Thunderbolt’s Most Wanted of 2016
With 2015 firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look ahead at the year 2016. The gaming landscape is sure to change a lot in the near future with a myriad of VR devices finally coming to market and the impending announcement of Nintendo’s new hardware venture. But really, every year in gaming is judged squarely on the games, and a few of our staff members have put together a list of a dozen games we’re looking forward to in the new year (though one of said games is actually already available!). This is by no means an exhaustive list, so feel free to chime in in the comments and let us know what games you’re looking forward to – lord knows I could have added another dozen myself.
Street Fighter V
(February 16th – PS4, PC)
It’s been nearly seven years since the last brand new, numbered Street Fighter entry, though it may not feel that way. With countless updates, new versions and several ports, it’s been hard to escape the exceedingly long shadow of Street Fighter IV and its many incarnations. However, regardless of your view of Street Fighter IV, it’s hard to dismiss its impact on reinvigorating the entire genre. With V Capcom is venturing into uncharted territory, promising a future where all non-cosmetic content will be available for free: no Super, no Turbo, no Champion Editions impending, allegedly. Street Fighter V will evolve like any other fighting game, but Capcom will try not to fracture its community with the haves and have-nots, which has always been an unfortunate staple of the Street Fighter model. Whether or not V can reach the same level of cultural impact as its predecessor remains to be seen, but with a nice mix of returning cast members, fresh faces and a new outlook on the genre, no franchise is better positioned to lead fighting games into the new generation.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
(TBD – PS4)
Horizon has two major things working against it: it’s an open world game, which I’ve grown exceedingly tired of, and it’s developed by Guerrilla, purveyors of all things soulless and grungy (see: Killzone). But dammit, a post-apocalyptic game starring a woman who hunts mechanized dinosaurs!? This is the kind of nerd mashup I can’t help but get behind. Every trailer has made me more and more excited. Seeing the various hunting tools at Aloy’s disposal, or watching the herd AI of prey robots fleeing from a bipedal, synthetic behemoth, it’s all served to entrench Guerrilla’s new ecology as the gamescape I want to explore in 2016. I know it’s the sort of game I’ll play for 10 hours and find myself crouching in a patch of overgrown foliage, and at that moment I’ll consider the many things I could, or should, be doing with my life, only to watch a majestic steel beast hulk by, squashing my oh-so-short moment of clarity. I won’t care about my very real open world fatigue because, well, gears and freaking dinosaurs! But hey, it’s Guerrilla, they may yet find some way to muck it all up!
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
(August 23rd – PS4, XBO, PC)
This is the Deus Ex game I’ve been waiting for, sorta. I never asked for an Adam Jensen-bound sequel, but I always thought that Eidos Montreal’s second stab at Deus Ex might be their best. Mankind Divided‘s predecessor, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, was a wonderful game that I thought payed proper homage to Ion Storm’s legacy. But, I always felt the game played it safe in terms of mechanics and options, somewhat shackled by the expectations of being a sequel to a game many consider one of the all time greats (sorry Invisible War!). With Mankind Divided Eidos Montreal is still making a sequel to Deus Ex, but it’s proven itself as a studio capable of resurrecting classic series and treating them with the respect they deserve (Thief was fun!). I’m hoping Adam’s second spin loosens the belt a bit, allowing the auteurs of Eidos to play around with the Deus Ex universe, subverting our expectations and challenging the very idea of what Deus Ex can be.
(January 5th – PS4, PS3)
I’m biased, I backed new Amplitude, and if I had to, I’d back it again. The original Amplitude on PlayStation 2 is undoubtedly my favorite rhythm game and probably one of my top ten games of all time. It’s the perfect game: it’s got choice music, great gameplay and phenomenal multiplayer. It also has an exceptional learning curve with a vast deep end for those who love a bit of punishment and aren’t bashful about repeatedly restarting tracks dozens of times for perfectionist purposes. I love all of that, and I love that feeling of satisfaction you get when you successfully jump tracks at the last possible moment to continue a combo string. Amplitude is an immaculate collection of all of these seemingly minor notes, making it a superior rhythm experience. And considering the resurrection is already out, we’ll see if new Amplitude still has what it takes.
No Man’s Sky
(June – PS4, PC)
If Hello Games can pull off even a fraction of what it’s promising then No Man’s Sky will be massive; if it delivers on everything then it could be a masterpiece for the ages. Exploring a procedurally generated universe containing millions of planets and stars is the kind of stuff childhood dreams are made of. The trailers invoke a genuine sense of awe but one worry stems from the sheer scale of the work – it’s already been revealed only a fraction of planets will be hospitable and contain life. Will this lead to players spending countless hours flying from desolate husks whilst the vast nothingness eats away at their patience? Or will this only serve to increase the satisfaction gained by discovering one flourishing with flora and fauna? The only thing for certain is that No Man’s Sky‘s ambition is unprecedented.
(TBD – PS4, XBO, PC)
The well-rounded Dishonored shocked many with its quality and it’s likely its sequel will surprise people who thought the IP would merely be a standalone (with DLC, naturally) venture. Set 15 years after the events of the original, the sequel will allow players to return as Corvo or play as Emily Kaldwin, the rescued Empress from Dishonored, in a bid to bring down another conspiracy and restore her to power. With much of the original development team in place, including Creative Director Harvey Smith and artist Viktor Antonov – the first-person stealth actioner is in safe, veteran hands. I personally hope for a swathe of new locations to explore and skulk around in – whether they be within the characterful Dunwall or elsewhere within the Empire of the Isles.
Kentucky Route Zero: Acts IV & V
(TBD – PC)
The thing about an episodic structure is the wait in-between content. For Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero, it’s nearly been a couple years since the last Act. And yet my curiosity for the adventure hasn’t waned at all. What differentiates it from other episodic content is the drive of the story, that it delivers a narrative with a kind of poetic simplicity, knowing and confident in its execution. Provided the final Acts fulfill the initial promise, it will go down as a personal favorite adventure and one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve had. I can’t wait to finish the journey.
(TBD – XBO, PC)
Cuphead sells itself. It carries an assured kind of natural nostalgia for an old form of animation. By all standards, it’s also a highly competent platformer with a flair for classic style. There’s a special tone behind the work that evokes fond memories. This is a modern title nailing its old school undertones perfectly. Take one look at Cuphead and it’s evident that it’s after all of our hearts.
(TBD – PS4, XBO, PC)
Given their work on The Wolf Among Us, I’m highly confident in Telltale’s handling of Batman. It suits a similar tone and the initial teaser, done in tasteful black and white noir, pours on the confidence. Now they are working on any number of projects and while it has in part led to some varied results, it’s also given them the opportunity to work with a breadth of franchises and styles. Perhaps Batman is their most natural fit, and past The Walking Dead, their strongest bet for both a strong commercial and critical reception.
(June – PS4, XBO, PC)
After spending some time with the beta last year, I’m hopeful that Blizzard’s foray into team-based shooters will be something special. The game is simple to grasp, yet difficult to master and the large roster of unique characters (most of which are wonderfully designed, both aesthetically and functionally) means that there will be a playstyle available for everyone to sink their teeth into. Plenty of multiplayer-centric shooters have blown people’s hair back when they arrived on the scene, only to quickly fade as newer, shinier games snatched away the playerbase. Overwatch looks like it has the right stuff to buck this trend and stay in the limelight for a good long while.
The Legend of Zelda
(TBD – Wii U)
Skyward Sword was a turning point in a series that could seemingly do no wrong. While not a bad game, Skyward had enough fan pushback to cause series producer Eiji Aonuma to rethink the Zelda template, which had been used successfully for decades. Featuring non-linear progression and a sprawling open world, this new Zelda for the Wii U looks to address many of the complaints (too much hand-holding, too linear) fans leveled at Skyward. The fact that this will be a Zelda game unlike any other is incredibly exciting, but also a bit frightening. In a gaming landscape with way too many open world games already, will an open world Zelda still be able to stand out? Will it still have that series magic and polish? I’ve got my fingers (and toes!) crossed that it will.
The Last Guardian
(TBD – PS4)
For so many years, The Last Guardian was pretty much a joke. People would put it on their most anticipated titles of X year lists, fully well knowing that there was no way the game would be released that year. Then, E3 2015 happened and Sony actually gave us gameplay footage and a release window. It was a jaw-dropping announcement and, though rough around the edges, the footage shown was tantalizing enough to make us wonder what game designer/auteur Fumito Ueda could possibly have in store for us next. His work on Ico and Shadow of the Colossus has arguably made him a legendary figure in the world of game design, and if The Last Guardian can reach the same heights, it will surely rank as one of the best games of this generation.