Chosen by: Callum McCole
Released: February 21, 2017
Developer: 343 Industries, Creative Assembly
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
I’m not optimistic that Halo Wars 2 is going to be an RTS game which I find particularly enjoyable since it’s primarily being designed to be played on an Xbox controller and for gamers who have minimal RTS experience. Yet still, Halo Wars 2 excites me due to the new influx of players it will bring to the genre and the possible results that could have. I’m a huge RTS enthusiast who does shoutcasting and YouTube content for a range of RTS games, so any chance for RTS to grow is something that delights me.
Halo is one of the strongest franchises in the industry, so a Halo RTS launched on Xbox and PC backed by the marketing budget of Microsoft will result in a lot of gamers dabbling in RTS for the first time. This could create a new resurgence of popularity for RTS, where gamers want to experience more after mastering Halo Wars 2, while more companies develop their own RTS adaptions of existing IPs after seeing the success of Halo Wars 2. It’s probably not going to happen on any significant scale, but Halo Wars 2 is my best hope for the genre to enter a new golden age anytime soon.
Halo Wars 2 also has a big focus on shipping with a variety of game modes, some of which are more basic to welcome new players to the concept of RTS. This is a great idea as one of the biggest issues with RTS is the inaccessibility and how stressful and daunting it can be to new players. I’ll be interested to see how successful these games modes are, and if it’s something that future RTS games will incorporate.
Chosen by: Bernadette Russell
Released: March 1, 2017
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Console exclusives generally get me excited because it seems they always go one of two ways: they end up on my list of best games ever, or they get shot out into no man’s sky to die a painful death. Either way, I know I’m in for an experience, and this year’s Horizon: Zero Dawn looks to be an epic experience waiting to happen.
The hero is a kickass redhead – I like it already – but it’s the lack of details around the narrative that has me counting down the days to release. From what I have seen, and the demo I played at EB Expo in October last year, I am confident the mysterious story is going to be every bit as brilliant as the game looked on the PS4 Pro. While the demo only gave us a single area to explore, it was enough to become immersed in the incredible art, detailed landscape, and an attention to detail which begged me to attempt to leave the demo area and really see the world. Sony saw me coming, however, and warned me to stop trying to escape the area.
There’s an exciting mix of rolling landscapes worth exploring and technology that serves as a living (not quite) breathing aspect of the adventure. Add in some humans that don’t quite seem to fit into any era, and a secret that I absolutely must uncover, and it all comes together to make for a game that will be up there with the best this year. While I’m eagerly awaiting other games this year, I can confidently say that I’ll leave my Xbox alone, and step away from my Nintendo consoles the second I get my hands-on Horizon. It’s not often a title on the PS4 tempts me, but the hype for Horizon is real.
Chosen by: Kit Fox
Released: March 3, 2017
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild needs no introduction from me. I can’t say anything about its characters except, big surprise, Link’s in it. I can’t tell you anything about its plot. I can’t even tell you where it falls in the timeline or if it spins off into a new tangent the Hyrule Historia doesn’t cover. What I can say, though, without all that information, is I’m damn excited.
Not because the game has gone open-world, a very buzzworthy aspect of a lot of productions lately. It’s not because it’s the next-gen Zelda we’ve been waiting for since Skyward Sword. It’s not even because it’s been shown off on Nintendo’s most intriguing console ever.
It’s just because it’s a new Zelda game! Like, come on! How often do we get a proper new Zelda game? They’re monumental! Zelda is the game that makes people buy Nintendo consoles! Almost twenty years later, people still lose their minds over how good Ocarina of Time was. I’ll always prefer Majora’s Mask, but you know what I mean.
Although there have been some great games the last few years, not many stuck with me very long after I finished them. Not like a great Zelda game. I can still tell you how it felt seeing the moon crash into Termina (not my finest moment), as well as slipping between worlds, transforming into a wolf, shrinking to the size of a pea, commanding the wind and travelling through time.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is sure to be the next grand adventure in the incredible world of Hyrule, and I can’t wait to make some new memories with Link!
Chosen by: Patrick Waring
Released: March 10, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
NieR: Automata wasn’t my initial pick for the game I’m most hanging out to play. I wasn’t exactly quick off the mark in calling a title to write about, and, as a result, everything I would have picked got
stolen by jerks chosen by the rest of the team. Except for Nick, he can keep his silly mechs and whatnot. I’ve been vaguely aware of the first NieR for some time but never actually played it, and hadn’t even heard about Drakengard. I played Automata’s demo on a whim and a suggestion from Will that I might be somewhat into it. He might have been somewhat right.
When it comes to games, the ones I truly love to a fault are those that exhibit a high volume of “strange as shit.” It’s usually in the story or characters that I find that sort of thing most appealing, but Automata’s gameplay, at least in the demo, piqued my interest in this way. While not changing the core mechanics, it plays with perspective in a way I’ve not seen in any other game of its kind. It casually switches between 3rd person brawling in an open arena, 2.5D side-scrolling, top-down, and even some flying SHMUP action near the end. The entire time it’s doing this, it maintains a fast-paced hack’n’slash vibe that’s easy to pickup, and hints at some brutal gameplay down the line.
Then there are the androids fighting a proxy war on humans’ behalf against sentient, alien robot invaders; those are pretty neat. They’ve got emotions but aren’t allowed to show them, which is just kind of messed up and that seems right up my alley. It’s technically set in a post-apocalyptic world, but with crazy-advanced technology, and at this point, it sounds like someone’s been reading my dream diary. If I can’t pick Zelda, like any self-respecting Nintendo fan would, then I can’t wait to play the shooty, stabby sad-droids that fight Shadow of the Colossus type extra-terrestribots at the end of the world.
Chosen by: Blade Shaw
Released: March 23, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Last time we signed off with the Mass Effect series, it was under pretty ominous circumstances. After years of cultivating what is, in my opinion, the greatest sci-fi gaming series of all time, fans were left with a disappointing taste in their mouth at the ending to the third and final installment of the game. Perhaps what was the most telling, though, was that after a highly publicised backlash from players, Bioware patched the game with a new DLC ending which added additional content. A lot of people seemingly became divided on the issue, either praising Bioware for heeding their criticism, or chastising them for relinquishing artistic merit and integrity by sticking to their original narrative.
As one of the latter, I honestly want to give Bioware a clean slate here and the opportunity to re-impress me with the quality storytelling and engaging narrative they’re renowned know for. After a few years of mostly silence, my fingers are crossed that this time was spent making Mass Effect: Andromeda the magnum opus of the Mass Effect series. A lot of critical eyes are going to be on this new series release, and Bioware are going to have to pull off something remarkably spectacular in order to keep the fan-ship of their longtime faithful. For me, that means a definitive narrative with REAL consequences to your actions and for the landscape of the future in the Andromeda storyline.
As both a critic and fan, these sorts of circumstances are always difficult when there’s an investment at different levels of appreciation. With the level of politics, intrigue, action, romance and more, I’ve always felt like Mass Effect could be another sci-fi epic in the vein of Star Wars and Star Trek if it could remain consistent in quality, even making a mainstream media cross-over. While rumours of a Mass Effect movie have floated around for some time, the future of this series as a franchise and its reputation has a lot riding on Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Chosen by: William Kirk
Released: April 4, 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
I’m not exaggerating when I say I have NEVER been more confident than I am right now that a game will be good. So much that I’ll literally eat my hat if it turns out to be rubbish. So yeah, look forward to Persona 5 in April!
…Oh, I guess you’re expecting me to justify such a bold claim, too? Okay, fine. But You really should just watch this trailer, because unless you’re a sentient robot from the future still struggling to understand human emotions, it should thoroughly convince you as to why you need to play this game. I mean, have you EVER seen a trailer in which the menus alone look so God damn magnificent?
Seriously, though. Any fan of the Persona games will likely understand where I’m coming from. It’s not been since the PlayStation 2 that a new instalment of the series was released; only a remastered version of Persona 4 on the PS Vita (which, by the way, is the definitive version and best game on that system). Essentially one part social-sim narrative adventure and one part turn-based JRPG dungeon crawler (with Pokemon-esque mechanics thrown in), the Persona series is arguably one of the most unique and compelling franchises to come out of Japan. Over the years, it has been building a sizeable cult following, too, so hopefully it can break out into a larger mainstream audience with Persona 5.
The stories are phenomenal, the characters compelling, the art incredible, the soundtracks amazing, the gameplay addictive, and everything about Persona 5 is looking to live up to that reputation. Go on, trust me. Take a leap of faith!
Chosen by: Lliam Ahearn
Released: April 11, 2017
Developer: Playtonic Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
3D platformers, not unlike their 2D brethren, seem to be approaching something of a renaissance. No game could be a more appropriate figurehead for said movement than Yooka-Laylee. As a long awaited traditional successor to Banjo-Kazooie, it appears to be ticking all the boxes. Light-hearted, cheerful environment and character designs can make or break a game with an aesthetic and mechanical focus on joyfulness. It looks like it’s making Yooka-Laylee so far.
Running and jumping through thoughtful, colourful worlds just feels different to anything else in games. It’s exciting, it’s happy, it’s just fun. Playing as characters with interesting acrobatic utility – a trend Banjo started in 3D – creates such a positive, gradually expanding relationship between the player, their character and their environment that few genres provide. It’s a relationship I sorely miss, and one I have confidence Yooka-Laylee will provoke.
More exciting, to me, is the prospect of a well balanced and paced ‘collectathon’. Collectables became something of a sore spot in the genre, becoming a crutch for unengaging objectives or bland environments rather than a framework for exploratory level design. Look at a game that does it well, though – Jak and Daxter, the Sly Cooper series, the Spyro trilogy and of course Banjo-Kazooie – and you’ll find a powerful, rewarding design philosophy gone underutilised for years. Yooka-Laylee has the opportunity to reintroduce or even modernise a wonderful ideology lost to time.
Chosen by: Don Chalmers
Released: Q1/Q2, 2017
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
In this age of annual releases of barely iterative designs in megalithic gaming franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or any Ubisoft open-world title, it seems fair to have relegated our expectations of being surprised by experiences from outside the realm of AAA titles. Once in a while though, something wades through the veils of cynicism and deflated expectations with a tantalising air of uncertainty, weirdness and intrigue, to make geezers like me all gooey in our hype glands. This year, for me that game is PREY.
While I for one would still love to see the vision of Human Head’s now long cancelled Prey 2 come to fruition, this new game (which is neither a sequel nor a reboot, figure that one out…) is already showing off innovative concepts within a long established genre. Coming from a newly formed second team of developers headed up by Arkane Studios founder Raphael Colantonio, this new PREY is a Deus Ex/System Shock style RPG with an AI ecology not unlike that of the Bioshock games. Like Arkane’s previous Dishonored games, however, PREY gives the player access to highly unorthodox powers and equipment with which to exploit the world around them.
Taking on the abilities of the shape-shifting aliens which have overrun the neo-art-deco halls of an alternate history space station named Talos 1, the player can assume the form of everyday objects like coffee cups or staplers to evade enemies or navigate tight spaces. Seriously. They also have access to a weapon/tool that breaks down inanimate objects into fuel/putty that can be made into blockades, freeze enemies or even build bridges and ladders to gain access to new areas, and this is only the tip of the iceberg so far.
What has me most excited about PREY is the weirdness yet to be seen. Even if it doesn’t end up having an overly interesting plot or challenging combat, it is still likely to be this year’s most ‘unique’ big budget title. Fingers crossed.
Chosen by: Nick Ballantyne
Released: Q1/Q2, 2017
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux
It has been too long since I’ve felt the power trip of a good mech game. To watch as my adversaries crumble to their knees, indulging in the sweet nectar of my wrath enacted without mercy. Thing is, Mechwarrior Online just hasn’t cut it on that front, being too floaty and straightforward for my taste. Everything has been so simple, and whatever deep strategy the tabletop game was once known for was diluted in the flood of micro-transactions and repetitive gameplay. It’s time that the game went back to its roots and found the strategy it was known for, exactly what Battletech intends to do.
After a successful (albeit superfluous) Kickstarter campaign, Battletech hopes to channel the original tabletop mechanics into a video game of modern acclaim. A turn-based approach means that the complexities lacking in previous titles can be implemented here without concern. Spending ten minutes thinking how one mech will move, anticipating what your enemy’s response will be and finally executing your plan sounds like a damn good time. These are prized possessions, after all, rarities in the universe that only the best of the best have the honour of piloting, so deep tactical understanding would be needed of their crew.
The game itself isn’t what’s getting me excited, though. Jordan Weisman, ye olde FASA employee, is working on the game, and if anyone knows Battletech, it’s this guy. Alongside him is Mitch Gitelman, who worked on games like MechCommander and MechAssault. That kind of experience should come in handy when it comes to making a game that’s as in-depth as it is satisfying. If the game sucks, then hey, there’s a new Mechwarrior game coming in 2018, so there’s always hope on the horizon. Either way, it’s about damn time we got our hands on a good mech game again.
Chosen by: Shane Smith
Released: Q2, 2017
Developer: Headcannon, PagodaWest Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Hell yeah. Sega is ditching that 3D nonsense (for now) to resurrect the classic ’90s gameplay which got the blue guy to the big dance!
Developed by studios PagodaWest Games and Headcannon, Sonic Mania is a whole new adventure and return-to-form 2D side-scrolling platformer. From what we’ve seen so far, you will be able to take control of Sonic, Tails and Knuckles, and play through all new zones, such as Mirage Saloon and Studiopolis Zone, as well as re-imagined levels from the past games. Along with the skillset of Knuckle’s gliding and Tail’s flying abilities, Sonic has been given a new move called the “Drop Dash,” allowing him to burst into a rolling spin attack after landing from a jump. While the game will feature elemental shield pickups and large rings that lead into bonus stages from the earlier games, there are no other details but promises of exciting new additions and secrets within each level. A feature that I loved in the classic series were the end-zone boss battles with Robotnik, so here’s hoping they’re more inventive and challenging than the originals.
I have a great feeling about Sonic Mania; I mean, we FINALLY have a sequel that looks faithful to the series’ roots that’s been developed with long-time fans in mind. Many Sonic fans have been hanging out for an exciting new game featuring the blue hedgehog, and, honestly, I think this game might be the one!
Chosen by: Ellis Longhurst
Released: Q2/Q3, 2017
Developer: Dynamic Pixels
Platforms: Microsoft Windows
Do you fancy yourself a stealthy detective? Suffer from virtual fernweh? Or simply enjoy trespassing? Then Dynamic Pixels’ upcoming survival horror stealth game ‘Hello Neighbor’ could be the 2017 game that scratches your metaphorical itch (you’ll need to see a doctor for that physical itch, though).
The premise is simple; your mysterious neighbour is keeping a secret in his basement, and like any busybody with crime stoppers on their speed dial, you need to break into and explore your neighbour’s home, unseen, to find out what the secret is.
The execution is not so simple. Your neighbour is the adult version of Kevin McCallister. He has set up bear traps, CCTV cameras, sensors and more, in an effort to locate and stop the player. There is no blood or gore, but the concept and the music during the chase scenes make this game heart-in-your-mouth intense. Prepare for jump scares.
When caught, you return to your house across the street. Rinse and repeat. Surely it’s just trial and error then? No, the genius if the game is that it utilises an advanced AI system that gathers data about previous break-in attempts, and uses this to procedurally generate the neighbour’s approach to hunting the player down.
‘Hello Neighbor’ is available now for free in pre-alpha, or in early access at a cost. The full game is slated for worldwide release in the second or third quarter of this year.
Such an innocent title… Such unassuming graphics… And yet, this game looks like it would be enjoyed with friends and no spill-able beverages.
Chosen by: Brendan Meharry
Released: Q3/Q4, 2017
Developer: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
I doubt that I ever sat through an entire western film until I played Red Dead Redemption – cowboys, bandits and the wild west up until that point simply wasn’t my thing. This all changed in 2010, though.
Having never been into westerns, I was however quite into anything that Rockstar Games released. So naturally, I overhyped myself to the extreme, and for the first time ever I actually traded in other games so I could have RDR, which I should note had never happened before. I usually hold onto my games for dear life even though they usually sit on my shelf motionless after being played. I guess I just like looking at them.
I know RDR is special, however, as it’s one of the few games that I have played multiple times over. It converted me into a wild west aficionado as I have since discovered that I love the tropes that go along with the films. Really, ‘trope’ is a fantastic word to express the feel of RDR; It’s nothing short of a virtual cowboy film. It’s a winner of a game as far as the open world genre goes (which is to be expected for Rockstar) but it’s also the wacky characters and the dusty and barren environments that made RDR so memorable. There have been many western games, but by golly does RDR actually make you feel like a bandit in the wild west. It’s the modern dress-ups for adults really, at least until Yul Brynner destroys us all in West World, anyway.
It’s for all these reasons that I’m really looking forward to the sequel (or what might even be a prequel). Not much is solidly known about it yet except for a trailer full of trees, but regardless I’m getting hyped a second time around and am yet again ready to don a bolo tie.
Chosen by: Ben West
Released: TBA 2017
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PS Vita
Very rarely is there a series of games that produces nothing but top-notch content, and in this category, one series is always at the forefront of my thoughts: Danganronpa. I was already optimistic after the stunning initial release was met with an equally excellent sequel, but even the spin-off title, Ultra Despair Girls, proved to be just as unique. The anime, Danganronpa 3, wrapped up the first storyline with gusto, catching me off-guard multiple times and tying up all the loose ends.
And now we enter a new era – Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Kicking off a fresh plot for the first time since the series began, it promises to surprise us once more with those brilliant twists it does so well. The new setting is full of potential for yet darker moments, with the cast now being a collection of student-inmates. Alongside very fresh characters, some new mechanisms should allow for interesting variations on the gameplay. I’m particularly intrigued to see what moments come from the new ability to sway the Class Trials with your own lies and deception, a stark opposition to the focus on truth in prior games.
Fans of the series are no doubt in the same boat as me, but if you’ve never tried it for yourself and phrases like ‘unexpected twists,’ ‘brutal murder investigations’ and ‘absurd anime tropes’ catch your interest, check it out for yourself so you can join in the hype. If you were only put off playing the originals by the Vita-only release, both Danganronpa V3 and Danganronpa 1-2 Reload (the first two games in one) will also be available on the PS4 for all of your console gaming needs. Just be prepared to never look at the word ‘despair’ the same way again.
Chosen by: Danielle Campbell
Released: TBA, 2017
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio
Platforms: PlayStation 4
When the first God of War came out 12 years ago, there was something about it that attracted all kinds of people. Maybe it was the gore, maybe it was the nudity, or maybe it was Kratos’ rage filled attacks that felt so satisfying as he swung his blades across his enemies and sliced them into oblivion. I loved how I could be a button masher queen, smashing the square button and the occasional X to do aerials and look like a pro while doing it.
While that was super enjoyable to a younger audience – an audience that grew up in a time where simple gameplay mechanics with high end graphics were the pinnacle of gaming – we’ve grown up. Much like the gamers that played the God of War franchise back then, Kratos is more mature now (that and he’s exhausted all the gods in Greek mythos) and is ready for a new adventure. I’m a big God of War fan myself, but the first shots from the E3 trailer made me a little sceptical. With God of Us – erm, I mean God of War! – it looks as if they’re trying to follow an already established formula that works, prime examples being Uncharted and The Last of Us.
All jokes aside, it’s a very different format to the usual hack n’ slash that many know and love. Whether it will end up succeeding and rising from the depths of hell, much like Kratos did back in God of War 2 and 3, only time will tell. My hope is that it will be loved by new and old fans, better than Ascension but on the same level as 2 and 3. I’m just excited to be living through Kratos’ life again.