time again and, after some turbulence in Uncharted 4‘s development, recent previews show that things are shaping up very nicely. The addition of narrative choice in cutscenes, more reliable stealth gameplay, and much broader spaces for enemy encounters point towards a game where player choice is much more respected than in prior entries. That’s not to say the more linear nature of the prior Uncharted games was an issue, but more player choice can only mean an increased sense of player investment and agency. I can’t wait to see how Uncharted 4 uses that to its advantage.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Despite being slated as Sony’s tentpole exclusive for Fall 2016, we know very little about Horizon Zero Dawn. Personally, that’s what excites me the most about it. It was a perfectly executed reveal at last year’s Sony E3 press conference. A quick glimpse into the distant future through the eyes of Aloy. The game promises to bring an incredible sense of scale with humans living in groups reminiscient of Native American tribes trying to carve out a place in a world filled with sentient robot dinsoaurs. What more could you ask for in an open-world AAA game?
Although we’ve been in the “next generation” of game consoles for over two years now, VR is what many are considering to be the true generational leap. With the Occulus Rift and HTC Vive headsets already on the market and PlayStation VR launching this October, there’s sure to be plenty of VR games shown off at this year’s E3. Personally, cockpit games jump out to me as the most appealing application of VR. Sony has already promised plenty of experiences in this category, with Eve Valkyrie, Ace Combat 7, and it’s own RIGS confirmed to be leading the way. Sony and EA also teased a partnership at GDC 2016 that will bring a Star Wars Battlefront experience exclusively to PSVR. It’s hard to believe that EA will miss this opportunity to put VR players in the cockpit of some of the most iconic fighters in the Star Wars universe…and I can’t wait.
LEGO Star Wars
Speaking of Battlefront, one of the biggest disappointments last year was its lack of a single player campaign. TT Games is looking to rectify that in a way only they could. LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens looks to be an evolution of the LEGO formula that’s been present across ten games in the last two years. In addition to a humerous take on The Force Awakens‘ story, TT Games has promised stronger LEGO builds and puzzles, new dogfighting gameplay sections, and an expanded story built out around the movie. If you enjoyed Episode VII but aren’t sold on the game yet, check out the reveal trailer…
Gears of War 4
The Gears of War series is one that I’ve gotten away from. I vividly remember playing the first game in my college dorm room marveling at the graphics and gameplay that built the foundation for the entire modern third-person cover shooter genre. Somewhere along the way I got caught up in other games and the appeal of the series got away from me. Since then, the rights to the IP have transferred hands from Epic to Microsoft and Black Tusk Studios rebranded themselves as The Coalition to serve as custodians of the franchise.
As a part of this transition, Gears of War 4 was revealed with a seven minute gameplay teaser at E3 2015. Although it’s a numbered sequel, the story here seems more like a connected reboot of sorts. Gears 4 takes place over the course of one night and sees JD Fenix (Marcus Fenix’s son), his friend Del, and an outsider named Kait on the run from the COG. The gameplay shown at E3 is dripping with suspense and horror vibes and cluminates in the exact sort of weighty, cover-to-cover firefight we’ve come to expect from the series. With the gameplay looking solid as ever, my biggest hope for Gears 4 is that The Coalition will take the opportunity to bring a stronger narrative focus to the series.
No Man’s Sky
Since its initial reveal in 2013, No Man’s Sky has been an enigma. The promise of an endless open world filled with limitless possibilities has become so commonplace in PR that when a small, independent developer comes along telling an all-too-familiar tale, it’s easy to dismiss. Since December 2013, however, Sean Murray and his team at Hello Games have doubled down on that promise and shown time and time again (at least, the best they can in 20 minute chunks) that No Man’s Sky could be the first game to live up to its lofty claims. With a procedurally generated universe, Hello Games says it’s impossible to visit every planet in the game. Instead, players will be placed on their own random, uninhabited planet on the outer rim of the galaxy with the goal of traveling to its center. During the journey, players are able to name planets and species they discover. Those names will carry over into other players’ games should someone stumble across the same planet.
It’s hard not to get sucked in by Sean Murray’s enthusiasm as he demos the game on stage at E3 or even on Steven Colbert’s Late Night. In many ways, there’s still so much to find out about No Man’s Sky despite its release being only two months away. With a game this hyped though, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the curiosity.
Pokémon Sun/Moon were revealed with little fanfare in a special Nintendo direct last month celebrating the 20th anniversary of Pokémon. With no gameplay footage to speak of and only a few pieces of concept art, we don’t know much about the next adventure in the Pokémon universe. We do know that the game will be on the 3DS and continue with an evolution of the graphical syle of Pokémon X/Y and Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. It marks the start of a new era in the Pokémon franchise and takes place in a new world separate from the Kalos region that Pokémon X/Y is set in. Hopefully this means we’ll see some beefed up visuals and, after issues plagued X/Y and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, stronger performance while using the 3D screen on the 3DS.
Originally announced as a Spring 2016 title and subsequently delayed, Microsoft has confirmed that ReCore is still on for a second half 2016 release. This is another title we know very little about. It was announced with a three minute teaser trailer at E3 last year and we haven’t seen anything from the game since. The game is shrouded in mystery so far, but the trailer does give us a few hints.
The most important piece of information about the game is that it’s being developed by Keiji Inafune of Mega Man fame and Armature Studio, a group made up of former Metroid Prime developers. Both of those franchises are based heavily on boss battles and gaining new abilities. ReCore has the look of a game that could follow those same principles. The end of the reveal trailer shows hints of a large boss battle and the use of different fighting abilities from both the human and robot characters. Although Armature Studio has been incredibly successful in porting games to new hardware platforms, its one independent effort, Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate, was met with middling critical reception. My hope for ReCore is that the promise of Inafune and Armature’s collaboration comes to fruition in a game that would make Metroid and Mega Man fans proud.