Time Out Dubai rounds up some of the biggest game releases between now and the end of the year
Time Out Dubai staff
Gaming is a serious business. When Grand Theft Auto V was released to a flurry of headlines and critical acclaim in 2013, it bagged its makers US$815 million (Dhs3 billion) in the first 24 hours of release. After three days it had topped US$1 billion (Dhs3.6 billion) to become the fastest-selling entertainment release of all time, and within a month it easily topped the box office total for the year’s best-performing movie, Frozen.
With Hollywood’s finest talent clamouring to appear in the latest releases (Oscar winner Kevin Spacey appeared in 2014’s best-selling console game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare), massive music stars desperate to be on game soundtracks and eighth generation consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One finally hitting their stride, the quality gaming market has never looked more compelling, exciting and creative. We pick 15 games that need to go on your must-play list in coming months.
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: November 10 Why be excited: As with the third instalment of the popular post-apocalyptic action role-playing game, this is set 200 years after a nuclear war has ravaged Earth. This time, however, you play as a sole survivor from a nuclear shelter who is emerging into the world of desolation, destruction, wild survivors and mutant ghouls for the first time. There is an enormous world to explore and a non-linear structure to get to grips with in what is likely to be one of the biggest hits of the year.
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: November 17 Why be excited: An online favourite that allows up to 40 players in any one melee, the Battlefront franchise will undergo something of a reboot with this latest instalment. A new battle engine will make the gameplay more exciting and combative but the real joy here is taking part in the most immersive Star Wars experience this side of a Mos Eisley shisha bar. Play as some of the best characters (goodies and baddies) from the existing movies while more than whetting your appetite for the forthcoming seventh movie instalment.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Release date: September 1 Why be excited: Kiefer Sutherland provides the gravel-voiced gruffness for Venom Snake. A more wonderfully named action hero you are unlikely to find and the tradition of macho surliness in the Metal Gear Solid series continues as play goes behind enemy lines in a fictionalised 1980s Afghanistan. As with other games in the series, players are encouraged to use stealth and cunning as much as direct force (read – lots of hiding behind doors and sneaking about) but this time in a map hundreds of times bigger and more explorable.
Final Fantasy XV
Platform: PS4, Xbox One Release date: TBA Why be excited: You don’t rack up 15 instalments of anything without collecting a legion of fans on the way and early trailers for this epic series almost bring YouTube commenters to tears. The beautiful graphics, ethereal score and epic storyline – lots of stolen crystals and warring tribes if you really want to know – won’t buck any trends in the fantasy genre, especially for fans of Japanese gaming, but developers have promised a slightly darker tone and more realistic human-style interactions in this version.
Best for Kids
Yoshi’s Woolly World
Platform: Wii U Release date: Out now Why be excited: We’ve seen Yoshi pop up in so many Mario spin-offs over the years – you know him as the dinosaur from Mario Kart, Mario Sports et al – but it’s good to see him take a first starring role since 1997. This side-scrolling platformer will appeal to kids and craft enthusiasts as everything in the world, from players to enemies and scenery, appears to be knitted, giving it a soft, cartoonish feel. The equally cartoonish story revolves around a wizard who has turned most of the creatures in a magical world into balls of wool and Yoshi must rescue them. Quite a yarn! Consider it Nintendo’s answer to the popular Little Big Planet series.
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 Release date: October 27 Why be excited: Don’t expect any particular subtlety from this 17th consecutive WWE gaming update. Just more of everything for people who like to virtually clatter friends and rivals on the head with steel chairs. What impresses more than a double somersault karate kick to the head, though, is the depth of the roster in this latest edition. With more than 120 playable characters from past and present, including the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Rock and André the Giant, there is more than a Royal Rumble’s worth of grappling action to look forward to.
Rise of the Tomb Raider Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360 Release date: November 10 Why be excited: Only released on Xbox and a key component in the ongoing console war, this latest chapter follows on from the 2013 series reboot, Tomb Raider. Where that game retold the origins of Lara Croft, this game will see her adventures continue to border on the supernatural as she charges around Siberia uncovering a global conspiracy and mysterious artefacts. Fans of the reboot will be pleased to know the bow and arrow seem to be a permanent fixture and new gameplay options include enhanced moves, better AI and graphics that push the performance of the Xbox One.
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Release date: September 29 Why be excited: This year’s must-have basketball game is a significant leap forward from the previous 16 instalments thanks to a developed career mode. This section of the game has been developed by movie director Spike Lee and will take on a much more narrative tone with players needing to pass through high school, college, rookie and on into all-star territory. If Lee’s involvement in crafting the story mode were not incentive enough there are strong rumours that college teams will feature prominently and there are the usual graphic, animation and statistical enhancements as well.
Best for boy racers
Need for Speed
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: November 3 Why be excited: Despite being the 21st release in the series, developers are calling this a reboot rather than a sequel. Not that it really matters when all the action revolves around driving customised street cars as fast as you can through a breathtakingly rendered series of environments. It’s standard racing fare – get through the tracks as fast as you can – without letting other elements such as shooting, extreme sport-style trickery or challenges getting in the way. If you prefer urban settings to the limited environments of an F1 driving game you won’t go far wrong here.
Best for imagination
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3 Release date: September 27 Why be excited: Some gamers are still reticent about Lego versions of a game. Why not just play the ‘proper’ version of the game, they argue. Until now. Bringing together characters from all different universes, this could be the most fun you have on a console this year, as a masked villain breaks through the Lego universe allowing characters from different fictional worlds to meet. You’ll have to control favourites from Batman, The Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, The Wizard of Oz and many more fictional universes. We hope this means Homer chatting to Gollum at some stage.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac Release date: Out now Why be excited: Given a global release in June of this year, this sequel has received enormous critical acclaim and represents a zenith of superhero gaming for grown-ups. Yes, the graphics are near movie quality and, yes, the gameplay engine has been tweaked to a degree that players should clear their social calendar for a few weeks after buying. But it is the dark storytelling and artful plotting and pacing that make this such a delight to play. Well, that and a huge cast list of Gotham City favourite supporting characters.
Best for epic exploration
No Man’s Sky Platform: PS4, PC Release date: TBA Why be excited: To call the scope of this space exploration game enormous does nothing to give an indication to how huge it actually is. Try this number for size – the game’s developers claim it will be home to 18 quintillion unique planets. All of which are unexplored, unique and waiting to be visited. The number alone makes no sense and the idea of millions of gamers collecting data and feeding it into a database is compelling. But this is far too ambitious to be simply a fictional science project so expect lots of space battles, interplanetary trade and interstellar sightseeing along the way. Think Avatar meets Minecraft.
Halo 5: Guardians
Platform: Xbox One Release date: October 20 Why be excited: The first-person shooter series, Halo, has been the cornerstone of Xbox gaming for years and to call it much-copied would be an understatement. The franchise has generated more than US$3 billion (Dhs11 billion) in global sales, a Steven Spielberg-produced TV series is set to broadcast in autumn and the characters even appear at Madame Tussauds waxwork museum in London. With all of the asides it would be easy to forget the actual game itself, but the Halo Nation (as fans are dubbed) are preparing for combat reassured that the updated gameplay mode pushes the Xbox One to the limits of its technical capability.
Just Cause 3
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC Release date: December 1 Why be excited: Even in gaming circles five years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but players across platforms can permit themselves a frisson of excitement. There’s no aliens here, or mutants, or interplanetary exploration. Just a fictional Mediterranean island teeming with criminal sorts and run by a less than benevolent dictator. A non-linear game structure will allow players to wander round the reasonably large environment playing levels in any order and getting into various dust-ups along the way.
The Big Kick Off 2016
EA’s FIFA and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer updates will be released in mid-September. What’s different this year? Choosing between the two big football games each year is a debate that defines friendships and this year will be no different. The base argument hasn’t changed much for two decades. FIFA fans point to the more than 20 licensed leagues with all the correct team names, rosters and player likenesses. This year, in fact, there will even be 12 playable women’s teams, while PES people have to make do with fictional teams such as Merseyside Red or North London. What they lose in stats and figures, they argue, is more than made up for in superior gameplay. Enhancements to PES this year include a new jostle system to make challenging for 50-50 balls more competitive and aerial duels more realistic. FIFA, most neutrals agree, has had the advantage since around 2010, especially when its superior online capabilities are taken into account. Last year’s releases, however, saw PES catch up and with the biggest changes to FIFA seeming to be licencing and graphical, a concerted effort by Konami could see it back on top as football champion.