With E3 over and just over a week to kill until I get “The Last of Us” (which is apparently incredible), I figured now is a good time to briefly talk about the five upcoming games I’m most looking forward to. The criteria I’m sticking to are games that have been announced and have had footage shown for them, but not necessarily a release date (Q1 2014 and such is alright, but not “We’re making a sequel to ____ and it’ll be out sometime in the future”). So let’s get to it.
1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2014)
Holy shit, where to start… Open-world MGS with real-time weather, vehicles, realistic day/night cycle with organic gameplay and a dark, adult, rather disturbing and unpleasant story that seems to detail that final leap from hero to terrorist for Big Boss (now called “Punished Snake”)? My money. Take it. As much as you like. A composite project consisting of “Ground Zeroes” and “The Phantom Pain”, MGS V is a new take on the series- as seen in the E3 2013 trailer the open world is beautifully detailed and the tactical options woven into the gameplay look great. The new story follows on from “Peace Walker” and involves Snake awaking from a nine year coma to find his private army and home based destroyed, his left arm cut off and “the whole world” wanting him dead, leaving him wanting revenge on a rather large scale (as seen in the first two trailers for the game). The story is the real draw here for me (I love “Metal Gear Solid 3” and I’m currently playing through “Peace Walker”, which so far is excellent, so I’m keen to see what appears to be the final chapter for “Naked Snake” as a heroic figure)- I love the new direction they’re taking with it, particularly the much darker tone, and I want to see the inevitable downfall of Big Boss and the forming of Outer Heaven. I’m also happy to see the gameplay continue to evolve from “Peace Walker”, and the series as a whole still keep the high standards I attribute to it. Big Boss’ downfall seems to have been saved for the biggest, darkest and best “Metal Gear Solid” game yet, and if they can pull it off, it’s going to be amazing.
Oh, and a quick word on the casting of Kiefer Sutherland as Snake- of course I would rather see David Hayter return to the role he made his own over every game Snake’s appeared in, but I do get why they made the change. I’m willing to wait and see how it sounds in the final game- I do like Keifer Sutherland, and were it an original character I’d applaud the choice.
2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (November 2013)
I have wanted an “Assassin’s Creed” game about pirates since the second game. Seriously. I remember running around Forli as Ezio thinking “This is great and all, but it’d be even better if Ezio was a pirate.” Well, presumably a slow-acting Ubisoft satellite was passing over the East Midlands of England that day (for some reason) because “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” is on the way. Acting as a prequel to AC III, the game focuses on Edward Kenway- legendarily badass pirassin (if that isn’t word, it should be) and best friend to Black Beard as he steals, murders and free-runs his away through “The golden age of piracy”. The ship captain sections of AC III were very well implemented, and they’re set to return, which is a plus. The more tropical setting, tavern fights and the new focus on exploration are all promising, and even the least innovative game in the series was still decent. My only reservation is that seeing as the historical narrative is a prequel, that could mean the present day story is too, which would mean a return for Desmond. Having said that, it’s an “Assassin’s Creed” game about pirates. I’m very much giving it the benefit of the doubt at this point.
3. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (Late summer apparently. It was delayed again recently)
There are two genres of video games I am particularly fond of: stealth and survival horror. Like many I’m not satisfied by the current mainstream attempts at horror, particularly “Resident Evil”‘s on-going effort to tear itself asunder (although apparently “Revelations” was a return to the good times, so maybe someone at Capcom finally noticed the Resi train was hurtling towards a river and slammed the breaks on), but unlike several gaming publications and websites I am not at all of the opinion that Shinji Mikami’s “The Evil Within” is going to “save survival horror”, for two reasons: the game doesn’t sound like much at all, and survival horror doesn’t need saving- it just moved on to Steam. “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” was an amazing example of how to do horror properly, and even the mere mention of this pseudo-sequel was enough to get me excited when it was announced. Featuring a story arguably more bleak than the last one revolving around a wealth industrialist who did something unspeakable in Mexico and suffering from months worth of fevered dreams involving a machine that grinds up pigs (and other things, depending on what you consider to be a pig…) the two brief trailers look even scarier than the first game (very dark rooms, machinery and some horrific, unseen pig-monster is a great combination it seems), which in itself is an achievement. I have my eye on this one- it looks to continue the work “The Dark Descent” started.
On a similar note, Red barrels’ “Outlast” (which follows a similar formula but in a modern setting) also looks to be scary, tense and enjoyable, although the story premise is less interesting in my opinion.
4. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (December 2013)
Apart from the demo released on PSN, I haven’t played “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow”. The sequel makes me want to rectify that as soon as possible. The original was a reboot to the classic franchise with a “God of War”-esque gameplay style, a few “Shadow of the Collosus” boss fights and exploration, with one big thing that stuck out for me: at the end of the game, hero Gabriel Belmont becomes Dracula, or “Dracul” as he puts it (respectively “Son of the dragon” and “The dragon” in Romanian). I thought that was an interesting move, and I’m glad to see the sequel picks up on it: the gameplay footage shown at E3 starts with Gabriel/Dracula in his castle, with human knights storming the place to try and kill him “Hammer horror” style. Dracula can feed on human enemies as well as his regular melee attacks, and upon him leaving his throne room to travel outside the sense of scale and graphical polish is excellent. So it looks like it runs and plays nice and smoothly, but the stand-out thing for me is the concept- playing as a badass, old-timey vampire who fights other monsters, drinks human blood and used to be a crusading champion for the good and the just is a great idea. In the mean time, I’m going to pick up the first game and see what I missed.
Oh, remember Alucard- Dracula’s son and the playable character for the superb “Castlevania: Symphony of the night”? Well he’s coming for Dracula, and he’s out for blood. This just keeps getting better.
5. Watch Dogs (November 2013)
Ubisoft’s cyber-terroism-’em-up could go either way, really. The shooting, takedowns and free-running are nothing new, but the real promise comes from protagonist Aiden’s super phone that can hack into a variety of objects including (but not limited to) traffic barriers, cameras, traffic lights, the city’s power grid and ATMs. Pretty much anything, within reason, and it all yields gameplay benefits. My worry is that each hack will be used in a very linear way to serve pre-planned story encounters, but I’m hoping that won’t be the case and that the gameplay will have a more organic feel to it. Although not original the shooting, chases and the like all look solid, and seem to serve the narrative nicely. I’m remaining cautiously optimistic about “Watch Dogs”, and I’ll be picking it up regardless.
So those are the five upcoming games I’m most looking forward to, but that’s not all of them- “inFAMOUS: Second Son”, “The Wolf Among Us” and “The Walking Dead: 400 Days” all caught my eye also, just not to the same extent these five did.
By James Lambert