My Most Anticipated Game of 2016

System: PS4
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: 26/27th April 2016 (NA/EU)

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No Man’s Sky has certainly had me jittery with childlike in more than a few instances, but there’s always going to be a special kind of enthusiasm reserved in me for Uncharted. Naughty Dog is a developer that has proven consistently strong since formation, and with what we’ve seen of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End so far, their efforts aren’t about to run dry.

E3’s demo this year oversaw the beloved Nathan Drake literally being pulled through the dirt, engaged in bombastic car chases and intrepid endeavours that reminded me in an instant just how much I miss Drake’s sparky misadventures.

Though alongside the obligatory adrenaline came the inevitable effects time has had on the dauntless protagonist; something made more striking by the 1080p display. Face a little more lined than we remember, Drake’s now retired from his life on the edge and has settled down with his wife, Elena.gif nate

Exactly how long that retirement lasts, however, is another question. One that I’m very much looking forward to seeing answered.

Co-director, Neil Druckmann explains in an interview with Gamerant that their intent for Uncharted 4 was to “give the player more options, more ways to approach, whether it’s exploration, traversal or combat”. Druckmann’s previous work on post-apocalyptic triumph The Last of Us seems to have represented a crucial point of development for Druckmann, and as such The Last of Us’ complex AI has since been translated into Uncharted 4. Drawing a closer comparison, we might also speculate that a heavier emphasis on stealth may feature (as was the case with The Last of Us), and maybe even a slight raise in challenge level accompanying the greater variety of traversal options.

It’s a reassuring thought, especially considering Drake’s Deception’s disappointing reliance on quicktime events.

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Although, I found the dialogue options a little forced. They looked out of place in a linear game such as Uncharted.

This being said, A Thief’s End also marks the loss of writer, Amy Hennig. As the cocky one-liners and well crafted character relationships have always been a strong point of the series, it will be fascinating to observe how writers Druckmann, Bissell and Scherr will approach Hennig’s construct. Druckmann’s credit for The Last of Us is a confident starting point, and, overall, I’m looking forward to seeing his styles adapt to the more jovial rollicks of Uncharted’s buoyant cast.

 

With the multiplayed beta available now to owners of The Nathan Drake Collection on PS4, it really feels like Naughty Dog are as excite to unveil Drake’s latest adventure as we are to receive it. Implementing taunts, killable sidekicks, customisable items and a range of different explosives and weapons to endow your online experience, there’s already much the company wants us to see, which is only turning my attention more towards how the characters I’ve come to adore will develop in the series’ final entry.

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Naughty Dog described A Thief’s End as Nate’s “greatest adventure yet” that will “test his physical limits, his resolve, and ultimately, what he’s willing to sacrifice to save the ones he loves”. That’s a bold statement considering the delightful chaos of Fortune, Thieves and Deception, but it’s one Naughty Dog hasn’t disappointed on before.

What are your most anticipated games of 2016? Do you think they’ll live up to your expectations? Jot down a comment below. Thanks – and here’s to 2016.

Links for your curious heart:

http://gamerant.com/uncharted-4-naughty-dog-interview/ Uncharted 4

http://www.dualshockers.com/2015/10/31/uncharted-4-a-thiefs-end-gets-lots-more-info-on-multiplayer-story-technology-and-more/

http://www.naughtydog.com/site/post/uncharted_4_a_thiefs_end_2014_e3_trailer/

Most Exciting Concept: No Man’s Sky

System: PS4, Windows
Developer: Hello Games
Release Date: June 2016

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Quite aside from the most anticipated independent game of 2016, No Man’s Sky might just be the most anticipated game of 2016 full stop. Since the game’s announcement in 2014, No Man’s Sky has experienced an insatiable rabidity from already die-hard fans; a vivacity that – the more the workings of the title are revealed – becomes more and more relateable.

The game isn’t exactly Hello Games’ first venture, but it’s certainly it’s riskiest. The player assumes the role of an astronaut, who sets out to gather information from dimensions in uncharted galaxy. Equipped with a jet pack, spacesuit and multi-tool, the player can traverse luxurious, oversaturated worlds to salvage upgradeable items, fight off mechanical sentinels and uncover artefacts that allude to the secrets of the universe.

In interviews, No Man’s Sky has been described as a game about mathematical problems, in addition to exploration. Co-founder of Hello, Sean Murray explains that No Man’s Sky‘s environments are “procedurally generated”, as opposed to “random”. As such, a player can visit a planet and leave again, only to find that the planet’s environment will be generated around them in exactly the same way upon their return.
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And there’s 18 quintillion of them. According to Hello Games, each one is unique.

“But it’s not stored on the disk” Murray proceeds. It’s all generated right as you explore, which remains one of the most interesting aspects of No Man’s Sky. It isn’t chaotic, it’s reliable, which could make No Man’s Sky one of the best, even most realistic space simulators of the present day, as well as a cracking adventure game.

The player’s alleged only limit is the capacity of their spacecraft; something that can be upgraded to reach the innermost sactums of deep space. The game also represents the potential for an entirely new utilisation of the online community. You can submit your experiences in the game to the ‘Atlas’ – a database accessible to other players. Whilst not a new concept in itself, 18 quintillion planets means that there’s a very good chance that the things you see across No Man’s Sky will have never been seen by anyone else before; the Atlas could become more useful as a survival hub in No Man’s Sky than in any other title.
No Mans Sky Green

But of course, the game has been subject to – sometimes – unreasonable hype. The expanse of No Man’s Sky is undeniable; unignorable, but lacking a directing narrative and objectives, is the game’s size a novelty that could soon give way to mundanity? After a time of salvaging, scanning and upgrading, a new environment isn’t likely to puncture the growing mundanity, and it’ll be interesting to see if – and how – the game develops with the player.

Links for your curious heart:

Most Enigmatic Title: Hellblade

Release Date: 2016
Developer: Ninja Theory
System: PS4

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In pursuit of their first “independently created game”, developer, Ninja Theory appear to have bounced back from the controversies of DmC: Devil May Cry with a similar gusto for brutality. This being said, the veins of upcoming hack n’ slash, Hellblade, appear to run deeper than mere disquieting aesthetic, incorporating explorative elements and touching on such themes as mental illness and reality.
The game’s art style is undeniably interesting, drawing notably pagan inspiration in a “fictional-historical setting”. Set in the aftermath of a Viking Invasion, Senua is a warrior of the Pictish Celts, and according to Lead Development Manager, Dominic Matthews, “the story of Hellblade tells her coming to terms with the trauma and the violence of her past.”
Of course, there’s always a slight concern with representation in a game that claims to portray issues like mental health, but as Ninja Theory’s reported to be working closely with Cambridge Neuroscience professors, I’m taking the company’s willingness to research their field of portrayal optimistically.
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Whilst the characteristic viciousness of melee combat has been confirmed as a dead cert for Hellblade, the game’s entrancing art style and murky environments already beckon to be explored. Senua’s psychotic torment will surface in hallucinations; something that, if done well, could serve to reference preconceptions about mental health, whilst maintaining a useful platform to aid both exploratory and combat elements of the game.
All this is speculation upon what has been said in interviews, however, and Hellblade might just end up completely surprising us. Right now, there’s just enough information to entice.

Links for your curious heart:

INTERVIEW: Ninja Theory on Hellblade and Representations of Mental Illness in Video Games

Game I Will Most Likely Have Forgotten About But Still Get Anyway: Rise of the Tomb Raider

System: PS4; XONE; X360; WINDOWS
Developer: Developer: Crystal Dynamics; Nixxes Software; Eidos
Release Date: Early 2016 (Windows); Late 2016 (PS4)

I’ve never been big on Tomb Raider. Now, this might come as a surprise as it’s one of the most influential platformers to exist and all, but the truth is that it always held a relatively quiet presence amongst other titles I’ve adored. I never saw much of it when growing up, and it’s only now that I’ve really begun to appreciate what so many fans praise about the games.

And what a time to become interested, too. 2013 saw the rejuvination of Lara Croft in a well crafted and thrilling origins story, and with Rise of the Tomb Raider set for PS4 launch in the later part of 2016, it seems there’s no time like the present to really delve into those bygone graves that Croft has a knack for seeking.

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Being a sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider proffers similar gameplay to its predecessor, with a heavier focus on stealth. Michael Brinker of developer, Crystal Dynamics has claimed the player now has a greater ability to “stick with stealth for the entire encounter”, enabling Lara to hide from foes more effectively, without being as easily spotted.

And although Croft’s hotchpotch bow makes its reprise, alongside a nifty hunting knife for melee combat and sneak attacks, one of the most interesting mechanics in Rise of the Tomb Raider lies in its enemy AI. Where in the 2013 reboot, shooting arrows amongst enemies gave away the player’s whereabouts, calculated range attacks can be used to distract your attackers, “if they can’t find Lara,” Brink’s explained in interviews, “they’ll go right back to what they were doing before”.

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A hardened survivalist with ninja-esque qualities? Yes please.
The delayed release for PS4 was a shame, especially considering the original Tomb Raider is widely considered one of the best Playstation titles. And given that, as of 12th December on VGChartz.com, PS4 sales are at almost double those of the Xbox One, the ploy to sell more consoles via exclusivity doesn’t seem to have payed off. As of now, the road unto Lara’s next adventure feels long, and despite my  inexperience with Tomb Raider, the praise Rise of the Tomb Raider has received already suggests it’s a series that might be worth a closer look.

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Links for your curious heart:

http://mmgn.com/xboxone/articles–rise-of-the-tomb-raider-interview

Most Interesting World: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Release Date: 2016
Developer: Guerrilla Games
System: PS4

Horizon Zero Dawn bird
Guerrilla Games’ departure from the Killzone series seemed to have popped up out of the blue, but according to interviews with IGN, Horizon: Zero Dawn has been in the works for quite some time. Having begun before work started for Killzone: Shadow Fall, Senior Producer – Mark Norris – describes Horizon as a game that is “ultimately about exploration”, as well as being a tale of self-discovery and purpose within a cataclysmic world.

Zero Dawn marks an interesting entry in the post-apocalyptic style, as it’s one of the few that is classically attractive. The E3 Demo opened upon a vibrant echo of prehistory; home to towering, sentient robots and the parochial human tribes that live perpetually in their shadow. The main story follows Aloy, a trained robot hunter.

horizon aloy

The story itself is deemed by Norris as “one of the closely guarded secrets” of Horizon: Zero Dawn, “because we think it will be really special”. All we know for now is that Aloy “does have a little bit of a special relationship with the machines”, and the sheer amount of meanings behind that statement has me thoroughly interested in how Guerrilla presents the narrative within the gorgeously mechanical open world around 150 people are striving to bring to life.

Horizon’s combat and exploration strike a resemblance to Shadow of Mordor, incorporating tactical stealth elements to take down some of the smaller bots. Most of the direct combat, however, appears to be ranged-oriented, which was something that threw me off a little, as a perpetual sword-wielder. Aloy is equipped with a techy bow and arrow, and judging by the game’s E3 Demo, ranged combat strikes as clean and uncluttered.
In addition to Aloy’s trusty bow, the demo showcased the protagonist’s ability to salvage enemy parts to use against it during a battle; something that already suggests that your titanic foes will require a lot more than a few well-aimed pin pricks to topple.
Horizon Zero Dawn Combat

Although combat took much of the limelight at E3, it’s Zero Dawn’s world that interests me. It’s not a bog standard collection of rolling hills to play about on; it actually feels archaic, flecked with fallen memories of the so-called ‘triumphs of mankind’ that have since melded with the earths. It’s less sinister than it is curious, and atop Norris’ claim that Zero Dawn will, “open your mind to a different way that we can tell stories”, the game is definitely on my watch list.

Links for your curious heart:

PS4 Exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn Interview – Guerrilla Talks Story, Aloy, Size of the Machines and More

Game Most Likely To Have Me Re-embracing My Childhood: Ratchet and Clank

System: PS4
Developer: Insomniac Games
Release Date: 12th April 2016
When I wasn’t flinging myself headlong into the Bandicootic realms of the Crash games, Ratchet and Clank was very much on the agenda of my miniature self. The game’s cartoon art style – and loud sense of humour to match it – was a delight, and its voluminous arsenal of logic-defying weaponry made the extraterrestrial exploits of my favourite sarky Lombax one of the golden experiences of my gaming past, as well as a prime contributor to my – still quite furious – love for platformers.

Ratchet and Clank, clear to anyone who has engaged in its cosmic romps though, was far from perfect. Character movements were slow, with a constricted aim system for more ranged weapons that caused a frustration that had no place in a game so emphatic on weapons. I just wished I could take the zany intergalactic world and puckish humour of the world, and give it the mechanics it deserved.

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Oh. That worked out well then, didn’t it?
Insomniac Games have decided to rejuvenate the catalyst for perhaps their best loved game series, and I’m continually catching myself gawking at the new Ratchet and Clank like an overgrown five year old in an overgrown sweet shop.

Scheduled for release a few weeks before the game’s twinned movie, the game will be a re-imagining of the first game in the original series, boasting bright, 1080p visuals and a smattering of new weapons. Community Lead for developer, Insomniac, James Stevenson claims “this is a new game”, and the company seem intent on proving it; new weapon, The Pixelizer reduces enemies to 8-bit compositions, whilst the later entries’ Groovitron makes its reprise to force enemies imperiously to get funky before getting undeniably wrecked.

ratchet and clank pixelizer

From the demos given at Playstation Experience and E3 earlier this year, Ratchet and Clank appears to possess the familiar territories of the original game, without the sluggish control scheme, making the game an essential for Ratchet and Clank veterans, and a point of interest for platforming romantics.
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Ratchet and Clank’s storytelling was never a weak point, but the upcoming remake has proven on-point with humour thus far. Ratchet now comments amusingly on his surroundings, whilst his travails are described by an omniscient narrator; something that has proven both authentically funny, and really quite touching.
Grappling also appears to take much more of a lead role, which, considering the added responsiveness and glorious visuals, doesn’t sound bad at all. Swingshoting my way haphazardly through a spangling Metropolis might just be taking up my April this 2016.

2016: My Most Anticipated Games

The time is nigh, my friends.

Oh yes, 2015 has birthed and died in the blink of an eye, and there’s only more to come. So to quash the inevitable foreboding associated with the years’ increasing propensity for slinking past unnoticed, I’ve gathered a list of games I just can’t wait to get my damn hands on.

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There will be a Most Anticipated. There will be a Most Exciting Concept. There will be a Most Nostalgic. It will ultimately be a verbose expression of optimistic foresight.

So if, by chance, you’re not venturing outside to bring in the New Year this evening, perhaps we can both lapse into enthused giggling over what virtual escapades the coming year holds in store.

Have a grand New Year everybody.