The Videogames to Play in 2016

No sooner have we totted up our games of 2015 than we’re now looking to what delights 2016 may hold. As such, our games team convene to survey the upcoming titles that have them ready to smash open their vintage Super Mario piggy banks.

Preview by Games Team | 13 Jan 2016
Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerilla Games) on PS4

Guerilla Games is best known for the Killzone series of first-person shooters, so action role-player Horizon Zero Dawn marks something of a departure for the Dutch developer. Set in a post-apocalyptic world terrorised by robotic dinosaurs – an interesting twist on the ‘primal’ setting that looks to be in vogue for 2016 – the game combines survival-based action gameplay as seen in the likes of Tomb Raider and The Last of Us with roleplaying elements and a rich open-world experience more akin to Skyrim or Fallout.

Preview gameplay footage shows a colourful and stunningly realised game world combined with solid framerate and great draw distance. A very distinctive art style and exemplary monster design round out what looks to be a technical tour de force on PlayStation 4. Horizon Zero Dawn’s writing and narrative show considerable promise too, with John Gonzalez, lead writer on Fallout: New Vegas, reportedly on board and the studio already talking excitedly to the media about the quality of the story. [Jodi Mullen]

XCOM 2 (Firaxis Games) on PC

XCOM 2, the second release since rebooting the long running series, promises to turn on its head the standard formula for the series. Set 20 years after XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it reintroduces players to a world changed by the alien invasion of the previous game. Hopefully you weren't 'too' attached to the world you tried to save, because Earth lost the war, and in the years since the aliens have taken absolute control. XCOM promises a new angle on one of the most enjoyable turn based tactical series around, as combat shifts from sending squads to investigate alien landing sites to scouting out the perfect ambush points before engaging in combat.

In essence, you're swapping roles with the invaders! Maps are rumoured to be vastly improved over the previous game; large, sprawling and finally with decent randomisation to keep gameplay fresh. Difficulty has a better sense of scale too, and character customisation is particularly innovative, with people you create added to the game's NPC roster, potentially turning up as recruits or encountered in other ways throughout the game. It all sounds very promising for your ongoing war against The (little grey) Man. [Stewart McIver]

No Man’s Sky (Hello Games) PC / PS4

No Man’s Sky is 2016’s big indie hopeful and a game that has generated as much hype as it has muted criticism. With its massive, procedurally-generated universe, seamless looking open-world play and a colour palette that bunks typical gaming conventions, Hello Games’ much-anticipated adventure survival title has a lot to live up to. Yet the big question initially was; what do you actually do in the world of No Man’s Sky? Since its reveal, more information has been drip-fed from the somewhat secretive British developers.

Exploration, it seems, will be the meat and potatoes of early sessions, gradually opening up a teeming online galaxy of space-faring battles as well as subtler trading and upgrading that’ll be familiar to those immersed in the Elite: Dangerous universe. However, with The Atlas, the games’ central online database, it seems No Man’s Sky’s trump card could be allowing players to open up the galaxy for themselves. An ambitious title, even more so for the small development team at its heart, No Man’s Sky will answer these questions when it finally launches in July. [Darren Carle]

Firewatch (Camp Santo) PC / PS4

Firewatch is the debut outing from San Franciscan studio Campo Santo, but it’s no amateur affair. Behind the game is something of an indie supergroup, including the lead writer from Telltale’s fiercely engrossing Walking Dead series Sean Vanaman, Gone Home composer Chris Remo and cult-favourite graphic designer Olly Moss, whose work adorns the newly reprinted Harry Potter books. While said talent ensured Firewatch was a hot property before we’d seen so much as a screenshot, everything we’ve learned since has only stoked our anticipation.

A first-person adventure in which you play a fire lookout posted to Yellowstone National Park in 1989, Firewatch promises a unique setting rich with authentic historical detail. The game begins with players conducting regular lookout duties like repairing equipment and stomping out campfires but soon finds them embroiled in a mystery plot, cast as unlikely detectives with just climbing rope, a radio and their navigation chops to get by. Judging by the latest trailer, players are in for a twisty yarn worthy of the best prime-time storytelling. It’s got a cast to match too – the addition of Mad Men’s Rich Sommer in the lead role suggests Firewatch is set to be a class act all round. [Andrew Gordon]

The Division (Ubisoft) PC / PS4 / Xbox One

The Division is the next title from Tom Clancy’s war chest and is out in March 2016. Set in New York City after a deadly virus has brought mankind to a standstill, you play as a member of a shadow organisation called The Division and are tasked with restoring order to the madness that has consumed the U.S. This means exploring the devastated metropolis with a squad of friends as you encounter both computer and player controlled enemies.

As usual you can expect advanced weaponry and technology galore, but what makes this title more intriguing is that Ubisoft seems to be blending its third person shooter heritage with MMO structure and plenty of loot. With words like ‘endgame’ and ‘raid’ being banded around, it’ll be interesting to see whether this title can lure the hordes of addicted gamers away from Destiny for a while. [Tom Hillman]

Tacoma (Fullbright) PC / Xbox One

Here’s a novel concept for you: what about a game set on an abandoned space vessel surveilled by an uncooperative AI wherein all signs point to something suspicious going on? Certainly it’s a tired setup, and an even safer bet than the spooky mansion scenario of Fullbright’s last effort. Yet given the confidence and subtle finesse with which Gone Home preyed upon horror cliches to deliver one of the most memorable game experiences this decade, we have every faith that beneath Tacoma’s hackneyed sci-fi premise lies something original and profound. Fullbright have grown since their last runaround and Tacoma shows an increased ambition to match.

Gone Home’s exploration and object manipulation gameplay returns here, but this time with the not so minor absence of gravity. Besides offering the endless amusement of chucking around toilet roll in zero-g, this means the explorable space is effectively doubled; thanks to a handy pair of magnetic boots, both the floors and ceiling of the space station are rendered accessible. Like Gone Home, Tacoma is about discovering the hidden story of a place, so what’s most intriguing is what we’ve yet to find out. Whatever awaits us aboard Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma, we’re more than ready. [Andrew Gordon]

We Happy Few (Compulsion Games) PC / Xbox One

We Happy Few sold us right away as an open world survival games that departs from the grimy doom and gloom visions of the near future. Instead, players are dropped into a psychedelic English village from the 60s as one of the few 'Downers', citizens trying to avoid taking the state mandated happy pill, 'Joy'. Even in its early alpha builds, We Happy Few is beautiful, unsurprising perhaps given developer Compulsion Games' last creation was the gorgeous noir themed platformer, Contrast.

The small-town community vibe is strong, based on Tudor style houses in chipper colours and window boxes with blooming flowers even on the most burnt out wrecks at the edge of town, and retro-future technology intended to keep the populace happy and content (ie. medicated). Yet what we're really eager to see is if they can deliver on their promise to incorporate in-depth stealth mechanics into their crazy world. Considering blending in entails carrying a conversation about invisible penguins (already implemented!) and prancing around rainbow paved streets swinging from lampposts, Compulsion Games has a tough challenge on their hands. Given what we've seen so far though, We Happy Few looks set to be one of the great 'Joys' of 2016. [Stewart McIver]

Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine) PC / PS4 / PS Vita / Xbox One / Wii U / Ouya

Delayed due to having more money thrown at it than developer Alex Preston ever dreamed of (discussed here in our first look feature from 2014), this Kickstarter-backed project is, reportedly, nearing completion for a mid-2016 release. Thankfully, Heart Machine presented an opening level prototype to backers a little over a year ago and it was enough to show that Hyper Light Drifter is more than some kind of pixelated nostalgia trip. Though it’s been mooted as a spiritual brethren to the early Legend of Zelda games, HLD’s little taster showcased a more combat-heavy game than many expected.

Whether this is reflective of the finished game isn’t clear, however it matters little as the fighting itself is nothing short of excellent, with plenty of room for nuanced battles against some fiendishly dexterous foes. And let’s not forget that soundtrack duties are in the hands of Rich ‘Disasterpiece’ Vreeland, the man behind the seminal videogame soundtrack to 2012’s Fez. As such, you can colour us ‘super-excited’ about the prospect of finally playing the finished product we backed all those years ago. [Darren Carle]

Mass Effect: Andromeda (BioWare) PC / PS4 / Xbox One

Mass Effect: Andromeda is Bioware’s next big action RPG and is sure to set the world on fire come the end 2016. Commander Shepherd’s story is officially over, and after the galaxy was obliterated by angry Internet posts… it really is anyone’s guess as to which worlds and races we’ll be encountering. BioWare are keeping their cards extremely close to their chests. We do know a couple of things for sure though; the studio has confirmed that there will be no familiar faces from the previous games, as it wouldn’t make sense canon wise, but there might be nods to past adventures.

The Mako will also be making a return and it’s had a slight tune-up which is good news as some of the released concept art has shown vast worlds begging to be explored. All in all, details on Andromeda are scant but if you’ve played any of the previous Mass Effect games you’ll know that it’s likely that something very special is on its way. [Tom Hillman]  

Dark Souls III (From Software) PC / PS4 / Xbox One

From Software delivered one of 2015’s finest games with PS4 exclusive Bloodborne. For 2016, the Japanese developer is returning to Dark Souls for what is rumoured to be the final instalment in the landmark action RPG series. Director Hidetaka Miyazaki is back at the helm after his absence on Dark Souls II and leading development on Bloodborne in what may be one of his last directorial roles having recently become president of the company. 

Mechanically, Dark Souls III promises to bring together the best of Souls games past, with the MP meter-based magic system from Demon’s Souls making a reappearance alongside the sumptuous contiguous level design of the original Dark Souls and the enormous range of customisation options that provided Dark Souls II with such a rich endgame. The influence of Bloodborne can be felt too in the form of new offensive options, grotesque boss design and a darker, more gothic art style. [Jodi Mullen]