Last year was a good year for games, especially for RPG fans with post-apocalyptic Fallout 4 and the fantasy saga The Witcher 3 being game of the year contenders. However, a noticeable absence in 2015 was the virtual reality technology that could potentially evolve the gaming landscape.
Leading the pack will be Oculus Rift, but there’s also Playstation VR and Microsoft’s (so far) semi-vague HoloLens offering - all three due in the first half of 2016. Touted as the new face of digital entertainment, it will all come down to the interactive and immersive experiences that each deliver, and early indications look promising.
Oculus has a couple of riveting titles lined up for launch, such as ADR1FT, a space thriller that is reminiscent of the movie Gravity. While it will be available on consoles and playable without VR, the immersive experience of floating around in space fending off debris and trying to navigate the black vacuum of nothingness adds an a new dimension of terror with an Oculus headset hugging your face.
Playstation VR has a number of exciting titles on the cards too, such as RIGS - where players get the opportunity to do battle with giant robots in an arena, and The London Heist - an action adventure set in London's criminal underworld that should provide a deeper, more narrative driven experience. You also can’t look past the awesomely ridiculous 100ft Robot Golf, where players control massive robots - are you sensing a theme here? - in a game of golf where you smash down entire buildings to get the best par.
Microsoft have been a bit more mysterious about their VR offering, which appears to be more of a digital interactive experiment than a gaming platform. However they still have an intriguing Minecraft experience lined up and we’ll find out this year if HoloLens is just a gimmick, or a step forward in gaming.
Outside of VR, another release that was clearly absent without leave in 2015 was Microsoft’s time-bending action-shooter, Quantum Break - which looks to be one of the most technologically impressive game engines ever designed if early footage is anything to go by. Players will be able to reverse time and create alternative pathways of reality, combining quick reflexes with puzzle solving to create a whole new gaming experience.
Meanwhile other Microsoft exclusives, Crackdown 3, Gears of War 4, and ReCore might also help elevate the Xbox One’s declining sales in the new year.
Playstation aren’t relying solely on their VR platform either. The company has a strong set of exclusive titles lined up for their PS4 in 2016. Uncharted 4 is obviously an eagerly awaited title and due in April, heightened by the fact that it is Naughty Dog’s final instalment in the award winning series.
We’re also hoping that 2016 might be the year we finally get to play The Last Guardian - a whimsically beautiful adventure where players form a strong emotional bond with a giant feathery beast in a quest for freedom. I’ve personally been waiting seven years for this one, so I won’t be holding my breath we’ll actually see it soon. Playstation also have a potential new hit franchise in the making with Horizon Zero Dawn, which looks to combine aspects of Tomb Raider, Skyrim and Killzone.
The good news for Nintendo fans is they haven’t given up on their aging Wii U console just yet, and the new Legend of Zelda game is promising an all new epic adventure this year, set in a sumptuous looking open world. We imagine it will be the last big title for the Wii U, alongside Star Fox Zero, before the successive Nintendo NX console emerges.
And that’s not all for 2016, how about the reboot of the cult-classic demonic shooter Doom (PS4, Xbox One, PC); the ever-popular Final Fantasy XV (PS4, Xbox One) - it’s been a long time since we’ve had a decent Final Fantasy to get excited about; Battleborn (PS4, Xbox One, PC), the team-based online shooter extravaganza from 2K; or the confusingly similar in concept, Overwatch (PS4, Xbox One, PC) from Blizzard.
Telltale games have announced they will be tackling the Caped Crusader with Batman titles throughout this year, most likely on console and PC. Details are sketchy so far, but considering the creative team delivered stunning episodic gaming experiences for the Walking Dead, it should be safe to say that they understand the respect beloved franchises like this deserve.
Meanwhile, outside of all of the big publisher titles, there are some exciting games from much smaller studios set for release this year, such as Firewatch (PS4, PC) - a first-person adventure title from an all new studio that involves exploring the forested wilderness of Wyoming. Trust us, it looks a lot better than it sounds. The Witness (PS4, PC), from the brain of one of the first big indie hits, Braid, is an ambitious follow-up which sets players loose on a deserted island and tasks them with finding its mysteries and solving its puzzles. And finally, the creatives behind Flower and Journey have a new title this year called Abzu (PS4). Expect a similarly tranquil and engaging experience, except this time it’s all underwater.
It’s also a year of sequels from solid franchises that have been lying low in recent years - such as the new Dishonored 2 (PS4, Xbox One, PC) and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PS4, Xbox One, PC), the follow-up to the hugely successful Deus Ex: Human Revolution. We’re also looking forward to the surprising Far Cry Primal (PS4, Xbox One, PC), which will recycle the acclaimed engine of Far Cry 4 but in a prehistoric settling. Mirror's Edge Catalyst (PS4, Xbox One, PC) is almost finally here too, seven years since the original title which delivered first-person parkour in a genre-changing first. And XCOM 2 (PC) looks set to take the original’s already excellent strategy-based shooter to a whole new level in February this year.
Anyone who wants to add ‘torturing themselves’ to their list of New Year resolutions can look forward to the new Dark Souls III (PS4, Xbox One, PC); or maybe the delightfully retro, but excruciatingly difficult platformer Cuphead (Xbox One, PC) which is due out in early in 2016. Perhaps a more gentler platformer could be found in the lovingly crafted Unravel (PS4, Xbox One, PC), which is a surprising release from EA and will be available for download on PC and current-gen consoles just next month.
Finally, while last year was a good one for RPG fans, this year will deliver a solid contender in the sci-fi genre with Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4, Xbox One, PC), although this isn’t expected until December 2016. And speaking of sci-fi, the mind-boggling infinite exploration opportunities in No Man’s Sky (PS4) is one to look out for on PS4 around June this year.
It’s set to be a crazy-good 12 months of new games! And there are plenty more that we haven’t mentioned here. What are some of the titles that you’re holding out for in 2016?