Expectations are high as Spencer Fawcett breaks down upcoming game releases he’s most excited about.
While there were plenty of disappointments in 2015, let’s not dwell on the past - the important thing is to always look forward. There are plenty of games coming out this year, though it’s always possible some might be delayed. However, as of right this moment, these are my most anticipated games of 2016.
5. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (August 23rd, 2016)
The sequel to 2011’s surprise hit, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mankind Divided takes place two years after Human Revolution and continues the story of Adam Jensen – the augmented detective. After the events of Human Revolution, those who were augmented are segregated and the attitude towards them has worsened. In response to the reprehensible treatment of the augmented, terrorist attacks start happening in Prague. Adam Jensen investigates and connects the attacks to events that took place in Human Revolution.
Mankind Divided’s central core is segregation within a mechanical apartheid – mankind’s vast history of forced discriminatory population separation is interesting ground to play on. There is even an area called Utulek Station which is an internment camp for augmented individuals.
Mankind Divided gameplay has also vastly improved with more upgrades to Adam Jensen as he shoots out electronic darts and shields himself from enemy fire. The developers have been improving various ways the player can traverse the world - the level design lends itself to more vertical and creative solutions to obstacles. Mankind Divided seems like it’s moving in the right direction, with developers making the necessary improvements over Human Revolution.
4. Dark Souls III (April 12th, 2016)
The Dark Souls series, known for its punishing yet rewarding difficulty, remains the top series for many gamers that got a taste of Demon’s Souls in 2009 – myself included. It wasn’t until Dark Souls released in 2011 that the series’ cult-popularity exploded, with substantial growth of its own loyal fanbase. When the game’s director – Hidetaka Miyazaki – passed on the development of Dark Souls II to work on Bloodborne, it was evident that he was the driving creative force for that entire series. Bosses’ move-sets were re-used and the level design was not nearly as intricate as on the other games Miyazaki had led the creative. The disappointments were mitigated by downloadable content that improved on level design and lore. But, these were merely bandages on a crippled product.
Dark Souls III brings Miyazaki back as creative director, as evidenced by the warped character and creative boss designs. The world is familiar territory for anyone who trounced through Bloodborne earlier this year. While Bloodborne took advantage of the omission of a shield for faster gameplay and combat, Dark Souls III brings the defensive playstyle back, while adding “Ready Stance,” which are abilities that allow players to cause more damage to enemies than can be produced with ordinary attacks. Additionally, there will also be more of an emphasis in role-playing elements that the Souls series touched upon but never took advantage of.
With a return to the complex level design of previous entries, Dark Souls III looks to be the improvement and sequel that is expected out of this critically lauded series.
3. Mafia III (2016)
My involvement with the Mafia series peaked with gameplay footage of Mafia II (Aug. 2010) about a typical gang of Italians and made men, Dons, and one man’s goal to rise through the ranks, back on the last generation of consoles. The upcoming Mafia title has the player in control of Lincoln Clay, a black Vietnam War veteran seeking revenge against the mafia that killed his friends in an open world 1968 New Orleans. The tension is palpable in Mafia III with the new setting and character. And any personal bias I have for New Orleans and its beautiful French/Spanish architecture is mitigated by the reality that New Orleans is rife with crime and corruption – even in 2015.
Mafia III gives the player options to enter a room delicately, or armed to the teeth, as you remove guards from the premises one-by-one. As the player overtakes the Italian mob’s empire, you can appoint lieutenants to taken territories, one of whom is the protagonist from Mafia II, which will please series fans as the world continues to grow and expand. Not much else is known on Mafia III, but with New Orleans as a setting, my interest is piqued to play it come 2016 release day if it can execute the narrative with complex themes and the violence that comes along for the ride.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (April 2016)
It has been a long, successful road for developer Naughty Dog. From Crash Bandicoot on PlayStation 1 to The Last of Us to Uncharted, a list of quality games populates their portfolio. Naughty Dog’s first foray into the next generation of consoles – Last of Us Remastered not withstanding – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End chronicles the end of series protagonist Nathan Drake’s adventures. Uncharted 4 takes place years after Uncharted 3 as Nate has settled down with his wife, only to be disrupted by his thought to be dead brother, Sam. Together they globetrot to find pirate treasure. From the gameplay demos, Uncharted 4 seamlessly blends action set-pieces, from vehicle sections to grappling hooks to being dragged through the mud.
With the Uncharted Collection – Uncharted 1-3 remastered for PS4 – the Uncharted 4 beta was only accessible for a limited amount of time. The level of interaction the player has with the environment has increased over previous Uncharted games. Uncharted 4 offers the verticality of previous Uncharted multiplayer games while increasing the player’s mobility, who now can swing through pre-determined points on a level. Players are also able to buy weapons and abilities during multiplayer games through cash earned by collecting treasure and killing other players. My favorite was a mini-gun bodyguard that followed you around and focused opponent’s fire on them so you could get the drop on the enemy.
Naughty Dog’s seal of quality can be felt with Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. And it would’ve been my most anticipated if I hadn’t been waiting for something even longer.
1. The Last Guardian (2016)
The Last Guardian, from developer Team Ico of Ico and Shadow of Colossus fame, was originally supposed to be a PlayStation 3 game. But constant and maddening delays had people wondering if the game would even release. At E3 2015, a gameplay trailer was shown for The Last Guardian and the story about a boy and his massive pet called Trico was finally a reality.
The player controls a little boy working together with Trico – a creature that is close to being described as a griffin – solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles. What stuck out about The Last Guardian was the companionship between Trico and the young boy. Every time the boy was in danger of falling to his demise, Trico was there to pick him right up. And every time Trico was in danger, you were there for him. The growing bond between these two characters is something similarly experimented on and used as a marketing gimmick in other games. In other AAA games, you’re usually told that you and a creature are friends and companions. But, you never feel it.
In Fallout 4, my companions are my personal storage units that occasionally talk. In Bioshock: Infinite, Elizabeth was there to throw me money and ammo. In Resident Evil 4,5,6 they are a nuisance. The Last Guardian forces you to depend on your companion as they also must depend on you. The last time that I felt a connection to an animal in a game was Team Ico’s own Shadow of the Colossus where you rode your trusty stead, Agro, and conquered the Colossi.
Spencer Fawcett is a screenwriter who also does production work for NBC/Universal. He has written for Parade Magazine and ASUs The State Press. Twitter: Whizbang813