Spencer Smith ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Contributor
2015 was quite the year in games–there were plenty of interesting releases with more of an emphasis on both indie and AAA titles. 2016 is looking to be more of an AAA year, at least at the moment with so many huge titles coming out. It seems only fitting to look at some of the most exciting and interesting that’ll be coming out. From robo-dinos to master assassins to bird-dogs, this list is a testament to the uniqueness of the current gaming industry.
10. Horizon Zero Dawn
It was hard to decide what to place at the bottom of the list, since outside of the nine games below, the rest of the titles announced for 2016 are all iffy. Let’s ease in with an original title. Outside of the three originals later on this list, only two stuck out tentatively: Firewatch and Horizon Zero Dawn. Both have their own fair share of what look like weird, bad game design choices, but Horizon–although seeming like a standard third person shooter–appears to have an interesting world to explore. You play a female character in a world full of dino-robots in what looks like a post-apocalyptic Lara Croft game. The real promise is the open world that is relatively unique for a game and will hopefully overshadow what looks a bit generic of gameplay. So at the moment, Horizon Zero Dawn starts off this list.
9. Mass Effect Andromeda
Most would be shocked to find the long-awaited sequel to one of the previous generation’s most beloved franchises sitting just above Horizon Zero Dawn, but the reason it’s so low on the list is because not nearly enough is known about Andromeda to warrant quite as much excitement. The promise of more Mass Effect is always a plus, and the claim that the game will have more world exploration and RPG elements stuffed into it is all well and good. But in this modern world, video game trailers are sometimes compulsive liars and even gameplay footage can deceive the public, so there needs to be some solid evidence before Andromeda can sit higher on the list. However, if the promises made are true, Andromeda will make a huge splash. The idea of more planets to explore in a Mass Effect game–while having that signature BioWare storytelling–is something that the world could use at this point.
While Hitman: Absolution wasn’t a bad stealth game, it also wasn’t a great Hitman game. However, IO Interactive seems to have listened to the fans, and the new Hitman throws out Absolution’s linear, restrictive missions in place of the traditional sprawling non-linear maps with numerous ways for players to sneak about and kill off your target wearing as many silly hats as possible. The game even seems to explore new and interesting ways to kill people in a franchise that has seen almost all of them. Originally, this may have been higher on the list, but the announcement of an episodic format changed this. Players could spend hours on one level to milk out maximum hours of gameplay, but on the other hand, spreading out a game in episodes may result in extremely long periods of waiting. However, taking it all in small amounts may be best, since Hitman has proven itself time and again to be lethally fun–pun intended. The endless stream of creative, blackly comedic ways to kill targets and screw with the world seems to be intact, unlike Absolution, and it’s a welcome return to form for the series.
7: The Division
The real question left to ask The Division is simply, will it work? The massive city used for both single player and multiplayer playthroughs is a great idea. The Division is set in a crumbling New York City as players fight or team up with the many other survivors populating the city. The game offers this vast city to explore with your own faction using tactical gameplay both online and offline, making it like a MMORPG but also claiming that offline will be equally playable. While the game looks incredibly dense in its gameplay and looks fun to play offline and online, the real question, again, is will it work? An MMO that goes against conventions runs the risk of alienating MMO players; likewise, if all the effort goes into the multiplayer, then maybe it’ll be full of NPC’s with about as much coding as an Atari 2600 game. Hopefully this won’t be the case, and if the game succeeds, we’ll have a deep open world game that is also a good MMO, which will officially make it the first.
6: No Man’s Sky
True freedom is something that has been on the very tip of every open world game imaginable, and while there are many great open world games out there, you can’t help but feel a bit limited by the world since it’s usually just more of an open city. But here comes No Man’s Sky, which instead of just a real open world game, it’s an open galaxy game! Yes indeed, No Man’s Sky sounds incredibly awesome on paper with the idea of endlessly generated planets to explore in your own space ship as you fly around galaxies effortlessly. While there is the danger of repetitiveness, No Man’s Sky has so far presented the best it has to offer–it looks gorgeous, and there’s even some non-exploration gameplay, so it doesn’t just wind up being a space flight simulator. As of now, expectations are beyond the stratosphere for this game, and while its lofty ambitions are what keeps it from crowning this list in this current day and age, there certainly is no way to leave it off a list like this. Hopefully, the dream of having your own mini Enterprise will finally be realized in the modern world.
At this point, there is no denying that Bethesda gets DOOM. The original FPS is still considered by many to be better than any other FPS game since it’s “actually fun,” and unlike DOOM 3, it seems that Bethesda has created something that not only admires the first two DOOM games but also tries to obsessively impress fans by going all-out in emulating DOOM. It practically looks like DOOM was transferred to the modern era: the action looks fast, the guns look awesome, and it seems there’s no slowing down on Doomguy’s voyage into Hell as he fights, dismembers, burns, blasts, and chainsaws his way through anything remotely animate in his path. It looks like pure, genocidal fun that so many other modern shooters forget, but any game in which a finishing move has you literally dislocating an enemies leg and smashing into their face like an intense version of “stop hitting yourself” instantly deserves more praise than the modern FPS, which try to make killing racist caricatures more fun than the endless stream of demonic Hellspawn.
4: Uncharted 4
The Uncharted franchise has always been Naughty Dog’s ace in the hole when it came to their storytelling and design. While many continue to argue about how The Last of Us was some kind of watershed moment for being more like a movie than an actual game, Naughty Dog’s greatest strength lay in Nathan Drake. The Uncharted trilogy is a rarity, as it’s a trilogy of games with impeccably written and paced adventure stories with room for fun and for some dramatic moments along the way. What makes Uncharted 4 exciting is that it doesn’t look like some cash grab, but rather what The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should have been–taking the Uncharted story a bit further in drama but still keeping one foot firmly in the realm of fun and adventure. Does it look like the same gameplay as before? Yes, but it also looks like a welcome return to the spectacular world of Nathan Drake and his crew with the production values of a Spielberg action movie. Seriously, how can you not be at least a little bit excited about that?
3: Dark Souls 3
The first Dark Souls is one of the most intrinsically designed games of the previous generation of gaming–if not all generations–and that’s why From Software kept changing it with attempted new mechanics that simply counterbalanced the gameplay. While Dark Souls III has the Dark Souls II enemy palette of dudes in armor, it does look like a refreshing return to the original roots of the franchise. The gameplay seems to have returned to the traditional concept without the unwanted gimmicks of II or Bloodborne. III looks like the first game was transported to a bigger realm with more of that engaging gameplay, as can be seen in the few clips online. It’s all the more welcome for the year; after all, From Software still knows how to make a better combat system than most of the supposed “action-adventure” games being made now.
2: XCOM 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of the best games of its year, and even then, it had some flaws. Despite Enemy Unknown‘s mind-numbingly deep turn-based combat–which was linked to a surprisingly engaging base-building system–XCOM 2 looks like it’s learned a bit from past mistakes. Maybe it doesn’t seem to fix the errors from before, but it seems to have improved all the stuff that made Enemy Unknown great. The combat is deeper, with more options on how to attack the enemy, like ambushes, hacking, and weapons. The enemies are more intelligent and difficult, as seen in the gameplay videos, and really, what more could you want from another XCOM game? You tactfully outwit your enemies with endlessly engaging options while building on your victories by creating a certified dream team, all hopefully named after your friends to invest yourself further in having them defeat the lecherous alien threat. XCOM–strengthening friendships day after day.
1: The Last Guardian
Fumito Ueda is responsible for two of the greatest games ever made (Shadow of the Colossus and ICO), and after nine years of waiting, this modern gaming world needs someone like Ueda more than ever. Ueda was one of the first developers to take a video game and do something completely new with it. While others will argue for other developers in the Japanese auteur club, Ueda can be argued as the best and most mature of all. Ueda took the concept of a video game and used it to express unique artistic meaning. He made wholly unique games that went against video game standards. The game itself looks very interesting, with usual Ueda-esque uniqueness with his and Team ICO’s legendary game design, but whether The Last Guardian becomes known as the Apocalypse Now or the Waterworld of the gaming world doesn’t really matter. Rather, it’s existence matters. Having The Last Guardian finally released is something of a minor blessing; it’s a chance for a big title to show the new generation how games can have meaning–not just through cutscenes, but by the way it should be–the game as a whole, and sometimes the industry, needs AAA games to remind us why gaming is one of the most interesting arts around.