If 2014 was the games industry’s transitional year, 2015 could see the major developers and publishers finally getting into their groove with the current consoles.
Both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have hugely promising titles on their slates, while Nintendo is about to pummel its patient Wii U owners with major in-house productions. And of course, it’s set to be another ridiculously busy year for the PC and its dominant digital gaming platform, Steam.
To get you in the mood, here are our most anticipated titles of the coming twelve months.
The familiar names
This is the games industry, so naturally there will be gang of aging Goliaths chucking massive piles of cash around in order to dominate the charts. At the forefront, London’s Rocksteady Studios has its last Batman title, Arkham Knight lined up, pitching the caped crusader – and his car – against an anonymous super villain in a vast open Gotham. There’s also Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, in which Venom Snake sneaks around a series of detailed environments battling the Soviets, and Star Wars: Battlefront, in which Battlefield developer EA Dice promises to bring its visceral shooter action to the Star Wars universe. (Dice is also working on the return of its cult sci-fi parkour-fest Mirror’s Edge, but maybe don’t hold your breath for that one.)
Sexy treasure hunters will figure highly this year. While Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is set to document the twilight of Nathan Drake’s adventuring career, Rise of the Tomb Raider (a timed Xbox One exclusive on console, let’s not forget) is all about the beginning of Lara Croft’s. Both should set new benchmarks for the cinematic action adventure genre. Talking about sexy things, adult-orientated role-playing epic Witcher 3 could well be this year’s Grand Theft Auto, filled as it is with crunching violence, psychopathic characters and... let’s say “loving relationships”. We mean sex.
On a lighter note, Nintendo is set to continue its strong run with the new Legend of Zelda title, which promises a major shake-up to the formula, including a true open-world environment, and more mature art style. We also love the look of Yoshi’s Woolly World, a gorgeous handicrafty platformer in the style of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Mario Maker, a creative tool for Wii U that lets you construct your own Super Mario levels. And don’t forget Splatoon, Nintendo’s unlikely answer to Counter-Strike.
The big newcomers
Amid a flirtatious gaggle of mainstream debutantes, we’re especially exited about Evolve, the asymmetrical multiplayer sci-fi shooter, in which four players are hunters and one is a rapidly evolving space monster. Left 4 Dead creator Turtle Rock Studios may just have the online hit of the year on its blood-stained hands.
Although there is likely to be stiff competition from Tom Clancy’s The Division, a co-operative squad-based strategy shooter set in a near-future America devastated by a modern plague. It’s all set in a persistent environment, complete with dynamic events, where survival elements and trading augment the tactical action. Think Ghost Recon meets DayZ.
On the subject of DayZ, we can expect Dean Hall’s zombie survival game to go through more iterations this year; it’ll be accompanied by other undead lurkers including brutal Los Angeles-based sequel Dead island 2 and Techland’s open world chiller, Dying Light.
From Japan comes a duo of major genre heavyweights. Bayonetta creator Platinum Games has its giant monster slaying combo romp Scalebound charged and ready to fly. Dark Souls fanatics will also preparing hundreds of hours in their schedule for Bloodborne, the latest unforgiving action adventure from sadistic genius Hidetaka Miyazaki, this time set in a goth punk world of Lovecraftian horror.
Finally, there are some intriguing console exclusives. Sony has its Victorian-set thriller, The Order: 1886, while Microsoft is set to unleash Remedy Entertainment’s transmedia sci-fi romp Quantum Break. As a showdown, it should at least be more progressive than Sunset Overdrive vs Infamous: Second Son.
The indie hopefuls
With all the major console manufacturers desperate to prove their indie credentials (you never know where the next Minecraft is coming from, after all), 2015 is set to be another boom year for small studios.
The space exploration sim No Man’s Sky has turned up on everyone’s must-have list for the year, boasting a vast, freely explorable universe and an emphasis on discovery rather than destruction. Jonathan Blow’s follow-up to seminal indie hit Braid also looks fascinating – The Witness is a first-person puzzler set on a mysterious island that hints at a modern take on PC classic Myst.
Then you’ve got Mike Bithell’s Volume, a stealth adventure set in a sort of cyberpunk version of the Robin Hood myth. And on Xbox One, we have high hopes for Below, a “roguelike” adventure from Capy Games and mystical platform adventure Ori and the Blind Forest by Moon Studios, highlighted by Xbox chief Phil Spencer at E3 as one of his favourite forthcoming titles. For us, though, one of the treasures of that massive conference was Night in the Woods, a beautifully illustrated adventure following a disillusioned cat as she considers leaving her backward hometown.
Away from the console wars, we’re looking forward to plenty more offbeat experiential adventures along the lines of 2014’s The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Firewatch is an eerie mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness; and Sunset, by Belgian art studio, Tale of Tales, has you playing a cleaner who must explore a single apartment while revolution stirs in the unnamed South American city. The ultra stylish puzzle shooter SuperHot also looks amazing, not just for its sparse visual aesthetic, but its unique feature: time, and therefore enemy bullets, only move when you do.
There will also be violence. The visceral blast-’em-up sequel Hotline Miami 2 isn’t going to pull any punches, neither is the ridiculous multiplayer animal brawler Gang Beasts, which was a hit on the festival circuit in 2014 and will be YouTube gold next year.
Well, that’s a section of what we have on our must-see list. There will inevitably be a new Call of Duty (probably from Black Ops studio Treyarch); EA Sports will tell us that it’s revolutionalising Fifa; Halo 5 is coming, as is sure-to-be-controversial cop shooter Battlefield: Hardline (the militarisiation of the police force has become quite a topic since the game was announced). Who knows how the Crackdown reboot will uodate its anarchic recipe for the current console generation.
Hopefully, though, there will also be plenty of leftfield surprises. No one saw the likes of Papers Please, Papa & Yo or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons coming, it would be great to see more emotionally challenging fare along similar lines. And hey, there’s always the chance of a Last Guardian announcement at E3. Come on, it’s 2015 now, miracles may happen.
What are you looking forward to next year? Let us know in the comments section!
This article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Monday 29th December 2014 10.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010